Deja vu to-dos

Last time they closed everything down, Dave and I figured we’d be home a couple of weeks.   Priorities were TP, PT (paper towels), and Clorox.   A couple of months in, we’d sourced the paper and cleaning supplies, but we found ourselves wanting other stuff.   Life in front of screens was exhausting and boring.

It looks like rolling shutdowns are coming soon.  I’m not happy about that or the feckless leadership that led to it (not so much in my state, but plenty at the tiptop of US government), but I’ll cry later.  Once I’m stuck back in the house.  

In the meantime, I’m making a list.  It’s a mix of some things I want to do while I temporarily can and things I want to get into the house for when we have to go back inside.  

  1. Get a haircut.  I’ll probably several inches shorter than I normally would, just in case it’s another six months before salons are open again.  (Research Flowbee?)
  2. Find good walking shoes by trying them on in a store.  Then buy multiple pairs.  During the shutdown I do four or five miles most days, so I walked the cushioning out of a couple of pairs of shoes.  The replacements I got online took forever to come and hurt my feet.
  3. Drive to the ocean, walk the shore, and eat at a clam shack/ice cream stand.   Repeat  weekly if possible.
  4. Stock up on jigsaw puzzles.  Also get some more playing cards and board games.  Even though we’ve never been much of a board game family, we did sometimes haul games out of the closet to play this spring.  We might have enjoyed it, except that every game in the house, despite mostly collecting dust over the past 15 years, had pieces missing.  Lord knows where all they got to.  Maybe underneath the floorboards the Scotty dog and checker King live in little green houses and roll craps with Yahtze dice while the Knaves and Jack of Hearts look on.
  5. Visit a bookstore.   Even if I don’t buy anything, just being in a space full of books fills me with joy.
  6. Get into crafting, a pastime that could produce useful, or at least interesting-looking, items and take a bunch of time.   Something old-fashioned.  Decoupage, knitting, rug-hooking, birdhouse kits, crochet?   I’m clumsy, but I’m sure there’s got to be a craft I can do.  It’s true that in my years as a Pioneer Girl, I’d never been able to earn a crafts badge.   Macaroni necklaces and potholders constructed using a  looping kit didn’t reach the badge threshold.  Other PGs made beautiful lacy creations.  My crochet hooks bloodied my finger while the yarn slipped and tangled.  Probably not crochet, then, but part of me wants to try again.  Even if I fail, I’ll have spent a bunch of time doing something other than staring at a screen.  Even if the  time was spent swearing and bleeding.    
  7. Protest.  Get to know other protestors a bit in person before we go back inside.
  8. Start a food-related hobby.  I could buy fun hot sauces and toppings from food stores, or maybe, just maybe…I could learn to churn butter?  Supposedly this can be done in a food processor, though I have never worked up the courage to operate ours.  However, the way that seems most popular among foodies is to do it by hand.  I pictured one of those big wooden tubs, but probably I’ll look for a hand-cranked butter churn.  Google says the churning takes about 25-30 minutes, so this would come in handy for news-watching time.  
  9. Have coffee outdoors with friends.
  10. Look into the kind of hobby you do in the basement, like setting up a miniature railway or making chainmail (crochet on steroids!).   Chainmail requires lots of metal rings, some hand tools–no crochet hooks, as far as I can see–and, best of all, acres of time.  With luck, I’ll have a shirt completed just in time for the zombie apocalypse.   Or the next shutdown.   

   

Golden half hour

Our bedroom’s on the west side of the house.  At this time of year there’s one window close enough to the oak in our background so that the frame is entirely filled with leaves, big messy waving bunches of them.  The best time to view that living picture’s about 6:30 on a summer evening.   

Photographers call it the golden hour, before sunset or sunrise, when the light glows warm, where shadows soften.  Pictures taken at these times are particularly flattering.  From my comfy chair across the room, the sun seems even brighter, more brilliant, slanting at an angle that sets a halo around each leaf.  Sadly, the light show lasts half an hour at most.

The leaves change from dusty green to emerald with veins of gold.  Some bleach to silver and snow.  The west wind splashes the light around, revealing more colors: hunter, jade, seafoam, smoke.   The gusts move the branches like a housewife shaking a feather duster.   Then the wind stills.  The leaves droop, disappointed.   A zephyr blows in a new rumor–the leaves shiver and pass it on.   

Who knows what the leaves hear from the wind, what stories are they’re passing along?  Maybe it’s news of where the squirrel has moved its den, or something seen through our windows.     Yet I love the green and golden leaves, no matter whose secrets they’re spilling.

Bratitude or gratitude?

It was about three or four years ago that gratitude lists (quick and easy, the mini-golf of self improvement) became ubiquitous in planners.  Or at least in the planners that I wanted to buy, the hefty ones that promise to focus, organize, and calm their users.

I acquired a planner and made my usual series of mistakes.  I wrote appointments on the wrong weekdays, stuck my stickers on crooked, and created elaborate daily plans that allowed me to fail by 10 a.m.  In the evenings I tackled the gratitude lists, which were supposed to be three items long.  Kittens, nice weather, check came in the mail.  Music, English muffins on sale, Dave feeling better.   Soon the gratitude lists took longer to make.  Weird: I love lists.  I eventually got blocked completely and looked up examples online to copy–er, I mean, to “inspire” my lists.   Coffee, a good night’s sleep, friends, having a place to live, a nice kitchen.    This felt like cheating, and it was annoying as well.  There was something about the word gratitude…  

Maybe it was an autistic thing.  Labeling emotions can be difficult and not always intuitive.  Often it seems as if social acceptance requires that I act out emotions I don’t feel, and I’ve certainly had to “perform” gratitude a lot.

The history: for about a decade of my childhood and youth, my father worked as a full-time missionary (he was a jail chaplain).  He’d abandoned a white collar job in order to do this.  Missionary work, funded by a nonprofit and our local church, was not well paid.  Therefore, my parents received charity, mostly in the form of food and clothing, from our sponsor church.

Donated loaves of bread, already stale, piled in our freezer.  Thawed out it had a musty, soggy chew.  Our donated car–somebody’s tax writeoff–had a couple of holes in the floor, so that we could watch the road as my mom drove.  My mother brought the clothes home in plastic garbage bags.  There were two kinds of items in the bags: clothes worn threadbare, with ancient stains, and pristine ugly pieces, atrocious plaids and prints, violent colors, the kind of things middle-class children got from some eccentric aunt at Christmas but wouldn’t dream of wearing themselves.

Still, beggars can’t be choosers, right?  Thanks to this safety net, I had a roof over my head and food in my stomach.  Money saved on groceries and clothes and car payments went to rent that roof.  What hunger I did experience was solely my fault.  My parents applied for the school’s reduced lunch cost program, but I couldn’t stand the comments of the lunch ladies and my peers, so after a couple of tries, I stopped using my discount tickets.  I made sandwiches out of the soggy bread or skipped lunch.  Hungry was better than humiliated.  Classmates sniggered also about my clothes and our car.  Their mothers, virtuous church ladies, left my mother out of their coffee klatches and summer barbecues.  My parents told us to say thanks, and we did.  But I didn’t feel thankful.

As an adult, I feel that my boorish interior reaction was justified.  I respect my father for choosing a job he felt was important rather than prestigious, my mother for making the best of a difficult situation.  I feel grateful to them.  But I have no gratitude towards the people donating stale bread and janky clothes and patting themselves on the back for doing so.   They were the same people who’d set my father’s salary so low that he couldn’t afford to support his family.

Of course the gratitude of the lists needn’t be connected to charity or gifts received, but it connects that way for me.   The lists scratch at old scars, so the best response is to stop.  I have other ways to feel present and purposeful in the world.

Maybe a similar dynamic is at play in the country right now, a mounting resistance to the demand for gratitude for every crumb of progress.   Hasn’t made its way to the planners, yet, though.  It took a bit of searching to find a planner that didn’t mention gratitude anywhere, but I eventually located one.  I’m still misdating appointments and failing at my task lists by 10 a.m., most days, but I’m okay with that.    

Head in the Clouds, Butt on the Branch

When I was eleven we lived in a housing tract.  The developers had buzz-cut much of the old foliage for ease and cheapness of construction, but left a few fringes of untidy mature trees and bushes around the backs and sides.   Our back yard bordered one of those fringes, a weedy drainage ditch that we called “the creek” and a couple of old trees, one  with  branches low and sturdy enough to climb.

I was the only person in my family who liked to climb trees.  I’d clamber up other stuff too–laundry poles, big rocks, furniture–but trees were my favorite.  Once I’d made it to the first branch, the challenge was to find the highest spot that would bear my weight.  Branch to branch, always a limb wrapped around the trunk, through the crown to where the trunk tapered  and thrust its twiggy fingers into the sky.   I would settle into the highest fork, my protected perch, let a foot dangle into thin air, and look.

People walking a dog along the road on the other side of the creek.  A caterpillar bunching itself along a twig.  My mother hanging laundry out to dry, snapping wooden clothespins onto towels and sheets, the clothes line drooping under the weight, stopping sometimes to rest her back and stare, her face empty of her mom expression.    White butterflies on their way to the clover.  Ants marching up the bark grooves of the trunk and onto the smooth branches.  Birds chattering and chirruping on a thin bouncing branch.  Water moving around the stones poking out of the creek bed.  A green, living leaf brushing my cheek.  Sunlight and shadow moving across the notebook (carried up tucked into the front of my shorts) as I wrote.  And always the sky above me, framed by the leaves in an ever-shifting mosaic.

Anchored by the scratchy, solid trunk, I rustled and hummed with the leaves.   I thought human thoughts about why my mother was sad, about a friend’s birthday party, about clarinet fingerings.  I imagined plant thoughts about feeding on sunshine and pulling water from the creek, the wind soughing in my canopy.    Existence felt exquisitely bearable as the perspective shifted from butterflies to philosophy to the taste of honeysuckle to a lovers’ quarrel.

On my walks around town this spring, exploring the back ways and side streets, I’ve come across a few treehouses.  Some were simply a ladder and platform.  Others were  more elaborate, some completely enclosed, with garden furniture and screens to keep out the gnats.  (I even saw one with an air conditioner sticking out of a window!)

I wonder how it would feel to write in a treehouse.   In the end, it probably wouldn’t differ much, except logistically, from writing on a tree branch, or in my parked car, or in my study.    Tree sitting did develop for me a habit of shifting from small to big and back again, of letting the breeze blow from thought to thought, weightlessness to gravity.   It helped me have thoughts that were worth writing about.  Or so I hope.

Imagination and memory can return me to that leafy hammock any time.   Here in my crowded study with the wheezing fan, I can conjure bark at my back.  I can watch the oak leaves breaking the sun, notice the FedEx truck grumbling past, stretch out my hand to catch the best word as it flutters towards the clover.

 

A visit from the interior critic

I’m typing when it starts: clickclickclickTHUMP.  clickclickclickTHUMP.   Well-moisturized fingers, French-manicured nails squared off a half-inch past the finger pads, drum on my desk.  I lift my head reluctantly, taking in sunglasses tucked into a polo shirt, a leathery décolletage, a highlighted brown bob, and a mouth set for a fight.

Can I help you?

“I’m here to pick up my order.”

No problem!  Can I have your name? 

“It’s Karen.”  –A little louder– “Just like it was last week.”  A voice born to carry.  South Shore Mass twang, flat vowels, and consonants that punch you right in the ear canal.

Of course I remember her.  You don’t forget a Karen.   I search through the papers piled behind the desk.  It’s a bit messy today.

“You really have to look through every file?” she asks.

I’m sorry, it doesn’t seem to be…a little busy this morning.  Could I see your ticket?  

Karen checks the pockets of her capri pants and her enormous straw tote, finally throws a crumpled ball of paper across the counter.

Okay…500-800 words, vaguely humorous, due two p.m. today.  Hooray, that’s just a different pile.  It’s only 11:30, so it’s not quite ready yet.

“I can’t pick it up at two.  I just got an appointment to take August to the park at 1:30.  I did call hours ago about the change.”

Steve, darn it.  Steve didn’t give me any messages.   Usually there’s 24-hours notice required for changes…

I’m sure I’ve never been told about that policy.   And anyway–” Karen waves her phone in my face–“see, six a.m., I called.  Surely someone would have called me back if there was a problem.”

Could you come back later this afternoon, after the park?

“Impossible.  I’ll need to get August home to clean him up.”

Does he have a mask?  He could come with you.

“Put a mask on my schnauzer in this heat?”

…Sorry.  

“I’d also like to buy some hand sanitizer and plastic baggies.”

We don’t carry those.  Just essays, letters, random thoughts, fiction…

“Of course,” says Karen.  She tries to read over my shoulder.  “Could I take a look?  Maybe I can just go with what you’ve done so far.”

It’s really not–

–“Just a quick readthrough–”

–Ma’am, you’ll rip it–

–“Let go!  Manager!  Manager!”

I release the paper.

“It’s smeared on the right margin.”

I can print a fresh copy.  

“…

“…

“…this is absolutely unacceptable.  Look at that!  The description lumped in paragraph one…modifier misplaced…the wrong its…200 words short…”

-it’s not finished–

“…stock characters: the put-upon clerk, the Karen…you call this a plot?  Too many ellipses!  What’s with all the italics?”

Umm…it seemed to make dialog attributions clearer?

“Makes my eyes hurt.  I’ve been patronizing this business for years and the word-smithery has been slipping mightily since you’ve been at the front desk, Miss…Ink-Stained Wretch?  Is that some kind of joke?”

No, it’s the tag my manager gave me.  I babble in the hopes of finding what I want to say.   I can finish while you wait.    I frantically tap words onto the page, my fingers trembling with adrenalin.  Like the others, it’ll write itself…in two hours that I haven’t got right now.

“You DO that.   But I still want to speak to–”

No, please!

“–your manager.  Call him.  Now.”

I press the button that starts the register light flashing.  I hope Steve’s back from lunch in a good mood.

Steve stands patiently while Karen goes over every detail of her day, from the second she got up this morning through her present disappointment.  He brushes a pastry crumb off his button-down and assumes a sympathetic expression.

“I’m so sorry for the misunderstanding.  Usually we are aware of our deadlines and meet them, but some days we fall short of your expectations.  This employee is trying to catch up after a…a mandatory training session we had…descriptive strategies and story arcs, you know.  We are always investing to improve our process.”

The air freshens with the scent of refunds.  “I can’t possibly come back later,” Karen protests.

“I can give you this rather rushed essay for no charge, with our deepest apologies, and also this coupon for a free letter of complaint of your choice.”

“Hmmm…”

“I mean, three free letters of complaint.”

“That will do.”

The printout’s already in my hand.   Karen gestures to the counter and I place it humbly before her.  She shoves it into her tote and slams the door as she leaves.

Steve sighs.  “Of course this is going on your permanent record.  Write up the incident and have a clean copy on my desk by four p.m.”

A summer school story

The summer before my junior year of high school I took American History, a required junior-year course that I couldn’t fit into my fall schedule.   Most of the other summer school students were rising seniors who’d failed or not finished this subject, so I was happy to discover that my friend Becky, also a rising junior, was also in the class.

The teacher was Coach B., head of the track and cross-country program, finally winning again after some lean years.  His feelings towards history seemed lukewarm compared to the track anecdotes, but he understood his job well:  get the students through the class with a maximum grade for minimum work.  Monday through Thursday he projected notes in outline form on a screen propped in front of the chalkboard, reading them to us as we copied them into our notebooks.    Every couple of days there would be an open-notebook test with sentences taken verbatim from the material we’d copied.   Every Friday for the entire six weeks, there would be a field trip so we could experience history in person.

My high school was located in Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Confederacy.  Also, Virginia is one of the founding colonies of the US, so there was an awful lot of history to be experienced.  We’d moved from the Washington, DC, area to Richmond when I was 10.  Five years in, Richmond still was a culture shock.  Once so drunk on power that it had led a rebellion, the city seemed still hungover, nostalgic and bitter and unwilling to concede that  the “War of Northern Aggression” had been a bad idea.

Monuments all over the place commemorated slave-owning, slavery-defending “heroes.”  Our new church was on Monument Avenue, and a drive over to the pancake house for brunch after service meant passing JEB Stuart, Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and others.   In Sunday School at that church, I heard for the first time the proposition that Black people, being descendants of Ham, deserved subjugation.   I asked my parents if this was true; they said it wasn’t, but they didn’t complain to the Sunday School.

Bumper stickers with “The South Will Rise Again” slogan.  Confederate battle flags fluttering on poles set in the manicured gardens of “very fine people’s” houses. Confederate flag decorations on binder covers, on iron-on patches on those very fine people’s clothes.   Play Confederate money in gum machines.

Coach B. had four hours to fill on Fridays, so Monument Avenue, only a mile or so long, wasn’t on the agenda.  Once he’d chivvied us onto the bus, we drove to a Civil War battlefield or museum.

If a museum, we did a tour with docents and then wandered on our own.   If a battlefield, we students would amass for a few minutes near a couple of cannons or stones with plaques or whatever while Coach B. said a few words, and then we were free to explore the grounds.  Then we’d eat lunch on the bus and go back to school.

Becky and I would walk together, looking for a shady spot where we could shelter from the fierce summer sun.   Coach B. always joined us at some point.  “Checking in,” but really it was that he needed to talk to Becky.  She was the on-and-off girlfriend of Coach’s star cross country runner, Tim.  During this particular summer they were off, and Tim was taking it hard.  He wasn’t training well.  With the subtlety of a sledgehammer Coach gave Becky regular reports on Tim’s sadness, trying to nudge her into taking Tim’s phone calls.  We rolled our eyes a lot; it was a long six weeks.

I wondered at the time why all of the field trips were to Civil War sites, since Richmond has much more history than that.  Maybe Coach B. was a Civil War buff, but it sure didn’t seem like it.  Maybe it was just a formula that worked the first time he taught summer school, so don’t fix it if it ain’t broke.  But something about that summer felt purposeful and malignant.

During the recent Black Lives Matter protests, news of plans to take down the Lee statue from Monument Avenue made me happy.   I wasn’t surprised, though, to discover that a judge was delaying that needed step.   Coach B. cared more about his track team than history because he could.  He was a white man and wasn’t threatened by the symbols of white domination.  What he chose to emphasize in the class reinforced the brutal, ancestor-venerating status quo, but probably that felt incidental or unimportant to him.  Just history.   If the old order kept being the boss, that wouldn’t affect his life.  On the other hand, if his athletes started tanking, that could turn his world upside down, so that’s where he put his efforts.   I hope he changed his focus at some point.

I hope one day to walk down Monument Avenue again and see it without the Civil War statues.  It will be so much more beautiful then.

Storms

Yesterday afternoon I was practicing in my studio when it got so dark outside that I had to turn on a lamp.   Summer storm coming, clearly.

Summer storms are immensely better than winter storms.  If it starts raining sideways, cleanup means righting a tipsy lawn chair.   Snowing sideways means shoveling and scary-slippery streets.    From a sheltered spot, a summer storm can be a beautiful thing.  Not so much up close.

Last summer I lost an umbrella in an encounter with a gorgeous but ferocious squall in Ogunquit.  Dave and I ambled along Marginal Way, a path that runs along the oceanfront, when we felt a couple of raindrops.  I was already using my umbrella as shade from the sun.  As the drops became a deluge and the breeze became a gale, the poor thing was bent inside-out and broke one of its spokes.   We ran towards a cluster of beachside hotels.   

As I put my flute away Dave’s car nosed out of the driveway.   I hoped he’d finish whatever errand he was running before the rain got started for real.  Just a few minutes later the storm hit.   Raindrops lined up like beads in a curtain, making the wind visible.  I thought about Sonny.  

Sonny is a walker.  He takes a walk every morning and some afternoons.  Even when it’s raining he walks, if it’s one of those long gentle rains.  He gets all wet, which is one of his graduation presents this year was a raincoat.  The raincoat was hanging on its peg in the front hall.  Sonny wasn’t in the basement, and his bedroom upstairs was empty.   The rain lashed against the kitchen window.  Not so pretty anymore, while imagining Sonny caught out in it.  I grabbed my phone.

Dave and I headed in the direction of a pavilion overlooking the beach, hopping from awning to awning.   Like sandpipers spotting a snail, we were delighted to discover an awning that sheltered an ice cream stand.  Dave got a cone, extra jimmies, and I got a cup, no jimmies, and we ate slowly while the rain returned itself to the gray waves of the Atlantic.  Wet clothes and ice cream was a shivery combination but deliciousness outweighed the discomfort.   

I had to look up Sonny’s phone number in my contacts list.  The only phone numbers I know from memory now are mine and Dave’s.  I usually text Sonny.  I waited for Sonny to answer and wondered what happened to the space in my brain that once remembered phone numbers.    Not for long: he picked up on the second ring.  “We’re almost home,” he said.

Dave and Sonny pounded up the back steps.  I opened the door.  Both of them were soaked.  Sonny had called Dave just as the storm was getting started, said he was stuck near the  grocery store.   Dave drove to get him:  “I could barely see the road!”   We watched the rain pelt itself into the thirsty ground.  The big gusty gouts turned vertical, slowed to little droplets, and stopped.

Dave and I made it to the pavilion.  We stood at the sandy edge, our clothes steaming in the sun, the ocean blue again.  A double rainbow rose from the waves to much oohing and aching.    We took pictures and I texted one to Sonny, who was taking care of the house and Capone during our Maine weekend.   

Sonny thanked his dad for the rescue and me for the call.  “I know I can always call one of you and you’ll help,” he said.   Better than a double rainbow.

The Sears days

Amazingly, I’ve stuck to my morning drawing habit.  A few minutes absorbed in making something resembling stick figures calms and organizes me.  Beneficial, since I’m someone who just can’t get into meditatation.   Once in a while I get scribbler’s block; then I tend to just put color all over the page or to copy someone else’s sketch.  Today I copied a sticker of a pineapple.

“That guy looks like he’s about to toss his cookies,” said Dave.

I side-eyed my husband and front-eyed my sketch.  The sticker pineapple’s curve was elegantly convex, and its orangey-gold color practically radiated vitamin C.    My pineapple was lumpy and squat and jaundice yellow.    It did, perhaps, slightly resemble  a head, topped with  green hair that hadn’t been cut since well before the barber shops were closed.   To clarify a tropical intention, therefore, I added an umbrella drink and a swimming pool.    The pool needed a float, and as I was attempting to draw one in profile, Boom! I was slapped back into the 1970s and into a faraway land I once loved–the world that lived between the sturdy covers of the Sears catalog.

Oh, that wonderful day when catalog arrived in the mail!  A hefty block of more than 1,000 shiny pages.   We didn’t shop much at Sears.  Every once in a while my parents would buy something like socks, or a hammer there.  Nevertheless, we stayed on the store’s mailing list.  Sears bricks-and-mortar stores had clothes and shoes and tools and appliances, typical dull department store stuff.  But the catalogs were entirely different, crammed with interesting and delightful items.  Clothes, appliances, and tools, but also toys and furniture and decorations and games and camping stuff and instruments.  In my tween/early teen years,  I used the catalog to daydream about the life I wanted.

Some favorite sections:

  • Girls’ clothes, most notably mother-daughter matching outfits.   Sears was big into matching husband-wife, father-son, and mother-daughter ensembles, as well as pajamas for the whole family.   I wanted mom-and-me gingham pinafores or hostess dresses.  I never even hinted at this to my mother, who would have been horrified at the very idea.
  • Bedroom furniture.  Catalog me didn’t have to share a room decorated in muddy  earth tones of orange, brown, and green with her sister.  Catalog me had her own room and a white “French provincial” matching bedroom set: canopy bed, dresser, and dressing table with a fancy mirror in the middle of it.   All the curtains and the bedspread white with embroidered flowers.
  • Swimming pools and paraphernalia.    I skipped right past the playground equipment, treehouses, and croquet sets to the above-ground pools.  Not a dinky round one like the pool of the Abernathys, two doors down, barely big enough for two or three teenagers at a time.   Sears sold those dinky pools, but Sears also sold my dream pools, two or three times the size, some with an attached  deck with space for lounge chairs and side tables, where you had to climb a little staircase to enter.  Around this time I’d read a novel called The Social Swim, in which the parents of a shlubby, lonely girl put in a swimming pool and suddenly a bunch of kids starts coming over every day to hang out.  Over the course of a summer she makes a bunch of friends, becomes svelte from all the swimming, helps out in a hospital, conquers a mean girl, and gets a boyfriend; a typical and kind of shallow novel, but at around 12 it was catnip to me.  If only I had a pool…maybe my problems would be solved, too?   Along with the grand pool, there would be all kinds of floats–kids’ size with sea monsters and larger ones shaped like swans, and the fanciest of all, the floating chairs with cupholders built into the arms.

Sears’ catalog also provided me with replacement relatives.   Once the new one had arrived, I took scissors to the old catalog.  I snipped out pictures of clothes and bedroom furniture, etc., but also images of people people.  A kindly looking model in mother-daughter PJs with a girl of four or so became my new mother and little sister (Rebecca).   A new father had a big smile and a full head of hair and a football ready to throw.  I knew he’d be a great dad to the athletic, smiling high schooler whom I’d named Rusty, and to the rest of us.   Tim, smaller and bookish-looking, soon joined them.   Eventually there were six new siblings, plus me (in the middle age-wise), two cats, and a dog as well as my new mom and dad, pasted in a notebook with their names, ages, and hobbies printed alongside their pictures.   The fancy pool was big enough for all of us, if just barely.

In that notebook they sat and stayed, those characters I’d created and the suburban-opulent world I’d dreamed for us.     Fun hours putting the notebook together and figuring out the names and personalities, but once that was done there was nothing else to do but look at them.  I couldn’t bear to let the people in my curated family change or get out of balance.   They looked fashionable and happy, but whatever story I’d been trying to tell about them, and me, was too boring to matter.

I’d committed a cardinal sin, a beautiful stasis.  Change has to happen to characters and their world.  It’s never a wonderful world below the surface.    Scratch the French provincial dresser.  Have a screaming argument in matching dresses.  Discover a body on one of those fancy pool floats, barely cold; an umbrella drink, untouched, in the cupholder.

Long past time for a change

There is something deeply wrong with someone whose only response to trouble is to take up a hammer….and batter the person who reported the problem.

That’s not leadership.  The strategy was on full display yesterday, when the president had peaceful protestors tear-gassed and shot with rubber bullets, all so that he could have a photo op in front of a church (that wouldn’t have welcomed him inside of it), wave a Bible, and lie that he supported peaceful protestors.  Like the ones he’d just ordered to be attacked.

I don’t know what kind of a leader we deserve, but we need one who is better than this.  He should resign; the job is too big for his tiny hands.