But It’s a Really Good Book

76.4% of my life presented in one brief scene:

8:40 pm, couch.

Brain Part 1: I’m going to head to bed early and read a book.

Brain Part 2: First I have to clean the kitchen.

1: It’s a really good book.

2: I can’t leave the kitchen like this.

1: Seriously, this book is awesome.

2: I’ll be miserable if the kitchen looks like this when I wake up in the morning.

1: I’ll be miserable now if I don’t go to bed and read this book.

2: What would my mom say if she saw me walking away from this horrible kitchen?

1: Writers have to read books. Going to bed and reading is basically work.

[Argument continues for approximately the amount of time it would have taken to clean the kitchen.]

1: Whatever. I’m going to bed to finish the book.

6:30 am, kitchen.

1: I’m miserable.

2: And I finished that awesome book already.

Adulting

“Adulting” isn’t a verb but it should be. Sometimes I look around my life and wonder, who the hell had the idea that I was qualified for all this?

“Adulting” isn’t a verb but it should be. To adult is some elusive combination of things like always having clean underwear in the drawer, never ramming a cart when people leave one the middle of the aisle while they compare prices at the grocery, remembering the Netflix password, and eating something that’s not cookies for breakfast.

Last week, I renewed my domain name, and I was all puffed up with pride because I was renewing nopointsforstyle.com 11 days before it was due to expire. Eleven days! Look at me adulting! I even renewed for two years because adults consider the future. Adults plan ahead.

Except I renewed my domain name last February for 3 years, which means I now own nopointsforstyle.com until February 15, 2019, a date so far away it seems pretend, for a domain that directs to a blog so neglected that if you’re actually here reading, I’d like to give you a token of appreciation. Maybe if I see you in the grocery and your cart is in the middle of the aisle while you studiously compare light red kidney beans to dark red kidney beans, I’ll give you a pass.

Maybe. Pull your carts to the side, people. Civilization may depend on it.

Sometimes I look around my life and wonder, who the hell had the idea that I was qualified for all this? I mean, clean underwear and taxes and a car? This is ridiculous. I still feel like this girl:

My mom was more responsible at 16 than I am at 40 mumble something cough, yet somehow I have as much adulting to do as anyone. Insurance, for crying out loud. Furnace filters, dental care, and making sure my kids are never the ones on Twitter asking who the hell this Paul McCartney guy is.

True story: in the late 1970s, my mother-in-law was in a record store and she heard a girl say to her mother, “Hey, look at this! Did you know Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings?”

For the record, I manage the clean underwear issue by owning approximately 40 pair and I doubt my kids could name all the Beatles but they for damn sure know who Eric Clapton is. My eldest son gave me an Allman Brothers CD for my birthday a few years ago and raved to me about how I was sure to love this new band he’d discovered, which is a win for good music but a lose for me personally because how did I never share my love for Gregg Allman with that kid?

I have a broader and much more important statement to make about civil discourse and how we need more adults in all our conversations because I’m damn tired. I’m not tired of the heated conversations or even the arguments. I have learned things in recent weeks about race, culture, disability, sexual identity, and privilege (plus more) that no college professor could teach me, in spite of the hyper-aware education in sociology delivered mostly by earnest professors who worked damn hard to teach those things. No, I’m not tired of those conversations, painful as it has been to be called out a few times. I’m tired of watching those excellent conversations spin out in outrageous directions that do nothing but prove Mike Godwin right and leave the internet littered with so many straw men sacrificed for the cause.

Unfortunately, I can’t make that broader statement now because I lost the gas shut-off key for the fireplace. Adulting requires me to remain ever-vigilant about fire and locate then buy a new key immediately. I have letters to write to my elected representatives because adulting means civic responsibility, and then there are emails to send to the worship team at church because to adult is to be of service.

Speaking of civic responsibility, have you donated blood recently? I should put that on my schedule for next week after I check to make sure my 45 days is up.

After I find and order that gas key, I have to put the underpants in the dryer so Carter and I can get dressed before I take him to school. Adulting doesn’t mean I don’t do things at the last minute, or even that I do them all that well. There are still no points for style, at least until February, 2019.

 

One Sack of Hammers, Hold the Water

How is a sack of wet hammers any stupider than a sack of dry ones?

Brian: That guy is as dumb as a sack of wet hammers.

Me: How is a sack of wet hammers any stupider than a sack of dry ones?

Brian: The wet ones didn’t have the sense to come in out of the rain.

Moral of the story: Marry a Southern boy. They say awesomely weird stuff, and often.

Pediatric Mental Illness on Parade

My friend Olive and her little girl came to visit us. (Her name is not really Olive, but her anonymous-for-the-web name for her daughter is Pickles, so I’m going with a whole relish-tray theme.)

This was kind of a big deal for me because I’ve always sworn I would never meet any of my online friends in real life. No way. I enjoy my online life and I was afraid that, if I met my virtual friends, we might hate each other. It seemed too risky.

But I’m also kind of a sucker, and Olive pretty much twisted my arm (not really), so here she came, Pickles in tow.

Pickles is a little younger than Carter, but they have a great deal in common. They both love dogs and they both have psychosis, for instance. They both enjoy cartoons and both can go from happy to raging (or terrified, or despondent) without warning.

Just two little kids but more, which is why Olive and I met each other online in the first place. In spite of what the media says, the community of parents whose children have serious mental illness is really quite small.

But the kids did great, for the most part. Carter was fascinated by Pickles’s medicine and eager to compare it to his own. It was all so new to him, this opportunity to be around another child whose experience of the world was similar to his. Every time he was alone with me, he talked as fast as he could, dissecting Pickles, telling me all the ways they are similar and all the ways they are different. He’s a surprisingly introspective person when he’s not screaming at people to stop looking at him.

The third day Olive and Pickles were here, I had to pick up Brian from work and everyone wanted to come along with me, so Carter and Pickles piled into the back seat and Spencer rode shotgun. Halfway to our destination, I heard Pickles say, “I don’t want to talk about that!” She was looking out the side window, away from Carter.

Carter launched into a long, impassioned explanation about how he didn’t mean to upset her, but if she would just listen he could make her understand because what he’s saying is very important and if she would just uncover her ears and listen to him he could make it all OK!

As he does. You know how some people see a problem and immediately start throwing money at it? Carter thinks that there is no problem too large to be solved if you just drown it in words.

Pickles refused to uncover her ears or turn and look at Carter, so he redoubled his efforts, increased his volume, and tried to pull one of Pickles’s hands away from her ear. “But I was just trying to tell you…”

She clamped her hands back over her ears, turned to face Carter with her face screwed up tight with fury and said, “I have to take some space and this is my only way to take some space. You have to let me take some space!”

Carter, his own face now growing stormy, responded, “I am not in your bubble!”

And they went, lobbing therapy-speak back and forth across the back seat at each other, trying to find the magic words learned from some doctor or counselor or behavior management specialist that would solve the problem. “You should use your skills to calm down!” “I already used my skills! You use your skills!” “I can’t because you won’t let me take some space!” “I would let you take some space if you would use your skills!”

Finally, Pickles turned back to the window, hands clamped tight over her ears, humming loudly. I could see Carter in the rearview mirror and I could see that he was approaching nuclear meltdown. Face bright red, jaw clenched, he hissed “I am so angry right now!”

Meanwhile, I was in the front seat doing my best drone imitation, speaking in a near monotone, “Everyone is OK. Let’s all take a deep breath. Carter, you look out your window. Pickles, you look the other way, out your own window.”

They weren’t listening to me, which is not surprising since neither of them was listening to anything except the pounding of their own anger.

Finally, we arrived at Brian’s office, and Spencer got in the backseat between Pickles and Carter. “You look out that window,” he said to Pickles, “and you look out that one,” he said to Carter.

And they did.

And all was quiet on the way home.

If you hear me refer to that dark-haired 14-year-old boy who lives in my house as Saint Spencer, you’ll never wonder why.

 

Follow That Rabbit

I wrote part five of The Transcendent Familiar (No idea what I’m talking about? Here: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4). Really, I did. As it turns out, though, what I thought was part 5 is actually part 6 (I think, though who knows? Maybe it’s part 7, or 12, or 34.).

I think that, if I was writing a book, it would go just like this, with the back-and-forthing, the rearranging, the jumping-in-and-out of memories, the expanding-and-contracting timeline. The weird/wonderful thing about blogging is that the process is on display as much as the story and you get the story as I go along, instead of after everything has been all cleaned up and neatly arranged.

Or maybe not. I don’t know about writing books. I haven’t written a book since I was ten and my friend Sarah and I wrote the definitive sourcebook on endangered species.

In any case, I wrote a story about something that happened when Jacob was a year old, but then I realized I had to tell a story about something that happened when Jacob was a newborn first. I wrote it, and I’ll post it soon, but I’m treading deep into the land of Other People’s Stories, so it seems wise to go slow and let the words settle a bit before I release them into the world.

Also, I’m fascinated by memory and can’t stop turning it over and around, playing with it and following the rabbit into all his strange little holes. Over the weekend, while I was writing stories from 1993 and 1994, I was overwhelmed with a desire to listen to Fleetwood Mac, like a food craving. I dug through stacks and stacks of CDs (Almost all Brian’s; he is possessed by a need to own every sound ever recorded by The Grateful Dead or any portion thereof.) until I found a “best of” Fleetwood Mac album and loaded it onto my computer.

I haven’t listened to Fleetwood Mac beyond the occasional song that’s come on the car radio in over a decade, but in the early 1990s, they were a musical staple. The memories of that time rang a Fleetwood Mac chime in my brain and I was compelled to respond. Thankfully, Little Lies is as awesome as ever.

In other news, we’re moving! Not just moving, but moving into the The Ugliest House in Albuquerque.

I’ll forgive you for assuming that I’m speaking hyperbolically because I so often do, but this time? Not a chance. Now, I haven’t seen all the houses in Albuquerque, so I can’t be positive that ours is the absolutely, positively, for sure ugliest, but it’s easily the ugliest one I’ve ever seen so we’re going with The Ugliest House in Albuquerque as the title of the new estate.

Behold, the kitchen:

Did I tell you? Oh, and before you ask me WHY in the world we would want such an ugly house, it’s because the location and the floor plan are perfect. What are orange countertops compared to having all the walls in the right places?

Oh, my friends, we are going to have some fun. You know how Brian and I are somewhat directionally challenged? You ain’t seen nothing until you’ve seen us get our DIY on. The Ugliest House in Albuquerque has no idea what’s coming.