Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Thoughts

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." John 1:1

Random House defines a word as a unit of language, consisting of one or more spoken sounds or their written representation, that functions as a principal carrier of meaning. When John writes that "In the beginning was the Word," what he means then is that before anything was created, there was an idea, a medium through which God could make his will known, and through his words, create the heavens and the earth.

So before there was a story to be told, there was the thing that is and always was, the way to tell a story. This is what I was thinking about on Christmas. I was thinking that as far as stories go, the story of Jesus is an interesting one. Forget everything you know about Christianity, the big-box churches, the scandals, and about Christians, the ones you see in the news these days with the signs stating that "God loves dead soldiers," all those terrible things that may or may not come to mind when the word "Christ" is mentioned. And start at the beginning, as if you haven't heard the story a thousand times. Think of a man, with all the powers of God and all the feelings of a human being. He could have had all the riches of the world, he could have been a ruler of nations, he could have had a glass of water all those days in the desert. But he never did, he just made every right decision in love. In the story he was scared, and in one of the most revealing statements in the Bible says "Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet, not as I will, but as you will." In that one statement he is all man, and all God. In the end, we kill him, because he's not who we expect him to be, or because he was causing too much trouble, or because he was upsetting the natural order of things, or because we simply don't understand.

There are many stories about good and evil, very intricate ones, that could very well spawn future religions. Like Star Wars. But the Bible is still the #1 Bestseller in the world, over two thousand years after the stories were written. Why hasn't it ended up with Beowulf on some eight-grade reading list? Because it's a story about God coming down to earth, not as a ruler but as a sort of teacher or a guide, or as "Doubting" Thomas said when Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was, "Lord, I don't know who you are." He's different things to different people and I think that that's part of the reason the story has remained alive. We get to be a part of His story in that way. As humans we're story tellers. It's in us, and if you believe the Bible story, that quality was there even before creation, before time, space, all of it. The Word. To me, anyway, my faith is not in what people say about what people said, it's not in big boxes and picket lines, it's in the story. It's in the Word, that principal carrier of meaning.

Merry late Christmas everyone, also happy holidays to those of you not celebrating Christmas!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Everything you need to know about a woman you can learn from her changes in hair style

One of the guys here at work is going through a divorce. He was telling me that his wife is like a totally different person now. She's changed so much. In the past year she's changed her hair three different times. "I mean, not just different cuts, but different colors too. And not just a few shades this way or that - totally different colors," he said shaking his head and looking down.

A man's reaction to a woman drastically changing her hair three times in a year seems to be bewilderment. Like, "I just kept telling her she looked nice, then she goes and changes her hair again." Bewildering.

A woman, on the other hand, knows exactly what that means. My particular response was "you should have read between the lines on that one." A drastic change in hair style, for a woman, seems to be a reflection of some internal struggle. Like, "I'd really like a divorce, but first I think I'll just cut off all my hair and dye it red. Maybe that will calm the inner turmoil."

In a womans mind, a haircut isn't just a haircut the way a man thinks of it. It is a totem, a crying-out, a rebelion, a symbol of a battle being fought or a battle won. Secure women usually maintain the same hair style for years. Those of us who are a little young and discontent can be identified by our frequent changes in cuts and colors. And a woman who is looking to get divorced, say, might change her hair three or four times in a year. A haircut doesn't solve lifes problems, but it sure satisfies the desire for change, at least for a while depending on what kind of change you're looking for. Pay attention, men.

Monday, December 6, 2010

My Retail Experience

Story likes to sneak things like toothpaste and expensive face masks into the bath with him to squirt out, all of which, in addition to my hair that falls out like crazy, have pretty much cemented the drain closed. It takes about eight hours for a good tub full of bath water to drain anymore, but as long is last night's bath water is out of there by the current night I don't see the need to do anything about it. I'm thinking I'm going to have to make the call tomorrow though because tonight, since I've put up anything that he could possibly squeeze into the bath, he went for the toilet paper. That stuff dissolves pretty quickly and I'm pretty sure that in addition to the toothpaste, charcoal-activated face mask, and hair my drain is less "drain" and more "part of the bathtub" now. But I'll worry about that tomorrow. Tonight my concern was the fact that, although I usually keep a pretty close eye on the toilet paper inventory, I had allowed myself to get down to one roll. My thinking was that I always have a lot of toilet paper and that any reasonable person should have plenty of time between starting the last roll and needing a new one to go buy toilet paper, and that I was going to quit "over thinking" everything, after all it's ridiculous to stress over such small things and I should apply this new attitude to my whole life starting with the toilet paper issue. So, tonight because of that attempt to correct some perceived character flaw I had to load Story up and go to Walmart at 7:30 - which is late for me to be outside of the house and right at his bedtime. I say I try to avoid Walmart but anyone who knows me and has gotten an angry text from me on a Friday night screaming (all caps) about standing in line at the Walmart checkout would argue that. I really do try to stay away but the ability to buy underwear, cable wires, and 100% juice for $1.50 keeps bringing me back.

Tonight my list was short, I had to get toilet paper, but while I was there I figured I should go ahead and get onions and juice. After all, I don't want to have to go back. What I left with is toilet paper, onions, juice, ziplock bags, little oranges, toothpaste, air freshener, 15 calorie packages of cheese, and oven bags. I did better than I usually do, but as always I left feeling like a total sucker. Marketing people dream of me when they fall asleep. The ziplock bags I got to freeze some bananas that were going bad. I can't stand to throw them away. I ended up throwing them away anyway when I got home because I decided that even if I did freeze them my mind could never really overcome the idea that they were about to go bad, and they would just sit in my freezer until I threw them away at some future date. The little oranges were a good deal. I got like 25 of them for about $3. Toothpaste, I needed that because all of mine is in the bathtub. Air freshener? I love air freshener, especially during the holidays when they have all the "tree" and "apple" scents. I'm a little pissed about the 15 calorie packages of cheese. I've never in my life paid attention to calories. I'll sit down and eat a brick of cheese if I want to. But now I've got a package of five, FIVE, smaller packages of cheese bits that look like they were just scraped up off the factory floor from the shavings of other higher calorie cheese cubes in order to squeeze every dime out of frazzled mothers grabbing at the most appealing packaging they can find. And who am I kidding with the oven bags? I guess I had the idea, standing there in front of the display, that the one thing preventing me from cooking myself an entire turkey was the fact that I don't have any oven bags. Now that I'm in the sanity of my own home I realize that I don't want a turkey, don't know how to cook a turkey (aside from the knowledge that it's easier to do, allegedly, with oven bags), and don't actually have a working oven with which to use the oven bags. Totally inexplicable.

Then on the way out I had to give Story a dollar to give the bell-ringing Salvation Army guy who gave him a tiny candy cane on the way in so I didn't feel like a white trash mother who accepts candy for her two-year-old at 8:00 PM and then doesn't even bother to make a donation. Way to go Walmart, you've done it again. I'll be in a better mood about the whole thing tomorrow. Lucky, that, because I'll probably have to go back for something.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Driving a Car

There are few things in the world that I enjoy more than driving a car. So, as you can imagine, this last month during which I've been without a car, has been incredibly hard for me, lots of frustrated worrying about when my ride is going to get here, lots of toe-tapping and wristwatch-looking, unspent time between being ready to leave and leaving. My ride was reliable, but not a mind-reader. When I get my coat on, I expect to walk out the door.

About two days ago I got a new car. New for me, probably junk to anyone else, but I love it. It's a 1991 Toyota 4Runner. It's got a lot of miles on it, but since it's a Toyota I'm praying for longevity. It's got these wheels that are so big they look silly to me and require me to grab on to the roof and climb into the drivers seat. It's red, like tomato red, not maroon.

I've always driven small cars. Everyone who knows me probably knows me as a small-car person, but I'm not. I've wanted a 4Runner, an old one, for a long time. Nobody knows it, but it suits me perfectly, with the exception of the after-market tires which are, like I said, silly. It's capable of a lot, all the four-wheel drive and multiple shifting options, none of which I'll ever use, but I feel safe knowing they're there. Lots of potential, but untapped, and not flaunted. It's got a sunroof and automatic windows and locks, but all-in-all the frills are kept to a minimum and they're easily overlooked due to the age of the car. It's simple, functional.

And now that I've got a car I can start running errands for work, which is one of my favorite things to do. For one thing, there's little better than getting paid to drive. Today it was the post office. I made a CD to listen to in the car. So, I had my new car with my new music. The sun made it warm enough to roll the window down. And for the first time in a long time I was driving. I love to drive. I thought it was something I'd get over when I turned 16 1/2, but I love driving just as much now as I did when I got my learners permit. I like sitting still and yet being in motion. Doing something that requires attention, but not concentration. Being out in the world, but inside a little protective bubble.

I just didn't have to think about anything, driving to the post office. I was listening to Bran Van 3000, the shopping song, whatever the name of it is. My hair was kind of down, but kind of up, kind of a mess really. I wasn't smiling but just looking around like, "right now, everything is okay." I felt totally unencumbered, not quite carefree, but purposeful, capable of a lot, but as if I could handle it, full of untapped potential, pretty but minimal and easily overlooked. Simple, functional.

Driving a car, my car, listening to music, my music, is about the best therapy I can have. There's nothing in the world that I have to do besides keep that car on the road. I'm just driving, just me, in motion. Maybe some people feel that way about their bicycles, or riding the train. Transportation is all kind of like that I guess. What's nice about a car is that you're alone, which is good in itself, but it also means you can sing at the top of your lungs.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Vanity of Graham Crackers

For those of you who don't know, we recently put my Mom into a home for people suffering from Alzheimer's and dementia. This is all okay because it seems to be a good place and we knew it was coming.

I went up to Chicago last week to visit her there for the first time. What I expected was something from "Awakenings," maybe something as exciting as "One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest." People who were not totally there, but who were not totally gone either. Maybe there would be one or two McMurphys, or that woman from "Awakenings" who wouldn't walk on the white tiles. In my head I guess I wanted to imagine that, while we don't understand her in her disease, once she got around other people who had the same disease they could somehow find each other out there in that place where Alzheimer's takes them. But I guess it just takes everyone somewhere different.

Before I went to the home Dad was telling me that he had gone to visit one morning and the staff had gathered everyone around a table for coffee. When he walked in everyone was just kind of dozing there in their chairs with their coffee and a single graham cracker sitting in front of them. Nobody was talking, nobody was really even awake or present in any way. That is the kind of scene I walked into when I visited for the first time.

It was before lunch and they were all gathered in a common room, and looked like they were having an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. I don't know what they were doing in there. Dad went in and kind of woke her up a little and she was happy to see him. Then he pointed at me and she jumped up and left the circle to give me a hug, which started out as a really joyful thing and quickly evolved into a tear-soaked act of desperation on both our parts. It was classic Mom and Annie, and it remained classic Mom and Annie. At one point we were sitting on a little bench and we each, at the same time, tried to lean our head on the other's shoulder. I asked to see her room and she led me down the hall. The room looked like it belonged in a hotel. It was tiny and there was a bed, a dresser, a side table, lamp, and chair. That's it. When I left I told her that I was going to go get all of her stuff. We were going to decorate her room.

At lunch Dad and I were talking about the whole deal there at the home. I said how depressing it seemed there.

I said, "You know, that whole graham cracker thing. I don't know, man, the graham cracker with the coffee just kills me."

I never liked a graham cracker. They were always giving them to me in grade school and I ate them because I wanted my snack, but I never looked forward to getting a graham cracker. It always seemed like they had to give us something for a snack, but we didn't have to enjoy it so, hey, graham crackers are easy.

Dad agreed. "Yeah, they always represented taking the easy way out to me. Like 'I'm going to give you something totally useless, but I'm going to act like I did something very meaningful.'"

We both laughed about how stupid graham crackers are, and I don't know about him, but I was kind of laughing about how he and I could, independently, come to the same conclusions about the implications of graham crackers.

I spent the next morning excavating the bedroom at Mom and Dad's house. I picked out lots of gardening and decorating books, books that she didn't have to read but could just look at. There were calendars and circulars and unopened boxes of mechanical pencils, there was an old journal from 1985. I didn't know what it was, but was kind of flipping through things out of curiosity and found my name in this particular journal. She was writing about a dream she had in which she was on a beach and she sees this woman, very tall, thin, with dark hair and dark brown eyes. In the dream this woman gave her a hug and felt very "mothering." She wrote, "I thought it was Annie, all grown up." I'm not tall, certainly not "very" tall. Mom always thinks I am though. She was always asking how I got so tall. It was with this in my head, and with about four baskets of books and notebooks, that I had to go see Mom. I was determined that it was going to be a good day. I was going to be "Annie, all grown up." We were going to decorate her room, and we both like to decorate.

It was a good day and we got some life into her room. I mainly just wanted her stuff in there so that people walking by would look in and think "wow, she must have been a really interesting woman!" There were no afghans or doilies, nothing made of yarn, nothing mauve. Her room had books, it had baskets, it had multicolored antique boxes that said "this woman is young, she is smart, she floated through life and she liked the color red!" I don't know that it did too much for her, but I left feeling much better.

The next day was the last day of my visit and we made one last trip to see Mom. I was happy to walk into her room and find that the books were not all exactly where I had left them. We took her out to eat with us and she fell asleep at the table. We laughed about her, and then Dad, not being able to zip up her coat. On our way back, as we were turning into the home Mom said "Oh, noooo." To the best of my knowledge the last time she saw the place from the outside was when they moved her in over a month ago, yet somehow her mind held on to that memory, and she knew she was going to have to watch us walk out that door without her.

As hard as the whole trip was I feel good about where she is. Like I said, it seems like a good place. I just miss my mom, and in a way it's kind of a neat situation because I can tell her that. Lots of people don't realize how much they miss their parents until they're gone and they never get to tell them. I have that opportunity, and while there is no indication that she's not just being erased, I still like to think that she's somewhere hearing me when I tell her that I grew up to be just like her, maybe she already knows. Annie, all grown up. I just wish I were closer, I wish that I could be there more, that I could see her smile, that I could bring her this disgusting bitter dark chocolate she likes and redecorate her room so she doesn't get tired of looking at the same stuff all the time. I don't really know if those things make too much of a difference to her anymore. They make me feel better though. Maybe graham crackers are not so bad.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sitting outside at quarter to ten

I was sitting outside on the porch tonight. Orion is kind of on the horizon these days and it was right in the line of my sight. It's been a long time since I've looked at the stars. I know they're there, I've seen them before and I rarely think to just sit and look at them. I mean, I didn't tonight, I just happened to be because I was outside smoking, a fact which I debated including, but who are we kidding? Who just goes outside and sits there? I couldn't tell the story without that fact to make it believable. So anyway, I was sitting there, cigarette in hand, looking at the sky. Does it seem to anyone else like the stars are twinkling more these days? Tonight they were just really, like, flashing. Maybe it's something to do with the nearby nuclear plant, or 2012.

I guess I'm in a thoughtful mood, which I get embarrassed about because I don't want anyone to think that I'm trying to be profound or overly dramatic, especially about something as poetic as stars, but it really is hard to look at them for any length of time without thinking. I mean, everyone will have a different take on the stars. For me, I like to read a lot of a) history books and b) science books - easy ones, I don't really know that much about either subject. So I was sitting there thinking about the light from those stars travelling millions of light years through space to reach MY eyes. All those years and across unimaginable distance, there were those little photons of light destined to meet my eyes, they were mine all along - out in space, struggling through our atmosphere, down from the sky, to my porch, my eyes, and my brain to make them real (I mean, if we're not here to be monitors for reality, what is reality? Am I right?). It's unthinkable, incredible. For another thing those stars have been there, just overseeing, all that history I love. The Great Pyramids were built to line up exactly with the stars in Orion's belt, that one just a little offset from the other two. That means that when I'm looking at those stars, I'm looking at the very thing that inspired the minds that built the pyramids thousands of years ago. Einstein looked at the stars, DaVinci, Jesus Christ himself must have looked at the stars, and they're there for me to look at too.

Walking in from outside I was thinking about all these things, and about this big oak tree that looked really pretty in the light from the porch and then I looked at the cabinets. I've never thought about them before, and may never again, but they're just these boxes attached to the wall. They were a thought in the mind of a man who tired of piling his dishes on a table. My cabinets aren't bad, not really nice ones, but not terrible. They're simple, functional. The whole house is that way. I really can't tell you the last time I looked at the stars, but I look at the house every day. I look at the house so much that I forget about the stars. And I guess it was kind of nice to remember that they're there, they and all their implications, and I decided that I would just write about it really quickly to remind you too. And then I thought I might draw a picture of the oak tree for Mom. I probably won't do that, I haven't drawn in years, plus it's getting late... It's getting dark earlier now. Go look at the stars.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Reluctant Optimist

When I was little I complained a lot. I was always being told to find the good in things, and never could, so as I was learning who I was I naturally assumed that I was a hopeless pessimist. I embraced it and it never occurred to me that I could or would be any other way. As I learned from Werner Erhard, you don't know what you don't know, and I didn't know that there was any other way to be. So, the other day when I was complaining about how terrible my day had been, and ended my commentary with "but that's okay, tomorrow will be better" and my friend said "there's that optimism again!" my immediate response was, "oh, no, no I didn't mean it like that," but did I? What other way could you mean "tomorrow will be better?" I didn't really believe tomorrow would be better. Was I a liar and a pessimist? Then there was the use of the word "again," as if I'm puking optimism all over the place all the time. Disturbed by the whole event I sat down to consider the implications. What could this mean about the whole nature of my personality?

Here's the thing: My whole life I've hated doing things I hate to do. I put them off, griped about them, and often just didn't do them at all. It gave me a terrible attitude. I guess it was really immature to act like that, but I mean I REALLY hated doing some things. Now I don't ever do anything I don't want to do. When I'm forced to do things I don't want to do like hold a wrench while I watch my husband repair machinery, it's absolutely agonizing. I don't know if everyone feels physical pain when forced into doing something unpleasant, but I swear it makes me sick. I do things I'm not crazy about doing, but I don't do them because I'm a soldier and I bite the bullet and get them done. It's because I trick myself into thinking I want to do them. With a little preparation and mental maneuvering I can make myself think I like to clean the house. I mean, how often do I get to listen to music really loud outside of the car? Sometimes I don't feel like washing my hair. I'm tired, it takes forever to dry, I don't want to do it. So I plan for it, I'll try to get excited about not having dirty hair anymore, sometimes when I'm having a really hard time getting motivated I'll go out and buy some new shampoo. Some tricks are more costly than others, but I've got a great collection of shampoo and toothpaste. Most people hate Mondays, hate their work in general. I'm blessed because I worked as a telemarketer for three months. I love my current job. If ever I start getting down about my job I just think about holding a phone to my ear for eight hours a day. And as far as having a terrible day and then saying some ridiculous thing like "tomorrow will be better?" I'm just trying to avoid praying for a quiet death in the night. Tomorrow's got to be better, right? It's not optimism, it's survival.

Of course, Werner Erhart is right. We don't know what we don't know. There are whole realms of possibilities out there that we can't even think of because even the possibilities we think of are still hemmed in by the things we know to be true in our experience. I've never experienced optimism, so whatever methods I use to avoid doing things I don't want to do are derivatives of my experience as a pessimist. Is that optimism? Maybe I'm taking optimism and putting it into my pessimism box. Maybe I'm learning something that I didn't know I didn't know. Life can be exciting that way. See? I did it again.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Why I want to be a cheerleader

I was usually on my way out the back door as soon as we were released from class for our high school pep rallies, so when Holly, my 14-year-old cheerleader step-daughter, called last night asking me to come to hers today, I immediately thought about trying to find a way out the back door of this request too. But instead I told her I would ask my boss if I could take off and be there, after all it was the last one of the season and I do like watching people dance. And wouldn't you know it, my boss said it was fine if I wanted to go.

The game tonight is the big one of the year. It's like a civil war of junior high football between the East Side team and West Side team of RJHS. The gym was all decorated with balloons and banners saying things like "West is best!" and "We bust ours so we can kick yours!" When we walked in the band was getting all tuned. About a million junior high kids were milling about and laughing, all in their school colors of red and black, or red and white depending on their East/West allegiance. As we found our spots on the "parent's side" of the gym I watched the kids, and it looked so fun to be young and excited about something. Then I remembered so clearly what it was like to be that age. It should have been fun, it really should have. I think it probably was but I was too busy nursing that chip on my shoulder to realize it. I spent most of my time being, or at least feeling, awkward and trying to adopt the personalities of my friends. These kids were probably all doing the same thing, but I wish I could have told them something like "hey, just be yourself" or "this is the time of your life, enjoy it" or "don't do drugs." You know, all those things that everyone tells junior high kids, things that everyone told me, that are totally meaningless in a 14-year-old mind. Some listen, and I hope that these do because they looked like they were having so much fun.

At the beginning a girl came out and sang the national anthem, and she was really good. They then paraded couples of dressed-up candidates for some king/queen-type of award. As they smiled and walked along their designated route to the middle of the gym a very unenthusiastic announcer, probably a vice-principal or science teacher, talked about who they were, who their parents are, what kind of things they like to do in their spare time, never deviating from, or possibly making up, what had to have been written on a card in front of him. "Bobby is in the Nicholas Sparks fan club and enjoys hanging with friends in his spare time." That had to be a joke, right? It seems like you'd either be in the Nicholas Sparks fan club OR "hang" with friends, but both? There were a few mentions of Justin Bieber and four wheelers, but the majority of the kids enjoyed spending time with friends, and some family and friends. That whole ceremony could have gotten pretty boring if the Playboy-esque descriptions of what these kids liked didn't carry it. It was a fascinating little window into what kids are doing these days. That Nicholas Sparks thing was totally unexpected, maybe 14-year-olds are getting something different from "The Notebook" than lonely 30-somethings.

The king and queen of something were crowned and then it was time for the real rallying to begin. The band started up, the cheerleaders took the floor and the kids in the stands started yelling. The East Side kind of did their thing first. Their cheerleaders did their routine, and their dance team, and then one of the football players got up and squeaked though a kind of encouraging talk about how much heart they have.

Holly is on the West Side, and maybe it's because of that that I'm biased, but I get the idea that they were saving the best for last. The West Side dance team came running out and did their routine which was so good that I had to kind of check myself to make sure I wasn't dancing along a little bit. Then Holly and her cheerleaders were up. I have to admit I kind of cringed a little bit when she made the cheerleading squad because, I don't know, she's a cheerleader now. But I'm so proud that she did, and what I saw was amazing. When I was little my mom used to play this "trust game" thing with me where I would fall backwards and she would catch me. You've probably done it at some point in your life. The West Side cheerleaders took that to a whole new, and amazing, level. They lined up as if standing facing each other on a train track with their arms held out in front of them. In the middle one of the girls rose above the rest, with her feet where their arms were. I don't know how they did it, they had to be holding her up. But then, to the beat of the fast hip/hop/pop/cheerleading music she fell backwards, was flung back up and fell forwards and flung back up, I likened it to the bar on an equalizer. It was amazing. They were flipping and and dancing and flying all over the place. It made me not only like cheerleaders, it made me want to be a cheerleader. I'm going to make Holly teach me how to dance. Then I'm going to get her to invite all her cheerleader friends over to I can do the equalizer bar thing.

The pep rally was a screaming success. It made me wish that I had gone to more of them when I was in school instead of dodging parking lot-watchers and sulking around hating cheerleaders. I left this one feeling much more peppy than when I entered. I even made Justin listen to some song that goes "I whip my hair back and forth" on the radio on the way home. It was awesome. In the words of Rod Stewart, I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger. Ooh la la. Damn, I'm old.

Monday, October 25, 2010


I'm between cars right now and had to catch a ride home with one of our delivery drivers the other day. Donald is from California. There must be a worm hole in California somewhere that sucks people in and dumps them out, bewildered and resentful, here in Arkansas. Everyone who is from somewhere else is originally from California, with the exception of me. Donald is in his 60's and has a band. He's been putting flyers up in the windows at work for their shows at various VFW halls and family functions, he brings in burned CD's and is always sure to let us all know when his shows are. To my knowledge nobody at work has heard the band. I felt pretty certain that on my way home I would be the first.

After a fair amount of small talk about why education in America is failing our children and how frustrating it is when those children grow up and get jobs working for people who buy auto parts from us, he started rummaging around for a CD. What I heard next was not half-bad. The band, and I've failed the reporter in my father because I didn't think to ask the name of it, is Donald singing and playing this bluesy guitar, someone on bass, and someone on drums - all older men. The song that he played was a cover of Dusty Springfield's "Spooky." I like that song anyway, but the way they did it was really good. Donald kept talking though, first about the quality of the recording, explaining that, of course, the drums are way too loud and if they had just listened to him when they were making it it would sound much better, then he started telling me who was playing what, then he got really into it and was dancing and saying things like "this shit is HOT!" and telling me about all the women who rush the stage at the VFW halls. Which led into his days as a guitar player in California. People used to say that he was "the blackest white guy they ever saw." I didn't get what "they" could possibly mean by that because I was looking at a 60-year-old man dancing in an old pickup truck wearing denim shorts with white socks up to his bony knees. He pretty much looks like the whitest white guy you ever saw. Apparently he used to play guitar in a lot of blues clubs in LA, and he was good at it. Based on what I heard he still is, really. As I was getting out of the car he was telling me that this one time Janet Jackson saw him play before she made it really big and wanted him to be a part of her band. He turned it down because he was married, "and that marriage didn't even work out anyway." He didn't seem too broken up about it, but the fact that he mentioned it makes me think of him driving back and forth to Little Rock everyday picking up and dropping of auto parts, wondering what his life would have been if he he had just gone ahead and left his wife and went on the road with Janet Jackson.

I remember one time when I was little Mom was talking about some movie scout wanting to use our barn to film a scene for "Huck Finn," the one with Elijah Wood. I thought at the time that they would probably use our barn and that Elijah Wood would probably fall in love with me and I could be famous with him. They didn't end up using our barn, but for a long time I thought about how different my life might have been if they had. I guess we all have little off-hand chances at totally different lives. I could be Mrs. Wood somewhere right now, hanging out with the other Hobbits and running around New Zealand. Donald could be mourning the death of Michael and helping to care for Prince, Paris, and Blanket. NAPA is lucky to have us.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I'm Back - Tool Sale

In October we at Cross Auto Supply celebrate the anniversary of the store's opening in 1950. We send out flyers in September's statements, we make phone calls, advertise, and tell everyone who walks through the door to come to the event, which we affectionately call "The Tool Sale." We could have gone with "Cross Auto Supply's Birthday Bash" or "Cross Auto Supply's Anniversary Celebration," but here in Arkansas, in the auto parts industry, "Tool Sale" evokes the same excitement, the same festival quality as either of the first two options. At the tool sale we, as the name implies, have tools on sale, but we also have balloons, free beer-can-coolers which I learned are called "koozies," chips, chili, and Petit Jean's token red hot dogs. Cross Auto Supply has three stores, in Russellville, Morrilton, and Conway. The tool sales are lined up like machine-gun fire, one after another. Trish and I got to go to all three because the work we do in the office can be put off more than the work the counter people do, which requires them to actually be present to wait on customers.

People come out of the hills for free food around here. At one point we had a line that stretched out into the street and up the block. There were the people who had gotten the flyer in their statements, people who are loyal Cross Auto Supply customers wearing their grease-smudged shirts with their names embroidered on them, the mechanics, body shop guys, the road department employees with their orange vests, the oilfield workers in their jumpsuits, and the people from the hills with stringy hair and missing teeth with their graphic tees, the ones that say things like "Do something with your life. Get me a beer," and "Why couldn't I be rich instead of good looking?" shirts with pictures of dogs with floppy ears that say "Can't hear you. Don't want to." There were skater kids with black hair who should have been in school, who smiled awkwardly when you smiled at them sulking through the line getting their free chili dogs, and the Walmart people who saw the balloons from across the street and knew that where there are balloons, there's free something. It was a good mix, an Arkansas mix.

We must have served about 1,000 hot dogs, we went through onions and pickle relish as fast as we could put them out. Chili was everywhere. Everyone got a koozie, I ended up with three myself. Yesterday was Conway's tool sale, the last one. About 1:00 we started slowing down and I sat down for a minute in the shade, only one of my eyes wouldn't adjust to the light. I went inside to see if it would work itself out and when it wouldn't a sense of dread that I've been waiting for for about twenty years descended upon me. When I was about eight I got a migraine headache. My dad gets migraines and when my vision started going all wrong he sat me down and told me what was happening and what to expect, but nothing could have prepared me for the pain my eight-year-old head was about to endure. I've been on my guard ever since, but had somehow avoided getting another migraine until yesterday. I was praying that I had just burned a retina from the glare of the sun on the aluminum pans sitting around, maybe it was just a fluke thing, maybe I got some scalding chili in my eye or some jalapeno juice. My vision eventually got better and I was praising the Lord for his infinite mercy when the pain hit. I put on my ridiculous sunglasses with these giant Polo symbols on the sides that I never wear until the pressure on my nose became too much, I took my hair down, I sipped water and Sprite, and eventually gave up and sat down in a little ball in the shade. Things had wound down enough that Trish and I were told we could go home. I knew I wouldn't make it back to Russellville without throwing up and I did not want to throw up in Trish's car, which meant that I would have to either roll down the window and throw up ON her car or throw up in my purse, in her car. I decided to try to get it over with before we left. When I came out of the bathroom, hair a mess, face all pale and splotchy, eyes squinted against the florescent lights, Trish had everyone all gathered around in concern looking at me like "was it the chili?" and I had to contort my aching face into a smile and explain that it was a migraine thing, and that we were probably safe from a massive lawsuit for poisoning half the town with tainted chili. I made it back to Russellville, back to my car, back to my house, back to my bed, koozies in tow, to sleep it off.

I woke up feeling better to the cable guy knocking on my door. That was yesterday evening, I've been thinking about the tool sale since then and wanted to tell you about it. If you're ever in Arkansas in October, it's a thing to see, not for the tools or the red hot dogs, not the clever t-shirt quotes or the cute chili server balled up in the corner hiding her eyes, but for the people and the snippets of conversation and those Southern sayings (I don't know how many people asked for their hot dogs to be "baptized" with chili), just to mill about and listen to people talk. It's truly a different world down here.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Helllloooo, India!

Can't write right now, I'm at work. I'll get my internet on soon hopefully, but just checked the stats and there's someone (some people???) in India reading, or accidentally stumbling on this page on their way to something more relevant/interesting. I think that's so amazing, thought you might too.

Monday, October 4, 2010

This part of my life

Sometimes I think about my life in pictures. Like, this part of my life I'm breaking fingernails climbing up the side of a cliff, and this part of my life I'm standing in the middle of an open field spinning in circles, etc. Right now, this particular part of my life, I'm a Spartan. Yes, a Spartan.

A Spartans life focused not primarily but exclusively on the army. Boys were taken from their homes at age seven to begin boot-camp-like training, in which they were given little to eat and little to wear. This encouraged them to steal food and blankets. If they were caught they were punished, not for stealing but for getting caught. The punishment was usually some sort of beating and they were taught never to show fear or pain. The only people who were given a burial were men who died in battle and women who died in childbirth, those were the only noble deaths. When sending their sons off to fight a mother would hand him his shield and say "With it or on it," as in either win or die, don't trudge home a loser. Plutarch said that "they are the only men in the world with whom war brought a respite in the training for war." It was intense. One of their tactics, used by many ancient Greeks, was the phalanx. The soldiers would line up with their shields interlaced and their spears sticking out creating a little dome of protection. In that way they could march directly into enemy lines, and push. You'll remember it from the movie about the Spartans in the battle of Thermopylae, "300," during which 300 Spartans fought millions of Persians, and won...almost.

I don't know if I remember this from the movie or if this is an original picture in my head. I hope I came up with it myself, but I probably didn't. In the picture the Spartans sandals are digging into the sand, head down, shoulder forward, as he's pushing against his shield against the enemy. He's getting nowhere but he doesn't give up, he keeps on pushing and pushing. He looses his footing, it's hopeless. He doesn't give up. He regains his strength, braces his feet and continues on, despite the millions of Persians pushing against his one tiny shield. It's hopeless. He doesn't give up. Then, all at once, he summons his strength, gives a mighty shove and sends his enemies flying through the air and he's on his feet, alone. I think that was in "300" because I remember the ramping they used when the enemies flew through the air. I wish it were an original thought, but it's something that has stuck in my head and it's how I feel, this part of my life. I'm a Spartan. Maybe the next part of my life I can be sitting in a treetop somewhere or watching a sunset. I'm tired, what with all the climbing and spinning and pushing.

I'm without internet right now, so I'm stealing time at work. Don't give up on me, I'll be back more regularly soon. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Drivers License Despondency

Those of you who read this often know that it's been time for me to get a new drivers license, and most importantly a new drivers license picture. I went in to do that early on but when I tried to get the license I tried to have the extraneous "W" taken out of my name on the license, which couldn't be done without my original birth certificate and marriage license, which I spent about two weeks trying to find. I figured that was okay though because then I could make some preparations, get a haircut, pay attention to what color shirt to wear, stack the deck in favor of a good picture this go-round.

For two months I've been waiting for that good hair day, the right shirt to be clean, that scratch on my forehead to heal, the perfect day to get my picture taken. Then yesterday was my last day to get my new license and I was out of days. I was forced to go in just as I am. The anxiety was terrible. With my file of legal documents with my name all over them (none with a haphazard "W") I took my little tissue paper number and waited my turn.

First of all, they won't take the "W" out. It's there because the name on my birth certificate is Alice Ananda Weaver Seyle. I don't know what the marriage license has to do with anything because the name on there is my maiden name, thus the same as the one on my birth certificate. The name on my social security card is Alice Ananda Seyle Spear, and that doesn't have anything to do with anything either. They explained that they stuck the "W" in there because they couldn't fit in the full "Weaver" and understandably so, that would be five names. It would look ridiculous. They insist on representing the "Weaver" though because they claim that it's my middle name. I don't understand it and I don't feel like getting a court order to change it as they suggested, so what I've ended up with is, again, "Spear, Alice, Ananda, W, Seyle," like a huge dork and a picture that looks like this:

It's better that what I had before, without a doubt. It's still an embarrassment but at least I'm smiling. The shirt that was clean yesterday was a button-up cream-colored one with faint red flowers. It's exactly the same color as my skin and I see now that I look weird in it. In the picture I look like I'm not wearing a shirt but have loose skin and the plague. My hair is a mess, much puffier that I imagined it to be, kind of like Roseanne Roseannadanna. When you look at the picture you see just dark hair with a tiny smiling face punched in the middle... But at least I'm smiling.

On my way out the door to go to the DMV I told my manager how nervous I was about this picture, he said I should just refuse to have the picture taken, "like Russ," who is our delivery driver. I didn't think that was legal, so I cornered Russ up this morning and demanded to see this alleged no-picture license. Apparently it is legal because right where his picture should have been are the words "legal without picture." He said he had to make a trip to Little Rock to get that done. I'm going to do the same thing in 2014, this is too much for me.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Open letter to my high school friends on facebook

Obviouly I've done something wrong. There are those of you who still seem to have fun and do things. I see the pictures, the ones of you all smashed up with about 100 of your friends, with the funny expressions and the nonsensical comments at the bottom like "RKR Infinity!" followed by a bunch of L-ing OL. How have you maintained your youthful abilty to be entertained? How have you found so many friends and where do you guys go? Even if I had a million friends, and some cool little place where we know the owner, I wouldn't have anywhere to go with Story. What do you do with your kids? I know you have them because the picture right after the one of you dancing on a table is the one of your little darlings all dressed for their first day of school.

I guess I'm just confused. Did I age twice as fast as everyone else? Is it this place? If I move back to Missouri can I dance on tables too? Where are you making friends? Once I got out of school and wasn't forced to interact with people my age I must have gotten complacent, whereas you stayed dilligent. Come to think of it, where are all the people my age in this state? This is the weirdest place, a land of the old and young with nothing in between. I could either go hang out with my skateboard in front of the movie theater on Friday night or I could go to some sort of party where someone is selling something cute.

I like to have fun, I was never too good at making my own fun, just kind of tagged along with you, facebook friends. I like looking at your pictures, don't get me wrong. I just can't figure out why I feel so old and weary and you look so young and vibrant. One of these days I'm going to make my way up to Missouri, you know, where the party's at, for a visit. Get my table ready. Love you, friends.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A creative way of getting the point across that you don't like your neighbor's dog

An old man called in on the local radio station this morning. He was angry because someone was messing with his dog. I think I've mentioned before how everyone here just lets their dogs run free, so when one person gets a dog everyone in the neighborhood gets a dog whether they were included in the decision or not. Someone obviously thought that they should have been considered when this guy decided to get a dog because they did some real thinking about how they were going to address the situation. That or they don't really mind the dog, they just do a lot of sitting at home, not working, and "thinking." Instead of the pellet gun shooting spree which is the preferred unwanted-dog-handling method around here, this person actually approached the dog, maybe fed it a little bit, made friends with it, put a t-shirt on it and sent it home. I thought that was hilarious, but this guy was not laughing when he said "My dog keeps coming home in T-SHIRTS! And I want whoever is doing this to stop!"

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Musical Windows

I work in a very small office at the back of the auto parts store. Trish and I are in the front office. Larry, the owner, has the one adjoining. I was nervous at first about sharing such a small work environment but it doesn't bother me. I like Trish. We laugh and discuss last night's America's Got Talent (Way to go Michael Grimm!) and listen to music. We're in a metal building so we can't get regular radio so Trish has the satellite radio set up on her computer. She pretty much keeps it on classic rock. She's moved on from her Pink Floyd phase and we get a steady stream of everything from Creedence to Janis. I like it. Those aren't the kinds of songs I purchase, but they're the kind I listen to if I'm forced to listen to actual radio. I will typically choose classic rock over the dated pop, Southern gospel, or contemporary country that rock the airwaves down here.

What is funny, as I sit here at my desk, is that Larry has got the satellite radio going in his office too. He keeps it on the golden oldies station. At one point today I was hearing Elton John's "Benny and the Jets," with Jimmy Soul's "If You Wanna Be Happy" (for the rest of your life, don't make a pretty woman your wife...) in the background. There's one song that they play over and over and the chorus is so loud and I had never heard it before I started working here but now every time it comes on I turn around to Trish to find her using her finger to pantomime shooting herself in the head. It is pretty bad.

I went through an oldies phase when I was little, so I know a lot of the songs I hear all day and I like classic rock, so neither of the stations bother me. I like the idea that the three of us are sitting here in the same place, with our own soundtracks. Larry who now likes to go to Green Egg conventions, who has worked in auto parts stores from the time he started working, who still dresses like he might have been the type to grease his hair back and roll a pack of cigarettes in his white shirt sleeve, who might have skipped school but would never have skipped work. Trish, who had boyfriends in biker gangs, who had to use pliers to zip up her jeans, who once had a beer with one of the guys from ZZ Top and kind of insulted him, who still likes a cold beer and a night out at the races. My computer doesn't have speakers, but I'd probably be listening to something by Massive Attack, with some Gillian Welch on the side. I wonder what that says about me, what people might imagine of my past based on my music? For now though, I like the combination of the oldies and the old-but-not-so-oldies and the little window it gives me into the former lives of my coworkers.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Park

It's finally cooling off here. The days are really nice and people, the lazy ones like me who don't like walking to the car in 100-degree heat much less jogging in it, are starting to come back out again. I took Story to the park today. It's a nice park, by the lake and it's got lots of that pea gravel with which Story likes to fill his pockets and inadvertently my washing machine. There's not much of a story here, just a nice day. There were decidedly few people at the park considering it was a Sunday afternoon and the people who were there were the kind of people you like to see when you show up at the park. All the parents were kind of watching all the kids, nobody looked at you like you were a bad parent if they had to rescue your child from getting knocked over by another child coming down the slide, everyone made sure that the little ones stayed away from those drop-offs where the fire station-type poles are, and we all tried to say things like "Wow! That was so fast!" when one of the kids would go down the slide and look indiscriminately to one of us adults for a reaction. It was fun to watch Story. He's like I remember Adam, my soon-to-be-seven-year-old, being. He just did his own thing. He didn't mind the other kids following or copying him, but it never occurred to him to follow or copy. He was talking and people besides me could understand him, he laughed and showed me things, and despite my frustration at him sneaking and eating half a package of Certs that I had in my bag, we both had a good time. We might go to the park tomorrow too.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Small World

There is a new tab where I write posts called "Stats." It will show me how many people have looked at this page, what kind of operating system they were on (you guys are reading this on your iPods?), and where they're from. Of course most people who are reading live in the United States and are related to me. But just under the US, in terms of readership, is South Korea. I have no relatives in South Korea, in fact the only connection I have with Korea is one that I made in the first grade.

Ms. Kim was my favorite teacher (Lyndsay, you remember her). I remember trying to make her eyes pop out. I thought that if I did a lot of work and filled my folder up really full she would be so impressed with me that her eyes would literally pop out of her head. I didn't want to hurt her, but in my first grade mind a person's eyes popping out was the only way I could imagine a person expressing real amazement, and I wanted to amaze her. One time some of her friends visted her. I remember them only as "The Korean Nuns." They wore the black habits and everything and I loved them. I don't know now how long they were there or how often they visited but it seems like they were around a lot and that was good because they always seemed really impressed with my drawings and would let me sit in their laps whenever I wanted.

That's all I know about South Korea. My favorite teacher is from there and there are kindly Nuns with comfortable laps who like my artwork living there. I'm amazed that there are people living so far away, who don't know me, reading these words. It makes me wish I had something interesting to say. If you do live in some far off land, and you are reading this, I, and all my relatives and friends reading this would be amazed to hear from you. You ought to post a comment just so I know you're really out there. My eyes might just pop out.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Dream Realized

The Travelers game was great. I didn't expect it. It was a total surprise. And here I thought that a family night that didn't involve one person feeling left out, or some great outpouring of emotion, or loud noise was a pipe dream. We of course were a little late and couldn't find the "ample" parking that was on the directions but once we were in we walked right to our little area where they had the food all set up. Story was so excited he couldn't eat, but he drank his weight in Sprite. We talked a little bit with my co-workers, but mainly we were running back and forth refilling Story's cup and getting more hot dogs for me, which made me need some Sprite on the way home.

When the game started we went to our seats. This is how we sat: Justin, Holly, Story, Hayden, Me. I don't know what Justin and Holly were saying but I could see Justin down there talking to her like he was talking to a friend, laughing and interested in what she was saying, proud that it was his daughter saying it. Hayden and Story watched the game and I don't think Story really knew what he was seeing at but still looked over at Hayden with this "WHOA, did you see that?" expression every time something happened. At one point Justin took Story to see the mascot, who looked like a moose, but I couldn't say for sure what he was. After the fifth inning we left because it was getting late and we still had a long drive back to Russellville.

On the walk to the car we laughed together. On the ride home we sang Hank WIlliams and David Allen Coe as loud as we could. That might have been the first time that the five of us have done something together like that. It was a pretty amazing thing because with all of us there it seemed totally balanced, there was no child fighting for attention, there was no adult fighting to gain control. We were just happy, we enjoyed the personalities of the others in the group, everyone always had someone to talk to or entertain or to entertain them, nobody was the odd man out, unless it was me, but I'm the mother and I think that's my job sometimes. I got to see it - how it should be. It was an amazing night. It was like a moving snapshot, that smiling family with the happy kids and the competent adults, out of the house doing something fun, just one night in years of nights that you want everyone to see, that you want everyone to think of when they think of you. I know that from now on last night is the night I will think of when I think of how things should be, should have been all along.

Friday, August 27, 2010


It's almost 3:00. At 6:00 Justin, Story, Holly, Hayden, and I are supposed to be in Little Rock for the Arkansas Travelers game. You've never heard of the Travelers? Neither had I. They're Arkansas' minor league baseball team and they're playing at Dickey Stephens Park tonight. Napa is having their summer company picnic there. This is exciting to me because I've never worked for a place that cared to have company picnics, much less ones to which the kids were invited and where there was more on the menu than pizza and more to do than pretend it's a party when it's really a meeting.

I can't tell if Holly and Hayden are excited or not. They keep asking what the Travellers are. Justin is getting more than a little irritated at having to explain that they're not major league ball players as if the shame of Arkansas not having a major leage team is a reflection on him as a person and the perceived failures of his lifetime. "I can't even live in a state with a pro ball team!" He keeps saying, "it's the Cardinals' farm team!" and "Mark McGuire played for the Travelers!" I don't make it any better when I refer to our outing tonight as "going to see those kids play."

I don't know if I should be ashamed or not, but I'm excited about tonight. It will be nice to take the kids out to do something that's not a movie, I'm excited to meet the people from the other stores whom I a fuss at on the phone for always stapling their invoices together and never checking the ink in the printer, it will be a new experience for Story, I won't have to cook dinner. Justin's sister says there's even a place in the park where people yell insults at the players, and Hayden is looking forward to that. Like the family road trips, I know that a family night that is easy and fun is a pie-in-the-sky dream, but that doesn't stop me from dreaming it. I'll keep you updated.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

It's a funny thing about kids...

I don't know why anyone wants to be a parent. You have to wake up early every day, feed them, bathe them, pay for daycare, totally rearrange your priorities, and worry about the fact that they can pronounce "giraffe" with perfect clarity but struggle with "cat." If you look at it like a business proposal, from an effort and reward standpoint, parenthood a terrible idea. There's nothing but effort put in and nothing but more effort required and for what? To see them win a few science fairs? For them to realize the dreams you let go? To have someone around to make sure you don't get shoved in some cut-rate nursing home in your old age? It makes no sense. None.

And yet, I wouldn't trade being a mother for anything. That's what's so crazy about the whole thing. Story is two-and-a-half now. He's talking pretty well, thanks to his speech therapist. We're having some trouble in the morning because he wants to choose his own shorts to wear. I'll pick out something that makes him look cool and he'll kick me until I allow him to pick out something that makes him look like a huge dork, usually to wear with his rain boots - if he can find them. He likes music a lot and dances those crazy little kid dances all the time. He found some giant bouncy balls that he likes to throw, and I let him because he's already pretty much broken everything there is to break in the house. It's fun until he starts throwing them at me. I spend most of my time balled up on the couch covering my head and swatting him with a magazine to keep him at bay. He loves to read (or for me to read to him). Lately it's "Winnie the Pooh," whom he calls, simply, "Poop." It melts my heart.

I can't say that I'm the type that goes for cuteness. Puppies are cute but I'd just as soon take them to the pound as take care of them. So I know that it's not the cuteness that I love. I'm not into cuddling and really prefer my space and would appreciate Story respecting that sometimes too, so it's not that contact I enjoy. He embarrasses me to death every time we go somewhere because he's so wild and I'm so bad at discipline, so it's not like I enjoy showing him off. I can't say what it is. I love my kids so much and for no reason at all, I just do. I love what they do and what they say and how they are. I would love to take credit for it, but they're so different and unique that I know that they are just themselves and I love them even more. I just wanted to have kids so I could see how attractive they would be. And now I'm stuck loving them so much that I'm terrified that something will happen to them and that the "giraffe"/"cat" thing is a symptom of something serious. It's inexplicable.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A small thing that made me smile

This is one sentence from a letter I received at work from one of our customers, exactly as it was written:

We have made significant strides over the past year to reach our goal of becoming the "Leading Aluminum Rolled Products Company in the World!"

Perchance to dream...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Their Kansas is our Kansas, a road trip

Family road trips always sound like a good idea when you're planning them... by yourself. Then, about an hour into the trip you find yourself fighting to regain control as all those ambitious plans crumble into a living hell of arguing children and bathroom breaks. My inclination is to say "especially in my family," but wouldn't you be so inclined?

When my father-in-law invited Justin, Story, and me on a trip to Kansas he had planned for a relatives 50th wedding anniversary we were excited. I even more so because he even planned it so that we could drive through Ponca City where my grandpa (Mom's Dad) lives. I haven't seen him in probably seven years.

I left work at about 11:30 because we planned to leave at noon. At 2:00 Justin was still packing and my father-in-law, mother-in-law, step son, step daughter, sister-in-law, niece, and nephew were cursing him in their cars in our driveway. Eventually we were on our way.

I don't remember how we managed to go on road trips without a GPS system. The GPS is only useful in a two-car situation though when any of the people in the car that's leading know how to work the GPS, OR when the person following (who owns a GPS and is proficient its operation) knows that the person leading doesn't know what they're doing and is good about using their turn signals. We ended up on some very sketchy back roads in Oklahoma before we finally worked out which car should be in front.

We met my Grandpa for dinner in Ponca City. He looks exactly the same as he always did only a little shorter, a little more frail. I didn't know what to say to him and was nervous the whole time because I thought I was going to cry. He looks so much like Mom and when we left I did cry, and he gave me a big hug and gave Story a big hug and Julie, my sister-in-law got pictures. I'm so glad that I got to see him.

It was one of those quick trips during which you drive for hours everyday and stay in a different hotel every night. Story pointed out every tractor between Fort Smith and Wichita, and even some tractors that weren't there. I brought my pillow from home with the pillow case that matches the sheets and then left it in the hotel the first night. Justin's knee locked up in the car when we pulled over for a quick break and I had to run around and catch him as he fell out of the car, breaking off my toenail past the quick as the sole of his shoe caught it on the way down. We visited some relatives of Richard's who had a beautiful house that was so clean the vacuum triangles were still visible in the carpet and Story pooped twice during the hour that we were there. We knew that it's impossible to make a quick decision about pizza toppings in a party of ten, but tried to do it anyway, the kids fought about who got to play with Story, and it's very clear to those of us in the backseat how key communication is when a father is driving and a son is riding shotgun.

You'd think that eventually people would learn that tranquil family road trips are a trick of the imagination. Yet we keep planning them, and keep thinking that "this time it will be different." We're like addicts who are always after that perfect high, that perfect trip with the pictures and the laughing and the quiet kids playing cards in the backseat and the parents who never get lost. That will probably never happen, not in any family, but in mine, on this trip, I got to see my Grandpa. I got to eat my weight, every morning, in continental breakfasts that have improved exponentially from the dry-danish-and-muffin days. I got to laugh with Hayden about the guy who picks up Steve Martin and John Candy at the Wichita hotel in "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles." Story saw tractors, Justin learned that his sister Julie might care a little bit about him after all, we got to see Holly laugh one last time before she heads off to be a teenager, lightning in Kansas is beautiful, and while family road trips are inherently horrible, I will always get excited about them, I will always enjoy them, and I will always look forward to the next one - if we're invited. It was a wonderful trip.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Why a Swiffer Sweeper-Vac will change your life, if only in a small way

Only in the last four or five years have I become domesticated enough to listen to people when they talk to me about household chores, or to even know people who talk about these things. I was complaining to Trish at work about our laminate floors and how I had to wear shoes in the house at all times or sweep constantly to avoid having little bits forever sticking to the bottom of my feet - which I can't stand. She said I should go out and get a Swiffer Sweeper-Vac. It's a Swiffer but with a little vacuum strip in front to get all the chunky stuff that won't stick to the pad, and it is the greatest thing to happen to me since I invented mashed potato pizza that will blow your mind.

I once was a hateful woman who spent all day cursing the dust and dirt that covered my floors and the feet of the people who tracked it in. No doormat could be held responsible for that volume of debris. I think part of the issue is the laminate floor that has no grooves to catch the dirt. I shuddered to think what kind of filth was in the carpet and couldn't sweep without also vacuuming. It was consuming my life. So when Trish suggested the Swiffer Sweeper-Vac the $30 seemed like a small price to pay for some much needed peace of mind.

Thirty dollars is a lot of money for any type of cleaning product, but the Swiffer people will never price the Sweeper-Vac for what it's worth. I still feel like a hateful woman, but I'm a hateful woman with clean feet. There's no more going over and over the floor, the heavy stuff flying across the room and the light stuff moving three inches, trying to get all the dirt into a neat little pile that I'll inevitably walk through on the way to get the dustpan, no more agonizing about that irritating crease of dust that will never make it into the dustpan no matter how many angles or degrees of force I use sweep it up, and although there's still just as much stuff tracked in I can take care of it quickly and easily.

I've sung the praise of the Sweeper-Vac to everyone who will listen, including my Dad who, since my mother's been sick, I've realized is not the one who was overly-concerned about the "chi" in their house. On a trip up to Chicago he had me pick him up a Sweeper-Vac and has now become a man who gets up on Saturday morning and Swiffers the house, a dust bunny doesn't stand a chance. He credits the Sweeper-Vac with his transformation and is even interested in one of those Dyson vacuums, which look amazing but surely there is no improvement that could be made to a vacuum that would rival that of the Sweeper-Vac to the broom, unless that vacuum could somehow make dinner too.

I'm hoping that if I write "Swiffer Sweeper-Vac" enough times Google will post an ad with a coupon so you will all be able to go out and get one too. It will change your life, if only in a small way.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


His mother's voice is the first thing a baby learns to recognize. When I was pregnant with you I thought that that was amazing and since I didn't, and still don't, have it in me to just talk out loud about nothing to nobody I went out and bought a book. I didn't want to read a kids book and since I didn't think that it would make much difference to you whether I was reading "The Cat in the Hat" or "A History of Western Philosophy" I went with something in between, something that I would enjoy reading, something educational, something positive just in case the words you were hearing, those first words, somehow had some bearing on who you were to be. I chose a biography of Leonardo DaVinci. Every night I would, very quietly because even scripted I felt weird about talking out loud, read to you about Leonardo.

I don't remember many of the details of his life, just that he was an ambidextrous dyslexic, which meant that he could write the same thing with both hands at the same time, one forwards and one backwards producing mirror-images, he is the first person to explain why the sky is blue (because of the way the air disperses light and the fact that most of the world is water - which is blue), he is arguably the world's greatest artist, and he was a lot more than an artist, he was the true original Renaissance Man. His parents were not married. His father was a noble notary who came from a wealthy family and his mother was just a peasant woman named Caterina. His choice in parents worked out well for him because if he had been a true heir he would never have been sent to Verrocchio's workshop where he learned to draw, he would have had to be a notary like his father. Also, his pictures are often so cluttered because paper was very expensive when he was alive in the 15th century. He was a perfectionist and a notorious procrastinator. These are the things I remember.

I'm telling you this because you're an artist now, and I think that's amazing for so many reasons. Your drawings are like nothing I've ever seen before and I think even Leonardo at age six would have a hard time drawing Transformers and staircases the way that you do. I like to think that despite the fact that you live so far away and I'm not the one who is there to draw with you maybe I still have something to do with how great you are. There's my genes of course and then there's me sitting in my bedroom whispering to you about Leonardo DaVinci. I love you lots. --Momma

On a side note, I wonder what Story will be? I read Einstein's biography when I was pregnant with him.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Driver's License Catharsis

My current driver's license is an abomination. A year or so ago I lost it and I thought that that would be my ticket to a new driver's license photo. Turns out they just print out the same one, hideous scowl and all, and charge you ten dollars. So for years I've been waiting for this window, the few months before my 28th birthday, to get my new driver's license.

I had to run to the DMV on an errand for work the other day and thought I'd just go ahead get my license then. Here's the thing, my maiden name is "Alice Ananda Weaver Seyle," when I got married it changed to "Alice Ananda Seyle Spear." The "four-name-name" has been a problem for me from day one. Any paperwork that asks for a middle initial causes confusion, people at the post-9/11 airport look at me like I might be from a foreign country and am therefore suspect, any new job is a problem because my paperwork has all four of my names, and the one I'm called is not even one of them. I once worked somewhere for a good six months as "Alice" simply because I didn't feel like explaining the whole situation. My cover was blown when my husband called for "Annie" and I then had to explain not only why I'm called "Annie" but also why I wanted to avoid the original explanation. So, when I got my first license in this state I encountered my old foe, the person who can't make sense of my name. What I ended up with on my license is "Spear, Alice, Ananda, W, Seyle." This is what I've lived with for four years, that and a disgusting picture that was taken in that fraction of a second when I looked worse than I've ever looked in my entire life.

So, I figured as long as I was at the DMV, and as long as I was getting a new license, surely they could just take out that unnecessary "W," which of course they can't. I have to go back and dig out my original birth certificate and my marriage license to get that done, which poses it's own set of problems because of my "filing." So, I decided to forget it. Once I thought about it I decided that I really wasn't prepared to get my new license anyway. Now I have the opportunity to do it the right way. I've been needing a haircut, so I ought to wait to get my new picture until I get that done. I need to know that morning that I'm getting my picture taken so that I can dress appropriately. Getting my license off the cuff like that, while I was on an office errand, would be borderline irresponsible. I was irresponsible last time and I've paid the price for four long years.

Never one to make the same mistake twice, I'm now wracked with anxiety about the whole thing. It has turned into a huge ordeal. I'm worrying about my hair, I mean, what if I get it cut and it looks worse? I'm thinking about colors that look good with my eyes. I'm wondering how to apply makeup and reading articles by scientists about the difference between a spontaneous smile and a practiced smile. It's not like I have nothing else in my life to worry about, like everything is fine and I just have this quirk about my driver's license. I've got ten million stressors that are absolutely crippling my ability to function and I find myself staring into space thinking not about my mother's Alzheimer's or my husband's pneumonia but about whether grey makes me look pale or not. And it all snaps into focus... NOW. Maybe that's precisely why I'm so obsessed with my driver's license. If I'm worrying about that I don't have to worry about things that truly scare me. Great. What am I going to worry about to avoid worrying about things after I get my new driver's license? I know Mom, I'm a Virgo. I'm such a Virgo.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Morning Ride

I wasn't feeling well on Friday night, so on Saturday morning when I woke up to Justin getting dressed and telling me "I've got the perfect way to start your day," I was skeptical because I thought that the perfect way to start my day would be another hour or so of sleep. I reluctantly got dressed though as he told me that we would have Hayden watch Story and he and I would go for a ride on the motorcycle. I like riding on the motorcycle but every time this is proposed I go into "practical mode" and start considering things like "I just washed my hair last night, now I'm going to get all kinds of bugs and crap in it, is it worth it?" and "Well, how far are we going to ride because I don't want to waste gas." And "What kind of a mess am I going to come home to if we leave the boys here alone?" I've become a bitter woman who can't have fun, and in defiance of that I put a bandana over my hair, threw some cereal at the boys and raced out of the house.

I had never ridden a motorcycle before I met Justin. The first time I was on one I was amazed at how safe they feel. I have this problem with not trusting myself with dangerous things. Table saws? I want to see how close I can get my finger to the blade. Guns? I want to see how tightly I can squeeze the trigger before firing. Allegedly "live" wires in the yard that the cable company has sliced through? I want to grab them to see how "live" they are (the one in our yard is not). I think it has to do with the potential of these objects. I want to be the thing that makes all potential kinetic, but with great effort I try to avoid this kind of activity. So instead of obsessing about trying to drag the toe of my shoe on the pavement as we rode, I turned my attention to the houses we passed. Backwoods Arkansas is a great place to look at houses too. I don't know what men do when they ride, but I suspect from Justin's reactions when I'd lean forward to yell questions that they're not critiquing houses. "WHY DO YOU THINK THEY DIDN'T WINDOWS IN THE FRONT OF THAT HOUSE?" "WHAT???"

I've read the first part of "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" and what Pirsig says is true, traveling by motorcycle is very different from traveling by car. On a motorcycle you're a part of your surroundings, changing them as you move forward instead of passively moving through them. You can smell fresh-cut grass or the moist air by a creek, you feel the cool patches from the shade of trees, you can feel the speed in the form of wind on your face and the tugging of gravity when you make a turn, and you could, if you're a brave one, drag the toes of your shoes on the pavement just under your feet. It's a great feeling and a nice way to start the morning.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


There's a guy who comes into the store where I work, we'll call him J. He's got tattoos all over him, I mean from head to toe, literally. He's got a teardrop on his cheek, on his neck in block letters it says "WHITE," his arms and legs are covered with indecipherable scribbling, and giant swastikas are everywhere. Despite the fact that I wear a Star of David ring on my finger he's always very nice to me. I thought I would ask him a few questions one day, just out of curiosity. What I wanted to ask is "Did you kill somebody? And if so, why?" and then ask him "Why?" again. What I did ask is "What do your tattoos mean?" And we started talking.

For the record, I don't make a habit of befriending white supremacists, or any people whose worldview is based solely on hatred of other people, but in the interest of story collecting, understanding things that are very hard to understand, and not hating other people, I like to talk to them.

J looks like he's in his 30's and says that he's been in prison more of his life than he's been out. If the surface area of tattooed skin is any measure of such things, I think that would be safe to say. Based on the teardrop tattoo I assume that he's killed someone. I don't know how old he was when he went to prison and I don't know what he was like before, but he didn't start out being a white supremacist. His story should say a lot to those politicians who believe that prison is to "reform" and not to "punish." I imagine he came out worse than he went in, at least in terms of ever hoping to be "reformed."

I've heard that alone is a bad thing to be when you're locked up, and obviously that's true. J was getting viciously attacked everyday when he first went away. He didn't go into detail, but I've seen "American History X" so I have a good idea. I've also been the new kid in junior high so I know that when you're lonely and scared you're going to hold on to the first hand that is extended your way. In his case it was a white hand with a swastika. And the voice he heard said "We think it's funny that you're getting beat up like you are." He asked "Why?" "Because you're white."

Of course, there are unspoken rules in any clique, especially in prison. A white boy is meant to stand up to anyone who comes at him, whether he's alone and outnumbered or not. What they do if they catch someone looking at them out of the corner of their eye is they turn to face them, pull up their pant leg to show their skin and all their offensive tattoos, then STOMP with those heavy boots they wear, and stomp loud so that anyone within earshot can stop what they're doing, take off their shirts and walk over in a slow, intimidating way, circle up and chant in the lowest possible voice "I wish a ****** would."

Prisons are notoriously segregated, I guess because racial groups are the easiest to identify. One of J's tattoos is a giant bolt on his bicep. I don't know if that has something to do with the SS or with the fact that lightning is white or what, but it's a kind of rallying cry, like "BOLT M*****F*****!" with your fist in the air. I get the idea it's a thing for the initiated, a motto, a greeting, a secret handshake. It's a declaration of loyalty to the brotherhood. When there's a fight about to break out "Bolt" means it's on.

J doesn't seem to hate anyone really, he just didn't like getting attacked in the showers while the guards turned their heads. He didn't like getting judged by the color of his skin, so he embraced it, made it his identity, and used it as a way to survive. There are those who live that life inside and out though, especially in the South, and especially in prisons. They were raised in hate and they often in hate. In Arkansas we use lethal injection to kill our prisoners. When a white supremacist gets strapped down and the plungers in those cylinders start pushing that poison into their veins they yell, as loud as they can "BOOOLLLLTTTTT!" If there are people in the yard who can hear it, and know what it means, they yell "Bolt!" too.

I guess what I don't understand is why people are allowed to get so savagely beaten in prison that they find it necessary to join a hate group, and throw away any chance of ever finding gainful employment, to survive. I just seems counter-productive to me. There should be something in there that is good. Cats maybe.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Arkansas peaches and my family

In this part of Arkansas there are a lot of peach orchards. I had planned on taking Story to one of them this weekend to pick our own, but ended up getting in the car, turning on the air, and pulling over at a road-side stand and buying peaches that someone else spent a miserable afternoon picking instead. I'll show him that peaches come from trees next year.

When I got home I sliced up a few and sat down on the couch to eat them. Arkansas peaches are good, they're different from other peaches because they're not super juicy. You can bite into one and it will cruch, and just as you're starting to curse yourself for not knowing the "ripeness test" for peaches all the juices start to come out and it becomes this great peach-eating experience, not one of those that require you to wash your hands and elbows afterwards to get off all the sticky mess. If that were thse case I wouldn't bother, but as it is I've been eating peaches like they're laced with pure sunshine, which they are in a way. Story likes them too, but not the skin. He eats them like a sliced orange and leaves a big pile of peach rinds on the table.

We were eating our peaches and I was commenting to Justin, who likes to use everything I say to prove to me once and for all how great Arkansas is, about how good I thought my peach was. The exchange went like this:

"This peach is so good, really different from other peaches."

"Well, Arkansas is known for their peaches."

"Isn't Georgia known for their peaches?"

"Not like Arkansas. Arkansas peaches are really the best."

"Isn't Georgia 'The Peach State?'"

"Well, we've got the right kind of soil."

It turns out we're both right. Arkansas peaches are the best, and Georgia is "The Peach State." And although I love the peaches, I'm still not any more enamored with Arkansas.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Paul is Justin's best friend from junior high. They're the kind of friends who can go their separate ways, grow, change, and years later find themselves still dressing alike. They used to have long hair and earrings, wear black t-shirts and boots that would allow you to break ribs in a fight. And somehow, over these years of growth and change they both, independent of each other, have decided to cut their hair really short, buy a lot of button-up shirts that they tuck in to their plain, light-colored, almost tapered-leg Levis, and wear work boots that for some reason make their feet look small to me.

Paul lives out in the woods, he doesn't own a cell phone, and although I hear from time to time of him dating, has never married. He seems to like it that way and I think that's interesting. I think I'd like that too, only I'm way too much of a follower to do something like not own a cell phone. His house started out as a patch of land in the middle of the forest where he used to like to go to camp and be alone. One day he decided it would be neat to have a little platform there. So he got the supplies and built a platform. Once that was up he thought maybe he could add some walls and a roof and make it more of a shelter. So he went to the hardware store and asked some questions and had a kind of cabin, and once he had a cabin, he thought he might just run some electricity and install some plumbing. And so it came to be that Paul lives in a house he built by himself in the middle of the woods. If you give a mouse a cookie... Eventually he accepted the fact that this was his home and he had to approach the people who owned the land and explain that he had accidentally built a house on their land and would they sell him the plot? Luckily they said yes.

In the past couple of years Paul has lost both of his parents to heart attacks. So the other night after he had been having chest pains all day he called an ambulance. And because his house is decidedly off the grid he went out to lie down on the front porch, as if to say "this is the spot." Even so it took the ambulance over an hour to find it. When they got there he just waited, motionless, in pain, and exhausted on the porch. Only, they weren't coming. The driver had gotten out of the ambulance with no problems. The passenger, though, had gotten out, twisted his ankle, and inexplicably went into convulsions. So the driver rushed to his side and started trying to bring him out of it. After about fifteen minutes Paul was able to lift his head from the porch only to find a medical emergency taking place in his front yard. After about thirty Paul decided that maybe he wasn't having a heart attack after all and walked down to see what was going on. The first EMT had gotten the second EMT loaded in the ambulance and then asked Paul if he still needed to go to the hospital. Paul said to forget it. For some reason that probably has to do with paperwork though, if an ambulance is called then the person who called it is encouraged to go to the hospital. So Paul climbed up front into the seat of the former passenger/current patient. Since Paul was feeling better and he could use the help the driver gave Paul the responsibility of checking to make sure the other EMT's oxygen mask was on, and to see that he wasn't choking or swallowing his tongue, also if he heard any odd beeping make sure his vitals were alright. If you give a mouse a cookie...

The EMT ended up being okay, the driver even confided to Paul that "he does this all the time." Paul is also okay, despite being a little irritated that that first EMT didn't even bother to run up there and check on him. He's still not considering getting a cell phone.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Cracker Barrel

I used to love going on road trips because usually it meant we were going to my Grannie's house in Oklahoma. As I got older they got more and more depressing for some reason. I think it has something to do with driving by the little clusters of Cracker Barrels, Super 8s, and Shell stations that are the only symbols of an actual settlement beyond, with grocery stores and places to get your oil changed, see a doctor, and go to school. Whenever I see these things I think "I'm so glad I don't live there."

So tonight when I was eating my dinner at the Cracker Barrel, looking out at the interstate, I realized that do live in one of those towns. There's the Shell station, and there? There's the La Quinta, Super 8 is around the corner. There are all those things here that allow me to never have to even get on the interstate, just cross over it once or twice. I can make money, buy food, raise my children, grow old and never have to leave this 15 square mile patch of planet, and that's what it is that I think depresses me about these towns. Some people like them, there is a certain security in them and I can see that, even wish I could feel it. For me, I look at them and imagine the high school cheerleader cruising 5th Street, or Main Street, or whatever street it happens to be, the college kids doing laundry at Mom and Dad's - on weeknights, the kids who went to the same daycare getting married, the insurance agents, the hairdressers, the old people with gardens, and I think it seems so... the same. Every town you pass on the interstate is exactly the alike, with only small variations.

I've said before that, for some reason, I tend to measure success in miles from the town where you were born. It just seems like the farther you are from where you started, the further you've gone... in life. I was born in St. Louis so according to MapQuest I'm 371.89 miles successful, only I'm really kind of in the same place. That same small town with it's chain hotels by the interstate, the young people determined to leave, and the old people determined to stay, and that damn Cracker Barrel where every once in a while a woman in her late 20's will plan to eat pancakes at 6 PM and find herself staring out at the road and reevaluating her life, her definition of success, and her desire to eat pancakes at all.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Jilted Juror

On my "Notice to Report" for my jury duty it said to call the night before to make sure that the "plans" that they sent me three days ago had not changed. I didn't think much of it really and only called as an afterthought. And wouldn't you know it, after I had made arrangements for the baby to be dropped off and for someone to cover for me at work and for someone to be at the ready to pick the baby up, I didn't have to be in Little Rock until 12 PM. They said to call though, at 9 AM to make sure that I had to be there at all.

So slept in and took Story to daycare and thought I'd head in to work for an hour or so, just as a "good faith" kind of thing, like "see, I could have just taken this hour to do whatever I want, but I came here instead because I really care about my job and the good work we're doing here." I got to work about 8:30 AM and filled out my time card as if I were leaving at 10 AM and didn't really think to much about what I was doing or why, just what a good employee I am and how I've really turned my life around and become a great person.

I called at 9 AM to listen to the new message. The new message was a list of names of people who were to appear. All others were dismissed until further notice. I listened to the message three times. I didn't hear my name any of them, but I listened again just to be sure. I was already at work, I couldn't very well leave then, as much as I wanted to.

So, my whole day was upheaved. It throws everything off for me. When plans change it takes me a long time to get my bearings again. I stayed at work all day, which is good because now I look like a great employee because I could have lied and left anyway and then come in tomorrow with a whole story about how incredible my adventure in the legal system was with all kinds of details thrown in about how cold the court rooms are and what a terrible time I had finding a parking spot. I didn't do that though. I soldiered through in my uncomfortable dress clothes, thinking and re-thinking about how this is going to affect my bill-paying, the rest of my week, gas money, and attitude when I receive another letter asking me to rearrange my life for something that may or may not happen. At least next time I'll know.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Rural Juror

I registered to vote not because I like to vote but because I like the idea of getting a letter one day asking me to put my entire life on hold in order to agonize with 11 other people over the fate of another human being, and then going back to my life right where it left off. It seems like a very surreal thing to do. Most people I know try to get out of it but when I got my pre-screening form a few weeks ago I stretched it a little bit when I didn't mention anything about having a two-year-old, a car that is increasingly unreliable, and the fact that every time I'm away from the house something catches on fire or floods. After a month I had given up on being chosen but yesterday I got a letter informing me that I'm to appear in Little Rock on Tuesday - that's federal.

I guess they need a jury for a lot of things, boring things and very exciting things alike. Right now the biggest trial in Arkansas is that of Randeep Mann. He's a doctor who practiced here in Russellville who, in addition to supporting the addictions of the drug-using population of Northwestern Arkansas, had an arsenal of illegal weapons and possible ties to terrorist organizations. I can say all of that because it says on my letter that any message I might hear when I call the "juror hotline" regarding his case DOES NOT APPLY to me, I'll be a juror for something else - if I'm chosen. I'll probably get some tax law thing or something that has to do with property lines. It sounds exciting to get a murder trial or some case that will bring me face-to-face with something or someone I've never seen before, but now that that is an actual possibility I'm a little nervous. Despite what I said before, I don't want to be the tossed coin that determines another person's fate, whether a murderer or tax evader or jaywalker. I like the sidelines and I do everything I can not to affect the lives of other people.

Despite my recent anxiety I think it will be nice to kind of take a day, go somewhere, do something I've never done. I like answering questions about myself. I think there will probably be a lot of waiting around during which I can finally get some reading done. I don't know if they'll give us lunch or not, I'd like that though. I might meet some interesting people, people who probably don't want to be there. If I meet someone who does want to be there I'll know I've found a kindred spirit and we'll probably be lifelong friends. I'll update on Tuesday (or Wednesday) if I'm not sequestered.

(Thanks Tina Fey for "The Rural Juror.")

Friday, June 25, 2010


It was an exciting day on Wednesday when I got to drive out to my boss' house to drop off some payroll stuff. She lives well off my beaten path between work, daycare, grocery store, and home, way out past Centerville (pronounced "Sinnervul").

Centerville is more of a crossroads with a gas station than a "-ville." It's a "spot in the road." There's the gas station and there's what I imagine to be a long-forgotten boot emporium, based on the fading sign with the picture of boots on it out front. That's the town. There are two signs at the crossroads, one that points to Mt. George on the right and one that points to Ola on the left. Centerville is really a town whose only function is to supply better directions to other towns. "Take a left when you get to Centerville."

There are towns like this on back roads all over the United States. Places where people just end up due to circumstances beyond their control and they're just as bewildered at being there as you are at anybody being there. They're not far enough out for true nature lovers to enjoy the countryside, and they're not close enough in for real professionals to get to work in a reasonable amount of time. They're just there, with their low property values and land that your great-grandparents bought on the advice of a misguided city planner, with their non-descript houses that all look exactly the same in your memory even though they're very different in actuality, places where nobody wants to live except those looking to be forgotten, people who just stay there on the crossroads functioning only to give better directions to other people. "Take a left when you start looking like me."

Although I was still excited about getting paid to drive my car and listen to music it was kind of a long trip back to work. I thought about my problems with making decisions, riding the fence on things, never getting off dead-center, turning in circles at the crossroads. After all, if you don't know where you're going how will you know when you get there? You'll know when you wake up in (aptly-named) Centerville.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Monsters Inside Me

Every year around this time I start getting chest pain, some respiratory problem flares up and I spend the rest of the year trying to get it under control, and I do a good job of it until about this time the next year when something goes a little bit wrong, gets a little unbalanced and my fragile tower of respiratory health comes crashing down in a raspy, painful, phelgmatic mess. Every year it gets worse too. Last year it was bronchitis. I've not been to a doctor yet this year, but everyone I've mentioned my symptoms to starts throwing around this word: "Pleurisy." It's an inflamation of the lining between your lungs and your chest cavity, as I understand it, and the pain I feel with every breath is the two rubbing together and tearing. There can be many causes for this condition but I'm pretty sure that in my case it's some sort of parasite, or menengitis.

Does anyone else watch Animal Planet? I think they're trying to get their fair share of the TruTV, A&E, and Discovery Channel audience, that demographic comprised of people who want be too scared to sleep with their back to the door when they turn off the TV for the night, who can't fall asleep anymore without hearing the theme song to Forensic Files, who think they they would probably make a pretty good detective right now even without formal training, or at least they'd do a better job than the local police who really botched that last murder case, who like to, sometimes, when they're at work and it's slow, read transcripts of old Dateline episodes. Like me. Well Animal Planet has made it into my 54-31-39 channel rotation with such shows as "I Shouldn't Be Alive" and that one about animals who see ghosts or something like that, and most recently "Monsters Inside Me." It's about microorganisims (which should thank Animal Planet's poor ratings with their non-horrifying childrens programing for letting them eek by as actual animals) that attack their hosts from the inside, worms, parasites, terrible-looking little microscopic things that seem to be in everyone's drinking water, salad, and pork. That's what I've got, monsters inside me. That's exactly what it feels like. That and menengitis, the bad kind that virtually guarantees that everyone I've had contact with in the past month has it too. I haven't seen a show about menengitis in years, but the one I saw sticks with me. How could I not have it? It's so contagious.

I guess I ought to schedule a doctors appointment and quit watching terrible shows on TV. Garbage in, garbage out. You know.