There’s Something About Harvey

First, thank you so much for the very kind, supportive comments on Hurricane Plants last week, and I’m sorry I’m only now getting around to replying to them. We’re still in semi-quarantine, but Dane has an appointment with a specialist this week and I’m hoping we’ll get some more information on Thursday. In the meantime, I’m spending my writing time staring at a blank screen and raging against a villainous, nefarious, rash-causing something. But really, bloggy peeps. Deeply. Thank you.

And now back to our regularly scheduled snark.

My husband is gainfully employed, for which I am deeply, deeply, truly, deeply thankful. And because of his gainful employment, and because this blog is on this newfangled dagnabbity contraption called the internet, and because prospective employers apparently can make you log into The Facebook during an interview these days (WTF, PEOPLE?), I will tell you only hypothetically of a conversation that may or may not have occurred between the two of us a while – quite a while, now, actually – back.

Me: Did you read my blog post?

Husband: Which one?

Me: The one about my ladybusiness?

Husband: Heheheheheh. Heheh. Heh.

Me: Nice.

Husband: Heheheheheh.

Me: Dude.

Husband: Okay, fine, yes. It was funny.

(Long pause)

Me: What?

Husband: Well, I was thinking of writing an ode to my (insert obnoxious-but-not-really-offensive-1984 -word for manparts here).

Me: That. Would. Be. Awesome.

And since that moment, all those weeks ago, I have time and time again wondered: what WOULD my husband say to his manparts, given the opportunity? So, with no further ado, I present:

An Imagined Letter From My Better Half to His Manparts

Hello, manparts.

So, manparts. Do you mind if I call you Towering Fortress of Manliness? Giant Turkey Leg of Awesomeness? Or Harvey? I’ve always liked the name Harvey. Harvey, it is.

So, Harvey.

You rock.

Sincerely,

Husband

p.s. We scored on that wife thing, huh?

(Smooch -s)

read to be read at yeahwrite.me

Hurricane Plants

Yes. Hurricane plants.

Do you know the ones I mean? When a storm’s coming, a hurricane plant turns itself inside out so all that’s visible are the white undersides of the leaves. It’s disconcerting, foreboding, even, to feel the wind and see the purple-black sky and watch those plants curl over themselves, tucking under that shell. Google says they’re philodendron, but I thought they were hibiscus or some kind of palm. I should ask my mother. She would know.

Dane’s been sick for two weeks with no sign of abatement. His illness is changing, sure, but we’re progressing from one kind of bad to another, instead of into varying shades of better. His issue is not life-threatening. It’s not chronic, nor will it scar him or change his health outcome in any way. He has a nasty, untreatable virus that’s having some nasty aftereffects, and by the time we go to the beach in July, the whole episode will be a blip on the screen of an otherwise sunny spring. But. BUT.

I’m crouching over him anyway. I’m in the right now, and I’m tired and worried and there’s nothing I can do to help. We just have to have patience, which, as you may imagine, isn’t in my wheelhouse. My grandfather wasn’t the only rustic frontier-independent Texan in my family. You get in the way of my child, and like any good parent, I will move you. Only you can’t move a virus. Reason it off a ledge. Threaten it with a broken beer bottle (Stay green, Ponyboy. Stay green.). You can’t make a doctor, or drug, or your mother or husband, fix something when the only solution is time. And most importantly, I can’t fix him. Instead, I’m curled over him, not because I’m mother of the year or because I reasoned out the answer in a spreadsheet, but because it’s the only thing I know how to do. I feel like a failure. Helpless. And let me be clear. That helplessness? I HATE IT.

I’m not asking for sympathy. I know there’s much, much worse out there, and there are much stronger people who deal with those problems. Dane’s virus will pass and he’ll be back to picking up earthworms and rushing toward the future at lightspeed, and I’ll flip over some leaves and signal the bartender for another drink. But for now,  I’ve tucked this baby under me and we’re just waiting, and praying, for the weather to pass.

Always.

Smooch -s

read to be read at yeahwrite.me

The Princess Bride

As of April 24, 2012, I’ve been married eight years.

I’ve been trying to write a post about marriage for two weeks, and not taking into consideration all the other stuff I’ve been doing, I keep getting stuck on how to begin. I’ve come back to:

(1) Shouting MAW-WAGE a la The Princess Bride and then making an analogy about building an immunity to iocane powder to being married (and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, shame on you), or…

(2) Getting stuck on how many posts about anniversaries start with “Eight years ago I married my best friend.” Because, well, I didn’t.

Don’t get me wrong; I married someone with whom I was very much in love and wanted to spend the rest of my life, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say he was my one-and-only bestie. My fiancée came in a close third or fourth after my sister and my mom and maybe one of my girlfriends from kindergarten and a college roommate. We’d never shared a bathroom stall, for example. Spent an eighteen-hour period drinking Red Dog and watching Friends reruns. Walked an hour across Vegas at 3 a.m. because we couldn’t get a cab after a Dave Matthews concert. Had a nuclear blowout over a leopard print outfit from The Limited and a coordinating Units belt. We didn’t go to middle school, high school or college together. In fact, we never lived in the same town before we were married, and only lived in the same state for nine months of our three-year courtship. So, well: no. Not exactly.

Marriage is hard (yes, I know: DUH.). It deserves honesty, and loyalty, and the ability to look at the worst in yourself and your partner and not flinch. My husband and I have very different temperaments, but we’re both (1) stubborn as mules and (2) fighters, each in our own way.  We’ve fought over everything from where to live to how to spend money to how to fight. We moved across the country together, and then across an ocean. We had a baby. When things were hard, and there were times when they were, we fought for each other. We’ve learned that happiness is a choice and not a right, and that very few things worth doing are easy. That the things that matter most are worth not just fighting for, but forgiving.

So, no, I’m not going to blow smoke up your ass and say I married my best friend. Unequivocally, however, I’m married to my best friend today. He’s solid and loving and a great father and sometimes a know-it-all i(nsert insulting word for the male species here). Some days I can’t wait for him to get home and occasionally I can’t stand to be in the same room with him, but there are rarely ever days where I don’t feel deeply, deeply satisfied with my choices in life.

That’s the trick about marriage, too. It sneaks up on you. When I look back at the last eight years, it seems like before is just this surreal place I once lived. The memories of before are great; they made me who I am. But the now is so much richer. So it sort of bugs me when someone says I married my best friend, because that’s not exactly my story, and I feel like it’s implied that it should be. In my story, we had to live together, be married, be partners, to build what we have now, and it’s made me a believer. I believe in us. I believe we’ll make it because we had to work through our differences, and we had to find out who we were individually, and who we were together, and even though it wasn’t always easy, and won’t be in the future, we did it.

Smooch -s

read to be read at yeahwrite.me

Today in the Mommyhood, Day 534 (Part: Shots, Anyone?)

I went to the grocery store today.

Now there’s a way to start a post. Is your heart pounding? Breath coming in short, quick bursts? Has Fabio appeared at your doorway to sweep you off to the bedroom? If so, you’re welcome.

If not, well, have another chocolate goldfish and stay with me.

So I head off to the grocery store, and when I get there I throw my keys somewhere and retrieve the cart and load Dane up, yadayadayada, and when I’m finally ready to go into the store, I reach for my keys to lock the car and, of course, I can’t find them. And I check all my pockets and the cart and the seats and when it becomes painfully, obviously clear that they’re not anywhere else, I finally turn to my purse. Now, I’ve always been a big purse, carry-the-kitchen-sink kind of girl, and, as you might imagine, having a baby has only, ahem, amplified that habit. And of course, because I’m totally occupied with Dane and making sure his mucus stays contained to the four parking spots around us, and because I’m still a little sleep-deprived, I dig around for, no joke, probably four or five minutes before I realize the only way I’m going to find those damn keys is to actually clean out my purse on the trunk of my rental vehicle. And you know what I found in there? No? Well, allow me to share:

The Obvious: my wallet, itself the size of a small clutch, and so stuffed with receipts the zipper is permanently jammed halfway open; reading glasses, because I’m old; sunglasses, also because I’m old but refuse to believe I’m no longer cool; four tubes of Burt’s bees, because, like socks in the dryer, my purse EATS THAT SHIT; and a bottle opener, because, really, how many times have you wished you had one? and because, let’s face it, I’m just that kind of girl.

The Baby-Related: a diaper pod, for obvious reasons; three types of wipes, for general sanitization, sensitive skin, and Boogie Wipes because OHMYGODWILLTHEMUCUSEVEREND; a bottle of sanitizer (see previous); three matchbox cars, two sets of toy keys (none of which fit the car) and a toy laptop; a week-old snack trap filled with fossilized goldfish and Cheerios; industrial-strength playtex super-super-plus tampons; a bottle of adult ibuprofen; and Dane’s sunglasses, missing one lens and mangled into the shape of a pretzel.

The Random: Roughly fourteen thousand loose goldfish, Cheerios and bunny grahams; two semi-eaten post-it pads (and yes, I mean literally semi-eaten, by small baby teeth); three hair clips, missing since roughly the dawn of time; a golf-ball sized ball of actual dryer lint (to which I respond, WTF, PURSE? are you having a tryst with my appliances? should I expect dirty dishes to show up next?); several beer bottle caps, which I’ve never before seen but am certain are the responsibility of my spouse; a twist tie; a dead ladybug; and two small quartz landscaping rocks from my neighbor’s mailbox bed (sorry, Denise.).

The Obscene: Fourteen Boogie Wipes in varying stages of decomposition, all encrusted with mucus; one just-slightly dirty diaper balled up into a very small, tight ball (so THAT’S where that went!); and one pair of women’s underwear that I’m mostly certain belong to me but have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA HOW THEY ENDED UP IN MY PURSE.

Yes. So there I am, standing in the middle of my neighborhood grocery store parking lot with a dead ladybug, some tampons, beer paraphernalia and a pair of random underwear spread out on the trunk of my car, and people are walking by and checking me out like I’m my own personal flea market, and yet I STILL HAVE NO KEYS. And then, as if by a stroke of magic, my phone buzzes in my pocket and I reach in there, and voila, of course:

F***ing. Keys.


When chocolate goldfish happen to good people…

Smooch -s

Lawnmower Beer

I’m having a writerly moment. Do y’all know what I mean? The voices start whispering and you’re compelled to the laptop, or the notebook computer, or your phone, or yesterday’s grocery receipt and a Comfort Suites pen from 1997. And my writerly moment, which I wish would be about world peace or National Child Abuse Prevention Month or even the lack of quality programming on television, is about… lawnmower beer.

Thanks, inspiration.

I took a long nap today. Without going into the backstory, Dane and I have been up between 4:30 and 5:30 a.m. the last few days, and I’m again buried under the PTSD of mommyhood and all the other shit I never have time to do, and I’m tired. Anyway, Dane took a two-hour nap (unheard of! pigs flying! at some point, this child has to sleep!), and so did I, and I woke to the buzz-and-roar of a lawnmower.

The lawnmower: that’s another sound of my childhood. Dane and I will share that, I suspect, because we live in a similar neighborhood as I did as a child, and because he’s obsessed with lawn equipment. I remember laying on my bed and hearing the advance-and-retreat of the engine as my father rounded our house. The smell of gasoline, dangerous and pungent, and somehow also decadent – the same type of smell I would later associate with the first puff of a cigarette – permeated our garage. My father had an old cord-start mower, and the pull of that cord was the sound of Saturday, of summer, of long naps and mosquitoes buzzing and sleeping late and salt and sweat in the air.

Our childhoods have hearts and souls. I hear the lawnmower and I smell my father after a long day in the sun and remember how when he didn’t shave, he’d hold me down and rub his whiskers on my face. My mom would come inside with brown hands and brown shoulders and a floppy sun hat and the smell of earth and growing things on her hands. The air conditioner would cut the heat at the door and coming in and out was like walking through a wall of steam into a cool, clear cloud. And I would lay on the floor with Aunt Brookie and watch the fan blades turn above us and the water in our pool glisten through the sliding glass doors, and believe those days would never, ever end.

When the sun went down, my sister and I would run around barefoot in the grass while the cicadas sang and the tree frogs screamed and my parents sat on the deck – built by my father, always built by my father – and drank sweating beers. There were always people around when I was a kid, like a scene from Gatsby’s: my parents’ friends, neighbors, my friends or Aunt Brookie’s, our extended family, whoever. And the grass would be freshly cut and smelling like sweet, crisp summer and the voices would rise and fall as the heat undulated across our backyard until darkness took the edge off that summer-swamp madness and God blew a little relief down on us with the rising of the moon and the appearance of the stars.

Now instead of me laying on the floor, it’s Dane, and instead of my parents’ friends, I am the parent (who approved that, I wonder? don’t these people know I’m highly underqualified?), and instead of Bud Light or a Corona with lime, it’s Jon’s home brew or Shiner or my neighbor’s bloody mary. But the changes are minor. It may be Raleigh instead of Houston, or April instead of June, but I know that down in Texas, mom and dad are out on the deck with a cold beer, watching the fireflies light up the hill country night and remembering those days from our childhood, just like I’m living and reliving them here. So I guess those days never really do end. And thank God for that.

Smooch -s

An Open Letter to my Uterus

Hello, Uterus.

If you were present on the outside of my body, you would see I’m giving you the infamous Costanza-Newman stare. What’s that, you ask? Who’s Costanza?

Well, that’s problem number one.

So, Uterus. Do you mind if I call you Utey? Or Ute? Or simply U? Because every time I type Uterus it feels like I’m typing a combination of Jupiter and Uranus and I have the irrepressible urge to hit spell check and frankly, I’m not getting any writing done. Let’s settle on U, shall we? ‘Kay? Thanks.

So U. We’ve been through a lot. Puberty. The utter humiliation of that first doctor’s visit, the one who looked uncannily like Joey Buttafuoco. The college years, many of which, I’ll admit, I do not remember. While we’re on the subject, I should add how much I appreciate your patience with the ills I’ve done my body. Because (see above). If you could pass that on to the liver, I’d be much obliged.

Oh sure, we’ve been at cross-purposes before. I’m not sure in which former life I pissed you off, but I’m certain whatever I did was of Dante-esque proportion, based on your behavior the first three days of my every period. Narcotics have no power over you. And while we’re being honest, let me admit: I might hate you for it, but I admire you, too. You remind me that whatever I may sometimes think, my husband could not bear you. It takes a woman to do a woman’s job.

While we’re on the topic of things I appreciate about you, let’s talk about all the jackasses who assumed we would fail out of engineering, solely based on your existence, and then, when that didn’t happen, fail as an engineer. Did you also think it was funny, once they realized we were smarter and more successful than they were, how they wanted to get up close and personal with both of us? If we had a superhero name, we would be the JackAssKickers. Also, we would have leopard print capes and three inch heels.

Are you getting that I’m trying to butter you up? Little gets past you, U. Let’s talk about your more recent accomplishments, like the nurturing of my small person. While your unwillingness to give him up was disconcerting, at best – was three hours of pushing really necessary? – I can’t say I don’t understand. I mean, you were totally right. He is awesome.

But you know what, U? We need to talk. Because you and I once again find ourselves at odds. I get that you’re not solely responsible for my distress. There are ovaries, and fallopian tubes, and, hell, somebody else’s reproductive organs involved, too. But you’re sort of the boss down there. So:

You may have noticed I’m trying to get knocked up. Sure, I know you’re busy shedding and rebuilding and all that miracle of life crap. But for real, yo: mama’s working here. I mean, I wore heels three times last month. And perhaps you remember from such episodes as Ten Months of Nurturing a Fetus and Three Hours of Insane Pushing, I have a toddler. It’s not like I have a lot of, you know, bandwidth. So I get it. If it’s not the right time to have a baby, no problem. But would you mind doing me a solid? If, in fact, you aren’t going to get all warm and nurture-y and fourteen-thousand times your size, could you please try to be, oh, I don’t know… timely about it? I’ve mentioned that 48 hours is late for us. So five days late? Five days late means I’m researching the accuracy of First Response pregnancy tests. Five days late means I’m facing uncontrollable PMS and the urge to eat everything chocolate, fried or served with ranch (and sometimes all three together) in sight, and yet somehow still wondering if these are signs of pregnancy and let’s be honest, U, none of that is particularly good for our mental health, our marriage or the safety of those around us.

You see, U, I can take the cramping. I can face the humiliation of a freezing doctor’s office and gowns that gape in the back. I can handle the demeaning comments about my ability to drive or resolve complex mathematical equations or drill a hole five miles into the ground. But the monthly betrayal of not doing exactly what I want you to, when I want you to, how I want you to? Followed by jacking up my hopes just this much and then crushing them? That’s getting harder to accept. And doing it while I’m without alcohol? Well, now you’re just plain being bitchy.

So let’s stick with timely, shall we? ‘Kay?

Thanks, love. Smooches and all -S

Hidden Places

My father’s parents, before they died, lived in a rural area off Possum Kingdom Lake, just outside of Graham, Texas. They owned a chunk of land anchored by a double-wide trailer and a shed out back where my grandfather could build what seemed like anything. It was full of saws and drills and clamps and sawdust and was irresistible and terrifying all at the same time.

The trailer had at least three porches, not counting the carport. From the smallest one out back, I watched the blackbirds roost in the huisatche trees near the shed, but otherwise that porch went unused. We spent most of our time making peach ice cream and chasing wild kittens on the side porch and sitting in the splintered swing out front, watching the green and brown water of the lake glisten and stagnate in the blistering summer heat.

The back porch was a hidden place. You had to sneak behind the dining room table to get to it and then wedge open a door that creaked like it hadn’t been opened in fifty years, and even then only a kid the size of a green bean could slip through. Tethered to the porch was an old pitchfork-style clothesline leading the fifty feet towards the shed. There were burrs in the grass that kept you from venturing out there, and the possibility of snakes, and more than a little fear of the man who kept the shop.

I loved my grandfather but I was scared of him, too. I’m a fifth generation Texan, which means some of my forefathers’ hot-blooded, rustic-independent spirit has been buried under my love for designer shoes. My grandfather, however, was a tribesman of that earlier, unfenced Texas, where men still surged across the flats and hills and bluffs carrying nothing but sweat and leather, and later, the impenetrable grime and haze of oil, and beat the land into submission. They were proud, and untiring, and sometimes dangerous, and often honest to a fault. They lived fiercely. They may not all have had the vocation, but in spirit they were all cowboys.

Like most kids, I got in the way a lot, especially in a place where the most exciting thing to do was walk the gravel road to the lakeside snack truck and buy a frozen Twix and a Sunkist. There were more than a few times my grandfather mowed me down with a stare and a yard-long stream of dip spit. But there were hidden places in him, too. He called me Suzy, for example, which had been forbidden by my mother since birth. He built me a jewelry box, and a clock in the shape of an outhouse, and a pencil holder made of two blocks of wood with holes drilled into it for the pencils. All three of those are still in a box in my attic. And when I was seven or eight, he hung a swing from two pieces of yellow braided rope in the scrap tree in the front yard. I sat on that swing for hours. I’d talk to myself and pretend and sing to the rabbits and the turtles sunning themselves on the lakeshore and the tourists zipping by in their speedboats. Summer after winter after summer I would go back and that swing would still be there. I had a lot of cousins (and obviously, Aunt Brookie), but I always believed that no matter who used it, that swing was just for me. It was my hidden place with my grandfather.

When my grandfather died, I was a dangerously stupid nineteen-year-old college freshman. I was so busy with classes and boys and trying to figure out where the next drink was coming from, I never processed his loss. It’s been more than fifteen years, and I’m only now realizing how much I miss him. He wasn’t an ideal man. He had many faults and many faces and I’m lucky to remember the ones that I do, but he lived with fire and he loved with ferocity. I see his picture or sometimes just look at my dad and I remember the blackness of night and the screaming of the cicadas and the tree frogs, the wet-fresh smell of the lake under the sickly sweetness of Skohl, and I understand a little more about my commitment to hard work and sweat equity and taking no bullshit. And that some parts of me, of us all, are hidden, too.

Yee-haw, y’all.

Smooch -s

p.s. It’s funny the places writing takes you. I’d almost forgotten about that swing until I started writing this. And suddenly I realize it’s the center of my memories of my grandfather, and I miss him more than I have in a decade just sitting here, thinking of it. And I feel closer to him, too.

p.p.s. Yes, Possum Kingdom Lake is one and the same as the really awesome Toadies song that you’ll now have stuck in your head for the next hundred days. You’re welcome. -s