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Posts Tagged ‘I know exactly what I’m doing here bucko’

 
|| January 24, 2013 || 11:43 pm || Comments (13) ||

In the last several months, while hysterical things were happening to our finances, I found myself fantasizing about money over and over.

It’s not like you think. What I found myself fantasizing about was giving away money to people who need it. Just, you know, wandering up to someone on the street or in the Wal-Mart parking lot and saying, “Here. This is one-hundred dollars. You’re supposed to have it.” and shoving the money onto their person before they had time to react; I would walk away before they got their wits about them and began doing something foolish like asking questions or trying to give it back.

I want to give something to someone, I don’t want them to owe me anything, I want to facilitate a blessing when the Spirit moves me. That’s right, I capitalized Spirit. My doing so probably made you squirm in your seat, right?

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Six weeks ago we are lolling on the couch together, hanging out, when I tell my husband that this is my fantasy of late.

“Can you imagine,” I say, “Can you just imagine how that would feel, to help enable some financial freedom in someone’s life?

“Just walk around, listening for God, waiting to hear That one, yes, her over there and moving into the gap at the necessary moment.” I say it with excitement and surety.

“I’m going to do this one day.”

Maxim doesn’t flinch when I tell him this, doesn’t bat an eye. This is his endorsement. This is his statement of faith in my mission or me or that the universe is wobbling in just the exact right way. Maybe all three. He is sometimes enigmatic like that, enigmatic in a comfortable way.

Comfortably enigmatic sound like some sort of fictional state, doesn’t it?

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

I keep watch on the walls, Maxim keeps watch at the gate. This is good in a friendship. This is completely stellar in a marriage. Keeping watch on the walls and at the gate isn’t always a defensive thing. The Watcher on the Wall sees the first dangers, but that vantage point offers the first advantages, as well. The Watcher at the Gate might take a beating holding back the unwelcome, but also gets to fling wide those gates to receive visitors or facilitate an adventure.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

This past two years has consisted of a bunch of crazy, seemingly-mismatched surges forward. Rocking along and living life and then PUSH and trying to get bearings and oh look this way is up and I have my legs under me and there goes three feet behind me, ten feet, eighteen and PUSH oh God let’s find up again, again, again and again.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

A couple-three weeks ago opportunity came knocking. Like, right on my forehead. I embraced it and probably even dry-humped it a little. I wanted take things to third base with opportunity, but it didn’t have a condom and momma dint raise no fool, child.

With opportunity comes excited planning. Opportunity gets your blood up and working.

About a week later Maxim’s boss showed up at our house and delivered the news right there in our dining room.* There would not be a company soon, because the company would fold in on itself and well, here we are. Let’s pedal as fast as we can over the next few weeks and see what happens.

Opportunity just turned into Just Enough.

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Most years Maxim goes to NAMM around this time. The trip was already booked, and so was our room in Birmingham so last week found us down in the city burning through the couple of remaining restaurant cards from our Christmas haul. We went for Italian that evening. A man kept catching my eye, even as we were waiting for a table.

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There seems to be a prevailing practice lately wherein individuals select a word at the beginning of the year to define or guide or gently suggest to the year that it might want to let this word represent it, pretty please, maybe? I have seen genuine anguish slathered across various channels of social media because HOLY FUCK GUYS WHAT IF I BOMB THIS WHOLE DEFINING-YEAR WORD AND MY YEAR IS TOTALLY SO TOTALLY BONED BECAUSE OF IT.

I don’t mean this as snotty, but it’s going to come across that way and so be it: I don’t really have any understanding of this practice, because the words have always tended to pick me. They snuck up and attached themselves to me and by the time I figured out what the the hell was going on it was just a relief to recognize what was up on and go all, “Oh! This year’s theme is ___________.” Most of them have been really good ones, too, the words. Hell, the last decade alone has yielded up kamikaze and warrior and song and spirited. There have been rougher ones like obedience and desire, but even those had benefit, once the callouses softened back up and some of the lumps went down.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Before we left the house, I spied the grocery money Maxim had handed me earlier. I’d only half paid attention to it at the time, setting it on the taller of our two dressers as he and I talked.

For the third time that evening, I was moved to put it in my wallet. Half-exasperated, I pulled it down and headed out the door to the car where my husband was waiting for me.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

The man was small, his shirt was immaculate, and everything he did was crisp, efficient, quick. He did not stop moving and he didn’t piddle-ass around. Back and back and back my eyes went to him. I’ve known this sensation before. It’s the one that says I have something to do and I have to do it or it’s gonna bug me so bad that I’d regret not doing it. Which, when written down that way, looks sort of insane and compulsive, doesn’t it?

You’re just gonna have to take my word on this one, the word that I know the difference between mental illness and letting yourself help along something that you don’t have a great deal of understanding about. The line dividing the two, I’m sure, is pretty thin and open to a degree of interpretation on a case by case basis. Or maybe most people just waver oh-so-slightly back and forth over it, in microscopic drunken swoops.

This time was different, too. It was just slightly different.

“Maxim,” I finally said, “Do you have anything on you to write on? I don’t want to write on a napkin.”

He didn’t. He is no longer perplexed by these requests, if he ever was. I went in search of paper. I came back to the table and pulled my fancy pen from my wallet. I wrote down the words that were yelling to be let out and then I pulled out one-third of the grocery money –a twenty-dollar bill– and folded it up in that piece of paper covered in excited, inky loops.

I hunted up the manager.

“Now this won’t make much sense,” I said. I felt awkward. I didn’t care. I tried to hammer the words around the concept so he could at least get a feel for the shape of it. I said three sentences containing slippery words like ‘God’ and ‘anonymous’ and ‘led.’ He let me off the hook, “I go to Highlands church. I get what you’re doing. I understand.” And just like that I was thrilled to realize that it had started, this business of blessing strangers with cash, and that I had to give some twenties away so I could work my way up to hundreds.

Just like so many things in my life, it started before I knew it was time, before I knew I was ready.

I feel crazy-awkward telling you this story, because it could read as if self-aggrandizement is at play here. It’s earnestly not, though. It’s the biggest wash of humility when stuff like this occurs, because I don’t want to interlope on someone’s blessing by basking in it. There are certain profundities that I’ve gotten to witness that I had no claims to but I’ll be damned if they didn’t wash into me, too, just because I had the fortune of standing nearby.

It makes me feel like a Cosmic circus geek. Here, let me contort for you, it’ll be neat!

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

My word for this year is soul, only like this: Soul.

Yeah, this year’s about Soul for me, about putting a little more English on everything I do. It’s about letting the roots go deep because the soil is finally rich enough to sustain them.

The roots go deeper, the fruit goes sweeter, the bugs are still bugs but they have better table manners.

Soul is about caring so deeply for the right things that the wrong ones can’t even catch your eye.

Soul is about a hip shake and a lip turned up in pleasure and a good ole impolite wail cooking itself up right there underneath those collarbones.

Soul is knowing where and when to assign the wail.

Soul tells you important things like,
You have to begin. You have to Begin. YOU HAVE TO BEGIN.

*(my dining room needs some good news –is a little overdue for some, in fact– so if you should see some, sneak it over in a casserole dish)

 
|| September 24, 2012 || 2:50 pm || Comments (7) ||

SO, I just applied for some work (I think that was what I was doing?) with this experimental magazine, and they asked the awful ‘tell us something about yourself’ question. Here is my answer:

“When my Mother was weaning me from the bottle, she slowly disposed of all of them until I was down to a single one that I apparently wagged around everywhere. To break me of the bottle once and for all, one day she opened up the screen door and threw my last one out into the back yard. Just as it landed, a stray dog came along and picked it up, then trotted off with it. She said I never gave her any shit about wanting it back.”

I forgot to add the part about how it was my way to pitch fits when I felt strongly about something, but that –even at the tender age of sometime-less-than-two–  I know a sign of importance when I see one.

“Drinkin’. Writin’.
Keepin’ stereotypes alive.”

// my friend TwoBusy, late yesterday evening

Sometimes when I am in the studio my Memaw Susie’s voice kind of melds with mine and before I know it there’s this strange hybrid of the two of us saying things like “Now. How can we go about effectively dandying this up?” all up in my head. This is while I’m turning something special –a porcelain hand, a business journal dated sometime in nineteen-nineteen, a length of rusty-and-twisted wire– over with my fingertips.

There are so many things up there in my escape room (a plain-yet-apt name) that lay there humming. Some chance to sing when I pick them up; this is how I decide what I’ll keep pulled out so that I can stare at it loudly and expect something to happen. My fingertips listen for the want(s) of the thing, trying to decipher if it will be the focal point of something whose elements have yet to be drawn together and arranged or if it will be used to subtly pull the eye toward some other highlight altogether.

Two broken wall hooks, a cigar box, a heavy brass mail door (with! keys! hallelujah!) sidle up to one another and become a sweet treasure box that is pretending to be art. An old eight-by-ten of a stoic group, snippets of text from various magazines and newspapers, a castaway picture frame all jostle and slide until there is poetry: a free-form mishmosh amalgamation of philosophy gleaned from this dying age we’re trying to pass off as all hopeful rather than incredulous.

all at once and without contradiction

Tonight, while straightening then cutting lengths of baling wire, I marveled once again at the greasy black-smoke condition of my palms, the mark of handling raw material and manhandling it with purpose. It put me in mind of photographs from my father’s creakingly heavy album, the one that catalogs his time in country. Cinched up between its covers are faces and faces and faces of young men with smoke and sweat and trouble smeared all across them. That, or freshly-scrubbed and thick with drunkenness, no trace of a uniform in sight, arms crooked about the necks of a variety of little Vietnamese women, so dainty.

I am not particularly a student of history, but I like for the things around me to allude to having a story that is ready to be conveyed. There is richness in this, in having a story, and I sometimes I am struck by how many options we are afforded in order to get that story across.

People e-mail me on the fair regular with snippets of this or that, wanting my take on something. I give it to them (sometimes it takes a minute, but I try to accommodate). We all have something to give and we all have something to take, right? “Give enough so that the amount of your taking isn’t bastardy, and then give ten more percent on top of that.” is one of my life mottoes. There are others; we may or may not get around to talking about them sometime.

Sometimes people e-mail me and ask my advice on telling a story. WHAT??!? You might as well ask me how to blink.

“Just, um, do it.”

That seems glib and haughty, though, right? Right. So I never give complete answers, just disjointed approximations of tips and a virtual neck-hug before I send the soul foolish enough to ask me, of all people, back out into the world. How am I a suitable candidate for teaching anyone a dang thing?

While I was at my father’s, attending to the Mathematics of Cancer (now THAT is an almost-complete other post for another time altogether), the mechanics of telling a story came together and I wrote them down on the back of a receipt from a convenience store gas station deli combo joint: Its name, hysterically enough, is ‘Kum & Go’. It’s printed right there on the receipt that contains my Big Ideas About Storytelling. The Universe will always find a way to keep you humble, there Shotgun.

The list has five points on it. They are, exactly as I first penned them on the back of that now-crinkled receipt, as follows:

FIRST
I want you to listen to their stories.

SECOND
I want you to listen to how they tell their stories.

THIRD
I want you to pay attention to the language.

FOURTH
I want you to find the song in their stories.

FIFTH
Breathe life to that song.

That’s it. That’s what I’ve got. So either you learn to pay attention to several different aspects of an experience, or you learn to take a pass or five at it after it’s up there in your Rememberator so that you can squeeze all the juice out of it.

One thing, though….I was in such a hurry to get those handy-dandy tips down that I left out an obvious preface: Go into the world and find people. Interact with them in some way….actively, passively, whatever; I don’t give a shit about the niggling details. Then you are ready to move on to Point the First.

And then (this here is the fun bit)  you are ready to hear, “Now. How can we go about effectively dandying this up?”

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

This looks incredible. Hollywood is trying to get better and tell stories worthy of this world, I think. God bless the writers, every messy last one of us.

Let’s try a little something. It may come up boon and it may come up bust-ass, but I’m always willing to try something new. So are most of you, you fetching little adventurers. As far as I know, I’ve never asked this question, and may never ask it again:

What do YOU want me to write about? What sorts of things would you like me to voodoo out of my pen?

I’m not stuck for topics or stories, but I’m curious to know what you, as my audience, would like to knock over in my brain so that it seeps everywhere. Excluded are those of you that would just simply like to knock me IN my brain. To you special folk I would say: Take a number, champ, and I hope you brought a stool, because the line is hella long.

Hey, here’s some music. Get up and boogie around the room. Shake your troubles loose, mighty Muffinass. Roots rock is our salvation, I’m convinced.

Well, roots rock and Jesus. Haaaallyloo!

First of all, TACKY PACK™! It’s been a while, so I’m giving away a TACKY PACK™!! Let’s talk about something else for a minute, first.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

I was twelve, the same age my own son is now. That would have made my mother thirty-four.

I was across the hall in my bedroom when I heard a cry. The tiny half-bath off my mother’s bedroom backed up against the wall of my room and that was where the sound of  distress had come from. I quickly abandoned what I was doing and shot across the hall into Mom’s room, calling to her.

“Mom? Momma? Are you okay?” She rounded the doorway, palm outstretched, crying hard, so hard, her face a contorted thing I’d never seen before. I had rarely seen her cry before then; I had never seen her upset in this fashion. Disappointment and rage and despair collided in her face and I asked,  ”What’s wrong?” in alarm.

She pulled her lips back in an illustrative grimace. I hadn’t noticed that in her outstretched palm lie large chunks of teeth….two, to be exact. “What happened?” Most of a front tooth and one incisor were broken off sharply. I had never seen anyone’s teeth in such a state before.

“I was brushing my teeth,” she began falling apart in earnest then,”I was just brushing them and they broke.” Anger and anguish and now her fist was clenched around them and I remember thinking that she looked so pretty in that blouse, the one with the wide white bow at the neck. And then I took note of her arms. I hadn’t noticed until then how thin they’d grown.

We had no money and she was working nineteen-hour days and giving all of what precious little food there was in the house to us girls.

Beautiful Gwendolyn, thirty-four years of age, woke up one morning after four or five hours of sleep to get ready for work and her teeth broke off because she was malnourished.

We lived in a middle-class neighborhood in a town where most everyone was comfortable financially, smack dab in the middle of America. My sister and I were hungry every day. My mother was literally starving. Had it not been for the one square, hot meal that we got each day at school through a rural subsidy program, my sister and I would have been as well.

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The other day I was on Twitter, and I happened to catch a few tweets that Megan was throwing out there. She’d run across some information on Feeding America in Real Simple magazine (yay! one of my personal favorites) and was blown away by some of the numbers. She was tweeting in earnest on behalf of Feeding America, and there was real spirit in what she was saying, so I sent her a message privately.

See, I’ve worked with hunger-related causes for a while; in fact, I supported Feeding America back when they were still known as Second Harvest. I remember the bite of hunger. I don’t want a kid –my kid, your kid, ANY kid– to feel the way I felt, to have to ration a half-loaf of bread over the span of a week, to worry if there will be more bread once that bit of it is gone.

Now that I’m a mother, I am horrified by the choices my mother had to make and the toll that they took on her emotional and physical health. I know that I would likely make those same choices: “My kids get what we have. If there is provision for me after, fine.” NO parent should have to make those choices, most especially not in this country, where there is such wealth and privilege and abundance, where we have the luxury of so much food that it goes to waste in a myriad of ways.

And so, back to Megan, who was just so lit completely up at  the fact that one American dollar can buy eight American meals for a family. Or one meal for eight families. You get the picture. Then Megan got excited, thinking about possibilities:

could you imagine?

…and then we put our noggins together and decided that we would like to partner up and donate five dollars each. So each of us did. Then we decided we’d challenge you,  our readers and followers, to step up and match us from Thanksgiving Day, when we are all so festive and full, through this Sunday:  Take an eensy five of your dollars and make provision for FORTY meals across the U.S. alongside the two of us.

THEN! Then, because we are excitable, bribey things, we decided that if you were to do something so great as to make provision for forty meals across the U.S. with your five dollars, then we would each host a giveaway on our sites where you could tell us you gave up your five or fifty or five-hundred of dollars and we would give you a chance at prizes. Hell, we’ve even asked a few of our nears and dears to do the same. In short: IT IS THANKSGIVING WEEKEND AND THERE ARE PRIZES. Just pretend the Universe is rewarding you for not smarting up that one know-it-all Uncle for once in your impatient life.

Cue the trumpets, because here is where I tell you that each five dollar donation you make to Feeding America today through Sunday makes you eligible for a drawing. “The prize, Our Most Esteemed and Beloved Jett, what might it be?” you ask. Well. Please roll some drums and blat some airhorns, because I know what a fondness all of you oldskoo Muffinasses have for that holy grail of Cyberia, the TACKY PACK™. If you are somewhat newskoo and don’t know what the heydiddlydoodah a TACKY PACK™ is, then I will quote myownself from an eensy giveaway of one or two I did last year:

The TACKY PACK™ is essentially a melange of great goodness and übercool radness. I don’t have to suck any corporate dick to bring it to you, and there is no ulterior motive save for the fact that I’m getting my jollies by giving a (many-partsed, multi-faceted) gift to somebody. There used to be a page devoted to telling you how great the TACKY PACK™ is in all its random iterations, but it’s long gone. You’re just gonna have to take my word for it and know that present-giving is one of my strengths. I think it’s the one meant to balance my propensity toward addictive behaviors, but I can’t say that with complete surety.

The retail value isn’t really any of your business, but I’ll tell it to you anyway, just so you know that I’m not a cheapskatey so-and-so: Low end it usually runs fifty bucks. High end it usually runs about a hundred. There might be any number of limited edition somethings, alcohol somethings, odd food somethings, stupidly cool somethings stuffed into a supafly apparatus  of Holding Awesome Shit In A Cohesive Bundle (this one will have a robot on it, because robots are very Thanksgiving-y). I quit sending pharmaceuticals in 2002, so don’t even ask, you big silly.

File this under Things I Shouldn’t Have To Say But Am Going To Anyway: Now, don’t be all cheaty and go using one donation on more than one site. Each five dollars earns a name in the hat, okay? We’re going to take you at your word: Make your donation to Feeding America, drop me a comment telling me how many entries I owe you, and I’ll announce a winner next Wednesday, 30 November. My own personal caveat is that I cannot ship outside of the U.S. I’m sorry, guys, it’s just too cost-prohibitive for me just now.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

In closing, here are the ways you can help, if you’re so inclined:
+ If you want to also blog about Feeding America and how people can donate, awesome.
+ If you want to do a giveaway on your blog to encourage people to donate, rad. Megan has a widget on her own giveaway post so that you can join our links list and help people find your post.
+ If you want to follow along on Teh Twitters, #giveameal is @FeedingAmerica’s hashtag, and the one we plan to use. If you’re inclined to tweet about what we’re doing (or retweet our Twitter content through Sunday), we would appreciate it.
* If you want to donate and enter our giveaways, by all means do so. More! Merrier!
* If you know of others who might want to also participate on their own blogs, please pass this on.

I’m gonna be around on Twitter today (my whole-fambly festivities are tomorrow!) dropping some links to other posts, some facts on hunger, and trying to raise some awareness on behalf of Feeding America. Megan will be doing the same. When you get sick of your extended family, drop in and give a shout. We both have ridiculously low inhibitions and lots of wine. Holla!

!UPDATE!: I just found out that all donations made today, Thanksgiving Day, will be matched dollar for dang dollar. GO TEAM!

About four weeks ago Scout decided to scare the piss out of me and her dad. Said fright was caused by her standing in front of us having a conversation one minute, then falling out and convulsing the next. When roused and sufficiently coherent, she described an electrical storm in her frontal lobe.  Tests thus far are inconclusive. Which, you know, I prefer to view as HALLELUJAH NO BRAIN TUMOR.

….but the image of an electrical storm right behind her pretty little brow has haunted me.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

About a week after that, I got a call from Sam informing me that he was coming home for four days over Easter so that he could marry this Very Cute Person,

randi
:: randi, university of alabama campus, valentine’s day 2011 ::

who we will henceforth call ‘Randi’ in all our future talkstory adventures, Muffinasses. Don’t bother asking if I like her, silly; just look at her Loverboy teeshirt and her pleasant countenance! Those things should give you all the four-one-one that you need. Okay, okay….I will tell you this little bit of confessional information: One time, when Sam and Randi were both fifteen or thereabouts, I told Maxim in the quiet privacy of our bedroom, “Now that kid? I would love to have as a daughter-in-law.” She is that flavor of awesome, see? That sort of awesome that had the two of us making plans for coffee and conversation even when she and my son were no longer a couple at one (or two? ahem) point(s).

So initially the wedding plans went like this: While Sam was last home on leave, the couple made the announcement that they would marry next July. Hasty, yes? Yes, hasty. But look! Over a year to plan a wedding! Just enough time to do all this. We wish Randi would finish school! But we love her! You guys are so young and maybe wait a little longer! But who am I to speak against passion?? I would never be found guilty of such! Let’s have a wedding, shall we?

Then they said “Hey! We want to do this in December.” Okay, ah, start the New Year together in 2012! We get it! Makes some sense! Whoa, deadline, but not an unobtainable goal if we get started right now!

Then this July and my head exploded because “SAMUEL YOUR SISTER WILL BE OUT OF THE COUNTRY AND HOW DARE YOU PROPOSE A WEDDING WITHOUT HER, SHE WOULD NEVER DO THAT TO YOU AND THAT LEAVES US NO TIME TO HELP YOU PLAN, NOT TO MENTION GIVE YOU ANY SORT OF FINANCIAL HELP YOU MIGHT NEED AND WHAT THE FUCK? WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK, SAM?? I HAVE A LOT TO BE CONCERNED WITH JUST NOW, PLEASE STOP WITH THIS WEDDING IN JULY NONSENSE RIGHT THIS MINUTE.”

“Mom?” Sometimes the connection is tinny when he calls, far-away sounding. This was one of those times. “Mother, I’ve  got a four-day pass over Easter weekend. I’m going to fly in Friday morning and that afternoon Randi’s dad (ed. note: Randi’s dad is a Babdiss preacherman, but we do not hold that against her in any way) is going to marry us in her parents’ back yard.” He wore a black shirt and ivory Vans and she wore an ivory dress and black Converse and now I’m a mother-in-law, so weird.

At least I am consistent, as always, in maintaining a whirlwind life.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

So. The week before Scout fell out and two weeks before Sam made the tinny phone call, the very week that Mathias announced that he was joining Civil Air Patrol, Maxim and I had a discussion that really entailed not much discussion at all and we decided to leave our church. Rat-tat-tat. We met with our Pastor and told him on the tenth of April, my mother’s birthday.

Individually, Maxim and I had both been feeling the nudge to ask the other what they thought about our relationship to our church and whether we were to continue it. When I finally brought my thoughts up to him and told him the timeline on them, he nodded sagely and cited the exact same thoughts along the exact same period of time. We were essentially completing one another’s sentences as we spoke, and ended the discussion with the promise to pray over the issue for two weeks and then go over our impressions together.

Then the not-discussion, then the leaving, then the strange feeling of being untethered from a church body but being very anchored spiritually. We –Maxim and I, and even Scout– have even gone so far as to acknowledge that it may be in the cards for us to remain unchurched altogether. None of us is opposed to this. Jesus did a lot of damage with two feet and an unafraid voice; He never kept to four walls, at least not for very long. We’re supposed to emulate that man, if we really believe what we say we do.

We will miss our church family bitterly. We will still see them socially, sure, but not several times a week. Hell, let’s be honest: We will probably not even get to see them several times a month. Life is a storm of unpredictability and a ruiner of plans. That’s part of what makes it so incredible, you know?

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

On Monday, April the eighteenth around two-thirty or so, I started to feel it. I guess it was something akin to a fissure in my brain opening, something that had been a sort of hairline crack becoming a gaping maw. I white-knuckled my way through the afternoon and then went home to gobble some Lexapro, thinking that my PMDD was rearing its head and hadn’t given me as much lead time as usual. I quickly got worse, my insides a low-roiling boil, threatening to bubble over; it made me physically sick. I could feel the lactic acid building and then depositing in my shoulders, my traps, in the backs of my thighs. It was a continual release of adrenaline and I was extremely nauseous by hour four of the whole thing. The whole of the afternoon a voice in my head gibbered about just wanting my bed, ohhhh if I can make it to the end of the workday I can have my bed,  but that evening I fumbled onto the couch and couldn’t move from there, where I fell into a fitful sleep by seven 0′clock.

I woke and dragged myself to the bedroom, still feeling sick and indeterminably broken, at around ten-thirty. The next morning I was due to drive Scout to her neurologist an hour away, and I thought that the Lexapro would grab hold while I slept (like it always did! magic! jazz hands, bitches! airhorns and goofy relieved grintastic visages and confetti or something equally as rad!), making me feel whole and right again upon waking.

I woke up lethargic and very, VERY resistant to the idea of leaving our home. In fact, I was somewhat terrified to even get out of bed. The low-boil feeling was still there and now I had a sense of defeat layered on top of it. I wanted to die, but it occurred to me that if I shot myself in the head my daughter would a) be angry that I ‘forgot’ to check her out of school b) be the one to find me c) be doubly fucked up as a result of having been angry at me just before finding my messy-headed self scattered willy-nilly across the bed. I tried to eat some breakfast. I threw it up. I showered and put on eyeliner, then comfortable clothes, then sunglasses that would obscure most of my face. It was a sheer act of my Legendary Stupidly Defiant Will that put me behind the steering wheel and on the road.

I am going to make a mistake. I am going to make a mistake and wreck us. My inner voice meant this in a more literal sense, but in writing that now I realize that there is more meaning to it. Anxiety’s theme song is I Am Going To Make A Mistake. It has a really catchy hook and gets stuck in a loop on your insides if all the conditions are right and you give it half a footing, did you know?

“I’m not feeling well,” I told Scout, “do you think you could manage driving if it turns out that I can’t?” She said she could, and I told her that I’d navigate the more difficult part of the drive and put her on the straightaway twenty minutes or so down the road. When that twenty minutes had passed, I’d started feeling better, so I passed on Scout driving for me and continued on. Ten minutes past that I was pulling into the empty lot next to an abandoned auto shop, so suddenly overcome that it was all I could do to exit the car and go around to the passenger side.

I reclined the seat, Scout slid in the new Damnwells and within a few minutes we were flying down Highway Tw0-Seventy-Eight; I was curled up on my side with my face six inches from my knees, staring at them intently, afraid that my brain was doing something I and it could never recover from, when ‘Sophia‘ came on

with a wink everything’s falling apart
and we’re lost in Lebanon

and then somehow I found my eyes fixed on the beyond out there past the vinyl and the doorhandle and the window, it rushed by oh it fell away and was replaced so fluidly and I hope I can hold onto myself well enough to finish this day, finish this day, finish. Finish it, this day.

Abel started
but Cain had to finish the job
for the God of Jealousy

No fever dream had ever been so brutal.

By four o’ clock that afternoon I became something resembling myself, but still only a poorly-remembered version of that, a slightly-staticky approximation. “It’s stress,” said Maxim the next day, and then the day after that I caught myself kneading the shit out of my left forearm with my right hand, to the point of extreme pain that I hadn’t even noticed in my absent-mindedness. It was then that I took into account that my nails were more gnawed than they ever had been –they were bleeding and painful at times– and I’d had this crazy rash on my chest that had appeared suddenly about two weeks prior. “I told you, stress,” Maxim affirmed once I recounted my realizations to him. I pondered the crevasse that had opened up in my brain, how extremely near to the base of it that the crack had run.

I circled the internal wagons. It took a week to really shake that feeling that I was just a fuzzy copy of my actual self, that I was play-acting at being something I was really not. I faked it till I maked it and I managed not to disappear. Feel free to mutter it under your breath, but don’t you ever tell me that miracles are the stuff of myth.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Wednesday, Twenty-Seven April:

The internet went out early in the day. Power was intermittent throughout the morning, but mostly there.  The mountain began to be battered. We came back from lunch, we left early for the day. Maxim happened to be off, so did Scout. My family was all snug in our home when I got there. I found out later that where others were hit once and hard, we were hit over and over hard. It was that evening before I found out that Tuscaloosa had lost one-seventh of itself and Cullman had fared poorly and the state park had played host to three twisters on the ground at once (a paramedic friend showed me a close shot he’d taken with his phone, holyHOLYfuck). A friend, upon finding out that we had no idea what was going on elsewhere, began to text snippets of information and news to me.

I called Randi, who was shaken but perfectly fine. A student at the University of Alabama, she had, she confessed, been terrified when the tornado set down a block from her apartment. She was coming home to the mountain as soon as she could. Her phone was messed up and she couldn’t make any calls or send any texts, but she could receive them. Sam, having just gone back to Texas less than twenty-four hours before, was on the other line, exceedingly not-okay with having left his bride.

Maxim showed me the snippet of radar he’d managed to pull up on his phone. “Unh, ah, there is this black area here right by us. I’ve never seen BLACK on any radar, have you?” No, no I had not, and it looked ugly, like a blotchy tumor on a rainbow landscape and wow, this is one of the rare times in life that merits one long, low whistle of disbelief punctuated with raised eyebrows. Things ramped up for us again. We stayed together, first in Mathias’ room reading and making LEGO magicks, then in the living room. When Maxim thought everything had passed, he went in search of ice and to check on his mother. He took Mathias with him.

He later professed the stupidity of leaving, because one of the events that occurred while he was out involved a massive oak falling across a pitch-black road a few feet ahead of him while he considered the merits of dropping a load in his pants. Another wave of storm had whipped itself at us and he’d been caught out in it. He crept back to his mom’s to wait it out. Back at home, Scout and I started hearing things hit the back side of the house.

“It’s still now,” I texted Maxim afterwards, “Come home, and hurry, but be safe.” My phone began dying. Maxim came home. “There is a tree in Dana’s house. It sliced clean through.” We didn’t get out to inspect, because I did not trust the dark and the clever way it might obscure dangling tree limbs with the potential to fall and crush or its ability to hide downed, soaked power lines an errant foot might find before a watchful eye could.

We made pallets for the children on our bedroom floor, set a lantern in the bathroom in case anyone had to get up later. It was dark, so dark, and I blessed this darkness, because it is a hardcore insomniac’s unspoken dream to have no glowing, buzzing streetlights slicing in from half a block away. There were no electronics humming, no tiny red lights becoming larger than life. “I AM GOING TO SLEEP LIKE A CHAMP TONIGHT!” I announced to no one in particular. We had laid our heads on our pillows and spoken a few words when one of us –I don’t even remember who, honestly– said, “Oh man, we got so lucky this time.” This was immediately punctuated with the explosive sound of a hundreds-of-years old tree a few yards away in the quick throes of giving over and going a fuck-all, messy horizontal.

I not only slept like a champ that night, I slept like a GOING-FOR-BROKE, FUNDAMENTALLY-DRIVEN, PIMP-ASS MOTHERHUMPIN’ CHAMP. But only for five and a half hours. I kept flopping around the bed after that, and then finally I got up and pulled on yoga pants and the notorious Pink Floyd shirt (that has made a-one-0r-a-two appearances within the voyeurnally tomes of yours truly) you might chance to remember. There were flip-flops involved, too. I slipped on a hoodie, leashed  up Banjo and set out. Only one other house on the whole block was occupied. Three of them had trees driven well into their innards. Others had broad, well-rooted oaks tipped over and leaving gigantic divots in the ground. Some of them had equally large trees snapped like toothpicks halfway up their trunks.

The three blocks surrounding our home were –and still are– a great mess. There are a bait of awful tales that I could run out in front of you, but I’ve already taxed your graces enough for tonight and I don’t think it’s in anyone’s interest for me to actively try and horrify you.  Let’s just say that I am very well aware that the most tragic thing that happened to me, basically, was having to endure an icy shower and hanging clothes on the line. Which, if you’ve been watching any of the news footage (which I have not even had time to go through in any real way) is the cosmic equivalent of stubbing my toe in the presence of legless people.

Translation: Don’t you !dare!! complain, dummy.

And so, I am not. In fact, I am going to post up, in the next little real soon day or two, things that have been so right about this place and its people since all the weathercarnage. I’ll include some ways you can help from where you are, too. Tonight my back is growing stiff and my eyelids are crackling.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

This week Scouty turns eighteen. Twenty days after that, she will graduate high school.

scout, is, well.....holy crow, she's grown
:: ’she looks like an album cover,’ somebody said ::

Then it will be June and she will be exploring another country.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

This summer we will be taking Mathias to our nation’s capital because he is old enough to absorb some of what this country is, what this country remembers, what it knows and also what it would like to forget. He’s inquisitive and perceptive, a fact magnet and discussion-haver.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Next weekend my son is coming home to get his bride and take her back to the desert with him. They are so young and passionate, and life is too fragile for them to be apart one second longer than they have to be. The world won’t be any less brutish, but they will each have the comfort of a bedmate’s tangled limbs and steady breathing to reassure them as they slumber. Important, too, is someone to laugh with when everything is all ludicrous as fuck and humor is the only thing left.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

It almost never fails: The day after a brutal, tornado-laden storm is picture-perfect, bright and mild and colorfully soft. This always blows my mind. Still, I am thankful for it, for the respite and I am moved to make this urgent wish:

Sonno beato, world, and all the children in it; sleep beautifully for a time.

I’m here. I’m still here. Everyone I know is accounted for. Everything is possible and I brought my spoon because I’ve always been one to dig in and that’s one trait I will fight to drag up to the grave’s lip before I have to be put in there.

 
|| August 12, 2010 || 12:18 pm || Comments (7) ||

So Tess and I set off to go to the Million-Mile Yardsale this past weekend. It’s not really a million miles long (I don’t think? Wait. Is it?), but it’s just more fun to say ‘Million-Mile Yardsale’ than ‘World’s Longest Yardsale‘. Not only does it sound more adventurous, but the former just flows a little better than the latter.  There were some twists and turns and off-track moments –as there always are when the two of us head out adventuring together– before we finally hammered down onto the trail and Made Shit Happen. Once we reached that point, though, we found ourselves miles and miles from civilization, swooping around the winding turns of curvaceous and lovely Lookout Mountain. The sale stops on the mountain portion of the trail were few and far between, but we’d find large clusters of folk hunkered down in spacious yards. Think pig roast. Think family reunion. Think flea market. Now throw all these thoughts in a Mason Jar and shake the shit out of them, jumble them up real good. Serve them over a bed of hundred-and-five degree humidity. The result sort of touches on what was going on.

At one stop we found no menfolk, only a passel of women huddled under a metal carport. There were about five older women (early fifties, perhaps?) a couple of younger twentysomethings and a girl of about twelve. They greeted us warmly and immediately enveloped us in conversation. It was clear from their appearance that they were Holiness Church, which is not uncommon either on our mountain or the one on which we happened to be wandering. I’ve found an illustration for those of you not familiar with the why of how we were able to immediately peg these laydehs as those of the Holiness persuasion.

:: holiness laydehs, a representative example for educational purposes only ::

Except, this illustration isn’t exact. The Holiness Laydehs we encountered that day looked 42% more matronly, 18% less colorful and 23% more dowdy than these do, as is typical for our region. But, to the plus side, they were every bit as sweet and pleasant as these laydehs appear to be, only with poofier hair. That’s another thing: Where their hair is concerned, Holiness women in these parts tend to have eighties bangs, a poof factor of seven or a combination thereof. It’s a complex and exact science, this hair, but I’m hesitant to explore its nuances further for fear that I might find myself  in a tea length dress with a sailor collar, forsaking my collection of lipsticks.

I would also miss my collection of tequila.

We browsed around, engaged with the group, talking merrily. Tess started having a spastic reaction to the fact that she found a pair of purple platform stilettos in a bin. They were pristine, these heels, showing no signs whatsoever of having been worn.

“These are a dollar! They’re my size!” Dance-dance-dance, squee-squee-squee. The incongruity of finding a pair of bright purple stripper heels in the middle of a half-dozen extremely conservative old-school women was not lost on us, but it wasn’t a huge surprise, either. We specialize in the incongruous, in the inexplicable and unlikely.  The laydehs were tickled at her delight, clapping and encouraging her to purchase something that they’d never in a million years wear themselves. We continued conversing and turned to the subject of our earlier difficulty in finding the trail head out of Chattanooga;  they assured Tess and me that we weren’t the only people that had problems with the directions that were posted on the internet. In fact, about eighty percent of their customers had.

Now, at times I express frustration with physicality. This used to mean a good face- or wall-punching, but I’ve upgraded to the class of anger that just means I go all flaily sometimes when I’m peeved about something whose ridiculousness can’t be encapsulated in words. Having healthy dollops of Irish and Italian running around in my veins doesn’t help this, either. I’m predisposed to gestures, you see.  So I started being flaily and Tess started getting tickled at me and of course flailing sometimes unlocks my verbiage so before you know it I was saying, “Well, that website sure didn’t know what the hell it was talking about…..”

Then I heard the screech of brakes in my brain and saw Tess stiffen ever so slightly.

WELL, JUST GREAT. I’ve let a swear word slip, totally betraying my polite raising. I’m obnoxious, but pretty respectful overall, and  I know how cusses –especially from females– are like a slap in the face in the Holiness community. And also there is the issue that,  while  it was only ‘hell’, my tongue is a  wily dipped-in-cusses thing and something like ‘Jesus, FUCK!’ is likely to come down the chute at any second and with no notice whatsoever. One can only imagine how such a monumental swear, said in the presence of  seven genteel, buttery-sweet Holiness Laydehs (and one twelve-year-old Holiness Laydeh in training)  might be received and/or dealt with.

(reader: please put on your swirly hat of vivid imagination; fire it up and let it go to work for the duration of this conversation)

“Dear, it is not nice to say ‘Jesus, FUCK!’ in polite company. Or in crass company, for that matter. Please accompany us to the backyard, where we will serve you warm cookies. Then we will shove you into the Specially Anointed Hole that we’ve dug for all Heatherns. Mkay?”

“What kind of cookies, ma’am?”

“Chocolate chip. With walnuts.”

“Well then: Mkay.” I’m not getting lured into any heathen-hole by something with raisins in it, der.

(you may now remove swirly hat of vivid imagination)

Two days later, it occurred to me how such incongruous shoes came to be in such self-consciously conservative hands. We were at the office when I shared my theory with Tess.

“Hey Tessa Rae, I reckon I know how those ladies came by those shoes.”

“Oh yeah?”

“What happened, see, is that some sixteen-year-old girl went shoe shopping without her momma in tow. Truckin’ down the mountain into the biggish city and all that.” Here Tess nodded and half-grinned, getting the gist of where I was heading with this.

“She wags home purple stripper heels, her doe eyes all starry, imagining how damn fancy and fine she looks in them. She dances them out for her momma, who inhales in the sharp, jangly way one does when their sensibilities have been backhanded with a fair deal of force. Momma’s face turns a shade that is complimentary to the offending shoes; she promptly forbids them.”

Tessa swept right in. “And those dang shoes go straight into the yardsale pile, to be snapped up by a Lesser Being at a later date.”

“Exactly right. Because if those shoes go back to the store? And the money goes back into pocketbook like nothing ever happened? Then what lesson will’ve been learned?”

We nodded sagely, agreeing with one another and with what must surely be the only scenario to a pair of brand-new, pristine-soled purple stripper pumps being procured for a buck from seven Holiness ladies high atop Mount Middle Of Nowhere.

There are a couple of morals to this story. One is that we may often get lost, but in the process of doing so we make great finds. Another is that Tess might just be a Lesser Being, but she’s the Lesser Being with amazing legs that end in fabulous, bargain-priced purple shoes.