Just another COVID week


Last Saturday, a week ago, I got together with 5 friends at a park, more than socially distanced, to celebrate my and Chuck’s birthdays. Chuck said something about missing my blog, and I said I think all the time about writing, but I just can’t find that space I used to be in where I wrote about vaginas and dildos and cookies and various funny human foibles. I can’t find my voice in this new world, and I don’t want to burden people with what’s coming out of me when I try to write. And he said he gets it. We all feel exhausted and unnerved and angry and lonely and it’s hard to focus. Everything seems too serious, and it’s not just the pandemic. The seriousness started almost 4 years ago. I don’t have much funniness in me, although I do find moments of joy and delight. I also have lots of bitter. Lots of depressed. Lots of indignation and …. well, rage. Hopelessness even. And now, since March, I summon Dolores, my muse, sit down here to write, intending to focus on the positive things that happen, that keep me going, that somebody might want to read about, and all I get is about a paragraph before I just can’t go on, usually because I can’t stay on topic or another shoe drops on my head or it turns into a political rant, and I don’t know about you but I’m fucking sick of it all. So I’ve got a bunch of unpublished posts that are about a paragraph long and a lot built up inside me that I suspect nobody wants to read because you’ve all got your own shit going on, but I need to write and this is my blog so I’m going with what I’ve got.


A lot of shit has happened this year. It would be a rough year even without a pandemic. It would be a rough year even without Trump. I grab on to any bright spots and clutch them like they’re a piece of driftwood and I just fell off the Titanic. From a terribly unjust and expensive custody suit to a surgery to remove my 5 front teeth (because of a fall into a brick hearth 20 years ago) to big old house issues (I need about 5 handy-penii) to being robbed to painful breaks in several relationships to lost jobs and all that goes with a pandemic … I feel like I’m in a crazy Jim Carrey movie that just won’t fucking end. Like this can’t actually be real life. I understand why the stakes have to get so high for characters in movies, but even movies eventually resolve and end and our hero gets a fucking break.


This week has been …. I’m not going to list everything. It’s too much. We’ve all got problems. At least I’m not still teaching …. Wait. OK, that’s not true. I’m going to be homeschooling Coraline this year. That was decided this week. No biggie. Did it for 12 years with my own kids. Not during a pandemic. Not as a single parent. It’s OK though. She’s 9 years old now and we’ll have fun. She’s always busy learning and experimenting. Then again it’s not really OK, because we love her school and don’t want her to lose her place there, and her community, but not much is under my control. All of my side gigs have slipped off the side and disappeared so I’ll have the time. (Ray of sunshine: One of my employers is still paying me half what I was making. I’m extremely grateful. See? There are some bright spots. I’ll highlight those for you.)


This week though. What a fucking week. First, my dog Crow has had a nasty ass for weeks now. I took him to a walk-in vet to get his anal glands expressed, because of the nasty, smelly discharge that was leaking out of his asshole, and the tech ruptured one of the glands. After 3 weeks of antibiotics and continued ass-leaking and hosing off his asshole out in the back yard, I took him to another vet who prescribed a different antibiotic. Finally it’s working (fingers crossed) and $350 later Crow’s stinky leaky asshole is …. well, not as leaky as it was. If you’ve never smelled what comes out of a dog’s anal glands, count yourself among the lucky. It’s pretty much a biological weapon.


On the way home from the second vet’s office, I was stopped at a red light when my engine revved just a bit. I had my foot on the brake so my van didn’t jump forward. In fact, when it was time to go, it didn’t go at all. It just idled along at about 5 mph no matter how hard I pushed the pedal. The long line of cars behind me went around when I turned on my flashers and nobody honked at me or flipped me off. I pulled into a parking lot, turned my van off and on, and it worked fine, other than running a little rough. I made an appointment with Darryl. “Should take an hour, two at the most,” he said. “It needs a tune-up at the very least. Bring it in tomorrow.”


Before I even got up the next day, my lawyer’s office called. He wanted to make an appointment for a phone consult. He makes more in an 8-hour day than I do in a month. But OK. I made the appointment and started worrying about the custody trial coming up the middle of August. I don’t dare write publicly about that, for so many reasons.


And then it was off to Goodyear on a steamy August day. Coraline and I took books and our camp chairs so we could sit in the shade to wait. Not a mask in sight at Goodyear, other than mine, so we certainly weren’t going to sit inside in the AC, despite the temperatures in the 90’s. We settled in. For 5 hours. Five fucking hours we sat watching the Main Street traffic and reading our books. Fending off panhandlers. Wishing I’d eaten breakfast. Finally my van was done and I paid Darryl his $500 and left.


Next morning I went out to pick up a package off the porch, and a young man who was illegally parked in the turn-around by my van stepped out of his car and yelled, “Hey, is that your van?”


“Yes,” I said reluctantly. Maybe even suspiciously. I really hoped he wasn’t going to tell me he’d run into my van. Or worse. It had been a short night. My neighbor has a guy living with him who works all night long on a motorcycle. A loud motorcycle. It requires him, apparently, to rev it over and over and over at 11:00, midnight, 1:00 and again at 5:30 in the morning. I sent the nicest message I could muster to my neighbor at 5:40 am and he agreed it was too much and put a stop to it.


“I think your tire is flat,” the stranger said. I looked at my van and thanked him. As if I wouldn’t have noticed.

Of course it was. That’s the second time I’ve had a flat tire the morning after I had my van in the shop. Of course it was flat. I came inside and put in a request for roadside assistance. I received the follow-up text and went outside to wait. And wait. Finally, after about an hour and a half, I called the company that was supposed to come out. I won’t repeat the conversation. The guy was rude. He said they hadn’t gotten a call to come to my house. He didn’t sound like he wanted my business. I put in another request. When the text came in, it was from the same damn company. I got on the phone to try to talk to a real person.


And I waited some more. After almost 45 minutes on hold, I told a real person I did not want that company and I still needed someone to come out and fix my tire. She cancelled my other requests — not that anybody was going to come out anyway — and sent someone else. Someone who was in another county on another job. Fine. Who wouldn’t have expected that? He got to my house when he could. He was polite, quick, got the job done. By the time he left, it had been over 4 hours since I put in my first request and I was just glad I hadn’t been sitting on the side of the road on a 95-degree day.


By now my amazing daughter-in-law felt so sorry for me, she invited us over for a socially distanced BBQ that evening. I needed to drop off my ruined tire at Goodyear, which is near their house, so off we went. We got there just before they closed, which I guess is good luck if it hadn’t taken the entire afternoon to get it fixed. Darryl said the hole was probably too close to the edge of the tire to plug, but he would try. I knew it wasn’t in my stars this week to get such a lucky break and started planning for buying a new tire.


Nevertheless dinner was lovely: chicken on the grill, corn from their amazing, prolific garden, caprese salad, mashed potatoes, homemade lemonade, peach ice cream, and excellent company. After we ate, we made concrete stepping stones with butterfly molds and big leaves from their garden. An oasis from the shit storm that had been my week so far. (In case I haven’t made my point about this fucking year, see the contrast between their garden and my garden below.)


Their garden.


Sigh.


It was a wonderful evening except that I brought my bad luck with me. One of their pretty chickens flew up out of the pen into the yard and within seconds one of their dogs was on it and killed it. They were going to butcher it and eat it and I’m sure it was tasty, but it was supposed to enjoy a long, egg-laying life before it ended up in the soup pot. Honestly, I’m surprised it wasn’t my dog who killed it, but he stopped when I called him off. Him and his stinky ass.


The week kind of went on like that. I’m not going to describe it all. Suffice to say I somehow screwed up making yogurt in my Instant Pot twice, even though I’ve made yogurt that way many times. We made chocolate pudding and it didn’t thicken (so I made it into rice pudding). I couldn’t get eggs today at the farmer’s market. Shit like that. Annoyances mostly that just seemed to pile up.


I have more. Some of it is too personal though. Too painful and I don’t need to spread my own existential crises here like moldy cheese.


I’ve had too many weeks like this in 2020, but who hasn’t? I try to find the bright spots and highlight them in yellow. It’s pouring down rain today, which we desperately need. We’re in a moderate drought situation here. But I won’t even go into my basement to see how much water is pouring in through the walls. I’ve done everything I can on my property to divert the water from my foundation. It’s just one more old-house issue I need to figure out. I’m not sure if every dark cloud has a silver lining or if every silver lining …. yeah, that doesn’t work.


Honestly, I do have good things going on in my life, even in these crazy, unsettled times. Friends who come over for socially distanced porch-sitting. My next-door neighbor to the south came over today and helped me change the way-up-high light bulbs on my outside lights. They’ve been burned out for …. I don’t even remember how long. My next-door neighbor to the north plays his guitar and sings for me from his porch sometimes. We have good, deep conversations. Coraline is happily making Tik ToK videos today so I can sit here and write this whiny post. We’re hoping President Butt-Hurt doesn’t shut Tik Tok down just because hardly anybody went to his stupid rally in Tulsa. Or maybe it’s because of this ray of sunshine named Sarah Cooper.

OMG! I just love her face. I want to socially distance porch-sit with her.

It feels good to be writing here again, so I’m going to keep it up, even if I drive all 12 of you away with my whining.


Before I go I’ll tell you the last straw for this week though. In the mail today I got a summons for jury duty. I’m supposed to be there just 3 days after the big custody hearing but I have always wanted to perform my duty as a juror! I’ve been rewatching Boston Legal the past few months and I’m ready. Denny Crane! (Mmmm. Alan Shore.) I’m called to a grand jury though, which can last for 4 months. And did I mention I’m going to be homeschooling Coraline this year? And do I have to mention we’re in a pandemic and I don’t have childcare, because otherwise she would be in school so ….. yeah. I think I’m going to have to get out of it. It would be a perfect homeschool activity for her to sit and watch, but those cases are often murder cases and it might not be appropriate. Also, the judge probably wouldn’t let her in the jury box. If only they were doing Zoom trials.


Sigh.


How’s your 2020 going? Any good news out there? Anybody else need to whine? Feel free to fill the comments. I want to know I’m not alone in this mad, mad world.

Oh for a road trip

 

Maybe I need to stop watching TV. I keep seeing things on TV that make me want to do those things and I can’t because fucking COVID. Like I was watching In the Dark, which I think if you like reading this blog you would like because it’s dark and sarcastic and it makes you want to drink. But in the 4th episode Murphy, the blind (not in real life) star of the show goes on a road trip. Oh, how I love a road trip. And she gets stuck in a bathroom stall and has to crawl under the door of the stall, which is a lot scarier when you’re blind I would imagine, but is massively scarier to consider during fucking COVID. Otherwise it would just make a funny story, but not now. And then they actually stop at a diner. And I could smell the old grease and coffee and pancake syrup and the ghost of cigarette smoke and hear the ting of forks against plates and the overlapping voices of people telling their stories. And I could just taste a big bite of juicy burger with lettuce and tomato and ketchup and mustard and mayo and some fat greasy fries dipped in more ketchup and fuck COVID I was there with the backs of my thighs stuck to the red plastic bench seat and the waitress (server … whatever) asking me if I wanted more coffee. Only I wasn’t there and I won’t be there for a long time. And now I’m thinking about a chocolate shake and they leave the extra in the metal cup and a piece of pie with a big scoop of ice cream. God I’m full.

But that’s from a glass of wine and a bowl of wavy potato chips, which I ate alone on my couch as I watched Murphy on her road trip and wished I’d gone on more myself when I had the chance. And I’m not even going to start in on the sex ….

What do you miss?

If we were sharing a glass of wine from a distance ….

No way our wine could be this close together.

If we were sharing a glass of wine (but not the bottle), I’d have to get this out of the way. It’s the new talking about the weather. It’s weird to think we can be heroes simply by staying home, but it’s true. Of course, we’re not heroes like our family and friends who are on the front lines defending our lives: doctors, nurses, paramedics, EMTs, firefighters, police, grocery store workers, pharmacy workers, mail carriers, Amazon workers ….. Lots of heroes are out there taking care of us and we have to take care of them by staying home. Simply staying home. I think it’s kind of stupid at this point that the government has to order us to do the right thing, but here in Ohio, we’re on a “stay at home” order. I didn’t need to be told twice a week and a half ago. I neither want to die nor to kill someone else.

If we were sharing a glass of wine you might notice my 115-pound standard poodle Crow Cocker looks pretty weird.  He hasn’t been to the groomer since …. I don’t know. It’s been a while. I’ve been distracted by some shit. So earlier I started to shave him down myself. I got 1/3 of the way through his mess of matted curls. He won’t let me take his photo tonight. He’s embarrassed. So here’s what 1/3 of the hair on a 115-pound poodle looks like. I wish I could think of some way to repurpose it ….

If we were sharing a glass of wine I’d tell you I got an email today titled “Death Awaits You…” from the author of a book I recently downloaded for my Kindle. I couldn’t unsubscribe fast enough. I probably won’t read the book either. Must be a reason it was free. We’d call that guy an asshole.

If we were sharing a glass of wine I’d say I’ve found a new use for my kitchen tongs. I call it my Corona Hand (not related to Handypenis). When I drove over to a local CSA farm to get some spring greens, I got out of my van and picked up my bag with a pair of tongs, brought it home and sprayed it with rubbing alcohol. If I were working a cash register anywhere, that’s what I’d be using to check people’s shit, with a glove. Tongs, people! Use them!

If we were sharing a glass of wine I would offer the following observation: holding a fist-sized smooth rock that’s been warming on the furnace vent is more comforting that you’d imagine. Holding a warm smooth rock while a cat purrs on your lap is like being back in the womb. Only not as moist.

If we were sharing a glass of wine we’d probably agree looking at Facebook memories isn’t so much fun any more. I’ve decided to take a break from them for a while. I  need to focus on today.

If we were sharing a glass of wine it would be long gone I would tell you I read today that people who are secret harborers of the COVID-19 lose their senses of smell and taste. So I’ve decided I’ll feed my dogs pizza and if I can’t smell dog farts within 2 hours, I’m going to get tested. No worries though. So far, so good.

Well, it looks like the bottle is empty. I got lucky and picked up a pile of newish 7-day DVD’s at the library the day before it closed, so I’m going to watch Judy and immerse myself in someone else’s problems for a while. Tomorrow is another day. I think I’ll continue shaving the dog and sew up some masks. I’m not too proud to wear one the next time I go to the grocery store. Click that link before you disagree.

Stay home and stay safe, my friends

Nothing ever stays the same …

Robin eggs

Strange days. Today I was finally struck by the thought that I really could be deciding what I’ll do with my final days of life. And then I wanted to take a nap. None of us can predict what the final days of our lives will look like. A year and a half later I still think often about my mom’s final days, after she suffered her last, terrible stroke and we, my sister and brother and I, had to make the decision to take her off life support and wait several days for her body to catch up with our intention. She didn’t know she’d spend her final day playing solitaire on her Kindle while she watched daytime TV in her kitchen, maybe enjoying a visit from my niece or my sister for a few minutes as afternoon turned to evening, eating a packet of instant oatmeal or leftovers from Meals on Wheels for dinner, chatting on the phone with my little brother, and then watching more TV from her recliner. Maybe she went to her weekly coffee group at the library, just up the alley, with her neighbor, who was even older than she was. Maybe she talked with her friend from country school days and made plans to visit another friend, housebound now, the next day for lunch. She couldn’t have known she would spend that day on the floor of her bedroom, unable to even push her help button, until my sister found her 9 hours later.

We don’t know. And so I spend these days not knowing if they are my last days, but knowing for certain nothing is going to be the same from now on. I struggle to stay engaged with the books I’m reading, the movies I try to watch. They are stories from another life. I’m glued to Facebook, waiting for more bad news instead of doing all the things I wished I had time for two weeks ago. Two weeks ago when I had jobs to go to and Girl Scouts and basketball games and piano lessons and … all the things that seemed necessary and important.

I don’t know what’s important any more. And the things that are still important seem even more out of control than they did before the Big V. I still have to deal with them, but under this new way of living, I’m not sure how to manage them or whether it will even matter a month from now.

For example, I’m embroiled in not one, but two, custody lawsuits, filed against me by my 8-year-old granddaughter Coraline’s dad and his parents. I probably shouldn’t write about that, but I will say it’s been a cruel state of affairs, costly in every way imaginable, and it started because I tried to get health insurance for Coraline, who has been living with me for the past 4 1/2 years. I still have to deal with it, even though it has become moot at this point as we face weeks, possibly months, of distancing and quarantine. If these are my final days, I resent spending them on this unnecessary burden …. and she still does not have health insurance.

For example, a few weeks ago I found out I need dental surgery to remove 5 or 6 of my front teeth, roots and all. I suffered a bad accident with a brick hearth 20 years ago and the damage has continued to flourish unknown to me or my dentist. My teeth, which are really tiny points holding a rack of crowns, could fall out any time; I’m wearing a retainer to hold them in. My surgery has been postponed indefinitely. There are worse things than being without front teeth, and I told myself that even before the viral shit storm hit. That accident could easily have killed me then. But I’ve spent the past weeks worrying and preparing, counting pennies to pay the dentists and the lawyers.

For example, I found out my house was robbed the same day I found out about my teeth, and I can’t write about that either. So I’ll just say it was bad timing and the losses from the robbery go far deeper than the possessions I will never see again.

I’m not the only person who has been struggling with big losses. I hardly know anyone who wasn’t before the Big V hit. For many of us, nothing was going to be the same anyway — because life is all about change and thank you, I know all that, Buddha — but now we’re not even sure where we are on the map. For many of us, we’re close to the end of the road. If all predictions come true, no family will be left whole. The next few months …. who knows? None of us can predict now.

And we do so love to predict. Oh god, how we crave knowing we’ll just be OK. Just OK. Even with all I was going through before, I thought I would be OK. Now I don’t know. And neither do you.

So what do we do when we can’t see what’s even a few days ahead? What do we do when we can’t even empty our bucket lists because we’re quarantined in our homes? At least I hope you’re staying home unless you’re in an essential job.

I can tell you what I want to do right now, in this minute. I want to gorge myself on good dark chocolate and drink a bottle of ice-cold chardonnay in the company of my closest family and friends. I want to play my guitar and sing harmony with other people. I want to watch the sun rise from the night side of the day. I want to ride my bike along the river for miles and miles in the sun. I want to dig my hands in the dirt and plant vegetables that I know I’ll eat in the summer.

But fuck me, I can’t do any of those things. I forgot to buy enough chocolate and my liquor cabinet was robbed with the rest of my house. It’s been raining here for 2 days and a big storm is blowing up as I write. The wind is getting fierce. Sometimes I love a windy night, but after being in a tornado last spring, it’s not as much fun as it used to be.

I’m just one big ball of fun tonight, aren’t I?

What I have been doing is staying holed up here in our house with Coraline — except when we can get out for a walk between rain drops. I’ve been sleeping in and feeling zero guilt about it. I made a list of things I want to get done and I’ve been clearing at least one item off that list daily. Today I tidied the linen cupboard. I helped Coraline with her schoolwork, and we went to a live Indigo Girls concert on Facebook and then watched a silly movie on Disney+. Yesterday I installed a bidet that I bought a month ago. It was pretty funny and I’ll be writing about that soon. We watched The Voice, but it was hard knowing none of those singers will ever really compete. The day before I added leaves to the compost and stirred it up, preparing for a new garden this spring, and video chatted with my daughter-in-law Dakota and my 2-year-old grandson Cassius Danger. (I miss them so much my whole body aches.) I still need to shave our standard poodle Crow Cocker and send my tax documents to Dave and wash the chairs on the front porch. — at least one thing a day that moves me toward the future, whatever it brings.

And I’ve been preparing for the possibility that I’ll be sick for a week and Coraline will need to do more for us than she usually does. I taught her how to start the washer and dryer. We talked about foods she can cook, and I made two huge pots of chicken, vegetable and wild rice soup to put in the freezer. We could live a long time on soup. It helps to feel somewhat prepared for whatever craziness will inevitably ensue. I may look back on this time and say when everything was out of control, I made soup.

Social media has been a sanity-saver, both for me and for Coraline. She video chats with her friends for hours, and I let her. They do their homework together and have dance contests. And of course, I’m in contact with many of my friends too. I think we’d both be crazy by now without our online social life, extroverts that we are. We talk to the guys who live on either side of us from the safety of our porches.

I worry about every tickle in my throat, every cough that I would normally attribute to spring allergies. I try to focus on the 80% of people who throw this virus off like it’s a bad cold. I try to be like Tom Hanks, even though I’m not even sick yet. I wash my hands a lot. I cross my fingers a cure will come any day now and then a vaccine. And even so, nothing will be the same.

I don’t know how to teach Coraline about a world that doesn’t exist yet.

Whatever happens, we will fight to survive. The isolation feels like a terrible trick though. This is one way to break people, and we need to remember it. We are stronger together, even when we have to stay 6 feet apart.

I don’t know whether to hit publish on this one. It’s a post for the times we’re in, but for once I’m not able to find the humor like I usually can. Not many people read here, so it probably doesn’t matter. I don’t know if I’ll post it on the other blog where I get traffic or not. You’ve all got your own troubles.

Feel free to tell them to me in the comments. I can always listen.

Stay well, my friends.

ffa06-love2breticula

The weight of flushing


Sorry I haven’t written here in over a week. I’ve been busy in the bathroom. I’m wearing a brace on my wrist as I write this. I had to poop today and by the time I finished flushing 15 times …. again …. I mean, it’s every single day with this flushing shit …. I’ve developed carpal tunnel. Thank you, Jeebus, I only have to flush ten times when I pee. 

I’m working on a design for a toilet that flushes every 15 seconds whether somebody is using it or not. I figure the millionaire in the White House would gladly underwrite my invention so he could flush less and save his tiny hands for tweeting. Don’t worry. My design will be super-sized. I think that’s language he understands. The tank will hold 15 gallons of bottled water, courtesy of Nestle. And of course I’d offer a solid-gold option just for him. King of the throne and all that.

I think I’m on to something. I’m also thinking about presidential add-ons like toilet paper made from real $100 bills. Not that fake shit you get at the dollar store. A power-washer of a bidet attachment. No cling-ons when The Man leaves my deluxe toilet. Maybe a tanning light attachment, for the busy faux prez who wants to tan and poop in tandem.

The only thing I regret is that I probably won’t need to work four part-time jobs to make ends meet once I get rich from my Mega Necessarium. I hate be a party pooper and bring down those robust unemployment numbers, but I’m going to live the American dream, my friends. Once I’m rich I don’t have to give any more shits about poor people anyway, so I’m looking forward to that.

Gotta go. Saving my hands for inventing and flushing. Poop on!

Dell sucks. Eat the rich.

 

I just want to say that Dell sucks. Cyber Monday sucks. Capitalism pretty much sucks, except when ice cream is on sale. I am not being paid for this review.

I’m sick of the hype that happens after Thanksgiving every year. I never even leave the house on Black Friday. Hell, I don’t really even get out of my pajamas. (OK, I don’t wear pajamas, but if I did, that’s what I wear on Black Friday.) And no, I don’t shop online either. No offense to those of you who love that shit, but I hate it.

A woman told me the other day she was going to stand in line for hours to get a deal on a 65-inch TV, just like she did last year, because it was such a good price and her TV was all of one year old now. And that she has a 52-inch TV in her bedroom that she watches about three times a year, but it’s (she held out her fingers) about three inches wide and she might as well get two of those 65-inch TVs because they’re only two inches wide. She asked me if I didn’t think it was time to upgrade. I just stared at her. I couldn’t comprehend her logic.

That is my definition of insanity.

And yet … stupid me. I decided I’d buy a new laptop tonight because I need one. So my friend Green Jello found me one at Costco and my son Drake found me one on the Dell website, which is the one I decided to get, because it was faster. But of course when I went to my cart to actually pay for it, it wasn’t available. But they did try to direct me to one that costs $150 more. Thieving bastards.

Fuck you, Dell. I think that might be illegal. Bait and switch. Right? Isn’t that what that’s called? It should be illegal. And try … I dare you, just try to lodge a complaint. Not a chance in hell.

Because they know they suck. So they don’t need to be told. They won’t even let you tell them.

So I’m not getting my Inspiron 15 5000 laptop computer tonight. Nor am I going to get a new Inspiron 14 5000, which was $50 more, because apparently it sold out just seconds before I was going to add it to my cart. 

I think it’s a fucking conspiracy. Some fucking billionaires made a ton more billions the past few days, which they will pay zero taxes on, and fuck the rest of us. And now I’m mad because I couldn’t add to their wealth.

What about you? Do you shop Black Friday sales? Cyber Monday? Did you get some good deals and I’m just a loser. You can tell me. I can take it.

But fuck Dell. Who needs their damn computer anyway?

(I do.)

 

 

The Finish Line

Day 30. This is the last post for NaBloPoMo 2019. A big hug of gratitude to all of you who read my rants and rambles this month. I’ve got a little something extra for those of you who managed to read every post and I think you know what I mean. Seriously, I have no reason to write here if you all don’t show up and engage with me. I mean …. I am nothing without you! So, really. Thank you.

I always intend to continue writing at least a couple of times a week after NaBloPoMo. I go into December with the same intention this year, because one of these years I will succeed. If you run across topics you think I should write about, please send them on. You can contact me by email or on my Facebook page. You have liked my Reticulated Writer Facebook page, right? Or you can just pop a comment under this post. Lots of ways to find me.

At a party last night, I did receive a complaint that I didn’t write about vaginas often enough. I know, right? It’s uncharacteristic. I guess it’s the sign of our times that I ended up ranting more than I usually do. I’ll do my best to get back into vaginas.

Oh, you know what I mean!

I leave you with this poem by Danusha Laméris simply because it’s beautiful and I love it.

Small Kindnesses

I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.
And sometimes, when you spill lemons
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other.
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot,
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder,
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass.
We have so little of each other, now. So far
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange.
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here,
have my seat,” “Go ahead—you first,” “I like your hat.”

Gratitude: Coraline

Coraline with Margaret Catwood

Photo credit: Reticulated Writer

I was trying to decide what to write about tonight on this next-to-last night of NaBloPoMo, and I realized I hadn’t written a gratitude post yet this month. I should write at least one gratitude post in the Thanksgiving month, because I have so much to be grateful for. And then I realized some of you reading here this month might not know my 8-year-old granddaughter Coraline and me in real life, so I’m going to write about her.

Coraline has lived here with me in our big 145-year-old Queen Anne Victorian house for over four years. I can hear some of you thinking, Wait just a dang minute there, Reticula. You’re raising yet another generation now, in your golden years, and you’re talking about gratitude? I don’t get it!

I’ll tell you what. A lot of people don’t get it — unless they know us. Even then, I’ve heard,” She’s so lucky to have you,” and “You’re such an angel,” and “How do you keep up?” and other variations on the theme.

Here’s how I answer: I’m the lucky one. A little background: I’m the oldest of five kids and I have two of my own. I’ve been raising or helping to raise kids for a lot of years. But I still consider myself lucky, because if I am going to raise another child at my age, I am raising the perfect child. Not that she’s perfect. Neither of us are. But she’s the perfect child for me. I know other grandparents who are raising their grandchildren and from my perspective, as much as they love their grandchildren, they’re not as lucky. They’ve got a lot of problems we don’t have. My daughter’s only unhealthy habit during her pregnancy was smoking. Same while she breastfed Coraline for a year and a half. She was careful. I didn’t have to deal with fetal alcohol syndrome or a baby born addicted to drugs or any of the many other issues custodial grandparents deal with. We do have some issues that led to Coraline living here — obviously. But Coraline is bright, healthy, empathetic, out-going, confident, so compassionate … I could go on, but you get the idea. I am lucky and I am grateful. And I know many of you who know us in real life will give me a Blessed Be or an Amen.

I will admit I don’t get to do some of the things I did the few years I was single and living alone. Or I don’t get to do those things as often. Shrug. I’m doing other things. I’m a Girl Scout leader again. We go camping with my son, daughter-in-law, and grandson. We go to women’s basketball games at my alma mater. Now that she’s learned to ride her bike, we can do that together, and we’ll ride farther and faster as she gets older. We go on fun day trips and we have groups of friends we socialize with. We go to church together. She’s taking piano lessons, and we’re going to play a duet for her Christmas recital. Instead of making me feel old trying to keep up, raising Coraline keeps me younger, I think.

Are there some drawbacks? Are you a parent or have you been? Are there ever not trade-offs when you’re raising kids? I confess I feel guilty that I can’t spend as much time with my grandson as I think I would otherwise. On the other hand, Coraline is so good with him and he adores her. I’m not a morning person, so that 7:15 alarm doesn’t excite me every morning. Neither does the drive to the school twice a day, although we have a carpool this year, so that helps. I miss doing some things with my friends when I don’t have childcare, but I also do some things I wouldn’t otherwise have done, so I don’t dwell. There are other things I know I’m missing out on, but nobody gets a guarantee that they’ll do everything in life they want to do. And I have to say, Coraline is a good excuse not to date. I’m sure that’s not the only bad decision she saves me from making.

So, yes, my life took a turn I didn’t expect. Doesn’t every life? And I’m grateful for every day I get to be in Coraline’s life and that she is in mine. Have I mentioned she loves to mop (for now) and begs to be the one to mop the kitchen floor? See? Wouldn’t you be grateful too?

I’ll end with this Coralineism from earlier today.

Coraline: What do you think happens to toys when they die?

Me: I’m not sure I understand the question.

Coraline: If toys are secretly alive, if a toy dies then the kid won’t know it.

Me: I never thought about that.

Coraline: Yeah, and then the kid will keep playing with the toy and all the other toys will have to watch him play with a toy corpse.

Me: I guess it’s a good thing toys aren’t secretly alive. I don’t know how we’d solve that dilemma.

Coraline: Well, we don’t really know though, do we?

Me: No, and now you’re giving me the creeps. Are you ready for another pancake?

Throwback Thursday: What scent is your vagina?

sticky-notes

Happy Thanksgiving! Are you stuffed? Because I am stuffed. And tired. The past few days I did a lot of cleaning and a lot of cooking and right before my favorite holiday I got a nasty shock that I’ll have to deal with whether I want to or not. If you’re the praying type, our little family could use some intervention of the supernatural type. No floods or anything like that, please. If you’re a ninja Amazon warrior, hit me back channel and let’s make a plan. This Mama Bear never hibernates, although I do need some sleep tonight.

So anyway, it’s been a long week and I’m so glad it’s over …. Wait? What? It’s not over yet? Damn it. That’s a very good reason for me to share a post from six years ago that I still find entertaining instead of staying up another 2-3 hours writing, editing, nodding off and banging my head on the keyboard. I’ve already talked about vaginas and Febreze this month. This post ties them together in a neat fragrant package.


From March 6, 2013

Recently I’ve started holding what I call writer’s bootcamps at my house. I open my house to a group of women writers, take their cell phones, and shame encourage them to put their asses in a chair and write for 4 hours with 5 minute breaks every hour. We take a long break for lunch, and then wrap up with a sharing session.

Sounds so simple, but it’s rather powerful. Some amazing work comes out of these bootcamps.

At last week’s bootcamp …. for reasons I simply don’t understand …. the topic of vaginas came up. I offer you a synopsis.

KS: Vaginas do not smell like fish. Vaginas don’t even smell like nice, fresh trout. (This will make no sense if you haven’t read the nice, fresh trout post.)

Reticula: Hey, that’s what I said, but he was adamant. The guy seemed to know his vagina.

KS: No way. As the lone lesbian in the room, and the person with by far the most experience with vaginas, I’m telling you no vagina smells like fish.

Reticula: My vagina smells like rain. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

KK: OK, then mine smells like mountain air.

KS: Sounds like a Febreze scent. Hey, if your vagina was a Febreze scent, what would it be?

R: Mine would be mango …. no, chili …. no, mango. My vagina smells like mango Febreze.

Reticula: I’m sticking with rain. I’m not kidding: my vagina smells like rain.
Anonymous: How about double rainbow? Maybe your vagina smells like double rainbow Febreze.

Reticula: No, I’m sticking with rain. Nobody gets to say what somebody else’s vagina smells like….especially if he’s going to say fish.

KK: If we’re thinking of Febreze scents, then I’m going to change mine. My vagina Febreze scent is sunshine, not mountain air. My vagina smells like sunshine.

M: Mine is ….  fresh man walking out of a shower.

Everybody: That’s the best Febreze scent ever!

KK: OK, I’m changing mine again. This time I’m sure. My Febreze vagina scent is honey cream hops.

Reticula: Mmmm. That sounds like a favorite beverage. Maybe next time we should say what our vagina’s favorite beverage should be. (Wait for it…)

KS: My vagina Febreze scent is new car.

EverybodyNew car!!!  Does your vagina really smell like new car?

KS: I’m telling you, my vagina smells like new car. I’m the only lesbian here, so I’m the expert on what vaginas smell like. New car. 

Epilogue:

KS: OMG. New car Febreze smells like old lady.

Reticula: What does that mean? Did you buy some?

KS: Yes. And I mean it stinks. I want to change my Febreze vagina scent.

Reticula: Too late. You already chose. Your vagina smells like new car.

KS: But new car Febreze smells like old lady toilet.

Reticula: Do mean the toilette that’s watered-down perfume or the toilet your cat drinks out of?

KS: Is there a difference?

Reticula: I dunno. It’s your vagina.


If your vagina smelled like a Febreze scent, what would it be?

Get in line

I don’t write about racism very often, not because I don’t think about it a lot, but because I’m afraid I’m going to say something insensitive  or offensive, certainly without meaning to, and that I’ll lose friends or everybody will hate me. Yeah, it’s all about me. Tonight I just need to get something off my chest though. And if I do offend any of you, please tell me and I’ll do my best to learn from it. I promise that.

Someone posted in a Facebook group I’m in that she was a victim of racism. She said a black cashier opened up a lane and motioned past her, a “lily-white woman,” and also past the first person in line to the third woman in line, who was also a black woman. A “sistah,” she called her. (I know. I cringed too.) Lily-white was pissed. I guess she’s used to being the favorite child.

She got her ass handed to her for suggesting that she was a victim of racism. It was swift and brutal. I’m not going to define racism for you, because I assume if you’re still reading here, you understand the fallacy. I have faith you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t have a basic understanding of how racism works and why Lily-white can’t be a victim of racism and furthermore, why neither the cashier nor the woman who was third in line can perpetuate a racist act on her or anyone. Honestly, I thought we’d all agreed on that decades ago, so I’m always surprised when it has to be explained again as if we were in racism kindergarten.

Here’s what I want to say about that though. If it were me, I wouldn’t give a shit if she brought the third woman, the black woman, to the front of her new line. For all the black women who have sat in the back of the bus, or stood on the bus while white people sat, who have been denied service in restaurants, who have been denied basic amenities like bathrooms, who have gone to schools with no books, who have been told to get to the back of the line throughout the history of this nation, I would welcome her to bring the black woman to the front of the line.

I’m going to get even more personal. For my friend Collette, who was my neighbor and close friend years ago when we lived on Robins Air Force Base in the very middle of Georgia in the early 80’s, the most racist place I’ve ever lived. For Collette, who would go out to eat with her husband at a restaurant and sit there …. and sit there … and ask to be served and then …. sit there until they gave up and left. Who would hold out her hand for her change at the grocery store only to have it thrown instead on the counter by a cashier who refused to pick it up and put it in her hand, even when Collette insisted. Who was embarrassed by the way her mother treated me, because her mother didn’t understand why we would be friends, even though they weren’t from the Deep South, they were from Detroit. Who had a master’s degree in engineering in spite of everyfuckingthing. Why shouldn’t Collette have had a chance at the front of the line back then? That’s right. She should have, Lily-white, but it wasn’t going to happen in Macon, Georgia. Not then. And apparently not enough has changed even now.

For all of those women, past and present, who are still practically and metaphorically told to go to the back of the line, who can work and work and work and still the front of the line is too far away, please go ahead of me in the line at Walmart. For fuck’s sake. Is it not the smallest possible gesture to not get your panties in a wad just because a black woman goes to the head of the line at Walmart while you wait 5 minutes, Lily-white?

I’m not going to stretch that metaphor for you any more. I think it’s pretty clear. It’s not really about lines at Walmart …. and yet, it is. If a black woman can’t go to the head of the line at Walmart without Lily-white clutching her pearls and fainting, then how the hell are we ever going to fix the fact that black women have to fight harder than anyone for a place in line at all?

What I hope is that Lily-white learned something from the barrage of comments she had to endure before she left the group. And I hope maybe some other women read those comments and learned something too. If nothing else, maybe Lily-white’s faux pas provided an educational experience. It certainly made me think and react.

I hope next time Lily-white has an opportunity to let a black woman go to the front of the line, she will think twice about how often she’s been at the front of the line herself for no other reason than she was born with lighter skin. Because let’s be honest, that’s no reason to always be at the front of the line. Women have to share that line with each other, because we’ve all been held back from the front of the line, and black women most of all.

That’s all I want to say tonight. Share the front of the damn line. Those billionaires who own Walmart are the real enemies, our common enemies. They’re the ones who are controlling our access to the lines that matter — the ones the most of us aren’t even standing in. The enemy is not the cashier who works there and is certainly not the woman who was behind you in line, Lily-white. Focus on what’s really important. We have a lot of work to do. Together.