Things To Do On A Rainy Night

It’s been cool and rainy the past couple days. This has put a damper on the things I normally would be doing so I’ve had to shift my focus.

Things I won’t be doing until the rain goes away:

*Cleaning the gutters (clogged with maple helicopters)


*Planting my new tomato and pepper plants (though I did get out to the garden yesterday to add more soil to the potatoes and just check on everything.)

*Walking the track with my hand weights.


Things I Have Been Doing Instead:

* Writing a blog post!

* Inviting you to visit my other blog: here’s my recent post there. Please visit, like, follow. It needs some love. It’s so much fun to do, when I have the time to do it. It’s mostly photographs so it’s the easiest blog to read! I have many more posts queued up to go!

* Exercise indoors – yoga with Red, some core exercises that are supposed to help strengthen my back, etc.

* Make a belated gift for a friend (need to get on that)

* Listen to the quiet hum of a house on a week night. The children are doing homework. Unaided. Dusty is practicing her flute, getting ready for her Wind Ensemble audition. Somehow, Red has discovered (or maybe it’s taught in school now like it wasn’t when I was her age) how to begin projects on her own, ahead of time so that they are finished long before the deadline. The other night she showed me some ears and a tail she’d made for a skit her group is performing in theatre arts. That explains the bits of fabric on the floor near the fabric boxes. I picked it up and tucked it back away. Dusty has asked if I have an extra poster board. Yep! One left. And she’s off to do whatever project she’s working on – it’s either for English or Latin. Eventually she’ll remind me. It feels….so NICE to not have the nightly homework struggle any more. No more tears and hair pulling and agony. We all do what we need to do, separately and alone, for the most part, and then reconvene for tv later.

* Observe people. Two recent observations: one involves a faculty spouse. I attend a monthly “women’s group luncheon” lecture that the faculty put on. It’s a free lunch and I get to hear women speak about topics that matter to them. I get to meet some of the women faculty which never happens otherwise in my job.

There is this one woman, new to the college. Italian, perhaps? I can’t remember. Her husband teaches in the foreign language department and she speaks a bit of English but not enough for her to feel very confident in conversation with strangers. She is immensely thin and I’m thinking there’s a food issue here. But what I’ve seen on the two occasions we’ve sat at the same table is that she forgoes all the food except dessert. The first luncheon she ate nothing but three brownies and two cookies. She may have gone back for seconds. Yesterday, she did eat some fruit and followed it up with two enormous pieces of cake. I’m not saying this to judge at all. I do not know her story and don’t even want to surmise. I am just curious about people so I notice things. And I notice this woman eats a lot of dessert. Who doesn’t like dessert?

I went to the library at lunch today. I used to go all the time and write. I’ve given that up for the most part (except for here and my morning pages) but there was no dry place to sit outside or walk and it was too chilly anyway, so I went to the library and had the whole back section of tables to myself. This NEVER happens. But, on my way out I saw my favorite old man. I’ve seen him numerous times in the past. He’s usually working on a collage or a scrap book or some art of some kind. He spreads out pages from magazines, cuts out the images he likes, and pastes them in a notebook. I really want to know his story but I’m too timid to ask. He’s always got a smile on his face. Today he was walking to a table and hugging a book or notebook to his chest. With a smile. He didn’t have his art supplies but maybe, like me, the weather put a kink in his normal routine and he just stopped by to read. He smiled and waved, I smiled and nodded, and we went our separate ways.

I don’t have a neat way to wrap this up. It’s cold and wet and the cats are out huddling on my warm car hood (though I can’t imagine it’s warm at this point) instead of coming inside. I’m very very glad tomorrow is Friday and I have two entire weekend days in which to sleep late and get some things done. If all goes as planned, we’ll see the middle school’s production of Peter Pan tomorrow night and the high school’s production of West Side Story on Saturday. And Sunday I’ll get back to the gutters and the grass and the garden where this is always much to do.



So, I gave up men for money (easy choice, really). And now I’ve given up writing for exercise. I don’t even know myself anymore. I’m walking and doing yoga and mowing and trying to fit in some hand weights and other things when I have the time and that’s time I used to spend writing. I felt guilty about that for a long time. Writing’s what I do, it’s what I am. If I’m not doing that, what am I exactly? I still write first thing in the morning but it’s garbage writing. It’s blah blah blah for 10 minutes. It’s not productive it’s just process. It’s visiting the therapist for 10 minutes every morning in my robe with a cup of coffee and it’s the best 10 minutes of almost the whole day except for the part when I get to come home and change into comfortable clothes and say hi to my kids and make dinner while they work on homework or fiddle with devices behind closed doors.

I still think about writing. I still think about my novel. I’m just not writing it. If I win the grant then I guess I’ll get back to it. But right now I need to get in better shape. And there’s only time for one of those things – exercise or writing. So, right now, I’m spending lunch hours walking a mile or two with my girly pink hand weights. I’m outside under the blue sky with the trees shushing above me. I’m running into snakes and frogs and turtles. I saved a turtle at work on Saturday. I turned into the parking lot and a big old box turtle was loping across the road. I stopped and helped him get across safely. Later, when I was out looking for trash, I tried to find him again, to make sure he’d hidden himself away, and I couldn’t find him. So I guess he did. Lucky for him the park was pretty much dead all day so he picked a good time to be out.

The garden is coming along though things aren’t really liking the soil in the reconfigured bed. No lettuce to speak of. A couple possible radishes. But whatever. The flowers are sprouting and a couple snow peas are popping up. Carrots are beginning to  sprout and the potatoes are super happy. I planted bush beans and cucumbers and more flowers on Sunday. I bought tomato and pepper plants today. They’ll go in tomorrow. I’m reclaiming the front bed. Stuff’s happening. I’m busy. I’m so busy, I finally downloaded a month’s worth of photos and should have some Roadside Virginiana posts ready soon. I’m finally okay with the fact that I can only do one thing at a time. I can’t do everything all the time. It’s been hard to convince myself that this is okay. It’s okay. I’ll get back to the writing when I get back to it. I’m still a writer if I’m not writing. I’m a writer on hiatus. I’m busy getting in 5,000 steps most days. I’m busy doing yoga with Red. I’m busy mowing. I’m busy working two jobs. I’m busy in the garden. I’m busy taking photographs of things. I’m busy enjoying the warm weather and having the windows open and hearing the insects trill and buzz. I’m busy planning a trip to NYC with my kids. I’m busy paying down debt. And fixing broken things in the house. And sleeping. Sleeping is under rated. Sleeping, when you can get it (and often I can’t), is pretty much the best thing ever. When I’m dead, I think I’ll miss sleeping the most. Or, at least, it’ll be in the top ten things I’ll be sorry not to be able to do any more.

So for now, I’m this. Later, I’ll be that. Eventually, I’ll get back to the crafty art things I was doing in the fall and the story that’s sitting in suspended animation in my laptop. To everything, there is a season. Right now, it’s the season of getting outside and walking around in it and not having to wear a coat and watch the pedometer burst into confetti when I reach my tiny goal. I like confetti, especially when I don’t have to vacuum it up later.

I Am From

I’ve done this before – probably more than once – but I found the template while I was deleting old files so I thought I’d do it again.

I am from chocolate flavored weight loss candy, from Tab and Fresca.

I am from the Museum District (which didn’t have a name then), from tree root-broken sidewalks, skinned knees, handkerchief-sized yards, roads with right angles, friends who accidentally smashed my toe nails with his big brother’s weights. I am from rickety swing sets that were mostly metal, from swings we swung so high we almost loop de looped. But not quite. I am from friends who pee in the alley and who trash pick treasures for forts.

I am from the weed trees, the lilac and hydrangea bushes, the dandelions that grow in the cracks. The crazy neighbor’s dogs behind three layers of fences.

I am from avoidance and silence, from Nancy and Dorothy and grandfathers never known. From Rocky, the grandfather who made up for all of it.

I am from the large noses and child bearing hips. From the shelves of art books covered in dust, from the pages of Little Nemo and Krazy Kat. From Picasso and Calder. From sunlight through shutters that showed the dancing dust as I moved from book to book all alone on a Tuesday afternoon. I am from house keys worn around my neck.

I am from “you can go when you’re older” and “we’ll see”. From “go to your room until your sorry”, from never being sorry. Not ever.

I am from St. Stephens Episcopal Church, full of Pappagallo shoes and Lilly Pulitzer wrap around skirts, and mysterious knowledge of things that were never explained, from “you can come and pretend to belong as long as you acknowledge that you’ll never be one of us.” From that to atheism in a few short steps. From Wine Socials and Golf God to No God at All.

I’m from Richmond, VA, by way of Norfolk and Great Falls; by way of England, Scotland and Germany; from deviled eggs and stollen. From hotdogs heated up in pans of water, from boxed mac and cheese, from salmon mousse with black olive eyes. From Julia Child and Chef Boyardee.

I am from the man who burned a hole through his bedroom floor with a chemistry set, from his father who set off fireworks from the fire escape just to scare the neighbors hidden behind their strings of laundry in the yard below, and from the horse farm that was out of reach and full of unspoken resentments, that was sold to become another faceless Northern Virginia subdivision. I am from plodding and small successes. I am from being creative but not TOO creative. From doing what is needed to get by. From drinking too much and eating too much and calling it fine. From yelling down the staircase and not really saying anything that can be taken back.

I am from a closet full of faded photographs of Mona Lisa smiles and itchy dresses, of shells and long ago vacant beaches, of friends come and gone, of old black humpbacked cars on ancient city streets, of bicycles and roller skates and disco lights, of birthday cakes with music idol faces, of cats and kitchens and rugs hung as backdrops to hide the scuff marks on the walls, to hide the regular dull ache of life that went on behind them.

Not Fixed

Dear Dr. F,
I know you said I didn’t need you any longer. I know you said I was fixed, doing great. That I accomplished what I needed to. And I know you said that mainly because you were leaving me for another job in another town. And possibly you believed it as well but I don’t feel fixed. And I miss having someone to listen to me. To hear me. Most people don’t want to. Because I tend to talk in loops. I think out loud. What I often say is not the end, the solution, a declaration; it’s more the process, the contemplating, the what-if-and-also-here’s-another-thought. And sometimes the only way to stand that kind of thing is to be paid to listen to it. It’s circular. Like grief.

Because – sigh, I know! – it’s still there and maybe it’s more than just the one thing. Maybe it’s really grief and fear intermingled. Even as things are improving on the outside, they’re getting more tangled on the inside. Because really all I want to do most mornings, afternoons, evenings, is cry. Close my eyes in a quiet room alone and cry.

And I’d say that I miss having someone to hold me when I’m sad but I never had that to begin with. Never had that person who says, “I’ll make dinner. You lie down.” Or, “Why don’t you take a hot bath. I got this.” Ever. I’ve got to do this whole thing myself. It’s not so hard, usually, because I’ve always done it. But maybe, because you seem happily married, you don’t know what’s its like to never have someone who’s got your back, who’ll allow you to fail and not have to be responsible for everything all the time, who’ll allow you to not be perfect all the time. Because, let me tell you, it’s depressing. And tiring. I’m tired.

And so, yeah, I’m missing the things I never had and probably never will have. The thing most people around me seem to have and hopefully don’t take for granted. Or maybe they don’t and it just appears they do. I don’t know.

I can’t tell you any of this because you aren’t here. I could tell someone else but then I’d have to start all over and I don’t have it in me. I don’t have the time. This is one of my 60 hour weeks. I’ll have lots of time to think and no time to do my usual errands. I’m having to get creative – more than usual. My standards for cleanliness have continued to drop but clothes and bath towels still need to be washed. Food needs to be bought. Cats need to be fed. Plants need to be watered and protected.

I’m getting a lot more exercise but losing zero weight. Zero. It feels like failure. Everything feels like failure. And I can’t stop thinking, obsessing over death. And failure – of all the things I meant to do by now that I haven’t done. Over how little time is left. How I’m missing out on things. How I’m spinning around in space alone and cold. It’s still fucking cold outside. Why is it still cold?

So, I guess I should ask how you’re doing. How’s the new job? Have you moved yet? How are the twins?

But sorry, right now everyone else is doing great and I’m here sitting on my butt. My almost 50 year old butt which is about as attractive a thing to behold as it sounds. Jesus, how did I get here? I’m noticing that David Bowie sings about time a lot. Maybe I’ll write about that. I keep meaning to write about my favorite songs on each album but then I sigh (like Twig the Wonder Kid) and think who in the hell would want to read about that? I don’t even like to read about music, really.

And you should see the stack of magazines I have accumulated about Bowie that I can’t bring myself to read. And the dozens and dozens of saved articles and video clips on FBook that I can’t look at. I might be up to 40 saved items. There’s no time and then when there is…..I just can’t. I can’t wallow. I am living a life here. Death keeps showing up, taunting me, and celebrities keep dying at ages that end in a 9. Like my age right now. Do I have less than two months left or will I make it another decade? It’s not really about me, is it, except that I used to sit across from you and talk about myself. That was the whole entire point of our relationship. I talked, you sympathized, I talked some more. I got things done. You congratulated me on my getting things done.

Oh, and I got my passport application filled out! And got my photos made! And so there’s that. Do you think I’ll live long enough to actually go on the trip? My heart is good and the bloodwork I paid out of pocket for says I’m healthy but you can’t predict a car accident via bloodwork and an EKG. Platelet levels don’t show the possible gun toting maniac who might mug me for the $8 I probably have in my purse and then leaving me for dead like that deer leg I encountered in the park recently.

Sigh. I don’t have a tidy ending for this. I just thought you should know that I miss you. I’m not fixed. I’ll never be fixed. I don’t know what to do. If this is the human condition, then I’d like to come back as a cat or a squirrel next time around. How can I make that happen? I think I’ve earned a cat life. A good cat life, not a hard scrabble one. Or maybe a mini Shetland pony. I could totally handle that.

Sincerely, C

Career Opportunities…

…the one’s that never knock…(sing it with me!)

I started my new job on Sunday. My second job. A job that might be 16 hours of work every other weekend. It’s pretty good, as jobs go. I man the concession booth at a public park, I walk around and pick up trash and keep an eye on things & people, I keep the restrooms clean and stocked. The rest of the time, I can read or think or write or listen to music or whatever. Not too bad. It’s the opposite of my M-F job. I am in the booth alone. I walk the park alone. I logged 5.4 miles just walking around picking up trash on a windy day. I righted a lot of upended trash cans.

There were a few games going on in different fields. Softball, soccer, the usual spring sports. A family came and played some touch football in one of the empty fields for a couple of hours. It was nice to see them all hanging out together – a dad, a mom (I guessing – they were parent-type people but I don’t want to assume; they were a family unit), a teen girl, two boys. Lots of cyclists, hikers and dog walkers in and out over the course of 8 hours.

It was nice. I’m sure if I see people I know they will come in two varieties – the ones who will say hi, the ones who understand that work is work; and others who might feel…awkward. They’ll see me and then look away. Like I’ve stooped to some level beneath them. I’ve seen it before. It’s inevitable. Or maybe this is all in my head. Probably it is. But I’ve found that shame often comes from without rather than within. You often don’t know you’re doing something you shouldn’t (or that people feel you shouldn’t) until other people tell you by words, body language, a look.

But, no job has ever been beneath me. I like to be busy. There are things that need to be done and if I can do them, I will. I like that this job pays me to do things I do anyway: clean up after people and pick up litter (which is a pet peeve of mine). I’m having a little difficulty (read: a LOT) with the cash register but I’m sure I’ll figure it out eventually. Maybe. Or, I’ll continue to post incorrect tapes at the end of each shift until the accountants in the main office sigh and tell on me. But right now, my boss doesn’t really give two hoots about it. He’s just glad I’m there.

As I walked around the perimeter of the playing fields with my county cap on, carrying a bright orange bucket and swinging my picker, I remembered my first year of college. I was awarded some work-study money – about $100 a month – and the college I attended didn’t have enough good jobs to go around so I was assigned to the janitorial staff. Yeah, sure, I’d have preferred a job in the library but instead I spent the first semester emptying trash cans in faculty offices, faculty whose classes I was often not showing up for (that’s a whole other sad story).

Second semester, I was assigned to a dorm. I was to clean the bathrooms (all but toilets) and mop the hallways. I wasn’t cleaning a dorm I lived in but one I spent time in visiting friends. Those friends were always glad to see me. It was the other girls, the girls who were surprised, shocked and then embarrassed to see me wielding a wet mop and trying to clean sinks around their piles of dishes, scrubbing their products off the walls of the showers. It wasn’t the best job in the world but it was made worse by the shaming. The job, and my time at the college, didn’t last long. I wouldn’t recognize those girls if I saw them again. Never knew them to begin with. But it didn’t matter. I’d been lowered. I’d say “put in my place” except I’ve never really had a place except the space I occupy that doesn’t have a social status attached to it. I’ve never considered myself middle class, blue collar, white collar, any of it. I don’t fit in any of those categories. I just am.

I doubt any of this will happen (again, I acknowledge that this is mostly in my head) and if it does, I’ll work on not caring. Why should I care? They don’t know a thing about me except that circumstances are such that I need to make some extra money. Because I do. Just like the other divorced mom who was hired to work at another park. And this is one way to do it. And it’s an easy way apart from losing a lot of free time. But I’ll get that back in December when the park season ends. Then I can sleep late and catch up on projects and go back to looking for abandoned motels (which can be seen much easier when the leaves are off the trees). No regrets. More exercise. More money to rebuild a savings account and possibly take more adventures with my girls. We had a fantastic time at a state park over spring break. I’ll write a post or two about that soon. When I get some free time. Right now, I have to go clean my house with only the cats to give me the stink eye.