Friday, June 27, 2014

Drunk In Love

My husband has been making me gin fizzes with cucumber. After ten years without drinking gin I have discovered a new love. It mixes well with red lipstick and pearls. I can sip it and pretend my short hair is on purpose. Pretend my life is, too.

The girls are lazy in the living room. I could take them to their summer daycamp but I've decided to let them be lazy. Indy flew in from outdoors, interrupted my yoga routine with her knees as red as flapper lips, bleeding bright jewels down her shins. She is entering her coltish phase. She is all hair and limbs, fold of thighs, twist of neck. They are wild in the evenings when all we want is to drink gin fizz, which makes us remember what it was to fall in love.

The mornings are misty. I can pretend I'm in Ireland until they give way to sun.

At night the house is quiet. The gin-soaked cucumbers lie in the sink. I follow my rhythms, pushing my night longer and longer by dizzy degree. Paperbacks spread-eagled on the couch. Pulsing to the jazz of hidden skin. The cat gallops around the house, stampede on the old wood floors. The yellow light is lulling. I turn it off and outside there are fireflies. They sparkle in the dark. They are the bubbles in the champagne glass of moonlight and magnolia air. I am inside myself and the world leaves me alone. Dazzled, desiring. Drunk.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Southern Gothic

Yesterday I was sitting outside the Boys and Girls Club, waiting for Ayla to return from the recycling center so we could go home. The small school bus carrying Ayla pulled into the lot, driven by the very amazing young woman, we shall call her Ms. X, who runs the healthy living programs at the club. She is smart and fierce and I'm glad the girls have her around as a role model. As she pulled in, a man on a bike pulled up next to her, shouted "HEY!", and proceeded to harangue her for some incident that I had not witnessed. Ayla heard everything, including, she says, his threats to call the police if this happened again. I mostly heard the man yelling at a young woman driving a school bus full of kids. I heard Ms. X apologize and say, "You didn't signal." "I didn't have time to signal," the man yelled back.

I don't know who was in the right here, as far as the driving and cycling go. I didn't see any of it. But I did see the man continue to yell, in front of a school bus full of children, after Ms. X had calmly apologized. And I'm pretty ashamed of myself that I didn't stand up and walk over there and intervene on her behalf. My instinct--proof that instincts are sometimes wrong--was to look away, thinking that I didn't want to embarrass anyone by witnessing the incident. I'm embarrassed, actually, to type those words. After the biker started to ride away, a different mother called out to him, something along the lines of "No more, that's enough" and he said, "You weren't in that intersection."

Embarrassed of myself is a theme in my life lately. I seem to have lost a certain filter and have been too blunt (except of course when I need to be, as in the situation above). I say things I shouldn't. I don't feel safe blogging or having opinions on the internet--not that that was ever safe to begin with. People keep asking me for money. Twice at work, patrons have come in and tried to sell me things. It's so uncomfortable. I feel guilty and angry at once. Last week I drove to PetSmart to get heart worm preventative for my pet. I didn't know this was necessary as we don't worry about getting heart worm from mosquitoes in Colorado.  I'm such an amateur at insect borne diseases that I didn't even know that PetSmart doesn't sell heart worm preventative. You have to get it through a vet or online from Australia. As I was leaving a woman pulled up to me in her car. There was a child in the back and an old man who kept his gaze forward and his jaw stubborn as the woman asked me for gas money. "We've had a death in the family. We're trying to get to Sarasota. We have ten dollars." I was confounded and confused. Compassion warred with some form of street smarts. Be kind, don't get taken advantage of. "I'm so sorry," I lied. "I don't have any cash." The woman nodded, started to cry, and drove away. "Jesus," I said once I got into my car. "Jesus." It's my job to make our grocery money last two weeks and I don't always manage it. "Jesus." I drove through the parking lot, past the Michael's and the TJ Maxx until I found the same car in front of Target. I don't want to say how much I gave them. As I reached in the window and handed the cash to her, the woman knew I had lied. But she had known already, as soon as it happened. We'd seen it all in each other's eyes. Everything.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


(A list)

The cat has fleas.
The dog has fleas.
The house has fleas.
The medicine didn't work.
The fogger may not have worked.
The vacuum broke.
The daughter's finger broke.
The agent said no.
The other agent said, "very nearly yes . . . but no."
The daughter was crying at ten o'clock at night
about eternity and and camping and not wanting to grow up.
The husband is jet lagged
The wife is severely anemic
(but if she takes her iron, nothing comes out)
The wife can't tolerate any dairy
without having to call out sick to work
so lattes are out.
The money is out.
The flea medicine that was bought online to save money (because the money is out) and upgraded to overnight shipping has not arrived.
The cat thinks I've tried to kill it twice this week.
People on the internet don't agree with my opinions on Game of Thrones.
The other daughter says "YOU LIED" and runs away crying
because "three weeks" is not quite the same as "one month".
the refrigerator is working.
The vodka is cold.
"Is everything okay?"
Too soon to tell.
The verdict is out.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Dede died Thursday night in his own home. The cancer diagnosis had come just a week ago. It was so sudden and we are all stunned. Here he is with Ayla at Noah's sister Mercy's wedding about seven years ago. I am sad. Everyone is in California and I'm in Brevard and I want to be with everyone. I want to be there and have a drink with Noah and all my by-marriage brothers and sisters.  Dede treated me like his own granddaughter, calling me sweetheart and kissing me on the cheek. He always wanted everyone to have a great time, and he was a great time. The last time I saw him was that December night at the old school Italian restaurant, Mama Cozza's, and Mama Cozza's is where he wants everyone to gather to celebrate his life. No funeral desired. I keep thinking of Zach and Susie's wedding. We were all piled, too many of us, into an elevator in a high rise on the Vegas strip. Late evening. They'd just gotten married and we were coming back from pre-dinner cocktails and the air was wild. We were riding the elevator down to the lobby when it stopped on the wrong floor. The doors parted and there was Dede and his wife, Shirley. Together we all raised our cocktails, sloshing vodka to the floor, and started chanting, like it was rehearsed: "Dede, Dede, Dede!" Dede laughed and threw up his arms. "Free drinks for everyone!" he cried. We were uproarious. That was Dede. I'm so very sad.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

For A Moment We Were

Yesterday was my birthday. Today Noah left in the witching hours to go visit his Dede. (Dede is Czech for grandpa and you don't pronounce it 'deedee'. )

He is flying to California to see his Dede because Dede is probably dying. The night before we got the news I had been laying in bed, troubled with thoughts of the passing of time as I am most nights, unable to rest with my girls growing in their sleep and lightning flickering outside the window. My thoughts turned to Dede and I told myself that Dede's mother, who we called Babi (Buhbee), lived to see her own great-great-granddaughter Ayla, and Dede probably would live that long too.

The next morning we got the news. Cancer. Everywhere.

Dede has always seemed invincible, so robust and lively, as he certainly was when we saw him last. It was Christmastime in Southern California and we drove to an Italian restaurant in Anaheim's Little Saigon where we fine-dined 1950's style, and at the end of the meal Dede had them bring out 12 little glasses of Becherovka. He was glad that the number in our party had changed at the last minute from 13 to 12. The food was old fashioned and heavy in my belly and the anise-flavored becherovka worked as the digestive aid it was intended to be.

So, I don't know. Wednesday was my birthday and Noah was supposed to make me fiesta fish from Rick Bayless' Mexican cookbook, but when I got home from my day of shopping and reading and writing, he was making multiple phone calls and travel arrangements and it wasn't a good time to be cooking. We chose instead to drive down to the end of main street and eat at a restaurant that was once a house, where Noah and I came when we visited North Carolina for the first time, two years ago. The girls were overly tired and fighting, and Noah and I were trying to keep the details of Dede's illness from them, exchanging information in snatches when they went to the bathroom or walked away from our terrace table to the sidewalk to play. The girls know what cancer does, they witnessed their Grammy's new husband die of it a year and a half ago, and Indy still talks about him and says she misses him from time to time.

I felt restless, emotionally charged and heightened. It was a wonderful birthday, we were drinking red wine, and in the morning my husband would leave me to fly across the country, where Dede is probably dying, where he will see all five of his siblings, who I love. I wanted to go with him. "Who will cook my fiesta fish?" I asked, because everything runs through your brain and your veins at once, your children growing as they eat their pizza and the family patriarch restless in his bed on a different coast, in a different time, two-thousand miles away. The table of tourists next to us mistook us for fellow travelers and offered to take a picture. "Of your family vacation," they said. We didn't correct them. We arranged ourselves into neat order and smiled, but everything shows through the cracks. The strain around the eyes and the light after the rainstorm shooting through the tree leaves and illuminating all, our faces lined and full of a lifetime of cities, oceans, Little Saigon, red wine, bohemian spirits, palms restless in the December wind, the wild scent of magnolia in May. Does the photo lie? For a moment, did we all look happy? For a moment, we were.

(We were everything. All of it. Forever and at once.)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Hope For A Sea Change

Monday while at work a book that had been returned by another patron caught my eye. Garrison Keillor's Good Poems For Hard Times. Before checking it in, I flipped it open and read a poem. It was "A Man In Maine" by Philip Booth. The poem's last lines about the fierce stars brightened my bored brain. I impulsively checked the book out and brought it home. Later that day, my mom emailed me from work. She had been at the library that morning, and checked out the same book. She wanted me to read the introduction.

I grew up on Garrison Keillor and there is something about his voice that recalls the Lutheranism of my childhood without being preachy. (In fact, Keillor speaks against the "cadre of Christian pirates and bullies" holding the levers of power in our current government.) He is slightly more cynical than I am, in the introduction, probably because the world of his youth is gone while the world of my own youth is still partially in tact. Still, the introduction is wonderful and moving, and I got a bit teary and the world stopped and my heart was stunned when I came across this sentence:

"The meaning of poetry is to give courage."

There it was. Lately I have been wondering what the point of all this writing is, and why I do it. It hurts if I don't do it, of course, but there has to be a purpose beyond the avoidance of pain--for writers in particular, who are so creative at finding ways to dull the pain of not writing. Do I write in attempt to illuminate, to agitate, to elucidate? All of these intimidating and lofty goals, for me especially, fumbling my way through it all. Reading that sentence, I put the book down in my lap and thought, there it is. A reason why. I don't write poetry but I think Garrison might be willing to extend this definition to blog, and to memoir, and to fiction. Writing isn't easy, but writing without a purpose can be especially terrifying. A boat bobbing on a slushy, half-froze sea without any axe of clarity in sight.

All this is to say that my friend and fellow writer, Elizabeth Aquino, has had her memoir published today. She refers to it as Sophie's story. Sophie is her daughter who began suffering seizures when she was very small, and suffers from them still, although the introduction of a specific type of medical marijuana has helped enormously. Over the years I have followed Elizabeth on her blog she has brought me to tears and stopped my heart, not only because she is gifted with words but because she has a lion's heart, the heart of a warrior and a mother, and her writing, through all the godawful shit she's seen, somehow manages to do what Garrison says.

She gives us courage.

Here is Elizabeth's blog, by turns amusing and incendiary,  and here is where you can buy her memoir--breathtaking, tender, and true--about Sophie's earliest days.

Thank you Elizabeth, mentor and friend.

link within

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