Things that make people think of me: Day 30

During the month of NaBloPoMo friends often send me things that remind them of me. For example, Amy sent me this fascinating factoid about the blue whale’s vagina. I already knew how men act when they’ve got a cold. I was married for 30 years.

Credit: Nerds with Vaginas

Another thoughtful friend, Tricia, sent me this ….. I’m struggling for an adjective …. bear with ….. unusual designer pendant, which can be found on the Yves Saint Lauren website. No, your eyes do not deceive you. It is exactly what it looks like: a brass penis pendant.

I’m not sure if the choice of material is ironic. I’ve heard of brass balls, but a brass penis is new to me. Also, if I were to wear a disembodied penis around my neck or hanging from my ears I certainly wouldn’t be proud to wear one that looks …. well, flaccid is the term that comes to mind. It kind of looks like something might drip out of it.

But it’s Yves Saint Laurent, a trend setter if ever there was one. And apparently it’s sold out, so darn it! I guess I won’t be putting it on my Christmas list. Although at $795 I doubt anybody would wrap up that penis and put it under my tree anyway. Seems like that could be a euphemism for something, but I have no idea what. The “penis dangle earrings” are more affordable at $345.

I looked around the website at some of the other jewelry and purses. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen that leopard bucket bag at Goodwill and it didn’t cost $1500. Who buys this shit? A set of four tires for my van don’t cost as much as a little brass dick on a chain costs on that site.

Moving on.

I can thank Jay for sending me some excerpts from novels that I can never unsee. Apparently Literary Review gives out an award for the worst erotic writing each year. Go read the article, if you dare. I’ll wait. Don’t read it aloud. Someone might hear you and think you’re actually ….. just read to yourself. Skim. Don’t go too deep.

This year’s winners were all men. No surprise there, and I’m not going to explain why. See the end of this post for a hint as to why. I was surprised though to see James Frey (any wonder his name rhymes with “lie”?) and Haruki Murakami listed as winners. I mean, these guys actually make a living writing shit like this? And go on book tours? It’s not fair.

Elvira was so inspired by this sentence, she had to illustrate it: In his mind he pictured her neck, her long neck, her swan’s neck, her Alice in Wonderland neck coiling like a serpent, like a serpent, coiling down on him.

Why are you reading this blog post when you can be paying to read these guys? 

I’ll end both this post and the month of November with the last thing my daughter Elvira sent me from the easy chair three feet away. It’s possible not all men will find it funny. We did though. Thanks for reading this month. I have more to say in the coming days and I’ll be posting my Christmas list, so don’t go away!


If we were sipping bourbon: Day 29

Salted maple old fashioned

I thought maybe tonight we’d share a nip of bourbon if you don’t mind. A new speakeasy opened up not long ago near me, and they serve a tasty salted maple old fashioned, although I still prefer the original. They’ll also make you a virgin Moscow mule in a copper cup if you’d prefer to keep your wits about you. It doesn’t matter to me. I just want to celebrate 29 days in a row of posting on this here blog. One more to go after this, and then I’ll start breaking promises about how often I’m going to post again.

If we were sipping bourbon at the speakeasy I’d tell you I’ve learned something from working at the farmer’s market, which is one of several part-time jobs I have. And that is that people come in many shapes and sizes and heights and ages, and wear all kinds of styles of clothes,  from jogging shorts to ripped jeans to tight skirts and teetering high heels, and have all kinds of body embellishments …. or not … and sport a million different hair styles, and it’s all just fine. Some days I watch a few thousand people walk past whichever store I’m tending, and while I notice many of them, I don’t judge because after the first few hundred, it just doesn’t matter at all.

Oh sure, if somebody is wearing something really unusual or they have certain body parts hanging out more than most people I might glance over at Gary, who sells chicken patties, and raise my eyebrows. But most often I find myself feeling grateful that I get to be in a place where we’re all so different. I grew up in what was a pretty homogeneous small Iowa town. I desperately wanted to get out of there and meet some people who didn’t look like me, so working at the market — even in a smallish city in the midwest — is a fulfillment of that dream.

At the market, I talk to so many kinds of people. I love the diversity. One day I helped some young African men practice their English at the dairy where I work sometimes. Milk. Cheese. Eggs. One man has a huge head of dreads, and he wears them in a knitted hat the size of Santa’s sack. Coraline and I love to get Moroccan soup from the Greek lady down the aisle. We still can’t pronounce “harira” like she does, but we keep trying. Some people are strapped into wheel chairs and don’t seem to know where they are, but their caretakers are relieved to be out on a field trip. Others come on a bus together from a group home and they’re so happy to be out at the market together, tasting samples, and often holding each others’ hands. A nearby charter school will send classes of kids some Thursdays for lunch. They are excited to get some freedom and are so well behaved. Groups of office workers power walk through on their short lunch breaks. People come to the market from all over the country and all over the world. Marshall, the chocolate guy, finally put up a map with push pins so he could keep track.

Marshall’s map

I just realized I wanted to make two points. One: I love working in a place where most of the people who come in are happy to be there. It’s so different from teaching, because most of the people I’ve taught over the years didn’t really want to be taking a writing class. I felt like I was holding them hostage. But I’m almost always happy when I’m at the market, even if I am on my feet on concrete for upwards of 8 hours that day. One guy might give me a lecture on internet phones (I have notes somewhere). Another will ask if our buffalo (flavored) cheese curds are made from buffalo milk and then laugh at himself when I tell him I’ve never milked a buffalo. A regular customer will give me a weekly update me on her recent surgery to reconstruct her breasts after her third bout with breast cancer. A new mother who was pregnant the last time I saw her will show off her new baby. An old friend might stop by and sit down behind the counter to visit during my slow spells. I feel privileged to talk with all of them. OK, most of them. Out of thousands of people, a few assholes will always creep in. I don’t take that home with me.

My second point is that it really doesn’t matter what you look like, especially in a place like the market. Or it has come to not matter to me what people look like, and that has made me less self-conscious about how I look. People are all so different, they start to look alike in a way. They’re all just someone to meet and share a minute or a few seconds of friendliness with. It’s namaste, and would you like to try a cheese curd or some kettle corn?

I will say — the bourbon will say — one thing I’ve noticed is that most people don’t have round butts. Some do, but I’ll bet it’s fewer than you think. We are a nation of people with flat glutes. It’s not just you. 

Also, being thin doesn’t seem to make people happier or more friendly. It doesn’t make them less. It just doesn’t matter. And sometimes the grouchiest looking people have the nicest smiles if I smile at them first and say “hi.”

Sometimes working with the public can harden people and make them bitter, but the market tends to do the opposite. I hope you can come see me there some day and we’ll share some chocolate milk or some caramel corn, depending on where I’m working that day.

Was one bourbon enough for you? Because I need to get to bed. The more I write the more I have to say, but I’ll save some for tomorrow.

How about you? Do you love your job? How does it make you feel about people? 

Quiet times: Day 27

I’m not going to say life is chaotic around my house, but it can be a challenge to find a few quiet minutes.

For example, the other day I thought I’d lie down on the couch for half an hour or so and read my novel. (Not a novel I wrote, or course, but a novel Meg Wolitzer wrote titled The Wife, which was made into a movie that stars Glenn Close, which could make me hate Meg Wolitzer if she weren’t such a clever and engaging writer. sigh.) I digress.

Coraline was engaged in her own rest period upstairs and Elvira was out, so the room was quiet. My eyes started to close — pretty much like they are now — and I decided a 15-minute nap was in order. I set my alarm for 15 minutes and settled in, already starting to drift off. I just love a good power nap, don’t you?

I was sound asleep for about five minutes before Elvira came home. Her footsteps on the porch woke me up. She banged her way into the house and threw a big plastic bag down on the floor. Of course the 3 dogs got up and started barking and milling around. I kept my eyes closed. She went into the kitchen and graciously unloaded the dishwasher, which necessitated some banging around of dishes, pans, and cupboards. Finally she went outside to smoke a cigarette. I dozed back off. She came back in, slammed the door and went upstairs. To her room above the front parlor. Above my fucking head. She walked around for a while. Coraline came in and did a few cartwheels or jumped off the bed a few times. I don’t know. I covered my head in case plaster should start falling.

Finally it was quiet up there and the dogs settled down. I drifted …. From the fire station up the street came a firetruck, sirens blasting, racing past on the street half a block away. I listened to it fade into the distance and drifted off again ….. only to startle awake when my text notification went off … three times. Damn it. I risked a glance at my phone. The texts could wait. I only had 5 minutes left now. I closed my eyes again and fell asleep, desperate now for just a few minutes. I had to get up when my alarm went off to get ready to go out. This was my only chance to satisfy my nap urge.

I was there. I was almost there when my phone started to ring. I picked it up …. a fucking telemarketer. Assholes. I hit dismiss and resolutely closed my eyes again. Twenty seconds later I was slipping into a dream when the notification for a voicemail went off and jolted me awake yet again. It’s not bad enough they call, but they leave partial messages that tell me to press 1 to talk to a representative. Dumb assholes. I didn’t let that stop me.

I forced myself back to sleep …. for all of 30 seconds and that’s when my alarm went off. Naptime was over.

No sleep deprivation here. Nope. No way.

Another example. Tonight after dinner I told Coraline we needed to do our meditation before she went to bed. We try to do it every afternoon or evening because it noticeably helps her focus better at school. We only sit still for 6 minutes, but I’d like to work up to 10. Ten peaceful, empty-minded minutes to sit in silence. We invited Elvira to sit with us, but she decided to meditate on a cigarette outside. Out she went with the dogs.

Coraline got into position criss-cross applesauce in an easy chair. I sat on the couch, took off my slippers and grounded my feet on the floor. We took 3 big deep breaths together and then I pressed start on the timer on my meditation app. Gooooonnnnnnngggggggg. The gong gonged and I tried to clear all thoughts from my head. Once the gong had faded, the only sounds were the clock ticking, some muted traffic noise, and my own tinnitus. Ahhh.

But what is that? A high-pitched tone intruded. High high C, if I wasn’t mistaken. Steady and insistent. Surely that wasn’t coming from inside my head? No. I’m not supposed to be thinking. Let that thought go. The sound persisted. Faint. Steady. About half a step below a dog whistle.

I heard the side-porch door open. Oh for fuck’s sake. Surely she hadn’t smoked that cigarette that fast.

“I know you’re meditating and I don’t want to interrupt,” Elvira contradicted, “but can you hear that sound? It sounds like an alarm going off.”

Sigh. I turned off the meditation app and slipped into my slippers. “I’ll come check.”

“I don’t think it’s the next door neighbors,” she said. “They seem to be just watching TV or something.” I was outside by now, the pitch much louder now. “I don’t think it’s the purple house. Theirs didn’t sound like that the time I accidentally set it off.”

I walked through the falling snow to the back of the house. The sound was urgently annoying, like a super loud malfunctioning florescent light. It was definitely louder in the back, but I still couldn’t pinpoint the location ….

And then it just stopped. At first I wasn’t sure it had really stopped, but it did. Fine. Whatever it was I wasn’t going to figure it out tonight.

Back inside, Coraline and I got back into position, and Elvira settled into another chair. I reset the time. Goooonnnnngggggg. Eyes closed, I once again attempted to clear my mind. 

Crow, my standard poodle, started lapping his tongue in and out of his mouth, making a loud licking sound. I fucking hate that sound. Notice your annoyance and let that thought go, I thought, although I wasn’t supposed to be thinking. He gave a few more laps and then settled down. Good.

Growl. Growl. Kohl. Elvira’s border collie. Growling because Crow was in the room. It’s constant. The growling whenever we all settle into one room. He hates Crow. Growl growl. I fucking hate that sound. But I tried to see my annoyance in my quiet fucking mind and let it go on by. Clearing my mind. An intense itch erupted next to my nose. I don’t think you’re supposed to scratch, I thought. You’re supposed to just notice it and …. I scratched. I couldn’t stand it. Clearing my mind now.

Growl. Growl.The furnace came on, reminding me of the $200 service call I’d paid for earlier in the day. You’d better fucking heat this house, I thought. Ooops. Letting go. Growl. Growl.

Either my mind started to clear or I started to doze off. I’m not sure, but Growl. Growl. I felt a soft plop on the couch next to me and a loud purr started. Gandalf. I sat still. Growl. Growl. I tried so hard to let my thoughts just slip out of my mind. I focused on breathing through my nose. I felt a small paw pushing at my leg. Growl. Growl. Push push. He bumped his head against my wrist. Growl. Growl. Push. Push.

Finally he settled down alongside my leg with his head on my arm. Growl. Growl. His purr was loud, but not distracting. Deep breath. Growl. Purrrrrr. I’m getting there. Growl. Growl. Gandalf suddenly decided he needed to lick his butt. He furiously licked licked licked licked licked. Growl. Growl. Lick. Lick.

Will that fucking furnace never shut off, I thought as a hot flash started burning its way out of me and my entire body flushed with a layer of sweat. Growl. Growl. Great timing. I’m noticing that my body feels like it’s engulfed in flames under my skin and I’m letting that thought go. Growl. Growl. Breathing. Emptying my mind. In. Out. Growl. Growl. In. Out.


Meditation over. Growl …… Growl. Sigh.

Tears for Heroes: Day 26

Every day my Facebook feed is filled with shit that makes me get all the uncomfortable feels: rage, incredulity, fear, terror, shock, horror. And that’s just the orange dog fart’s tweets.

In my real life I’ve got plenty of things to worry about. For example I was researching security systems tonight and realized my downstairs furnace wasn’t running and the front parlor was cold. Sigh. I got the furnace to come on and it blew cold air and then shut off. I went downstairs and smelled the faint odor of gas, so I called a local 24-hour furnace business. The woman who took my information said the guy would call me. It’s been almost two hours. Fuck him. I’ve got another furnace upstairs. I’ll get it fixed tomorrow by someone else. And fuck all the asshole men who are forcing me to get a security system. I could use that money for so many other things especially with the winter holidays coming up. See? Just tonight. Plenty to worry about.

And don’t even get me started on grief. I want to tell my mom so many things that are happening right now, just to know she’s on my side and that she’s as upset as I am. She wasn’t such a good listener all the time, but she did when it was important and she really needs to know some of this stuff. I miss her.

So in order to balance out the political, the worries, and the grief, I’ve been clinging to the stories about small acts of kindness, stories about people who are in-the-moment heroes, that, oddly enough, are the most likely to make me tear up or even cry. People who see a need and give because they can. Hero stories have always made me cry like the silly sap I am. Remember Billy Jack? There’s a lake in southwest Iowa that was made just from my Billy Jack tears. Garbage truck driver who rescues an elderly woman from a fire and hauls her out of there in his truck. Oh, hell yes. Boy Scout helping an old woman across the street? Hand me a tissue, Granny.

I’m posting as many of these stories on my Facebook as I can just to remind myself and my friends who we really are. Who we really want to be. So tonight, because I’m worn out and 7:00 is going to be here in < 5 hours, I will simply share this story, which I will admit made me tear up. And I will ask you to please share stories like this too, because even though they make me cry, it’s good crying, healing crying, hope crying. And we need all the hope we can get right now.

If we were sipping a glass of wine: Day 25

If we were sipping a glass of wine together I would tell you this is my favorite quotation from a movie: “You gotta be brave before you can be good,” from Hearts Beat Loud. If you haven’t watched it yet, I highly recommend it. It’s a story that will leave you feeling good. And don’t you need that after a day of scrolling Facebook and reading rude, stupid, incendiary texts shit out of a disgusting orange goat fart? Watching a movie about good people heals hope. You can watch it free on Kanopy if your library offers it.

If we were sipping a glass of wine together I would tell you I have discovered the most delicious way to eat leftover turkey …. OK, I didn’t discover it. My friend Chicken Grrrrl told me how she does it. Whatever. She said she mixes leftover cranberry/orange relish with mayonnaise and spreads it on good white bread. Then she adds leftover turkey and a leaf of crisp lettuce. She said it’s delicious.

I don’t eat much bread, so I made mine in a big lettuce leaf. I squirted on some mayo, spread cranberry/orange relish over that, then piled on some leftover turkey. It’s divine. Much better than it should be. Maybe even better than the original turkey dinner. If I were making these for company, I’d add some chopped toasted pecans, but it’s highly unlikely I’m going to share. Try it either way. You’ll feel positively gourmet.

If we were sipping a glass of wine together I would tell you Coraline wants to take karate. She’s 7 and what she really wants is someone to teach her how to protect herself and how to take somebody who’s bigger than she is down. She’s not worried yet about boys or men trying to force themselves on her. Thank you, Jesus. But she does have a good friend, a sweet boy, who is a year older than her, and who is bigger and stronger. He plays a lot of sports. And they like to wrestle. She wants to learn some moves so she can compete  better in their wrestling matches. It’s not that he’s too rough nor is he mean or aggressive. He’s just physically stronger and used to being tackled in football.

I’m guiding her toward jujitsu. Might as well get a start on self defense. Every woman needs it, much as that makes me want to throw up my glass of wine. I wish I’d taken my daughter to some kind of martial arts class. Lesson learned.

If we were sipping a glass of wine together I would long ago have offered you some Lays Classic potato chips or some lime tortilla chips or some peanut butter-filled pretzels. I don’t know about you, but I like some salt with my wine. And that’s why I’ve decided I have to join Weight Watchers.

I hate to admit this here where you only see my words, but I am fat, and now it’s not all in my head, damn it. Elvira says I’m not really fat, but she’s wrong this time. Sweet, but wrong. I feel like I’m wearing a fat suit, and it gets in my way. And the fatter I get, the less I want to move around like I used to. I used to put 100 miles or more on my bike every week. Now it just sits there and I haven’t replaced riding with anything other than eating more chocolate and drinking more wine. I’m disgusted with myself.

A few of my friends have done Weight Watchers and it worked. So I’m going to do it too. I may wait until after the first of the year. Or I may be repulsed enough by myself to start during the food-filled winter holiday season. Ugh. If only there were a magic pill. Or a magic glass of wine.

I suppose we’ll have to drink tea next time.

If we were sipping a glass of wine together I’d tell you Miss Serendipity visited today. As I was getting ready for the day, blow drying my hair and putting on mascara and such, I was thinking about Facebook and how much of my precious time it takes up. How I’m like a rat in a maze trying to find the lever that will give me a like or a heart or JACKPOT! a comment. And how I need to get off it for a while and get back to doing some of the things I used to do. This isn’t the first time I’ve had this come-to-Jesus meeting with myself, and it was probably triggered by an artist friend who often takes breaks from Facebook — even disables her account [shudder] — so she can focus on her art and on her inner life. Whatever the reason, I knew I had to do something about this addiction.

And then I went to the church up the street from us, and the minister’s sermon was about paying attention. And about how we don’t pay attention because we’re paying attention to our screens. And how Facebook is not a replacement for real, FTF interactions with other people. It’s like she was talking right to me, because I’m pretty sure I’m married to Facebook and I never even got the ring.

I felt a text vibrate my phone in my back pocket during the sermon and it was all I could do not to grab my phone and immediately open it. I waited until the offering to surreptitiously glance. I didn’t answer it until I got home though, so I think I get half a point.

I wish I could do both. I wish I could cruise Facebook for hours every day and still play my guitar and make art and write the fucking book nobody will buy already. But I can’t. Not only that though, I’m not paying attention and it’s affecting my attention span, which is almost nonexistent these days.

So I’m going to make a list of the things I’d rather be doing than Facebook, and then, once this month of NaBloPoMo is up, I’m going to stop carrying my phone around and checking Facebook every spare minute of my day. And just for good measure, I’m going to delete solitaire from my Kindle. I’m going to pay attention in December. It’s possible nobody will pay attention to me because they’ll all be on Facebook or Snapchat, but I’m going to give it my best try.

If we were slugging down the dregs of a bottle of wine, I’d have to tell you goodnight now and either push you out the door or make up the couch so you could sleep here. Then I’d let the dogs out, start the dishwasher, check the locks, tuck you in if you’re still here, and head on up to bed. 

Good night. Sleep tight. We don’t joke about bedbugs here in the ‘hood. 

Bail is set at no: Day 24

I have to write about something that’s weighing heavily on my head tonight, and that is the number of women in this country who are murdered by current or past husbands or boyfriends. I wasn’t able to find statistics that are very current, but what I could find puts the number at about an average of three a day. Three a day. Three. Women. Every single day of the year. (Of course that’s not how averages work, but bear with.) Before they were murdered, most of those women were not murder victims, but victims of domestic abuse.

The statistics for women being physically abused by an intimate partner are even grimmer. One in three women will experience some form of physical abuse, and for one in four women the violence will be severe at some point in their our lifetimes. Yet most don’t get medical treatment, most often because they are ashamed, but also because they can’t afford it. 

If you follow the link in the paragraph above I’m sure you will come away depressed and angry like I did. Not that I’m a stranger to the statistics. I have a degree in social work, and I used to work as a counselor in a women’s resource center that was the umbrella organization for the battered women’s shelter. So I have some professional experience in addition to the experience of living all these decades in a woman’s body. I’ve seen what it looks like. I’ve seen what it does to women and children. I’ve seen monsters and hid inside locked doors while they pounded to get in and satisfy their bottomless rage.

The rage of some men — of so many men — is terrifying, from the president on down.

I have so much I could say about men and their narcissistic anger and the ways they visit it upon women and children. I’ve got my own rage about their rage …. without the power that comes with size, strength and social privilege. I could write for days and days about the rage of men. But I won’t.

I will just say this. I may not have much personal power, but I can promise you this, my patient readers: If my son ever touched my daughter-in-law or any other woman with violent intent, it had better be to save his own life. If he did it because he couldn’t control his  anger though, he would no longer be welcome to be my son in this lifetime. He would not be allowed on my island.

(Disclaimer: I am not talking about my actual son, Drake, right now. Anyone who knows him will agree that unprovoked violence is antithetical to his character. He is a protector, not a harmer.)

You wouldn’t have to know me for very long to know my kids and my grandkids are the stars of my life. I would do almost anything for them, and I do. It would be like ripping my heart out to turn my back on any of them. But I would do what I had to do to keep everybody safe if my son proved to be an abusive asshole.

One thing in particular I would not do is bail my son out of jail after he was physical violent toward a woman (or even a man unless he was protecting himself). I would let him rot there for a couple of reasons. First, actions have consequences. Why should the victim have to live with the consequences of an abuser’s actions if he doesn’t? Let the consequences be harsh enough that he thinks twice before he does it again.

And second, I would fear for the safety of not only his partner when he got out of jail, but of the people around her — children, friends, anybody who supports her. And I would not ever feel safe around him myself. A man who is violent toward his wife or girlfriend is likely to take his anger out on anyone, including his mother. Or his child. A man who is violent toward the woman he claims to love is a man who is out of control. It would be better to cut him out of my life than to live in fear of him.

Abusers are good liars. They make all kinds of excuses for their behavior: work stress, money stress, depression, too much to drink, she pissed him off, she said something that hurt his feelings blah blah fucking blah. I’m not the kind of mother who would accept even my son’s self-proclaimed victimhood. If I did, it might as well be my fists throwing the punches, because I’m no better than he is.

I will admit to some vague-blogging in this post based on recent personal experiences, but I’ve also seen several posts cross my Facebook feed about women who have been killed by their spouses or exes recently. It becomes news when the man is a judge or when the crime is particularly gruesome. Most of those three women who die at the hands of men who love them die unknown to us. We don’t hear their stories, because their stories aren’t that uncommon. I have to wonder how many times people made excuses for the abuser or believed his lies before he actually killed a woman. How many times our court system let him out with barely a slap on the hand. How many times a mother or father bailed him out when he could have been locked away and the rest of us safe from his rage. Most of them?

I have to mention that resources are available for women who are in a violent relationship. If my son ever put a woman in a situation where she needed those resources, I’d be focused on getting her the help she needs long before I’d be raising bail money for an abusive son. I certainly wouldn’t fucking set him loose on the world to vent his rage again.

I can safely say I will never have to make that decision, and for that I’m grateful. But that’s not true of all parents.  How about you? Would you rush to post bail if your son went to jail for a violent crime? Or would you let consequences take their course? Would you be able to overlook the abuse or would you have to cut out the cancer, like I would?

I leave you with this song, which isn’t everybody’s bowl of black-eyed peas. (Don’t you love ironic lyrics?) Then again, nobody asked Earl to be an abusive asshole.