Friday, December 23, 2011

How I wish...

Monday was the anniversary of my dad's death. Nine years ago. Stomach cancer.

I hadn't really thought about the significance of the date until I was sitting in traffic on my way to work. It was raining and gloomy, and I was listening to my iPod on random shuffle. That period of time when I'm in my car by myself, going to or from work, is really the only regular time I get to listen to whatever I want at whatever volume I want and sing along--loudly, if I so choose. As I sat on the bridge over Lady Bird Lake watching the grebes fly overhead, Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" came on.

"So, so you think you can tell
Heaven from Hell
Blue skies from pain
Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell..."

The flood in my head took my breath away and brought hot tears to my eyes.

Visiting my dad for the weekend. I am lying on the floor of his apartment wearing enormous headphones, plugged into the stereo. He has taught me to take care of the records. To never touch them with my fingers, to clean them, to be gentle and respectful of the needle. He trusts me with his collection and his expensive stereo equipment. Dark Side of The Moon is playing.  I have the LP cover open. I am reading the lyrics. I know every word to every song. I listen to this album a lot. I like Pink Floyd just as much as my Daddy does. I close my eyes and imagine the lunatic on the grass. I listen to all of the British voices speaking in the background of some of the tracks.  And the heartbeats. Us us us us us and them them them them them... Everything I love about music has already been planted in my heart. It is the best gift my father will ever give me. I am eight.

And I am in the driveway of my father's house. It is cold and raining hard. I've arrived at a gathering that is preceding my father's memorial service. There are other cars there. None of them belong to my family. They are friends and family of my stepmother's. I have never felt so alone. I am shivering as I stare at the door I have to walk toward and enter. We will all ride to the funeral home together, but I will still be alone. David Bowie's "Slip Away" is playing on my car stereo. The windows have begun to fog up. I am hollowed out by grief. My heart feels covered in lead. I am bent forward, head against the steering wheel, sobbing. I cannot do this. I cannot leave this car and go into that house and to that funeral home and say goodbye. I am thirty-three.

"Did they get you to trade
your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange
a walk on part in a war
for a lead role in a cage?"

By the time I got to the parking garage, I was undone. Snot was running from my nose. All of my eye makeup had dripped off of my chin. The song finished, and after I parked my car, I hit replay and listened again.

"How I wish,
How I wish you were here.
We're just two lost souls living in a fish bowl
Year after year.
Running over the same old ground,
What have we found?
The same old fears.
Wish you were here."

By the end of the second playing, I was raw, but composed. I made my way upstairs. Early to work, I was  one of the few people in the office. I turned on my computer, checked email and moved into the usual rhythm of my day.

After a few minutes, I made my morning pilgrimage downstairs to the grocery store I work above to get some breakfast and something to drink. I rode the escalator from the parking garage into the store, and as I got to the top I heard, "How I wish, how I wish you were here..." It was playing on the store's public address system. I have been in this store at least 5,000 times, and I have never EVER known them to play Pink Floyd. This wasn't an accident. This was him letting me know he's with me. He can feel my heartache. He knows I miss him. He's watching out for me. He was right there next to me. I could feel him.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

You're about to learn something.

It's probably no surprise to anyone who's spent any time at all with this blog that I am a complete nut for cute animals. And baby animals? Fuggitabout it. Total sucker.

So imagine my utter delight when, last week, I learned that a show about bebeh sloths was going to debut on Animal Planet. That's right: Bebeh freakin' sloths.

Here's the trailer:

SEE?!! Couldn't you just DIE?!

I set my DVR to record that sucker faster than you can say ZOMG ADORABALLZ, and Saturday night, after I stayed up and watch as surprisingly entertaining Saturday Night Live all by my lonesome, I decided I'd watch a few minutes of my recorded sloth show. Holy mother of CHRIST, y'all. The show focused on this sloth rescue facility in Costa Rica, and I spent the next hour grinning and full of squee as I watched the sloths and learned all about these seriously weird creatures.

But here's one part of sloth life that I did not know about: They only poop like once a week. And when they do, they slowly descend from their tree where they are hanging out, and hold on to the base of the tree trunk and, you know, do their business. In the rescue facility, they have to teach the babies the behavior, so once every few days, the handlers take the sloths and set them at the bottom of a tree and let them just sit there until they poop. As one of the ladies who works at the facility said, "When you see their little hips begin to move back and forth, you know something's about to happen." And you guys: the blissed out looks on these animals' faces while they're dropping their deuces? Fucking HILARIOUS. I mean, I was about to pee my pants just watching them happily crapping while hugging their respective tree trunks. However, since this was a classy show, they didn't actually show any of the sloth leavings, or "scat" as my wildlife biologist husband might say. And I know that you sick bastards are wondering the same thing I'm wondering, right? "Hmmm...what kind of poop could elicit such a look of pure joy on the face of such a creature?" Well, thanks to the power of the interwebs, you and I need wonder no more.

Ladies and gentlemen: Sloth poop.

Oh. My. GOD IN HEAVEN!! Can you beLIEVE that shit? (Pun intended.) I laughed so hard I wept when I first encountered this photo.

Sloth shit. So now you know.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

More Recent Discoveries

Follow-up to my original "Recent Discoveries" post, which wasn't really all that original.

Popcorn, Indiana's Wasabi popcorn. Seriously. Just go get some.

I actually like just regular old hummus way better than fancy alternately flavored hummus (ex. roasted red pepper).

Those new tires that I paid an assload for last month may have actually been worth it. It's been raining some here recently, and I'm not skidding around like I used to.

My attention span is not what it used to be.

I cannot stand the vast majority of Christmas music. Here's one exception.

This is probably the last Christmas that The Geej is going to wholeheartedly believe in Santa. This totally bums me out.

Tempur-pedic pillows are the answer.

I don't handle losing things very well (ex. losing my wallet, losing my keys, losing that thing that was just RIGHT HERE, etc.).

There is such a thing as "too much salad."

Sadly, sometimes virtual friends are more real than real friends.

Thursday, December 08, 2011


I once had a roommate who was pretty, smart, and successful. However, her self-esteem was almost non-existent. She would date a guy, he would treat her like shit, she would believe she actually WAS shit and deserved to be treated as such, and eventually she'd get her heart broken and go into a major depression. The next guy she would date would be exactly like the previous asshole who'd mistreated her and, although the lessons were abundant, she refused to learn from them. After going through this cycle with her several times, I was really, really exhausted by the drama and monotony of it all, and decided I could no longer live with her. Our friendship didn't end, but it definitely suffered. If she wasn't willing to make some changes and break the damaging cycles in her life (even though that's what she repeatedly claimed she wanted to do), I couldn't stick around and watch. It was just too sad.

The wisdom gained from suffering should push us to evolve. Sometimes the lessons we're supposed to learn and the wisdom we're suppoed to gain are not immediately apparent, but they never fail to arrive. However, if we choose to ignore them, and instead, to wallow in our own blame others for the choices we've lie to ourselves about how "over it" we run from the real work required to be the person we say we want to be...then we deserve to keep being handed the same heartache and misery over and over and over until we are cracked wide open.

Life has bent me and nearly broken me many times. But always, after I get through the pain or anger--which sometimes takes days, sometimes years--I listen. I listen to what is being taught, however difficult. I hunger for the knowledge and self-awareness that, eventually, comes. And I am always, always stronger in the end.

Monday, December 05, 2011

My Daughter, The Goth

A few weeks ago, The Geej was playing one of those "virtual dress up" games on our computer. You know what I'm talking about: there's a generic male or female figure and you get to choose their clothes, accessories, hair, make-up, etc. Well, she LOVES these little games and plays them whenever she's allowed on to the computer. So I go in to check on her progress, and I notice that the figure she's creating isn't wearing the tranny Vegas showgirl-type outfit The Geej usually opts for. This virtual girl is dressed in black, with black hair and dark makeup, including black lipstick. When I ask what's up, The Geej rolls her eyes at me and explains, "Mommy, she's a goth." And even though it wasn't spoken, there was an undeniable silent "Duh!" that followed her statement.

So, I decided to play dumb, and asked, "What's a goth?"

According to The Geej, "A goth wears all black and is kind of spooky and has black make-up and wears spiky jewelry and can break branches and not even feel anything." She knows this because one of her friends from after-care told her what goths are.


Fast forward to yesterday. We were invited to a "Pop Star" birthday party for a friend's 8 year old daughter. This was a first for me in terms of birthday party themes. And believe me, we've been to a LOT of birthday parties. The gist of it is: the guests come to the party dressed in their version of popstar finery, then the gals running the party rehearse a song with the group (of girls, presumably), add some choreography, get them all gussied up with some make-up and accessories, and then film a "music video" of the group performing the song. It's all very professional, with a backdrop set up, microphones, a digital video camera, etc.

The Geej is a total drama queen (surprise!) who spends a great deal of time singing in the shower, the bathtub, in front of the mirror, in the car, at get the idea.Suffice it to say, she was PSYCHED about attending this party. What we needed for the party (besides a gift, of course) was a rockin' outfit for The Geej. And without hesitation, she said she wanted to "be a goth." So we went to the gothiest place in the world: Justice! For Girls! Have you ever been to this place? It's like a sequin factory threw up all over a Justin Bieber concert. It's horrifying, and of course The Geej freakin' LOVES the place.

At Justice! we got a black skirt (sparkly), a black tank top (sparkly), and a black cropped sweater (also, sparkly). She wanted some black (sparkly) boots, but there weren't any in her size (thank Jeebus). Then we went to Claire's Boutique where I thought her head was going to explode due to the sheer amount of stuff that she wanted hanging from every wall and fixture. We ended up getting some black fingerless glove-type things (sparkly), some blue and purple clip-in hair feathers (sparkly) along with a necklace with the word "ROCK" on it.

We zoomed home, and my little sparkle goth tore off her normal clothes and put on her new duds, including some black (non-sparkly) leggings she already had. She was so excited by the completed ensemble, I was afraid she might explode. While gazing at herself lovingly in the mirror, she said, "I look HOT!" I thought BH might keel over.

So, in case you're wondering, THIS is what a seven year old sparkle goth looks like:
Spooky, no?

On our way to the party, I asked her if she wanted to listen to some goth know, to get in the mood. And my Taylor Swift/Selena Gomez-loving child enthusiastically said yes. But by about the 10th bar of "Bela Lugosi's Dead," however, I think she was really confused. "When is she going to start singing? What is that noise they're making? Is that music? Why is he singing like that? Is that his real voice?" It was kind of awesome.

I can't wait to introduce her to The Damned.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Memorable Thanksgivings

The first one away from family. In Chicago. I made my mom's cornbread dressing and took it to a big potluck hosted by some dudes living in a crazy house in Pilsen. The dressing was unevenly cooked--done around the edges, mushy in the middle. My boyfriend tooke a mincemeat pie from the grocery store. We all drank a lot, got loud, and had a blast.

The right after my stepdad had been moved from the hospital to the nursing home. I convinced my mom to come down to Austin for Thanksgiving. We, and two of my friends who weren't traveling home, went to a fancy Thanksgiving feast at The Driskill. It was really nice, but there was an undertone of sadness to the whole event. My stepdad died the following week.

The one right after I'd moved back to Austin with my fiance. We had another couple over, and between the four of us, we cooked up an amazing feast. While we were in the kitchen cleaning up after dinner, our Siberian Husky made off with the turkey carcass that was still on the dinner table and had a feast of his own. We'd smoked enough pot to think it was hilarious.

One at my grandmother's house when she'd purchased all the meals from the junior college's band booster club. They came in styrofoam containers--turkey, a scoop of dressing, green beans, sweet potatoes. My mother and aunts supplemented with pies and Parker House rolls. All the grown ups were pretty lit, so it wasn't a surprise when the rolls spilled out over the too-small pan in the oven and looked like slightly burnt scrotum sacks. Someone took pictures. Everyone thought it was hysterical.

The last one I had with my dad.

The one the first Thanksgiving the BH was living in Austin. Hosted my mom and four friends who were not traveling. The food was magnificent. I specifically remember having rhubarb pie for the first time, and loving it.

The one in Galveston. I was in college, and my mom, stepdad, and aunt, uncle, spouses and cousins all rented a place near the beach. We had shrimp instead of turkey.

The one with my dad where I found a wandering dog with a collar on on my way to his house. When I arrived, stray dog in tow, my very intoxicated father yelled at me for bringing the dog to his house. He was furious with me. I left with the dog, crying. Went back to my mom's house and eventually found the dog's owner and took the dog home to them. I left town that weekend without speaking to my dad again.

The one at my stepfather's mother's house in Athens, Texas. I ate a lot of coconut cream pie that had been sitting out a bit too long. The next day, I had my first case of food poisoning, and as I was in the feverish throes of vomiting and shitting myself silly, I tearfully begged my mom to let me die.She started to cry. I was eleven.

The one that we had at Mom's house when I was home from college. Mom, my stepdad, my grandmother, my Aunt and her husband. It was the first time I'd taken on some real cooking duties. I wanted everything to be so nice. I read up on how to properly set the table. I really focused on the presentation of my dishes. I think it was one of only about 10 times that dining room was used during the 20 years we lived in that house.

The one where I silently got up and left my dad's house after he'd said the word "nigger" more than I could handle while watching the Texas vs. A&M game.

Last year. Hosting BH's crotchety old dad and BH's two sons.Purchased a new gravy boat. I ordered the turkey, but cooked everything else. I finally got Mom's dressing right. A strong, windy cold front blew in while we were eating, dropping the temperature by at least 20 degrees.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A scratchy throat, a report on parasites, and a holiday bitch fest. You're welcome.

Yes, it's been actual weeks since my last post. Believe me, I wish I'd had the time and inspiration to create some posts, but both of those things have been sadly absent from my life. And now I'm sick. Sort of. I mean, I'm not sure what's up. I'm blaming allergies, but basically it's a feeling of general-worn-outedness (more so than normal), banging hangover-like headaches, and the rawest, sorest throat ever. Of course all of this is coming on when I'm wildly busy at work and I've got actual social events on my calendar. Of course.

On the domestic front, after never having them before, The Geej has contracted lice twice since September. The most recent lice-fest began this past Tuesday when she nonchalantly mentioned at the breakfast table, "My head is itchy." And sure enough, looked at her sclap and there those nasty bastards were. I beelined it to Walgreen's and bought a remedy that lands on the effectiveness spectrum somewhere between scalp napalm and tap water. So far, so good, but WHAT a pain in the ass. I kept her home from school that day while I cleaned everything that had come into contact with her noggin for the past week and treated her scalp, twice. We're still treating her each night and looking for those goddamned nits, but the fucking school and aftercare that she attends better be doing THEIR part to check for infestation, or it's all for naught. I alerted both of them about our situation on Tuesday and got a couple of vaguely reassuring emails about their policies, etc., but I think they should put that shit on lock-down until they are sure that shit's under control. Blech. I guess the ONLY good thing about getting lice in this day and age is that there it is far less stigma around it than it was when I was a kid. I got lice in 5th grade, presumably from the new, non-English speaking student I was tutoring in, no kidding, a broom closet. Her name was Ofelia, and she was 14 years old. I was 11. Our school was utterly unprepared to handle the needs of a student who didn't speak a word of English, so they enrolled her in 5th grade (instead of 7th or 8th, where she should've been age-wise) and then assigned a "gifted" student (moi) to sit in a broom closet with her and go over books that were intended for pre-schoolers. During that period, I got lice. And not only was my mother HORRIFIED (I might as well have come home with a lamprey stuck to my face), the school kept it all on the down-low and treated me and Ofelia like we were radioactive. I was so ashamed to have gotten such a "dirty" ailment, and my mother put a stop to my daily broom closet rendezvous with Ofelia and we were, instead, allowed to sit at a small tabel in the corner of the classroom for our tutoring sessions, which meant we weren't quite so close together. I eventually got over my lice, and Ofelia eventually left our school.

Next week is Thanksgiving. I fucking love Thanksgiving. It's during my favorite season, it focuses on my favorite kinds of food, and there are usually copious napping opportunities. Something I do NOT love? Traveling during the holidays and/or traveling on IH-35, both of which I get to do for this coming Thanksgiving holiday. We're actually going to be at my mom's on Thanksgiving Day, which is a short, non-busy drive and will involve her cornbread dressing, which is truly one of my favorite foodstuffs in the world. So that's good. But the next day, you know Friday...Black Friday...the busiest travel day of the year? We're loading up the car with all three kids and heading to "The Christmas Capital of Texas," Grapevine. Sigh. This whole thing is the brainchild of BH's mother, Dixie. And I love Dixie. Really, I do. And I love my brother and sister-in-law and their kids, who are also going to this family gathering. But OMFG, I am not looking forward to the travel. And also? We're going to be staying here, which means that we'll be dealing with the other thing I despise: holiday crowds. I know that The Geej is going to love the shit out of it. And like I said, I really do love BH's family, so I'm just going to have to focus on that. Because if not? I may lose my shit. BH feels the same way about this whole endeavor, btw. Hopefully we'll be able to keep each other from committing sepuku.

Some happier news: It rained earlier this week. Not a whole lot--about 1/2 an inch at our house--but it was still nice to see. And despite the fact that small rains like this (we had another one about a month ago) certainly perk up the grass and plants around town, the drought is showing no signs of letting up. Fucking drought. I blame Rick Perry. Not because I really think he's at fault, but because I hate him.

Alright, I'm signing off for now. Hopefully it won't be another 3 weeks before you hear from me again.

By the way, that there is a disgustingly real looking turkey cake I spotted recently at HEB. Ewww...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My Little Citizen

When I had the fall parent/teacher conference with GJ's teacher (who I really like now, by the way), she told me that they're learning about communities and cities and government--just the basic stuff. But how they're doing it is she had the class found their city by naming it and drawing up a city charter that they all signed. This city, named M&M City (how 'bout that product placement, Mars, Inc.?!), was founded to be a place that's "fun for kids with lots of playgrounds and free candy and swimming pools." Now, for the past week, the teacher has been explaining what the different positions in city government are and encouraging the kids to run for office if any of the positions interest them and if they think they've got what it takes to be the Mayor, Mayor Pro Tem, judge, etc. of M&M City. So The Geej decided she wanted to be on the City Council. She had to write a speech and then give her speech before the electorate, and she also had to make a campaign sign. Elections are today. I'll let you know how it goes.

Her campaign sign: It's in the shape of a t-shirt and mounted on a drinking straw:
The speech reads: I want to be a council member because I like to help kids and I like to solve problems if people need help. I really like working with people and that's what council members do. I hope you vote for me. Thank you very much.

Friday, October 21, 2011

My Religious Period

My father was the youngest of 5 born into a very strict Pentecostal family. He once told me that, by the time he was 15, he'd attended enough church to last him the rest of his life, so he stopped going--much to the chagrin of his deacon father. My mother was raised in a Methodist household that attended church during major religious holidays, but not much during the rest of the year. Neither of them ever guided me in a religious direction as I grew up.

When I was about 13, I was invited by a friend of mine to attend church with her. She went to a big, impressive Southern Baptist church that had just opened a cool new family activity center that had a gym, an indoor running track, classrooms, etc. Other friends of ours attended this church, and so I thought nothing of it when I agreed to accompany her family to a few worship services. Since my family didn't "do" church, the only way I was going to go to church at all was going to be by tagging along with another family who did.

After a few visits to the church, I started accompanying her to other youth-focused events there, and eventually agreed to go to an over-night "Lock In" with her. For those of you unfamiliar with what goes on during a Lock In, allow me to break it down for you:

Your parents drop you off at the church's family activity center early on Friday evening. There are lots of other kids there your age, some from your school, some from other schools in the town. The chaperones are made up of youthful members of the congregation who you've maybe seen in Sunday school or in the pews and the church's Youth Minister--a (usually male) minister who is young enough to connect with the kids but old enough to command their respect. The evening starts with an orientation and low-down on the schedule and the rules, and then you're set loose to eat pizza, roller skate, play basketball, racquetball, watch movies, do arts and crafts, etc. At about 2 am, they gather you all in the gym and start to talk to you about the Lord. About how we're all sinners, and about how, if we die without accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior, we will go to Hell. The chaperones get up and tell emotional, dramatic stories about how they were "saved," and about how they don't want any of us to burn in Satan's inferno because we were unwilling to accept the gift that God gave us through his Son, Jesus Christ. It goes on and on. There are prayers and crying. There are readings from scripture and more praying and crying. And then they start asking who in that room wants to come to Heaven with them. Who wants to be saved by the blood of Jesus Christ. Exhausted, over-sugared, puberty-addled kids start to stagger up from their pillows and sleeping bags and walk toward the Youth Minister, crying. He asks each of them if they accept Jesus Christ as their savior and will agree to "witness" for the Lord and be baptised into the church. Yes! Yes!! We don't want to die and burn in Hell! Anything you want, Youth Minister! We're young, highly impressionable teens who are sleep deprived and wanting more than anything to fit in. And as we see peer after peer head toward you and agree to be saved and baptised, we get swept up in the moment and say we believe. Oh how we believe, Youth Minister!!

When my mom came to pick me up the following morning, I was a ball of electric energy. I couldn't stop talking about being saved and how I was going to get baptised and how I was going to go to Heaven because I'd accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and I hoped that she was saved so that she could go to Heaven too. She agreed to come and watch me get baptised, but she wasn't sure about the "church 3 times a week" request I made of her.

After the Lock In, I became insufferable. I would "witness" to my friends and family--preaching to them about what my faith meant to good salvation felt...and how, they too, could join me in Heaven if they'd just agree to accept Jesus as their Lord. I prayed obsessively. I tried, with all my heart, to be the model Christian I felt like Jesus and The Youth Minister wanted me to be.

I got baptised during a Sunday evening service a few weeks after the Lock In, and attended church all the time: Sunday school, Sunday morning service, Sunday evening service, Wednesday evening youth fellowship, and Wednesday evening service. My mother dutifully drove me to and from, but never joined me. I even worked as a junior counselor at Vacation Bible School that summer, earning $150 for an entire summer's worth of work. My Pentecostal relatives were relieved that I'd chosen a different path than my wayward father, even if it was with the Southern Baptists rather than their much more conservative (if you can even imagine) church.

My religious fervor continued for about a year-and-a-half and then? I got over it.

Many, many years later, I revisited this whole bizarre time in my life. It felt like someone else's memories had been downloaded into my brain. Was that really me? Was I really that zealous and blindly accepting? What the Hell did my mother think about the whole thing? What made me decrease my commitment to my church and my religion?

Now, when I see others with this kind of fundamental faith and belief in their religion, I find it equal parts scary and admirable. Maintaining that kind of faith and devotion requires a surrender to an intense myopia that I can't even imagine. It requires that you view the world in terms of absolutes: Black and white; Yes and no. There is no room for shades of gray or maybes in a mind filled with the idea that there is only one path to heaven.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Twelve. Seven. And One thousand one hundred fifty.


Today is my 12th anniversary working for you-know-who. Wow. When I started this job I was a lot younger, skinnier, and blonder. I was also a lot less bruised by life. I had more energy but less stress. I drove a Mitsubishi that was 1/2 way paid for. I'd just moved back to Austin after being gone for five years, and lived in a rented house with horrible carpet and a man I would marry and divorce. I had lots of free time and saw lots of movies and live music. Everyone was freaking about the Millennium and what it would mean to computer systems around the world. My boss was hoarding bottled water and food in his spare bedroom. I had straight hair and bangs. I had a 401k and a savings account. My parents still lived in Longview, which meant somewhat frequent trips to The Pine Curtain. America was not (technically) at war. I smoked a good deal of pot. I was not a mother to anything other than a Siberian husky and an old, grumpy cat. I'd never been to Wisconsin, Michigan, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Oregon, or New Mexico. I didn't know what "genetically modified organisms" or "organic integrity" meant. My dad and stepfather were still alive. I had no tattoos.


Today is my 7th Bloggiversary. When I started this blog, I was quite a bit younger, skinnier, and had flaming red hair. I'd been pretty beaten up by life. The world had changed because of 9/11. I drove a VW wagon that was my first V-6. I lived alone in a house rented from a friend that had a great deck and a tiny kitchen. I was dating, but it was nothing serious. I had a 401(k), a savings account, and stock options. I still had all of my reproductive organs and thyroid in tact. I had lots of free time, saw lots of movies and went out a pretty fair amount. America was at war in the Middle East. My grandfather and father had died. My stepfather was in long-term care because of a surgery recovery that had gone awry. There was no Facebook or Twitter. I was about to purchase my first iPod. Everyone was freaking out about the upcoming presidential election. I smoked pot, but only occasionally. Katrina hadn't happened. I'd started the international adoption process, but hadn't yet been matched with a baby. I was a mother to an old, grumpy cat, and a young, orange butterball cat. That summer, I'd ridden to the hospital in an ambulance because I collapsed at work due to stress. I'd also attended my second (and last) ACL Fest. I had one tattoo, but no facial piercings.

One thousand one hundred and fifty.

This is my 1,150th post. I am older, fatter, and blonde-ish gray. My hair is curly, longish and layered. Life and I have agreed to a tense truce. The world is divided, bitter, dangerous and filled with selfish and stunning intolerance. I drive a VW convertible that isn't even 1/2 way paid for. I have over 17,000 songs in my iTunes and on my iPod. I live with my husband, daughter, two cats, a dog, a leopard gecko and, occasionally, my stepsons in a house I bought on my own that has a great deck and a tiny kitchen. I have a 401(k), savings account, Roth IRA account, 529 account and stock options. Everyone is freaking about the upcoming presidential election and the Occupy movement. I Facebook and am on Twitter...a lot. I have no free time and almost never see movies. I only go see live music of bands I really love and only if I am guaranteed good seats. America is still at war in the Middle East with no end in sight. My stepfather is dead. My mother is remarried and no longer lives in Longview, so I rarely go to the Pine Curtain any more. Last week, I got physically ill because of work stress. I have one tattoo and my nose is pierced.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Recent Discoveries*

*A post idea blatantly stolen from my girl, Kathy.

In my quest to eat somewhat healthier, I got adventurous and tried a new smoothie at Whole Foods. It sounds disgusting--kale, coconut water, ginger, mango, strawberries--and is the color of baby diarrhea, but it's actually good! And I fucking HATE kale.

Quaker mini rice cakes, salt and pepper flavor.

Although I don't drink coffee, I am most definitely addicted to caffeine. In the morning, if I don't drink a Guayaki Yerba Mate tea, headache. In the afternoon, if I don't take 2 Extra Strength Excedrin by about
2pm, headache.

Whereas I used to not mind it if I had to do a bit of work during off-work hours (at night, on the weekends, etc.), now it really, really pisses me off.

It is very difficult for me to help The Geej with her school work. She doesn't read directions and then gets PISSED when she has to do her work over. She also goes nuts when I try and help her. Then I get frustrated with her, and it just escalates. She's in 2nd grade. This pattern does not bode well for the future.

Paying a little extra to subscribe to HDTV channels is totally worth it.

I really like watching post-season baseball.

Google+. I'm not sure what purpose it serves yes, what with all my Facebooking and Tweeting and whatnot, but I still really like the interface and how it's not all cluttered and stupid like Facebook. Also, none of my family or my right-wing, super-Christian hometown FB "friends" are on Google+, so there's that.

Nick Offerman is not only funny as hell, he's super fucking sexy.

Water heaters that break and need to be replaced on the weekend cost an assload.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


I got a new computer at work yesterday. Normally, this would be something I would be dancing a happy jig about this. But thus far, I am not very happy with the whole switching-over-to-the-new-system bullshiz. Yes, I know I'm old and shit. And I don't "get it" as quickly or as easily as most of The Kids these days. But OMG, I've been having to mess with this whole pile o' crap almost all day today--a day when I NEED to be working my tail off. The biggest pain in the arse of all was caused by my beloved iPhone, or as BH disdainfully calls it, my "peg board." Allow me to walk you through my trials and tribulations:

Because this is a WORK computer, they won't transfer over non-business items like Tweetdeck, iTunes, etc. This is understandable. So, one of the first things I did today was install iTunes. As you may have heard, a new operating system (or "OS" if you want to sound all techie-like) was released from Apple earlier this week. After I installed iTunes on ye olde hard drive, I plugged in my iPhone to sync it like I do every day and BLEEP BORP BLEEK, a little robot inside my computer said, "YOU MUST UPGRADE! NEW O.S. BEEP BEEP. COMPUTING!!" or something like that. I dutifully did as my Apple Computer Master instructed me, including turning on iCloud and backing my phone up to it at 11:37am (FORESHADOWING!), and it seemed as if all might be okay.

I should've known that the sense of peace I felt was simply due to my innocence about the fact that my iPhone world was about to come crashing down around me.

About 20 minutes after I'd gotten everything installed and set up, I picked up my phone to do something, and went to unlock it and it didn't recognize my security code. You know, the one I've been using since I got my phone in January? The one I'd JUST RE-PROGRAMMED into my phone when I set up the whole iCloud b.s.? So I tried it again. And again. Locked the fuck out.

But SURELY there'd be some quick fix or advice on the Apple website, right?

Yeah, not so much.

So I called Apple and was on the phone with them for--no lie--nearly TWO HOURS. They had no idea what to do with me. So they "force" restored my computer taking it down to its factory settings and wiping it of all of my contacts, apps, photos, etc. But I wasn't too worried about it b/c my stuff was in a magical cloud somewhere, and I would be able to just pluck it out of the ether and restore it to my phone and go on living. Except that didn't happen. At all. And despite that my iTunes was TELLING me that my phone had backed up to iCloud, we couldn't get that backup to reappear. Fuckfuckfuckity fuck.

I finally got off the phone with them and went down to one of our IT dudes, Jim. Jim's awesome, and he was able to get some of my contacts back via reconnecting my phone with Outlook. But the vast majority of them are gone. Poof. And because I am old (see paragraph 1), I don't know anyone's phone numbers anymore. They're committed to my phone rather than to memory. I guess I'll spend the next year or so reaccumulating them...along with the addresses and whatnot that were also in my phone before The Big Wipe.

All of this moaning is just to say OMFG, y'all. I hate being this tethered to something that can so easily be compromised and obliterated. But man, am I ever tethered. It's kind of pitiful.

In unrelated-yet-still-technical news, I have fallen in love with our new HDTV. I bit the bullet and upgraded our cable package to get the HD channels (because, what's the point of having the TV if you can't get the channels, right?), and I watched the damn Rangers vs. Detroit game on that sucker last night, and it was amazeballs. The game, and the picture.

Alright. Thank you for letting me get all of that off my chest.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Feeling a little schizo because of travel and work and work and work. So much to say. Sneaking time now before the first of two all-day meetings to blog. It feels almost criminal.

Some glimpses from the past few weeks:

Walking toward my gate at BWI, I hear applause begin behind me. Then build. I turn around and see dozens of WWII and Korean War vets--most being wheeled in wheelchairs, some hobbling on their own--toward the gate of their departing flight. Everyone they pass by in the airport stopping to give these old men a spontaneous standing ovation.

The beginning bars of Elbow's "Great Expectations" as I stand a few feet from the stage. Staring up. Beaming. Transported.

I am eating lunch alone in a cafe in Santa Cruz. I am seated near the window, looking out on a busy street. Great people watching. A woman skateboards past me. More confidence and cool in her little finger than I will muster in my whole life.

BH and I talk about travel. Again. We rarely go anywhere together as a couple. We've never traveled as a family. He doesn't share my need or desire to have something on the calendar to look forward to. These talks always leave me frustrated and tense. And there's still nothing on the calendar.

Watching The Geej put on a "dance show" for me in her room. She is wearing a purple sequin tube top and a red taffeta skirt. It is all twirling and hair flipping and lots of throwing herself on the ground. She has absolutely no rhythym but is fully committed to the music.

At a cat show with The Geej and our friend Irene. Sundancer, aka "Sunny" is a very large, orange Maine Coon. He is stunningly beautiful. I watch him get judged, then his owner picks him up to carry him back to their carrier table. We chat. I pet the cat. Later, I pass by their table, and Sunny is outside of his carrier, sleepily lying on his back on the table. I want to steal him.

Having an inebreiated discussion about politics with BH. He is grilling me about my beliefs and positions. I feel defensive. We are a microcosm of the enormously contentious philosophical divisions in our country.  We agree to disagree on a lot of things.

I am spending money on things. Summer camp tuition for The Geej. A new HDTV and media cabinet. A blue topaz pendant necklace. A couple of Pricelined nights at fancy hotels. I feel worry and a vague sense of guilt with every purchase. I wonder if I'm being frivilous. My upbringing has taught me that even small financial indulgences are bad.

Bending down in the mail room at work. My jeans are too tight. I feel the crotch begin to split. It is time to do something about my fat ass.

Friday, September 30, 2011

How I Entertain Myself

So today's payday. For me that means that I spend about 15 minutes online, paying bills and whatnot. As part of that process, I logged on to my credit card's website to see what my balance was so that I could schedule a payment. When I did so, I noticed a charge that I did not make or authorize. I also noticed that, right next to the charges listed, there was an option that said, "Have questions about a charge you see here? Click here to chat with a credit card representative." So I did. After some back and forth (wherein the "representative" named "Austin" basically just pointed me to another part of the website where you go to disupute charges), we were wrapped up our chat. Here's what went down:

Austin: Is there anything else I can help you with today?
you: nope
you: thanks
Austin: If you'd like to provide feedback about your experience with us today, please click the button that reads End Chat at top right to answer a few quick questions.
you: you're a computer, aren't you
Austin: We appreciate your business. Thanks!
Austin: No.
you: robot?
Austin: I'm a human being.
Austin: Your feedback is valuable for me.
Austin: Have a great weekend ahead!
you: you're a very good robot computer impersonating a human being
Austin: No.
Austin: I'm really a human being.
you: that's what your programmer instructed you to respond with
you: they are smart that way
Austin: No. Pine Curtain Refugee*, I'm a real human being. (*Not my real name, duh.)
Austin: By the way, nice name.
you: okay okay
you: i'm just messing with you
Austin: No problem.
Austin: Please click the button that reads End Chat at top right to answer a few quick questions.
Austin: Your feedback is valuable for me.
Austin: Have a great weekend ahead!
you: Okay. You too, robot!
Austin: You too Pine Curtain Refugee.
Austin: Please click the button that reads End Chat at top right to answer a few quick questions.
Austin: Your feedback is valuable for me.
you: Chill, robot! I'm a busy lady! I'll get to it!
Austin: Have a great weekend ahead!

When I finally did click "End Chat" and answer the questions he kept referencing, I answered the "How can we improve the chat experience?" question with the obvious answer: "No robots."

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Damn Good Intentions

I really WANT to write a big ol' long post about the cool trip to Washington, D.C. I just took with a friend and all of the fun stuff we got to do and see and all of the WONDERFUL food we got to eat and how we saw real, honest-to-goodness rain while we were there and how traveling well together is an art form and how much the D.C. Metro system made me long for something useful and practical like that in Austin. But I can't. Not right now, anyway. Work has been steadily pissing me off and kicking my ass since I walked in the door yesterday, and there are no signs of it letting up any time soon.

Also, it's back in the 100-degree range here and there has still been no rain to speak of.

It's times like these that I'm damn glad I don't own a firearm.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My Crazy Kid

A quicky while I've still got a few minutes left on this crappy airport wi-fi.

The Geej has long enjoyed role-playing type play. She's had a variety of characters in the past--Lisa, Karla, and some mysterious creature named Norway come to mind. However, they were always just variations on a theme. Each one was an older "Mommy" character who (surprise!) worked where I work, was married to Daschel and had a baby named Sally. She is always dressed kind of fancy and wears high heeled shoes. She also likes talking on the cell phone and is harassed frequently by a very demanding boss.

But lately, she's added a new character to her repertoire. It's a little old grumpy man who walks with a cane and has a very distinctive voice and odd mannerisms.  And this past weekend, she came up with a name for him: Yuta (pronounced You-tah) Jones. Where did this come from? I have no idea. She'll just randomly yell, "Vote for Yuta Jones!" or, "Yuta Jones does not like potatoes!" in her weird little old man voice, and it just about kills me. She has dubbed me Cecil Jones, Yuta's brother. We live in a cabin in the woods, and she wants to write a movie about us.

Here's Yuta in action:

Seriously people?! I don't know where she gets it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

In which I wonder how much money I've spent on this type of activity throughout my life.

I was lying awake last night thinking about next week's fast-approaching craziness--flying to/from Oklahoma City for work on Tuesday/Wednesday and then to Washington D.C. for a fun girls trip on Thursday - Sunday. Why D.C., you ask? Well, several reasons. But the BIGGEST reason is that I have tickets to this band, who I absolutely adore and have never seen live:

They play huge stadiums in Europe but they're playing a 1,500 person club in D.C.--one of only a handful of dates they're playing in North America. I plan on being front and freakin' center letting Guy Garvey's voice and amazing lyrics just pour all over me. I will most likely cry because that's the kind of music-lovin' dorkaholic that I am. I convinced my friend Bookhart to go with me, and that fact, along with the fact that I haven't been a tourist in D.C. since I was 14, means that I'm pretty jazzed about this whole adventure.

Have I ever gone to such extremes just to see a band I love? Not exactly. But I would if the opportunity presented itself again. We're staying at my aunt and uncle's house in Bethesda, and we got relatively cheap airline tickets, so we're doing this whole thing as cheaply as possible. However, the whole endeavor is costing some cash. Which got me thinking at about 4:30am this morning: How many performances HAVE I attended in my long, long life? And if I had ever dollar I'd spent on those tickets sitting in front of me, what could I buy? And who all HAVE I seen live? Who HAVEN'T I seen who I'd really like to see before I (or they) buy the farm?

The results of all this insomniac mind-racing is below. Can't say I'm proud of everything on this list, and some of it is just plain random. "+" means I've seen them more than once--sometimes WAY more than once. Enjoy!!

Bands/Performers I've Seen Live--A More-than-likely Incomplete List

DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince
Aldo Nova
Judas Priest
Mac Davis
Willie Nelson+
Waylon Jennings
Huey Lewis and the News+
The Carpenters
Sam Kinison
Lenny Kravitz
The Cult
Eddie Murphy (stand up, not singing--thank God)
George Strait
Poi Dog Pondering+
The Sundays
Aziz Ansari
Blue Mountain
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
The Breeders
The Tragically Hip+
Bob Mould
Shawn Colvin
Mitzi Gaynor (look her up)
Van Halen+ (Original. No Hagar.)
Billy Squier
Phil Collins
Cheap Trick+
Night Ranger
The Pixies+
Beth Orton
Joan As Policewoman
Tim & Eric
Joan Jett
The Mingus Big Band
The Rolling Stones
Jon Stewart
Terence Trent D'arby
Foo Fighters+
Junior Brown+
Kool and the Gang
Mazzy Star
Iggy Pop
The Innocence Mission
Cibo Mato
Paula Poundstone
Tenacious D
The Handsome Family
Sujan Stevens
The Vienna Boys Choir
The Secret Sisters
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
The Strokes
Louic C.K.
Queens of the Stone Age
Butthole Surfers
The Beastie Boys+
The Smashing Pumpkins+
Billy Joe Shaver
Kelly Willis
Lyle Lovett
Jerry Jeff Walker
Patton Oswalt
Eddie Money
The Cramps
Jane's Addiction
Nine Inch Nails
Tenacious D
Lucinda Williams
Luscious Jackson
Los Lobos
Crowded House
Giant Sand/Howe Gelb+
Rufus Wainwright+
Elvis Costello
The Jayhawks
Robert Plant
Sahara Hotnights
Le Tigre
The Polyphonic Spree
David Bowie
Matthew Sweet
Kristen Hersh
Vic Chesnutt
Bob Schneider
Ray LaMontagne
Levon Helm
David Cross
Built to Spill+
The Donnas
Chris Whitley
The Arc Angels+
Dale Watson
World Party
Don Henley
Son Volt
Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
Neko Case+
Better Than Ezra
Peter Murphy
Golden Smog+
Gillian Welch
The New Pornographers
The Black Crowes
Yo La Tengo+
My Morning Jacket
Blind Melon
Ghostland Observatory
Janeane Garofalo
Iron & Wine
The Gourds
Steve Forbert
The Judy's+
Don Walser
Edie Brickell and New Bohemians
Goober& The Peas

Monday, September 12, 2011

Seriously America: You do NOT want to date this guy!

When I was in college, my best friend warned me not to hook up with this guy we'll call "Keith" because, as best as I can recall, I've never actually hooked up with anyone named Keith.

Anyhoo, I was sort of gah-gah about him becuase he was freakin' gorgeous and sexy and flirty. Dumb as a brick, but still... But my friend knew him from her hometown. She knew what a dick he was and how he treated girls like shit. She warned me and then warned me again, and then when I refused to heed her warnings, she was pretty much like, "Well, okay. Your funeral."

Fast forward to a few weeks post-hookup. I'm stalking this guy like a psycho. Why won't he call me back?! I booty call him and make a complete ass of myself. I run into him at a rock show, and he all but ignores me. But wait! A glimmer of hope!! He tells me to meet him at his house after the show. Hubba hubba!! Whatever you say, guy-who's-been-treating-me-like-shit-but-is-just-so-damn-HOT! I'll be there!

I show up and guess what: He doesn't. I just sit outside of his house for like an hour, waiting for him to get home and then leave, carrying an ass-ton of hurt pride and an endless loop of my friend's voice saying "I TOLD you so," going through my head.

Why am I telling you this? Because the way my friend must've felt when she was warning me against Keith? That's how I feel about warning America about THIS hypocritical douche bag:
Trust me, America. We Texans know him. We've dated him for over 10 years, and yes, even though he may be a flirt and may be "handsome" (as far as politicians go), he's an idiot. And I assure you, he doesn't give a SHIT about you. It's all about him and his enormous ego. America, he will fuck you up in ways you've only had nightmares about up to now, just like he's done to this beloved state of mine.

Remember when you had that horrible 8-year fling with that other daft Republican Governor of Texas? Remember how that whole thing worked out?! Why would you want to do that to yourself again, America? You're better than that! And besides, this dumbass makes George W. seem like the fucking chairman of Mensa.

So please America, do not date Rick Perry. Because if you do? It's your funeral.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Found while cleaning up my office at work.

Handwritten note in a small spiral notebook.

Panic attack on a plane.
  • parched mouth & throat; dry lips
  • inability to speak
  • like a large hand is wrapped around my torso--armpits to pelvis--slowly tightening its grip
  • sweaty palms
  • stiff all over; petrified
  • constant loop of panicky thoughts running in head
  • hot lava feeling in torso, back of neck, ears
  • gritting teeth alternating w/uncontrollable jaw shivering
  • shimmy shiverying of hips/thighs
  • feeling that I've forgotten to breathe & then breathing too fast; shallow
  • nausea; feeling like I'm going to puke
  • blurry vision; spotty vision
  • hyper-awareness of pulse; pounding/racing heart; pulse in neck
  • flushed feeling; hot cheeks
  • snowball feeling; like once it's started, there's no way to come down
  • lightheadedness
  • feeling off balance; vertigo; dizziness; feeling like I'm falling forward or sideways when I'm sitting still
  • sounds fade; become tinny
  • waves
  • out of control
When it's over, I feel utterly exhausted, drugged. Spent completely. Unable to focus or concentrate. Headachy. Very spacey.

Friday, September 02, 2011

So, this happened.

Have y'all seen this commercial?

Go ahead and watch it because it'll make the rest of this little story funnier, and I know you like the comedy.

I'll wait right here.

Ever since we've been letting our cat Doug outside, our night time routine more or less looks like this:
  1. Go to bed with all animals in house.
  2. Fall asleep.
  3. Get woken up at some point during the night by Doug meowing and/or jumping on me.
  4. Let Doug out the back door while blind (no glasses) and mostly asleep.
  5. Go back to sleep (hopefully).
Yes, it's annoying and kind of drives me crazy, but after a few months, I've gotten more or less used to it and can, literally, do the whole let-him-out-in-the-middle-of-the-night thing in my sleep. Almost.

A few nights ago, I heard the familiar meowing and felt a small mammal-ish creature hop on to the bed. Zombie-like, I arose, picked up the cat, and shuffled to the back door in the pitch black dark. I opened the door, and plopped the cat outside on to the deck, shut and locked the door, and headed back to bed. I'd guesstimate that I was about 15% awake during the entire event, so I was almost instantly asleep again when my head hit the pillow.

Fast forward a couple of hours.

I'm lying there snoozing like a champ, when GALOOMPH Doug jumps right on my chest and squeaks his disturbingly-weenieish-for-a-cat-his-size meow right in my face. And immediately, I sat straight up in bed (throwing Doug to the ground in the process) and said in an alarmingly loud voice, "Wrong cat!! I put the wrong cat outside!!"

I bolted to the back door and opened it. "Diane!! Diane!! Here kitty kitty!!" Nothing.

Went to the front door and out on to the sidewalk. "Diane!! Here baby! Here kitty kitty!!" Again, nothing.

You see, Diane doesn't go outside. She's never shown any interest in the great outdoors other than viewing it from a windowsill, and that's just fine with me. It's stressful enough having one feline roaming around the neighborhood, collecting fleas and random injuries, much less two. And she's tiny--a total runt. And we live near a very busy street. You see where I'm going with this, right? I was freakingthefuck out and thinking to myself, "I swear, if anything happens to Diane, I'll never forgive myself."

So I went back and forth and back and forth, back yard to front, calling for my kittykittykitty. At one point when I was calling out front, a cat came running toward me from across the street. Yay!

But, no. It wasn't Diane. It was a neighbor cat who I've named Big Ellen, and she came gallumphing up and flopped at my feet on the sidewalk, purring loudly. I literally said, "Not NOW, Big Ellen!" and headed back inside.

I finally kind of gave up and went an got back in the bed. BH said to me, "She's a cat. She's only been out a couple of hours. She'll be fine."

After about 30 minutes of tossing and turning and tossing some more, I thought, "Well, I'll go look one more time, and then I'll go to sleep." I went out to the back deck and flipped on the porch light and, BINGO, there she was, wide-eyed and sort of freaked out with a huge puffed-out tail, hunched down behind the chimnea. I said, "Diane?" And I heard a tiny "mew" in return. She bolted back into the house and almost immediately hunkered down on the bed next to me, both of us relieved as Hell that she was home.

A few hours later, our dog Shiloh came and shook her head near my side of the bed--her gentle, quiet way of telling me, "Hey Mom, I need to pee." I got up to let her out, and BH said from the bedroom, "Are you sure that's not The Geej you're putting outside?" That BH--he's a real comedian.

I'm pretty sure she's forgiven me. But now the regular joke around our house is, "Hey, remember that time you put the wrong cat out?"

Trust me, it'll never happen again.

And I Somehow Survive Another August

I know I've bitched about the heat and drought and whatnot, so I promise not to do that in this post. In fact, if you wanna read some really well-crafted weather-bitching, then I'd urge you to check out this fine blog by fellow Austinite and heat-sufferer, Kathy.

Even though the weather hasn't changed one little bit, I'm so effing happy that August is dunzo that I feel like dancing a very sweaty jig in the middle my crispy lawn. But I like my neighbors too much to do that to them.

I really have no news to report other than some random goings on.

The Geej is adjusting to her new teacher and being back in the school-groove. I really feel like her principal and school counselor are on top of things, which is super helpful when it comes to my piece of mind. So I think we're all going to survive second grade even if having to get her there by 7:35am, M - F is killing me dead.

Work is going well. I've been working on some projects I'm enjoying and that are requiring me to use the ol' noodle in a good way. And I'm busy. Very, very busy. My annual (not really annual since I haven't had one since 12/09) performance review is coming up next week, so you know. There's that. Last time, I got a whopping 2% raise after enduring a 2-year salary freeze. Who knows what will happen this time. In this economy, I'm just incredibly thankful to have a job.

Found out a friend of mine--my age and a mother of two--has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Again. Her first round was about a year-and-a-half ago, and she caught it early, treated it w/radiation, and it went away. But this time, it's more serious and she's opting for a double mastectomy. She's going to be fine--I just know it--but I also know that she's the absolute glue that holds her family together. I worry about how they're going to do during all of this almost as much as I worry about her. Fucking cancer...

Speaking of, my uncle who passed away from fucking cancer A YEAR AND A HALF ago STILL doesn't have a fucking headstone on his grave. What the disrespectful FUCK, y'all?! I'm not sure why this pisses me off so much, but it does. And it confirms, yet again, that I have no desire to be buried in a graveyard. The whole exercise is weird and creepy to me (as if death weren't weird and creepy enough).

Tonight, The Geej and I will be spending the night at Dah's house. Why? Well because Dah and her Plungette group will be marching in tomorrow's Oatmeal Festival parade, of course. I'm it will be filled with good ol' small town Texas charm and I'm betting that the people watching is going to be spectacular. I'll try and post some pictures post facto. BH will not be attending the parade, however, because he's going to go hang with his boys for the day. Seems the town they live in is having the grand opening of a bad-assed new skatepark, and the guys are pretty stoked about it. Do the kids still say "stoked," by the way? Oh, who the fuck cares.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Cautiously Optimistic

The principal at GJ's school sent me back a very thoughtful email. She offered some really valuable perspective and had some good suggestions, including letting GJ talk with the school counselor so that she knows she's being heard--by a grown up--at school.

GJ's report from her day yesterday was somewhat better, and some of her spunk has returned. She tackled her homework with gusto and even told me some HAPPY stories of things that happened in class that included MS. SECOND GRADE TEACHER.

So I'm going to stay on top of it, but for now things seem to be heading in the right direction.

Thanks to those of you who commented and offered advice. You know who you are...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Mama Bear Begins to Growl

First up, thanks for your comments and concern. I just sent this message to GJ's principal (identifiers redacted). We'll see what comes of it:


First off, congrats on ELEMENTARY SCHOOL's recent "Exemplary" rating. I know how hard all of the teachers and students worked to acheive this recognition.

Second, I wanted to let you know about some concerns I have about my daughter GJ's current classroom situation.

GJ has always loved going to school. She's never been one to protest getting up and heading to class. She's been blessed with caring and skilled teachers all the way from her pre-K and kindergarten experiences (at a private Montessori school) through her first year at YOUR SCHOOL in Ms. 1ST GRADE TEACHER's class. She handled last year's transition from the Montessori environment to public school quite well and was very excited to start 2nd grade.

The open house visit with Ms. 2ND GRADE TEACHER went well. She was warm and friendly and her classroom seemed bright and organized. The whole time we were there, former students were stopping by to say hi and get a hug. I was very pleased to see this and had high hopes. However, when GJ got home from her first day of school, she said she'd felt "rushed" and that Ms. 2ND GRADE TEACHER "yelled at them a lot." As I probed a bit deeper to figure out what exactly she was talking about, she said that Ms. 2ND GRADE TEACHER didn't give her "time to think" and that all of the yelling was about "Do this! Finish this up!" and that it "gave her a headache." I explained to her that different teachers have different styles and that Mrs. 2ND GRADE TEACHER's style may just take some getting used to and that, especially at the beginning of a new school year, it's important that the teacher establish their classroom schedule and routine, which may be why she's feeling rushed. She seemed to understand, but the evening ended with her having a bedtime meltdown--an extremely rare occurrence at our house. She was very upset--crying and saying she didn't want to get yelled at. And, for the first time ever, she expressed fear and anxiety about going to school.

I worried that yesterday morning would be a battle, but it wasn't. She went to school without protest, but all of the enthusiasm that had been there on the first day of school had disappeared. Yesterday evening, she said that Ms. 2ND GRADE TEACHER yelled at the class again and that, at one point, she'd walked by GJ's desk while she was working, accidentally hitting her in the back of the head and then not saying she was sorry, even though she knew she'd done it.

I am not an alarmist parent. Like most 7 year old girls, GJ can be a bit dramatic, but she's not a liar. I am very worried about how this school year--with this teacher--has started out. It's one thing if a teacher has a loud voice and is boisterous--it's another thing if s/he actually yells at the students. Yelling is simply unacceptable in a second grade learning environment. Seeing GJ's excitement about second grade so quickly extinguished by her classroom environment is very upsetting to me.

I know Mrs. 2ND GRADE TEACHER is a veteran teacher at ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. Have other parents ever expressed worry about Mrs. 2ND GRADE TEACHER's approach before? If so, what were the repercussions? Do you have any advice for me and for GJ in this situation? Do you think you and I should meet--either with Mrs. 2ND GRADE TEACHER or one-on-one?

I appreciate your quick response to this email.

If you'd care to call me, my work number is XXX-XXXX and my cell phone is XXX-XXXX.

Thank you,
Pine Curtain Refugee

Monday, August 22, 2011

And Then Everything Turned Itself Inside Out

I never struggled academically in school. I got--and enjoyed--everything that was thrown at me. I thrived. That is, until 9th grade algebra. Something about the theoretical nature of it all--it's utter abstractness--didn't click in my brain. Plus, it just seemed so fucking pointless to me. Who GAVE a shit if X equaled Y? My teacher that year didn't really care about teaching so much as she cared about covering the "essential elements"--a new set of standards required by The State and repeated like a zombie mantra by teachers who were scared shitless of being judged against these new, arbitrary requirements. Their anxiety made its way into their teaching styles. And if they were already uninspiring teachers, they became even worse under the heightened paranoia that the Essential Elements brought with them as their presence became a part of our daily vernacular.

For the first time in my life, I was the slow one in class--the one who asked too many questions and held everybody else up. I became the one who needed extra attention and time--something the Essential Elements curriculum discouraged. I became the one who cried at night while trying to do my homework and had to try ten times harder than I'd ever done in my life just to squeak by with a B minus. I became the one that became not only fearful of math, but also quickly grew to HATE math. I hated how stupid it made me feel, and I had no interest--zero--in advancing in the subject. To this day, I am known as a dumbo when it comes to math. I laugh about it, but the memory of that horrible feeling of being left behind because of (what I perceived at the time as) my own denseness still stings.

Fast forward to the present day. GJ is so gifted in so many ways. She is kind, makes friends easily, and loves learning new things. I have been enormously blessed with how she's handled SO many things that other children and their parents struggle with. Bed time has almost always been easy. She's not overly picky with food. She has never been shy around new people or situations. Even with her transitions from her baby/toddler school to Montessori to public school, she'd handled everything with bravery and grace.

Until today.

The concept of second grade has been one she's been thrilled about since the last day of first grade--getting to be the bigger kid...knowing the ropes. Last week, we read the posted class list and looked up her new teacher in the yearbook, and GJ seemed excited about who she'd gotten. "I remember her!! I smiled at her a lot on the playground! She likes me!"

Open house last Friday seemed good as well. The teacher was warm and friendly to me--more so than I'd felt the first grade teacher had been upon our first meeting. Her classroom seemed bright and well-organized. Former students stopped by to say hello and grab a hug. Very promising.

Today when I took GJ to school and walked her to class, the excitement was still there. Second grade! Yay!! But then when I picked her up this afternoon, there'd been a change in her demeanor. I was all amped up, wanting to hear how great it had been to see her old friends and get acquainted with her new second grade life. But when I asked her how it had been, and she said quietly, "I felt really rushed, Mommy," it was as if someone had kicked me square in the the guts.

I tried to do all of those things and say all of the stuff you're supposed to say when your child is discouraged. She seemed helped by my seemingly wise counsel, and we went about our night.

At bedtime, we read together, and then it was time for lights out. We said our goodnights, and I went to my room to read. Then softly, from the other side of the house, I heard faint whimpers that quickly turned into epic sobs. When I went to check on her, she was crying so hard she couldn't catch her breath to tell me what was wrong. But I already knew.

When she was finally able to speak between sobs, the words, "I feel so RUSHED. I don't have time to THINK, Mommy," is what I heard. The tone of her voice dripped with stress and worry. "My teacher yells if we're not on time with everybody else." Granted, GJ has a flair for the dramatic, but there was nothing about what she was saying that felt put on or exaggerated. My heart felt like it was in a vice grip, and I wanted to punch something.

I pulled her into my lap and rocked her and told her that all teachers have different styles and that her new teacher might just take some getting used to. My logical brain believes this 100%, but my gut tells me it's bullshit. I advised her to give it a day or two--to be open to her new teacher and all of the change that a new school year brings--and that if she STILL feels this way at the end of the week, I'll schedule some time to speak with her teacher.

The last thing I want this bright, eager young child to feel is discouraged and left behind--not ever, but ESPECIALLY not in second freaking grade. I don't want her to be me in algebra. But maybe I'm overreacting. Maybe I'm projecting my own bullshit on to her unique situation.

By Friday, I should know...right?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I Am 93% More Likely

To get behind the old lady writing a check and trying to use 49 coupons and a raincheck at the grocery store than behind someone who actually has shit to do and wants to get the FUCK outta there.

To lie awake with my mind racing after my 4:48am trip to the bathroom than actually fall back to sleep.

To yell "Come ON, Granpaw!" at you if you're going 32 mph in a 45 mph zone than to think, "It's so ADORABLE how slowly he's going!! Good for him!"

To fart than tinkle when laughing.

To choose potato chips over tortilla chips and cantaloupe over honeydew.

To take a nap when the opportunity presents itself rather than do something "productive" or "active."

To vote for a blind, brain-damaged chimpanzee covered in its own feces than any of the Republican "candidates" currently campaigning to be our country's next president.

To sing harmony than melody.

To tell you if you've got something stuck in your teeth or if your fly is open than let you walk around looking like a chump.

To buy something without trying it on and then have to return it when I get it home and it doesn't fit than try it on in the store.

To drink savignon blanc than chardonnay.

To read non-fiction than fiction.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

My Stepson is a Badass.

Not only is he one of the skaters featured in this video, he also helped film it. He is fearless and talented and kind and funny, and he's only 11 1/2 years old.

He is a badass, and I adore him.

Summer Skatepark Sessions from Greg Melish on Vimeo.

Friday, August 05, 2011

A terrifying glimpse into my brain.

Last night's dream contained the following elements:
  • Wardrobe:  Sweeney Todd, which I have not actually seen.
  • Water skiing
  • Severed toe (not mine)
  • Set: HBO's Carnivale, however we were actually in Miami
  • Melanie from "So You Think You Can Dance"
  • My friend Thelma Jane
  • Karaoke
What the HELL, people?! I'm blaming this extreme weirdness of this dream on a combo of the heat and the fact that I saw a not-quite-full-grown-but-bigger-than-a-baby possum on our front porch last night. And also that I'm nuts.

Monday, August 01, 2011

I remembered. I am haunted. I am hot.

I remembered on my way downstairs at work this morning that The Geej used to love playing on my bed when she was a baby. For some unknown reason, the memory just leaped into my brain, immediate and vivid. About 11 months old, she would gleefully throw her tiny body around on the bed for long stretches of time, knowing that either I or the soft mattress and pillows would catch her. Her huge open grin, with gums just beginning to sprout what is now a mouth full of teeth, showing how completely happy this little repeated act of abandon and trust made her. I believe that this is what a child's love for her parent is based upon: the unquestioning belief that you will always be there for them, no matter which way they throw themselves.


I am haunted by an eyeless cat I met this weekend. We didn't need to go to Petsmart, but we were shopping nearby, and The Geej wanted to go "see the animals." There are always adoption events on the weekends put on by various local animal rescue groups, and generally there are a fair number of cats, kittens, puppies and dogs you can interact with, and some you can even hold or pet. They had moved the canine adoption candidates inside the entryway of the store because of the heat. It was crowded and unfortunately, for the dogs and for us, it wasn't very easy to interact with or even see the puppies. We made our way inside, and halfway down the main aisle, there were tables with cages set up on them, and in the cages were cats and kittens ready to be adopted. Each cage had a laminated page attached to it that gave the cat's name and some information about it. The second cage held the eyeless cat. Full grown with a coat of long, cream-colored fur, she sat perched in her little fabric hammock that hung from the cage's four corners, quietly alert. She listened and sniffed. I could see the tiny corners of her pink nose moving as she took in every smell that passed her. The Geej looked at the cat and asked in slight alarm, "Where are her eyes?" I read the information page aloud to her: Ophelia. Born with a genetic eye defect. A stray. Part of a feral colony. Repeated infections. Unable to save the eyes. Recently removed. Don't feel sorry for her because she has adapted amazingly.

We stuck our fingers through the black wire openings, hoping Ophelia would smell something she liked and come closer to the cage walls so we could pet her. But she stayed put, interested but not quite sure enough to move from her safe spot. One of the women manning the adoption center said, "You can open the cage and pet her if you'd like." I carefully opened the latch and stuck my hand in, touching Ophelia's soft head and ears. The Geej concentrated on petting her side and back. Immediately, Ophelia began to purr and pushed her head into my hand, lunging into a half-roll upside down so that I could access her chin and neck. Her paws began to knead the air, a sign of comfort and bliss. I moved my hand away so The Geej could pet Ophelia's head too. She giggled with Ophelia's pushes into her small hands, saying, "She REALLY likes this, Mommy!" After a couple of minutes of communion with this blind cat, we closed the cage and stepped away to look at the other kittens and cats. She composed herself back in her hammock, listening and sniffing, her sewn-together eyelids on her beautiful face pointed in our direction.


I am hot. This summer has been horrible, and now it is August 1st, which means that we have at least two more months of this shit. I have moved on from being frustrated and sizzled into boredom by the relentless swelter, and now I am just hot and angry. There is no rain, few clouds, and everything is dead or dying. Tempers are short, and the nights offer no respite.

I think back to my last summer in Chicago. A famous Midwestern heatwave sat upon the city like a fat, sweaty old man. People were dropping dead. The city's electrical grid couldn't handle the demand. On my way home from my wonderfully air-conditioned office to my apartment that was only sort of air-conditioned by a couple of lame window units, I noticed that the traffic lights in our neighborhood weren't working. Rolling brown outs. No power anywhere for blocks. I walked into the apartment and was overwhelmed by the stillness and oppression of the heat. My dog lay on the floor, listless. I got his leash and took him on a short, slow walk, after which he drank a bowl-and-a-half of water in record time. I kept thinking to myself, "But I'm from TEXAS, goddamnit! I can handle this stupid heatwave." But the truth was, I couldn't. I was miserable and couldn't bear to be in the boiling house, but also couldn't risk leaving the dog there without care. I took his leash and went to sit on the front stoop of our brownstone, in the shade. Together with our neighbors, we waited for the sun to go down. When it did, the dog and I made our way back upstairs. The air temperature seemed to increase by ten degrees with each step up. After dragging ourselves inside, I had to light a few candles since we still didn't have electricity and had no idea when it might return. The coolest place in the apartment was the kitchen with its hardwood floors and windows at either end that offered a slight hope of a cross-breeze. I took off everything but my bra and underwear and went to lie in the middle of the kitchen floor, staring at the ceiling illuminated by a couple of flickering tea lights. Other than traffic noises through the open windows, the dog's incessant panting from five feet away was the only sound I could hear. I thought, "We are going to die tonight, me and this damn dog. We're going to become statistics." I wondered who the poor soul would be that would find me dead in my underwear on the kitchen floor next to my beautiful Siberian husky. I wondered if my death announcements would focus on the irony of a Texan dying in a heat Chicago. However, we survived.

That day and that night are STILL the hottest I can ever remember being, and that's saying something. The Chicago heatwave lasted what, a few days? A week? And then things went back to what was considered "normal" summer weather--warm days, pleasant nights, the occasional rain shower. I'm beginning to wonder if this intense monotony of extreme temperature coupled with drought is now what's considered "normal" summer weather here. And if so, will I be able to stand living here for the rest of my life?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Do you HEAR me, Don?!

Yes, it has been hot here in Austin. Horribly horribly hot, reltentlessly sweltering, and so so SO dry. But right now, out in the Gulf of Mexico, there is a storm named Don a-brewin'. And as of earlier today, this was Don's projected path:

If there is a God, and if that God doesn't hate Texas, we will be getting some rain from this storm and maybe, just maybe, a day or two where it DOESN'T get to 100 degrees or higher. If we DON'T get any rain and relief from this godawful summer, I cannot be held responsible for my actions which may or may not include, yelling, screaming, crying, ripping out hair at the roots, punching kittens in the face, spitting at preachers, littering, and farting on the elderly. Seriously. This rain NEEDS to happen, or your poor Pine Curtain Refugee may have to go to the loony bin and/or county jail.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I dreamed I had cancer.

Last night, I was diagnosed. Bone cancer. The prognosis wasn't good. I started chemo right away. My hair began to fall out. I considered short haircuts to ease the progression to full-on baldness. Two friends from my writing workshop were there. A friend from work. My mother.

The treatment center was located on lovely green grounds, but the interior was bleak--filled with the sick and the dying. The doctors and nurses were faceless, their speech muffled.

I remember thinking, "I don't think I can do this, but I have to." They opted for an insulin pump type gizmo instead of a port-a-cath for the delivery of my drugs. My skin turned gray. I got puffy from the medication. I looked in the mirror and barely recognized myself.

The fatigue was overwhelming, and the only energy I did have was fueled by frustration and anger. My spirit was devoured by worry. I worried about not beating it, about who and what I would leave behind, about what happens after your heart stops beating and your eyes close forever, about being shut out of the world of the living.

I woke up and was flooded with sadness. I stared into the dark, quiet room, my husband softly breathing next to me. I counted my heartbeats, trying to lull myself back to sleep. But my mind went backwards, retracing the vividness of the dream. My body tensed. "It wasn't real," I told myself. "Relax."

I told myself that it was just my mind racing around, throwing together people and places and events and making up its own story about the body turning upon itself, rogue cells indiscriminately attacking from the inside.

It wasn't real, but I can't seem to shake it.


Haven't written a word since I got back.
Utterly uninspired. The heat. Work. The day-to-day drudgery of it all.
Reading a really good memoir and trying to seek inspiration from that.
Went to see a movie and my writing workshop brain was troubled by how poor the storytelling was.
Forgot how much The Geej talks. It is constant and relentless.
Dreading August more than usual.
Dreamed I got furious and yelled at someone for throwing a dirty diaper into the Mississippi river. Figure THAT one out, Jung!
The ugly and intolerant political rhetoric in this country is making me more sad than it is angry.
My headaches and IBS have returned.
Keep torturing myself by looking at the weather reports for Portland.
Also torturing myself by trolling real estate online again. Dreaming of a house with an office. 
Have no idea what to get The Geej for her birthday. It's this Saturday. She'll be SEVEN.
Excited that I have a couple of the authors from the writing conference following me on Twitter now!
That thing that the dermatologist dug out of my neck? It's back.
Noticed a severe and ugly new wrinkle on my face. First time I've ever seriously considered Botox.
Wondering what's next.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

And then, there's this.

Let's say it's a glorious day in July. Warm, but not too hot. Not a cloud in the sky.

Let's say there's a street fair. It's big. Tens of thousands of people are attending. It stretches on for blocks with artists and food and music and people, people, people.

Let's say it was a long, wet, dreary spring. Longer and wetter than it ususally is. Even in Portland, Oregon.

And let's say, there's a funky gospel choir made up of at-risk African American youth in their white robes, singing loudly and joyfully about their Lord.

What would YOU do in this situation?

Well, here's what THIS guy did:

God bless the freaks.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Thoughts Upon Heading Home

Things I haven't done in over a week:
  • Cooked
  • Loaded/Unloaded Dishwasher
  • Kissed husband
  • Driven car
  • Eaten Tex-Mex or tater tots
  • Shaved legs
  • Watched TV
  • Hugged kid (mine)
  • Slept with windows closed
  • Played fetch with cats
  • Drunk bubble water (La Croix, or similar)
  • Scooped cat litter
  • Worried to excess
  • Done other people's laundry
  • Petted dog belly (my dog)
  • Gotten angry
  • Checked internet gossip sites
  • Felt uninspired, listless

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Dispatches from Writing Camp: The Last Day

I am wondering if I should even attempt to write this post now. Right now, while the big end-of-conference Dance Party rages on in the Student Union building outside my windows, I am busy packing. Yes, I went to the party for a while, but I knew when it was time to leave (a gift of insight that comes to you in your 40s, I believe).

It will take me a while to process all that this week has meant to me intellectually, emotionally, and even spiritually. I have slept better, have had fewer bouts with IBS (yes, ladies and germs, sometimes your Pine Curtain Refugee gets sudden, explosive diarrhea brought on by stress. Deal with it. I have to.), have been more inspired by and engaged in life than I have in how long, I can't remember. But the biggest feeling I've had all week is peace. Peacefulness that can only be achieved when your primary duties of each day involve writing, talking about writing, listening to people talk about the craft of writing, reading, listening to people read, and writing down lists of books and writers you want and need to read. That, my friends, is a version of heaven that perhaps few can understand. The only thing that would've made this heavenly vision complete would've been to have my family and pets with me, some really good Tex-Mex at arm's length, and maybe not so much cigarette smoking.

Am I ready to go home? Yes and no. Yes because I am literally aching for The Geej. This is the longest we've ever been apart, and although I've talked to that little monkey every day on the phone, all I want to do is tickle her knees and squeeze her guts out. Yes because I want to tell BH all about it. I want him to see how happy I am. I want to make out with him. Yes because, as dorky as it is, I miss communing with my silly pets each day. Looking into their eyes. Feeling their fur. Laughing at how incredibly goofy they each are. 

But no, because what I'm going back to is relentless, 100+ degree heat and an historical drought. Green things burned up and ready to ignite with the smallest flame. A house I'm tired of living in that needs new carpet, paint. Air conditioning. TV. The ridiculous amount of email and other stuff I'm going to be faced with when I walk back in to work.

I am sad.

But so much more than sad, I am grateful and humbled by the experiences I've had and the knowledge I've acquired. I am filled with confidence and a dazzling desire to write write write.

I am already thinking about how and if I can come back here some time. I am already putting "yes" out there into the universe.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Dispatches from Writing Camp: Day 6

  • My brain is full to flooding.
  • I am done with the hipsters.
  • I love being able to hear the train from my dorm room windows.
  • Clove cigarettes are stupid as fuck.
  • To the people who stamp out and leave their cigarette butts in the middle of this amazingly gorgeous green lawn that it takes a team of DOZENS of humanfuckingbeings to maintain: You should have to sit down and eat every cigarette butt you discarded this week. Because that? Is shitty.
  • I love my workshop instructor.
  • I am going to bed because I have a wicked buzz and have to be up early.
Yay college!

But wait!! Here's another pic from campus!!
It's hard to even imagine how lush and gorgeous this campus is, so you might as well quit trying.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Dispatches from Writing Camp: Day 5

This one's gonna be a short one because I'm tired, I've had some wine, and I've got to do some reading before I go to bed (which will happen shortly, I hope). However, a techno dance party with some really loud and very bass-heavy music started about 10 minutes ago in the Student Union that's only a tennis ball's throw away from my open windows. And I'm a girl, so I don't throw very far.

Good lord.

Today started with a lecture on the subject of suicide in writing/poetry. Uplifting way to start the day, no? But actually, it was a pretty great talk with lots of thought-provoking, beautiful examples.

Then, workshop time. Most excellent.

The afternoon lectures were by one of my new most favoritest dudes, Luis Urrea (who I somehow got to follow me on The Tweeeeeeeeeeters) and another dude that I'm just plain curious about, Ben Percy.

Hiked to the 7-11 with one of my workshop mates, Tonya, and picked up some wine and crackers. The walk to and fro was all it took to rub some SERIOUSLY massive blisters on my heels. They are sort of killing me. Had a bit of wine before and after dinner, then went to tonight's faculty readings. Not bad, but not nearly as terrific as last night's--just a totally different kind of energy. Tomorrow night's lineup is seriously fantastic, however.

I am missing home. Not the ungodly heat that is still holding Austin in its hellish grip, but the kid, the husband, the dawg and kittehs. Yes, and even the leopard gecko. I am also missing my full-size shower and private place to, you know, doo-doo. Plus, when you're an old lady such as myself, there are at least a couple of instances of getting up in the middle of the night to tinkle. And having to stumble half-asleep down the hall and into a brightly lit communal bathroom to do so is not as much fun as you might imagine.

Okay, the dance party is now playing KISS's "God Gave Rock and Roll To You." I'm beginning to get grumpy, so I should probably sign off.

Until tomorrow, greetings from: