Monday, March 29, 2010


Her lips were berry-stained and ripe. In her arms she held a basket brimming with summer, and summer was in her. It twined around the crown of her dark head, and tucked itself behind her ears. She danced through the dewy grass with lithe grace to the music of birdsong, clutching the basket to her breast like a lover. She sang, and the sun cleared the clouds like a smile.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Woman of Leisure

I'm curled up on the sofa with my laptop, still in my pajamas. When I woke at 5 this morning, after having fallen asleep only four and a half hours before, I felt pretty sick and nauseated. It was enough to put me off even trying to go to work, so I went back to bed and slept until 8.

After a cup of coffee, I'm feeling a little better, but still have a weird, nagging headache that has made me undecided about going to work. If I'm feeling sick, that should be the end of the story, right? But I know that one day away will put me one day behind.

I was thinking earlier, my body all warm and cozy beneath this rich, chocolate microsuede blanket, that I wouldn't mind being a woman of leisure. Then I thought, I wonder how much work it would take to become one? which seemed sort of funny and ironic to me. Seriously, attached as I am to some of the people I work with, I'm not really committed to the job itself, and it wouldn't bother me to leave it. So what would it take? Writing a novel or two? Learning to paint masterpieces in oil that people are scrambling to buy? Inventing a social networking site? A co-worker mentioned the other day that he was surprised to discover that his neighbor's son was the founder of the site, and his neighbor had initially invested in it. Why can't something like that happen to me?

I would just like to feel I was doing something to make the world a better place. Something besides keeping airplanes from falling out of the sky. Don't get me wrong - I think airplanes not falling out of the sky is important - but I'm only indirectly holding them up there. With massive stacks of paper. Like a modern day Atlas who doesn't require any real strength.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


I suppose I'd just like to vent for a bit, since it's the time of month for venting. I'll just form a list, shall I?

1. I wish people at work would stop asking me how to spell things. Did you not graduate from high school? Do you not have spell check on your computer? Do you not have a Websters Dictionary just behind you, collecting dust on the shelf?

2. Every once in a while, I go through a period of feeling very unaccomplished. It's as if my life is meaningless, and I haven't really contributed anything to the world except three wonderful human beings (which should be enough). It's happening now, and I'm not sure what to do about it. Most days I feel so overwhelmed by my job (which I hate more and more every day), that I don't have the energy to do anything creative. It may have a lot to do with having barely survived another long winter, as these times of self-reproof seem to occur in February/March.

3. Why would anyone trust The Government?

4. Speaking of government, here's something that has been bothering me for a long time. America was founded on the backs of hardworking, self-sufficient men and women. Where have they all gone? I suppose I have quite a different perspective than some people, since I'm married to a farmer who is one of the hardest working people I have ever known. Living in the country encourages self-sufficiency, and it seems to me that (speaking generally) it's city people who expect the government to take care of them, and rural people who want the government to leave them the hell alone. This was illustrated to me on the local news one day last summer, after a huge amount of rain. A journalist was asking a woman in a car about the condition of city streets, and she replied that the sewer drain had been blocked by debris all day, and when was the city going to come out and do something about it? Like a complete maniac, I yelled at the television set, "Why don't you get out of your freaking car and clean it yourself?" It's what I would have done, but maybe that's because where I live, there is no government to help out. And besides, we take a certain amount of pride in being able to take care of ourselves like real adults.

5. I hate when I buy a cosmetic (most commonly, lipstick), then find out immediately after unsealing the product and using it that it's all wrong for me. What a waste of money.

6. I've pretty much run out of steam. More later, maybe.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Outlaw Jesse James

From the beginning, I've observed with some curiosity the love affair between actress Sandra Bullock and motorcycle builder Jesse James. It seemed to me the classic bad boy/good girl combination, which is rarely a good idea. But I wished them luck.

Over the past five years of their marriage, Sandra has blossomed. I'd been thinking recently - especially while watching the film The Blind Side - that being in love has given Ms. Bullock an inner glow she didn't really have before. Add to that her recent box office successes, and she appeared to be on top of the world. We women are suckers for love; you only need to look at the popularity of romance novels to see this. And this woman was clearly in love.

But now, the rumor is out that Jesse James had an 11-month affair with this woman:

I can't know what went through the man's head when the alleged affair began, but I suspect it was something like this: I need to take a shit. I don't feel like shaving today. I'd like something to eat and a cold beer. I want to have sex with something - preferably a woman my wife, but she is off making a film and this tattooed chick seems to be more into me than Sandra does at the moment.

So here we have a hint about several things:

1. If you want to have a husband, a man might be a bad choice.
2. You should never place all of your happiness in the hands of another person (man or woman).
3. There's no accounting for taste.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My feathered friend.

This is Paulie. Paulie joined the family about twelve years ago, when we ran into him in a pet shop. I'd wanted a small parrot for a while, since I knew that was all I could afford, and when I saw this little green-cheeked conure perched unhappily in a cage, his chest bare of feathers because he'd plucked them all out, well, I felt sorry for him. By contrast, the sun conure that shared his cage was brilliant in every way: cheerful, sunny, brightly colored. But there sat Paulie, naked before the world and wanting only to be loved for who he was. I fell for it, and I'm pretty sure I got a discount for buying him naked.

It took a while before his feathers grew out. I knew they would - self-pluckers usually have some kind of psychological problem, and I figured he wouldn't go crazy as a result of living with us. Turns out I was right, surprisingly.

I know he looks sweet enough, but he's actually a little shit.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Newton's Third Law of Motion

I just made a mental breakthrough about work.

When I first started this job, I loved it. I looked forward to being here everyday, because I was busy but not overwhelmed. Then the powers-that-be decided none of us was efficient enough, and we weren't smart enough to figure out how to be more efficient on our own. So they paid a consultant HUGE dollars to figure it out for us.

The result? Certain areas became more efficient and streamlined. Meanwhile, more work was created in other areas.

Newton's Third Law of Motion states, For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

It's all about balance. You can't lighten the scales on one side without weighing down the other, and my side is carrying all the weight.

Monday, March 15, 2010


My husband is a practical man. I don't suppose he is to blame for this, since he was raised by folks who lived through the Great Depression and who believed that only one gift (probably socks) was an acceptable thing for a boy to open on Christmas morning. But I blame him anyway, because in the process of being married to him for over 24 years he has ruined me. And I don't mean 'ruined' in the Biblical sense, although that's true, too. What I mean is that I have come to accept that I'm never again going to get what I really want for Christmas.

I can illustrate this perfectly by using only two examples:

EX. 1: One year as Christmas approached, it was obvious that our television was going out. Do you know what I wanted for Christmas? Probably diamonds. Do you know what I got for Christmas? That's right, ladies and gentlemen, I got a television set. Have I mentioned that I don't watch TV all that much?

EX 2: My husband had been complaining about the mountain of clutter which always manifests itself after ten or fifteen years of raising children. So that year on Christmas morning, I was surprised and rather grateful to find that Santa had left, beneath the tree, several plastic storage containers, all shiny and new and ready to fill. But wait! There's more! All wrapped up in pretty Christmas paper, totally unable to camouflage itself, was a brand new toilet seat.

Above and Beyond

Urban Cynic is trying to help me blog every day by giving me topics to choose from. I ended up failing yesterday, because I got caught up with doing housework and laundry, and then drove almost to Kentucky with my son so he could meet his girlfriend on her way back from Tennessee. And I'm about to partially fail today, because the topic I chose is 'the nicest thing anyone has ever done' for me, but I'm stealing a story I wrote two years ago at Myspace.

My father passed away after suffering from a massive stroke on March 11, 2007. Because he went so quickly and unexpectedly, I was haunted by his death and by questions about whether we did everything we could.

Almost one full year later, my youngest son began losing the use of his legs, and doctors discovered that he had a blood clot pushing against the nerves in his spine. He underwent emergency surgery to remove the clot at the same hospital where my father died. My son's surgeon was phenomenal. Talk about a good bedside manner! He was the kindest doctor I've ever met, and I will forever be grateful to him not only for literally saving my son from paralysis, but for figuratively saving me from it as well. Here's the story:

It was one year ago today that my dad had his stroke. I might not have remembered it if I hadn't spent the afternoon at the hospital where he died.

For a whole year, I've been pretty haunted by my dad's death. Second-guessing everything, including whether we should have opted for surgery. I think my misgivings were caused by the fact that I was never there when the doctor spoke to the rest of the family.

So today, when [my son] had an appointment with the neurosurgeon who operated on him, I decided to ask for his opinion. I have to tell you what an exceptional guy Dr. Bellew is - intelligent and good at what he does, with an aura of calm assurance and an uncanny ability to connect with people.

I said, "Can I ask you an unrelated question?"

He said, "Sure."

So I explained the situation with my dad, and told him that what bothered me most was that in a life or death situation, my dad would have fought for my life, but I didn't feel I had fought for his. And do you know what his answer was? He said, "I can look at the films with you, and let you know what I think."

So he led me down corridors to a room with computers, where all the films are archived for who knows how long. He typed in my dad's name. Dad had a lot of films, some of them from years ago. It was like seeing some weird kind of history of his body. Dr. Bellew pulled up the CT scan - 2007/03/11, 16:36. It was pretty freaky - a year ago almost to the minute. He took me through the complete scan. Pointed out every detail, including the line that indicated pressure squeezing against the opposite hemisphere of the brain, and all the dark area which clearly indicated that my father would never, ever have been the same person, even with surgery.

That's how Dr. Bellew performed brain surgery on me today. Since I was sired by a guy from Missouri, I guess someone just had to 'show me.'

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Story of My Tattoo

I grew up with the belief that tattoos were for sailors and dope heads. So it wasn't until the tattoo became popularized by the general public and girls on Spring Break in Florida that I actually considered getting one myself. Then my son's former girlfriend, and the Swiss exchange student who was living with her decided they were getting tattooed, and they invited me to go.

My love for angels and birds had made me an instant fan of the wings on the FedEx box in the movie Castaway. So when I didn't see anything I liked in the tattoo shop, I attempted a drawing of my own, which was supposed to look like this:

...but came out, according to the tattoo artist, looking like a heart in a basketball hoop. Obviously he didn't share my artistic vision.

What I ended up with was what I like to describe to people as "wings that have been ripped off of a dead bird." Now, don't get me wrong. The color is beautiful. The feathers are detailed and gorgeous. But the raw bones at the top sometimes make me feel like a biker chick...which I am not. When I wear white, I feel as if people are wondering what kind of hideous birthmark I was born with.

So do I regret it? Yes and no. I'm grateful for the experience of having been through the entire process. The romantic in me believes that the intent behind my tattoo (the FedEx wings) later manifested itself into my job with FedEx. But do I want to be reminded of this permanent marking later in life, when my skin is sagging and wrinkled and someone has to change my diapers? Absolutely not.

I realize that a tattoo is a very personal thing. I think it may be an attempt to leave a trail of who we are and what we've experienced. But the truth is, that makes about as much sense as a scout trying to erect a trail marker on his horse.

The true legacy is to leave our marks outside of our own skin.

My Own Huckleberry

My father was brilliant. If I had to categorize him as a character in a fictional world, he would be the absentminded professor. One moment he would try to use trigonometry to help me understand 3rd grade math; the next, he would be completely unable to remember where he left his car keys.

In my younger days, he had a marked duality that made him formidable. It wasn't until I became a working parent myself that I began to understand this: the pressures of making a living, combined with the task of raising four responsible human beings, can be overwhelming. At his best, he was kind and approachable. When at his worst, it was his voice that intimidated. But even then, my biggest fear was only that the neighbors would hear him yelling. My second biggest fear was being whipped with his belt. While I think it only happened to me once, the sound his belt made traveling through belt loops was enough to bring me in line, and I can still hear that sound in my head.

Naturally, I appreciated the times he was approachable. And my favorite childhood memory of him is the Summer nights when he would sit in the backyard with my sister and me, pointing out the hazy constellations that hung above our bright city, and telling stories about when he was a boy in Kansas City, Missouri. His boyhood adventures took on an almost legendary status in my mind. The stories were so big and so brave, that it could have been Mark Twain telling me about Huckleberry Finn. But it was those stories that made him human, and much more real to me.

In the following years, he became just a father again. It wasn't until about forty years later, during an impromtu lunch and what would be the last time I ever saw him "living," that he became real to me again. He opened up in a way I will always treasure - about his dreams and all the things he loved. And that hour I spent with him might be my favorite memory as an adult.

Friday, March 12, 2010


I was just going through my posts and noticed there are several drafts I started but never finished. Things with such tantalizing titles as End of a Summer Which Never Began, Life Like a Movie and Movies That Should Have Had Sequels. And as much as I would love to find something of substance beneath the titles, it's not there. Just like all my published posts!

But I shall not despair! One of these days the drought will end, and I'll discover all over again that I'm a writer. Or, at least, that I want to become one. Because I'm not yet ready to give up on the dreams of the five-year-old I once was.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Cadence of Words

I remember the first time I was captivated by the lyrical words of Dylan Thomas. I'd read the poems for which he is most known, of course, but they failed to strike a chord in me. Then a friend recommended that I read Under Milk Wood, a collection of Thomas' stories which was first published in book form in 1954. (The book has never been out of print, by the way.) I felt his words had the cadence of a lullaby. Cadence comes from the Latin word cadere, meaning to fall, which seems especially appropriate in this case. Dylan Thomas weaved a spell, and I fell.

In the intervening years, the rise and fall of his voice has been my muse, and a beat I return to in order to hear my own words. Thomas was a master of word sounds. It seems he was fond of words that hissed, and is it any wonder? He was born in a place called Swansea.

Time passes. Listen. Time passes, he writes. And

My tears are like the quiet drift
Of petals from some magic rose;
And all my grief flows from the rift
Of unremembered skies and snows.

A journey through his words is like a summer day in a blackberry patch. Here, a phrase, soft and spattered on the tongue. And there, a thorn to prick you, in case you dared to sleep.

Young girls lie bedded soft or glide in their dreams, with rings and trousseaux, bridesmaided by glow-worms down the aisles of the organplaying wood. The boys are dreaming wicked or of the bucking ranches of the night and the jollyrogered sea.

His words make my heart swell with an elusive longing. My fingers tingle with the promise of phrases almost ripe and unplucked; words that cling stubbornly to their stems until, finally, they dry on the vine.

It's little comfort that the words are there somewhere. What I need is a thing to help remove them. Maybe, like Thomas, I ought to take up drinking.