Do I have “better” things to do than play with Canva making ironic motivational posters? Not really. I mean, that front hall isn’t going to steam clean itself. (Is there a robot that does that yet?) But I did something to my lower back a couple of days ago, and it still hurts, and so playing with Canva is way more fun than doing pretty much anything else. … I mean I am developing my graphic design skills in order to facilitate growing my brand. Can you tell I sat through a webinar about building better LinkedIn profiles yesterday?
Honestly, though, I do have a brand to grow. I want to get better about posting to my professional facebook page, and apparently the way to do that is through share-friendly graphics.
Is this really going to get people to want to hire me to edit their books? Probably only a certain sort of person. But that’s okay, those are my sort of people.
I’ve been binge watching Golden Girls since it was added to Hulu. It’s one of those shows I watched when I was a kid. The kind of show that you watch again as an adult and go, “Ah, there’s that bit of my personality.” According to the usual internet quizzes and most people who know me, I’m a Dorothy. Sarcastic English teacher, me to a T. But watching has led me to a troubling conclusion: I’ve got a bit of Rose to me. Because here’s the other thing, I tell stories. Rambling stories. Stories that are tangential at best to what we’re talking about. Not even a “Picture it, San Juan, 1995” preface to them.Luckily the bulk of my friends are more tolerant than Dorothy, Blanche, and Sophia. But in a society that values cutting wit (often with an emphasis on the cutting part) and bluntness, there is a certain amount of stigma to being a Rose. She’s kind, gentle, and naive, and okay, yes she’s not that bright. We could probably use more Roses right now.
Okay, maybe not the not-that-bright aspect, we’ve got an awful lot of that going around. Kind, kind we could do with more of. I think it’s fitting that Rose works as a grief counselor. She listens and honestly wants to help. On the surface her stories ramble and make no sense, but she knows what she’s on about. Most of the time. Where was I going with this? Oh right. There’s nothing wrong with nice. I’ve been told. The internet also tells me, repeatedly, that I’m a Slytherin. That means I’m nice, but not to everyone. Sophia is the OG Slytherin, btw.
I suppose in the end I have a little bit of all of them to me. Sarcasm, stories, loyalty, love of cheesecake, confidence… and that’s good to realize. Because I’ve also realized that these women who seemed so old when I was about 8 are now an awful lot closer to my age. When Blanche lies about her age, she goes for 41. I’m coming up on 37. Most of the time I don’t think about it. I’m just as likely to say I’m 28. Not because I’m trying to hide my age, but because I’ve always been bad at knowing how old I am. When I was 10, my mom coached me on lying about being 13 so I could get up to my grandmother’s hospital room for a visit. I started drinking when I was 18, which led to being nearly 22 and having a very forlorn moment in the beer aisle. I had gotten so used to drinking illegally that I had forgotten I was old enough to buy my own booze. (It’s not just my age I’m bad at. One time I was complaining about my brother and Mom snapped, “He’s 13. What do you expect?” Ten minutes later I had so shout at her, “He’s 15!” So you can see this is hereditary.) Thank god age is just a number. Now who wants some cheesecake?
2016 dawned cold and rainy, but it dawned. The arbitrary designation of a new year has come. Thank gods. I can’t think of a moment in 2015 where I had things under control. In the spring, money was tight because I wasn’t teaching. Then it all went to hell with death after death. Summer was crazy as Professor Furious and I worked on the same play, which is not a thing we are repeating, even though the money was nice. This fall I taught three classes, had it confirmed that I will never be more than an adjunct here, had a kidney stone that led to the discovery of an even larger kidney stone that required outpatient hospital visit three hours from home because Small Town doesn’t have any urologists and spent the last two months in distracting amounts of pain, and made the decision to homeschool Mini because I’m back down to one class in the spring and American medical bills are no joke. I’m clinging to a clean slate with both hands.
Here’s the big plan:
Homeschool Mini and pray I don’t fuck it up.
Figure out what I really want to be doing and put my energy there.
Teach the fuck out of that one class I do have this spring.
Drink so much water.
Work on the house in anticipation of selling it because we can’t live in small town much longer.
more at all.
I told Mini she looked cute this morning, and that she’d done a good job of picking out her outfit. And then I paused. We’re not supposed to tell them they’re cute anymore, right? Because we don’t want our girls to grow up thinking only their looks have value? But then I thought of all the other things I’ve told her in the last day or so: That I was proud of her for getting a 100 on her spelling test. (And that maybe we should ask about harder words. Pointlessly, since she can usually spell something perfectly once she’s seen it written.) I told her she’s hilarious. Odds are good I called her a drama princess. (Not a day goes by without a pratfall from this kid. She did her first spit take last week.) We’ve talked about the kind of scientist she wants to be, and if she was ready to start guitar lessons up again. (Her teacher found a full time job and isn’t doing lessons anymore. Small Town does not have a lot of guitar teachers in it, and the ones I’ve heard of don’t take kids her age.)
I told her I liked her outfit because of an argument we had early this week, while getting ready for school. We hadn’t picked out her clothes the night before, so I had to trust her judgement while I made her lunch. Always a hit or miss prospect. That day was a miss. A really cute watercolor-y floral chiffon top all flowy and girly, and camo print basketball shorts. All the important bits were covered. The shorts came from the “boys” section, so they went down to her knees instead of barely covering her butt. The shirt wasn’t sheer, and even had a little built in shrug thing. But I couldn’t do it. I pulled out the leggings that actually came with the shirt and a regular tshirt.
“You can change the shorts or you can change the shirt,” I said.
Mini threw herself to the floor screaming, “WHYYYYYYYYYYYYY?” in a way that would put Shatner to shame.
So, you know, how most of our conversations go when I ask her to do something. Eventually, she changed into the leggings. And that’s why I think it’s important for me, as her mother, to tell her when she’s cute, when she picked out a good outfit. She has to learn about picking out clothes that are appropriate. And sure, chiffon and camo are probably perfectly fine for Montessori. But someday she won’t be there. Someday she’ll be trying to figure out what the fuck business casual means. She’ll be trying to pick something out for a dinner, or a date, or just to hang out with her friends at the mall. That should not be a painful or difficult choice. This is why I fought for her right to not wear a uniform. We don’t live in some dystopian military society, not yet. Picking out clothing is a skill, and it can be a hard one to learn. (Especially for girls, given the higher expectations for them when it comes to fashion.) So yes, I’ll tell her she looks cute, but that’s not all.
I hate not having the right words. It feels like a personal failing as a writer. Like why did I go into debt with that MFA if shit goes down and I can only stand there thinking “Oh fuck.” But that’s where the last couple of months have left me.
It started with Professor Furious working on a fairly demanding show. In addition to being in charge of the build, he was doing the set and lighting design. Nothing terribly unsual around here, really. I’m used to it at this point. I miss him when shows go into tech, but I know that it will eventually close and things reset. My parents were beginning their move to Small Town from Hawaii, anyway, and so I made plans to drive back home with Mini and my mom for spring break. Professor would be in the midst of the worst of the crunch, and I generally make it a policy to straight up get us out of his hair come tech week if I can. But then my aunt Noemi, who is essentially my second mother, took a fall and went into the hospital. So I pulled Mini out of school the week before spring break, and we rushed home as soon as we could. Here’s the thing, Noemi has always been the active one. I don’t necessarily mean like hiking and sporty stuff, but fiercely independent and lived for her work and her nieces and nephews. Maybe not the active one, the feisty one. She was 75 and demanding her laptop so she could work from her hospital bed.
WordPress tells me I started this two months ago. I don’t want to go into the whole hospital and then hospice thing. I don’t want to tell the whole story, but I don’t know how not to tell the whole story. But it was hard, and it was terrible. Dad finally flew in the Friday of Spring Break. I think Mini and I drove back on Sunday. A nine hour drive, just me and the six year old. We got stuck in traffic on I10 for an hour, though, so more like ten, thanks to a pretty terrible looking accident. And as we got closer to home, in the dark, in the nearly middle of nowhere, I saw flashing lights ahead, and assumed the troopers had nailed someone speeding to or from Spring Break. But no, it was a really fancy looking rv that had burned out on the side of the road. There were no more flames, just a charred frame on the back three-quarters only illuminated by the still flashing lights of the cruisers and fire trucks and road flares.
We got home and I realized our eight year old cat, Bentley, didn’t look great and smelled terrible. I thought it was his teeth bothering him. Professor Furious was only home to sleep, usually at midnight or later, thanks to the show, so he hadn’t noticed. We talked about the possibility of needing to pull some of his teeth and how much that would cost and how we’d do it anyway because we loved him.
Mom and Dad came a day or two later. We talked about Mimi and I said I didn’t think it would be a week. I think it was Wednesday that we got the call that it wouldn’t be long, about ten thirty or eleven at night. So we decided to just go. I hadn’t even unpacked yet, so I threw in clean underwear and I thought funeral clothes, but apparently I grabbed them and put them down again somewhere, because they were nowhere to be found when we got to my brother’s house. I still don’t know where they are. We drove and drove, it was so late and we were exahusted. I told the Professor what was happening via text message, because he was at work and it was midnight and we couldn’t wait for him any longer. And the call came a while later, after I had switched off driving duties with my mom. The sun finally came up, and my dad could drive, and before we were even home, in the town that will always be home, the calls and texts from my cousins began. The usual funeral planning things.
It all went moderately terribly, since my family is the worst at communication and the best at passive aggression. And we came back to Small Town before the rosary, before the funeral. And I picked up Bentley, my living stuffed animal, who usually clocked in at about 18 pounds and it was like lifting air. He’d lost two-thirds of his body weight, and the next day the vet told me he was in severe kidney failure. His numbers were all double or triple the acceptable limits. He stayed for a few days, as they pushed fluids and hoped to flush his system. Finally we brought him home, and he held on for a week, though I didn’t see him eat that entire time. And finally we called the vet and she came and we said good bye to him here at home.
A week or so later, we found out that one of our World of Warcraft guildmates, who we’d known for ten years, had passed away. A heart attack at 46. I still expect to hear his voice on Vent or see him in guild chat. It’s easy to stay in the denial phases when you can just tell yourself he works weird hours and just hasn’t been on at the same time you are.
A couple of weeks later, at the Earth Day celebration, we saw some dogs from the shelter and decided to adopt a sweet girl who’d been at the shelter for almost two years. Our dog Dyson needed a friend. He was a Catahoula-Pit Bull mix, we think. He had that big dumb love baby head and weighed close to sixty pounds but wanted to be a lapdog, and he loved other dogs. You may have noticed the use of the past tense. Galaxy got along great with Dyson, ignored the cats, and basically needed to be within a foot of me at all times. I was her person and she was going to protect me. From everyone. Finally, after a week of her nipping at Mini -catching her on the face once, though she didnt’ even break the skin- and barking at the Professor every time he came in the room, we decided we couldn’t keep her. She was sweet and loving and loyal, but only to me. That evening Dyson managed to get the back gate open. I called and called, and there was a storm rolling in and he was scared of them so I thought of course he’d come home. Galaxy came running as soon as I stepped outside, but he didn’t. And finally we gave up and left the back gate open, but I had a feeling. Sure enough, the next morning Animal Control -run by a group of the sweetest girls you will ever meet- called. He’d been hit, and they’d picked him up about twenty minutes before I noticed the gate was open. It was right behind our house. I went to bed and didn’t leave until it was time to pick up his ashes the next day. I basically traded Galaxy for Dyson’s collar and ashes. (She’s got a potential foster home, though. I talked to them about her, and they seemed like they weren’t deterred by anything I said. I hope she makes it.)
Loss loss loss… And I haven’t been able to begin to talk about it until now. Even so, I’ve cried a good bit while writing this. But I had to. There have been other things I’ve wanted to post about: the garden we slapped together on a whim because the hardware store had a huge plant sale, finding a solution for the clothes that aren’t quite dirty but it feels weird to put away and so they live sort of on the floor next to the hampers, my new job, etc.. But I felt like I couldn’t until I said all of this. Now that I’ve said it, I can try and move on. Well, now that I’ve said it, started going to therapy, and gotten a booster perscription of anti-depressants and refilled my anti-anxiety meds. (Did I mention that perscription ran out, totally out no more refills, have to find time to go in to the doctor’s office, right before all of this happened?) Oh and a couple of weeks ago, we got these two:
Makenzie and Brave Sir Robin. So expect ridiculous kitten pictures and stories.
Y’all, I screwed up. Not like the worst screw up ever, but it’s a dumb mistake that could have been avoided with like two minutes of thought. Mini’s class is studying Asia, and so they all had to pick a country. Of course she was out the day they picked, so her first choice of Japan went to another kid. Which, fine, whatever. She loves Japan and is fine learning about it all on her own. There are only six kids in her class, so there’s still plenty of Asia to go around. Japan, China, Russia, Turkey and India were all taken. Her teacher told me to just pick something cool with her. My heart said Thailand. My stupid stupid brain said let her do her own picking. Then, for some god awful reason, same brain steered her to towards Mongolia. What was I thinking?
I was thinking Mongolia is a really cool place with ponies, and yurts, and falconers who hunt with giant eagles. I was thinking about how there’s a like 5% chance everyone is related to Genghis Khan. I was not thinking about how these cultural appreciation lessons usually work. We have to bring in a meal from her country, or at least inspired by the food they eat, on Friday. And it turns out Mongolian beef isn’t actually Mongolian. Go figure.
Do you know what they eat in Mongolia? That’s not a rhetorical question. I really need to know. We watched the Bizarre Foods episode where he goes to Mongolia. Not super helpful. It’s all forms of milk curd and intestines and sheep head. Not a lot of dried cheese curd to be had in Small Town. Shockingly low on sheep heads as well. The internet has been less than helpful, giving me the same three dumping recipes over and over. They’re potsticker-esque, but filled with ground beef and nothing else. I’d go with those, except for the part where I have made potstickers before and oh man is it tedious. The lazier bit of me is thinking of a cheese plate with some crackers and cured meat of some kind. You know, really lay on the “inspired by” wording of the assignment. Add some pickled veggies, because apparently a lot of their vegetables are pickled due to the whole largely nomadic lifestyle thing. Or I make Mongolian beef because obviously it must have been inspired by Mongolia at some point, right?
This is a difficult parenting impasse. Basically I can do something authentic, something “inspired” by, or something that I know is utter Western bullshit but is easy. How much does it matter? I’m doing the research and cooking here, not Mini. Okay, not entirely true, she watched Bizarre Foods with me, and then sat on my lap while I googled Mongolian recipes. But there isn’t exactly a grade on the line here. (Yay Montessori schools!) I don’t know what we’re going to do, but I pretty much have to decide tonight. I have learned one thing though: never listen to my brain.
House projects were all on hold this week, as both Professor Furious and I came down with Campus Crud. Please don’t go to school/work sick. This is not elementary school, you do not get a pizza party for your perfect attendance. You just get cursed for your germ spreading ways. Happily, my apathy towards perfect attendance means that I slept it off and bounced back pretty quick, as did the Professor. A couple of years ago I got pneumonia sort of out of the blue in the middle of summer, and my lungs still don’t feel like they’ve recovered completely. If I get sick and don’t take care of it, it very easily becomes a thing of the sort that requires antibiotic shots in my butt. Shots in my butt are my least favorite kind of shots. (Most favorite? Tequila.) So hell yes I am cancelling class and sleeping for two days because I feel a bit sniffly. Ounce of prevention > pound of cure.
(Mini Furious didn’t even sneeze once. Everyone assured me she’d always be deathly ill once she started going to school because she hadn’t been exposed to infection factory that is daycare. Child has been sick about five times in her life. Either she is a mutant, or being exposed to terrible illnesses as a very tiny child is not as good for kids as most people think it is.)
But we’re better now. Which means I can start tackling the things that need doing. Fairly top of the list is buying a dresser. Dressers are expensive, y’all. And surprisingly hard to find. The Craigslist for our area is pretty worthless, as, for some reason, it’s full of listings from Houston. Which is on the other side of the state. Sometimes there’s one from San Antonio, which is only 5 hours or so away. I’ve joined the relevant garage sale groups on Facebook, but still a lack. The thrift stores haven’t had any in. I looked at new ones online, but I feel like a bit of a failure for paying more than about ten dollars for a dresser. It seems like every home blogger I follow is always all, “Look at this fantastic midcentury modern piece I found. Nobody knew what it was, so I got it for a song.” Maybe I’m a bad thrifter. I know a lot of it is patience. And I’m bad at that. In this case, my lack of patience mostly comes from a place of being tired of not being able to put away half of my clothes. Putting things “away” in a laundry basket is getting frustrating. I’m about to drive the hour up to Walmart and buy whatever they happen to have on the shelf.
But it’s not just about feeling like a bad thrifter. It’s feeling like a bad poor person. We spent the last four years on SNAP benefits, aka food stamps. Money has been stupid tight for so long I feel like I should just live with my clothes folded in a laundry basket forever. Eighty dollars on a particleboard set of drawers from Walmart? I can pay bills with that! Or buy groceries. Or not be selfish by buying a thing for myself and buy something for Mini Furious instead. Plus there’s the gas money to even get to Walmart. I’m used to thinking in terms of any trip outside of our normal routine means a big dent in our budget because that’s extra gas money. Gas is for going to work and school, and I have to make sure my grocery trips coincide with one of those things, because making a special trip in the middle of the day is a frivolous waste of gas. Everything that isn’t food and shelter is an unnecessary waste of money. Clothes for myself are a waste, because up to this point I’ve worked from home and as long as I didn’t look too terrible when I took Mini to school, then it was fine. One pair of pants is fine. My tshirts are mostly older than my kid, but they don’t have too many holes, so it’s okay. Clothes without holes are for people who aren’t on food stamps. That’s what society tells me. That’s what people who are my friends tell me when they post things on Facebook about how entitled poor people are. (But of course they tell me I’m different. I’m not like those other poor people.)
Now I can buy groceries without worrying that someone will notice I’m using an EBT card (food stamps work off of a debit card style system now. If you see someone using paper check things, they are on WIC, which has ridiculously precise restrictions on what can and can’t be bought. Extremely stressful to use, and so even though we qualified, I usually didn’t bother with them.), and judge what I’ve got in my cart. The defenses are always at the top of my mind. I know I got too many fresh veggies; I should have grabbed frozen, but I hate the texture and won’t eat them, except for frozen corn. It’s my kid’s birthday, that’s why I’ve got cake mix and frosting and ice cream. We ate a lot of ramen and lentils last week so we could afford steak as a special anniversary dinner this week. I haven’t eaten yet today and so I grabbed a candy bar to eat before I pick up my kid so I don’t yell at her because I’m hungry and it’s making me angry. Let me explain. I’m a good poor person. But I’m not a poor person anymore. I get to be a person. But that mindset is really hard to shake. That lack of self-esteem is hard to shake. I have money now, but what if I don’t later? What if I buy something nice now, and then later we lose our jobs, and then we’ll have spent that money AND people will see we have something nice and will be angry at us for buying it. “How can they have a phone like that AND be on food stamps?” “You dress too well to be on food stamps.”
So I’ll keep using a laundry basket instead of a dresser until I feel like I deserve drawers, even though it’s something that frustrates me every time I walk into my bedroom. Because in my mind I’m not quite a person yet. And I will never let go of those defenses for the checkout aisle. I may not need them, but somebody else will. I will forever be there to stand up for the person with the EBT card. Because they are a person, no matter what society has to say. I should know, I’m a person now, too.
July 25th we left the Valley for our new home in small town West Texas. (I’m still feeling odd about saying which town…) We got here well after dark. On the drive out, I managed to accidentally instill a fear of chupacabras in Mini Furious. Given how dark and empty that last hour of drive is, I don’t really blame her. But I told her that they don’t exist, and even if they do exist, they only eat goats. So as long as she acts like a little girl and not a goat, she’ll be fine. But they totally don’t exist. Even though one of her uncles swears up and down he saw one. It’s probably best that Professor Furious was driving the moving truck, because he revels in the part of fatherhood that involves terrible jokes and nightmare fuel.
We got in and my in-laws were waiting for us. This town is dark. We’re official dark sky country, with an observatory just up the road a bit. Spectacular views, terrible when you need to find the real estate office you’ve only been to once so you can get the keys for your new house that you’re only pretty sure you know how to to get to. And it was way too late to call our real estate agent for any kind of directions. Adventure!
Finally, we got in and got air mattresses set up. Of course, we’d only seen the house once before, and it is our very first house of our own, so everything looked terrible and terrifying and oh so very “oh god we’ve made a terrible mistake.” It’s gotten better, though. I’ve got a renovation list, and we’re getting to work. The hardest part has been the adjustment to being so rural. I told Professor Furious that I would be going full hippie once we got out here. Not out of any latent crunchy granola desires, but out of sheer necessity. We don’t have an HEB, Target, or WhatABurger. Y’all, those are pretty much my reasons for living. (You know, right after my child, husband, and cats.) My black thumb self is having delusions of gardening, since that’s about the only way to get fresh produce. We’ve been leaning hard on our Amazon account, and finally went in for the prime membership. I’m sure eventually I will get to a zen state of not needing things. But I’m trying to set up a new house here. I need things.
For now, the things are coming. The cats have stopped being terrified of everything, and discovered the patio is a good place for lounging. We’ve all survived our first week of school. (Even me! I’m currently Adjunct Professor Furious.) And I’m finally getting around to ripping my bathroom apart in the best possible way. It’s a big shift, but so far it’s a good one.
Buying a house is a web of lies. For arcane reasons our closing date has now been moved back to the 31st. Okay, not so arcane. Our mortgage dude found us a far better loan option, but it came with extra hoops to jump through. Of course, I found this out after reserving the moving truck. And our lease here ends the 31st, anyway. So we’re renting our own house for about a week. And hopefully no more than a week. This is me breathing deeply and calmly.
But it’s fine. It’s all going to be fine. I refuse to be stressed out by all of this. Really. But did I mention the black widow that had the audacity to crawl out into the middle of the living room floor last week? I’ve been seeing a bunch of spders around the house beyond the little black and grey not especially scary dudes. Professor Furious and I go back and forth about spiders in the house. I feel that if they’re not especially venomous, and stay off my bed, Mini’s bed, my desk, and the couch, they can stay. He is of the terribly mistaken opinion that all spiders are fine, and if it is an especially venomous variety, we should just not touch it and everything will be okay. Unfortunately, this is a hard concept to convey to the cats and child. He scooped the black widow up in a jar and released it outside somewhere. I called the landlords and asked for an exterminator. Luckily, our landlady is on my side here and got a dude out the next day. (Seriously, there are things I would change about this house in a heartbeat, but our landlords are fairly awesome about getting stuff done.) Happily, the spiders I’ve been seeing in the house aren’t brown recluses or hobo spiders as Google had informed me. This is because the brown recluses were hanging out in the garage along with another black widow. I would like it noted that I didn’t ask the exterminator to just burn everything to the ground. Truly I am a woman of restraint in the face of difficulty. As it was, I merely stood in the kitchen flailing my arms and trying not to cry. Like an adult.
In the end, the spiders were dealt with. The exterminator said we might want to wear gloves and long sleeves when moving the boxes in the garage, but otherwise we should be fine. Professor Furious has kindly pointed out that brown recluse bites don’t always necrotize, and that at any rate our new house will most likely have scorpions, which should take my mind off of the spiders. Useful man to have around, my husband, especially if you like nightmares about spiders and scorpions fighting for dominance of your house.