This morning Ophie accused the plumber of stealing Andy’s wallet. I spent a lot of time on hold with the bank. I put socks, shoes, and breakfast on/ in my children. I waved like a lunatic at the daycare window. I said “fuck” in a meeting, more than once. I had lunch with Andy. I ate a burrito. I took a walk. I picked up my big kid. I picked up my little kid. I ate an English muffin with pizza sauce, mozzarella and a pineapple ring on top and called it supper. I wrote about Beanie Babies and sewing and dogwoods. I did a load of laundry but didn’t dry it. I whacked my wrist in an unexplainable way on the banister.
And I just found a piece of dog food on the kitchen table.
That’ll do, I suppose.
So, here’s this little guy. Reciting Billy Collins at the age of three. Pretty impressive. I mean, my three year old can sing almost all the words to Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble,” so, you know, genius takes many forms. Ahem.
It seems like a million years since I was accustomed to spending my collegiate days and nights discussing/ writing/ reading poems, and who knows how long since I memorized one. High school maybe? In preparation for an overdramatic performance at a speech team event?
Birdy read Shel Silverstein’s “Ickle Me Pickle Me Tickle Me Too” to me the other night while I was folding towels, and I was able to keep up reasonably well– and I realized it’s one of very few that I have committed to memory. There’s the William Carlos Williams piece about the plums that I’ve always loved, and some chunks of James Tate and maybe the Gettysburg Address, if you count that, which I don’t.
But do you know how excited I was to hear that poem when she read it? It flipped some switch, juiced some dormant rhythm and language wire that’s buried under all of the regular reading and speaking and copywriting stuff. And when we got to the part where we shouted, “Hooray! What Fun! It’s time we flew!” I got a little teary. Shel, my friend, I hear you. But I didn’t hear you until I heard you.
There’s something completely magical about committing words to memory and speaking them out loud. And I forgot all about it, the way we forget about all kinds of magic, all the time.
So I’m going to memorize a poem this month. And as a tribute to that little guy and the slits under the arms of his too-little but still-beloved shirty (1:12 in the video), I’m starting with Litany.
(And then I printed it out and taped it in my notebook and pretty much wept at the act of cutting out something beautiful and saving it in a physical place, but that is a different entry.)
You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.
However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.
It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general’s head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.
And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.
It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.
I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.
I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman’s tea cup.
But don’t worry, I’m not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and–somehow–the wine.
So. That’s my office right there. Because everything’s different now, and good, but weird and new, too. Okay, that’s not really my office. My office is the kitchen table. That rickety side chair becomes my office when the kids need to eat.
I left my job back in October, did you know that? A job I liked, that paid well-ish, that I was good at.
I found myself at a significant crossroads professionally and personally and I decided to just drive the damn thing across the cornfield because why not? And then it turned in to not exactly quitting, but some miraculous opportunity to stick around and make things up as I go along. Which, for now, means some time in the office doing work for an agency I like, and some time at home building a base of freelance clients and writing my own story, so to speak.
I know. It’s what I’ve always wanted. phew.
So I’m navigating this new time/ schedule thing by making an OCD-level number of to-do lists and trying to be patient with myself as I re-train my thinking away from the nine-to-five mindset. And I’m also trying to be patient with myself about being patient with myself, because that is also hard.
It will come. This is the shaking-the-wrinkles-out part. The important part. As for today, I got to go to my agency office and meet with smart people, go shopping in my awesome neighborhood for Ophie’s birthday present and a new moleskine for me, make myself a giant salad, work for a while with my weird old dog at my feet, walk to school to get Birdy and watch her run around with friends on the playground, pick Ophie up before it got dark, read with the kids when it wasn’t even bedtime and actually enjoy putting food on plates for us. All this while Andy’s traveling for the week and I’m flying solo.
Perfect fit. So ridiculously thankful.
Just one link tonight, I’m sleepy (but it’s a great one) :
I went to two different Michael’s craft stores today and bought all the fake white fur they had. All of it.
In the first Michael’s, I walked right in the front door at 5 past 9 and made a bee-line for the far south corner of the store. I realized about half way there that I had absolutely no reason to believe the fake fur was kept there, and no prior experience with buying fake fur at this Michael’s, but somehow I just knew. Like I had worked here in a past life or something. I darted around the slowpokes. I walked with purpose. I trusted my gut to lead me to the fake fur, via the shortest path possible.
And I was wrong. They had it, but I had to ask two different salespeople and it was pretty much right by the front door. And they only had two little fake pelts, which is not enough for a clydesdale. I asked at the counter if they could contact the Michael’s across town, and the man behind the register says to me:
“I need to find a gun.”
Excuse me? Isn’t this just fake fur we’re talking about? He leaned into his little lavalier-clip walkie talkie all serious and said, “Please send somebody up here with a gun.”
Ah, ha. Right. A gun. To scan my fake fur. Ha-HA! I gave him a figurative rib-elbow and muttered something about how that sounded weird ha-ha, nervous-nervous. He did not think that sounded weird. He then said to me:
“Debbie’s in the office with all the guns. Someone’s going to have to go in and take them.”
I tried to make it a joke again and ended up saying something about hostages but it turns out that’s nothing to laugh about in Michael’s. GO FIGURE.
Also today I had two different repair people in my home: glass repair guy who also tried to get me to pay in cash for a discount (shadesville), and the heat and air tune-up guy, who was jolly and had beautiful handwriting. Both engagements took about twice as long as they needed to because both technicians were on the phone the entire time. The window guy’s phone rang about 4,000 times to the tune of no fewer than 6 different ring tones, one of which (Bing-bong-bing!) he refused to answer. I was about 2 seconds away using my best prying mom-voice as I chopped my onion: So! Danny! Who was that?
And later, when the heating and air guy finally pulled out of my driveway after sitting there for a solid 25 minutes after the job was over (on the phone, no doubt!) thus un-blocking my path and setting me free to go pick up the kids, I passed his truck parked on another side street and saw him all slinked back in his seat, leering at his drivers’ side mirror to watch an unsuspecting and very young woman jog past. It sounds all harmless and girl-watcher when I type it out because I’m tired and whiny and feeling verbally lazy, but this was no Doublemint commercial. I did use the word “leering,” right? The point is, I instantly regretted our conversation about the coming tropical storms and the details I shared about my former cat.
There was a huge work presentation in Kentucky last Friday. It was a big deal, and there was a lot riding on it, and we even showed up bearing cupcakes. So, naturally I wore a homemade dress with uneven seams, a mildly dirty black cardigan (keep your distance) and my favorite belt, pictured here. It’s gray and yellow and may or may not be held flat with a yellow ponytail holder; I bought it for $1.99 at Goodwill a couple of years ago. It’s become my Presentation Belt, and I wear it when I have to stand up and talk about/ explain/ sell my work and put some reasoning behind what I do for a living. It’s not a superstition, exactly, but it is kind of a thing.
After this last presentation, I was apparently so worn out by being all prepared and scrutinized and looked at and listened to in general that I inconspicuously took off my special Presentation Belt in the back seat of the CEO’s car for the ride back to Tennessee. I came into the office this morning and guess what was sitting in a neat bundle on my desk, along with some other forgotten items including my sunglasses and fancy notebook full of weird meeting-induced doodles? I am exposed for what I am: a grubby, distracted, concentric circle-obsessed cheapskate who has no hesitation about undressing in dark backseats in Kentucky. It’s a bit freeing, actually.
Moving Right Along
Today, I interviewed a bright and talented writer who is very interested in having my job and my desk and my phone extension. And as I prepare to make this big shift I think he’s probably the one I want to give it all to, but it is so strange to be letting go of something you’re okay with losing when you’re watching someone else trying to win it. It’s like every yard sale in the history of the world– the moment when you’re sitting in your lawn chair with your little Home Depot apron pockets bulging with change and you look over to the card table at the edge of the yard and see some weird old lady picking up the nun-and-priest salt and pepper shaker set your Aunt Linda gave you as a wedding gift. You’re not sure who you pictured paying 25 cents for them but you’re not completely sure it’s supposed to be this woman– she has taken you by surprise, somehow, even though your precise aim was to draw strangers to your castoffs– and you really consider the salt and pepper shakers for the first time probably ever and you think to yourself, but is she worthy?
So, I took a personal day. I had Bird’s First Grade Book Club make-up meeting to prepare for, after re-scheduling it so I could go do a presentation in Kentucky last week. Like any book club I’ve ever been involved with, I had not read the book and had no activity planned. Plus, I had next to nothing on my work agenda but a boatload of freelance work to cram in and one more personal day to burn before my days as a full-time employee come to an end. I called in on a Monday, and I didn’t even make an excuse and I didn’t feel guilty or wonder what anybody would think or say. I said “I’m not coming in because I’m going to do these things” and then I did them. It’s a small victory, but it felt nice.
Not going to the office and doing book club meant that this Monday followed the same formula as my Fridays soon will. And hey, mama. It was niiiiiiice.
I walked Bird and O. to school. I got some exercise in the sunshine. I noticed leaves and houses and other people in my neighborhood. I got a bunch of work done and I did the dishes. I scratched the dog behind the ears and meant it. I took a shower. I showed up to First Grade Book Club prepared (and bearing candy!) and led an activity they really liked, without watching the clock. I had the loudest lunch of my entire damn life with the first grade. I took comfort in the fact that cheese pizza is always accompanied by buttered corn. I picked around at the Goodwill.* I bought a sweater and a skirt. I did some more work and then picked Bird up after running club. In a few minutes, we’ll walk to daycare to get O.
I accomplished far more than I normally would without rushing anything or anybody, not even once.
I think this is going to work out just fine.
*Notes on Goodwill:
- If they’re not going to throw them out, they should just make a designated section for tiny shrunken wool sweaters from J Crew and Gap. I mean, I have done my share of accidental hot washings and subsequent additions to the donations pile, but who is buying thick-as-hell tiny sweaters? Nobody. I vow to never donate another one.
- Every time I visit the Eastland Goodwill I hear these two songs: Yester Me Yester You Yester Day and La-La Means I Love You. Singing along is almost involuntary at this point, as those are great songs.
- And yes I try things on at thrift stores, and yes, I do think about lice. And then I stop thinking about that and start thinking about sweet, sweet bargains, my friends.
I thought I’d be super clever and post something on facebook about how I get 1,000 requests to play Farmville and other nonsense. So I did. I posted this:
“Hey, just want to clear up a bit of confusion for everybody: I am not going to play Farmville with you. Not now, not ever.”
And lots of people (42 and counting!) “liked” it and a few people commented and there was silly banter and I mentioned something about how all of the requests came from my hometown and I was starting to think it was leftover high school code for “let’s get drunk in the cornfield,” and ha ha ha we are all laughing even if we didn’t graduate in my senior class of 120 kids because we know what Indiana is (supposedly) like.
And then, this happened: a former classmate commented with a sincere apology for bothering me with these requests. She is now posting notices on her own page, asking for “do not contact” replies so she can make a list of people she should remove from her Farmville list because she really doesn’t want to get on their nerves if they don’t want to play. And this girl reeeeeeallly likes stuff like Farmville (which is fine! seriously!), and she goes to church with my parents, and lots of other life details which are now known to me thanks to Facebook and which make her somebody you just shouldn’t be picking on, you know? Unless you’re a dick. Which, apparently, I am.
Know when to fold ’em.
Now that I’ve put the wheels in motion for this big job shift business, I spend an awful lot of time daydreaming about how I’m going to take care of all of this laundry. Mounds and mounds of it, as soon as I’ve got a little more time; how easy it will all be, how neat, how not-wadded, and on and on about the laundry. I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve subconsciously quit my job just so I can fold clothes. That would suck.
Today, my Bird turns that many. Seven. And we are going to get her ears pierced after school, right after I show up in her classroom at the appropriate time with two boxes of individually wrapped fig newtons (a baker, I am not) and jugs of apple juice which I have yet to purchase. I’m just hoping the Claire’s girls down at the mall can do both ears at the same time and get it over with, as much for me as for her.
My sweet girl. Beautiful and kind and giving and brave and forging new ground, all the time. She’s got a hard job as the first child of people who are clumsily, earnestly making it up as we go along. Fortunately, she’s willing to collaborate with us on that. I’m so very very lucky she’s mine, and even more honored to be hers.
Today’s thanks: My Bird, obviously. And my parents’ dependably adventurous spirit.
Some pandas gettin’ down on a bamboo breakfast
This threatens the punchline of my favorite hipster joke: Why did the hipster burn his mouth? Because he ate his pizza before it was cool.
And last but not least, my favorite essay on fall, ever, which I know I’ve linked to before but don’t care.
I got my flu shot this morning in the Pre-K art room at my kids’ daycare, which was awesome and convenient and super hassle-free. But now I am having my typical/ expected reaction of low-level anxiety over injections in general. Specifically, once it’s in there, it’s in there, you know? There’s no going back, no removing it, no pumping the stomach. Medicine slinking around, getting all mixed in with body fluids that are now chemically different than than they were just a second ago. And if there’s something funky about the batch of medicine (thank you federal de-regulations), you’re just screwed and you could even die. I feel like there should be an entry for injections on this site, but I didn’t find one. However! You should visit it anyway, because it’s brilliant and because it helps distract me from the idea that I might have just been irreversibly poisoned by a perky nurse in the art room.
“Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.” This phrase, I tell you. It’s everywhere all of a sudden. And now, the presidential candidates are throwing it around (I’m looking at you, Mittens). What IS that? What does it even mean? I didn’t / don’t watch Friday Night Lights, obviously, but all it makes me think of is this 1996 television commercial for eye drops. I liked it better when the candidate for the nation’s highest office was talking about The Wire. Oh, Indeed.
Rolling down, Riding up. Tights doing one thing, camisole doing the other. Wanna know what’s going on under this dress? It’s all kinds of hot if you’re into that kind of thing, and by “that kind of thing” I mean exposed flab and bunchy fabric in all the wrong places. Lookin’ good on a Tuesday is much easier if nobody looks too close.
Time Machine (indulge me): 6 years ago this month. I was working with terminally ill patients and going through massage school; Bird was about to have her very first birthday and she was going to be a bunny for halloween. Andy was still working at the university. My, my how times have changed. If you’d described for me then what my life looks like now– one more kid, one less dog, huge career risks/ changes/ awesomeness just behind us as well as on the horizon–I would have either smiled knowingly or laughed you out of the room. Maybe both.
Completely Wrong. Google it.
On owls, and taxidermy, and fascinations with severed limbs: David Sedaris in the New Yorker. This is me holding a ticket for a Sedaris reading on November 1 and getting all excited.
1. On the whole, I could really do without teamwork. I hate to be like that, but I am. And when I look back on 36 years of livin’, I find that I’ve never loved team activities. Case in point: soccer = stand around and hope the ball doesn’t come to me vs. bowling= ignite weird competitive spirit and yell out and shove my arms in the air without even realizing I’m doing it. I’m a personal-best player, which makes so much sense in the grand scheme of things here lately. It also makes me the A-hole in “TEAM”, which is kind of what’s happening on a daily level right now, as I find myself in Super-Turbo Teamwork Land.
2. Also, Coffee cake. Can I get a FUCK YES.
3. We got Birdy a bunk bed for her birthday, which we put together with a teeny allen wrench and many, many curse words. It came from Walmart (shame) and it’s reasonably sturdy, but I can’t shake the irrational fear that it’s going to come crashing down on Ophelia (little sister/bottom bunk is Natural Law) in the middle of the night. I don’t know if it’s because it came from Walmart or because we put it together ourselves or because I have 6 tons of gripping, unchecked anxiety, but there, I said it.
4. Speaking of Walmart, I realized this weekend that the two pairs of jeans I own are both thrifted and not without the kind of minor issues and discomforts you might expect from a pair of thrifters. I then realized that one of my pairs of thrifted jeans is a Walmart brand. (The other pair is Seven for All Mankind, so together they put me in some kind of brand- neutral place in the world of thrift store finds, but still.) I bought Walmart jeans at Goodwill. AND I WEAR THEM TO WORK.
5. “That Granny is a Busty lady” is the text that me & my friend autocorrect sent to my mom when I couldn’t get my granny on the phone to wish her a happy birthday. Autocorrect is such a jokester, especially when it’s had a few, but seriously, it needs to back off of the Granny jokes. Sheesh.
6. Here are some links. I’m lazy.
Will be listening to this in the near future, especially after reading this. BTW does anyone else read Terri Gross’s name in the transcript as a part of the quote, like, “GROSS! I didn’t know that.” ? Just me?
Hurry up, little suitcase! GAH! This is especially funny because my nickname in college was “Little Suitcase.” So, funny to me at least.
Modern portraits are so much better than old ones — love this idea
If you thought i wasn’t going to talk about the bathroom at my office this time around the bloggers’ block, you are wrong-arino. Somebody used the last of the air freshener spray in the upstairs bathroom and it never got replaced, leaving me no choice but to use my signature crazy person’s figure-8 windmill arm move for waving the useless plastic gel-smell thingy around. It is awesome and surprisingly effective, though it makes my shoulders ache.
In other office news, it seems the ghost (haunted office for real) made off with some Chex mix sometime between 9:00 and 10:30 a.m. Do you have a halloween story to beat that? I DID NOT THINK SO.
The Mazda dealership courtesy driver this morning could not have been more than 18 or 19 years old with kind of a shaggy hipster haircut and cool glasses. He was really quiet on our morning trip but by afternoon he had warmed up considerably and told me all about his summer project making and selling Adirondack chairs on craigslist with his girlfriend down in Smyrna. They were planning to finish one up tonight — a special blue one that someone commissioned, and all they had left to do was paint the Bud Lite logo on it. Work it, Dakota the Courtesy Driver. Work it.
The links for today are as follows:
For Procrastinators and other people who love Miranda July
For Storytellers and people who love/ have tattoos