If my heart were a garden, it would be in bloom with roses and wrinkly Indian poppies and wild flowers. There would be two unmarked tracts of scorched earth, and scattered headstones covered with weeds and ivy and moss, a functioning compost pile, great tangles of blackberry bushes, and some piles of trash I've meant to haul away for years.
I used to create a lot more garbage, and then I got sober twenty years ago. Now I try to clean as I go, because sober people taught me that a willingness to help clean up the mess we've made is a crucial part of adult living; that our scary, selfish, damaging behavior litters the planet. I confess that in my emotional trash heap are some rusty old cans from ten and twelve years ago, when several close friendships broke up irretrievably.
Garbage hardens your heart.
My friend Father Tom says that when we appear before God, God will say, "I love you very much. I forgive you all your crap. Now go clean up your mess, and then come into heaven, because lunch is waiting." I don't want to miss lunch the day they serve Blum's coffee crunch cake, so I finally got to that one pile not long ago.
Just after I got sober, I met a wonderful couple, funny, charming intellectuals. They were spiritual in the same way I was and am, which is to say devout, with a sometimes bad attitude, a black sense of humor, and tendencies toward gossip and character assassination. We hit it off instantly.
They lived in the South, but they both occasionally taught at writers' conferences in California, and I saw them whenever they were in town. Our sons were born a month apart, and two years later, we lost longtime best friends to cancer. We saw each other through.
I was always a little jealous: they had met and married during their senior year in college, where they slipped away for long weekends in bed, drinking scotch and reading Anna Karenina out loud. This was almost more than I could bear---to have read Tolstoy out loud to each other. In bed!
Hemingway I could have handled, or beer. But Tolstoy? And scotch?
I read that silently to myself this morning while I was in bed. Drinking coffee. In bed! Drinking coffee. Alone!
I'm going to start a little tradition here at Blue Girl In A Red State, One Woman's View Of The World. Every Friday, I'm going to post my very favorite bloggy things from the entire week. Cut off's going to be around noon each Friday and I have no idea how Saturday and Sunday will fit into the picture. I'll just make the rules up as I go.
Or maybe this is one of my Big Ideas and I'll only do this once. And if that's the case, and who knows if it is, but if it is, savor this post. Savor it!
Okay. Ready? Blue Girl's Fifth Favorite Thing of the Week:
It has come to my attention that Three Bulls! is in danger of
cancellation. Some critics feel the format is stale and change is
needed. Network executives point out that our readership ages by the
day in all age brackets.
Go read the whole thing and leave a comment channeling Orrin Hatch. It'll be fun!
Well, it wasn't the post I loved so much, it was the comment thread. I blabbed a lot in it. Blab, blab, blab, blab, blab. Hey, that's me. You don't like it? Well, then ban me people! You do have the technology.
Here's my very favorite comment in Jeddie's comment thread, left by a gentleman who goes by the name of Tom:
Being given a really nice jacket with the company logo on it:
Acceptable schwag. Bonus points if they don't make you replace it if
the logo embroidery "accidentally" unravels.
a really nice jacket with the company logo on it: Debatable. I almost
bought a FedEx bomber jacket when I worked for them, because it was not
only relatively cheap but had two different colors of reflective tape
on it, which would have been nice to have whenever I rode my bike at
night. I decided not to, on reflection, when imagining the number of
random strangers who would stop me and ask where their fucking package
Blue Girl's Second Favorite Bloggy Thing of the Week:
You know how much I love Bobness. I do. I love his words and how he strings them together. And his advice to the lovelorn and stupid was great. For example:
Q: Are there normal, non psychotic men in there early 30's? Or is this the dating world now? I mean I realize that everyone has issues to an extent but I seem to attract the extremes.
Dr. Bob: No, actually there are not. Psychiatrists have studied this phenomenon, what is known as the Generation X-tremely Nuts men.
Yeah, Bob's funny. But, I have to admit, it's not his post that's My Very Favorite Thing of the Week.
It's the little emoticon sticking its tongue out. Go look! When I've had to deal with lots of my NOT very favorite things this week, (and believe me, there were almost too many to count) I would imitate that little emoticon constantly. I'm actually doing it right now. Not for any real reason, though. Just cuz it's fun.
And that, my friends, has been the First Edition of Blue Girl's Favorite Things of the Week.
See you this time next week. Same bat blog. Same bat url. And if you don't stop by? (Click to see my very favorite emoticon.)
Right after I wrote this post a few weeks ago, I drove to the store and bought a bouquet of flowers for no reason. I was going to buy tulips, but decided on a bunch of gerber daisies instead. I've always called them gerber, like the baby food, daisies. But, did you know their real name is gerbera daisies? I don't care if that's their real name or not. Sounds pretentious when I say it, so I'm not going to say it that way. I don't like words that make me feel pretentious when I say them. One of my favorite people in the world is Elie Wiesel. You pronounce his name E-lee Wee-sell. If he's ever brought up in conversation, I avoid saying his name. Makes me feel like I'm trying to be someone I'm not. I feel like it's disrespectful to mispronounce his name, so I just don't say it. And while I can speak Italian like nobody's business, my Transylvanian is a little rusty.
Conosca che cosa sono sayin?
Anyway, I figured, if I'm going to be stuck in this bedroom office as much as I am, I might as well have something pretty to look at throughout the day.
I thought gerber daisies would last awhile. Wrong. They only looked fresh for a few days and quickly began to wilt. Looked pretty before they began to wilt, though. I let them sit on my desk for a few days even after they were all dead. That's my usual MO. Get a big idea in my head, like having fresh flowers on my desk all the time, attempt it, fail and forget about it. But, I'm committed to this big idea, so I went out and bought another bouquet of flowers to replace the gerber daisies.
This time I decided on a bunch of tulips. Pronounced Two-Lips. Baby pink and deeper pink. I then asked the flower lady if I should get some sort of greenery to put with them.
"Well, if anything, maybe a few ferns. But, I never put greenery with Two-Lips. I just put them in a vase by themselves. They make a better statement that way!"
"Well, I never realized a vase full of flowers could make a statement! Interesting!"
I never quite figured out what statement these Two-Lips were making. Maybe ... We Two-Lips are way prettier than this photo makes us out to be. Blue Girl is a horrible photographer. Is there anything uglier than dead Two-Lips, I ask you? I don't think so. They look terrible when they start to go. For the last week, they've been dying a slow death. Petals dropping off one by one, scattered all over my desk. The Skimmer popped his head in my office yesterday morning...
"Are you ever going to throw those flowers away?"
"They look like something out of The Munsters."
"I know Grand-pa-pa! I said, I will."
Later in the day, The Skimmer came back into my office to say he was going to the driving range.
"When you're done, will you go to the store and get me another bouquet of flowers? Since you'll be out?"
"Ehhhh." (Watch how Ted Bessell says, "Ehhhh" in that video. That's exactly how The Skimmer said it.)
"What do you mean, 'Ehhhh'? C'mon! What's the big deal?"
"What kind do you want?"
"I don't care. You pick 'em out. Something pretty, though. And make them pronounceable!"
An hour and a half later, The Skimmer came home.
"Thanks for getting the flowers."
"Listen to this. I picked them out and was walking to the checkout when Joe came up to me."
"I was requested to purchase them."
Then I said to The Skimmer, "Well, did you tell him he should buy a bouquet for Karen?"
"I'm not going to say something like that!"
"Guys don't talk to each other like that!"
"Oh my God. What are you guys? In Junior High? Do you know the points Joe would've scored for that? Do you know how happy that would've make Karen? You guys just don't get it."
"You don't. He would've been in like flynn for, I don't know, two days."
"Two days? Yeah. It would've been all rosey for maybe 20 minutes then he'd be in trouble for something again."
"You guys. I don't get you. That would've made Karen's day. Her week! Flowers for no reason are such a fun thing."
My new flowers are pretty. But, when they're dead, all shriveled up in the vase, at some point I'll hop in the car to go buy another bouquet myself.
"That thing is pretty cool. But, I better never see my daughter on the back of it."
~ Our neighbor, Christmas morning, 2006
A couple of weeks before Christmas, The Skimmer was sneaking around the house with the phone book.
"What are you doing?"
"Why are you carrying that phone book around all the time?"
A few days later, there he was again with the phone book.
"What are you doing?!"
"Well, I wasn't going to tell you, but, I'm thinking about getting one of these for Blue Kid for Christmas."
"Well, why wouldn't you tell me that?"
"Because I thought you'd throw a fit."
"Well, a scooter might lead to him wanting a motorcycle one day!"
"See? That's why I wasn't going to tell you. Look how cool they are!"
"Like I wouldn't find out!"
Blue Kid was able to ride his scooter on Christmas morning because it was warm outside. And one by one, every 50 year old guy on the street came out to look at it. What's with guys being obsessed with things with motors?
Must be cuz they go vroom-vroom.
On the way home from the store early yesterday evening, there were motorcycles everywhere. Hardly any of the riders were wearing helmets. You should always wear your helmut for safety! Even if it does make you look like The Great Gazoo.
When I got home, The Skimmer pulled into the driveway behind me on the scooter.
"Hey Gazoo! Can I ride it?"
"Yeah. Here, get on. Here's how you do it. Turn the key, push the button. Can you touch the ground? Can you?!"
"Here's the brakes. The turn signals..."
"I don't want to wear the helmet. I'm only going to go around the neighborhood."
"That's ok, just be careful."
I remember riding my cousin's mini bike when I was about 12. I loved it. I've always loved the feel of the power in my palm when I revved the motor.
I took off down the driveway slowly and a little wobbly, waved to Gazoo and I was on my way.
I rode slowly around the neighborhood for awhile, just slowing down at stop signs instead of coming to full stops. I could barely touch the ground and I didn't want to fall over! As time went by though, I got more courageous and started giving it more gas. 25 felt pretty fast on that thing, but I wanted to see what it felt like to go faster. I took it out onto the main road, just for a short stretch, though because I didn't have my helmut on. I got it up to 45. And it was fun! Well, except for the bugs hitting me in the face, it was fun.
I came flying into the driveway and Gazoo was waiting for me.
"You left here so slow and then you came flying back around that corner!"
"I know! I'm going to take it up the street one more time. It's fun to go vroom-vroom!"
I went outside yesterday to help The Skimmer do yard work. Someone should have been there with a camera. It was a monumental moment in history that should have been recorded for future generations.
"You're gonna help?"
"You're the best."
There were plenty of things to do inside, but since it was Earth Day, I felt as though being outside, striving to become one with nature, was the right thing to do.
I putzed around the grounds of the estate looking for just the right job for me. I refrained from what is normally the perfect job for me, which is supervising others who are actually doing the work. I was in the mood to be a team player. And there's no "I" in team, or "U" either. As in, I think You should be doing it this way. The Skimmer and I had a little conversation the night before. We were each reading in the living room and I looked up and said, "Do you think I'm bossy?
"Do you think I'm bossy?"
"All women are bossy."
"You don't even know what you're talking about."
"All women are either out and out bossy or sneaky, manipulative shrews."
"Take it back!"
"Then what did you ask me for?!"
"Men can be bossy, too."
"Not if they know what's good for them."
"Got that right."
"We don't have a chance."
And I went back to my book, but sat there thinking, boy am I going to prove him wrong. And I'm going to do it every chance I get!
So, outside yesterday, I asked The Skimmer what he wanted me to do. He, not having the slightest clue that I was going to let him boss me around on purpose.
"Why don't you move those flower pots from here to there?"
"Okay." I saluted as I started cleaning out the pots, dumping all contents in an environmentally-friendly bag. I stacked them neatly on my potting bench, fantasizing about what my garden will look like in a few months. Realizing quickly that everything will look half dead, because that's the reality of it. I was done with my flower pots chore and thought I'd kick it up a notch and do something a little more physically taxing. I grabbed the rake to remove all the leaves that had accumulated up against our little stone wall over the last several months.
"I'm going to rake the leaves out from the little wall in the back."
"That would be great!"
"You sure? Is there anything else you'd rather me be doing?"
I grabbed the rake and the boombox and went out back. Plugged in the boombox on the deck, cranked it up and started raking.
Makin' a living the old hard way Takin' and giving by day by day I dig snow and rain and bright sunshine
As I raked the leaves back, there were all these worms and I didn't even ew them. It was Earth Day, after all, and they were just there doing their wormy-type things, so I avoided raking them to shreds. I paused to notice a huge bumblebee that had landed on one of the daffodils near me and I didn't even run. I just kept working, appreciating nature in all its glory. I noticed my hostas was coming up and thought the stupid deer better not munch it down this year or I'm going to kill them! My dog Sam eats purple flowers We ain't got much but what we got's ours We dig snow and rain and bright sunshine
I was about three quarters done with my raking chore when I noticed blood. Where's that blood coming from? I'm injured! I had a huge blister on my thumb. Huge! Disgusting. And it was in a spot that I knew it was going to hurt for days! I may not even be able to type! I calmed down and continued to rake, repositioning my hand.
Loving the free and feelin' spirit Of huggin' a tree when you get near it Diggin' the snow and rain and bright sunshine
I was done raking. I was injured and sweating. And I was almost stung by a huge bumblebee. But, I wasn't going to complain. I walked to the front yard to see what The Skimmer was doing.
"That was a huge help. Want to try out the new lawnmower?"
"Hmmm. Let me think for a minute. Nah. You do it. Mow it in diagonals, though. I like how pretty the lawn looks with the diagonal lines."
"Mom, will you take me, D and K over to G's in, like, five minutes?"
A few minutes later, I shut the computer down and slipped on my shoes and went outside. The boys were already in the car. As I got in, D said, "Mrs. Blue Girl, I love your new car!"
"It's great, isn't it? Mr. Skimmer picked it up last night. I haven't even really driven it yet."
As we were turning on to the main road Blue Kid's cell phone rang, "Yeah, we'll pick you up. Can we mom? Yeah, we'll be there in a minute." And he clicked his cell phone shut.
"Ok, boys. Let's see what this baby can do." I punched the gas. Hit 50 in about a half a second.
"Go faster, Mom!"
"No. Speed limit's 50."
"Yeah, speed kills, Blue Kid!" D said sarcastically, and whapped Blue Kid in the back of the head.
"It would have been faster, but you lugs are slowing me down with all your weight."
"Ok. Now, let's see what this car is really made of!" And I flipped through the radio stations to find the best song. "We've got to check out the speakers! Yesssss. Perfect!" And I cranked it up.
We pulled in P's driveway and he hopped in the backseat. I was keeping the beat, tapping my thumbs on the steering wheel and all three boys were singing and bopping in the backseat. Blue Kid wasn't singing or bopping. Or even tapping. Just staring at me in horrible disbelief, like I was the most embarrassing thing to have ever hit the planet earth. I didn't care. It was warm, the sun was shining and the rest of us were having fun.
We pulled into G's driveway. The boys thanked me for the ride and got out of the car. Blue Kid didn't thank me, he just sort of grunted when I said "Bye!"
I sat there for a minute as they meandered up to G's door and G came lumbering outside. I watched them, faces all broken out and hair hanging down in their eyes, as they punched each other and swung each other around by the backs of their shirts, goofing off and having fun. I had lost my mind momentarily and was really getting a kick out of watching my son and his friends having a good time together until I heard Blue Kid yell, "Mom! Go!"
I searched for the button to roll the passenger side window down. Where's the stupid button? I'm gonna get him! Found it and rolled the window down.
"I loooooooove you, Blue Kid! Looooooove you! Have a great time with your friends and be careful!"
"Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha!" All his friends were laughing as D whapped Blue Kid in the head.
I blew him a kiss, cranked the stereo and hit the gas. And left those boys in the dust.
I've been worried about myself this week. A little worried about how indifferent I've become to hearing horrifying news. I'm too used to clicking over to Yahoo throughout the day and reading headlines like, "150 killed in Baghdad explosion" right underneath, "Will Sanjaya Whatshisface get the boot tonight?"
Just checked Yahoo.
"Iraqis bury victims from deadly attacks" "Lisa Rinna to replace Joan Rivers on red carpet"
And then I think, God, Iraq is hell on earth. Didn't know Joan Rivers was still around. Then I click away.
On Monday, when I saw the headline about the shootings at Virginia Tech, I thought about it the same way. Which is to say, I didn't think about it all that much. I don't remember what non-story was also included in the list of headlines. Probably something about John Edwards getting a haircut.
Oh God, another horrifying school shooting. John Edwards is so young looking. Wonder how his wife's doing?
When I turned on MSNBC Monday night, Tucker Carlson was asking one of the VA Tech students something like, "I know this is just pure speculation, but why do you think he did this?" And I thought, what kind of question is that? And then I thought, this kid is probably in shock, stop asking him stupid questions. And then I thought, I hate cable news. And then I turned the TV off and started reading Anne Lamott's new book, Grace (Eventually).
Why am I so indifferent to tragedy lately? I can't figure out if I'm getting too much information or not enough. I'm either getting too many meaningless sound bites or too much psychobabble. And because of that combination, I'm just checking out. But, I finally read something this morning that gives me a glimmer of hope that maybe my heart is not entirely turning to stone.
I don’t know what’s happening to me, but it seems like the bad news of any given day can always be made worse by the coverage of the bad news. I turned on CNN in search of a succinct here’s-what-we-know summation, and found Paula Zahn wondering “what sort of counseling students will need” to process their feelings. On the blogs, the usual yapping about guns — hey, let’s arm everyone! Then this will never happen again! (Advice: Move to Detroit, where that’s pretty much the case, and see how well it works. A woman shot at the tires of a truck she thought was tailgating her, and recently said she thought it was entirely justified.)
I’m confining my reading on this story to one or two excellent newspapers. I solemnly promise to avert my eyes from any chin-scratching columnists seeking to explain it all to me, to keep the TV turned off, to change to the hip-hop station if I hear Daniel Schorr rumbling to life on the subject on NPR. On this story as on no other, all I want are facts. I’ll handle my own analysis.
You want to know who finally said something last night that made me feel human again? Jon Stewart, genius. He launched his show by saying something about the day’s awful events, not frowning, just speaking honestly. And then he said something like, “But I’m not going to dwell on this tonight. I’m going to do what I always do. I’m going to repress it, try to forget about it, not think of it at all. And then, in 40 years, someone’s going to spill some juice, and I will explode.” How deft. Acknowledgment, rueful joke, sidestep, and not a patronizing note in the whole thing.
...all I want are facts. I’ll handle my own analysis. Yep, just the facts would be great. And I completely understand Nancy's thought on feeling human again because of Jon Stewart's quote. And not to nitpick Nancy Nall, but here's the actual quote:
Today is a horrible, horrible day. I have absolutely nothing to add
that is insightful or anything. I will just do what I always do when
faced with something that is that powerfully damaging to the emotional
core: I will begin to repress it and I will swallow it and I imagine
that thirty years from now someone will spill juice and I will freak
the fuck out. - Jon Stewart, 04/16/07
How deft is right. It's the best thing I read all week.
I'm so tired of meaningless sound bites and everyone's psychobabble. I need to find out which one or two excellent newspapers will provide me with the facts I need so I can handle my own analysis. Or someone's going to force me to go in for analysis when that juice is spilled 30 years from now.