Monday, July 31, 2006

when in Guam

I'm totally spent. I don't even feel like writing, which is a more troublesome indicator than a fevered brow or a bad EKG reading.

My teenager is having a wonderful time in California. He calls and we talk for a few minutes, or he talks and I listen; we're doing so many things, Mom! We fished in the ocean and camped on the Northern shores and visited City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco and ate at Yu Lee's (at Hyde and Jackson).

Why did you ever leave San Francisco when it's such a cool place to live, Mom?

As I'm trying not to sigh.

The other two boys are clamoring and climbing all over me. I start to write in my book-journal and then they interrupt. "Mom, guess what? Guess what. Look at me." I stop writing and look at them. Their hands are so warm on my skin, almost too warm. "There's this firecracker you can buy? That explodes underwater. Underwater!"

I nod, solemnly, and they scamper away again, caught up in some new diversion or mischief.

...and then I don't know where my thoughts were. I had at least one, I know I did.

The phone rings.
Where's your post? Melonie wants to know. Write something.

me: Yes, but what?
Melonie: I don't know. You've got so many secrets you never tell; write something disclosing.
me: Hey. I had a dream about Guam last night. I dreamed I was trying to get to California by plane and ended up on a boat to Guam instead.
...Is that disclosing enough?
Melonie: No.
me: I can't write.
Melonie: Why not?
me: Because I'm really bothered that Guam is a U.S. territory but the citizens don't vote. It makes me think of our founding fathers and what the ideals they founded this country upon. Well, first, religious freedom, but then the Puritans crushed everyone who wasn't Puritan, so I mean besides that. The aggressive stance against taxation without representation. If the people in Guam have to pay U.S. taxes, but can't vote, then we've become the very force we once grappled against. And if I'm a U.S. citizen in a U.S. territory, if I end up on a boat to Guam, not that I'm going to, but if I did, I want to have my rights.
Melonie: I'm pretty sure that you do.
me: Look it up.
Melonie sighs.

Then she reads to me from this page about the rights of the people of Guam, the Guamanians:

Guam receives large transfer payments from the US Federal Treasury ($143 million in 1997) into which Guamanians pay no income or excise taxes; under the provisions of a special law of Congress, the Guam Treasury, rather than the US Treasury, receives federal income taxes paid by military and civilian Federal employees stationed in Guam (2001 est.)

"Feel better?"
"Yes."
"So now I'm going to hang up so you can write."
"I can't write."
"Whatever you write, I'm sure it will be beautiful."
"Oh, ha," I say wearily, and we hang up.

It's even hotter today than it was last week, or at Cedar Point even. I turn up the air conditioning and stay inside the house, working with a frown and thinking. I don't know what to tell my son when he asks why I left San Francisco. I don't know what to write when my thoughts are so preoccupied elsewhere. I spent the last weekend as quietly and meekly as a nearly-drowned kitten, curled up under an afghan and waking now and then when my four year old would sit on my chest and ask his big brother, "Isn't she cute?"

I was talking to a childhood friend on the phone Saturday afternoon and I accidentally transposed the friend's first two names, at which point my friend yelped indignantly("Hey! I know your middle name. I can't believe you forgot mine!").

"Don't get pissy," I said, stung. I've been horizontal and half-dead all day. Get off my back. But I didn't say that. It sounded as self-pitying as it felt. My friend is supremely happy right now and I'm not about to admit I'm having a health setback at the moment. No one needs to hear about that. I'm sure it's tiring, even. Same old, same old.

Sometimes my words --anything I could say, anything I can't -- still just feel completely inadequate and wrong, like a pair of mismatched shoes.
This would be one of those times.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

I've been accused of being an idealist, and I can't deny it; I know it to be true. I see more, often, than what's really there. This doubtless works to my detriment. The world is so much more interesting when you add your own details to it, to make it come out, if only in your own mind, the way you'd like it to if kingdoms were yours to command.

I write about some things. I don't write about everything. I write about what I want to select out of the noise and then I amplify and sharpen it into something else. I may even change so many details I find distracting that the retelling may change shape entirely and be something else -- something that may or may not be true to your own particular field of experience and/or vision. I don't know what to say about that.

I see what I want to see.

I like believing all things are possible, even when they're not. My father used to bring home broken machines from his work and store them in the den. I'd fuss over them in the summers, trying to turn them into something else.

I grew up thinking anything could be fixed, which is dangerous, of course (some things can't, or weren't meant to be, even). I remember taking a shoebox full of junk to my fifth-grade teacher and telling her I was making a vending machine. "For what?" "I'm not sure yet, but it's going to be wonderful, just wonderful," I breathed, and the sad thing is, I really believed it.

Or that I actually need to believe it in order to keep going. Needed it then, need it now. I write these posts because it's a way for me to keep that childish impetus alive -- thoughts are things, so you want to keep the good ones around, see? It's the most innocent form of magic.

I'm not having the easiest time right now. I can't go out in this heat and I'm not allowed to drive until I get to Cleveland Clinic next month, which makes me feel a bit like Driving Miss Dipsy. Yesterday it was a zillion degrees out and where was I? I was inside shivering, wrapped up in three quilts with a blood pressure of 71/41. I feel about as high-maintenance as an aging incontinent poodle.

So I laid in bed most of the day with my feet propped up on various pillows, notes and cards and papers scattered about as I wrote out my correspondence and stamped it for mailing out later. I have to get it together, because I have an arts and crafts fair to show up for next weekend. I'm not infirm, I'm not sick (really) I'm just like a car with a flat tire and I want to get on with it.

You know?

haiku

Heather sent me the url to this site, which makes haikus out of the content of your web page.

Example, from my site:

i'd have wanted to
say how young i felt and how
perfectly at peace

Friday, July 28, 2006

two weeks later

I'm still peeling from the Cedar Point trip two weeks ago. How is this possible? But the sunburn is past the painful stage and now my skin is just a cheerful, ruddy pink, like the complexion of a friendly alcoholic.

Layers flake away and reveal more pink underneath. I am the lobster. Koo koo ka choo.

Now that I've been to Cedar Point I finally understand how and why my brother and sister looked forward to going there every summer since they were eight. When I asked (pressing for details), they'd just say, "It's -- well, it's just really fun," but fun is not an adjective that captivates my imagination. Fun is not in my repository of received wisdom, so I eye it skeptically.

They didn't tell me that the sand on the beach would feel like flour under my feet, and that the amber waters of Lake Erie would remind me of the pleasure of freshwater swimming -- a silty-wet floor with unexpected dips and swells, fish that swish curiously near before flapping away again, the flick-flick waves they make swimming away tickling your toes like an old lady's petticoats.

Someone must have forgotten to mention how the lighthouse blinks lazily at the end of the jetty, the stalwart beacon that guides and warns. How festive the roller coasters are, played against a sunset sky and a quiet surf. Or how, in the morning, the Beach Boys sing on the boardwalk and tanned, oil-smoothed people bat volleyballs obligingly back and forth across nets like actors in paid advertisements for summer.

It was my first visit, at 37, to such a place as this. Throughout my childhood my brother and sister always went, with their father, but (my mother warned sternly) were I to breathe amusement park air and ride the roller coasters, my arms would fall off. Yes, they would, straight off. It happens, Sharon, it happens all the time. There was that man in Florida who got on a roller coaster and the ride chopped his arms right off.

Perched on a rock wall watching nightfall sink heavily -- as a tired woman easing into a couch at the end of a long day -- into Lake Erie, it occured to me that there's much in life that can't be defined by someone else's experience.

Cedar Point is fun, yes, very fun, they were absolutely right, they were on the money, I'd have wanted to do this a long time ago if I'd had my wits about me at all. But there's also lots else I've accepted as read from other people's opinions without trying them out for myself first.

"There's so much of the world yet I haven't seen," I said, as my friends looked at me curiously. There were no words to describe what it is I really wanted to say. How young I felt, and how attentive, and how perfectly at peace. Living is seeing, I realized. It's the not-seeing that is dying. Keep looking, pay attention, have a fresh perspective; then there are no endings. This was what Dylan Thomas meant: rage, rage against the dying of the light.

As I smiled to myself and went on watching the water and the sky, how it can blur into one; the kind of horizon that makes birds want to swim, and persuades the mermaids to believe they can fly.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

sunshine through a window

With this new classification I'm enjoying as la petite fleur I am no longer allowed to drive, lift any heavy objects (up to and including emotional baggage and/or excessive guilt), stand for long periods of time, or go out into the sun for any length of time. It's all very genteel and Victorian. I may as well be sniffling into a lavender-scented handkerchief from behind an elaborate window that's been heavily draped with lace.

Bleah.

My mother chaffeured me to the ancestral home yesterday so she could hover over me as I curled up in the recliner and tried on the elderly little white elastic stockings she bought for a dollar at the senior citizens' center. I can see why. They didn't fit.

("To think you'd pay thirty-some dollars for yours," she sniffed, until I actually got them on; the puffy heels pouted out somewhere around mid-calf and the tops, which were surely meant to cover my knees, rolled over and over in a uniquely binding way like a psychotic Spandex slinky until they met the puffy pouting heels.)

The boys played at my feet in a very idyllic scene, rolling toy cars back and forth along the polished blond wooden floor and asking Grandma for money. I've trained them well. They've almost got the cockney accent down: Please, suh, aye want sum mooh.

Funny memories there are in coming home. I mean if you have the luxury of revisiting your childhood home, wherever that may be; the walls and the floors are geographical terrains literally mapped with emotional markers of your life.

(Those narrow dark back stairs? I fell down them in the first grade after I broke my leg, and the cast fell after me with a loud plunk each time I made contact with the steps on the way down.)

There was something familiar about being curled up in the recliner in the middle of the day as sunlight poured through the family room window, as if from a pitcher; some fragile, cautious adjustment of something slender and frail being settled into place -- a leg bone, or a window into the jamb.

I remembered being seven, eight, nine -- the gray years, when my absences from school escalated by fives and I studied at home with my mother instead, the one time when I wasn't sharing her attention with three other siblings. When I missed so much school I could have phoned it in, if they'd have let me, and at noon we had chicken soup from the can and grilled cheese sandwiches.

One memorable week I had scrambled eggs every day for lunch instead and loved them until, that Friday, I realized I was sick to death of scrambled eggs and didn't care if I never ate them again (and, in fact, I rarely do).

It's the sunshine that calls up such memories, the same sunshine she used to sit me in after lunch and Hollywood Squares. Sunshine is good for you, Sharon. Gives you vitamins. We'll sit here on the lawn and you can tell me one of your stories.

So I would.

And here I am, still telling one of my stories.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

at the sound of the beep, leave your name and a brief message

My son finally called me last night; he is traveling but having a wonderful time and, alas, also in a zone without cell service. I'm just happy I caught the call, as admittedly the telephone is a neglected appliance in this household.

There are reasons for this:
  1. My kids are usually making a lot of noise, obsuring the sound of the ring
  2. My kids have taken the phone and hid it so that I hear it but see it not
  3. I'm not home and cell phones don't work in this zone
  4. I am not really comfortable with the telephone in general and feel it's an inadequate form of communication
This irritates untold legions. In fact, I think if pressed to come up with the singlemost annoying aspect of being associated with me, it would be this. Ask my friends; they've left their testimonials on my voice mail. These are verbatim quotes.

Beep: Sharon. This thing: is called a phone. It rings and then how it works is, you ANSWER IT. Call me and tell me how you're doing. Bye.

Beep: I don't know why your voice message says you'll call back as soon as you can because we both know that's a big, fat lie.

Beep: [obviously a telemarketer waiting for me to pick up] You oughta try this, it's good. *pause* *distant giggles* I'm not joking you, it's good. Here, try some.

Beep: SHA-RON. If you ever answered this thing I don't know what I'd do. CALL ME. Bye.

Beep: Sharon, if you're in the hospital and you didn't tell me, I am going to be so mad at you. Tell me what's going on. Bye.

Beep: I KNOW YOU'RE HOME. I DON'T BELIEVE YOU'RE NOT THERE. PICK UP. *silence.* *more silence*

Beep: Hi. This is the Peter Pan Storyteller, and at the beep, turn the page. Beep. *disgusted pause* I'll call later.

Beep: *heavy sigh*

*click*

Mea culpa. I don't know what else to say.
I might change my voice mail message, though.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

another day

Sunrise: electric fans whirring in the windows, a breeze sidling in over the early morning mist, air as cool and self-contained as the fog that rolls out of the freezer in the kitchen downstairs when I open it. Underneath a heavy white coverlet I am warm, even boneless.

But not comfortable.

I extend my right arm across the bed, opening and closing my hand as if reaching but not quite grasping something that only I can see. I watch my fingers open and close.

One thought nagging over and over, an impatient child's insistent whine.

Where is my son? Have you seen him?

The last time I talked to him, it was Thursday and he was laughing, a little out of breath, checking in quick before going on to something else.

That was Thursday.

Friday he called, but I was at the movies with the other two boys. We watched Monster House. I got the message when we got back home, garbled and all in a rush: "Mom. I'm just calling to tell you that..[something]...and say hi...we are getting ready to leave for..[something-something]...call me back, immediately."

Immediately?

I replayed the message three times and understood it no better each time. I did call, but I got rerouted to voice mail. Again, and again, and again, and again.

It's the immediately that snagged at my anxieties. Why the immediately?

As the days pass I understand I will have to call other numbers than the cell phone; it worked so well in the past, but there are reasons why my son would be unreachable by cell. They could be traveling through in area in which there is no service (and they do travel, on this vacation). The battery could have worn out. There could be no power to call on a real phone; they are, after all, in California.

Reasonable explanations these. It just bothers me. It always bothers me when days and days go between communications. One wants to stop people on the street and ask them, needlessly: Have you heard anything? Have you?

So I call places I imagine he could be, but all I get are more voice mails. It is beginning to feel rote: I am starting to expect a recording with which to discuss the whereabouts of my son.

I check the phone as anxiously as a teenager, scrolling through the Caller ID looking for the telltale number, the footprint in the sand. It isn't there.

It doesn't have to be a long conversation. You just have to tell me that you're okay.

But then there is the element of trust, which is something of which I don't have any extra. He's with his father and his father always takes good care of him. He is all right, wherever he is at. I have to believe that.

I know that. I'd just still like to hear from him, nonetheless.

After a while, the right hand stops opening and closing. It rolls into a resigned fist and then unfolds, slowly, patting and smoothing the coverlet beheath, supporting my weight as I sit up and look around. I swing my legs over the side of the bed and plant my feet firmly on the cool wooden floorboards.

Sighing heavily.

Another day.

Monday, July 24, 2006

the doctors hath spoken.

The doctors hath spoken.

So I was right; (and I know this because the nurse told me so) an ER visit would have done me no good whatsoever because ERs are only equipped to handle hypotensive cases brought on by dehydration, sepsis, and/or shock. Had I gone to the ER this past weekend they would have admitted me, given me a bolus of intravenous fluids, stood around observing me like the lab rat that I am and then sent me home with the exact same instructions I got today:
  1. Stay out of the sun. Period.
  2. Increase salt intake. (read as: all the potato chips you can stand.)
  3. Restrict activity. No Boston Marathons; no pogo-sticking in the driveway.
  4. Change positions slowly. They didn't say how slow. This could be a problem. Your slow might be my fast.
  5. Avoid standing for prolonged periods of time. This rules out shopping at Wal-Mart obviously. Right away we're saving lots of money with this strategy.
  6. Don't drive until this is resolved. Hitchhike; expand your social circle a bit.
(No, they don't want me to hitchhike.)

They're sending me here for treatment. I don't know when; crack teams of cardiac receptionists just ordered cases of Mountain Dew and an XL Domino's Pizza to stay up late and blitz the case tonight. Or something like that.

Am I feeling any better? No, not really. I'd give you my vitals at this time, but maybe we don't know each other well enough for that yet. I'll live, and that is all ye need know. :)

fast and left of center

My dreams keep getting stranger and stranger. I dreamed that I was driving a car, but not very well. I couldn't make turns or navigate in general without missing the mark entirely and running over the curbs, driving up on banks, etc. I couldn't even turn the car around to rectify my errors, not that this stopped me from tearing around in a hurry anyway (not that this never happens in real life).

So I looked up Cars in the online dream dictionary:

The car in your dreams stands for your current actions. The movement of the car is the way you are trying to make progress in life and the extent to which you feel in control.
Also, the way you drive a car in the dream reflects the style you are using to go after what you want.

Great, that's very encouraging, thanks.

Kamikaze, blind, fast and left of center. That approach works as well as any, I suppose.

Sunday, July 23, 2006


Tiger lilies.

Day #2

BP: 86/43.

Tomorrow I call the doctor and ask for instructions on where to go and what to do next. Sort of like the Emergency Broadcast System. I'm not going to the ER because I'm not sitting in the hoosegow for a day or two while they figure out what to do. I'm on a schedule here.

Low blood pressure makes one impervious to warmth. It's 84 degrees outside and I'm shivering and yawning. This is even after I've donned the (medically prescribed) stockings, tube socks, blue jeans, tee shirt and sweater.

I dreamed last night that I rented a car and the only vehicle available was a Yugo. Like those even exist anymore. It was in poor working order, too. Which seems pretty real to life.

Word of advice: Don't watch Finding Neverland when you're a mother of boys yourself and not feeling well.

Part of me wants to lie back down and go to sleep again. The other part wants to get up and work until I'm spent for real. There's no shortage of things that need to get done around here.

I choose getting up and going back to work.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

film at eleven

Well, this day has been a complete wash. I woke up in slow-mo and I've been slow-mo all day. Even by noon when everyone else in the world is up and about I still couldn't stop yawning and succumbing to gravity. I checked my blood pressure: 88/40. Well, hell, that explains it. And I know what they'd do if I presented in the ER with a reading like that, but truthfully there's not much more they could do for me there that I can't do at home. So I just go on drinking Gatorade and drawing in my sketchbook.

The pulse reads around 44 on the cuff, which of course isn't at all right. The pacemaker prevents the pulse from ever going that low. All that indicates to me is that there's an arrythmia going on (which I already know, I can feel it) and it's not picking up but every other (or every other-other) heartbeat. Because I can feel it pounding like the gallop of a six-legged horse. It's many things, but it ain't weak. That much I know for sure.

Friends and family keep asking what brought this on. I honestly don't know. Some days are good and some days aren't as good but the good days outnumber the bad so I don't count 'em up. My mom has called about a dozen times and I keep telling her I'm fine. Then other people ask her how I'm doing and she tells them I'm in terrible health and could die any minute, or something.

That might be overstating the case a bit. No need for alarm.

It always begs that question -- when do you tell the truth and when do you just gloss over the obvious with a lie or *cough* an otherwise bluff answer to forestall any further lines of questioning. Everyone knows when someone says "Hi, how are you?" they don't really want to know that your cat birthed puppies and the mailman stole your shoes.

So you just nod and say, "Fine, can't complain" (my favorite) "How about you?"

The turn-around trick is a conversational ploy I've exercised for years and years. When I answer a question with a question it might mean something. Unfortunately my friends have caught on to this manuever and now I have to think up something else. Maybe I should start carrying firecrackers to throw when I want to create a diversion. Though there might be certain laws against that.

Anyway, I'd only mention it because my mom has talked to a lot of people today and a lot of those same people read my site: just so you know, I'm not dead. Just real tired. There's a difference. The chances are slim to none I'd ever give up the right to vote, see. And even if I do technically live in the South most of us are still required by law to have a heartbeat if we want to put our two cents in.

So I'm just fine. Really.

monster house

I've been hearing about the Monster House movie for months now. From the moment the four-year-old saw the previews we have spoke and thought of little else. Monster House. Comes out July 21. Is it July 21 yet? There goes the neighborhood.

So it would have been unthinkable to miss the first showing. The kid was relentless. He was so relentless we got to the theater an hour early because he was so concerned we might miss seeing it.

What do you do when you get to the movies too early? You have to sit in a darkened mostly-empty theater staring at a blank screen and listening to MovieTunes, the music listened to by over ten billion people on the planet, or something. The fact that those ten billion have no choice in the matter, that they too have been corralled into an early appearance by highly demanding children, is of no consequence whatsoever. Captive audience or no, it's still an impressive head count.

MovieTunes programming is thoroughly dreadful. The jilted Nick Lachey sang his ode to leprosy, "What's Left of Me," followed by a selection from the Broadway production of "The Color Purple" ("You got to push the button/If you want to feel the train.")

If you read Alice Walker, and I read that book about six times, then you understand how euphemistic albeit twisted that lyric is.

Monster House is not your usual kids' movie. Some kids in the theater cried out loud at some parts, especially toward the end. Even the four-year-old (who curled up in his chair watching with his eyes round and his hands over his mouth) asked me to take him to the bathroom at one point, where he struck up a conversation with his imaginary friend Sherwood as he took a whiz:

"Hey, Sherwood. What are you doing here? Seeing Monster House? It's scary. You want to sit with me? Sit with me and you won't be scared."

I listened, smiling and inspecting my manicure as I leaned against the sink waiting.
He came out and washed his hands.

"Hi, Sherwood," I said. "Sitting with us now?"
"Yes," my son said solemnly. "Is that okay?"
"Sure," I said.

According to the four-year-old and his friend Sherwood, the Monster House movie is really great and they had a big time. My jury is still out. I thought the movie was really strange.

Afterwards we went to McDonald's. They piped in classical music over the P.A. while we ate. I sat there surveying the table littered with Happy Meals and paper napkins, listening to the keen of violin strings and marveling at the dichotomy. Go to the movies and you hear tripe. Go to McDonald's and get Mozart. I don't understand it. I don't understand it at all, what kind of world it is we're living in.

Friday, July 21, 2006

heat wave

To say the heat outside is oppressive is the grossest kind of understatement. Every time I step outside the house with the boys, the roofers rappelling the walls call out, "Going to the pool?" as if everyone on the planet can immerse in the medium of blistering heat, just like them.

Hahahahaha

I don't think so.

NO, I'm not going to the pool. Look at me, my skin is bubble wrap as it is! What do I look like, a masochist? I've got freckles the size of half-dollars going on here. My back looks like a map of the world, little light brown continents edging back toward Pangaea.

When I leave the house I have to run through the maze of ladders and tin sheets and crumpled dusty gray drainspouts abandoned in twisted heaps toward the car so I can drive to somewhere else that's hopefully also air-conditioned.

The lawn looks like a big dying quilt, persistent fading green checkered with large light-brown rectangles where the grass perished and dissipated into an atomic shadow under the weight of the tin blue sheets rudely scattered like playing cards.

The ants come out when it's scorching hot like this. Industrious and diligent, ants are, unperturbed by the punishing sun. Ants and roofers work undeterred.

I step on the ants every chance I get. I want to send the squished ones back to their brothers with a note tied around their little spindly legs: There's more where this came from.

The roof looks very nice.

When I'm not running errands in the cruel and unusual heat I'm working on the pieces I'll be selling at an upcoming street fair. I work inside the house where it's cool and relaxing and I can listen to my music and sing along when the mood strikes. I just bought the Walk the Line soundtrack. I'm liking it.

My grandmother always said the key to patience is, while you're waiting, do something else. I'm waiting for the heat to subside, so that's my something else. Work.

On my Launchcast as I wrote (because I spent a lot of time just listening and not writing):
  • Moonlight Mile, the Rolling Stones
  • I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, U2
  • Blue Moon, Bob Dylan
  • Come Fly With Me, Frank Sinatra
  • All My Love, Led Zeppelin
  • Don't, Elvis Presley
  • Sultans of Swing, Dire Straits

Thursday, July 20, 2006

the week, to date

My oldest son, the teenager, is now in California.

Roofers have been scaling the house all week tearing off what's left of the old roof and putting down a new one.

The ruddy sunburn across my chest that I got from floating down the Renegade River in Soak City all day Sunday is now deepening and blistering. My skin looks like bubble wrap.

North America is still embroiled in a heat wave.

I'm at home cleaning the basement, because the basement is cool and there's just something reassuring about making a basement tidy. A basement is not just a safe haven from inclement weather; it is the repository of glassware, boxes of Christmas decorations, outgrown children's toys, the washer and the dryer.

In the basement I am finding things I'd long forgotten about. This picture of me and my now-teenage son in the back of a journal, for instance. A Christmas in San Francisco.

I look so young. Young and anorexic. (And white, not like ruddy bubble wrap).

My six-year-old looks at it skeptically: "You were a lot skinnier then."

I look over at him.

"You looked good when you were that skinny."

I want to argue, and yet I can't, so I sigh instead. "Yes. But I look good now, too."

"But you looked good skinny."

I give up.

The journal is very dusty. I can't believe it survived; I thought I destroyed everything written from those years around the divorce. All these secrets have been whispering to each other moldily from underneath the considerable weight of plastic-wrapped vinyl records and curling manila files baked from the inside out with dry, factual documentations of interviews and reports -- the kind of jetsam that gets buried in a basement because you don't know where else to put it. I am stunned to read:

There is something hurting inside me that I can not pull out. It is lodged in my chest and warns me there are still memories to be disposed of, as if I once used some kind of rock or wedge to stop the bleeding and it's worked, if temporarily. Now this clot has strengthened, grown viable. I could transplant it on paper where it would surely live forever. But in my chest it is only a pressing disappointment.
When I was an art student I had a professor who pushed us to move past our mediocrities and failed images and force them into something workable. Often, looking at one of my paintings, he'd say, "I can tell you did this because you were frustrated and trying to save it." I'd nod. "I like that," he said. "Most really good works of art were really terrible until the artist surrendered the inhibitions that screwed it up in the first place."

So I wonder now if this is all I'm doing -- creating another canvas. Carving another sculpture. I was never true to my studies as an artist. I was classically trained, but I never paint. I don't draw. Everything I created I've destroyed. I knew I would never, truly, be great. To study art was a luxury that should never have been afforded to someone so poor. What could I have been thinking?


I talked to a college student the other day who has such incredible confidence. "My God won't let me make the wrong choices," she said. All I could think (though I didn't say it) was: My God did.


What I would like to do is take my life and unfurl it like a flag, lay it out straight and show it to someone. "You see, this is who I really am," I could say, and that person could read it all and understand. How I could have lived this life (on so many levels!) and seen all these things and still be this person. I want to know how I turned into what the rest of the world sees as a flower. When really I feel that if there is a bloom, it was spontaenous, as a rotten potato plant that persistently goes on growing even as it's dying, until it flowers and becomes beautiful again, and maybe my own will had nothing to do with it.

My God did let me take some wrong turnings. I think there was something else I was supposed to do because of it. Maybe to learn to fashion other people's feelings into words and learn to leave mine alone. The images, the thoughts, the feelings, everything. Just see and listen to what other people do, and then I might stop waking up every morning in the a.m. with such terror, wondering if this is what I'll always wake up with, the fear and the realization of one's own life being, in the end, only a catalyst for something else, and nothing more. I have this wordless prayer. Please let me be something more than decorative. But maybe that's not it either.


I was so young.

There's no pity, or sorrow, or attachment there, just a sort of fond acknowledgment: I was so young. This is why I can't stand to save whatever it is I've written before. The earnestness embarasses me. Life is a long trip; you can only pack so much.

I think that's what getting older is going to mean, for me -- learning to travel more lightly.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

new show!

I got a phone call yesterday morning; I'm going to have an art show at a college gallery, the first Sunday in October.

Continuity of theme is important to me -- I want to show works like these:



But then I also want to put in works like these:



...So I'm going to be thinking this out very carefully.

In the meanwhile, email me for details.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

vacation, all I ever wanted

This is me at my worst.

No makeup, hair uncombed and tatty-thick from chlorinated water, skin glowing some florid magenta color.

At this particular captured moment in time I've been sunburnt, heat-exhausted, dehydrated, dragged to First Aid, revived from semi-consciousness with ice cubes and water, and shuttled in a little van across this flame-broiled land mass that is North America as the EMT workers sought air conditioning for me as their own personal and very noble quest.

News flash: air conditioning of the most sublime and euphoric quality can be found within the confines of an extremely plushy Cadillac of a nondescript color. (So nondescript I kept losing it all weekend. I could have been arrested for trying to get into other people's cars.)

I don't like the way Cadillacs look, and I don't like the status symbolism that goes along with it, and I firmly maintain that money doesn't buy class and that manners cannot be bought and that courtesy to others and dignity of self is much more valuable than a label or a name.

But the luxury of riding in a Cadillac, I admit it, I am pained to confess it, is REALLY, REALLY NICE.

So is the luxury of best friends. I'm coming to find that friends are far more helpful than the most qualified psychologist. Spending a weekend with them was terrifically relaxing.



Heather and I, dining at an Italian restaurant with Melonie and Laura (not pictured).

Even throughout the laughter and comfortable banter, I know I kept drifting away at moments, if only mentally, and my friends would ask: What's the matter? Where are you? Are you sad? Are you thinking about your kids? What is it?

Nothing's the matter, I'm fine, no, I'm not sad, I know my kids are happy and enjoying themselves too (ah, the miracle of cell phones). It's what I call Seymour's Bananafish (from the J.D. Salinger short story, "A Perfect Day for Bananafish"). Which means only this: the feeling you get when you come across something so beautiful and touching that it makes your throat tighten and you have no words to define it. I got Seymour's Bananafish a lot this weekend.

I got it walking along the waterside at night, watching the waves lap up on the sand, licking away the brave little mounds of sand castles that vacationers' children had built all day long.

I got it watching a very young girl (four? five?) in a green sundress sitting next to her grandmother over brunch, her tanned back perfectly straight and her hands folded properly in her lap as she waited for her cue: what to do next.

I got it in the gift shop, standing over the trinkets (bouncy balls, whistles, clackity-clack wooden toys) looking for something quiet to take back home to the children when a little curly-haired boy who'd wandered away from his parents held a spinning top aloft and nudged me curiously: "Mom! What's this do?" and then rounding his eyes at me as I smiled gently down at him and he realized: "Oh! Oh!" (you're not Mom). And I just kept on smiling, motionless with the realization: that's the classification I'm in now; not string-bikini beach teen type, but automatically associated as someone maternal, a woman who knows the names of things and what it is they do. It was a nice thought.

Any time I'm near the water I am completely in my element. In my childhood I nearly drowned more than once due to my endless fascination with the water -- its complete and boundless depths, its buoyancy, its mysteries. Now that I'm older I know not to flirt with the drop-offs in the floor, that some challenges really are unbeatable; that there really are forces greater than ourselves at work, and that surrender does not necessarily mean defeat.

So I walked along the edge, comfortably, stopping to write in the sand now and then, letting the tides consume the messages and carry them away to somewhere else.

Where are you, Sharon? What is it?
My answer: I'm happy.

Update: Heather posts about the trip.
Melonie posts about the trip.
Laura posts about the trip.

by the way

My letter to a mourning friend struck a chord with some of you. Reading this post tonight brought some encouragement and inspiration right back to me. This is one of the aspects I truly love about blogging. It can open up a discourse that ever expands my own view.

Friday, July 14, 2006

insomnia

For three nights in a row, I've barely slept. This has the intimations of something Biblical already, I can see that now. As if I'm wallering in the bowels of a giant whale at sea. (I might be. It is awfully humid around here. The air is so damp that the pages in my book are turning limp and frowsy.)

I don't have an explanation for this. Sleeplessness is not a side effect of any medication I'm currently taking. I don't do crack. I don't have infant children in the home. I no longer imbibe caffeinated coffee.

It's true that my boys do like keeping me on my toes. They throw things at me throughout the day after only one warning shot across the bow. ("LOOK ALIVE!" -- and then I duck.)

Even after I've read them their two bedtime stories (in varying accents) and tucked them in and turned out the light, I sit up nights in bed, jittery and baggy-eyed, jiggling one foot and looking furtively over my left shoulder like a gangster. What's that? Do I hear something?

And I don't mean the dog. The dog you can't miss hearing. The dog has the annoyingly persistent habit of trailing me from room to room and panting, slurping, snarfing and chewing at himself. He got poison ivy after I walked him out in the country, but only on his genitals. (You can tell me he didn't do it on purpose. You can believe that if you want to. I don't.) I can't stand it. I can't stand listening to it. I throw pillows at him in impotent frustration. "STOP! STOP IT!"

He pauses and looks up from between his legs at me, in this most detached sort of way, as if I am a science experiment or a small, unfriendly cat.

Then resumes panting, slurping, snarfing and chewing at himself as if this conversation never happened. I hate dogs.

There's also this. I can't sleep in the dark. I'm 37 years old and I still hate the dark. I have to have a light on somewhere. I just do. It doesn't even necessarily have to be in the room. It could be down the hall, or in the basement closet, or somewhere in India. I just need tangible proof that somewhere, somehow, light exists.

I really, truly fall asleep at 3 a.m. and then I am awakened at seven by one of the children at exactly the moment when I was about to drop off into deep R.E.M. and relieve my mind of the various subconscious imageries that accumulated over the past 24 48 72 hours.

And so the treadmill continues.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

letter to a mourning friend



A life is steeped in sorrows

Paths may end that just begun
But in our thoughts and memories,

earth and heaven can be one.

Dear _____________,

It's just me.

I wanted to talk to you, one on one, about everything that has happened. Somehow the window of opportunity never seems to open. If it does, it is so brief that I don't get the time to say what I meant to say. I would like to tell you my own thoughts, for what they are worth (if anything) on death and dying. I don't flatter myself that they will be helpful at all, but still I have to say them.

I have felt such concern for you. I want to "be there" for you as much as possible, and yet this kind of thing leaves one feeling useless and a bit paralytic instead.

I know that you are not alone. That is a great comfort to me.

At the same time, grief is such a private and personal thing. We can pray, surround you, give you space or keep you near; but ultimately the ache in your heart is something you alone reckon with. We still cannot take it away.

One realization I've come to accept is that heaven really does exist. It's an intangible proof; I have no evidence, and yet I believe it truly. Your loved one has been loosed from this mortal prison and has transcended into the embracing arms of all those who passed before.

The beautiful thing is that when magnified, love becomes almost supernatural; there is no definition for how far and how deeply it can extend, any more than we can define where heaven is and how it can be found.

Even in your grief, if you pay close attention you will see the signs that love still abounds about you; and that the love you felt has been transformed into something even more lovely and long-lasting. And, in an inexplicable way, even more honorable.

It is always an upward progression. Nothing is ever lost.

Situations change and reality is flux but people -- even if we leave them, or they leave us -- still live in our hearts and minds.

Love is the life force. "It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all" -- it took me so long to understand this. How could this be true, when the subtraction feels so brutal?

But if one is fortunate enough to both give and receive love, one has found the secret to living peacefully on this earth; -- that the very act of loving opens one up to other dimensions which are equally powerful or even more so.

Even when we know and accept this, it is so hard for the living to be suddenly robbed of those we love. Even if they are around us in our thoughts and memories, they cannot be seen or touched. We miss them so much.

It is terribly, terribly difficult to let go and to accept this cruel change in reality, the random cruelty that is nature [Hemingway].

I can only imagine how heartrending this is for you. But I so want you to know that the relationship you had is not terminated in the course of death. The relationship has merely ascended to a higher level -- more abstract, yet just as real, and even deeper and more complete then it could have been on earth.

If you know these things to be true, nothing and no one can truly be taken from you. If I didn't believe this, I wouldn't be able to go on living. After all, the love we feel for others lives on whether we are still able to express it to them or not.

And as you go about resuming your daily routine after enduring this loss, you may find that the aftermath is the most difficult of all. If you reflect on all the memories you have which are pleasant, you will find that in your mind is a rich bank upon which you can draw whenever it pleases you, knowing that you were a fine and much-loved friend.

Those who have passed on before us -- if they loved us truly, and they did -- would want to be remembered in this way, not drowning in regrets and sorrows for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.

When there is love, there is no seeking for alteration [Shakespeare]. If there were things you still wanted to say; they are already known. Though you could still write your thoughts down on paper if this explanation does not satisfy you; or you could honor the memory in any way you see fit, and they would, again, be known to the recipient.

But most of all, living the rest of your life knowing you knew such a person, and was so immeasurably touched and benefited; is a gift to the loved one in itself. Don't you think so?

I know these statements are not original or new. Still, I feel a need to write them to you because it worries me to see you in such pain. I want you to know that you have friends who love and support you with all their heart. You will never be alone; in fact, you are less alone now than you ever were.

Always your friend,

Sharon

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

a near collision

I highlighted my hair last night to hide the strands of white that are stringing along the hairline. (see new profile picture) Days like these, it's no wonder I'm going gray.

I was stopped in traffic at a red light behind a black pickup at noon when a dark green minivan comes careening off an exit ramp and sails right up to me. I can't see, in the rear view mirror, whether the driver is on a cell phone or changing a radio station or is otherwise engaged; all I can determine is that the velocity is remaining unchecked as the vehicle looms ever nearer.

It's an odd sensation, to be a immovable object for an irresistible force. There's nothing I can do and nowhere I can go. Before I can envision how crumpled my car is going to be after the van has plowed into me from the rear (and fortunately, I'm thinking, the kids aren't with me!) the driver swerves off the road and struggles along the shoulder until the vehicle comes to a full stop, neck and neck with me on my right hand side.

I lean forward, peering through my passenger window, as if to say: what the...? But then the light changes and I can move away, so I do, shaking my head. What'd they do? Just wake up out a reverie and realize they were still driving? Or what.

does anyone have some Icy Hot?

Hi! It's me again.

I'm on my vacation. Right now I'm in football camp. Football is all about discipline. I'm sore today because we had a good workout last night.

When we last left off, Kirk and Jack were in Sir Van Bunny Buns' mansion searching for anything out of the ordinary...


Scene 4

(Interrupted by quiet footsteps)

Kirk: You hear that? (Whispering)

Jack: Get out your guns (Whispering)


(A guard walks upstairs and looks in the room)

Guard: (gasping) Intruders!

Kirk: Holy crap! Shoot him!

(Focuses in on the gun firing at the man)

(Close–up of Jack) (Wincing as the bullet hits the guard)

(The audience hears a peculiar “thump thump thump” as the guard rolls down the stairs, dead.)

Jack: Think he saw us?

(Kirk looks at Jack, pauses a few seconds, and slaps Jack across the face with his gun)


Scene 5


(Setting: At Sir Van Bunny Buns secret room in the manor)(Sir Van Bunny Buns is sitting in a chair that is
facing back to the camera.)

Sir Van Bunny Buns: (German Accent) Guards! Be on ze lookout for some peculiar pests that are intruding on my work.

Guards: Yes Sir!

Sir Van Bunny Buns: Now let me zee your evil laugh. I know you are capable of doing so.

Guards: (laughing kind of like they are weirded out) Heh heh hee…

Sir Van Bunny Buns: NO! From your bowels. Like zis. (Clears throat) (Does a pretty good evil laugh and then chokes on something.) Oh, (clears throat) maybe my laugh is kind of rusty, but let me zee you do it.

(Guards are gone)

Sir Van Bunny Buns: Eh… who needs zem anyway. What’s zat smell?

(Direct cut to- Kirk and Jack upstairs) (There is a knock from the closet door)

Kirk: (reading a newspaper) could you get that?

Jack: (sighing)

(Jack opens the closet door) (It’s a guard on the other side.) (Jack, with an expression that he’s just seen a ghost, immediately shuts the door)

Jack: (to Kirk) it’s for you.

(Suddenly, the closet door breaks off and the guard jumps out and starts shooting a barrage of bullets to Kirk and Jack)

Kirk: (both screaming, flip over a nearby table to shield themselves.) Wait until he’s out of bullets, (panting) then get out your guns and start shooting.

(The bullets stop)

Jack: you ready?

(Kirk stands above the table, but before he has a chance to shoot, the guard starts shooting another barrage of bullets) (Kirk, screaming, falls behind the table again.)

Jack: I don’t think he’s out of bullets.

Kirk: (Yelling) I KNOW!

Jack: Ooh! I just thunk!

(Jack holds up a nearby mirror to deflect a bullet, sending it back to the barrel of the guard’s gun and imploding the gun and the guard.) (No blood is seen.)

Kirk: You… thunk?



That's what I've got so far.

(by the way, Hi, Mom!)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

people-watching

Driving through town on a Tuesday afternoon I pass the swimming pool.

A child with slick combed-back wet dark hair is padding barefoot across a parking lot draped in some brightly colored fabric: from a distance, it looks like a cape, or a Mexican poncho. Of course, it's a beach towel, but I want to go on believing it's a poncho, appropriately festive and joyous.

A stooped-over man with gray work clothes and long gray hair pulled sloppily back into one plait snaking down the back of his neck walks alongside the road with a gnarled wooden stick for a cane. He stops to bark at a small cat scampering around his feet and twining between his legs plaintively: "Behave! Behave!" The cat yowls, piteous, and he scoops it up into his arms as though it is a great weight, though the animal is obviously lighter and more pliant than a child's feather pillow. The cat is gray, his clothes are gray, his hair is gray. Some people have actual clouds trailing about them. This is just such a person. Was he ever young and light of foot, with closely shorn hair and a mischievous laugh? No, never. This is a man who looks as if he has been aged by bitterness -- and a lost moment.

A family is holding a garage sale; they announce it with fluorescent hot pink signs hastily tacked or fastened to telephone poles and guard rails by the highway. Inside the garage a small boy pedals furiously on a three-wheeler in circles around his young, impossibly thin mother as she wails at him to stop, her voice shrill with frustration.

The young woman's hips are as narrow as an adolescent's; it seems improbable her pelvic bones could have ever borne such a weight as this child. Her eyes are lidded with a thick, glittering blue, the kind only seen on Barbie dolls and Vegas performers. Her unswerving focus on the boy's behavior is disconcerting, putting me in mind of an inexperienced night driver; so unable to look away from the side of the road searching for the white line, that going forward without swerving out of the lane is an improbability.

Did we have yard sales, growing up? I can't remember. There is so much affluence at every level of living: so much to continually shed and discard and throw away for something new. We have satellite dishes, bottled water, cell phones, battery-operated cars for children, air-conditioning, hormone-fed chicken and beef for faster slaughter and distribution, IPods and ringtones.

My children think I'm joking when I tell them I used to ride my bike in the summers (a bike I got used, and rebuilt and refinished with sandpaper and spray paint), ride for miles to the country grocery store or the lake or just into the woods. Going to the swimming pool was a luxury that happened maybe once a summer; mostly we just begged to be sprayed with the garden hose, at least long enough to run up the water bill or make the grass slippery enough to slide in barefoot, whichever came first.

What did you get at the country store, Mom?

I bought a bag of chips and a soda, or a candy bar; and I ate it sitting on a footbridge, swinging my legs over the side and looking down into the water for crawdads to torment.

No video games? No DVD's? No Dance, Dance, Revolution? No X Box? How did you stand it? What did you have when you were a kid?

Zotz candy. That was the best. Fizzy stuff on the inside, hiding inside a hard sweet candy shell, and there was an art to biting it open (ever so gently!) and then coaxing the fizz out with the tip of your tongue until all the bubbling white foam leaked out, filling your mouth with that suprising indescribable sensation. I could have eaten Zotz candy until my teeth fell out.

We ate Mallo Cups, too, and saved the paper coins inside for treats we hardly ever sent away for; we just liked the idea of accumlating theoretical money, my sister and I. Better than Monopoly.

It's amazing I didn't die of malnutrition.

Of all the things I saw today, the image I like the best is that little girl leaving the pool wrapped in a big colorful towel, barefoot. I liked the idea of it -- the simplicity of it. The image of a child so gaily decorated I could easily imagine she was wearing a costume; as if celebrating some private holiday, as carefree and as easily pleased as I might have been once, back in the days before DISH Network, and MTV and the worldwide web.

looking up through the trees

Monday, July 10, 2006

*sigh*

I'm used to email by now in all its flowering repercussions. Chain mail and spam for Cialis and Viagra and of course, fond letters in which people profess how taken they are with my kindness and my caring (and those are always welcomed, incidentally) but then I have to feel guilty because these are the people who didn't see me bite my tongue to keep from lashing out at the befuddled old man in overalls who interrupted me in the middle of a transaction at the dollar store with a screaming four-year-old in tow to ask the clerk: Where's the shaving cream? I can't find it.

And the clerk actually leaves her post, AS GOOD SENTINELS NEVER SHOULD, and physically accompanies the old man to the shaving cream aisle, which is, naturally, as you'd expect, at the very back of the store, in fact they keep it in the warehouse behind the store and you have to take a shuttle to get there.

Meanwhile the kid is kicking me in the leg and screaming at decibels I wish only dogs could hear and all the people behind me in line are murmuring amongst themselves like a Greek chorus:

She's a very bad parent, yes, a very bad parent indeed.


Then in sprints the clerk as she breathlessly completes the sale, running my check through the register so it can be printed on the back and the old man, shuffling behind, stands rudely at the adjacent register waiting for her to STOP WAITING ON ME AND SERVE HIM FIRST, and when she doesn't (because I'm burning holes through the wall with my eyes) he comes behind the register and waves two dollar bills in her face.

His old wife is slumped over their cart by the door -- apparently they've already bought a great deal else and the shaving cream was a last-minute addendum to torture me with as they started for home -- and the clerk interrupts my transaction one more time to ring him out and then the old man and his wife just stand there totting over the receipt to make sure they weren't cheated.

Or they can't see. I don't know. I put the kid in the cart and the kid is already climbing out of the cart with one leg and I'm just trying to push us all out the door as expediently as possible but I can't leave the store, see?

Because the old man and his wife are blocking the exit standing over their loot counting up the total on their own because REGISTERS LIE.

This is what I want to shout savagely, as an embittered fishwife:

WHAT NOW? You forgot the soap? Or what.


But I don't. I sidle past them somehow, which is miraculous considering the girth of a cart and a flailing child and my own big corticosteroid-plumped butt, but we do it.

My child bellows as we sail past and the old woman looks over her shoulder and says disgustedly: "Good HEAVENS."

Like I'm the rude one!

It gets better. They've parked next to us and as I'm buckling my child into the car and then walking around the side to put the groceries in, the kid unbuckles himself and marches right back around behind me, a sort of preschool drifter and draft dodger.

The old people are unloading their bags into their truck and staring open-mouthed as I hustle the kid back into his seat again, hissing unfriendly and disapproving things under my breath. They are just standing there and now THEY are murmuring amongst themselves.

I am now Anger Incarnate. I am inviting them mentally to the eternal center for theological punishment. I am encouraging them, in my mind: Say something. Come on, say it to me. Just one word or even two, so help me God, say something so I can rip your FREAKING HEADS OFF.

But they didn't. I had to stay silent and drive home (the kid kicking the back of my seat angrily and my head bobbing back and forth like a woodpecker's).

Now you are welcome to tell me again how kind and caring I am. Especially after reading my answers to the meme someone sent me in my email last night.

1. NAME? Sharon
2. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? Yes, after a little girl who always played hooky.
3. WHEN DID YOU LAST CRY? Yesterday.
4. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING? Yes; only a lobotomy could change it, so I suppose I have no choice.
5. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCHMEAT? Ham. It's sin in between two slices of Wonderbread.
6. KIDS? Yes.
7. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOURSELF? How could I when I'm so reserved I still refer to myself in the third person?
8. DO YOU HAVE A JOURNAL? Used to. Then some people found it and read it and everyone got mad at me. Now I just publish my thoughts on the Internet. It's a lot more private. I'd highly recommend it to anybody.
9. DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT? No, never. And don't you use it, either. It's the lowest form of humor. That and anything performed by Carrot Top.
10. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS? Yes, I make it a point to hang on to all of the expendable organs. It's kind of like having a spare tire in the trunk of your car.
11. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? Only if the bridge was on fire.
12. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? Cocoa Krispies
13. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF? No, I just cut off my feet. In the morning I just sew them back on again.
14. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG? Read #13 again. So much for speed reading.
15. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM? The kind with no calories whatsoever. It's called water.
16. SHOE SIZE? If you want to buy me Ferragamos just say so. No need to hedge about.
17. RED OR PINK? Neither.
18. WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF? What?
19 WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST? Santa Claus.
20. DO YOU WANT PEOPLE TO SEND THIS BACK TO YOU? No, not particularly.
21. WHAT COLOR PANTS AND SHOES YOU ARE WEARING RIGHT NOW? Pants? Shoes? I'm Donald Duck today. I do have a nice blue jacket on, though. Brass buttons and everything.
22. LAST THING YOU ATE? Crow. It's a lot like turkey. There's only so many ways to serve it up, and it all tastes the same anyway.
23. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? The sound of children clambering down the stairs to stop me from typing. It's as if I birthed a SWAT team.
24. IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE? Bittersweet.
25. FAVORITE SMELL? Calyx, by Prescriptives. Durr. The one straight answer in the lot.
26. WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE? A telemarketer. It wasn't exactly a satisfying discourse. She wouldn't tell me her last name, and I wouldn't give her any money.
27.THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE YOU ARE ATTRACTED TO? They aren't spitting when they talk.
28. DO YOU LIKE THE PERSON WHO SENT THIS TO YOU? The real question is, do you like the person who answered it? Choose your answer carefully.
29. FAVORITE DRINK? Iced tea.
30. FAVORITE SPORT? Getting rejected for art showings. The adrenalin rush followed by a drenching in the stench of defeat -- there's nothing like it.
31. HAIR COLOR? Autumn.
32. EYE COLOR? Brown.
33. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS? No, I keep them in my day planner.
34. FAVORITE FOOD? My favorite food is...um....food.
35. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDING? Happy endings. Those are the scariest of all.
36. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED? A black-and-white biology film on the cellular structure of a protozoa.
37. WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING? What, I'm in a police lineup? I'm wearing a lobster bib.
38. SUMMER OR WINTER? Winter. I look good in sweaters.
39. HUGS OR KISSES? Let's shake hands and walk away from each other quickly instead.
40. FAVORITE DESSERT? Pie.
41. WHO IS MOST LIKELY TO RESPOND? Me.
42. LEAST LIKELY TO RESPOND? Elvis.
43. WHAT BOOKS ARE YOU READING? Chapter books. I gave the ones with big pictures in them to the kids.
44. WHAT'S ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? The mouse.
45. WHAT DID YOU WATCH LAST NIGHT ON TV? I didn't.
46. FAVORITE SOUNDS? A flat, C, E flat. I like the flats. The sharps make me nervous. They're quite two-faced, sharps.
47. ROLLING STONES OR BEATLES? Both.
48. THE FURTHEST YOU BEEN FROM HOME? California.
49. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT? Me and Steve Martin, yes.
50. WHEN AND WHERE WERE YOU BORN? I fell off a turnip cart. Yesterday.
51. WHO SENT THIS TO YOU? A human.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

I'm not giving it the justice that Rick Lee would, but...



...Sitting out in the sunshine today this butterfly landed on my shoe after flying around me several times in uneven circles. It crawled all over my shoe, up my leg and onto my shirt, apparently confusing me for a big red and white flower.

I just sat there sunning myself and smiling, watching it flutter about on trembly, spindly legs as its wings capsized this way and that in the breeze, as a billowing sail.

It was a nice moment.

you had a bad day

"I'll be back. Really I will."

Famous last words.

Circumstances conspired against me. Very covert bunch, those Circumstances. They lurk on street corners like delinquent youths and skulk about thinking up new ways to eat up multiple hours of my day.

It was an innocent enough beginning. We all slept in and then I got up first and let the dog out and floated around in my fuzzy pajamas and long robe yawning and making stagey yawns over my insipidly decaf coffee. Read some email and surfed the Web and then finished my coffee in the TV room watching a woman in Turkey discuss a Byzantine art display.

The kids awakened and had a few minor skirmishes, nothing traumatic or emergent, just spirited enough to get their dander up.

Six-year-old and I had a date with a doctor to follow up on his ER visit last week. I know, I didn't write about it, but that's because I didn't have the strength and I still don't. He was projectile vomiting and that's all anyone need know. The kid utilized multiple facial orifices to accomplish this task and the only one I've ever known to do this besides him; is me. So I rushed him to the ER because resembling me in any way is truly an emergency.

The doctor didn't like something on the radiologist's report from the X ray they'd taken and she sent us to the hospital for a CAT scan to rule out sub-acute appendicitis. She told me the kid was still a little dehydrated and a little tachycardic and I jumped.

"Don't say that." Tachycardia is a bad word in this house. So is atrial flutter and bradycardia. In fact, don't use anything ending in -cardia at all. Don't even play cards. Just forget they exist.

She raised her eyebrows. I leaned over conspiratorially.

"I have transient atrial flutter. I don't want to think the boys could inherit it," I whispered.

She smiled.

"Atrial flutter is much more common in women," she said. "Very unlikely they'd end up with it."

I slumped back in the chair. I felt exhausted, suddenly. As if I'd just set down a very heavy box.

"His tachycardia is doubtless from the dehydration. Also, he'd just walked in when we took the readings."


Off to the hospital. When you have CAT scans you have to drink a 2-liter jug of barium. Lab techs probably buy it at Sam's Warehouse, family size: in vats, 20% off. This is the pickiest eater in the house, a kid who (I'm not lying!) seems to live on hot dogs (no bun), American cheese slices and marshmallows. He does love milk. Everyone in this house is a milk junkie (except for me. I hate milk). I even tried lying to him as he looked upon the tall cup in dismay.

"Look! It's milk."

"It smells like oranges."

"It's ....not! It's... milk!"


I don't like giving advice, but I have a tip for the childless: Children know when you lie. They know it the way your cat knows it when it's going to storm. If the kid's ears were foldable they would have been flattened backward from his head like Spock's as he stared me down suspiciously.

They let us sit in the employee's cafeteria as I poured milk into the kid's cup and made a big show of stirring it around (Okay, so it wasn't milk, but what if I put milk in it? See me putting in the milk? I'm not a liar, you can trust me now. Just DRINK IT! DRINK IT! DRINK IT!) Meanwhile I'm envisioning his tiny little appendix swelling dangerously, flying under the radar where no one can save it because my child is as stubborn as I am if not more so and his throat has suddenly, inexplicably, closed up.

I sat next to him cheerfully. "Look, dear heart. We're in a cafeteria! Just like school! Now you just pretend I'm your best friend, and we're having lunch together. I have short hair and everything. And you just drink your milk while I'm talking." I curled my fingers around the edge of the table and chattered happily:

"Hi! Last night guess what? I have five hundred knives because my dad's really cool? And there was this wolf in my backyard and I cut it up and my mom cooked it for dinner! Then we watched The Exorcist! D'ya wanna come spend the night this weekend? Huh?"


(An old man sitting at the next table drinking from a styrofoam cup actually set it down heavily and turned very slowly around to stare at me.)

"I can't drink it! I can't take you nagging at me like this! I can't drink it! I can't! I CAN'T!"

Tears, rolling steadily down his flushed little face.

"Sweetie, if you don't drink it, they'll have to tube you. They'll have to put a tube down your nose and force the liquid into your stomach so they can get the picture."

"NO!"

"Then drink it! DRINK IT! DRINK IT!" All of a sudden I'm the Gipper, or my dad.

He tipped the cup precariously and fed it to his shirt. The tech mopped up the spilled liquid from the floor and a new cup was produced. More tears. Finally they admit us to the ER because it's obvious this is going nowhere.

"I thought that this was going to be fun," the kid said bitterly, lying there in a limp greyish-blue hospital gown.

"Kid," I said with a heavy sigh. "Rule number one: Nothing, and I mean nothing, that ever happens in a hospital is fun."

"What's that machine over there?" He pointed at a defibrillator on his left.

"It's a heart machine."

"How do you know?"

I looked at him archly. He giggled.

"Oh."


Yeah.

I studied a list taped to the wall. The very top of the list read:

Priority I for emergent trauma:

Confirmed BP of (less than) 90 systolic

I smiled.

Thinking of all the times mine reads 88/50 at home.

ER doctor comes in brisk and energetic. They must teach you how to walk like that in med school, the way models practice the catwalk. You never see a doctor coming in with his knuckles scraping the ground. They're always Up! Moving! Full of Vigor!

We talk. He examines. He orders bloodwork. He tells me it isn't appendicitis and we don't have to do the CAT scan; he can just go home and rest and drink a lot of fluids and take some Bentyl for his tummy. And all will be well. Really.

"By the way," he says. In the same conspiratorial tone I used in the other doctor's office untold hours ago. "Your son is what I would call....a gut reactor."

"I don't know what that is." Is this a medical term?

"I mean that he seems to be hit harder by things than is usual. He seems...hypersensitive, maybe, or more likely to take things harder than others. Don't you notice when he's sick that he gets sicker and it lasts longer than his brothers?"

"Yes." That's true.

"And he's just wired that's way. It's not his fault. When he's forty he'll still react with his gut and take things hard when they happen. It's just something I thought you might want to know for the future. I'm just curious, though. Is there anyone else in the family who's like this?"

I draw myself up from years of refusing to swallow pills because they might choke me, and flus that lasted for weeks, stand tall, look him in the eye and admit:

"Nope."

And barium tastes like milk, too! It does. Really! Don't you believe me?

Friday, July 07, 2006

If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it's not coffee

I had a boss in the newspaper biz who was fond of saying, "If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck."

Okay. Unless, I might add, it's decaf coffee. In which case, it's not a duck. It's just muddy water with a rubber nose and a moustache.

My kids are vigilant. They've poured my decaf coffee down the sink thinking it was the real deal and I was cheating (I'm not). It's as if I'm a recovering alcoholic and I have three underage sponsors in the house.

Someone asked me why it is I can't drink caffeinated beverages. ( "I'm a heart patient. Caffeine isn't contraindicated for me.") Okay, goodonya then.

There are several reasons why caffeine is not good. As the redoubtable Cecil Adams of The Straight Dope once said: "All that speeding isn't good for your ticker. Take it from Uncle Cece."

(He wasn't talking about coffee. But it will serve to suit my purposes.)

Caffeine is dehydrating. For anybody, not just me, but dehydration is something I must avoid especially. My blood pressure is low enough as it is without drinking something that will make it not only drop but disappear entirely. There's a reason I have to drink gallons of water and wear a secret scuba suit.

I also don't lie about in saunas, slather Preparation-H all over my body or step in front of steamrollers. I'm just goofy that way.

Caffeine can aggravate PVC's (premature ventricular contractions).

When you have a heart rate that's been documented to travel at 250 beats a minute, you don't want to imbibe anything that's going to make the wings beat faster. Unless you're a hummingbird, or a crack addict.

So, no caffeine.

It is really very logical.

There was something else I wanted to talk about, but the underage sponsors have broken ranks and turned on each other and are holding the dog hostage upstairs, or something. So I'll be back later.

Really I will.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

*sigh*

Starting over.

I tried to do something, and it didn't work.

There are days I believe I will go cross-eyed from the internal vexation I'm experiencing.

Go to the Machinist's site and look at his video on the right-hand side of the header to know how I'm feeling. :) I have been looking at it over and over just because it makes me feel better.

p.s. I saved everything. No worries. I just couldn't post it on the old template.

Monday, July 03, 2006

another fourth of july

Okay, so I'm back.

In my absence my teenager (a.k.a. Robotdrone -- his choice of name, not mine) entered the world of A.D.E. and realized he really sort of likes it.

It's been fun to watch him work and publish and go back and check for comments; oh the novelty. For him it's fun and new and almost exhilirating, or so I gather.

So I've just put him on the roster and let him run with it.

When he's traveling he'll be checking in now and then here with his own reports, and I'll go on writing as usual in between. We agree it will be a good way to stay in touch.

I've told him that, when journaling, I've found it helpful to examine each passing day with these questions:

  • What one thing would I want to encapsulate from this particular date in time?
  • Be it feeling, experience, sight, sound, taste -- whichever sense was appealed to the most significantly in the past twenty-four hours. How would I describe it so that anyone chancing upon it later would see it as I did, and know it in the same truth and particular perspective that I had? Just that one thing.
Actually this is a good exercise in general, whether journaling or not.

But for the past week or so I haven't done that. I've played with the kids, worked on the dollhouse, scrubbed some floors, washed dishes, folded clothes, cooked a few meals I really like, and leafed through books I've already read looking for familiar passages that comfort me.

Every now and then I'd see or hear something and pause, thinking reflectively: that would be something to write down. But then I'd let it go again, as a child's bubble floating luminously upward to pop unacknowledged into the ethereal. That felt like a luxury too -- wasteful, extravagant. To see it and not write it, but instead keep it to myself, my own found treasure.

The teenager and I took a walk late last evening with the dog, while the husband set off a few fireworks for the younger two boys. I ask the teenager to walk with me because he often does anyway, and for a few weeks at least this will not be a privilege I am afforded.

The dog practically breaks my arm when he veers off the path, distracted by another dog or a bird or the alluring scent of another animal's urine and using all his weight as he strays off course to steer me in another direction.

So I walk the dog at this lurching, staggering pace, me pulling back on the leash as if it's the reins to a spooked horse and the dog charging forward with his head ducked between his shoulder blades, making a big show of breathing heavily and plodding like a tired Clydesdale.

It's nearly ten p.m. and some of the lights have been dimmed in the houses we pass. I see muted lamplights in heavily draped living room windows and I can easily imagine the inhabitants inside, dressed in robes and slippers and sitting in easy chairs with a TV remote in hand, waiting for the news to come on. So I say in a near-whisper, "I'll miss you when you're away, you know."

"Whatever," the teenager says. He is walking on the curb, like it's a tightrope; I walk in the road, vulnerable, dragging the dog, or being dragged, it's hard to tell.

He is walking along, looking up into the star-studded sky. It is a beautiful sky and the air is warm but not close. The moon is a glowing crescent, its points sharp and yet looking melted in the center. We have rounded a south up-sloping block and are now above the property, looking down at the purplish-pink fizz of sparks flying up from the yard as the excitable cheers of my younger two sons pierce the dark: "More! More!"

It's transfixing, this spurt of colored fire and the great voluminous clouds of gray smoke that follow, smoke you can see even in the dark as it wafts past the streetlights. Even the dog settles on his haunches to watch.

Every now and then the light and smoke is punctuated with the pops and shrill whistles and screeches somehow ingrained in the paper-wrapped tubes of fireworks.

I'm getting old, I'm thinking; how long has it been since I watched a fireworks display with their enthusiasm or excitement? I look over at my son and he is watching with the same sober attention. I am thinking of his first fireworks display, a July in California when he was still an infant and my husband scolded me for not covering his ears when the firecrackers finally went off.

As we stand there watching our own fireworks display from afar I am thinking that if I had one moment to save in all the moments I've had in the past week, this one would be it. This very small space in time in which mother and son are standing quiet and peaceable on the same ground, equally prepared --or unprepared-- for what it is that lies ahead.

It was just one moment, but one moment was all I wanted.

Then we turn and walk back towards home, toward the brilliant flames and rockets and the acrid aroma of spent gunpowder and sulfur. Another Fourth of July.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

post toast ala king

When I told Mom I'd post for her again she said I should put up some of my "creative writing."

I said, How about NO.

What she's talking about when she says "creative writing" -- last year for English we had to write things like cinquains and haikus and all that. She saved them all because she has this big box she puts stuff like that in.

I don't look at it much because that's not my thing.

This is the kind of thing I write:

Cops Gone Ape
Scene 1
Fight with a vacuum cleaner.


(Setting: It shows the general and the army at a conference)

General: All right. Sir van Bunny Buns has escaped from prison, and our two greatest men have died in a fatal accident. But I think I have found two replacements that will do just fine. Any questions?

Man at table: Well, who are they?

(The scene goes to the replacement cops walking SLOW-MO on the sidewalk.)(007 music)

(The title appears on screen) COPS GONE APE

Jack: All right. You ready for this party, Kirk?

Kirk: Oh yeah.

(They enter the house.)

Kirk: Now what?

Jack: I have no idea. Well, I might as well clean this place up before our guests arrive. Go get the vacuum cleaner.

Kirk: Dude! Are you sure this is the only vacuum cleaner in the hall closet?

Jack: Well, there's this one.

(he pulls out a dorky looking vacuum. It's green with a cloth bag attached.)

(Kirk moves it around a little bit.)

Kirk: It's not picking up anything! This thing’s a piece of crap! (Jack kicks it)

Vacuum: I’m Fuzzy Wuzzy Man! Can you give me a hug?

Jack: It's demonic! Run away!

Kirk: Wait. Maybe we could make some money with this thing.

(Phone rings)

General: Kirk and Jack. We need you to stop Sir van Bunny Buns. He has escaped from prison and is stuffing poison agents in stuffed animals and is shipping them all over the world.
Your mission is to go into his mansion and search for anything out of the ordinary. Over and out.

Kirk: Hey Jack. We’ve got a mission.

Jack: ...You mean, other than making the vaccuum shut up?

Kirk: Glad you're keeping up with me here, Jack.

Scene 2
Setting: At the general’s place.

General: Now are you sure you can handle this?

Jack: Oh sure, we can definitely handle this.

(Kirk is looking around with his gun and hits Jack with his gun. Jack falls down.)

Kirk: Hum… I thought I heard something.

Jack: (groaning) You did. It was me.


Setting: At Sr. Van Bunny Bun's manor.

(Kirk and Jack are on the porch.)
(Secret Agent Man Music plays in background.)

Kirk:(In walkie- talkie.) Jack, where are you?

Jack: (In walkie- talkie.) Right down the hall.

Kirk: (In walkie- talkie.) where?

Jack: (shouting) RIGHT HERE!

(Kirk nods and walks forward. He trips on a piece of rope.)

Jack: Hey, there’s a guard.

Kirk: shoot em’!

(Kirk fires. The guard falls.)
(A woman screams in the distance).

Jack: Wait. That's not a guard. That's a maid!

Kirk: OOPS.

(They go in the house.)


[I haven't finished the third scene yet, but it's a work in progress and more funny than some cinquain about the night sky.)