Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Grow

2007

I had to visit my past to prepare for my future. Call it what you will - closure, curiosity. I needed to visit that place one last time.

It had been six incredibly long and impossibly short years. Almost to the day.

When I dream of places from my real, not imagined, past, I am often standing in the garden of 451 John Kay Road.

Sophie and I drove by our former home on Sunday. It stands empty. Again. Three families. Three foreclosures. Is the house cursed?

We peeked in the windows. They painted over the soft green walls. Tan. Not bad, but not green. Our green. The Frank Lloyd Wright inspired light fixtures were gone. I knew we should have stripped the place inside and out when we left in 2009.

2015
We explored the yard. It seemed smaller, encased in more fencing than was there when we lived here. Funny, too, how not pushing a mower can shrink a yard.

Here is what we learned - we left our mark on the place.

I stood where our garden had been. It had been lush, abundant, verdant. Then overgrown and drying out. Ever changing.

"I dream of standing in this spot."

The only thing that remains of the vegetable and herb garden is a bedraggled rosemary bush. It retains some of its green, holding firm at the edge of the slope.

2007
"This," it says, "is where the herb garden mingled with phlox and roses, rescued holllyhocks, and Johnny jump ups. Where turf wars between basil, tarragon, sage and thyme raged under the blazing sun. This is where the zinnias encroached. Unstoppable. Here were the boulders brought up the hill by wagon as you pulled and reluctant children pushed. There. Oh, right there, was a glorious clematis climbing its trellis toward the vast, blue sky. Reaching for nothing but show."

Next to the house was a dry creek. I'd gathered hundreds of small stones from the field in front of our house and created the bed. I planted foliage. Anchored by a butterfly bush there were sedum and grasses. Liriope. Lambs ears. Hostas, a bleeding heart and columbine. Ivy to spread out under the back deck. I'd attempted one small, spreading evergreen.

Unchecked, that small evergreen became a monster threatening to overshadow the entire side of the house, everything else struggling to grow in its shadow and most things now long gone.

2015
Variegated privets, planted because I thought they were pretty and because I could afford them, had grown massive and now stand sentry next to the driveway. Others crowded out the neighboring ferns, heuchera and hostas and now obscure the kitchen's bay window. Still more privets (they were on sale), planted in the former, fruitful compost heap (the best watermelon and cantaloupes I ever tasted grew directly from it) sucked up those nutrients and tower over what was once the outermost edge of the vegetable garden.

"I wonder if any of the self-sewing zinnias ever make an appearance?"

The apple and peach trees are gone. Who would do that?

The wisteria that I'd been warned against planting seeks revenge, pulling at the back deck. The railroad ties, once the perch for pots drifting riotous color, now suffer the indignity of supporting a makeshift deck at the bottom of the stairs, gray paint peeling and forlorn.

I stood where the garden once spread across the ground.

"I dream of this spot. I stand here and look toward the house."

This is now.
For a moment they are there. In the kitchen. I can see them through the bay window. Three children watching the small TV mounted up on the wall and munching some snack they put together without my help.

A swallow swooshes by and I look away.

When I look back the vision is gone. The house is a blank slate again. Another family will come. More lives will be lived here. But not our lives. Our lives have shifted and fractured and we have scattered. We are scattering. Life is change and we are changing. This change is good and we each welcome and fear it.

I snap off a bit of the rosemary bush and carry it away with me.








Friday, January 9, 2015

Take him from the fire into the frying pan



I googled the Jerry Seinfeld episode where he traveled with his girlfriend and things did not go well. I was looking for a quote but couldn't find it. Instead I found about 3,490,000 Google results for traveling with your girlfriend. 3,150,000 results for traveling with your boyfriend. Who knew traveling with your bf/gf could cause over 6 million internet anxieties? I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. Anxiety is the new black.

As usual, I'm seeking information too late. That's a good thing. If I don't know ahead of time what to be worried about, I'm less likely to look for trouble or to spend a lot of energy second guessing, leaping to conclusions and seeking out ulterior motives.

The Electrician and I have already clocked two weeks of traveling together and I'd say it's going well. If he were speaking to me, I'd tell you what he thinks.*

It helps, that we're traveling for work, not pleasure. We're not trying to be entertained or to entertain 24/7. We're both working most of our waking hours so our time to get on each other's nerves is limited to the 4 hour drive and the couple of hours we're awake at the end of the day.

Now that his situation has changed and my work is portable, it makes sense for us to live in the same place even if that place is an economy hotel populated by other traveling workers who require the basics - no bed bugs, heat and air conditioning, hot water, a comfortable bed, free wifi and expanded cable.

We're developing a rhythm helped by the fact that we're both creatures of habit. He's up first and out early. I get up, shower, go to the lobby to fill my giant tumbler with an unhealthy amount of caffeine, grab the USA Today for later and return to the room to get to work. At the end of the day, he returns, showers, we eat, do the USA Today Crossword puzzle together, watch a little TV and go to bed.

This week the hotel's hot water tank blew and it was -2 degrees in the West Virginia Panhandle. It's perfectly reasonable for someone who's been doing physical labor outside all day to expect to come back to the hotel for a hot shower. There were probably 300 men who couldn't do that for nearly two days. A pall fell over the Days Inn. The housekeeping staff got a feral look in their eyes if you asked when the hot water might return. Discussions were held about vacating. I feared mutiny.

It's the closest I want to come to pioneer life. Out of desperation, I took a cold shower. So cold it hurt. Water like shards of glass. Or maybe it was ice. Thankfully I'd warmed enough water to rinse my hair. Thank goodness for the in-room microwave, the ice bucket and the coffee maker. I tried to fill the tub with enough hot water so The Electrician could take a bath, but was stymied by the non-functioning drain stopper. I even tried to Life Hack a stopper to no avail.  I'm taking that as a sign that I was right. Life is meant to be weird and difficult.

We survived the ordeal and smell clean again even if my hair does have a slight scent of coffee.

The trickiest part of traveling together is the drive. Four hours each way is plenty of time for me to get under anyone's skin. It's in that quiet car that The Electrician and I are still playing emotional chess - being ourselves, but not quite. We range from letting our freak flags fly to staring silently out the window at the mind-numbingly flat landscape of central Ohio.

I pull out my Kindle and play Solitaire. He jokes it's the most expensive deck of cards he ever purchased. I switch to reading a book until he's no longer paying attention. He recounts the plots and characters of his favorite TV series and movies. I listen and think if I ever have a script or a book completed, he's going to be my pitchman. Sophie Facetimes me and rides along in the car with us. There is much talk of cats.

The Electrician downloads music often. His tastes vary and he tends to play a song over and over until he's had enough. Last week's song was Yelawolf's Til It's Gone. This week's jam is Stephen Bishop's On and On. I had the 45 of that song when I was 10 and music was still pressed onto vinyl discs.

The music provides background for the conversation and filler for the silence. Last night, we rode along singing, neither of us surprised at the lyric muscle memory, both of us off somewhere in the mid 1970s when we couldn't have imagined the strange and wonderful turns our lives would take.

On and on...
You just keep on trying.....

*joke!

What's your song this week?

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

We drank a toast to now


December 29th 30th  31st is as good a time as any to make some New Years Resolutions and I'm going to try something new. I'm making resolutions I can keep.

1. I will begin and end several fitness regimes including walking when it's convenient and buying a grocery cart full of produce and unprocessed groceries on Sunday, eating healthy on Monday and Tuesday, and consuming mostly candy, pastries and fast food the remainder of the week.

2. I resolve to always find a way to make matters worse. Why deny my gift?

3. I will watch movies and forget the details 20 minutes after the closing credits thus driving The Electrician a little insane.

4. I will fret about money because my personal economy isn't growing so much.

5.  I will let my gas tank run down to fumes on I75 and wait until the last minute to stop for a pee because 2015 can't be all about a calm and balanced life.

6. I will continue my struggle with not using the Oxford comma and not having two spaces after a period because that was what I was taught all those years ago. One did not defy our typing teacher Mr. Neaman and live to tell about it.

7.  I resolve to Google everything except when I'm driving and then I will give Siri the task of Googling everything for me. And what Google can't answer, I'll turn to IMDB. Oh, I've learned. I've learned.

8. I will think about writing. Thinking is almost like doing, right?

9. I will watch the same episodes of British murder mysteries repeatedly to put myself to sleep because the squirrels in my brain won't quiet down without assistance so they must be drowned out.

10. I will procrastinate. Obviously.

Your turn. Resolutions?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Airing of Grievances 2014 - A LOT of Problems



Festivus:  A holiday invented by Frank Costanza, a character on the hit 1990s sitcom Seinfeld. Its symbol is the aluminium pole. Traditional Festivus activities include the Feats of Strength (typically ending with someone in tears) and the Airing of Grievances (also often ending in tears).

While I have erected a Christmas tree and shopped for things people don't need and participated in the Baruch Atah Adoni-ing and lighting of Hanukkah candles, I haven't an aluminium pole. This year has felt like a Feat of Strength so there's that.  All I have left to accomplish is the Airing of Grievances. Buckle up.

Facebook posting of disgusting images. Bugs unearthed from human bodies. Dead deer posed to appear as if they were delighted to have been slaughtered. Recipes involving Velveeta. Abused animals. Taylor Swift's eyebrows. Where the fuck is the decency?

Buzzfeed quizzes. One was entertaining. Two were silly, but okay. Three or more means you don't understand how the internet works. You don't have to punish us all by posting all of your results on Facebook? Lord. It's like pooping or masturbation. Everyone does it sometimes, but we don't need to read about it every single time.

Life hacks. Life is supposed to be complicated, weird, and difficult. And sometimes a toilet paper roll is just a toilet paper roll.

Denying injustice. If you're doing this, you need to experience a little yourself. That usually brings people around.

Politicizing everything. I heard a guy at Kroger accuse a woman of being a crunchy, tree-hugging Jesus hating liberal because she had the temerity to ask where the Greek yogurt was.  "What?!" he screamed. "Isn't American yogurt good enough for you?" I rushed to her aid, tossing her the Black Cherry Chobani, hitting him with my bag of organic apples and informing him that Jesus was a liberal.

The Marshmallow World. Thanks, Target. Way to ruin a song.  Also, you're not helping my desire to cut the demon sugar from my diet because just the word marshmallow turns me into Homer Simpson.

Shaming of today's youth because they spend too much time indoors staring at screens.  Oh sure, you played with sticks and ran around barefoot and got spanked and you turned out just fine. And today's kids are horrible because they have iPhones and tablets and video games and never suffer any punishment? Spare us. Ten year olds aren't issued AmEx cards. They don't ride their bikes to the Verizon store to purchase their expensive, sunshine and fresh air-depriving toys. Their parents won't let them ride their bikes out of the neighborhood for fear of strangers snatching them.

If today's kids are a mess, it's our fault. We've failed them not the other way around.

Corporate media.  We broke up a couple of years ago, but that hasn't lessened your influence on the world and hence me, damn it. Stop frightening people. You're making us impossible to live with. We fear each other, hate each other and believe that corporations want what's best for all of us. We're dumber, poorer, sicker, and more hateful. Congratulations. You have a wretched audience. That must feel awesome.

Faux country music. Did you just sing Hey, girl again? Put down that Bud and climb on down from that tailgate.  Dolly Parton wants to deliver a nice, ring-encrusted punch to your nutsack, bro.

Posting items to social media without vetting them or even reading them.  This is so simple. Read the article you're linking. Check its date. Google can provide an assist in not looking like a moron. So can Snopes.com. So says the woman who repeated the Jay Cutler fired hoax article, but hey, I didn't post it for all the world to see so I can still wrap myself in this swell fur of sanctimony.

Pharmaceuticals. I listened to the book STATION ELEVEN and one scene contained a description of a young woman going cold turkey off Effexor, the anti-depressant I took for over two years. I flashbacked to achy joints, brain blasts and the frustration of counting out capsule granules to wean myself off that poison. It comforted me to know that my experience wasn't just my imagination. If that author could so accurately describe those reactions, it must be true. We're pumping these chemicals into our children's bodies (guilty as charged) without much thought about how it will all end.

Oversimplification.

Pumpkin, pretzel, and other food fads.  No more pumpkin spice toothpaste, pretzel bread waffles, or kale. Shut up and let me eat my two tablespoons of coconut oil in peace.

Taking umbrage at the wishing of seasons greetings and happy holidays. As long as no one is tacking on you asshole, you really should just get some perspective. The person wishing you happy holidays or seasons greetings is being inclusive not insulting. I wished someone a Merry Christmas and he thanked me for "saying it right."  I repeated myself with a huge grin. "Merry Christmas, you asshole."

Bad Grammar. Spoken is bad enough, but if you are lazily reposting shit on Facebook that has grammatical and punctuation errors, it is time to reevaluate your life.

Death. You've shown up too many times this year. We're giving you 2015 off.

Pictures of your cat on the internet. This is said while standing in front of a mirror. Also, this is not a euphemism. Although it could be.

Potato chips. What are they putting in them now? Meth? I spent my first 48 years jonesing almost exclusively for sugary treats and now I've become a craver of the salt and grease? Life is so unfair. And while I'm at it - Wheat Belly, Wheat Brain, and this horrible Wheat Cellulite. I'm paunchy, stupid and dimply.  Hawt.

Dystopian anything. Please stop. You've got me considering the benefits of becoming a Prepper and I doubt I could last a day without my Roku. I consider my pour-over coffee pot roughing it. The best place for me at the end of the world will be ground zero.

Social media in general. Clearly, I need to walk away, but then what? Talk to my family, my boyfriend, my co-workers? Sit for 45 seconds at a stoplight without being entertained? And what about seeing things simply for what they are instead of imagining them with a Lo-Fi filter and tilt shift? I'm getting hives.

Jerks who want to dictate what should and should not be on social media. Yeah, I'm looking at you, Lisa.

Me. I'm the biggest problem I have. I'm in my 50th year and can't pull it together. I hope to spend the next 50 years not crashing about like a mental and emotional ox and instead do some good, let go of ridiculous expectations, be less insecure and judgmental, more direct, and relaxed.

The truth is I'll settle for becoming less bothered by grammatical errors and year end lists.

Your turn. Let loose.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Damp Violets


That day started out like any other in my recently turbulent existence. I was back in Indiana for job interviews, working from the apartment and had hit pause for breakfast. The scent of sauteed mushrooms lingered as I forked the first bite of omelet into my mouth.

A text notification broke the silence. "Can you check on Kay? She didn't show up for work."

Kay is my neighbor. She's also The Electrician's aunt. The text was from her twin sister.

Sometimes you just know. Call it what you want - premonition, a sense, foreboding. I just knew. It made sense based on all the things you read, hear, see. Patterns mean something.

I knew.

I knew as I strode through the yard still damp with dew. I knew as I dragged the emptied trashcan up the driveway toward the silent house, I knew as I introduced myself to her friend who had been asked to check on Kay by another of the sisters.

Our banging on the doors and windows went unanswered. A phone rang inside. Over and over. Kay's friend called the landlord and got his voice mail, asked him to come by with the key. We knew.

We did what we had to do. We found a way in.

I climbed through the window and my first impression was that the room was empty. My sense of relief was overcome by reality as I stood up straight and looked over at the bed.

I knew.

Kay's friend knew.

Even though we knew before we saw, it was not enough to blunt the shock. Kay's friend wailed. I went numb. My hands shook as I dialed 911. It was the easiest call I'd make all day.

*************
The Electrician comes from a large, close-knit family. Even with blending, there's still a sense of belonging that comes with the connection. They take you in, almost absorb you. There are distinctions made. Favored, not favored, most favored. I've known these people most of my life. They know my family. It's a small place where we come from.

Grandma's farm became the hub of activity. Family converged, some flying in to be there. Arrangements were made, food arrived, like magic, at the farmhouse.

A mother cat and her baby boy appeared, mama cat hiding, her boy winding among the feet and legs to -ing and fro-ing from house to car, car to house.  He was undaunted by the activity.

*****************
The services were held, memories shared, meals eaten. We even attended church. Took up two entire pews in that country house of worship. It was both expected and appreciated. The minister mentioned during Kay's funeral - how happy it made Grandma to have us all there.

I couldn't remember the last time I'd been to church. I'd been living as an agnostic Jew since 1988. I whispered to The Electrician, "What should I do about communion?"

"Have you been baptized?"

"Yes."

"Then take it. That's what I'm going to do." Like me, he doesn't believe, doesn't know how to believe.

We shrugged at each other when it was over. We didn't choke. The church didn't come crashing down around us. There were no flames. My agnosticism was reinforced.

We were there for Grandma, I told my own astonished parents later. It was about family, community. We were there for The Electrician's father and his sisters, siblings now minus one. Grandma was doing the unthinkable.
**************
Mama cat died last week. Her little guy was still hanging around Grandma's house but she was afraid he'd get hit by a car. The Electrician, not a fan of cats, worried about what would happen when it gets cold. I mentioned how interesting it was that the cats showed up just after Kay died.

While he smirked at me, I could see the glimmer of what if on his face.

I'm not saying the cat is Kay, I explained. It's just that sometime animals appear at the right time. Are you sure Grandma doesn't need this cat right now?

"You don't know Grandma if you think she'd ever take an animal into the house. "

I nodded.

The Electrician knows I struggle with being alone so much. I went from a life bursting with people and things that needed to be done to the very stillness of this apartment. And he knows it's only going to get worse as he looks at new jobs on the road, even further from home and for longer periods of time.

Like the quiet of my life weighs on me, my loneliness weighs on him.

****************

I've learned a thing or two about non-cat lovers.  1. Let them name the cat and 2. Conversion is possible.

Meet Sonny Crockett, named by the man who wore a Miami Vice jacket for his senior picture.





Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Snow Globe

A couple of years ago my friend Sherry Stanfa-Stanley launched the 52/52 Project which is, in her words, "jumping the curb, taking a detour from the cul-de-sac to visit personally unexplored territories."

With clear-eyed intention, Sherry shook up her life, wrote about it and made me and her other fans laugh and think. Her experiences ranged from the utterly embarrassing (going to a nude beach with her 75 year old mother) to the touching (taking a homeless person to lunch). What struck me most about this was the fact that Sherry was doing this with intention. She planned her capers and carried them out knowing that she would likely learn something about herself in the process.

Contrast that with me - a woman who shakes up her life like a snow globe and stands back, mouth breathing while the faux snow almost settles before shaking the globe again.

I think the globe may have a slow leak, as well.  Ditto the woman.

So here's the shortish version of what in the heck is going on right now. A little of this story will go a long way.

I returned to Georgia in August, trading my glamorous job working for attorneys who got bent out of shape when the water cooler emptied for one that requires me to work twelve hour days pushing paper and never getting caught up. But hey, as we like to say in this new economy, it's a job and it's not at Wal-Mart!

When I took the job in Georgia, I was happy because I thought Mathman and I had agreed that I would live in the house with him and the kids and sharing expenses. I accepted the position and its pay with that understanding.

Then Mathman changed his mind.  He "wasn't feeling it."

His timing? Not so good. He waited to drop that bomb until after I'd quit my job in Cincinnati and accepted the position in Atlanta for a salary that isn't enough to pay the rent, the bills and my child support obligation.

I tried to use my inside voice, but failed.



So  I moved back to Georgia to Blanche Dubois it in the gorgeous home of my friend and her husband. They have been beyond gracious and generous but it's been two months and my situation isn't going to change financially. I only get to see the kids one day a week because I'm working ridiculous hours, have a typical Atlanta commute (think a hangover + diaper rash) and live an hour away from "home."

(Side note: expect some future posts about the concept of home)

It became clear very quickly that I would have to find a position with a higher salary to stay in Atlanta. And those are so terribly easy to find, no?

I lined up a couple of interviews back in Cincinnati because at least there I have a place to live. The Electrician and I still have our apartment there and are trying to make our relationship work.

(Side note:  expect future posts about relationships, unhealthy and otherwise)

And then it occurred to me that there might be another option so I took a(nohter!) risk and proposed to my current employer that I continue to work for them and live in Indiana.

The risk paid off. They agreed to give it a try.

I'm living in Georgia for three more days. Beginning Monday, I will be working from home, telecommuting my twelve hours, but (can you feel the music?) not having to commute and commute and commute some more.

(Side note: expect future posts about how much I miss my kids, living alone, and drinking beer at the Legion)

So what's new with you?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Creep


Thanks to those of you who commented or emailed me. I appreciate your kind, thoughtful words. I spent two days considering what platform to use for the new blog before it hit me. This blog, with the invitation only setting, is the place where I can write what I want - when and how, without upsetting anyone.

So here I will remain. When/If I decide to make this blog public again, I'll revert the possibly offensive posts back to drafts and all will be right with the world. Or something like that.

Not writing has been so stifling that I fear that the next few weeks of words will be a deluge. Blogging was once my lifeline. That sounds dramatic but I can't even describe what I gained from putting my words together and hitting publish back in the days when I was home alone, unemployed and wondering how my life had reached that point.

My writing slowed when I got a job and it became apparent that blogging could be a liability there and, to make matters worse, my brain reached a calm, flat place as a result of anti-depressants that did what they were supposed to do if not fucking feeling anything was their purpose.

And then things went twenty different kinds of wrong and I was too ashamed to write about things with the emotional honesty I'd once tried to maintain. The combination of internal and external shame made it progressively harder to write and the longer I went without writing, the more difficult it became to start again.

So about that idea of pretending we don't know each other? Scratch that. But be prepared to not like me, if you ever did, because some of the things I'm going to write about will probably make you question my character. It's something I've done quite a bit of over the last two years and I would be surprised if you don't have the same reactions I've had to my antics. In fact, I'd question your character if you weren't questioning mine.

So now that I've hung us on that hook, deep breath.......