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The Bartina Redux

This is a story that got posted elsewhere, as a guest blog. It happened — and I wrote about it –years ago. Maisy was about 5. It never appeared on FTK, and I do not have it in my saved blog word files. I had to get The Way Back Machine to find it. I am reposting it to have a record of it, and ALSO because I am going to tell you about MOO-EY THE CHRISTMAS COW. And this story really explains the kind of human Maisy was, and why we did what we did re: Moo-ey. At 5 years old, Maisy looked something like this:

maisy 2008 1

On our 2008 family beach meet-up, we chartered a pontoon boat and spent a day toodling about the gulf with frequent pauses to wade and swim and shell hunt and snorkel and dig up hermit crabs and make elaborate sandcastles for them. In the late afternoon, armed with a box of tragic, chirruping crickets, we got out the poles and set about catching our dinner.

My son, Sam, immediately won the WEIRDEST CRAP DRAGGED FROM THE SEA contest by hauling up a VERY disgruntled Puffer Fish. The fish glared at us in a depleted and impotent manner, completely unable to PUFF without seawater around him.

Since neither my parents, nor anyone in my brother’s tribe, nor anyone in my family is a specially licensed Sushi Chef who has received the many hours of training needed to safely cut out the virulently poisonous glands in such a way that the first bite won’t cause excruciating death, we put him back.

After that, Sam and his two teenaged cousins each caught one or two disappointingly small catfish. We put them back, too, in the hopes that next year, when we returned, they would be a size worthy of the Fry Daddy and thus allowed to keep company with cole slaw and hushpuppies.

The only person who did NOT catch a fish was little Maisy, five years old, and, as the afternoon wore on, she became fussier and pink-eyed with fish-less self pity and exhaustion.

A mere minute or two before we were going to start up the engine and putt back to the boat docks, Poseidon smiled upon Maisy at last, and the pole she was holding bobbed and dipped in an unmistakable FISH ON THE LINE way.

With her dad’s help, she hauled up the most tiny spindly meatless catfish to ever get his mouth around a cricket. She was thrilled, and we all admired her specimen prodigiously. “Her name is BARTINA,” Maisy said proudly, and gazed with love upon the ill-named ugly whiskered teeny trash fish like it was made out of SUGARED GOLD. We took her picture with Bartina while Maisy grinned and said, “You are my best fish, and you picked me!” Then my dad carefully took out the hook and slipped Bartina over the side, where (s)he high-tailed it for the mucklands where too-small-to-eat catfish dwell.

He turned to start the engine, and just then, a hellish siren of sound arose, a soul-searing wail of total loss and misery. “BARTINA!” Wailed Maisy. “YOU THREW OUT BARTINA!”

“Oh, bunny,” I said, half laughing, “We didn’t throw it out. We let Bartina go HOME. Bartina can’t live on LAND.”

At this news, Maisy COMPLETELY lost her crap. All the way home, she bemoaned her lost beloved. “SHE WUH-WUH-WUZ MY BEST FRIEND,” said Maisy, and this had no basis in reality, obviously, but the exhausted little well of feeling behind the words were totally and disarmingly sincere. It was like watching the Little Mermaid come to understand that her prince could not inhabit her world, but instead of a prince, it was a buttugly runt catfish. It was the silliest sort of heartbreak, but from where she sat, the silliness was unapparent, and she was totally sincere.

For a long time after, weeks, even, we could not say the name Bartina without provoking a small flurry of wounded sorrow in Maisy. The loss, entirely invented, was VERY real to her. She could not explain why it upset her, so, but I got it. After all, she is five and I am forty, and so I recognized the impulse she could not define or name.

It’s part of growing up, learning not to become attached to things we hope for and dream in our heads, learning to stop recklessly pinning invented beloveds over some real world object or person, and then breaking against a hard surface when the thing disappoints us by being only itself. No boy ever broke my heart in high school. Instead, I broke my own heart against the wall between the actual boy and the one I made up. I think Scott was the first man I ever knew as himself before I loved him, and it took me a long time to figure out the difference, as I live so strongly inside my own brain. It took seven years of platonic best-friendship to figure out that he was my guy and had been all along.

Later on the night after we lost Bartina to the surf, I grabbed up the nets and the flashlights and my dad and I went out to catch crabs along the shoreline. The size of the crabs made up for the fish, and when we got back to our rooms, I set the clattery bucket of delicious blue-clawed fellows out on the porch. I didn’t bring them in and murder them and boil them and pick out all their delicious meats until Miss Maisy and her tender heart and her propensity to name the foods was safely asleep, innocence intact.

She will eventually learn not to love things that don’t have anything to offer in return. I’m her mother, and I know the only way she will learn it is by giving her heart away, and then getting back only pieces. But I saw no reason to help her begin the process that night. And I see no reason to help her begin tomorrow. There is time for all that later. Please Lord, much much later.

maisy 2008 2

The 12 Days of Road Kill (A Different Kind of Advent Experience)

Sam’s stocking was handmade by genius novelist and sew-goddess Lydia Netzer. Maisy had a lovely one as well, but got lost somehow on a Christmas Travel, when she was about four. As an LPoQT (little person of questionable taste) she picked this emergency one out at Target:

stockings

Well. Okay. IN MY DEFENSE: Santa was imminent. She was distraught over losing her precious stocking, another handmade quilted sort of thingy from her grandmother. No other stocking in all of Target spoke (barked?) to her. No other stocking made up for her loss. Faced with a Christmas Eve where my weeping youngest hung a filthy tube sock, what could I do?

Reader, I purchased him. He has been her stocking, ever since.

He bothers me more, every year. It looks like we have HUNG a dog. As in, “by the neck until dead.” And while on some level I feel it serves as a fine warning to those who feel tempted to counter surf (*cough*Bagel*cough*) it is Not Very Christmassy.

Except, in my family, maybe it is. Did I ever tell you about MOO-EY the Christmas Cow? Moo-ey has a SONG and everything. Let me see if I can figure out how to get a recording of the MOO-EY SONG, and then I will tell you it.

It makes more sense if you know that in my family, Cows are the avatar of all that is good and right. Sam did this. His FIRST imaginary friend was a cow named Ontag who lived in the shed behind our old house out in rural Georgia. Ontag was The Best. Righteous and Mighty. Ontag smote the wicked who might rise up from the crick against our family.

Mostly pigs. Why pigs and not cottonmouths, I do not know. I HATE COTTONMOUTHS. I am a snake person, too, as in, I actively enjoy interacting with pet snakes up close and personal and with wild ones from a respectful, eyes-only distance. But. A cottonmouth in a crick where my kid’s play? No. Sorry, sir, your breathing privileges ought to be revoked. It would have been handy to have a superhero cow to perform this service. But no, Ontag fought pigs. Mostly.

CAREFUL, LADIES! IT'S A TRAP! (photo: Rob Purvis)

CAREFUL, LADIES! IT’S A TRAP! (photo: Rob Purvis)

My kids, to this day, play a game called HEY, COW. Whenever we drive past cows, these people (Now 17 and 12) both roll down the window and scream, HEY, COW! If the cow looks up and acknowledges the greeting, they are blessed with all kinds of Cowly luck. And should multiple cows or a BABY cow look up—well, that is a omen of such favor! Why, it is hardly to be imagined!

Dead dogs on the mantel? Not so great. I am going to try to tempt Maisy with a new stocking AGAIN this year, but I do not hold out high hopes. She has a yen for tradition, and in her memory, Wild West Justice Dog has been her stocking all her life.

Do you have any holiday traditions you’d CHANGE, if only you could?

A Plot Twist

lolcat hamster 1

OKAY! today I am constructing a plot twist, and I just remembered this. All my childhood hamsters were named after female hymn writers. In church, if the sermon was dull, I would flip through the hymnal hunting more hamster names. When I found a good one, like, say, Magnolia Lewis-Butts—who wrote Let It Breathe on Me (LET IT BREATHE)— I would agitate for a hamster to pin it on.

My favorite hamster ever was named Fanny J. Crosby. The real Fanny J Crosby was famous for writing 8,000+ hymns, including Blessed Assurance. MY Fanny J Crosby was famous for biting the living crap out of me.

I had a clear plastic hamster ball and I used to let Fanny roll maniacally around the house in it. Our big ol’ much adored Poodle, Louise, and our little teeny incontinent stressed out nippy crap-tastic butthead poodle, Musette, would go nuts, chasing her.

Once she escaped, thought lost forever, but when winter came, our cat Delilah went and stood by a heating vent and began a desperate yowling. We unscrewed the cover and there was Fanny. She had made herself a little nest there right behind it. The heating vent had been blowing the delicious scent of gently warmed hamster all over the cat’s face.

I picked up Fanny, delighted to have her back, and she predictably bit the crap out of me.

Then one day, I came into the room, and the hamster castle was in pieces, and Fanny was dead. Super, Super, Super dead. So dead she was CLAMMY. She was past clammy, actually. She was downright WET.

But she had no visible injuries. It was as if she had drowned in dry air. It was like the mystery where the guy is dead and the answer is AN ICE KNIFE.

lolcat hamster 2 I blamed the cat, even though Fanny was un-rended and no parts of her appeared to have been eaten. The cat had had it IN for Fanny ever since she’d gotten a sample of what Fanny might smell like if she was being very, very gently cooked. I was quite bitter toward poor Delilah for a long time.

It was several years and several hamsters later that we discovered the true culprit.

I came in and found the hamster castle wrecked again, and there was our best dog! The excellent Louise! He had rooted out Sarah Flower Adams—the furry namesake of the radical Unitarian lady who penned Nearer my God to Thee—-and he was SUCKING on her. He was rolling her pleasurably around in his mouth as if she were a lozenge.

I fished her out, soggy but alive.

The murderer is never who you think it is. The murderer is never who *I* think it is, either.

Llama Level Happy-Smalls

Medical science can’t figure out what is still going wonky in Dad’s heart. He is tough and a superhero and doing really well, but we want ANSWERS and there are not any, so far. WE ARE NOT GOING TO TALK ABOUT IT, right? Remember? Shhhh. But I said I would keep you in the loop, oh best beloveds, so consider yourself yourselves looped and also know if you, like me, are a pray-er, my family would appreciate a mention.

We aren’t going to talk about it because I feel like life is climbing on my chest while I am sleeping and sitting there, and here you must picture life as a large drippy-eyed hairy damp animal, very round and phlegmatic and dim witted and unfeeling, and it sits and sits, and I say, HEY LIFE, I AM TRYING TO BREATHE HERE SHOVE OVER but it sits on, BLINKING, UNCOMPREHENDING, digging its butt down into my chest and being damp and heavy. So.

MEANWHILE, Here are four things that make me STUPID STUPID happy, even though they are free and silly, just small creative kindnesses that have appeared on earth:

1) Your comments about the snappy comebacks and stress reliefs, on the blog entry below. I read them all like 9 times. SOME WERE BRIL IDEAS and some were SO funny. Thank you. You are truly the best possible of all beloveds.

2) THIS LLAMA. I love all six seconds of him. I wish I had him in a looping gif, and I would watch him bounce forever. I may finally learn to MAKE gifs, just so I can do this, but the song seems so KEY that it may prove disappointing.

3) People keep sending me pictures of themselves with SOMEONE ELSE’S LOVE STORY at Target. I’ve gotten one almost every day just from friends and family since August began. This particular one is from my niece. The only possible way it could make me happier would be if it showed more than her hand—like if she had selfy-photo-bombed it.

sels at target 1

THE SENTENCE GAME. Do you know this game? This is an internet version of a REALLY fun game that is played like this in life, and a Facebook friend recently pointed me at it:

From the game’s website

Each game begins with a sentence – often a deeply disturbing or completely abstract sentence – written on the top of a piece of paper. The sentence is passed to the next player, who draws a picture in a futile attempt to depict the sentence. They then fold the paper so that the sentence is no longer visible, and pass the paper to yet another player, who must write a new sentence based on what he or she thinks the picture is showing. Then this third player folds the picture out of view and passes the sentence on to another player, so repeating the process.

Here is a game I JUST finished. I love every step of it, and I wish someone had had to draw my closing sentence.

Below is a sample drawing I did in a different game where I was an artist instead of a writer – can you even IMAGINE the sentence that spawned this? You know it probably had Madagascar in it. BECAUSE, LEMUR.

sentence game1

All these things are just SMALL AND PASSING BY AND UNURGENT AND TINY AND FREE, and yet all four make me SWELL UP with SUCH delight. What small thing makes YOU happy? And I do not mean fleeting smile happy. I mean, do you have a small thing that makes you six second Llama bounce happy?

The Destressification of Weirdos

lolcat-stressed SELS LAUNCHES IN PB tomorrow. Equal parts Exciting and terrifying.

I am trying to find ways that help me DESTRESS that do not involve 1) Buttloads of strenuous exercise. This is my FAVORITE. When I am unhappy, I run straight up a mountain, frantically paddle the elliptical for an hour, or do rigorous yoga in 104 degree heat…. and ALL OF THIS is utterly nixed by this still lingering mono-fatigue. This weekend, after two days of just REGULAR LIFE—ambitious things like HAVING LUNCH OUT and BUYING SCHOOL SUPPLIES— I hit the wall. I slept for 15 hours yesterday. Heh. Clearly not ready to run straight up a mountain.

2) Eating my feelings. MMMM, DELICIOUS FEELINGS! In my secret heart, I KNOW there is no stress that a whole fried chicken and nineteen chocolate cookies couldn’t fix. EVEN SO, I cannot find a single doctor or even a crazy web health guru that agrees with this very valid, smart opinion. At this point, I am willing to pay rock hard cash to any doctor or even a doctor shaped puppet who can say, “Fried chicken boosts the immune system,” with a straight face. I am so ready to believe this!

Since there seems to be some crisis-level international shortage of Doctor-shaped puppets providing nutritional lies on demand for reasonable fees (DOES THE MEDIA KNOW????) I am actively in search for other ways to de-stress.

Want to help me brainstorm? We have to think OUTSIDE THE BOX. I mean, we have all read the magazine articles about stress at the dentist’s. They all say to exercise, which I love, but can’t do, and then…they offer these suggestions:

BATHS. No. Baths combine stillness with being damp. I am not fond. Also, it is like you are the unwashed base-meat for person soup. No amount of bubbles that smell like verbena can keep me from squatting tensely in the water imagining I am stewing in both my own foul juices and the repulsive bodily effluvium of all the humans who sat in the tub before me.

Massage. OH NO NO NO. Massage involves people I don’t know touching me with oils. I could only manage that if I could peel my skin off, leave it at the massage therapist’s office and come back and get it later when it had been made supple and calm. That would be great, actually. I would slide happily right into my refreshed, new skin and gambol off as carefree as a fawn. But if I have to be IN the skin while it is being poked and dabbed and rubbed at, I am going to need general anesthesia.

Gardening/Crafting/Soduku. Bugs/Yarn Snarls/Math. No/No/No.

Meditation: I HATE to be still and not think things, and soothing chimes make me murderous. I am made of spastic monkey atoms. I am SO kinetic that yoga is really awesome for me—keeps the body busy so I CAN be mentally still—but Yoga is out right now, as I said. SO! A good friend sent me some 2 minute guided meditations, thinking they were so short, I could manage one.

Do you know that the first 2 minute meditation I tried was actually 2 minutes and 27 seconds? I spent the first minute feeling SO RESENTFUL of that extra 27 seconds of SNEAKY SURPRISE MEDITATION they tried to slip in on me that my heart rate jacked and my vision clouded over with a wash of pure distilled meditation rage.

By minute two, I forgot I was mad.

To be fair, I also forgot I was meditating.

stressed 2 I stopped listening to the guide, and was actively playing a spiritually damaging game I REALLY like called Snappy Comeback.

Snappy Comeback is when you viscerally remember a mean or awful or tactless thing a person said that left you floundering, mouth agape. First you re-experience that awful helpless fish-floppy feeling, and then you reimagine the scene with you instantly coming up with a brilliant, snappy comeback and swaggering cheerily away.

This is the one I played when I was supposed to be meditating—-and you have to imagine this opening line being said VERY EARNESTLY, with serious blinking—really she was not kidding.

Her: Oh, you’re the author? But you don’t LOOK glamorous…

Real Answer: Oh. Um, heh. Sorry?

Reimagined Answer: Yeah, weird, huh? And *you* don’t look like a butthole.

I doubt this promoted my spiritual growth.

And that’s the Holy Herd of Unstress-Activity, right there, saucily dismissed with prejudice. SO it is BRAINSTORM TIME. Let’s get outside the regulation STRESS BOX. Weirder the better. I am GAME for some serious de-stress lunacy. I KNOW YOU CAN DELIVER, Best Beloveds. A better batch of weirdos cannot be found on the web. So hit me with your best shots, or, if you got nothin’, can you find me a Doctor Shaped Puppet on Etsy who might be inclined to lie to me about the healing properties of queso and fried shrimp tacos? Or you can tell me the worst best comeback you ever thought of, WAY too late to use it. THAT sounds relaxing!

Sick Bed Funsies

The third and final SHARE IMAGE winner came from Suzann Moffitt Ledford! Contest closed, thanks to ALL who played. And hey -- please consider PINNING this or throwing it up on Facebook or Instagram or That Tweeter to let everyone know the PB of SELS launches NEXT WEEK. 0.o

The third and final SHARE IMAGE winner came from Suzann Moffitt Ledford! Contest closed, thanks to ALL who played. And hey — please consider PINNING this or throwing it up on Facebook to let everyone know the PB of SELS launches NEXT WEEK. 0.o

PAUSE and LOOK!The site changed, did you notice? My amazing tech team is amazing and got it together while I Mono-Languished. Do you like it? It’s not just the graphics on FTK, peep my groovy splash page, yeah?

I love how the GRAY adds a little edge, a little darkness to the lavender, and I love how EASTER-y the purple and yellow are floating in that dark, which is CORRECT. Someone Else’s Love Story is an EASTER book. It is all about how we find the rise and the renewal even in the dark of this darkest world.

UNPAUSE. So my usual every-day type recreational nonsense involves STOMPING ABOUT. I like to DO stuff. I go to yoga. I go to the YMCA. I put both my two hairy bags of infinite urine onto leashes and take them around the neighborhood to disperse their contents onto EVERY blade of Monkey Grass in a 5 mile radius. I had just gotten really into marching up Stone Mountain when THE MONO hit.

I have VERY limited energy, and what I do have is quickly used up on writing a book and slurping feebly at soup. SO, what do I do when I can write no more in a day?

1) I smell old things I find in Tupperwares all the way at the back of the refrigerator, and then I make other people smell them to confirm my nosely suspicion that they are no longer good. NO ONE likes this game but me and Bagel, urine Bag the Greater, because he strongly believes whatever I find is edible and thus a possible source for making more urine—and worse.

2) Read. Since I am drafting a new section, I read outside my genre, which is fun. This week I read COP TOWN, which was an amazing evocation of a specific time and place and a helluva good ride to boot.

I am currently reading The Maze Runner because my kids want me to take them to the movie, and we have a strict BOOK B4 MOVIE policy, though I don’t see how it applies to here when I am not picking the movie, and I am only going so they have a RIDE. By that rationale they ought to have to read THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT’S WOMAN because I might stream the film later at the house where we all three happen to be.

Next up on my bedside pile, Imma reread Karen Abbott’s thoroughly amazing LIAR TEMPTRESS SOLDIER SPY because I am introducing her at Decatur Book Fest and I want its greatness to be fresh in my head.

3) Nap. BOTH hairy urine bags like this almost as much as the walking, and manage to pinch themselves closed so they can flop into inert heaps for as many hours as I am willing.

4) Go to movies in theatre, just to be out of the house. Last night, Scott and I went to see Lucy:

REVIEW: If you can get your suspension of disbelief to 100%, Lucy is delightful fun. I REALLY enjoyed it. But I am serious about the 100%. You can’t think AT ALL. Just look at Scarlet Johansson with your belief-beak stretched open as wide as it will go and let her tuck any old crazy notion about space, time, physics, and the human brain RIGHT ON IN THERE. She is such an interesting actor that it was very easy.

Scott only got his suspension of disbelief to about 80%—the SCIENCE made him insane. I could tell how egregious the science was being in any given scene by the level of coiled Nerd-Rage that collected in his muscles and the soft, near continuous PHYSICS VIOLATION SIGHS he disdainfully expelled from his nostrils, but even at 80%, he had a great time.

IT HELPED THAT THE MNOVIE WAS 90 MINUTES LONG, do you HEAR me film makers? It made it really obvious how bloated and full of Extend-O-Minutes of CGI monsters punching other CGI monsters most summery block busters are. Cut out 30 minutes of punching and you might be left with a really fun movie, STILL looking at you, filmmakers. LOOK AT LUC BESSON! LOOK AT LUCY! You can get PLENTY of CGI and punching into 90 minutes if you TRY, filmmakers.

WHAT ELSE CAN I DO? Game of Thrones is over, Orphan Black is over, and I am SO tired of my house. WHAT CAN I DO THAT COSTS LOW TO NO ENERGY, preferably NOT in my house. OPEN TO SUGGESTIONS.

Meanwhile below are the winners who won Lydia Netzer ‘s superlative new book HOW TO TELL TOLEDO FROM THE NIGHT SKY plus her anthropomorphized black hole/planet friends. I had to put actual name slips in a bag instead of Random Number Generating, because I had people who entered from FACEBOOK and FROM HERE. First Prize on top, runners up below, all contacted by e-mail or FB.

TOLEDO winners

Why Is This Country Store and Cafe in Rural Georgia Called “Goats on the Roof?”

Here is a POP QUIZ for after you view the film.

1) WHO just bought editing software that let’s them edit their iPhone movies on PC?

Did you guess? Hint: It rhymes with Possalyn. Hint 2: It was me.

2) WHO doesn’t really understand how to hold an iPhone while filming?

Hint: Same answer as above.

HEY! iPHONE Filmographers! How do I hold the phone so the movie isn’t whoopsy-tipsy sideways? I had to rotate the whole movie and it made it have black bars on the sides.

Don’t forget, you still have until MIDNIGHT EST on Sunday to enter this fun contest to WIN LYDIA NETZER’S LATEST BOOK plus some other cool prizes.

I passed Goats on the roof on the way home from the north Georgia Mountains. I was SUPPOSED To be up there for a week long VERY PRODUCTIVE WRITING RETREAT. I was ACTUALLY up there for a week long full blown mono relapse, featuring dizzying fevers of 102, fantastical faint slurpings at broth, scintillating Ibuprofin ingestion, and thrilling bouts of extended whining.

The first bout of mono, I was told I HAD to rest, which, you know, resting is not my forte. BUT I REALLY TRIED! I virtuously didn’t work out for 2 weeks AT ALL. Not even WALKS.

I felt better, so I got on an elliptical for 20 minutes of GENTLE PADDLING twice and I took ONE little drive to Greeneville and BOOM: Destroyed. I HATE not being able to work out. I HATE IT.

HEY! This is what the thrilling bouts of extensive whining looked like, actually, only they were longer.

FINE. I will half full the glass…ummmmm. At least I’m losing all my MUSCLE TONE! It weighs more than fat you know.

I am clearly a natural born brightsider

OKAY, fine. Here is the REAL BRIGHTSIDE: I got 2.5 EXTREMELY productive days on the back end, during which I had a wondrous breakthrough and the book surged forward in an exciting direction. AND, you know, I got to see this:

goats on the roof 1

*answer key: 1) Me. 2) Me.

3Q with Lydia Netzer (Yeah, with PRIZES)

Just leave a comment on the blog (or on Facebook, because, why not) before Sunday July 27th at midnight EST to be entered to win.

GRAND PRIZE: A Download Code for the Audiobook version of HOW TO TELL TOLEDO FROM THE NIGHT SKY by Lydia Netzer, read for you and ONLY you by me, because you are my Best Beloved. I put in crooning, tweets, narwhale splash noises and the voice of a man who is half water buffalo. Because I want you to be happy. You also get a free black hole and your OWN PLANET. *true* *see below*

Runners UP: Two folks get a signed first edition hardback, and also all the tools they need to suck their own personal planet into their own personal black hole.

AND YOU WANT THIS WILDLY IMAGINATIVE BOOK, a delightful and engaging Romantic Comedy running on parallel tracks with an equal and opposing Greek Tragedy from the author of the critically acclaimed, best selling, and award winning SHINE SHINE SHINE.

In what has to be the coolest review this side of VENUS, the Times-Dispatch said, “Netzer’s star … flares even more brightly in “How to Tell Toledo From the Night Sky.” Watch her work for further illumination, and pity lesser writers who settle for the commonplace light of ordinary days.”

If I were Lydia I would tattoo that one on my left butt cheek. And then moon people. (*rimshot!* That was a little astronomical butt humor. TRY THE VEAL)

JJ: Why did you spend the last year knitting these small balls with magnets inside representing black holes and planets?

LN: I don’t like to be challenged by crafting. I like to craft stupidly, the same thing over and over. If I knit a pair of mittens and successfully complete it, it’s likely I’ll knit forty more pairs of mittens and inflict them on everyone I know, in the middle of summer, because the pattern is in my head.

Remember that skirt thing I fell into, like five years ago? I made ruffle skirts for everyone I knew, and then I went out into the street and began to stop people and insist that I make them a ruffle skirt. I have overflowing bushels of them in my basement.

In spring of 2013 I decided to knit my daughter a basket of Easter eggs. I’ll give you a helpful tutorial on how to make this: First you knit the basket and then you knit enough eggs to fill the basket. Then you knit many more eggs, way more than you need to fill several more baskets. You give a basket of eggs to everyone you know. You knit more eggs. It takes exactly one violin practice to knit an egg, and you can use scraps and bits of many different yarns, and this is so perfect and satisfying that you cannot stop.

Do I remember the ruffle skirts, she asks! Here I am modeling the one she mailed me during that phase, and that is one of the egg baskets. Hey, see the sketch behind me? That is the HUT, my mother's gazebo from my childhood backyard. It was destroyed in a hurricane, but that's where Scott and I first declared our love.

Do I remember the ruffle skirts, she asks! Here I am modeling the one she mailed me during that phase, holding one of the egg baskets. Hey, see the sketch behind me? That is THE HUT, my mother’s mini gazebo from my childhood backyard. It was destroyed in a hurricane, but that’s where Scott and I first declared our love. AWWWW.

Of course the thing about eggs is that if they had their heads squashed in, they could be planets, and if they were made of black sparkly yarn, they could be black holes. And if they had magnets inside them, they could be toys that you click together and pull apart, as if the black hole is attempting to compress the black hole into a singularity. I made them have eyes and they were cute.

This idea delighted me because my main character, Irene Sparks, is completely opposed to anthropomorphizing scientific phenomena. She doesn’t like when people say that black holes “sing” — that’s periodic oscillation. She doesn’t say that atoms “want” to share electrons or that asteroids “threaten” or that fire “dies.” So tiny little cute knitted balls with doll eyes called pet black holes would drive her ballistic. And honestly, she needs the personal growth. So I went ahead and knitted about seventy-five sets of these little buggers.

JJ: Where did you get the idea for the title, How to Tell Toledo From the Night Sky?

LN: I was flying in an airplane at night, and I was gazing down on the lights of towns and roads, headlights, like you do. I don’t remember what city exactly I was flying over when I realized that the lights of the cities below me, connected by roads, were like the lights of the stars above me, connected in constellations.

It was sort of a weird moment, because I think a lot about Aristotle’s cosmology, the crystal spheres, and the scientifically outdated but still philosophically relevant idea that things in the heavens are perfect by definition and things on earth are messy and damaged. It’s one of the most important elements of the book, and it ended up inspiring a pivotal scene for my main character.

JJ: Is there anything you’ve always wished a reader would ask you? What is that question—and how would you answer it?

LN: I wish someone would ask me this: Lydia, you wrote a novel about how dreaming is a practice for death, in which a manifestation of death stalks a character around a mortuary, in which star-crossed lovers are plagued by the failings and feudings of their families, and in which both the main characters’ deaths are prophesied. How could you then write such a happy, happy ending?

And I would answer: I didn’t.

JJ: AMEN. Ya’ll leave a comment to win, and if you don’t know what to SAY, you can tell me your favorite constellation. Me: Orion because I can always find it, and also because I had a crush on it when I was nine or so. NOT EVEN KIDDING. I used to pretend Orion was my boyfriend. He really helped me get over my first crush, Mr. Spock. Still not kidding.
toledo audio cover

Bad Brain

Emily Clever is the second winner of the SELS SHARE image contest!

Emily Clever is the second winner of the SELS SHARE image contest!


I have this weird sanity blind spot, where I never actually believe I am SICK. Even when I am demonstrably, incontrovertibly infected with microorganisms that are wrecking me on every possible level, like, say, I have a fever of 102.6 and mucus leaks from my wizened eye pits and I tremble when I stand, as if someone absconded with my real legs and then stuck newborn fawn legs into my hip sockets, I do not buy it.

Even when a doctor who went to actual medical school says YOU ARE SICK and then thrusts prescriptions at me, I still always suspect that I am faking it. Just really WELL. Ha Ha stupid doctor, I think as I vomit so forcefully my ab muscles become sore, I FOOLED YOU AND NOW I GET TO PLAY VIDEO GAMES ALL DAY JUST AS SOON AS I STOP PUKING IN THIS TRICKY, CLEVER, DOCTOR FOOLING MANNER.

FLASH OF INSIGHT: One thing that makes me an especially fun sick person is that I TELL PEOPLE I AM SICK. I say, “I do not feel good,” about 4 times a minute in a small, whiny voice. Scott really enjoys that. Because, who wouldn’t? But I just realized that I probably do this because I think he thinks I am faking it. Heck,*I* think I am faking it.DO YOU DO THIS? Seriously, is this just me?

HEY longtime best beloveds? Remember that time like 4 years ago when I ALMOST DIED? Part of the problem was, I was pretty sure I wasn’t ACTUALLY sick. Sure, I couldn’t work out without crying, and the fawn leg thing was happening, and I got dizzy if I turned my head too quickly, and I tended to shuffle along hunched over ETC ETC, but I was pretty sure I was just being dramatic.

This is us being Hoopy Froods. NAME THAT REFERENCE

This is us being Hoopy Froods. NAME THAT REFERENCE

So I had emergency surgery—-was flayed open on the table for more than 4 hours because of ALL THE THINGS That were deeply deeply wrong in my insides—-and later I found out my Lady Bits Vet (who is an exceptional doctor and also my friend) had stayed in the room while the abdominal guy worked to save my intestines, Because she stayed and worked (since I had to be open anyway) I got to keep my ovaries.

I thanked for that. Thanked her saving my ovaries.

An odd look crossed her face and she came over and patted my arm, “Honey, you are so insane,” she said. “We saved your life. You don’t really get that, do you? YOU WERE DYING. We saved YOUR LIFE.”

I assured her that I totally got that I had been actively dying and promised I would never again BULL THROUGH if I became ill, but instead I would seek medical aid before things got so bad. I was very sincere when I said it. But how can I get help when I am sick if I never, never BELIEVE it? I suspect I am secretly immortal.

Now, with this in mind, ask me if I am managing to stay horizontal and care for myself now that I have what feels like a totally fictional case of mono I fooled my doctor into diagnosing? I am SO amazingly tricky I must have payed my spleen and liver to pretend to be inflamed and to REAlLY sell the diagnosIs, I exchanged my throat glands for what feels like Cadbury Mini Eggs when I was sleeping.

When I realized Lydia was going to be in Greenville JUST TWO HOURS AWAY on Friday, I of COURSE got right into my car and went haring off on a long exhausting day trip.

swam rabbit HEY GUESS WHAT? I spent the weekend FLAT LAID OUT. Tremble-y and puffy and shake-y and sad sad sad. It turns out I MAY HAVE BEEN actually sick, after all, and MAYBE I shoudn’t have traveled to Greenville. Who could have predicted THAT?

Oh, right. Scott, Lydia, Sara, Karen, Alison and MY MOM.

Sara even wrote me a VERY stern note telling me to “ACCEPT THAT YOU ARE MONO’S BITCH” before something ruptures. HA.

I am still pretty wrecked, but, brightside! I got AWESOME PRIZES for you. You can see them later this week when I run Lydia’s 3Q. Also, we asked the SUPER STONED HIPSTER at Starbucks where the waterfall park in downtown Greenville was, and he immediately sent us an hour out into the wilds of SC to find the spooky SWAMP RABBIT TRAIL SLASH BREWERY. So. Onstar got us to the river park eventually, where we did a photo shoot of Lydia’s Melville and Wolf puppets being best friends in front of the waterfalls.

puppets

We drove past a stadium in Greenville called THE COURT WELLNESS ARENA, and Lydia posited that this was where people met to try OUT HEALTH each other, at which point the COMPETE-Y WIN MONSTER that lives just under my skin cme roaring to life and I wanted nothing more than to go OUT HEALTH ALL COMERS. Lydia had to remind me that I HAD MONO, and even that did not deter me. Because I never think I am REALLY sick, remember? Heck, I could knock out ANYONE with my single white blood cell tied behind my back. Seriously, does anyone else do this? Is there a NAME for this lunacy? What is the opposite of hypochondria?

I am moderately better today, NOT THAT I WAS SICK, but just in case I was, I am spending the next five days in bed in a luxurious mountain cabin I have been loaned by kind church friends, working on my book and NOT MOVING OFF THIS MATTRESS. Not even to hike beautiful Tallulah Gorge which is VERY close and I am sure that if I just hiked it a LITTLE BIT I wouldn’t rupture my spleen much at ALL.

Mean Memes

Kimberly from FTK posted this quote from SONEONE ELSE'S LOVE STORY on July 3, 2014 at 2:22 pm. She is winner 1 in the William Morrow quotes contest. Winners 2 and 3 will be announced in the next two posts!

Kimberly from FTK posted this quote on July 3, 2014 at 2:22 pm. She is winner 1 in the William Morrow quotes contest. Winners 2 and 3 announced in the next two posts!

Mono has grounded me. When I am not working, instead of going about with kids or friends or to yoga or to walk the dogs or to the YMCA or out to eat, I stare morosely into the depths of the internet, entertaining myself as I rest. FACEBOOK is my new leisure activity. The other day, someone posted one of those word puzzles that says, “THE FIRST THREE WORDS YOU SEE DESCRIBE YOU,” you know those? SO I peered into its wordy depths and almost immediately I saw:

Hearty
Lovery
Energegeticy

I think that stupid puzzle called me wishy-washy! All my words have a Y n the end— so I am nothing definitive. I am not ENERGETIC. I am Energetic-Y. Which is like being energentic-ISH.

Not a LOVER but LOVER-Y. As in, Having some faded loverish qualities, but not worth taking home to mother.

Hearty, I object to on the principle that makes me sound like a giant hairy pirate. I have decided that it must be read in line with the others, as Heart-Y, in which case it means I am a person with a certain amount of heart. But not, you know, tons.

Perhaps it means only that I am wildly attracted to the letter Y. Yes. I have definitely learned that I am a person who tends to see words that end in Y first. Even when the words cannot legally end in Y AND be grammatically correct.

WAIT— if Y IS my favorite letter, then personality-wise, maybe that tells you the same thing? Y is the most wishy-washy of all letters. It is the only letter that is SOMETIMES a vowel. It is vowelish. Consonant-y, if you will.

If you are sick, you can always count on Facebook to entertain you by telling you what ____ you are, but now I have taken 90 in a row. I bet if I checked back with the word search now, the first thing I would see would be Narcissist-y. THANKS, Facebook, for offering me YET ANOTHER WAY to be sucked down to stare deep, deep, deep into the scintillating depths of my angst-ridden navel

Do you do this? Have you been click-enticed to find out what muppet or color or breed of dog or character from Buffy or element you are? If so, is anyone SPIKE? I even saw one that will tell you if you have what it takes to WIN THE HUNGER GAMES. If you take that one, and you DO have what it takes, you should probably go take a “Am I a murderous sociopath?” quiz, and if that one comes up daisies, get help.

Did you do the word puzzle one? Were any of your three words definitive or TRUE —- or insulting?

ALSO! did you enter this yet? This is a REALLY cool give away from my pub house, for your whole book club or neighborhood or pack of read-y friends. (Read that like HEART-Y. Not HEARTY. Heart-Y. Not READY to GO, like Read-ish. Reader-y. YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.) You can win

10 paperback editions of Someone Else’s Love Story (and if schedules allow I will Skype into your book club)
A $100 gift card to your local bookstore
1 copy of each book in that New Voices in Fiction sampler
I curated. That’s 11 debut novels!

Five runner up peeps get 5 copies of SELS.

You can enter HERE.