Dear Serial Killers and Opossums,
Scott is home. You heard me. The window for murdering me in my bed/creeping me out by climbing up my grill to LICK the forgotten meat fork with your disgusting possum-tongue (respectively) has firmly closed. My boyfriend is back and you are gonna be in trouble if you even poke one toe onto my back deck. He will end you. HE WILL.
Lady with Gun
Dear Physical Objects I Depend On,
Oh cars, oh computers, oh toilets and air conditioning units, all of you who have already broken, to you I say nothing. We have already had many ugly words pass between us, and all of you are broken and gone, replaced by The Good Cat Car and the toilets from space and etc. so we shall let this sad history BE history.
BUT TO EVERYTHING ELSE I own and need to function at top efficiency---For example, to YOU, dishwasher, YOU who are slowly, one by one, dropping your metal prongs that separate the dishes as if the prongs were loblolly pine needles and you were a tree feeling the chills of winter, and to YOU, clothes drier, who did not get replaced when we replaced the broken washer and who now makes thumpy-whumpy noises as if I had included a pair of Keds in every load. And you most especially ROOF, old gray sagging roof and your attendant saggy gutters. I say to ALL OF YOU, if you are going to break, the next three weeks are your final window.
2009 is the year of everything breaking. AND IT IS ENDING. I have declared a moratorium on HUGE EXPENSIVE REPLACEMENTS AND REPAIRS for 2010. If you limp along through December, prepare to keep on limping. You may break in 2011, if you ask nicely.
With a Steely Glare That Says I Know The Way to Major Appliance Hell and I am not Afraid to Take You There,
Thank you for the AWESOME display of gorgeousness. We had no snow boots or mittens, and thus we were not prepared for your glorious and Christmastastically appropriate white greeting, but we don’t care about that. We LIKED your pretty snow, and as for the boots-n-mittenas, we IMPROVISED:
Chilly and Grateful,
Dear Best of all Possible Beloveds,
My mental illness number, which had reached such a STRATOSPHERIC and DIZZYING pinnacle that my friends were telling me they had heard electroshock doesn’t hurt THAT much and can be an inexpensive alternative to a spiral perm, has reset down to regular. For the first time in weeks, under the vat if mucus currently swamping my lungs, I feel a strange, submerged burbling that I strongly suspect might be happiness.
This has caused me to open my file. The book is moving again. Not forward, oh no NEVER THAT. But definitely sideways, which, considering how stalled I was, I will take sideways. I will kill the fatted calf and throw a FEAST for sideways. I was about half way through, but now I have gone in with a Happy Machete and killed TWENTY-TWO thousand words. HEH. Oh well. Needed to be done. I told my agent about The Great Word Whack and he said, “Oh dear,” and I said, “Well, do you want a book, or do you want a good book?”
He wants a good book. Me too. I want a good book, and to feel inside like this Happy Pointy Snow Fellow with a Crazy Celery Nose looks like he feels outside:
Today? I kinda do.
I have broken up with Lortab. Things were not working out between us. The pills were making my jaw clench and my shoulders feel tight and weird. I also seemed to be MOODIER than usual, which WHO NEEDS THAT? On a good day, my moodiness meter goes all the way to eleven. (Thatâ€™s ONE MOODIER, for all you smarty-pantses who got my Princess Bride reference yesterday and are on the alert for more cult film salutes.) Most importantly, I was doing things I did not necessarily REMEMBER doing, and I am odd enough when conscious and fully in control of my actions..
Tuesday I was SO LOOPY from the drugs I ought not to have been allowed to operate even the lightest machinery. Toenail clippers and spring-operated toilet paper dispensers should have been put firmly out of my reach. And yet I apparently did quite a LOT of emailing. Today, 24 hours Lortab Free, I am wondering who all I said what to, and why on earth my husband gave me my laptop when (I have no memory of this) I hollered imperiously from the bed that I needed it DESPRITLIKE.
I have gotten quite a few confused notes from people responding to plaintive, opiate-driven missives I sent. My favorite is a VERY KIND if somewhat bewildered note from a publicist (Named Miriam), who is responding to a monstrously whiny rant I CLEARLY MEANT to send to my friend Mir, just dripping with lunacy and writerly angst. A regular e-mail to send to a close friend, but a HUGE overshare to dump on a distant colleague.
Also, I keep finding things in my kitchen that Scott says I bought. According to Scott, right after the surgery I said I was fine and that I should be taken to Target to pick out cream based soups to eat. DOCTOR'S ORDERS! I was VERY convincing. And insistent. Now I have mason jars full of weird, sea foam green, generic brand asparagus soup stacked in the pantry. While wandering the aisles, drooling and bleeding, I found a shelf full of discontinued wines and stacked the cart full of â€˜em. Now I have several murky bottles of plonk from bizarrely named vineyards, haling from countries and regions not really known for wine making. Utah? Really?
Target has a Starbucks in it, and according to reliable witnesses, I swung by, ordered and drank a caramel lite frappucino, no whip. I have NO memory of this, either, which is a SHAME because I LOVE them. I wish I at least remembered the frappucino.
I would make an appallingly bad junky. I do not like drugs, they do not like me back, and I go off of them at the very first given opportunity. I am now eating a respectable amount of Motrin and self medicating with iced caffeine. Last night, my mouth was really bugging me and I could not sleep, so I got into the Irish painkillers. I put chunks of fresh pineapple, strawberries from my co-op box, half a â€˜nanner, some Mottâ€™s Totâ€™s 40% less sugar fruit juice, TONS of ice and 2 oz Stoli citron into the blender and called that dinner.
Slept like a lambkin.
HI! GUESS WHO NEEDS NEW TOILETS! IN EVERY BATHROOM IN THE HOUSE?
Yes. That would be me.
see More Lolcats
Apparently what is wrong with our plumbing has to do with our toilets being old and tired of their jobs. I am sure burn-out and loss of flushing-enthusiasm is a common thing in the booming â€œbeing a toiletâ€ industry. It does not seem like a pleasant job. They want to RETIRE, these toilets, and go down to Florida and golf while wearing black dress socks with plaid shorts. Perhaps there will be bingo, and maybe seafood buffet night. Perhaps there will be fruity drinks served in hollow pineapples. Oh! Toilets! Take me with you!
I think this is karma. This is the wheel of fate. YEARS ago, when we were little more than teenagers, Scott and I were driving around and around in aimless circles after watching the dollar movie at Cinema Tavern. We passed a house with a loose toilet hanging out in the yard, and I got a wild hair and hollered for him to stop, and we flat out stole that toilet. Spirited it away in the dead of night to be our very own.
For the record? In spite of the NAME Cinema TAVERN, we had consumed nothing more intoxicating than full sugar cokes and stale nachos with radioactive cheez-related orange sauce-like jelly. Thatâ€™s right â€“ we were completely SOBER. So the burgling of the toilet cannot be fathomed or explicked.
(SPELL CHECK is telling me that EXPLICKED is not a word.
I am telling Spell check to suck it.
I LIKE Explicked, and I find that Explicated is cumbersome. It SHOULD be a word. If something is INEXPLICABLE then it stands to reason that that something cannot beâ€¦.yes. Explicked.
Dear Spell Check,
We shall hear no more from you on the subject. Thank you for playing.
ANYWAY, the toilet went to live in a fenced off corner of the yard behind my parentâ€™s house where they kept the garbage cans. Eventually I used it as a safe house to shelter a cat-wounded crow named Mr. Crow. He was in the yard unable to fly and assailed by yellow tom named Butterball. I chased Butterball away, herded Mr. Crow into the fenced triangle at the back of the yard. There he lived for several weeks, and I fed him on corn and he hid in the toilet when more cats came. So.
As a balm to my bleak horror at the way things continue to break and crumble all around me, I offer you some cute pictures look at. First, the SUNFLOWER CAKE! I made it for the going away party for my pastor who left, and apparently took my working-toilet-karma with him in a baggie:
You have to ignore the fact that PETALS HAVE EYES. If you concentrate on the EYES you stop seeing a sunflower and instead see a â€œPeeps who belong to a cult that worships Ghirardelli dark chipsâ€ cake. Which is fine, too, I think. Either way, it was delicious, because under the icing is a rich yellow cake made almost entirely of butter.
Also, I found this sleeping bag to be cheerful, but that is probably because I am mentally ill. *nodnodnod* Remember in Star Wars 5 when Han and Luke were stuck on the frozen planet of HOTH and Luke had to slit the belly of his Tauntaun riding beast and sleep inside the warm carcass to survive the night?
NO? REALLY? Oh surely you must! Or were you very busy and having a life? Well, not me. I spent Junior Prom in a basement rolling 20 sided dice to see if my vorpal blade would get the monster plus plus bonus as I attacked a lich lord in the stinking sewers beneath the Golden City of Arzhekargath, and I REMEMBER.
Anyway, some insane person has made a TAUNTAUN Sleeping Bag:
Now your kid (or even you! Hey, Iâ€™m not judging!) can pretend to be Luke and sleep cozy inside a simulated riding beast carcass. Please note that the INSIDE lining is INTESTINES. People are amazing, arenâ€™t they? WHO THINKS OF THIS? I love people.
I hate toilets.
Sara says I SHOULD get a kitten. Right there in the comments. She says I should get a kitten because they are cuddlier than hedgehogs. Itâ€™s not a non-sequiter. I have, in Saraâ€™s presence, recently THREATENED to get a hedgehog INSTEAD of a kitten as my cat does not hate hedgehogs with the same fervor that he brings to hating other cats, and ALSO I have a great name for a hedgehog lined up. Are you ready?
Pigling Bland. Isnâ€™t that marvelous? My friend Jill told it to me. A name that good DESERVES a hedgehog to hang it on, I say. Butâ€¦
Kittens are therapeutic, Sara says.
She recently got two kittens and named one Possum ïƒŸ-best kitten name I have heard in ten years. The name POSSUM deserved a kitten just the way Pigling Bland deserves a hedgehog. Karen just got back from a visit to Saraâ€™s, and she walked around DRAPED in kittens, she says, just threw them around her shoulders like they were stoles and soaked up their beneficial mental health rays. Honestly, Karen returned more than she has been in WEEKS.
Meanwhile, I talked to my editor yesterday.
Me: *panicked blabbering*
Her: Wow. This is the most mentally unstable you have sounded in months.
So. Hang tight with me and follow my logic, because it FEELS irrefutable, BUT my mental illness number is WAY high. I MIGHT need a reality check. Then again, I might NOT. I might ONLY need a good kitten nameâ€¦
You might want to put on some sunglassesâ€”I am about to release some BLINDING SYLLOGISM MOJO.
1) People with a high mental illness number need therapy.
2) I am a person with a high mental illness number.
3) Sara says that kittens ARE Therapy.
4) I need a kitten.
The ONLY shaky part is Saraâ€™a assertion that kittens ARE therapy. It sounds like PURE WISDOM to me, but I think we should test her credibility.
So the very next thing Sara said was that I needed to get a FURminator.
Speaking of therapeutic: Basically you can take this tool and peel it over your dog and pull out a WHOLE ANOTHER DOGâ€™S WORTH of hair. The FURminator costs 30 bucks. ZOUNDS!!! That is a LOT for a dog brush. But this is SCIENCE. SO.
IN THE NAME OF SCIENCE I am going to go out this afternoon and GET a FURminator, and IF the FURMINATOR peels a whole another dogâ€™s worth of pelt off my dog, then Sara MUST be accepted as a credible pet witness and kittens therefore ARE therapy and I MUST HAVE ONE.
Now since my mental illness number IS so high, I feel I can righteously dispense with segues, and just say, SPEAKING of guns, while Karen was lolling around at Saraâ€™s, positively COATED in kittens and getting her sane on by the virtue of their therapeutic value, they got, in the e-mail, the VERY BEST AD ever. Itâ€™s SO great it almost makes me sad my spam filter is so ceaselessly vigilant. It said --- I am changing 2 words so as not advertise the actual product --- but it mostly said:
Princesses always whizgiggled at me and even youths did in the civil WC!
Well, now I laugh at them, because I took *SNAKE OIL*
for 3 months and now my penis is terribly largest than world.
TERRIBLY LARGEST THAN WORLD, you say? Eek! Maybe thatâ€™s the thing I am seeing on my office TV right this second, looming over earth, and Nicole Kidman is running down the road away from it?
Also, I am now calling the downstairs half bath The Civil WC.
Also, I want to name my kitten Whizgiggle.
Or possibly Pigling Bland.
We will do the FURminator test this PM, results to follow, and in the meantime, I am waiting for one more email from Sara. I hope it tells me I NEED to go eat some southwestern eggrolls, RIGHTNOWNOWNOW, then we wonâ€™t need the FURminator test. The need to eat southwestern eggrolls is SO EMPERICALLY true --- I REALLY do --- and Saraâ€™s recognition of this obscure but TRUTHFILLED fact would be the FINAL CONFIRMATION I NEED to decide that Sara is absolutely right about everything eternally and then I will go get a kitten.
What's the best kitten name you have heard in ten years?
I took both my kids to school today.
First time in TEN YEARS I have a WHOLE DAY with had no baby/toddler/pre-schooler in the house alternately crying and nursing/trying to eat poison/seeing what happens if you jam a fork in the electrical outlet. I got ten pages drafted and am about to go hit the elliptical for 45 minutes and then clean out my closet and I am so FREE and NOT HAVING TO MULTI TASK and the day stretches before me long and luxurious with HOURS before car pool and so naturally I canâ€™t stop bursting into teeny flurries of weep every fifteen minutes.
I am BEREFT.
Signing up for motherhood is like AGREEING to cheerfully become a complete loon for the rest of your span on earth.
But I am not dwelling. *PAUSES TO SOB INTO HANDS FOR 20 SECONDS* Oh no, not at all.
I think I should get a kitten.
My dad and my brother are taking me to shoot LONG GUNS later in the month, but I have already been out with my brother to shoot pistols. Oh MY. I looked at this big box of assorted pistols Bobby had gathered, and I was kindaâ€¦terrified of it.
My brother made me sit down before we began for a safety lesson. We basically had to go to a room, alone, with the box of guns. We sat down and waited until a quiet had settled around us and he could see he had my full attention. He picked up one of the guns.
Bobby: Okay. See this hole? At this end? Donâ€™t ever. Ever. EVER. point this hole at anything you do not want to see utterly destroyed.
I nodded solemnly.
That was the end of the safety lesson.
We took 2 liter bottles full of water out to a field behind a friendâ€™s farm. The field is empty and low, a small valley, so our targets were set up low down by the rise of a hill. Our bullets would go through (or past) the bottles and bury themselves harmlessly in the earth. We put in ear plugs and shot and shot and shot. When I picked up the first gun, I felt like I was holding some sort of awful alive cool reptile thing that might turn and bite me. Then we started. When I set down the last gun, I felt like I was setting this warm alive and mighty creature who did my bidding. I found the hot after-smell very pleasing, tangy and metallic. I liked the ghost of kick I could still feel in my palm.
I want to go shoot MORE things.
First I shot with my brotherâ€™s Saturday Night Special, a little .22 which he said is useful only to terrorize clerks at the convenience store you are trying to rob. POP, it said, and it jammed every third bullet. Bobby said it is NOT a good gun for actually killing people--- even IF you managed to hit someone, you would likely just make them angry.
Then we shot an ANCIENT revolver that belonged to my grandfather. It was missing a pin, so the barrel would plop into my palm whenever I released it to reload. No safety. You load the thing and you are ready. I LOVED this gun. LOVED it. My character will have a gun like this. We shot it until the barrel got too hot to reload from all the shooting.
The 2 litre bottles began to have a bad time.
Then we shot my dadâ€™s .45 automatic pistol and HOLY COW but that black beast has a kick. I loved to just point it and go BAMBAMBAMBAMBAM. I did pretty well, though I tended to hit MORE when I actually AIMED. Go figure. One bullet blasted a huge visible crater right through the center of Coca-Cola Classic. Then Bobby shot Fresca in the neck, and his head popped off and sailed away over our heads.
No soda bottles survived to tell the tale.
Hereâ€™s a quick weird little thing I noticed â€“ you may draw your own conclusions
The night before my brother took me shooting, Karen and I went to a book event in the middle of Birmingham and then out to have a drink with a buncha folks we like from the Alabama Booksmith. I told several people that I was going shooting the next day. These were all urban folks who live in downtown and midtown.
They all gave me the same quizzical look overlayed by faint shades of either horror or disbelief and asked WHY I was going to go shoot guns.
â€œResearch,â€ I would say, â€œfor the book I am working on.â€
And their faces would clear and they would not, satisfied. It made sense to them, and we clearly had good reason to do this dangerous, slightly distasteful thing.
I went and picked up my brother at his office way out in the green hills of Alabama, far from the city. He works for himself, sculpting, as you may remember, but he rents a small office at his church so he can escape his children/television/phone/neighbors and actually put his head down and WORK. We ambled around the church gathering all the 2 liters we could find in the recycling bins and having coffee and meeting people who worked there or went to church there. Local folks, all.
We would tell them we were leaving to spend the lunch hour shooting things.
They would just nod,as if we had said, â€œWe are going to the mall.â€ I couldnâ€™t figure it out. Why wouldnâ€™t they ask WHY we were shooting things. WHY would they not ask? Then on the way out, we told the last guy who asked where we were heading and he looked at us wistfully. â€œOh. I wish I could go with you. Have funâ€¦â€
Hi. I have completely lost it.
Last night, a SERIOUSLY DETERMINED EVIL STORM ignored TWO layers of surge protection and a back-up battery designed to allow me to shut down my computer safely should the power cut out.
Hey! You know THE METAL BOX that once contained my calendar of events (Including book club calls and meetings that are NOT on the online calendar and which are marked in paper calendar by BOOK CLUB CALL so I know to look on my computer calendar for helpful little things like a time, a time ZONE, a contact name and a phone-number) a HOST of beloved old short stories and essays, a TON of unanswered e-mail INCLUDING mails from readers that I NEVER fail to answer, a VERITABLE cornucopia of RESEARCH NOTES from a week spent in San Fran that I mailed myself because I did not take the laptopâ€¦AND AND AND (this is where I want to burst into noisy sobs and run for the ocean like a lemming)
My brand spankinâ€™ new novel in progress.
Not yet backed up. AT ALL. ANYWHERE. Thanks!
Yeah. THAT BOXâ€¦went BOOM.
It has now become a box with a button the front that makes a dispirited and NOT AT ALL ELECTRICAL click noise when I press it.
It is not entirely worthless. I COULD, for example, use the box to store Cheetos and other transfat laden snacks that I could eat while curled up in the fetal position, weeping. But it is pretty much finished with the "electronic device" phase of its career.
I repeat: BOOM.
(Dear FTK Regulars and Best Beloveds,
Please kill and eat the first person in the comments who reminds me I should SAVE EARLY, SAVE OFTEN, and BACK UP RELIGIOUSLY. Also kill and eat the second. And the third. Kill and eat as many as come. THANKS! LOVE YA! KNOW YA GOT MY BACK.
I am distraught.
Scott says he thinks it is possible to recover these things. He is going to spend today taking all the guts out and attempting to fix my life.
MEANWHILE, I have to go to Winder, Georgia today for a library thing that is MERCIFULLY on my online schedule. So I have the ADDRESS AND TIME.
All OTHER info is stuck in the NEW CLICKY BUTTON SNACK BOX,
A Contact name
A Contact phone number
The Special Secret directions the Librarian sent me because she says MAPQUEST and possibly GPS systems send you to MARS if you believe themâ€¦.
Oh yeah, and also, MY FREAKIN NOVEL IN PROGRESS.
This would be a good time to pray for Scott to fix it and for it to be fixable and for me to not end up on Mars. Although, to BRIGHT SIDE IT, my mental illness number is already ON MARS, so if my GPS takes me there, at least we can asphixiate in Mars's thin atmosphere TOGETHER....
Damn is, I realized that I have about 28 days until I get my new color author photo taken by this screaming genius named Gilbert in NYC when I go up there for BEA and the Warner LOOK WE CHANGED OUR NAME TO GRAND CENTRAL PUBLISHING Party and OH my Best Belovedsâ€¦.I am not camera ready.
We are not going to discuss the exact NUMBER of pounds I gained during the Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul I had over the last year or so --- a brief recap: TGWSS â€“ an ambitious project to begin with -- was kicking my butt, my gramma died, these things got tied up together in Very Bad waysâ€¦Yeah. So. ANYWAY. TGWSS decided to come together in a rather lovely and unexpected fashion, and I am a person of faith so death and the idea of death is not permanently disconcerting. In short, Tea Time ended. I am back in my old clothes thanks to frenetic working out, but justâ€¦barely. Yesterday I struggled into my old jeans and sat in church feeling PROUD and PLEASED and like my spleen was being crushed. Before BEA, I want those stinkinâ€™ jeans to be my BAGGY jeans, okay? OKAY! SO!
My friend Lydia has gone and FOOLISHLY befriended a WILD EYED COLON-OBSESSED DIETICIAN who does all these terrible cleansing things to herself involving eating steam and wrapping herself in cultured seaweed pasteâ€“ wait â€“ maybe I have that backwards, who can tell, itâ€™s all so insane and involves a higher level of admitting one HAS a colon than I care to indulge in. Colons are yucky. They should be neither seen nor heard. BUT this dietician friend prances around eating yeast and with Senna tea and she is slim as a ribbon and has skin that glows with the wattage of one thousand baby butt cheeks. So. There may be something to it, is all I am saying.
I am therefore on The Crazy Hippie TREE-BARK-IS-DELICIOUS Whole Body Cleansing Ritual Tea Fest and Hug-In Life Plan. (Life Plan is a California word that I think means â€œdietâ€) Just for the next seven days. To see how it goes. If after seven days my jeans are looser and my skin looks like it has met the word Luminous in passing, I will go another seven.
Telling you I am on this diet should in NO WAY be taken as an admission that I care about or wish to discuss my colon. Or yours. Or the concept of the colon in general. I EMPHATICALLY DO NOT. I am not even admitting that I HAVE a colon, got it? I am just cleansing myâ€¦inner child. Or something. My friend The Google assures me this is actually a pretty healthy eating plan---the bulk of it being raw fruits and veggies, NO animal fats, but I have a liberal hand with the olive oil and am eating wild caught fish and VERY whole grains. SUPER whole. Raw oats, Spelt bread, whole grain couscous and Crazy Bible Pasta.
Crazy Bible Pasta is a real true product, and I am really for true eating it, too. REALLY. IN MY MOUTH I am eating it. I am supposed to eat a fermented food, like MISO, but you find Miso in rural Georgia. I DARE YOU. Life Plan also suggested YOGURT as a fermented food, which I MUST have, Life Plan says, to replace myâ€¦ Acidodolphins? Apparently myâ€¦inner child needs Acidoldrummy things to thrive, but I would seriously rather take a railroad spike through the eye than eat yogurt. Just the SMELL of it on my childrenâ€™s breath sometimes makes me gag. So I am taking the acido-si-dos in convenient PILL form.
DIGRESSION: I pointed out to The Google that WINE is a fermented food, and The Google said, â€œWine does not have acidungies, and you canâ€™t have any in this Life Plan, so shut it.â€ Then The Google said, without being asked, â€œPS, Vodka doesnâ€™t have acido-whoosits EITHER,â€ so now me and The Google, we are not speaking.
BAH â€“ I have run out of time for DAM I spent so much time on DAMN. BOO! I will Dam you all tomorrow, yes? And the first one who raises the spectre of the PINK SOCKS unto me KNOWING I havenâ€™t had chocolate OR wine in almost 30 hours now will be tied down and forced to eat Crazy Bible Pasta.
I TOLD you it was a really for true product! Skeptical Sally.
Here is the TV interview ---thanks to my pretty friend Mir for the link. I tell ya, I LOVE that Holly Firfer---thatâ€™s the name of the cute blonde who is interviewing me, for you non-Atlanta folks who may not remember her from CNN. If you live in Atlanta area and are reading Between, Georgia you can send Holly an e-mail for a chance to be part of the on air discussion on October 25th. We could be on TV together. And I am guaranteed to make weirder facial expressions that you, so there is NO reason not to go for it!
I hate watching myself on TV --- AND this time I forgot to vainly take my glasses off! MAN, I must have been nervous. I didnâ€™t think I was, but I sound REALLY Southern, and when my accent escapes my control, it means I am nerved up. OR I have had a minimum of two beers. Since this was a morning show, letâ€™s assume the former. *grin*
I had some trouble remaining clam yesterday. I was the opposite of Clam. Would that be UNclam? Non-clamular? Centipede-y? I FORGOT my daughterâ€™s ballet class, even. SEE, I finally had COURT, and I was all atwitter to know if I would remain a master criminal or if my wrongful arrest would be rightfully stricken from the record. I put on four inch spike heels (red, thank you) and the kind of MAC lipstick that doesnâ€™t come off (also red, thank VERY much), for confidence. These props failed me on every level. I was a wreck.
I had that bad-dog-in-trouble feeling I havenâ€™t experienced since I was nine and STOLE a Christmas present out from under the Gayferâ€™s Department Store Christmas tree.
TRUE STORY: The Tree was so MATCHY MATCHY and PROFESSIONAL, like Mrs Claus had decorated it, and the tempty boxes under it were wrapped like TV presents, with hospital corners and ENORMOUS gold ribbons. I STOLE one of the smallest packages and then opened it in secret in a bathroom stall. It was empty, nothing but crumpled ribbon and ruined paper and the little cardboard box.
SO essentially, I stole NOTHING. I stole a box of Gayferâ€™s Rightful Airâ€¦ but I felt so HORRID about it I couldnâ€™t breath properly in Cordova Mall for months afterward. It made it worse that there was nothing to return. If only they had wrapped an actual something so I could have taken it BACK and wept and confessed and gotten absolution. Even at NINE I was a sucky master criminal. Almost thirty years later, I have not improved.
I sat in criminal-ish court which, in Austell, I SWEAR TO YOU, is now held in a MALL. Yes. A MALL. No wonder I had Stealing-From-Gayferâ€™s flashbacks! It is a MALL that never quite made it as a shopping complex---there used to be an awesome Cajun place in it and a dollar store and a Claireâ€™s Earring Boutique and a Clinque Spackle Make-up shop etc etc. All those closed, and now it hasâ€¦.criminals. And a center fountain.
Because I had a lawyer, we didnâ€™t have to go sit for the whole session. We got to go first. WHICH WAS GREAT. Because the guy I walked in with had a MULLET and a police escort and his hands were chained to his waist and he smelled like prison. NEAT. I did not want to, you know, hang out. Make friends. Pick up cool prison lingo. I just wanted to GO HOME.
So â€¦. The clerk comes out and I pleaded guilty to speeding becauseâ€¦I was speeding. As for the BEING A TERRORIST WITH A FALSE IDENTITY WHO IS ALL COVERT AND POSSIBLY EVEN THE DEVIL, my lawyer walked them through my paperwork proving it was a DMV/Social Security Office joint balls-up, and so those were dropped.
BUT! DROPPED IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH.
I STILL have a freaking ARREST record. Which gives me HIVES.
If ever I get pulled over for, you know, a broken tail light or cutting a yellow light a little too close, it will COME UP on the computer that I have been ARRESTED and they will probably want to feel me up and look in my car for heroin. Cops look at you differently if you have ever been arrested.
SO, getting the charges dismissed was STEP ONE and now we are doing the million and one time consuming and expensive OTHER steps we have to do to get my record expunged. It canâ€™t OF COURSE be as simple as proving empirically that the arrest was wrongful â€¦ OH NO! There must be multiple levels of paperwork and filing.
Your tax dollars at workâ€¦
My mental illness number just exceeded the national debt, so this entry could get long...
1) From being a girl.
Mildly related anecdote: I just got a letter from my friend Matt, who is married to his friend Drea. He and Drea went over to HER mom's house, and her mom had gods in Alabama on the coffee table. She had just finished it and had set it out to give to Drea because she really liked it (PREEN!!!!). The mother in law did not know Matt and I know each other and that he, of course, already had the book. So, anyway.
I get this e-mail from Matt: "Drea really dug Gods. I tried to get her to read it like 239084 times, but all her mom had to do was say 'Hey, you should read this.. It's good' and she started right into it.
You girls are crazy."
My response: I blame the estrogen. It's like a big shot of psychedelic mushroomic mood embellishers hurled right directly into the brain. Want some? The first hit is free.
Of course, on the OTHER hand, boys have to contend with testosterone. At least MY psychedelic mushroomic mood embellisher doesn't make me want to, you know, have a war or watch sports.
I am restructuring a HUGE thing and I think it is right but wow, it's big. I prowl around in utterly repulsive sweat pants and attempt to make chapter whatever-I-am-on-that-day work and call everyone I know and snivel when it doesn't and call everyone I know and yell pleased ululations of revolting triumph at them when it does. Either way, it's not attractive.
If I DO leave the house, like, if I am FORCED to be by being out of food or I have an appointment I can't miss, I find I am having mildly crazed FALLOUT. I get weepy and shaky every time I drive through Austell now, which, I admit that's a little like saying DOCTOR, IT HURTS WHEN I DO THIS, and now you say, SO, DON'T DO THAT!
Except Austell lies directly on the path between me and....everything. If I go NOT toward Austell, I generally come to some cotton. To the left of Austell? Some kudzu and also goats. To the right of Austell...Super Walmart, and Dude, I much prefer the cotton/kudzu/goats. The right-of-Austell Super Walmart is where despair goes to die. It smells like the rendered fat of a thousand McDonald's French Fries. Everyone there is either on Lithium or Crystal Meth or both or should be on at least the first one. I think they have a direct portal to Hell in the sporting goods. I am not a big Super Walmart fan, to be honest, but THIS one is beyond regulation horrifying on every possible level.
It is also true that if you go THROUGH the goats and kudzu, you come to Hiram, which has a movie theater and an Italian place with decent stuffed mushrooms and a Tar-jay and a Starbucks, but no bookstore, and none of my close friends live there. So. I have to go through Austell a LOT. It's wearing on me, and I feel, quite frankly STUPID, for having such a boring and predictable weepy-spooked emotional reaction to being arrested. How dull. If only Austell sent me into foaming gibbering psychosis, or filled me with secret sexy I'm-a-dangerous-criminal thrill.
But no, it's pretty much your regulation post-trauma snifflies. I'm tired of it already and bored of it already and yet my body keeps HAVING the reaction as I drive through Austell. I'm rawther disappointed in myself.
ALSO -- it upsets me to say I was arrested, and that I have to insert the word wrongfully, and it REALLY upsets me that people who don't know me and donut follow the link to the whole story and who read this will probably assume I was rightfully arrested because, face it, 99% of people who are arrested claim it was wrongful and 99% of that 99% are big fat liarhead criminals. I SO LIKE BEING BUNCHED WITH THEM! I ALWAYS WANTED TO FIND SOME COMMON GROUND WITH PEOPLE WHO SELL CRACK IN SCHOOL YARDS! AND NOW I DO! FOREVER! Because JUST LIKE THEM, I can now make big mooky sincere eyes and say, "I was wrongfully arrested." NEAT!
Scott took a picture of me on the Church steps, and I feel it captures an essential truth about the state of my internal landscape:
Kinda looks like I want to pull your face off and eat your brains, huh? Yeah.
Whew -- it's four AM. I JUST had a HIDEOUS dream----I saw a towncar outside my house and so I got in and my editor was sitting in it wearing dark glasses, all incognito, and she said, "I AM SO SORRY, I TRIED TO STOP IT!!!!"
She handed me a paperback book called TRAIN GIRL and the cover was VERY pulp fiction-y----half a girl's yelling face and a trainyard and a speedy car behind her. It was cheap looking and awful, the glue already failing along the binding. There was only one blurb on the whole back cover, and it said:
"Yo Quiero Read This Book" ---the Taco Bell Chihuahua
There was a little passport photo of that dog under his quote.
I opened it and it was TGWSS, the book I am working on now, just as it is TODAY, with its guts still hanging out, my edits maybe 25 - 30% done....I woke up in a lather.
I'm going to go edit my book some now....RIGHT now. Happy morning to you.
I keep getting e-mails asking what parts of the jail blogs actually happened. OH, Best Beloved of All My Many Dudes.....ALL the parts are the parts that actually happened. This is a blog, a web diary, a nattering about what is actually going on. When I make stuff up, I generally say "Okay, I made that part up" immediately after.
Who do you think I am? Although, come to think of it, I have now spent almost as much time in jail as the most famous "went to jail for 6 hours and got an entire book out of it" writer actually did. So. If it wasn't for pesky old journalistic integrity, I could maybe even parlay my afternoon in the poky into a TRILOGY. My years behind bars. Chained Heat. Hanging myself with strappy red sandals. Etc.
If it's on the blog, it is not fiction. Except MAYBE I didn't make out with Joyce Carol Oates in an airplane lavatory. Maybe. I'm not going to say definitively, so as to retain the air of dark mystery that becoming a master criminal has lent me. You see it, right? My spanking new dark mystery???
I also have gotten several e-mails and a comment (yes, I am looking at YOU, Charity) reminding me gently that, hey, STUPID PERSON, you might not want to drive the sitter home if you don't have a license. Best Beloveds, thanks for your concern, but I am no Johnny Scofflaw. See, remember the whole part on Wednesday when I got arrested for driving without a valid license? WELL SO DO I. VERY CLEARLY. I'm a little scatterbrained, sure, but so far I managed to remember fire is hot, gravity pulls downward, and being arrested is BAD.
Trust me, I did not INTENTIONALLY break the law on Wednesday, and I am not going to start intentionally breaking it 48 hours after I learn the consequences of having it done been broked. Whew----let me pause here to take an ENORMOUS and calming whiff of cocaine while I go cut off the thumbs of some guys who have fallen behind on the vig and deploy my bevvy of street beauties out onto Piedmont to make daddy a little money for a lawyer.* <----See, now, I made that last part up.
BY THE WAY --- and I am kind of sad about this --- There WAS no bench warrant. My terrified brain put that in, sort of like, if you were walking down a dark and spooky lane in the night time and every twig cracking was racheting up your nerves a few more notches, and SUDDENLY! a terrible ax murderer leapt out at you and began to hack you into chunks, your brain might looks at his mouth and see fangs. He wouldn't actually HAVE fangs, mind you, he would be a regular unfanged ax murderer. Not that the chunks of you would care.
The cop said "tougher anti-terrorism laws" the cop said "have to arrest you" the cop said "handcuffs" the cop said "social security office" and "Driver's license" and "canceled." My brain, soaked in YEARS of Law and Order and NYPD Blue, put in "bench warrant" as if it were fangs. ALSO -- it was the DMV's error, not the SS office.
Who is surprised to find the DMV being evil and sloppy?
On Thursday, Scott took off work to drive me around, collecting documentation from our safety deposit box and the SS office. The dated, notarized paper trail tells a pretty clear tale:
1) In July of 2005, the DMV sent me a letter, telling me I had to go down to social security and fix my name. I had until September 11 to get it done.
2) On August 20th, 2005 I went down to the office and did everything I need to do to get it fixed.
3) On SEPTEMBER 11th, 2005 three weeks AFTER I had complied, the DMV canceled my license anyway. Due to THEIR clerical error.
INSERT: I keep getting emails and comments saying August 20th has not HAPPENED yet, but this was all back in 2005. To clarify:
I was notified in July of 2005.
I FIXED it in August of 2005.
They canceled my licence in SEPTEMBER of 2005.
Yes, I have had no license for a YEAR.
When the cop pulled me over, I was arrested because I was DRIVING. The charge is not "BEING INVALID AND TERRORIST." It is DRIVING with no license. Where anti-terrorism comes in is that it USED to be up to the cop whether or not I would be arrested. Now, because of terrorists, the social security NAME thing is a FLAG, and if you are driving with no license and a FAKE NAME flag from the SS office, it is an immediate and mandatory arrest.
The papers made it SO PLAIN AND CLEAR that this NOT MY FAULT that I managed to have the whole thing CLEARED less than 24 hours after my arrest. I took my NEW license down to Cop Central, and the same officer was there.
Me: Hi, Hot Nice Cop! I need my car please.
Hot Nice Cop: *apologetic tone* I can't do that until you get your license straightened out which may not happen until your court date---
Me: Oh, it's all straightened. Here is my new license, and here are the three notarized dated forms from my records and the SS office showing it was actually the DMV's error. *slaps down papers*
Hot Nice Cop: *boggles*
The SAD thing is, his reaction made it perfectly plain that until I showed up the VERY next day, with ALL the papers and proof, Hot Nice Cop and Regular Nice Cop had pretty much assumed I was a big old Liar Pants. Apparently, EVERYONE who gets arrested has a big woeful tale about how it TRULY is not their fault and they DID NOT KNOW and it must all be a BIG MISTAKE. Stupid Real Criminals --- they ruin it for the rest of us.
ANYWAY, Hot Nice Cop told me that he wasn't sure his Sergeant had actually FILED the charges from he day before yet. He was going to try and get his Sergeant to DROP THEM and NOT EVEN FILE. My lawyer will be calling on Monday and see if charges were already filed. PRAY THEY DID NOT GET FILED. That would be best. Then there would be no need to EXPUNGE...it would truly be as if that bad day never happened...
I am also going to see if we can SUE THE FRICKITTYPOOPOO out of the DMV. Forget pain and suffering. I just want them to pay for my car being towed and any legal fees that will be incurred as I make DARN SURE I don't end up with a police record for THEIR error.
Here is the thing that will LONG continue to upset me. No matter how many times I explain it --- it still LOOKS like I was ... doing crime. I explained the whole thing to my Sunday School teacher, and he said, "SO, what, now you just have to pay a fine?"
UM NO. NO NO NO. I didn't DO ANYTHING WRONG. Because someone at the DMV made a clerical error, I LOOK like I did something that would have made my arrest justified. People think the police overreacted, but that isn't the point. The point is, it was a clerical error. I can prove that. But the fact of my arrest is like this black mark on me, and it looks bad, and I look bad. That can't be fixed. That's there. Forever.
NOT that I was looking at Amazon's BETWEEN, GEORGIA page or anything because I AM WEANED off Amazon, remember? REMEMBER? Heh. BUT. If I HAD looked at Between's page on Amazon, I might have thought this was amusing:
Customers who viewed this book also viewed
* Gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson
* Diana Lively is Falling Down by Sheila Curran
* iRobot Roomba 4100/4300 Intelligent Floorvac Robotic Vacuum, Red Roomba
* The Garden Angel: A Novel by Mindy Friddle
* Maybe Baby (Warner Forever) by Lani Diane Rich
Um, did you note number THREE? Either people are following blog links OR, and I think this is FAR more likely, my book naturally attracts ROBOT LOVERS. I need to talk to someone at Warner about getting the words "FOR ROBOT LOVERS" emblazoned in Roomba Red on the front cover. I need some blurbs, too, in that vein....
"I was so glad I decided to only pet my robot with ONE hand for the time it took to read BETWEEN,GEORGIA. It was a circuit-warming and meticulously timed read, and just as soon as I get me a robot that holds books and turns pages, I am going to buy Ms. Jackson's first novel, too."
Terry, a Robot Lover in Michegan
TWO WEEKS from today, I start taping (or recording, or CDing or however you officially say it) the audio version of Between, and whatever made me think THAT was a good idea? No, really. I asked a guy I know to tell me all about the process to kind fo LIFT my anxiety, and he DID really demystify it and tell me exactly what would happen, but he also told me about how SENSITIVE the microphone was, and how once, during a reading, they picked up his STOMACH GURGLING. I had horrible HORRIBLE dreams about it last night. This should probably be filed under TMI (too much information) but since it's just me and YOU (and your robot, most likely) here, I am going to go ahead and tell you about it.
I dreamed that I was in this tiny, hot, claustrophobic COFFIN of a sound booth, and I had headphones on, and was trying to read Between into a microphone except I had no manuscript, I was supposed to just REMEMBER it, word for EXACT word, and this disembodied voice kept interrupting and correcting my sentences and saying, #&$^@#, YOU #&*(@#^, YOU WROTE THIS HOW CAN YOU NOT KNOW IT BETTER THAN THIS? I finally got into a scene where he wasn't BERATING me, and then suddenly he said, "We are getting AMBIENT NOISE! AMBIENT NOISE! JOSHILYN? WHAT IS THAT?"
I had no idea. I was just trying to do a good job and ignore all the shrieking in the headphones. Finally there was a pause and I said three or four more sentences, and then...
Voice in Earphones: Joshilyn? Are you...farting?
Me: UM, NO.
ViE: Well, someone in that booth is.
Me: I AM NOT!
ViE: Look around. Who else is in the booth?
Me: Just me.
ViE: And your GAS.
Me: I AM NOT. And anyway, can't you filter that out somehow? If I was? WHICH I AM NOT.
ViE: No. We will just have to have the the guy at the front who says the Title and your name make a disclaimer and apologize for your inability to stop that noisome flatulance. That sounds professional....he can say it just like that. "We apologize for Ms. Jackson's Noisome Flatulance."
Another Voice, Female: We have those red "WARNING: READER FARTS" stickers left over from when we hired that astonishingly gaseous monster to read IN COLD BLOOD. Remember that?
ViE: HA! Right! I bet that guy is dead of irritable bowel syndrome now.
AV,F: I Hope so.
Me: I am NOT Farting.
ViE: Keep going, please.
I woke up in a lather of panic and vowed to go buy BEANO and eat it on everything, and I mean everything, even PUDDING, in the week before and during the taping. If I was cocktail recipe, I would be two parts nervous and one part sosososo excited with a cherry garnish. And I would NOT be carbonated. Thanks.
Monday is my Hell-Pit day. It goes like this:
Get up at 5:30 and work out. Get Sam to School. Get Maisy to Preschool. Work on book for five hours. Pick up Maisy and change her into to Dance togs. As soon as Sam walks in the door, leave for Dance Class. Change Maisy to Street clothes and get Sam in B-Ball Togs. Make dinner and feed kids. Go to Basketball. Send Sam off to the showers and bathe Maisy. Put kids to bed. Watch Medium. Fall into a coma.
I lather, rinse and repeat this every Monday. It's a MARATHON.
SO, yesterday, I was in the middle of the WORK FIVE HOURS part, and I hit a SNAG in the middle of Chapter 7. I immediately quit trying to pass go, deferred my 200 dollars and went back to the beginning of the book ---It's how I work. I never panic, just rewind and tinker until I figure out what happens next. ( <---OMG what a whopper THAT was. Forgive the digression, But I was just rereading this before posting and came across this FAT AND HAIRY LIE. I can't believe I SAID that. Anyone who knows me is ROLLING on the floor howling. I never panic, my BUTT.)
The truth is I IMMEDIATELY panic and then I march around howling to the gods about injustice and what made me think I could write books, or wait I HAVE written books, but what made me think I could write THIS book when clearly it is beyond me and I am a bad person and my pants are still a little too tight ALL THE WAY FROM CHRISTMAS and what kind of a person still has CHRISTMAS BUTT in the LAST week of JANUARY, I ask you, and the only answer is a BAD ONE who cannot write this book and that is JUST the sort of person who should be FED TO WOLVES, especially given that the Christmas butt ALONE could nourish two good size wolves, SO YES! YES! I MUST BE FED TO WOLVES! ALIVE! WITH NO NOVOCAIN! And as they rend my small intestines I should cry out in grateful gratitude, saying, "THANK YOU! THANK YOU WOLVES! THANK YOU FOR SAVING THE UNIVERSE FROM THIS BOOK I WAS TRYING TO INFLICT UPON IT."
Yeah. That's a little more accurate. After the wolves finish, THEN I calmly rewind and tinker until I figure out what happens next. Lordy. So anyway, back to Monday, after the NOT PANICKING *snort*, I go back and I reread Chapter 1. Out loud. Best way to do it.
DIGRESSION THE SECOND: Chapter 1 is, excuse me, approaching gorgeous. This is the converse and EQUALLY ugly side to the whole EAT ME, OH WOLVES thing. When I am bad, I am very very bad, but when I am pleased with myself, I am downright abhorrent. I reread Chapter 1 out loud and had to stop and pretty much make out with myself every other paragraph. Had the wolves come to eat me then, they would have turned up their noses at the unappetizing over-abundance of SMUG I was emitting from every pore. You would have thought I had just written Genesis. Yish. You know, one thing that IS true is that for good or ill, I am almost never luke warm. Hot? Yes, we have that! Cold? Honey, you can get hypothermia off me some days. But if you want Luke Warm, we sold out of that at.....well. Pretty much, birth.
So after basically having to take a moment to be alone with Chapter 1 and rub its pages lasciviously up and down my thighs, I had to deal with Chapter 2, which is Chapter 1's awkward little sister. 2 is PERHAPS a future beauty, but has braces and a monstrous nose-zit just now. I went to work on it, and it obligingly GREW UP for me quite a bit. Grew LITERALLY, expanding and fleshing itself out until I realized it was splitting like an amoeba. This book is, like gods in Alabama, Southern lit built over the bones of Murder Mystery, so pacing is hugely important. I realized Chapter 2 needed to be two separate entities. SO, I made Chapter 2 be Chapters 2 and 3, and then I had to go RESAVE the whole book, moving the numbers. ( DIGRESSION: Let me pause here and answer the silent questions of the technologically proficient: YES, I do save each chapter in a sepearate file. YES, I do know this is stupid and inefficient.) SO, I had to go save the second half of 2 as 3 and the old 3 as 4 and so on, until 7 had magically become 8. I sat back, pleased with myself, until I suddenly realized....I had just BRILLIANTLY OVERWRITTEN the two of my chapters, namely 4 and 5. ('Nother Silent Question Answer: YES, I do know if I had saved it a whole MS this never would have happened. THANKS.) I realized they were just...gone. WEEKS of work. Gone gone for truly gone. Then the next part of the story is sad:
I cried and cried.
Then I thought, "WAIT! Did I save those chaps to my back-up CD?"
I checked my back-up CD.
No. I had not yet done that. My back up stopped at 3. HEH.
I rebooted my eyeballs and set them on "Cry More."
Then I thought, "WAITWAITWAIT. Did I MAIL those chaps to my CRIT PARTNER and YES I DID so they MUST BE in my SENT FILE!"
So I went and looked and I HAD mailed them....but as FETUSES, when they SUCKED, hours and hours and hours and three possible discarded plot trees worth of work ago.
Then I cried MORE.
When I was so dessicated I could not squeeze out any more cries, I went and hurled myself on the sofa and watched Game Show Network and ate an entire ten ounce bag of raw baby spinach. As I chewed my leafy greens, an idle thought wandered through my brain, something about G-Mail. I turned off PASSWORD PLUS and I thought, "Wait. Did I get a wild hair on Friday and mail ALL the chaps to myself over at my G-Mail Address while I was on the phone with Karen, just randomly, not even really thinking about it? Maybe I did? Just in case I was this stupid, and look, I was?"
SO I went and checked my G-Mail account and THERE THEY WERE.
So. Monday was fun.
They came and put in the carpet. They also broke my house.
By the time they left, I had no working phone, no alarm system, no internet connection, and three televisions that let me hear 4 out of every 5 words the TV people say and let me see bursts of static interrupted by wavy lines. I also, although this cannot in good faith be blamed on the carpet people, have no husband. Scott is out of town, and WHAT ON EARTH possessed me to let these guys come tear around in my floorboards with no Scott here to fix whatever they inevitably destroyed? Either a random techno-deamon or the stupids. Possibly both.
ACTUALLY, I DO know. I DID NOT, is the answer. I scheduled them for yesterday morning WEEKS AGO, when Scott was NOT scheduled to leave town until Saturday. His schedule changed. As soon as I was told he had to leave late yesterday afternoon. I KNEW they would break something, IN MY HEART, I knew it. I knew! I KNEW! There are two truthy truisms that are never not true:
1) No man is an island, and
2) No house emerges from recarpetting unscathed.
And by "No man is an island" I mean "There is always at least one other man, and then he comes and breaks your cable." When Scott's schedule changed. I called my contractor twice to make sure the carpet-ers could come in the MORNING, and he in turn called them twice, and they agreed YES YES THAT MORNING CERTAINLY, and I thought to myself, "AH WONDERFUL, Scott can fix whatever they break before he leaves," and then the carpet people interpreted "morning" to mean, "About 4 PM, or as soon as Scott leaves the State."
Aside: WHEN THEY SHOWED UP AT FOUR, THEY HAD THE CHUTZPAH TO COMPLAIN THAT THERE WAS NO ONE AT THE HOUSE TO LET THEM IN.
I have no printable response to this.
My contractor, meanwhile, had to go to JURY DUTY. And when the carpet people did not show up, I realized his BUSINESS CELL PHONE NUMBER was on my...computer. Which was in pieces, stacked in my dining room. I called his HOUSE, but he was of course in Jury Duty and did not get the home message until the State of Georgia released him. He had checked his BUSINESS messages throughout the day, but the carpet people felt there was no compelling reason to call him and mention that they might be a little (say SIX FREAKIN HOURS) late, and *I* had not called him, so he had no idea they had not showed.
When he finished that day's Jury Duty and went home and caught on to what was happening, he drove over to my place and let them in (I was at ballet) and then he sat with me until 10 PM. He was pretty mad, too, and I think someone needs to bake him a REALLY GOOD PIE because he STAYED for HOURS while they put in the carpets and broke the house because Scott was not home and it was dark and late and later and then obscenely late and my house was full of men I didn't know from Adam's off-ox who all spoke only Russian and he didn't want to leave me by myself with them. AND when it became apparent that they had jiggled or jerked or split or destroyed some vital little bit of connective cable-y something somewhere, he crawled around outside clutching one of my children's Mickey Mouse flashlights (the only flashlight I could find) and jiggling splitters and routers to see if the TV responded and following the cable lines all through the ceiling and etc. It was black as pitch and that flashlight emitted about as much useable light as one of the REALLY far stars overhead. I'm surprised he didn't break his neck. (DIGRESSION: If you can find a contractor who will do these sorts of things, you should marry him immediately. You can't have this one though, sorry. He is already married to my friend Jane.)
I sat in my broken house, becoming distraughter and distraughter, because while I love my TV and I love my internets, MY MAIN ISSUE last night was being in a house sans Scott with two little children, no working alarm system, and no phone. My contractor tried valiently, but he couldn't fix it. I couldn't fix it. We agreed between us eventually that it would take one of those rare unicorn-like creatures---a genuine cable repairman ---- to fix it.
My mission became to FIND one of these mythological beings, and after the contractor left, I unpacked my wedding dress and put it on in an ill-conceived plan to look virginal. Then I wandered into the woods behind my house, waving ham and spicy mustard sandwiches (the favored food of the cable repairman) and singing madrigals. This proved ineffective. In retrospect, however, I should have kept at it, because I am now convinced that waving sandwiches in the woods is, long term, a MORE effective way to attract a cable repairman that the second plan I had, which was to call Comcast Customer Service.
You know the word COMCASTIC? If you live anywhere within the range of of Comcasts ubiquitous WE HATE THE DISH commercials, then you do, you DO know this word, "COMCASTIC." To quote Mandy Patinkin in the Princess Bride, "This word, I do not think it means, what you think it means..."
DIGRESSION: Here I COULD tell you about how the chain of ENDLESS menu options I selected led to the ROBOT OPERATOR refusing to recognize my phone number, saying I was not a customer, not giving me an option to return to any previous menus, and then hanging up on me. After I realized the system would not recognize my phone number because I was callign from a CELL PHONE and not that phone, which, Hello! Can you say, "CATCH 22" because how can one POSSIBLY call on the phone that is not working to say THIS PHONE IS NOT WORKING? Obviously, you cannot, but if you call from a DIFFERENT PHONE it hangs up on you for not calling from the right number---SEE HOW THAT WORKS??? I bet that realy cuts down on the number of service calls they have to take! ANYWAY! I chose a different menu option, and the 'bot intoned a 1 800 GET CABLE NOW number at me in its enragingly sympathetic contralto and hung up on me. THE THIRD TIME I CALLED I simple refused to press any buttons at all, even the SPANISH OR ENGLISH one, and eventually the menu switched me to hold, and the first service rep I talked to tried to transfer me to the correct department and HUNG UP ON ME, and then I repeated the process, and the SECOND service rep told me a technition would come on THURSDAY and when I began to explain how I would have headed to a mini mall with an ouzi before then she tried to put me on hold to see if she could get me priority service and she ALSO hung up on me, and the THIRD time I called----and what with the no button pressing this third WAIT OUT brought my ON HOLD time to WAY OVER 90 minutes so that it was getting on close to midnight---- BUT! I shall not tell you all these things in any detail because if you have ever called the cable company EVEN ONCE, ANY cable company, then you have had this exact experience, this exact number of disconnects, this exact CATCH 22, and you KNOW you were on hold for a minimum of an hour and a maximum of you-called-three-days-ago-and-are-reading-this-blog-entry-to-pass-the-time-while-you-STILL-hold. SO. I won't go int all that. I will just say that when I called the cable company....
I was at some length connected with a service rep named Beautiful Beautiful Gilbert, who, if a truck hits him, will go directly to heaven immediately without even passing GO or collecting 200 bucks while the truck driver is sentenced irrevocably to be poinked in the buttocks with tridents by the really BURNY demons in deepest hell. I poured out my tale of woe unto Beautiful Beautiful Heavenbound Gilbert, and when he said there was no service rep available until Thursday I just sat there and wept, wept unil I was gagging with it, wept until my eyes felt like they they were made of grit, wept and wept and wept, and he put me on hold ---and this part is key his double Beautifulness and Heavenboundedability -- put me on hold WITHOUT HANGING UP ON ME and THEN, after a brief hold music pause which I assume he used to feed 10 or 12 thousand people with a single special order of fillet of fish happy meal while moonwalking along the surface of the Chattahoochee River, BBH GILBERT came BACK on the line and said he had found me a repairman who will be here today between the hours of 8 am and 8 pm, which is kind of a LONG service window, but ask me if I am complaining. OH NO I am not. I will sit here from 8 until 8 and I will not even BATHE lest I miss the repairman's radient arrival and I will sing the praises of Beautiful Beautiful Heavenbound Gilbert and all his sons, yea, down until the seventh generation, because I CANNOT spend another night alone with no alarm or phone which ups my anxiety which activates my insomnia which can generally be treated and overcome with TELEVISION of which I have none. If you follow me.
BECAUSE LAST NIGHT after I hung up with BBHG, I lay awake wondering if my eyes were melting and if that was a squirrel or a killermans scrabbling around in the attic and counting the number of manical grinning clown faces that are hidden in the patterns on my plaster ceiling (27) and engaging in suchlike other activities until about three AM, and then was up at 6 am to get my son off to school.
Did I mention I got about 3 hours of sleep the night before last, too? Did I mention the part where half of my eye-parts are melted and all the other parts are made out of grit? Just checking.
I finally fell asleep last night in the children's playroom where the TV had the best sound-like eminations and where I could faintly make out the shapes of people (or possibly Yeti) moving about behind the snow and wavy lines. After I got Sam off to school, Maisy was still asleep, so I thought I would go back to sleep too, but I was worried about missing the REPAIRMAN who would no doubt sense I was sleeping and creep past my door on little cat feet at 7:59 and then bound away, never to be seen again, so I tried to set the alarm clock for 7:30 and SOMEHOW I hit this SECRET BUTTON that apparently alarm clocks have that makes them explode into noise. I do NOT know what that button was...it was like I had poked a jumpy cat in his Spook Spot. Ever done that? The cat leaps straight into the air and all his fur poofs out as if he's hitched a ride on some lightning. Well it was like that, only it was an alarm clock and it exploded into UNTURNOFFABLE racket which woke Maisy.
SO. Here I sit, writing a blog entry I can't post anyway and feeling DEEPLY sorry for myself.
JUST TO ADD INSULT TO INJURY: I was 'SPOSED to take Maisy into town today to have lunch with my friends Karen and Maureen and go buy myself ANY CHAIR I WANT (Scott said) at the new Atlanta IKEA. Then this afternoon, I had a playdate with my friend Julie and her kids at Wild Horse Park because we have this weird unseasonably warm gorgeousness fo weather. Instead, I will sit here and wait from 8 to 8 for the service rep and thank BB H Gilbert for the privilege with NO IRONY because I seriously cannot survive another night like last night. Seriously. Can. Not.
LET'S PLAY A FUN GAME. WITH PRIZES! Based on the time at which this automatically POSTS ITSELF (and therefore I demonstrably have working cable) GUESS my mental illness number. Let's cap it at 100, where 1 means you are SO sane that you would never never even THINK of running for a political office and 100 means you are paddling about happily in the blood of the neighbor you just ate. It is as I write this January Tenth at 7:42 AM, and my MI# is currently holding steady at about 22. I am relying on the hope I have gleaned from BBHG. Now look at the time (and DATE) when this posted and GUESS what my mental illness number was AT THAT TIME. You can leave your guess in the comments. I will WRITE DOWN what my mentasl illness # was in the MINUTE before the cable repaiman came (so there is no tricksiness where the answer is ONE because NOW the cable works) The two people who come CLOSEST WITHOUT GOING OVER (like on Price Is Right) will win a small piece of super secret BETWEEN, GEORGIA swag. No, not galleys, sorry --- I do not have two extra copies of the Galleys---I am down to ONE copy and I am keeping it. I had to send my two extras to an author I hope will blurb it and the other is going to the HKNC. So. But this is a cool little thingy. You will like it.
On the bright side? The carpet? Looks FANTASTIC.
HI! MY MENTAL ILLNESS NUMBER JUST GOT CUBED.
So you know I have this little page where I say where I am going to be when and suchlike (and it is currently SHAMEFULLY OUTDATED *glances with sad, uncomprehending eyes at Scott*) but I have all my upcoming stuff in a FILE on my computer, right? SO that one day it all WILL be updated, and such, RIGHT?
Well, in THEORY yes. Except that file became so dense with information that it contracted like a neutron star and became a black hole of nothingness.Or, to say again in English: That file, she is no good. That file, she is not openable. That file, in fact, insists it never existed. The only thing that exists is a SHORT CUT to that file, a shortcut that opens to where-the-world-ends, and if you click that you go plummeting off the edge with all the hapless fishes, and if you are quick you can give Atlas a wave as you hurtle past him to your....well, not DOOM, because there's nothing to smack into, so I guess you can can wave at Atlas as you plummet past on your way to do a lot more plummeting.
WELL! LUCKILY! I have all that stuff also copied onto my PAPER CALENDAR, right? Well, In theory, yes. In fact, the PAPER CALENDAR is the sacred thing. If it makes it to the paper calendar, I show up for it. If it is NOT in the paper calendar, I WILL without a doubt flake.
SO today, my mother and I were co-ordinating our January calendars and she said, "And then I will be over to your house on on January 24th so you can go to Augusta.
I was holding the sacred calendar. It was open to January. No Augusta. The date in question was as dewy and virgin-white as any spring-time lambkin. I tried to open my online calendar file thing, and everything I had inputted in 2005 was NOT THERE. I think it has something to do with it being 2006 now, and I have a vague memory of a pop up box with some annoying question about SAVE or something popping up, and me stabbing at the little X to close it. But I am sure that was not IMPORTANT. Perhaps it auto-eradicated the old year when I used it to begin plotting 2006? I didn't panic, because SURELY the Augusta thing would be written in the SPILL OVER JANUARY of my 2005 sacred paper calendar. And you know what? I think it WAS. I also think I had the stupid idea to make CLEAN OUT OFFICE my resolution. So. That old sacred calender, she sleeps among the fishes.
Now I am panicking. DEAPBREATH DEEPBREATH. I say to myself, SELF I say, I can find this out, I bet. There's really only a few things I could be doing in Augusta...Library date, bookstore event, Literary conference or workshop. I went to Google.
Google sent me to the Augusta Friends of the Library website. Their January speaker is Paul Hemphill. (Good choice, but he is NOT me. I can tell by the Y chromosome and the being not named Joshilyn.)
Then I called the Augusta Library directly. I adopted a fake, deep voice and identified myself to the Information Desk Librarian as "The Papparazzi." I asked if I was going to be there. She said, "Hrm well no, Joshilyn Jackson is not mentioned in this month's library news, and even if she was, Mr. The Papparazzi, shouldn't you go stalk someone who is more likely to be topless on a beach in Monoco?" No dice there.
Then I went to the BOOK SENSE website and put in Augusta's zip code. No Augusta indies. I checked the Augusta BAM, the Augusta B&N, Waldenbooks, Borders and out of sheer desperation, somethign called Spotted Cow Textbooks. No, no, no, no, and HUH? WHO IS THIS?
The only writers workshops/conferences Shawguides lists Augusta are Sandhills in March and 21st Century in April, and a google search of ME + Augusta = 500 book review sites that talked about both gods and any of the many fine books by Augusta Trobaugh.
SO. I guess on the appointed date I will drive to Augusta and start rummaging around looking for flyers tellign me where I am appearing...I do not know what else to do. IF YOU KNOW WHAT I AM DOING THERE, CAN YOU PLEASE MERCIFULLY WRITE AND TELL ME?
The number, she is a-rising again...I had a hideous dream about BETWEEN, GEORGIA last night, not least among the horrid events in this dream: Warner changed my beautiful Anne Twomey cover to this three dimensional thing with half a Barbie coming out of the front, on a SPRING, so she BOBBLED around. And she had blackened eyes, like Beaten-Up Barbie, and snarly ratted hair and streaks of filth on her cheeks and was wearing nothing but one long spangly earring and a tube top.
I saw the cover when I went into a bookshop that is actually in Seattle and that I have never been to, but in the dream it was in California. And Fran, a bookseller I know was there. I realized I was only wearing one shoe and had my hair done like a Cupie Doll's with two shaved bald patches on either side and one long CURL on the forehead....LIKE THIS:
I felt, truly, that I MIGHT NOT look my best. So I just POPPED IN to say a quick HI to Fran and she said, "Oh no you have to meet these three women, they HATE your book. They are camped out in front of where we shelved it, and they scream like banshees and pelt anyone who tries to buy the book with their shoes and oh -- maybe if you came and met them they might be nicer? Be nice, okay?"
SO I sit down with them and one looks at my hair and says, YOU LOOK EXACTLY LIKE I THOUGHT YOU WOULD SNICKER SNICKER.
Me: "HI, why do you hate my book so?
One of 'em: Dunno. Just do.
Me: Well -- is it not what you expected?
Another of 'em: We expected it not to SUCK, so. You could say that.
Me: Oh, um, is it just that it is different from my first book? Like, you liked gods in Alabama and you---
Third one: Oh no. We hated THAT book too.
I think I don't need Freud to figure out what this means...Anxious much? Why, yes. Because in my secret pink heart I love this book and am almost nauseatingly proud of it. So trhis has to be anxiety. And if Freud was here, I think he would take careful note of the fact that there are THREE women. That means something, probably something mythological, like furies or fates or a penis.
Freud would also know WHY I had the dream: We are at the point with BETWEEN where we are looking for BLURBS. Warner and I are asking a buncha folks I admire and who do not know me from Adam's housecat to please read my book, and what if they HATE AND REVILE ME, and you just want your heroes to like you back, you know? So. I am going to sit here and think good thoughts about NOT THROWING UP.
You, meanwhile, need to concentrate on getting your B4B entries up. THE DEADLINE APPROACHETH! Or, if, say, Barbara Kingsolver happens to be your sister, you could busy yourself asking her to consider reading my book. Hey, whatever keeps you out of bars.
I am on day 4 of NO SCOTTness, and yes, the numbers are fast rising, folks. I have alwasy been a world champ fret-monkey, but I think I am about to go for the fretting Olympics and take the gold. Let's play, HOW CRAZY IS THIS, on a scale of mildy to OH DEAR LORD, HELP HER:
The contract for the new book I am working on now originally came in with a "first 50 pages" kind of clause where I needed to turn in the first 50 pages as soon as they were finished, like, long before the book was done. And I PANICKED because...oh my. That made me want to boil myself and feed me to wolves. I could not imagine showing my editor 50 pages until the whole book was done because EVEN THOUGH I revise about 1,000 times as I go, once I get to the end I usually realize the whole book is wrong, especially the beginning, and I then do several MASSIVE rewrites and so with my process being like that....GAH GAH having her look at 50 pages of an unfinished MS makes me QUAIL IN HORROR. I would feel like I had just thunked a sloshy jar with a fetal pig in it down on her desk.
So my agent went back to Warner and said, "I'm sorry, this clause has my cliet under the bed, sucking the ear of a stuffed rabbit -- what about this instead?" And he handed over a pretty detailed summary I had written for him, all about what this book would be about (ish) and what it would (probably) be called and what the tone and feel would (most likely) be and I also added a section stating very definitively what the book was NOT about, which seemed needed and certainly the thing I could be most absolute about given that I am an organic writer and things change and shift as I go, and they know this SO. Long story truncated: They accepted the detailed-ish proposal in lieu of the first fifty.
I am actually supposed to be NOT WORKING and resting my brain until January, but I can't stop writing this book. I REALLY like this book in a shameless way. I'm not ready to marry it, but I would sure as HECK make out with it at this point. Me and this book, we are getting there.
BUT! I have two new people critting it who are really stinkin' SAVVY and big SMARTIES and they are reading THE WHOLE THING as I go, and I am not used to that. I am used to having my regular writing group spot check troubled areas as I go along, so no one there really has a feel for the WHOLE content. They help me get voice right and individual scenes paced correctly and such. When I have a WHOLE draft, I have a whole book reader who is both a genius and honest about where I have dropped the ball, and then the massive rewrites begin. NOW I have these two new readers, and yesterday, as I got five hours of working time, I re-read my first fifty pages and was shocked to realized they did not smell like the back end of a cat who is too fat to bathe properly. They were...not shameful. They were...well...they were, excuse me, pretty dern NON-fetal-piggish. I would absolutely have been ready to show these pages to my editor, and relatively soon.
SO, then there was much rejoicing, right?
AH HAHAHAHA. No. Of COURSE not, Silly Pants.
Last night I was completely unable to sleep. I lay staring up at the ceiling fretting because the pages were NOT BAD ENOUGH. Every other novel I have written, I fretted to myself, has SUCKED at this point. The pages SHOULD rightfully be much much WORSE. SO maybe, I fretted to myself, by writing BETTER this EARLY I was destroying my PROCESS and would ruin the whole book...maybe I was blocking myself in by being so polished and early, and the book would wither! and Die! And...hey is it 1 am???
Um. Yeah. At that point, I took a big step backwards and got clear of my own navel long enough to realize that I was being completely REPULSIVE. It's like, why not lie there and fret that the heaviness of my fantastic diamond jewelry is going to cause carpal tunnel asince I spend so much time with my bejeweled hands curled around glasses of champagne. I wasn't just looking a gift horse in the mouth, I was freaking French kissing it and then complaining about horse breath.
I need to be spanked.
I need to get over myself.
Or, maybe I just need a hobby; I think the hobby should be "eating Lithium."
1) If my husband wasn't out of town for nine days. Because, let's play a fun game of MENTAL ILLNESS NUMBER. Mine rises with his absence, exponentially, based on BOTH time and distance. By the time the man gets home, I will be prancing about the yard wearing nothing but a plaster made of mud and fruitcake and cheerfully pickling the remains of my neighbors in brine.
2) If the grocery store gossip rags would stop trying to make the first names of celebrity couples into one name. The hideous implications of BENNIFER made me puke, even more so now that the Ben- part has SWITCHED -nifers and the relationship is being treated like a B MOVIE SEQUEL: Return of Bennifer, Bigger, Badder, Pregnanter. And there is no excuse that will keep whoever perpetrated TomKat out of hell. I am waiting for (or perhaps have mercifully missed) the inevitable appearence of the term Bra-Gelina, which sounds like a Mormon church supper dessert made of foundation garments and Kool Whip.
3) If doctors weren't so freakin' prescription happy. I can't go in for a check up and say I feel COLD without walking away with fifteen prescriptions. The closest I come to an MD is an A in high school biology, but I suspect it might be the Paper Gown and the refrigerated stehoscope...
4) If I had a PARROT with a big ruffly topnot so that he looked like an inquisitive Hessian Soldier.
5) If EVERYONE I met for the first time would send a follow-up e-mail like the one I got this morning that says, "I forgot to mention that you are thin! (You write in your blog like you are not, but you are.)" In fact, even if you have not met me, you should probably send me a similar e-mail sometime this week, because... here I simply refer you to number 1.
6) If Independent Bookstores would all STAY, FOREVER. I know of three separate stores that I LOVED that are respectively closed and closing and hurricaned away. That's three in my little circle of known stores, GONE, and that is JUST THIS YEAR and I can hardly bear it. Nothing against the Big Boys---Lordy, BAM has been so good to me I could die of it and I like a huge selection and discounts as much as the next book junky --- but there has to be room in the world for small stock and specialization and handselling TOO. There HAS to be, or debut books like mine can so easily slip off the radar and be gone and lost. Right now, eight months after release, if you aren't LOOKING for gods in B and N, you will never find it. But if you walk into Northside in Vermont or Sundog books in Florida or Davis-Kidd in Nashville or Alabama Booksmith in ...guess, and Chapter 11 right here AND ON AND ON, someone will put it right into your hands.
7) If pets would habitually tattle on cheaters.
8) If EVERYTHING could be organized into lists. And then checked off!
9) If more people would spontaneously mail me delightful presents (and if you are wondering why I think I should just get hosts of delightful presents streaming over me, SEE NUMBER ONE AGAIN). I say this because I met author Frank Turner Hollon (no D) at an event recently, and his book Life is a Strange Place caught my eye. I don't know why....maybe it was the Giant Cow Testicle on the front cover? (WHICH LET ME PRE-EMPTIVELY SAY : Yes. I know COWS do not have testicles, and the majority of BULLS do not have ONE, but the first time I peeped the the cover I said to a friend standing by me, "Holy cats...is that a cow testicle?" and some exacting boogerhead on my other side looked at me like I was a bug and said, "Akshully, that is a BULL's TesticleSSSSS," and there was a silent and parenthetical "You Moron" the size of FRANCE hanging off that long chain of obnoxious testicle-multiplying esses. At which point I smiled and said "Literalist, huh?" <--- Lie. At which point I slunk away feeling like a dork for talking like I talk (i.e. highly innaccurately and hyperbolic-ly) and you know what, it's a cow testicle forever now, in absolute rebellion against drive-by belittlers. SO THERE.)
I bought it and had him sign it, and my big regret of the day was that I was already WAY over book budget and he had this other book out I REALLY wanted called The God File, which looked SO up my alley. But Mr. Strained Book Budget said I could only have one, and my feeling is, if you are getting it SIGNED, you go for the hardback first edition (especially if it has a cow testicle on it.) THEN I was standing by him in the car line all on accident and he saw that I was already about 25% of the way into the book of his I HAD bought and it was VERY funny and black and obscene (in a good way) and I told him so and told him I would be reading more of him, starting with The God File because I had wanted that one but budget and signed first ed and BLAH BLAH then his car came, and then Friday, all UNPROVOKED, he SENT me a copy. SIGNED. Which. Yish. How lovely. I set the book I was reading aside because I had to immediately read it. Couldn't help it. Finished it last night. And yeah. It's good. It's beyond good. It's not a "pretty" book, but it has got grace notes that brought me to my knees.
10) If I had On Star.
The following blog entry is based on an algebraic formula where A) = Things I Am Giving Up / Losing, and B) = What I Am Replacing The Thing With, with an optional section C) where C) = an explanation of why or how and possibly a report on how it's working so far, and an even more optional section D, where D = any vital digressions.
B) La Croix Sparkling Orange Water
C) Calories. Wine has, in industry terms, "a buttload." And La Croix water has NONE and also no artificial sweeteners. See, I have a SECRET WEIGHT---no I won't tell you the number. I doubt I would tell it under torture. In math terms, the number can be symbolized by X, where X = "the most I can weigh and not die." I have been ONE to FOUR pounds OVER X ever since the CRUISE. I am currently 3 pounds OVER X, and therefore clinically dead, if not of distress, then of "being unable to breath once my jeans are zipped." AND SO. Even though I have publicly on this blog set out to be virtuous ONE HUNDRED MILLION TIMES since the cruise was over, and have succeeded only in losing and gaining the same 3 pounds over and over so that I NEVER get under X and have to pretend to forget I already BLOGGED how I was instituting VIRTUE and institute it all OVER again like you have just FORGOTTEN I already did that a week ago and have since eaten my secret body weight in candy corns. NO MORE entries called "____ Days of Virtue." NOW, I am going to try making a few KEY replacements in what I ingest, and otherwise eating what I like. So, G'bye wine. How is it working so far, you ask? Well. I LOVE La Croix Sparkling Orange Water, and so FAR I am sticking to it, but I have to say, as a replacement for wine, La Croix kinda SUCKS. Would it ruin the whole POINT if I mixed the LaCroix with a great big bunch of vodka?
B) Viactive Chocolate Calcium Chews and Viactive Milk Chocolate Chewable Vitamins.
C) See above. Viactive Chocolate calcium chews taste just like chocolate caramels. BIG THUMBS UP. Viative Chocolate Vitamin chews taste JUST LIKE chocolate caramels if you hid a ball of candle tallow and a Flinstones Children's Chewable in the middle. Still, any chocolate port in a storm. What's a little tallow between me and getting some sugar?
D) Viactive also makes TROPICAL FRUIT CHEW vitamins which taste JUST LIKE a starburst with ball of candle tallow and a Flinstone's Children Chewable hidden in the middle. It is a BAD idea. I will ignore tallow for chocolate. Nothing else.
B) Tums (Tropical Fruit Flavor, especially coconut and banana!)
C) See Above.
D) I like the whole idea of replacing CANDY with SWEET medicines I don't actually need. If I get desperate, I can walk around sniffling theatrically until someone says it sounds like I am getting a cold, and then I can go suck on a frozen Dimatapp spoon.
A) Poetry Refrigerator Magnets
B) Diagnostic Refrigerator Magnets
D) I don't like much poetry (rest assured, Dearest Emily, there ARE exceptions. O! How there are exceptions, my lovely yet hideously disturbing Sheep Child!) magnetic or otherwise, and people who (unlike me) DRINK CALORIE LADEN ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES keep coming over and making my fridge say dirty things, no matter HOW MANY suspect words I remove from the set.
A) Normal Human Relationships
B) Playing Online Games Until 2 AM
C) I am not fit to be around people now that I am mentally ill AND sober AND off chocolate and candy. I think it is entirely possible that if I saw someone with a Halloween Mini-Twix, I would kill them and take it. ALSO, an old friend is step-by-step ruthlessly and obliviously sabotaging every facet of her life while blaming God and every other person around her and pets and aliens and the twitchy, infected mucus membranes of the three fates and ill winds and coincidence. It's like watching someone STAMP on a posy and then they look mildly surprised and hurt and say, "Oh, why did that posy get under my shoe?" And when you say, "Um, Posies can't GET UNDER things. Posies have NO FEET," they say, "Oh hrm you are right. It was MY SHOE! OH my shoe is terrible! As soon as I get home I am burning up this shoe!" Only it isn't a posy, it's her whole life. HEY. I HAVE BEEN THERE. I spent half my twenties deliberately stamping my own posy into JAM, and no one could stop me. And I hate feeling powerless, so my best solution is to take a stuffed bear and some diet soda under the sofa and not come out to answer the phone for six months. If I also ignore the doorbnell and order my groceries in, I can avoid all my local friends, and indeed, my family can't even fit under the sofa with me, not while I am 3 pounds over the most I can weigh and not die, anyway. The total lack of human interaction will be phase two in getting my fridge to not have dirty poems on it, and with the help of the magnet substitution above, this will allow my fridge to evolve into a tool that could lead to a clean bill of mental health. Or help me develop a working vocabulary for my impending Munchausens!
A) My Sanity
B) Algebraic Formulas
Things I need to do TODAY
1) Find all the lost keys. I suspect a CITY of of lost keys is forming itself somewhere in my house, maybe under the sofa, no doubt setting up a shiny key-centric form of evil government that oppresses the dust camels for not being metal and toothy, and this must be STOPPED. Also, my keys are on a kilt pen that my friend Angie gave me sophomore year of high school, and I want my kilt pen back. I am not terribly sentimental about items, but I have had that thing for YEARS and I miss it, in the same way you might miss somethign vestigial, but still a piece of you. Like an appendix. EVEN THOUGH the kilt pen is LONG and so when I drive my car, sometimes my dangling keys BRUSH my thigh in a syncophantic and repulsive way that doesn't bother me AT ALL when my mental illness number is under 70, but, my mental illness number hasn;t seen the underside of 70 in SO long, I doubt it would recognize 70 if 70 came up and BIT my mental illness number, which, actually, it's more likely to be my mental illness number doing the biting because it is highhighhighhighhigh, so anyway, it is INSANE to want the keys back on that kilt pen when the kilt pen thigh brushing is probably enough to send me marching into the sea like a whole herd of mentally ill lemmings who have gone off their meds.
2) Get a working Chapter 2.
What I have: 8,500 words. Some in first person. Some in third. Some in present tense. Some in past. Some that presuppose one chapter end. Some that presuppose an entirely different end for the chapter, and indeed for a huge portion of the whole book.
What I need: 3500 words all in the same tense, person, and gee, VOICE, that all is workiing toward the SAME end because--and this is just a GUESS HERE--- I don't think my editor is looking for a grown-up Choose Your Own Adventure Book. ALSO? It would be a BIG BONUS if the Chapter was actually, you know, GOOD, but, hey it's early. I don't require that TODAY. But moving TOWARD good, that's what we want.
3) All the usual. Lose five pounds. Be a better person. (which is almost the same thing, REALLY) Get mentally healthy. Make good choices. Save the rain forests. Clean the kitchen.
Things I Said Yesterday that I Wish I Could Take Back
1) What's that little metal piece sticking off there? It looks dangerous jutting out like that. I don't think it's supposed to do that. I'm going to pull that off... *crash*
Conversations About What We Will All Die Of That I have Had in The Last Three Days.
1) Me: Are we all going to die of bird flu?
Me: They said on the TV that there is going to be a bird flu pandemic and we will all die. 89% of healthy children die when they get bird flu. Are my children going to get bird flu and die?
Me: BUT THEY SAID ON TV.
Him: Scientists can posit that there will a pandemic, but there is no telling if it will be bird flu or some other flu.
Me: SO...basically you are saying that we ARE all going to die, just of maybe cow flu or some another flu we don't yet or MAYBE bird flu, but probably not bird flu. Just some flu down the line in a few years BOOM, and we all die.
Him: Right. But there's no way that they can predict it will be BIRD flu.
Me: I feel SO much better.
2) Me: OMG LOOK RIGHT HERE AT THIS LINK---IN THIS NEWS STORY THIS WHOLE FAMILY GOT BIRD FLUE AND DIED! ALL OF THEM! 100% FATAL!
Her: You are not going to get bird flu.
Me: Yes I am. And you are too. We are going to die of freaking bird flu and I will never get this book done to deadline if I am DEAD OF BIRD FLU.
Her: How did the family get it?
Me: Let me look...Oh. Says from eating Raw Duck Blood Pudding.
Her: And how much Raw Duck Blood Pudding are YOU serving this evening?
Me: Just a little. As a SIDE dish, you understand. We're all just going to have a TASTE.
Her: Well, see, you will probably be fine then.
Me: I feel SO much better.
Her: Which means you have to go get the book done.
Me: Shut. Up.
3) Me: Is a catcgory 7 hurricane going to come kill us all?
Him: No. And there is no such thing as a cat 7.
Me: I SAW IT ON TV.
Him: That is made up. A Movie of the week.
Me: BUT IT COULD HAPPEN, I mean, if storms got so big they were BEYOND 5, like TWO beyond 5, then it would be a cat 7.
Me: And look at this storm season! We are into the GREEK ALPHABET because we had TOO MANY HURRICANES for the regular letters to HANDLE! We are all going to die of a catagory 7 AREN'T WE!!!!
Him: We will have been dead of bird flu for YEARS before THAT happens.
Me: I feel SO much better.
There was that weird dream and the resulting belly-button gazing, and then, just when I was becoming unendurably self-involved and repulsive, it got worse. My mental illness number had ALREADY left the building, but this morning it attached a jet pack to its butt and blasted out of the stratosphere. It zoomed so fast away from dead-level zero that it PROVED Einstein's special theory of relativity as it applies to speed and time and by 7 AM, I busy was being crazy in the NINETEEN FORTIES.
I spent the period usually devoted to breakfast trying to drive every fool who has bothered to love me either away or equally insane by weeping and handwringing and threatening to fall down dead of despair and total brain failure. WHICH I STILL COULD, by the way.
If the blogging is slow for the next week or two, assume that I am SPARING you the crazy. And it is BIG HATEFUL BORING CRAZY. You might want to send me thank you notes. And chocolate.
SAMPLE OF HOW BIG THE CRAZY IS HERE: I lost my keys, which are actually the SPARE keys because lost my ACTUAL keys for the 300th time last week, so now with the spares gone I have NO keys, and I took Maisy to my room, put on Dora very loud and waited until her brain had been entirely sucked into Nick Jr Land, and went down the stairs, where I worried she would still hear me, so I went down MORE stairs into the cesspit that is currently our unfinished basement and there I lay in the sawdust and old bug parts and wept and wept and wept and wept and wept and WEPT over these keys. I called Scott and got his machine and wept into his machine. I called Lily and got Lily and wept into her ear. I called upon God to infest my skin with boils as punishment for being such a repugant human smudge of key-losing worthlessness. I wept and wept and wept until I was so snot-choked and hopeless and unable to breathe that I had to go up a flight and puke.
AND THEN I LAY ON THE FLOOR AND SNIVELLED.
AND the worst part was that it was not until that point, the snivel point, that I began to suspect the keys weren't the real problem...
Lily just then called me back.
Me: Well. I am no longer asking God to smite me to spare the Earth my stupidity. So. *snivel*
Her: You know none of this is true, right?
Me: *snivel snivel* It FEELS true.
Her: You called me this morning weeping and screaming, and I hadn't listened for 4 seconds before I thought, "Did she start drafting a book recently? Oh right, she did." And then I starting buffing my nails until you wound down. You always do this.
Me: I do?
Her: Oh Lord, yes. Always.
Me: No but, I do? You aren;t saying that to make me feel better?
Her: LORD yes, this is just, like, imagine the book is a little tiny baby growing deep inside you and---
Me: If you do a birthing metaphor, I will be forced to hire thugs to kill you
Her: And when the baby is ready to come out, you must have a terrible gush of liquid ruin your sofa---
Me: I sent the thugs my Amex number.
Her: In this case, puke and snot from crying so hard. And then you have to be in in screaming, contracting agony and holler and carry on---
Me: The thugs are coming.
Her: so loud it irritates the neighbors. And me. And Scott. As soon as you PUSH THE NOVEL OUT you will ---
At that point thugs burst in and garroted her. It was a swift and merciful slaying, but only because she refrained from using the word "muse."
I got off the floor and hosed all the tearstains and snot off the carpet and retrieved the oblivious Maisy and gave her yogurt. Scott came home with new keys he had made from his set. I dragged him out of the kitchen into my office, leaving Maisy behind to ply her spoon.
Me: Do you think this is about the book?
Him Honey. You always do this.
Me: I DO?
Him: LORD, yes.
Me: *sniveling* How do you put up with me?
Him: *brightly* Look I got you NEW KEYS! Aren't they SHINY!
Then he took Maisy to pre-school and I sat down at my computer and all of a sudden Chapter 1 of the new book, which had up until now been a hodgepodge of repulsive jokey one-liners and meandering action, snapped into focus, and I found a VOICE and a NARRATIVE DRIVE and a DAMN good Jesus Bug Metaphor, and realized I had enough words to stop DRAFTING and begin REVISING and I here four hours later I own a working draft of a Chapter 1 that I kinda want to make out with.
HERE IS WHAT I DO NOT UNDERSTAND: If I do this every time, to the point that my loved ones EXPECT it, why don't I remember this and PREP for it? How do I get blindsided like this? My Mental Illness is apparently the Old Faithful of Yellowstone Naitonal Crazy Park----So if you KNOW it is going to blow at fifteen seconds after high noon, then what kind of lobotomized monkey-child runs and sticks her face over the hole the second the clock chimes twelve? Shouldn't I, here on book the fifth, be able to find a way to BRACE for it and get to the part where the book gets drafted WITHOUT the "snivelling key losing weep-til-you-puke with no idea that this is about the book" part? A stitch in time and an ounce of prevention and all that...and yet. Every single time.
Pass the Halloween mini-Twixes please, and if you could sprinkle some grains of Prozac on top like it was rainbow Jimmies, that might be good, too.
1) I want to legally change my name to chicken child. Yes, with no capitol C's.
2) I have nothing to blog about. Some days, I can easily let flow 1,000 words on a single butt hair left by a plain brown dog on a beige rug. Today? The whole dog could come in and sit at my desk smoking Pall Malls and making prank phone calls to dead celebrities, and I would slump here in my chair saying, "DOG! CAN YOU HANG UP PLEASE? I AM TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHAT TO BLOG ABOUT AND YOUR INCESSANT BARKBARKBARK-ING IS GETTING ON MY NERVES. ALSO? I CAN TELL YOU FROM HERE THAT NO, ELVIS'S REFRIGERATOR IS NOT RUNNING, AND JIM MORRISON DOES NOT HAVE PRINCE ALBERT IN A CAN. OKAY? OKAY???
3) The only thing worth eating in all of life is grits and cheese and tomato pie. Nothing else tastes good, nothing else ever has, nothing else ever will.
(It should here be noted that I have a single serving of grits/cheese/tomato pie, but it is QUESTIONABLE. I do not remember WHEN I made it. I do not, in point of fact, remember making it all, which makes me suspect that I made it QUITE some time ago. On the other hand, there is no visible mold and it smells innocuous. On a third [somewhat creepy] hand [because most things have either two or four, so third hand is a little....ugh, anyway,] on this rather creepy third hand, it has EGGS in it. It seems to me that if I do not eat it, I will die of starvation because nothing else in all the universe is remotely nice, and that if I do eat it, it will surely cause my internal organs to liquify and run out through my pores, which will hurt and also probably make me not smell good. So clearly I cannot choose the cup in front of YOU, etc etc.)
4) I want to be named Cornelia Read. Because THEN my name would be CORNELIA READ, which is so AUTHORIAL and UNUSUAL and yet is pronounced just as it is spelled. If I decide NOT to go with chicken child, Cornelia Read would be a good second choice. I say WOULD BE because it is NOT actually a good choice as it is already taken by a VERY fine writer named....yes, Cornelia Read, as the budding detectives among you may have already deduced using your innate detective deductivism. ANYWAY, I just finished the galleys for her debut novel last night and I say unto thee, REMEMBER the name Cornelia Read because 1) her work is funny and smart and dark and amazing and intense and 2) because it may be my name later if I don't pick chicken child and you will need to know it to find me. Or her.
***We interrupt these five things that seem true today but are probably not true to tell you one thing that seems true today and will actually remain true through all forseeable tomorrows: Cornelia Read's debut, FIELD OF DARKNESS, is hands down the best mystery/thriller I have read this year, or the year before, or really since Dennis LeHanes last Patrick and Angela novel. Yes. She's that good. I'll give you a heads up when it comes out. Now, back to it.***
5) I do not want a brand new hairdo, I don't care if my eyelashes curl, I am so far from floating on air I might as well call all walking I cannot avoid today "bitter mud-slogging" and I DO NOT ENJOY BEING A GIRL.
I have to say, Mental Illness and I have always had a good relationship. It's like an arranged marriage, where maybe you didn't pick the guy, but you are bound and determined to make the best of it, and the guy is too.
My brain and Mental Illness share a skull, and they each keep to their own side and try not to bother each other in significant ways. OH sure, Mental Illness is not a GREAT roommate...I mean, there was that year I didn't leave the house or answer phone calls or e-mails, ha ha ha! That was a fun year! And I am a veteran insomniac---I do not sleep well, period. On vacation I still popped up awake and on full-worry-alert at 6 am, every morning. Mental Illness is a wonderful alarm clock. And I am overly suspicious. And Hypersensitive. And there is all the weird stuff with food... (I just ate SPELT! ON PURPOSE!! And I do not even know what spelt IS!!!) And I firmly believe it is Mental Illness who gave me my fervent belief that if I could wear size six pants, I would be a more valuable as a human being, coupled with a fingers-in-ears-la-la-la refusal to understand that tall, busty girls like me can't fit their Hip Bones and Upper Curved Parts into a size six, much less if they want to bring along any internal organs.
Brain knows that when I am fit and toned, I am an 8, pretty much your regulation medium. Mental Illness does not want to hear it. Brain values OTHER people for their minds or senses of humor or their kindness, and Mental Illness thinks those are fine standards, BUT points out that for me personally, value is solely determined by the not-being-a-size-six. Meanwhile Brain has a complete intellectual understanding that if I had MONUMENTAL plastic surgeries and shaved my hipbones down and removed my shoulders and my mighty rack, and I struggled my scarred and whittled body INTO a size six, Mental Illness would then suddenly realize that what REALLY makes a person valuable is being a size two. Brain knows this like it knows the multiplication tables, but Mental Illness gets half the house, and it knows what it knows too.
Oh sure, I have to load up on Ativan to sit in a dentist's chair unless I want Mental Illness to take over and hyperventilate and projectile vomit and send me leaping across the room to bang my head into a wall 'til I pass out, but that's a predictable event. Mental Illness could have picked, say, red sports cars, or TREES, or SUNLIGHT, so that every drive to Kroger was fraught with unspeakable horror. I know when my dentist's appointments are, and I pre-medicate Mental Illness, and all is well. Dentist's chairs are only ever in Dentist's offices. You don't find them lurking in parks, waiting to spring out at you and grab you with long tentacle straps and grow arms and come at your mouth The Poinking Tool while a Fanged, Flaming Dentist apparates before you and screeches TIME FOR YOUR CLEANING.
And I have to say, MY Mental Illness has it's good points. Sometimes I am a completely unreasonable human being, and later, I can blame Mental Illness, who is ALWAYS ready to step up and take responsibility for the times when I act, well, mentally ill. And Mental Illness keeps the writing parts of Brain well-lubricated with horrific visions that Brain uses as plot twists. I appreciate that. AND Mental Illness has never been so feisty and unreasonable that Brain couldn't RECOGNIZE whatever was going on as some project or another of Mental Illness'. My Mental Illness is OVERT and PALPABLE, and it doesn't pretend it isn't there and ask me to wear tinfoil hat and live in a dumpster, as other people's Mental Illnesses have required. I try to always buy people whose brains have genuinely awful skull-mates like that sandwiches, because there but by the grace of God go I, there but by the grace of God go we all...
So you can imagine my consternation when the Panic Attacks started. The first one happened during a medical emergency with my daughter, so, okay, look, that's forgivable. OF COURSE Mental Illness goes on high alert when your child is threatened. I thought it was a heart attack, actually, but was too busy helping Maisy to die of it, and later I did some reading and realized my symptoms were more in keeping with a panic attack than a HEART one. SO! Okay. Maisy is in mortal peril, a panic attack seemed like a reasonable response, so I shrugged it off. BUT THEN! I had another. While I was sitting quietly working at my computer after a CHARMING lunch with friends and feeling, I THOUGHT, pretty relaxed and happy. I walked around the house with my heart threatening to burst in my chest, trying to remember anything I'd ever read about Yoga and becoming one with Zen and stress relieving mantras. In a few minutes it subsided. I was TICKED. THIS was not part of the deal. Mental Illness was not only taking Brain's Milk out the fridge, but drinking it directly from the carton and then peeing in it. NOT. ACCEPTABLE.
Then a week or so later, just as I am supposed to be leaving on vacation---ANOTHER ONE. I stomped around the house while my chest squeezed itself shut, but my yoga breathing sounded suspiciously like the blowing of an enraged bull, and I was chanting I AM RELAXED AND HAPPY AND CALM DAMMIT, AND I WILL KILL ANYONE WHO SAYS DIFFERENT. Then I chanted some A Very Bad Words Indeed about Mental Illness.
I realized it was time to take Mental Illness to the doctor and get it tinkered with or even REMOVED because it was SERIOUSLY breaking the covenant.
Yeah. Well. Hrm.
Turns out it was not a heart attack. Heart is fine, thanks.
Turns out it was not a panic attack. Mental Illness remains at acceptable levels.
It is this weird problem you can get where your esophagus clenches, and it MIMICS a heart attack. It's pretty much irritating and painful, but at the level I have it, untreatable and mostly harmless....
I am thinking I might need to send Mental Illness some flowers or something. Yish.
I have decided to have panic attacks. I've been talking to a friend of mine who gets them, and it seems like a good idea. This is how I hear these things work: You are sitting there FRETTING (I have this part DOWN already!) and all of a sudden, your bra feels like something made out of whalebone and thorns and the ghostly hand of Scarlet O'Hara grabs the laces and YANKS while shrieking "19 INCH WAIST" and it compresses all your air out, and pain radiates from your squeezebox of a chest up into your jaw and down both arms, and you think you are having a heart attack, and you go to the emergency room with your life flashing before your eyes.
The people at the hospital say, NO NO YOU ARE NOT HAVING A HEART ATTACK. YOU ARE JUST CRAZY!
And you say, OH! GOOD! MAY I PLEASE HAVE SOME ATIVAN?
And they say, YES! YES YOU CAN! YOU BIG HEAD CASE!
Works for me.
Actually, I think I had a small one the other night. Maisy decided to wake up and do that NOT BREATHING thing again. Remember that?
Yeah. Well. She has another little summer cold and her response was to wake up weeping, over and over, and then make that MY AIRWAY IS CONSTRICTING AND I AM NOT LONG FOR THE EARTH noise. This time it was much less severe and she didn't ever roll her eyes up and turn blue, so instead of having a fun ambulance ride, Scott and I sat up with her all night. Somewhere in the middle of all this, I had a minor chest-squeezing-closed episode, and I thought, "If only my child was breathing properly I could really GO with this and get me my OWN ambulance ride and maybe be defibrillated, but I just do not have TIME to indulge in a heart attack right now because my kid is sick."
I ignored the heart attack symptoms until they got bored and left, at which point I thought, OH! So it probably wasn't a heart attack then, since I have noticeably NOT keeled over dead...it must be.... OH! Maybe that was a PANIC ATTACK! NEAT! I am TRULY MENTALLY ILL! JUST AS I ALWAYS SUSPECTED! I should have gone to the hospital after all because I bet they would have given me some MONSTROUSLY DELIGHTFUL AND HIGHLY ADDICTIVE PHARMACEUTICALS!
And then Scott and I sat on the coach holding the baby in the way that helps the baby breathe, because that's we like: Babies who inhale and exhale and process all their little air molecules in an orderly fashion. The next day I was on the phone at 9 AM arranging a play date for her and her pediatrician ASAP. I got there 10 minutes early as requested, and then I waited an hour and 15 minutes to have 4 minutes with the doctor, and we had the following conversation:
Me: Maisy had trouble breathing again last night.
Him: *Examine examine, thunk, heart listen, ear look* Ah. Okay. Well. I would say that Maisy experienced Strider.
Me: Oh. What is Strider?
Him: It means she had trouble breathing.
Me: THANKS! Got any Ativan samples?
Him: Don't forget to hand in your twenty dollar co-pay on the way out.
So basically, it's that same, THIS IS A HEALTHY LITTLE GIRL WITH NO SIGNS OF ASTHMA OR BRONCHITIS OR CARNIVOROUS LEPROTIC BRAIN WORMS. THAT'S WEIRD THAT SHE DOESN'T BREATHE SOMETIMES routine. And of course we have been loaded up with many nutritious drugs (for HER, not ME, dernit) and an inhaler and a plan to pump her full of albuterol and then STEAM the baby like a clam should she stop breathing again any time soon. Which she better freaking not.
I have decided to GO with the whole panic attack thing, but I am SO busy that I really need to schedule my next one pretty rigidly so that I have TIME for an emergency room visit and heart attack tests and the four hour wait for results and the overnight stay JUST TO BE SURE and then the grand finale--- the ritual bestowing of the Ativan scrip at dawn. Sadly, the soonest I can reasonably around to this sort of time commitment is late October of this year, so if you want to mail me any Ativan in the interim period, my mailing address (according to Mir's PEOPLE ARE STUPID Automated Mailing Address Generator) is:
Mental Illness Number 2485729855
Near the newt pond
Atlanta, GA 12345
Joshilyn can't come to the phone right now. She is having some extreme mental illness. She is SO mentally ill that she is referring to herself in the third person, an affectation that drives her UNIVERSALLY BATCRAP when anyone ELSE does it, so she is going to stop now.
DIGRESSION: I have some grammar ticks. I am NOT a stickler. In fact, there is a copy editor in NYC who sacrifices a blameless white dove to the heavens every time she hears I am writing another book, because it gives her such a peaceful sense of complete job security. I like, for example, to put commas where I hear a PAUSE, which is not necessarily the same thing as putting commas where they actually BELONG. And while I don't randomly put in ALL CAPS screams in my fiction, I DO like to Make Things That Seem Thematically Important Into Proper Nouns. SO. I admit I am the POT, but there are some kettles that get on my LAST nerve.
LIKE: I can't stand for actual people who are not the Queen of England to use the royal WE. And as irritated as I get with PEOPLE who use the royal we and/or refer to themselves in the third person, it is a mild, gentle wave of yick-feelings compared to how VIOLENTLY I hate animated characters who do it. Anything animated that refers to itself in the third person should be put on a planet along with all of its tie-in marketing materials, yea down to the very last Burger King cup, and then we should go into orbit and nuke the whole planet from space. It's the only way to be sure.
The only thing worse than third person referring animated WE sayers is animated characters who say ME when they mean "I." There was an INTERMINABLE series of cartoon dinosaur movies for kids, and one of the little ENRAGINGLY PERKY little fat, gamboling lizardy things was always saying, "Me hungry!' and "Oh no, Me is scared." I was regularly babysitting some kids who ADORED those movies so I got to see them MORE THAN ONCE... I would sit there grinding my teeth and thinking, "Me needs to be thrown into a tar pit," and "Me needs to be vivisected by time traveling paleontologists," every time the little wretch SPOKE or looked like he might be thinking of speaking or listened when another little fat, gamboling lizard thing spoke or I looked at the box.
Why is this dinosaur suddenly bothering me?
Say it with me: Mentally. Ill.
Worst part is? I DO NOT KNOW WHY YET. I can't peg it. I am just having Nameless Dread and wandering around my house hand wringing and not doing the dishes and then looking at the dishes and realizing they aren't done and wandering the house some more. AND MAY I JUST SAY----I am completely uninterested in being mentally ill right now. I do not have TIME to be mentally ill. I am BORED of it already and I only just started YESTERDAY. Now what? Do I have to go be all INTROSPECTIVE and droop around THINKING and gazing deepdeepdeep into the depths of my navel until I realize what ectoplasmic existential gut-knob is incorrectly twisted in my meaty inner workings and process it and deal and have feelings? Because 1) I don't have time, and 2) OH LORD, but it sounds dreary. I'd druther go see Mr. and Mrs. Smith, quite frankly.
High mental illness numbers are time consuming. I HAVE A HUGE TO DO LIST. I have HOUSE GUESTS COMING and NO CLEAN FORKS. I have LINE EDITS. I have little CHILDREN who need to be dropped off at Spanish Camp and picked up at Singing, and I FREAKING HAVE HUNGRY NEWTS IN A DIRTY TANK, OKAY? But I am wandering the house and hand wringing, paralyzed by mental illness, so I am going to HAVE to figure out what is bothering me so I can quit sitting here obsessing about an animated dinosaur I have NOT SEEN FOR OVER TEN YEARS.
Okay -- I'm off. I need to go get my mental illness number down under 57 by 11 AM so I can take up my megaladon of a to-do list and begin to SMITE down thing after thing on it with righteousness and check marks.
Scott starts his new job tomorrow. I'm SO proud of him and happy and thrilled and, because I am me, I am also just a leetle freaked out.
On the one hand I am pleased because he is SO excited and this job looks very challenging and fulfilling to him. So, that's good. And I am the most security minded person on the planet, so Scott having a job with stuff like health insurance and paid vacation and a vision plan and a 401K makes me feel as warm and pleased as a little pork-frank plumping happily in a puff pastry blanket. On the other hand, I keep counting the jobs that we have now in this house, and when we add in Scott's NEW one, I see FOUR. Four FULL TIME jobs.
1) Going to his office and being busy and important and having incomprehensible paperwork and a desk (his)
2) Raising kids and running a household (ours)
3) Writing novels (mine)
4) Promoting novels (also mine)
Ever since we had Sam, we have ALWAYS had THREE full time jobs. Scott made the money, I wrote the novels, and together we raised babies and ran a household. We just ADDED promoting novels to the list when gods in Alabama got close to it's publication date, and SIMULTANEOUSLY Scott's old company closed its Atlanta office, so we SUBTRACTED his job, holding us steadily at three. But this is FOUR NOW. Whole new ballgame. And 2.5 of them are MINE. Everything I need to do THIS WEEK, THIS MONTH, THIS YEAR is rising up in front of me like a tidal wave, and I am scared I will begin to drop vital balls and become a miserable failure who writes half-realized novels and half-assedly promotes them while halfway-raising crack-addled shoplifters who both hate me and demand I pay for therapy. I'm scared. I want to QUIT all 2.5 of my jobs, stop writing, cancel all of my interviews and bookstore visits, and sell the children to friendly gypsies who will raise them up to be tanned, barefoot, well-adjusted, pony-thieving acrobats. Then Scott could have his new job and I could start a totally different new career. As an advertising executive.
I THINK I WOULD BE VERY GREAT. After all, as a veteran insomniac, I watch a lot of TV! I KNOW commercials.
I can see which ones are UNBEARABLY stupid (The pepto-bismol dancers)
I can see which ones are actively going to harm the product (Fetal Rat Demons who look like they are so SOAKED in disease that they are practically DRIPPING bubonic plague, standing NEAR your sandwiches and singing WE LOVE THE SUBS!!! LET'S LICK DISEASE ALL OVER THE SUBS! WITH OUR PINK, FETAL DISEASE-SODDEN TONGUES! WE LOVE THE SUBS!)
I can see which ones are very very good (VONAGE! Hoo hoo! Woo Hoo hoo! Hoo hoo! Woo Hoo Hoo!)
And I can see which ones ought to be ILLEGAL to the point that MAKING ONE is a capital offense (all prescription drug commercials, but especially ones about herpes or erections, all feminine hygiene product commercials, but ESPECIALLY ones that involves someone pouring blue liquid onto a sanitary pad, sneaking up behind a woman in a white T-shirt, and WIPING her with it, and while we have the chair warmed up ANYWAY, let's execute whoever dreamed up the animated foot fungus guys leaping under toenails. Because, ew.)
Oh but maybe not. That's scary too. I have been out of corporate America for quite a LONG time long. So so so long, in fact that one might say I was never IN IT. That is a TRUE STORY! I have never had a real, grown-up CAREER type job. I dropped out of college to be a professional artsy-fartsy playwriting tequila-hoover who made money acting and cooking and mixing tequila for others, then went back to college, stayed in the warm wombly haven of academia for grad school, did a little sporadic teaching as an adjunct, and then became a professional mother and wrote novels... Hmmm. It may take me a little to become aclimatized.
I suspect my MOM-ism might have RUINED me. I mean, I have more PETS than I have power suits. And maybe my commercials would be all TAINTED by crazed domesticity. Like, this morning I was sitting downstairs moisterizing my heels and staring at The Little Pets as they toodled about in their aquarium. I LOVE the lotion I was using (Formula 308's Le Couvent des Mihimes Verbena and Lemon) and I was thinking up slogans for it, a product I GENUINELY feel is superior, and here is what I came up with:
Formula 308: Be as Moist as a Newt!
Yeah. Kinda makes the fetal rat demons look appealing, huh? I ran it past my son, and he improved it:
Formula 308: You'll be as moist as a newt, but you'll smell better."
See, I think a TRULY successful ad executive would have a natural propensity to associate things with BOOBS, not NEWTS. I would probably be a great big failure. *sigh* SO I better keep the kids. I've grown fond of my ratfinks over the years, and anyway, Sam and Maisy wouldn't have fetched much; they are skinny little things, and I hear gypsies pay by the pound. Also, I can't stop writing. I seem to be compulsive about it. SO I'd still have that job ANYWAY. And I am learning that I enjoy the heck out of touring and meeting bookly folks and yacketing about writing and reading, so why give up something that is essentially pleasurable...
In all seriousness---these 2.5 jobs I have are the best jobs in the world. The very best. And I just want to do them well, you know? All of them. And not screw up. It's so SCARY. I HATE failing. I hate being a failure. I hate it to the point that sometimes it hampers me --- I get too seized up imagining the ugly possibilities to even TRY to do what I want so badly to do. I go THARN, staring into the headlights of my life like Fiver in Watership Down, miserable and shaking and immobilized.
I'm not THERE right now. I'm okay, my mental illness number is UP but hasn't broken free of earth's atmosphere and reached ORBIT yet, but...my good right hand has a brand new job of his own, and I'm spooked. Scott says it will be fine though. And he is usually right about these things. So. It will be fine. Right? Right.
Virtue Report: Mostly Virtuous and somewhat less drunk.
I limit the time I can play at silly bloggers, so I am having a REAL PROBLEM deciding WHAT to blog.
1) I'm having an embarrassing surfeit of WONDERFUL things happening for gods in Alabama. Sample: ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY LIKES THE BOOK! WAAHHHHHHHHH! And they ran a picture of me with the 'scrutiatingly charming review which is freaking me right out the door and into the street to do the Macarena in traffic because I am JUST. THAT. COOL. I mean, COME ON! A good review and picture in EW? I MUST be cool enough to do the Macarena on a public street. With no music. And no irony. Right??? RIGHT???
FINE. I will go back inside. I am STILL doing the Macarena quietly here in my office, even the butt-waggle part, and NO ONE CAN STOP ME. And also apparently Glamour Magazine said something REALLY nice about the book! Although I have not been able to get my hands on a hard copy so I do not know if it is a review or a mention in an article or if the book's GORGEOUS COVER is shown. I DO feel quite certain that GLAMOUR is not running MY picture, unless it is perhaps buried in a WHEN PEDICURES ATTACK article, way way over on the BIG TOE DON'TS side.
But I hope they showed the cover...that cover is JUST as sexy as any supermodel, AND I just found out that Anne Twomey (The woman who designed it whose photo SHOULD be in Glamour and IS on the wall above my black altar where I MUST have slaughtered an unblemished, virgin Goatess in order to GET that cover in the first place) IS WORKING ON THE COVER FOR MY NEXT BOOK. HUZZAH! AND I keep getting e-mails (and even notes in the comments section, HEY THERE, ROBERT GRAY) from book sellers telling me that my book has arrived AND THEY ARE SELLING IT TO PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT RELATED TO ME BY BIRTH OR MARRIAGE, and from friends who have walked into book stores and seen gods right up front, often on special BOOK SENSE display tables or BUY THIS FOR MOTHER'S DAY tables or NEW AND HOT tables and in FOUR DAYS it will be in pretty much every bookstore in the country and the newspaper and other reviews are coming in so far ranging from good to glowing and SEVERAL TOTAL STRANGERS have FOUND the book, read it, and liked enough to go write AWESOME AMAZON and B and N.com REVIEWS and....holy crap. I mean....HOLY, HOLY CRAP, right?
2) I am having EXTRAORDINARY LEAPS upward and equally swift plummets-to-normalcy in the mental illness department. I can go from zero to screamin' crazy in .7 seconds. People who have sedated me recently say it's quite something to watch. This may be normal...or atleast predictable to those who know me. I got a MENTAL ILLNESS PRE-EMPT letter from psychic-slash-novelist Katie Willard that said...well, no, this is not a quote, but the letter basically meant, "Just because things are going well doesn't mean that you are going to be hit by a truck and killed (assuming you stop doing the macarena in the street). I KNOW you are thinking that the only way to PAY for all this joy is to have radioactive spiders come eat your face off, but REALLY life does not work like that. SO STOP IT. JUST ENJOY YOUR GOOD DAY."
Sane Person Reaction: HOW DID SHE KNOW I WAS THINKING THIS! MAYBE SHE IS REALLY SMART AND I SHOULD LISTEN TO HER AND RELAX AND BASK IN THIS THIS NEVER-TO-REPEATED WEEK LA LA LA!
Crazy Person Reaction: Spiders??? Did she say SPIDERS??? I bet WHOLE CROWDS of carniverous spiders are behind me RIGHT NOW, glowing green and whispering and nudging each other and fighting over who gets the tender earlobes!!!!
Unable to choose which response was proper, I decided to have both, simultaneously. AND then I decided to have a great big cocktail which I think was probably the wisest reaction of all.
3) I am having watershed, never-to-be repeated moments all over the place... like walking into a bookstore and seeing my book for the first time and bursting into tears like a GREAT. BIG. DORK. Or my first speaking engagement THAT I GOT PAID FOR! PAID! PAID FOR TALKING ABOUT MY BOOK! which, um, is RIDICULOUS. I am being paid to do things that give me SUCH extreme double-dip chocolate ice-cream scoops of pleasure...What can the world possibly PAY me for next? Its like being handed twenty bucks and told to go kiss my cute husband on the lips or go get on the kind of rollercoaster that has loop-de-loops. It seems JUST AS LIKELY and fair that someone will walk up and say, "Here's fifty bucks, please go lay out on the beach and try to drink up this banana daquiri and eat BAGS AND BAGS of our new calorie-free Cheetos while you read a brand new Haven Kimmel novel and Taye Diggs gives you a foot rub."
OH SPIDERS, LEAVE ME BE. At least until Taye finishes up.
I woke up at about two am and lay staring up at the ceiling until four, when I gave up and went to go play computer games. I came back to bed at six and managed to fall back asleep.
I had the most lucid dream then...I didn't realize I was dreaming at all because the dream took place in my exact real family room, and Scott was there wearing khaki pants and this button-down shirt I bought for him recently.
Me: I can't sleep. I need to be sleeping. Why can't I sleep?
Him: We all have our issues we have to deal with. You can't sleep, and I put a tack in my pants.
*long pause in which I boggled at him and he stood there looking complacent*
Me: But---what do you mean? You PUT a tack in your pants?
Him: Yes, I put a tack in my pants. And now I have to deal with it.
Me: But how is that like me not sleeping if you PUT the tack in your pants. Do you mean you PUT A TACK IN YOUR PANTS on PURPOSE? HOW IS THAT THE SAME?
He didn't answer, and then Maisy started yelling, "GOO' MORNIN'! COME GET ME! I WOKED UP!" from her bed, and that woke me up too.
I am no dream interpreter, but if anyone HAS a dream-image book I would LOVE to know what a tack in the pants MEANS. Not that I set much store in such things...I SUSPECT the dream means only that my mental illness number is 68 and rising. BOO-YA!
THE WHAT: Now is the winter of my discombobulation and discomfort, if not discontent. I am not QUITE READY to hurl my tender body beneath the certain-death-wheels of a semi truck. Heck, I am not even ready to hitchhike up to Amish country and try the good-survival-odds-wheels of a horse drawn milk cart. I'm only having a break from giddy anticipation and thrill, pausing for a long dark tea-time of the soul.
THE WHY: Pre-sell stuff has made life was a whirligig on speed. BUT NOW, nothing is happening after so many things happened so fast all in a row.
MY EDITOR SAYS: "Got quiet on you, didn't it? The pre-sale and ad campaign stuff is over, the industry reviews are in, the regular reviews and features won't come until the book comes out---it gets quiet. This is the time when statistically most debut authors DO end up mysteriously dead in small South American countries and their blood chemistry comes back glowingly positive for absinthe and cocaine and existential angst in equal parts. It's perfectly normalnormalnormal to be certifiable at this stage of the game.
DID SHE REALLY SAY THAT PART ABOUT YOUR IMPENDING DEATH IN SOUTH AMERICA?: No.
THE WHAT: I gave up WORRY for Lent.
THE WHY: My closet Anglicanism is showing. I observe Lent every year. This year, unable to imagine going the weeks right before my first novel comes out without the lovely crutch of CHOCOLATE, I decided my most pervasive vice was WORRY and gave it up, or rather, whenever I CATCH myself worrying (about four times a second) I have to STOP and turn my scampering hamster of a mind toward virtue. Which (in my PRE-DEFENSE) let me say has kept my mind turned toward virtue a lot more often than abstaining from chocolate, as I only want chocolate TWICE a second.
MY EDITOR SAYS: "This is your Jewish friend talking here, so maybe I am missing the point, but for Lent, aren't you supposed to give up something you actually enjoy? As a Sacrifice? Instead of using it as an excuse to obsessively finger your warty little little feelings some more?"
DID YOUR JEWISH EDITOR JUST SLAM DUNK YOUR HEAD, DOCTRINALLY SPEAKING, AND AS A CLOSET ANGLICAN ARE YOU HEARTILY ASHAMED: Shut up.
DID SHE REALLY SAY THAT PART ABOUT FINGERING YOUR WARTY LITTLE FEELINGS?: No.
SO SHOULD YOU SWITCH MID-STREAM AND MAYBE GO AHEAD AND GIVE UP CHOCOLATE?: Shut. Up.
I SAY: *wail panic sniffle wail sniffle*
MY EDITOR SAYS: *patpatpatpatpatpatpat*
I love my editor.
I got an e-mail from a friend I have not talked to in a bit. Very cryptic. It just said, "Hey! What are you doing?" That was it. The whole thing. And it was like getting spanked upside the head by existential angst because...WHAT AM I DOING????
It must be LIST time. You know how I feel about LISTS! I will try to DO IT MYSELF in order to avoid being murdered by my husband who IS the most patient man on earth but come on, EVERY GUY HAS HIS LIMITS.
SO! MY LIST! I sat down to make it two entries ago and DIGRESSED but now I shall embark upon a list of what I need to do over the next seven weeks:
1) I am going to TRY TRY TRY (I think can I think I can I THINK I CAN! PUFF! PUFF!) to finish the INITIAL ROUGH DRAFT rewrite on the book I wrote before I wrote gods in Alabama. I just redid chapter one, and I thought it would take a couple of hours, and instead it's taken four working days. By the time I got through it, 3 plot points and maybe thirty or of the original sentences survived more-or-less intact. Heh.
So, I'm thinking it's going to be a new book, just BASED on a sub-plot that haunts me. The book was originally called 40 Dead Horses. The horses are a big part of what I am keeping, and my agent has suggested this for a working title: 40 Ghost Horses. He feels ghost is more EPHEMERAL and PRETTY and conjures up lovely white horses cantering in wispy and graceful silence across the night sky instead of, you know, several metric tons of fly-blown MEAT, and yeah, OKAY I can see that. BUT! Given the main character's call-it-EXACTLY-like-she-sees-it, tact-free, BLACKLY veryveryvery blackly funny personality, I STILL prefer the stark, flat HONESTY of the word DEAD. But okay, I can see where it might not be terribly APPEALING to a reader who doesn't know the context and WHY that name is ironic. I think people in the store would see the title and assume the book is going to end with the entire cast committing suicide in a horse abbatior and RUN the other way. BUT ANYWAY, what do you think of that? As a working title? Here, look at it on it's own:
40 Ghost Horses
I think I like it...
BACK ON POINT (which is sadly, I believe, still only point ONE...): It WAS (I admit, I admit!) an overblown book, 120K+ words with maybe 90K worth of STORY. But I thought a pare down with a side of tinkering would fix it. BUT NOW? Looking at it two novels later, with (I HOPE TO GOD) a more educated critical eye and very little MERCY for my own especial pet weaknesses---I NOW see that the two MAIN characters have to be totally removed as if they were collectively a diseased appendix. About all I am keeping of them is their names. I am too distant from one and the other is just...wrong. He is actually a completely different PERSON---I am writing my way to him. And the MAIN storyline is a series of red herrings, tricks I played on MYSELF that led me to the WRONG END and I am also doing a RADICAL SUB-PLOT-ECTOMY to remove a SELF-INDULGENT storyline. Also, woman I once thought was an important secondary character needs to be thrown down a well. UGH I HATE THIS WOMAN. I need a well full of PIRHANA, a well full of BATTERY ACID and SHARKS and FATAL DISEASES. NEVER do I want this woman to darken my prose again. But!
The more I strip away, the more I can see the clean and (excuse me, FORGIVE! FORGIVE!) gorgeous bones of the book I ACTUALLY WANTED TO WRITE emerging. It’s like I am flensing away an entire WHALE and finding the bones of something sleeker, say a JAGUAR, and I am wondering why on EARTH I ever thought a jaguar skeleton was a good place to stick a whale pancreas and some blubber and ambergris and a blowhole. This was what? Five years ago? And at that point, I could see this book (and it is in its own defense an AMBITIOUS book, I will give it that) in my head, but I didn't know how to write it.
Brain to page, brain to page...longest trip in the universe. But I think I see the way now. That. Gets. Me. Hot.
Even though I've fallen so hard for these people all over again, I'm horrified by the SHEER AMOUNT OF WORK it's going to take. I have two months before I start touring...and I ALSO have this new book pushing in at the edges of my brain and requesting very kindly that I get off my widening butt (the BRONCHITIS has played HELL with my work-outs, I JUST this week am back up to my usual schedule) and WRITE IT and in a week or so I will be back in BETWEEN, GEORGIA because my editor is ready to go to PHASE TWO of editing it, and CRAP!
SEE? SEE? I need a list. Because OTHERWISE, since I am me and my mental illness number is hovering somewhere ABOVE that building in Taiwan that's taller than the Sears Tower, whatever that building is called, the VERY TALLEST one, GAHHHHHH WHAT THE *@^#@^& IS IT CALLED??? ANYWAY, because my mental illness number is way way way up there, I feel like an anvil is going to DROP ON MY HEAD AND KILL ME before I get to write the book I want to write next and that won't stop unfolding itself in long chains in my head, clotting up the two books I need to be thinking about NOW and I need to MAKE A LIST and then begin CHECKING THINGS UNIFORMLY OFF IT IN AN ORGANIZED FASHION but every time I sit to make a list so MUCH is going on in brainland that I hare off into digressionary extended metaphors about...HYBRID JAGUAR-WHALE VIVISECTION???? *passes out from lack of oxygen to brain because I forgot to keep INHALING three paragraphs ago.*
GOLLY! I hope that answers her question.
I think I will write back and say, "The Usual. What are YOU doing?"
SO, what now??? I am finally physically back to, say, 85%. And the pre-sell tour is over, so barring a few little commitments here and there, I have a clear coupla months before gods gets its visit from the blue fairy and becomes a REAL BOOK! SO! I am going to MAKE A LIST of vital things that WILL get done before April 13th. Although (What's that? Galloping toward us over the horizon? Raising a mighty dust cloud like the Great American Buffalo Herds of Yore!? WHY! IT IS A HUGE DIGRESSION!) just because gods isn't actually OUT YET doesn't mean I am not ALREADY frantically checking my Amazon sales ranking number.
Every author I KNOW has an Amazon Sales Ranking Number Checking Problem (And here I leave my digression to DIGRESS: Natalie R. Collins is keeping a RUNNING TALLY of Amazon Ranks to see which is selling better, her first novel or The Book of Mormon...she wins some days, she loses other. It's a GOOD BOOK, her novel, but the competition is stiff...Natalie thinks she might win more consistently if she would take the time to found her own religion.) BUT ANYWAY, EVERY writer I know keeps one twitchy eye on their Amazon sales ranking even though they know in the grand scheme of having ANY IDEA of how the novel is ACTUALLY SELLING across the country, it means VERY VERY LITTLE and only confuses and upsets them when it plummets to half a million and fills them with elation that may or may not be founded when it suddenly leaps up to dizzying heights and breaks into three digit territory.
I have had MORE THAN ONE established author say to me, "When your book comes out, you must not start checking your Amazon ranking, because I just checked mine, and I am killing myself! So long! Thanks for all the fish!" Or, conversely, they might say "When your book comes out, you must not start checking your Amazon ranking, because I just checked mine, and I am now too busy and important to speak to you, and PS, my number is now unlisted, and I HAVE ALWAYS SECRETLY LOATHED your haircut." Either way, the message was basically this:
*Holds up an egg* This is your brain.
*Smashes egg into hot grease* This is your brain on YOUR AMAZON SALES RANKING.
When your book comes out, DO NOT CHECK YOUR AMAZON SALES RANKING.
But... realistically, no matter WHAT older and wiser folks SAY, I AM going to get hooked on checking my amazon sales ranking IMMEDIATELY after the book comes out, and it began to occur to me...why should I put off until tomorrow, dangerous addictive behaviors I could start today?
SO! I asked myself, SELF, I asked, WHY not GO AHEAD NOW and become obsessed with numbers I have NO CONTROL OVER and which don't actually mean anything?
And Self said, HMMM! You could wait ...I don't know, say, maybe, to retain a modicum of MENTAL HEALTH?
Which , if you read this blog with any regularity, by now you know I feel mental health is HUGELY OVERRATED. In fact if MENTAL HEALTH was a book on AMAZON and I was Amazon's ONLY consumer and could rank books at WILL, I would banish MENTAL HEALTH and send it SO far down the list its number would be over TWO MILLION, and there it would stay, along with all the books about politics and high colonics and any book that used a phrase like "His moist glance plucked tenderly at my heart strings" without irony.
With nothing at stake but my mental health, I went right on ahead and became obsessed with my Amazon ranking numbers MONTHS ahead of schedule. Which, if your book does not techinically EXIST because it hasn't actually even been PRINTED, it's still a THEORY this book, an IDEA, an order sheet and some signed blue pages, a note on a printer's "to do in spring" list, IF all this, then watching it's SALES RECORD on a NEAR DAILY BASIS is COMPLETELY NUTZY FANDAGOED.
Because, little square picture on an Amazon page aside, the ugly truth is....
People only very rarely buy things that DO NOT EXIST. If they DID, we could all sell prime real estate in Florida or some of the Up-For-Grabs Bridges of New York and become piggishly wealthy and go in together and purchase the South of France. It just doesn;t HAPPEN very often.
BUT. As any grifter can tell you...sometimes people DO buy things that do not technically exist. AND I LOVE THESE PEOPLE. ESPECIALLY when they coincidentally do it in a little CLOT, one after another, and my Rank will bounce up from where it usually sits at around 800K, and go rocketing up into the 100K or 80K range, and considering that I DO NOT ACTUALLY HAVE A BOOK TO SELL YET, it's pretty exciting.
TODAY for example? THIS HAPPENED:
And I got ALL UP ONS and made Scott come look and, as you see, I had to do a little screen capture and draw HEARTS because the baby of mental health got tossed out in January's bathwater when I officially ditched my JUST SAY NO policy re: checking my Amazon Sales Ranking. DOWNSIDE: NOW I have to watch it GRIND ITS WAY BACK DOWN to 800K or so where it will sit with all the other books that are up on Amazon but not scheduled to exist for weeks or months.
BAH! I've digressed my way out of time -- I have to go babysit for a friend who's feeling cruddy --- MORE TOMORROW ON THE ACTUAL TOPIC (Whatever the heck THAT was...something about buffalo).
OKAY, BUT THEN TODAY THIS HAPPENED LOOK LOOK PEEP THIS:
Mentally ill much?
Yes, thanks, and please pass the mashed potatoes and sedatives.
Friday afternoon, my Mental Illness Number put on tights and wore its underpants on the outside and donned a cape and went zuh-zuh-zzzzooming skyward. I have not been blogging due to serious Mental Illness, and you have NO CHOICE but to excuse me. I have a NOTE! Here tis:
Please excuse Joshilyn from blogging. She's been Mentally Ill.
Vice Admiral Richard H. Carmona
Surgeon General of the United States of America
Of course, I FORGED this note, but I forged MANY notes that said the same thing only with "gym" instead of blogging and "cramps" instead of mental illness, BUT THOSE NOTES WORKED IN MIDDLE SCHOOL, so I feel this one will work here.
I AM FEELING MUCH BETTER NOW, THANKS!
I think I have a brain like a squirrel. I am not saying that my brain is like unto a squirrel's brain. I am saying my brain is like a whole alive actual squirrel. Have you noticed how squirrels always appear to be VERY VERY BUSY? You never see a squirrel being CONTEMPLATIVE. You never see a squirrel LOUNGING AROUND or engaging in ANYTHING that could even remotely be described as Zen.
Squirrels Run and Find Out.
Squirrels Do Things.
Sometimes---MANY times --- the things make no external sense, like they go and bury a bunch of nuts all over but they have about four brain cells so they never remember WHERE. Or they run back and forth across the power lines from one identical tree to another, back and forth, until they wear away the insulation and electrocute themselves and go plummeting dead to the earth and for the VERY FIRST TIME SINCE BIRTH, they sit STILL. Pointless, but it doesn't matter. What matters is this: The squirrel is BUSY.
Due to all the PHYSICAL illness, my squirrel was forced into quietness and isolation and it wigged RIGHT THE HECK OUT.
So, since I am physically VIABLE again, I spent the weekend pampering the squirrel. I took it skating and it to lift weights until it was flooded with pleasurable endorphins, I let it get into some SERIOUS revisions of an older MS that I really believe could be a kick-butt pneumatic book one day, I played game after game of scrabble, I watched TV while playing computer games and talking on the phone (the squirrel LOVES to watch TV while playing computer games and talking on the phone) and it all worked. The squirrel is now running endlessly and happily in the rotating wheel of my skull, and THIS IS GOOD!
Because tomorrow I go back on the road for the last leg of the pre-sales tour, and I suspect these dinners would tend to go better -- just theoretically -- but I REALLY suspect they'll go better if I am not toe-suckingly OFF MY NUT.
SO! Travel Sans Mercy again tomorrow, which means SMART CONVERSATION ABOUT BOOKS with SMART, FUNNY, WELL-READ PEOPLE, and a STATE OF THE ART GYM in every hotel! HUZZAH! If THAT doesn't keep the squirrel out of bars, nuthin' will!
I'll talk to you next from the plane....
How high is my mental illness number? OH my. See the second star to the right? Good. Now fly straight up til morning. I do not believe in Neverland, but if you get up high enough, up to where the air is thin and cold, you might find my mental illness number's CAMPGROUND where it rested briefly before it went up even higher, all the way to Venus.
I am JUST. SO. EXCITED. about this trip! I can hardly breathe. I cannot believe something won't stop me from getting on the plane.
SAMPLE: I drove over to the trail to take a long skate yesterday afternoon, and as I was locking up the van I thought, OH NO! WHAT IF SOMEONE BREAKS IN AND STEALS MY PURSE! Because, see, my purse has my driver's license in it, and if my purse got stolen on a FRIDAY at 4:30, I couldn't get on the plane on Sunday! YIKES. So I opened the van, took out the license, hid it in my SHOE, and tucked the shoe under the driver's seat. I skated away. Then I thought, but what if someone steals the WHOLE VAN??? So I went back AGAIN and got it out and skated four miles with my license clutched in my sweaty little paw.
That's not just wack, Ladies and Gentlemen. That's wiggetty wack.
And ever since, I have been unable to shake the idea that I am going to lose my driver's license. Like, today, we had to go to out and get my shaggy-headed hippy son shorn like a sheep at Great Clips. I was walking to the van when ONCE AGAIN I realized I could get MUGGED and LOSE MY PURSE (with license) and then NO PLANE.
I froze in the driveway. Scott said, "Um, Joss?"
I explained the problem, and he looked at me for a minute, trying to decide how serious I was about this. I worried at my purse with nervous fingers and made anxious eyes. Finally he said, "Well, just go put it in the house."
I put it in the house, got halfway to the car again and said, "SCOTT! But what of someone breaks in?!?! AND TAKES IT?"
Once again he paused to assess my mental health, rightly decided to take this as a serious and looming threat, and said, "Okay mental patient, go HIDE it."
So I went in the house and put in in the coat closet under a stack of old sweaters. I came back out feeling relaxed and good to go. Scott started the van and pulled out of the driveway.
Scott: So you aren't going to spend this whole morning fretting about the purse, right?
Scott: Because you hid it, right?
Scott: Some place fireproof, right?
He's an excellent husband. Infested by deamons a little bit, sure. But an excellent husband.
For days now I have NEEDED A LIST. I have fifteen THOUSAND projects going at once, not the least of which is CHRISTMAS, and I need a list, okay? I JUST DO. If everything is in LIST FORM then I can go through it scritching things off until I see NO WORDS, just pages and pages of scribbled out former things-to-do and it’s satisfying to see that, all that STUFF finished and the living personification of a well-earned nap exhorting me to lie on my face and drool for two hours.
So I have been saying to Scott, WE NEED A LIST. WE NEED A LIST! WE MUST SIT DOWN AND MAKE A LIST! But every time I have managed to corral him to make said list, something happens before I can even explain the list's nature and purpose and so we end up not making it and the day shoots by and escapes me and I get some things done but WHO KNOWS in what order or which of the fifteen thousand projects it belongs to or if I am close to completing ANY OF THEM. So yesterday, feeling panicky and list-less, I birthed live kittens.
I grabbed Scott and stapled him to a chair in my office and THRUST a pen at him and a pad of paper and screeched like a harpy, MAKE A LIST MAKE ONE MAKE ONE WE WILL DIE WITHOUT A LIST WE WILL BEGIN NOW A LIST WILL HAPPEN OR I WILL KILL YOU AND THEN I WILL KILL ALL THE WORLD YEA DOWN UNTO THE SEVENTH GENERATION!
Oooooooooooooooooookay, mental patient, said Scott. You have been going on about this list for days but you have yet to tell me what kind of list? Is this a grocery list?
And before I could explain that we needed a GIANT MASTER LIST that covered everything from groceries to errands to household chores to updating my work calendar and rolodex to inventorying my wardrobe to see what things are needed for my upcoming trip to final Christmassy needs to Salvation Army Pick-up objects and their garage sale value ETC ETC ON AND ON LIST WITHOUT END AMEN… the phone rang.
I said A Very Bad Word and wiped flecks of foamy spittle from my lips. I checked the caller ID. It was my friend Julie, who at that moment had physical possession of my boy-child (he was having a playdate with HER boy-child). In other words…I had to take the call.
MAKE THE LIST, I hissed at Scott, and picked up the phone. He was mouthing something at me, something about WHAT KIND OF LIST? And Julie was talking on the other end of the phone, telling me vital information about WHERE MY CHILD WOULD BE for the next three hours, so I rolled my eyes back into my head til only the whites showed and flattened my ears and shot a long, purple-black, forked tongue out of my mouth to poke him in the forehead and then I mouthed silently, MAKE A LIST MAKE A LIST while my head spun around backwards. When I finished channeling Linda Blair and looked up, I could see Scott had put pen to paper and was industriously list-making, so I sat down and worked out the logistics of getting Sam later etc etc.
When I hung up, Scott ripped the piece of paper off the tablet and presented it to me with a flourish. I hereby transcribe for you his master list:
The Ability to Fly
There was a moment there where I seriously considered bashing his skull in with a rock, but before I could even FIND a rock, I dissolved into helpless giggles. I REALLY like him.
I said to him, How on earth do you put up with me.
And he said, Baby, I am never bored.
And now that I have had time to reflect, I've decided it’s a pretty good list. I have already checked off Robert Dinero, and am going now to assiduously apply myself to finishing up purple.
I writing from my mom-in-law's comp as I sit in the house my husband grew up in...I am still mightily impressed that it is possible to access/update my site from any computer. WHO KNEW?
I have brought a copy of the ARC back here and am driving around town making my old high school English teacher and my favorite theatre director look at it.. I am UN. EN. DUR. A. BLE. But I have big, merciful plans to get over myself. I am just having a LEEETLE trouble recovering from the ARC. The grace and mystic beauty of the ARC. It is like paper heroin. I sniff at it and my brain floods with love-endorphins.
I will STOP sniffing it as soon as I am home, in the interest of getting actual work done. I can stop sniffing it any time. REALLY. I just...CHOOSE not to. BUT I COULD QUIT. IF I WANTED. *Looks vaguely feral and clutches ARC to bosom.*
A big HUFF of ARC is my new drug of choice, replacing Ativan. AND YOU KNOW WHAT? Let's talk about Ativan for a second. On further reflection, it is possible that ATIVAN could ween me off the ARC sniffing. I wonder if my doctor would think that was a good reason to write me a scrip? Probly not, huh.
Do you know Ativan? I met it because of my ongoing hate-hate relationship with modern dentisty. Let me say here, YOU KNOW I hate dentalness in general, but I LOVE my particular dentist and this one hygienist he has named pretty-red-haired-girl (not her real name). They are the tag-team of soothing hand-holders who get me through most of my procedures without me having a psychotic break. My dentist's eyes over his mask are large and sorrowful and kind. Also, he gives me Valium. SO. We like him. Not as much as we WOULD like him if he gave us ATIVAN, but hey, no one is perfect.
Don't get me wrong -- Valium is fine. It helps. It gets me in the CHAIR, okay, and if they give me a nice nose-scoop of NITROUS OXIDE to go with it, I will even open my mouth and allow them to put HORRIBLE WHINING DRILLS AND TORTUROUS INSTRUMENTS OF VILE POKING in there. I can STAND it if I have the Valium and the gas. But I don't really ENJOY valium. It's just a drug that does a job. Like Benadryl or Vitamin C. If I do not have a dental visit, the Valium will sit in the cabinet til it goes bad, and then I'll throw it out and my dentist gives me more.
BUT. When I was veryveryvery pregnant with Maisy, I had to have a cavity filled, and I was scared to take the Valium because what if it made her grow flippers and an extra head? So. I went to my huge factory of tag-team OBGYNs, and by sheer bad luck drew Dr. ImpersonalJerk (also not his real name....but it SHOULD be). Dr. IJ hummed around COMPLETELY NOT LISTENING to me as I expressed my valium/fetus fears and then said HERE TAKE THIS and handed me a prescription for ONE PILL.
That pill, Oh my lovely ducklings? Was Ativan. Beautiful, beautiful, golden-haired, delightful Princess Atavan. It is about 9 ZILLION TIMES more effective (AND um, toxic) than Valium EVER thought about being. I had no idea. I just assumed it was a milder, non-flipper causing form of valium and gobbled it down like a good illiterate moron who couldn't read the SHEET of warnings the pharmacist handed me along with my rattling single-pill-in-bottle.
ABout an hour after I ate the pill, I was curled up cozy as a cat in the car, watching as my entire town changed into the IT'S A SMALL WORLD ride at Disneyland. Little fat imaginary toddlers lined the roads, twirling and singing, and the SUNLIGHT was a KIND-HEARTED, LIVING GOLD haze that was almost TACTILE, running through my hair like liquid fingers. Scott? My husband? My LORD he was BREATHTAKINGLY LOVELY. He looked like the living incarnation of the Sun-God, RA, and every time he spoke his voice sounded like this BOOMING and CHEERFUL Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
HONEY! sang Ra, ARE! YOU! OKAAAAAAAAAY?? LA LA LA.
And I bobbled my head up and down and the air around me turned to maple syrup, slowing my nod and making breathing a slow, thick, sticky-sweet experience. "Breathing is fun," I whispered, and RA sang, LA LA LA HONEY? HONEY? HONEY????
I drifted into my dentist's office and plopped in the chair and this huge needle came at my mouth and I was all, like, HELLO NEEDLE! YOU ARE SO SHINY! AND SILVER! LET US BE DEAR FRIENDS! AND I SHALL CALL YOU FELIX! AND LOVE YOU! WOW! YOU ARE POKING ME IN THE MOUTH AND IT IS SORT OF EXCRUTIATING! HOW INTERESTING! PAIN IS INTERESTING! AND NICE! HEY! PAIN! LET'S MAKE OUT!
Then there was drilling in three part harmony and my dentist floated beside me as we drifted through a black velvet galaxy with MULTIPLE Elvises painted on it like sequined constelations and my dentist's eyes were FULL! OF! STARS! If bad things happened? I remember none of them.
The next thing I knew I was HOME. Trying on all my lingerie... even though I was big-as-a-whale pregnant. My whole head was pleasantly numb from novacain and my mouth glistened with interesting drool. YOU ARE PRETTY! I said to me, and I did a sort of prance-like flolloping manuever that landed me on the bed. And then I think I passed out.
When I woke up four days later, pleasantly surpised NOT to find myself facedown in a pool of my own vomit in a back alley in Tijuana, I looked up Ativan on WEB MD. It said in thirty foot high letters, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DO NOT TAKE THIS WHILE PREGNANT IT ABSOLUTELY WILL CAUSE BIRTH DEFECTS AND PS IT KILLS MOST OF YOUR BRAIN CELLS AND CAUSES CANCER IN MICE AND CAN BE USED AS A CHEMICAL WEAPON! The sheet the pharmacist gave me with my usual Valium just said, "Maybe you shouldn't take A LOT of this while pregnant. We're not totally sure. Doubt one will hurt you, but don't go gulping down bucketfuls."
Luckily Maisy came out flipper free and 'scutiating smart, and luckily Dr IJ only gave me the ONE Ativan. Because I don't think I want it in the house. It was SUCH a nice place to visit, but man, oh man, I wouldn't want to live there.
The CONTEST TO WIN FREE THINGS is still going on. So. Enter. It will run all weekend while I am away at a retreat and when I return on Monday I will read all the entries and Announce the winner on, say, Tuesday? How does Tuesday work for you?
I am having an engorged, slug-colored, oozing, twitchy NERVE about the retreat. Mental illness number is ON THE MOVE. And it ain’t going DOWN. I am getting DECKLOADS of all new CRA-ZI-OH! cards. It’s like The CRA-ZI-OH! Women’s Retreat Expansion Pack.
Here is a TINY SAMPLE of all the cards I am taking with me…
1) Fear of not sleeping AT ALL. I am an insomniac from WAY BACK and being in a room with OTHER PEOPLE who are NOT MY HUSBAND and trying to sleep fills me with dread and loathing. So I packed Tylenol PM. Which brought on…
2) Fear of falling heavily into a drug-induced sleep while everyone else is still up chatting and so, all unbeknownst to me, I begin RELENTLESSLY TOOTING and TOOTING and TOOTING while everyone else in the room giggles and rolls their eyes at each other and the whole rest of the weekend there will be fart-jokes surging all around me, deadly fart-joke-ian currents under the calm surface of a peaceful looking sea, and everyone will get them but me, and snicker while I say "WHAT? WHAT?" and YEARS LATER people who go on this retreat will STILL be talking about the legendary farter that blasted a hole in bed nine.
3) NONE of my especial friends can make it to the retreat. Julie has to work, Jan has kid-stuffs she can’t miss, and Vicki is still nursing her youngest and so therefore her breasts can not leave the state. SO! Now I have Fear of being seated at lunch between two people who have their best friends on the other side of them who will each turn their backs to me while I sit in between their cruel spines picking at the leaves I am eating because I am horrified at being away from my aerobic step and my ankle weights so I KNOW I won’t eat anything, just LEAVES, moistened and salted only by my weeping.
PS – THREE has HAPPENED before. I went to a church luncheon once and was seated between two people’s backs. I NEVER SAW A HUMAN FACE. Not even a PROFILE. Oh , well I did see the profiles of the two people across from me as they spoke exclusively to each other and never looked across the table. And that was the last time we went to THAT church.
See, here’s the thing. NO ONE EVER BELIEVES ME WHEN I SAY THIS. NO ONE, EVER, except my husband who knows me to the bone. But here is the truth. I’m shy. When I say it out loud? People laugh and point. And snort and say, OH YEAH YOU ARE SHY. Because I am LOUD and I never SHUT UP. But secretly in my soft pink middle? I am deadly deadly shy and being around people I do not know well makes me frantic and nervous and lip chewy and terrorized. No one ever believes me because The Lord knows I give good Ramona. But I am. SO.
EXAMPLE: I have a new friend named Vicky. Vicky is teeny and God hit her upside the head VERY hard with the pretty stick. She’s like, TV pretty. When she first started hanging out with my little clot of especial friends I became convinced that she didn’t like me because I am tall and have a larger frame than she does and am a total klutz. I can trip over DUST MOTES. Now that was VERY unfair to her. Vicky is NOT shallow like that. But she is so TEENY and CUTE that I felt ogre-ish and outsize around her and I projected all this onto her and took me several weeks to resign myself to the fact that maybe I wasn’t this HORRID SHAMBLING MOUNTAIN OF BUMBLING OOZE and yes, she genuinely was trying to make friends with me instead of just putting up with me because she liked Jan and Julie.
Yes, that WAS a week when external forces had pushed my mental illness THROUGH THE ROOF, but HELLO, it’s up there this week too. BLAH! I better go pack. We who are about to alienate every potential future friend in the universe by Tylenol PM induced super-toots salute you.
I have decided I am all about hiring cleaning service again if I can find the money....I had to fire my GOOD CHEAP ONE because they were making me CRAZY by showing up either 4 hours late or 4 hours early, WHATEVER IT TOOK to speed up or delay their arrival so they could arrive on the EXACT day at the EXACT hour I had arranged childcare so I could write.
This happened like, SIX TIMES IN A ROW. It got SILLY.
They would call and say HOW IS TUESDAY AT EIGHT AM FOR YOUR CLEANING.
I would say YES PLEASE my house is a STY please come but it HAS to be done before NOON because at noon the baby is going to my friend Julie’s and I have to work and you know I work from home.
They would say OKAY! SEE YOU AT EIGHT AM! Then they would take ginsu knives to their own tires or go all Munchausen’s and force their children to projectile vomit or get lost in a swamp or just sit outside in my bushes GIGGLING and waiting until they saw the baby leave. And THEN they would ring the doorbell.
Which might not have been that big a deal EXCEPT this was in the old house. My dining room with 2 HUGE OPEN DOORWAYS was my office. It was open to the entire downstairs. In they would come, rattling their cheerful buckets, ready to make my life better, prepared to be greeted with smiles and diet cokes and my usual SLAVERING gratitude that I feel is the RIGHTFUL DUE of any human being willing to take responsibility for scrubbing out my plague soaked evil toilets.
But instead of my usual Pavlovian delighted prancing, they would be met with a glare and a terse HI. YOU ARE FOUR HOURS LATE AGAIN AND I AM WORKING. I HAVE A DEADLINE. AND THIS IS THE FIRST 10 MINUTES OF THE ONLY TWO HOURS THIS WHOLE FREAKIN WEEK I DON’T HAVE THE BABY HERE. PS HI.
Then they'd say SORRY and troop in and they would tiptoe around PALPABLY being QUIET and pecking at the fixtures with soft and silent dustrags and HUNCHING UP their backs to CREEP past each doorway and asking PERMISSION for each part of the cleaning process... "Is it okay to vacuum while you work? Is it okay to run the water? Is the squeak of the mop TROUBLING YOU?" and so on and suchforth until I KILLED THEM AND STUFFED THEIR BODIES IN THE PANTRY where they are to this day, one assumes, smelling up the new owner's soup can labels.
But now that we are moved I have AN ACTUAL OFFICE with doors THAT SHUT. So even if they came RIGHT during my working hours, I could shut the doors and then not have to commit mayhem and bodily harm on women that I always used to greet with palm fronds and parades through the kitchen on the back of donkeys because HEY WHY NOT, the floor was just about to meet it’s long-lost friend, the mop, anyway.
I love this house.
I have something shiny in my pocket. It is---drumroll---A NEW PLAN.
The new plan is very bad but I like it. It may cause death or mental illness. It may cause gassiness. It has been known to cause cancer in mice, BUT WHAT DOESN’T.
DIGRESSION: I suspect that one day scientists will discover that the reason so many things cause cancer in mice is that mice ALL naturally develop cancer when they hit the ripe old mousy age of two.
See I noticed something! I am revising this novel because---remember? I finished the draft? (Pause for mercifully brief yet unendurably smug preening) And I have noticed that EVERY TIME I GO TO SLEEP I wake up with a RAGING CASE OF THE INSIGHTS.
SO I leap from the bed and go galloping down to my computer and open the MS and type like a deamon for 30 minutes and LO! Some problem or ‘nother is fixed! Some image has ceased to be random and is now connected to a cohesive, thematic WHOLE, or some character issue has been resolved, or some glaring plot point has been made seamless.
This only happens in SHORT BURSTS right when I WAKE UP.
Since I have an entire novel to revise, and not a lot of time to revise it IN, it suddenly became obvious to me that I NEED TO WAKE UP MORE OFTEN, Duh! Which means I need to GO TO SLEEP more often, and sleep in shorter bursts. SO the new plan is this. I will stay up watching bad TV til 11 or so each night, and then I will get up at FOUR IN THE AM and have a wondrous insight and fix something. Then I will catch a 30 minute catnap when DORA THE EXPLORER is on at 9 and wake up with a teeny insite, gallop, fix. Then at noon o’clock I will go back to sleep with Maisy for 2 hours during her nap, Wake up, have insight, gallop, fix, and then stay up until 11 with my DEAR DEAR friend bad TV again.
I may have some tremors and mild hallucinating from disrupted sleep patterns, but HEY, just like you have to break a few eggs to make a soufflé, you apparently have to break a few hundred million brain cells to make a novel. As long as I don’t end up in a bell tower with a semi-automatic wearing a hefty-bag for a dress and raving about the mugwumps, I think it will all be fine.
I’ll keep you apprised.
Hi! Did I mention I completed the draft? *PREEEEEEEEEN* And contrary to what Joe might be suspecting in comments, it has not soothed the savage loon in me. IN FACT I think it shot my mental illness number SKY HIGH.
Oh, yeah. For two days now I have been UNENDURABLE. I have pranced around singing odes to my fabulousness and then showing my family my back, indicating a righteous amount of self-adoration via Fonzie make-out hands. Really, I need to be beaten. My husband and I have had 9 ZILLION variations on this conversation:
Me: Do you know who is GREAT?
Me: NO. Not TEDDY ROOSEVELT. *blowing a raspberry in Teddy’s general direction* I meant, who is really REALLY VERY great???
Me: NO! That’s RIDICULOUS. Ghandi! FA! I am asking you, SERIOUSLY, Who is SUPREMELY VERY ASTOUNDINGTLY GREAT?
Scott: Hmmm….Is it you?
Me: *looking down at my toes with shy modesty* Why, yes. Yes it is.
Luckily, I am a LEETLE more sane today. Two things have shot enough holes in my balloon for me to come down to a bearable level.
1) Lily James read my first chapter – she’s my BEST critic. Nothing gets past her and she’s dead honest and articulate and solution oriented. ANYWAY. I was convinced this first chapter was NOTE PERFECT and then BAH! She found a trouble spot in it. Not a HUGE one, but a real one and I went and looked at it, and dern it, SHE WAS RIGHT. So it reminded me that YES I have a DRAFT but a DRAFT is not a book and I need to SHUT UP and get to work, taking comfort in the fact that NOW I am to the part that flips my cookie. (I love revising, hate drafting.)
2) Last week, Brenda at church asked me to lead one of the sessions at my church’s women’s retreat in October. Now, this is VERY flattering, and I said yes but...Hmm. Okay. Here’s the truth. I went to the first meeting about the retreat and the other session leaders are people that I think of as spiritually mature. Admirable, even. I think of myself spiritually as more like...Well hmm. Okay. THis winter my son took swimming lessons? He got to this point where he could generally get across the pool without drowning, but his methodology and form left QUITE A BIT TO BE DESIRED. He looked like a little frog with epilepsy, spasm-ing and convulsing across in his cheerful yet slow and herky-jerky way. That’s me in the Godwaters.
SO now I can at least SEE earth from where I sit and I am no longer convinced that I would win Miss Congeniality in a pageant that also had Anwar Sadat in it. By tomorrow I will be all the way back to my usual mental illness number of about 30, and from there I’ll be determining the entirety of my self worth on solid, tangible things. Like, for example, my butt-size and how clean the floor around my toilets is. Or is NOT, as the case may be.
WHY is my Mental Illness Number in a symbiotic relationship with the number on my scales? I swear those two are like Ducky and Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink. When Molly was up, Ducky shot sky high, and when Molly was down, oh the manifold sorrows of Ducky.
DIGRESSION: What was WRONG with her ANYWAY? Why on earth would she go running after the lipless and angst-filled drooping rich snot-bucket who was SOMETIMES MEAN TO HER when she could have had DUCKY. Ducky who was CUTE and ADORED HER. Okay, sure, there’s a little bit of geek factor going on there. But she should have gotten herself a GEEK IS CHIC T-shirt and gone with it. Ducky was THE GUY.
Someday when she is 35 and in therapy and in the middle of the UGIEST divorce in history, Molly will get on the internet and hit classmates trying to FIND Ducky, and you know what? By then some other girl will have gratefully and with mad adorative passion SNAPPED HIM UP and Molly? HONEY? Serves you right. And trust me, Ducky will not drop his family and fall back into your arms when you DO track him down. Ducky will remember you fondly, and feel sad that you are unhappy, and he’ll Take a Moment with you, maybe squeeze your arm, but then he’ll go home and be HAPPY THERE. Because he is nice that way, but more than that, Ducky is MAD for his wife and kids. DUCKY has Character! And Passion! And Virtue! And PS --- he has LIPS.
At any rate, I still have two pounds I gained from vacation, and I seem to have added another two just because the vacation ones seemed LONELY. As a result my mental illness number is upUpUP. I HEART eating, so my normal course of action would be to add more ankle weights and raise my aerobic step another couple of inches. But I just DID that to try and lose the original vacation pounds. I can’t raise my step any higher without putting my head into the path of the ceiling fan which will shear away the top of my skull and mercifully lobotomize me so I can not feel the pain as my heart bursts from shlepping all the freakin' ankle weights I'd have to add.
So. There is nothing for it but to combine the exercise with….ugh…a diet. BOO! I hate diets. I try to eat South Beachily and am all about good fats and lean protein and whole grains. I avoid white flour and sugar, unless it's in, like a really good COOKIE. So I could just get a little stricter with that and EAT sensibly. I could, for example, spend a day NOT hunting down and killing whole herds of chocolate droozled Bunndt cakes and dragging them back to my lair to devour them, snarling crumbily at any cake-hungry children who approach me asking me to please role-model SHARING.
BUT WHAT FUN IS THAT?
I think INSTEAD that I am going to make my OWN diet up. It will be very faddy and dreadful. I will call it the ANTI-OXIDANT DIET and I will only eat things that I suspect have a lot of anti-oxidants in them. I’m not really sure what an anti-oxidant is, but it is very good for you. Also Omega three somethings are very good. I may eat those too. I will base my knowledge on whether or not I have seen people look at the food in question, nod sagely and say “It has a lot of anti-oxidents.” Or “That is chock full of omega three somethings.”
So far using this method I can eat: Kale, Dark Chocolate, Fish Oil, Walnuts and Red Wine.
My husband is fussing at me because I won't stop running his best girl down. And he's right.... I need to cut myself some slack before my brain explodes.
Remember Romper Room? No? I KINDA do -- a little. In my probably faulty memory it had this BEE on it, a BEE who was virtuous and kind, and he was DO BEE, and then there was an equal and opposing BEE OF EVIL (named DON'T BEE, natch). And there were several songs associated with DO BEE, but the one that I remember was a listing song that told kids things to BEE or not to BEE, and the song would have lines like....um.... DO BEE A TURN TAKER! DON'T BEE A ME FIRSTER! I wish there was a way to get the TUNE to you---it's very simple and cheerful.
I have been treating myself as if I am the living embodiment of DON'T BEE. I plough through August, hoping my heart will not burst from all the MOVING and DEADLINE stress, and I feel I can't do anything right...Anythign I DO do is not the thing I NEED to be doing. And if I pause for some sort of recreation, The DO BEE song starts going off in my head...
DO BEE A BOX PACKER!
DON'T BEE A YACK ON PHONER!
DO BEE A DAILY BLOGGER!
DON'T BEE A NAPPING PROCRASTINATOR!
DO BEE A NOVEL FINISHER!
DON'T BEE A SIT UP TIL ELEVEN DRINKING WINE AND PLAYING THE NEVERWINTER NIGHTS EXPANSION PACK SO YOUR HALF-ELF RANGER CAN LEVEL UP TO BECOME A PRESTIGE CLASS SHADOW DANCER WITH DUAL WIELD ASTRAL BLADES ON A NIGHT WHEN YOU KNOW YOU HAVE A BABYSITTER LINED UP FOR THE NEXT MORNING SO YOU CAN REWORK YOUR CRAPULANT CHAPTER TEN AND GET FOURTEEN WRITTEN-ER!
Since I am congenitally UNABLE to stop flogging myself for my short-comings, at least I can do it via a cheerful little tune!
MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE.
TODAY I VANQUISH the recalcitrant chapter 13. I will update before 2 PM unless I do NOT make my goal in which case I will slink away in shame and not mention it and pretend I never publicly vowed a mighty vow.
MEANWHILE, I am back on South Beach Phase 2 recovering from my vacation, and while I am taking the last 2 pounds of my vacation weight off, I decided to try and lose another 5. In the deepest pink folds of my ridiculous heart I think that if I could ONLY get seven pounds off, I would suddenly become an incredibly valuable human being. I would be sort of like Gandhi, if his main contribution to humanity had been "wearing a size 8."
My mental illness number is apparently on the rise (THANKS, DEADLINE! THANKS! THANKS A LOT! LOVE YA, DEADLINE! JUST BE YOU! NEVER CHANGE!), so I INVENTED A GAME. It's based on YU-GI-OH. Anyone with boy children between 5 and 15 probably knows YU-GI-OH. It is a card game and you have monsters with levels and points and you play your cards, engaging your friends' monsters in battles etc etc.
Anyway, my son recently acquired a YU-GI-OH battle wrist card-dueler thing. It Velcros to your forearm and opens out into a big FAN and you can lay your YU-GI-OH cards out on the fan part and start a YUGI WAR with another 7 year old boy who has one strapped to HIS wrist. It SNAPS shut with a pinching clatter so it is a forbidden toy for babies named Maisy who are two and who are mine. It looks like the cruel device the Inquisition would have come up with if they had the technology to make plastic and wanted to torture little sisters.
Anyway. I want to get YU-GI-OH-style wrist battle-fans for all my friends, but ours would be PINK and we will make up our own cards. This is the titular CRA-ZI-OH! CRA-ZI-OH cards have your own personal quirks and weirdnesses on them and you battle it out to see who is most frighteningly bizarre in their brain parts.
My cards, for example, would include "having to be prescription level sedated before I can SIT in a dentists chair" and "Only cooking on the two back burners of the stove because I am afraid hot food on the front burners will LEAP down and scald the faces of my passing children. Or my children 2 rooms away in the den. Or my children visiting their grandmother in another state." Boiling food can apparently leap for HUNDREDS OF MILES if you are foolish enough to put it on a front burner. And of course I would have my "No matter what I weigh I want to weigh 7 pounds less" card. *sigh*
I KNOW rationally even if I became a walking bone with a scrap of fatless skin-flesh stretched tightly over it, I would still not be happy with my body because 1) I am an American Female and 2) I have a near terminal case of White Girl Butt. My butt is naturally about as wide and flat as Kansas. And of course White Girl Butt shaves a full two inches away from your soul, making you somewhat less than a worthy human being.
Oh wait! Look! Another card! BEAT THAT ONE!
You know those sleep number beds?If you are a veteran of the insomnia wars, I AM SURE YOU DO.
While I sat up watching the sleep number bed infomercial at a zillion o'clock in the black pit of night, I decided I need my own ranking system. I need a mental illness number. The scale will be 1 - 100 with 1 being grounded in reality and relatively cheerful, and 50 being needs medication and 100 being sucking own toes and paddling about in the bloody remains of the neighbors dog.
(Although the bloody remains part would be JUSTIFIABLE DOGRICIDE because that great hairy object habitually comes over and has his morning constitutional RIGHT BY THE MAILBOX ON THE CONCRETE OF MY DRIVEWAY. Which really, I should kill the neighbors who have apparently never heard of BAGGIES or COURTESY, not the dog, but by the time one has a mental illness number of 100, these fine distinctions are beyond one.)
After several days of mental illness numbers in the high 50s and low 60s, I think I got over 70 yesterday. NOT GOOD. I showed my butt to my friend Theresa who NEVER shows her butt. That makes it infinitely worse. I mean, Julie and Jan are USED to me being a complete headcase, but I have tried to keep a lid on it around Theresa because she is the most GROUNDED person I know. Her mental illness number is about negative 7.
BUT NO. I had to have a big old tantrum in front of her. See--- I had to miss my class because the nursery worker did not show up. AND I REALLY WANTED TO GO TO THIS ONE. Its my marriage enrichment class, and I have to say it has been a very good class. We have really enjoyed it, and I wouldnt want to miss it ANYWAY .BUT. THIS WEEK WAS SPECIAL.
It was the SEX TALK week. Our teachers have been married to each other for over 60 years so the writer in me was dying DYING to be at this particular class. Come on!!! Material like that does not just walk in off the street!!! And I missed it. MISSED IT!!!!
And everyone in the class SWORE to give me a play by play and then after class they all kind of shrugged as I avidly questioned them and said Oh it was, you know, a good class. Like always. It was fine. Julie added, tantalizingly, Oh, one of the teachers did talk about swinging. AND THEN THEY ALL PROBABLY SWAPPED KEYS WENT HOME WITH EACH OTHERS HUSBANDS BECAUSE THEY WERE SO CHOCK FULL OF FANTASTIC UNSHARED OCTOGENARIAN SWINGER STORIES.
I went home and ate half a box of chocolate covered cherries and watched infomercials, completely unfulfilled as a woman.
If you aren't a girl, go away. Today is female biology blog as I stress about the DREAMHOUSE and eat my body weight in chocolate.
SO, let us begin with BABIES MAKE YOU FAT. They just do. And PS WHY are girls so DUMB I mean WHO CARES what you weigh if you are healthy????
Answer: me. Violently and passionately. A two pound difference on the almighty scale is the difference between a REPUGNANT surfeit of self-love and an equally repugnant spasm of self-pity.
Sam made me fat, and I lost MOST (but not all) of that except then Maisy came and made me fatter. Then while beautiful Maisy was a little wee nurse-shark of a baby, I could not fix it. I can't diet while nursing. Period. The beautiful nursing hormones make me peaceful and happy in my fat.
SO after she weaned, I started the SBD and the hardcore I-want-to-be-Julie-and-Jan style workouts, and I was sensible and slow and it took me a year to get to where I wanted to be. The sad thing is I had Lily make the website before I was finished shedding, so I am a size 12 on the old picture I used for the splash, and now I violently HATE that page and am of course TOTALLY incompetent at web design and can't fix it and put in a picture where I am not so chubbly and SHE won't because she says I am A MORON for caring. And she is probably correct.
ANYWAY The other day I went and got a new swimsuit (SIZE 8 THANKS MUCH) and I was standing and glaring at myself in the mirror and Scott came up behind me and before I could say anything he said, "NO! YOU DO NOT LOOK FAT, GOOD LORD WOMAN, YOU CAN NOT POSSIBLY LOOK FAT BECAUSE HELLO! YOU ARE NOT FAT."
And he had busted me because of COURSE I was about to ask. So I said, "I know. I am very thin and amazing--and do you know the best part about being in a size 8 swimsuit?"
And he said, "No what?"
And I said, "I am FINALLY valuable as a HUMAN BEING!"
Then we both got the giggles and fell over and I hurt my knee. THE END.
And you can pick your nose... etc etc.
I have discovered that NOW, smack dab in the middle of my 30's, I have a LOT in common with Me At Sixteen (except she had a nicer rack). I am STILL as easily invaded as tofu. If you set me next to anything for even a little time, I pick up its flavors.
This means I have to choose my friends a little bit....carefully. It's not good to set an open tofu package near the cat box, metaphorically speaking. So that's why I don't spend a lot of time with, say, crack smoking, venereal disease-addled violent felons. I mean, there are some things you KNOW you do not want to pick up. But less obvious flavors can slip in under the radar.
I have made a GRAVE error in my friend selections of late. GRAVE.
See, my in-town friends USED to be Julie and Amy. This was good. Both of them believed that if sentient molds weren't plotting a coup in the fridge, the housework could wait. And sure, JULIE was a whole-grain fitness free-weights nutburger with 1% body fat, but Amy thrived on cocktails and chocolate and thrice weekly jazzercise. And sure AMY had 4 walk-in closets an almost cosmic understanding of accessorizing, but Julie lived in Levis and felt like if she had on mascara and little lip-gloss, she looked plenty cute, thanks. SO hanging out with them, I could never clean my house, then pick Julie-ness and dress like I was at summer camp, and pick Amy-ness and just take a brisk walk before I had choc-tinis for dinner.
But Amy MOVED to KANSAS and now my in-town friends are Julie and Jan, and WHOOSH, all of a sudden I am having to Become a Better Human Being.
1) Jan is in Julie's 1% body fat club. They both work out like LOONS and have VISIBLY TONED....everything. SO. NOW I get up at 5 am every morning and do thirty minutes of step while wearing ankle weights and then do another half hour of resistance training. EVERY. DAY. If I keep it up for another 15 years, I can perhaps go to the pool with them without longing for death.
2) Jan is a domestic goddess---her house SQUEAKS it is so clean, and Julie put her house on the market and next thing I knew, her homeless dust camels were standing out on the street lofting "Will Work for Food" signs, so of course I immediately fired my maid service and am now giving my bathroom tiles a weekly scrubbing with a toothbrush and bleach. The scary part is, there are moments when, high on lemon Pledge fumes, I actually feel a TINY bit fulfilled as a woman. Pass the heels and the pearls, June.
3) BOTH OF THEM are HEALTH CONSCIOUS EATERS! Now I don't eat white flour or sugar and I look askance at red meat and have replaced all rice and pasta with NOT JUST COUSCOUS but whole grain ORGANIC couscous, THANKS.
Jan is a girly-girl with and Amy-style wardrobe and MULTIPLE hair care products, and if Julie ever gets it in her head to go on a TLC make-over show and forevermore wear nothing but heeled strappy sandals, I am DOOMED-DOOMED-DOOMED. Thank GOD red wine is an anti-oxidant or I would also be doing all this self improvement dead cold sober.
I am in the sort of pain where, when a bad wave of it comes, your vision kind of clouds over and sounds mute themselves and you smell only the insides of your own nostrils. All your senses dampen and muffle themselves, so you can better experience the radiating core where a nerve just beneath a tooth of yours is saying PAIN! PAIN! PAIN! to the brain, over and over, in pulses, as if if thinks the brain is STUPID, as if it thinks the brain didn't get the message the first 900 million times.
Sadly, THE NERVE IS CORRECT. The brain IS stupid. And in its defense, the nerve has been sending little twinges of *polite cough* discomfort* polite cough* for days and days. But the brain ignored it. The brain said, "I do not feel you nerve, so shush, and anyway I have a CLEANING in July, And I can mention these little twinges then la la la."
Because the brain has a bad spot in it, like a bruise on a peach, a soft irrational blue-black rotting thumbprint of rabid uncontrollable phobic fear, and the spot is labelled "DENTIST."
At my dentists office, they have a BIG NOTE on my file that says "total psycho, handle kindly and administer many drugs" written in BRIGHT RED 72 point font. For a CLEANING they put me in a procedure chair and strap on the gas. They are gentle and patronizing and speak in soft tones and pet my hair, because otherwise I leap up, ripping at the bib, shrieking, trailing spittle, and the last they see of me is my puffy tail boucing away over the hills.
SO Brain ignored the nerve, and on Saturday, the MINUTE my husband left town, the MINUTE I was all alone with two tiny children and could therefore not take any SERIOUS pain meds, the VERY DAY my DENTIST LEFT THE FREAKING COUNTRY, the nerve had had just about enough with the discomfort mentioning and decided to TRUMPET ABOUT AGONY instead.
SO it hasn't been a good weekend. And I am about to leave for the SUBSTITUTE dentist's office, and she doesn't KNOW me, so it is not going to be a good day. *glumps down more valium* I have learned a valuable lesson though. Oh, it's not "next time a nerve begins twinging, go to the dentist immediately." Nothing actually USEFUL like that.
I have learned this: When playing biological rock-paper-scissors, Brain cuts nerve discomfort, but agony wraps brain.
OKAY. If you read this blog semi-regularly, you may be coming to the conclusion that I am a bit of a HIGH STRESS individual. Not really a take-it-easy, go-with-the-flow, serenity-now kinda girl. In fact, you would not be surprised to learn my high school classmates voted me "Most Likely to Stroke Out Before 40."
Right now, several things are conspiring to make me crave medication, and at first they may not seem connected, BUT OH YES THEY ARE TOO. Here are the things:
1) My house is on the market.
2) MY BELOVED ONE-EYED WRETCHED PILE OF CRAP (aka Schubert the cat) went to the vet because he has Butt Dandruff. The vet said, "The reason the cat has butt dandruff is that you have allowed him to become SO VERY EXTREMELY AMAZINGLY FAT that he can not groom his HINDPARTS." (My vet, a curmudgeonly old country Georgia type that crashes around in boots yanking out baby cows and spitting brown juices, actually did not say "hindparts." He said "ass." But my 13 year old nephew sometimes reads this blog, so I am going to pretend he said "hindparts.")
WELL, my vet gave me a very stern talking to about CATS and WILLPOWER (they do not have any) and said if the cat is fat, he is NOT a bad cat. Rather, I am a bad person.
SO I put the cat on a diet. Now my vet is pleased with me, but the CAT thinks I SUCK.
The cat has decided to show his displeasure by running ahead of me every time I go into the kitchen, and as soon as he ascertains that I am not on a mission of kibble-bowl-filling, he stands up and RAKES HIS CLAWS DOWN MY KITCHEN CABINETS. LEAVING LONG HIDEOUS GAPING WOUNDS. Which (Remember number 1? Because here is where it all comes together.) I would just ignore except, MY HOUSE IS ON THE MARKET. (See! TOLD YA!) No house hunter puts "Gaping wounds in the kitchen cabinets" on the PRO side of a pro and con list. *sigh*
SO in order to DISCOURAGE the cat (without beating him), I have taken to throwing water at him every time he stands to rake his front claws down the kitchen cabinets. In fact, I try to remember to CARRY a little cup of water with me INTO THE KITCHEN every time I am going in there to NOT feed him, so I am all PREPARED.
WELL the other day I was having my 35TH Nervous Breakdown over these blurb letters--my editor's assistant e-mailed and I needed write several MORE after I thought I was done.
SO I call my friend Jill and weep copious stress tears, and am toting a little cup of water around bcause I know in a moment I am going to go in the kitchen and eat 14 pounds of dark chocolate. So I am talking to Jill, WEEP WEEP, and trying not to stroke out, and trying to pick up toys because someone is coming later to see the house, and I am having a hard time managing the weeping and the water cup and the phone and the toy-picking-up because I only have 2 hands and 4 working braincells to devote to each task.
So I am talking to Jill, WEEP WEEP, and I think, "I need to get rid of one thing so I can pick up toys, can't be phone, talking on phone, better get rid of this water cup, why am I carryingf a water cup? Oh, right, it is to dump on the cat!" So I am talking to Jill, WEEP WEEP, and not thinking very clearly and I clock the cat sleeping peacefully on the sofa and WITHOUT THINKING ABOUT IT dump the water cup on him, because THAT IS WHAT THE WATER CUP WAS FOR.
Needless to say, the cat was not best pleased. Also needless to say I felt like the MEANEST GRINCH LIVING because there he is BLAMELESSLY sleeping and I...oh my. It does not bear further examination. Or rather, I can't bear any. SO.
Before any of this makes sense, you should know I am in a secret friend program....or I WAS. AND if you ARE my secret friend, you should not have a hurt feeling just because I am locked in mortal combat with you for most of this blog. Because really, yes, I understand this is an internal drama mostly between me and me. You may put on a nametag that says "Catalyst" and go get a soda from the icebox.
HERE WE GO!
I had a secret snit fit and got secretly angry with my secret friend and am now secretly not speaking to her. AND I DO NOT EVEN KNOW WHO IT IS THAT I AM NOT SPEAKING TO because....say it with me...she is SECRET.
QUERY: On a scale of 1 - 10, how mentally ill is this?
She did NOTHING wrong, really, she just has SUCH bad timing. I was handwriting all these letters to AUTHORS I ADORE asking for blurbs-- and to say it was not going well is an understatement. To say I was a BARE moment away from TOTAL BRAIN IMPLOSION is STILL understatement.
I wrote every author an individual letter, based on WHY I liked their work etc etc -- BUT -- ONE THING I put in EVERY LETTER was a variation on "I know you have 10 million things on your plate and a deadline, but it would mean so much to me if you could just find a moment to read my novel and, if you enjoy it, say a few kind words." SO I am essentially asking my SUPERHEROES for a moment of their invaluable time, and WHILE I am flogging myself through letter 18 or so, I get an email from Secret Friend saying blithely "OH OOPS I GUESS I HAVE BEEN NEGLECTING YOU THIS WEEK BUT MY GOODNESS I AM SO BUSY I HAVE NOT HAD TIME FOR YOU."
At which point I fell on the floor and wept and bit at the carpet and writhed and wailed "OH OH OH MY OWN SECRET FRIEND IS TOO BUSY FOR ME WHAT MAKES ME THINK ANNE TYLER HAS TIME???"
It is a good thing she remained secret, because my husband is the one who had to peel me off the floor where I lay foaming and weeping and he had to ply me with wine and hot baths and juju fruits until I was no longer in immediate danger of spontaneous combustion, and he REALLY does not need to know who she is.
1) Does the explanation make my mental illness score HIGHER or LOWER? What is it now?
2) I SO wanted to blog the SECRET FIGHT, but WHAT IF SHE SECRETLY READS MY BLOG? Now that the cat has eviscerated the bag and scampered joyously away up the street, I ask you, Should I have blogged it??!? or not??!?
Yesterday I was apparently stealth attacked by evil hippo spirits who damped my brainwaves. Before you put me on anti-psychotics, please, hear me out. I have proof.
In Egypt, a long time ago (oh my best beloveds) dreadful hippos lived at the edge of the Nile and killed people and thrashed violently around upending barges and eating water weeds and savaging other hippos. Okay, the eating water weeds part wasnt a huge problem, but the other anti-social behaviors led the Egyptians to a conclusion I can not dispute: Hippos are seriously not nice.
Then they took it one step farther, and while the rational bits of me cant really go with them on this one, my darker side is open to the possibilities. They concluded that Evil Hippo Spirits can attack on the spiritual level.
At any rate, little faience hippos were often made as totems and put in the tombs of Egyptians so as to keep the evil spirit hippos at bay. (Faience is a way to work in glass.) Here is a picture of one:
He is blue because hippos live in water, and the dark etchings are the outlines of water plants, indicating that this hippo is stealthily lurking in some weeds, waiting to pop out and kill you. (ASIDE: Hippo is one of those words that if you say it over and over it begins to sound hilarious and made up.)
William is a very famous faience hippo thats in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. I fell in love with him on my recent visit to NYC, so I got myself a William Fridge Magnet. MY HOPE was that little magnetic William would protect me against evil spirit hippo attacks, because, really, WHO NEEDS THAT.
But Beautiful Maisy, who is two, LOVES magnetic William, because he breaks apart along his spine to make two half-a-hippo magnets, and he sticks back together to form a single complete hippo statue. So she TOOK William off the fridge yesterday and wandered off with him and stuffed him Lord Only Knows...leaving me vulnerable.
In a fit of violent hippo-induced stupidity, I discontinued my cleaning service. The hippos made me have vague idea that I have, in the last five years, all without my noticing, become a completely different person. Hopefully one that mops. <--NOT. BLOODY. LIKELY. I think I am doomed.
My husband has been in Vegas for 16 days now.
Last night I dreamed I was in the beach house my family gets for a week every summer. I was sitting on the sofa, watching a movie, and my dad and my sister-in-law, Julie, were sitting on one side of me. My mom was sitting in a chair nearby, my brother was on the floor, and Arnold Schwarzenegger was sitting on my other side. He had long hair gathered back into a pony-tail and it was streaked with gray. Der Arnold was hitting on me pretty hard.
I kept saying, ARNOLD, REALLY, QUIT IT! I AM MARRIED! ARNOLD! MY PARENTS ARE SITTING RIGHT THERE! GOOD GRIEF! He kept blowing in my ear and murmering at me, but I was very firm with him. Finally he said, I MUST RESORT TO CALLING FOR A HOOKER TO BE SENT! and stomped out in a huff.
So. Pop quiz hotshot.
WHO needs their husband to come HOME NOW PLEASE.