“Let the world know you as you are, not as you think you should be, because sooner or later, if you are posing, you will forget the pose, and then where are you?” ~ Fanny Brice

“Benjamin’s House,” by Andrew Wyeth (1955)

“A bit of advice given to a young Native American at the time of his initiation: ‘As you go the way of life, you will see a great chasm. Jump. It is not as wide as you think.'” ~ Joseph Campbell

I’m in the mood for sparse, hence, the Andrew Wyeth images. My favorite is the last one: “Renfield.”

"Wind from the Sea," by Andrew Wyeth (1947)

Lovely visit to the pain management group yesterday. Trigger point injections from my neck to my bum. I saw one of the new Physician’s Assistants that joined the group last November. He seemed a bit nervous about giving me the injections until he realized that I wasn’t squeamish. After that, he proceeded to inject everything in sight (slight overstatement). Anyway, I felt like a pin cushion, came home and had to lie down on the heating pad.

A bit better today, but very sore. I told Corey that I’m not certain about this new guy, and Corey reminded me that he hasn’t been giving trigger point injections for years like my other doctors. Good point. Guess I’ll have to wait and see.

Brett used my computer last night to write something about Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” for school. Personally, I have never been that big of a Kafka fan. Just not my cup of tea, so to speak. A story about a man becoming a giant cockroach gives me the willies. I know. It’s about alienation, distance, loneliness. A masterpiece reflecting the identity of self in society . . . Ya da ya da ya da. He’s still a cockroach.

“In reading, a lonely quiet concert is given to our minds; all our mental faculties will be present in this symphonic exaltation.” ~ Stéphane Mallarmé

"West Window," by Andrew Wyeth

Once the omnipresent head pressure of the last few weeks began to lessen, I was finally able to read the last three Harry Potter books in quick order. I had forgotten how much I really love the last book. Then I thought about all of the e-mails I get from my Goodreads contacts in which they list what they have read lately, and it made me pause. I haven’t really read anything new in a while. I’ve been rereading old favorites. I suppose there’s nothing really wrong with rereading, as it is something that I have always done, revisiting favorites once a year or so, but sometimes I feel as if I am not making any forward motion in my reading.

What I mean is that I feel a general lack in my background as far as world literature is concerned. I am hard-pressed when it comes to naming new authors from around the world, those who are considered to be contributing to the literary canon, as it were. And when I feel like this, I miss Mari, and teaching, and the department. Being surrounded by colleagues, attending lectures, reading journal articles, going to literary festivals—these things serve as a constant stimulus and impetus; the desire to remain current stays at the forefront at all times.

I miss that. But then, I miss many things, as you are probably weary of hearing me lament. Most probably, I miss the idea of working, the positive aspects of being amidst a job that stimulates the brain. When I get like this, though, I remind myself of the less than positive aspects: the backstabbing, the politics, the endless time-consuming meetings about nothing at all. These things I do not miss.

“When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

"Monday Morning," by Andrew Wyeth (1955)

Corey and I talk about the possibility of my returning to work full time. The idea of doing so appeals to me greatly, but would my body allow it? And working at home would serve no purpose other than to bring in income, which I am doing (to some extent). It would not allow me to get out of the house, be in different surroundings for several hours a day. It’s all so vexing, having no clear answers.

Anyway, Corey did speak with his contact at Vane Brothers, who told him that delivery of the new boat has been put back because of the bad weather. No surprise there. He did tell Corey that he would make a note that Corey has stayed in touch and continued to express interest in working for the company. I suppose that’s the best that can be expected. Yet another shipping company to which Corey applied has said that they are not hiring anyone new at the moment, even though their website listed open positions. Such a depressing mantra.

We are coming to the end of February, and Corey’s current unemployment extension is about to end. I know that another bill for yet another unemployment extension is before Congress, but who knows if it will be approved. God know that it should be considering that over 10 percent of the population is unemployed. We can only wait and hope and in the meantime, keep sending in applications.

“Passion is a positive obsession. Obsession is a negative passion.” ~ Paul Carvel

My Australian friend Maureen of White Orchid mentioned something in a recent post to which I can really relate: Apparently, the reality show “Little Miss Perfect” airs in Australia, and Maureen and her daughter watched an episode. For those of you who do not know to what I am referring, “Little Miss Perfect” is a show about child pageant contestants and their mothers . . . No, I’m not kidding.

"Renfield," by Andrew Wyeth (1999)

Apparently someone thought that this form of child abuse would make for good television. Child abuse? What would you call it? These little girls are made up to look like little beauty contestants, complete with fake eyelashes, make-up, costumes, the works. They have mothers who give them nothing but candy before the pageants so that they’ll be full of energy. This is good parenting?

Okay. I know that there are some people out there who love pageants, love the whole idea of the pageant circuit, participated in it, thought that it was the best thing since Barbie got longer hair. Whatever. You are entitled to your opinion. If you did it and you loved it. Great for you.

I’m looking at it from a totally different perspective: that of a sane person (relatively). These little girls are being indoctrinated into that whole concept that their entire self-worth is tied to their looks, to their ability to charm, to their willingness to please. Does no one else see anything wrong with this? We’ve raised generations of young women who regularly abuse their bodies in attempts to conform to airbrushed magazine images. We have agents who tell size 4 models that they are too fat (just read that one in the news). We have young women who are getting Botox before they are 25.

The need to fit in, to conform, to wear the right clothes, to carry the right purse, to be like everyone else—that need is as ancient as the concept of societies. But there is something very, very wrong with a society that condones taking five-year-old girls and plastering eye shadow on them and sending them out on a stage to compete with other five-year-olds for crowns and trophies rewarding them for being cute.

Let me pause here. No, I do not believe that every child should be given a trophy simply for showing up to school. No, I am not against healthy competition. Yes, I believe that innate talents should be honed and fostered. Yes, there will always be someone who is the valedictorian, and rightly so. But must we start at such a young, impressionable age at teaching our little girls that beauty is the answer to all of their problems?

Just consider the title of the show: “Little Miss Perfect.” What is perfection? The right dress? The best walk? The most winning smile? Are these young girls not being indoctrinated to grow up into young women who strive to fit into a size 2? Who will turn to plastic surgery to take out an imagined imperfection in a nose? And perhaps most importantly, are they being given the tools to face the real world? What will they do when their beauty does not open every door? How will they cope when they get their first stretch mark?

Yes, I know that I’ve said it before, but as I commented to Maureen, this concept of instilling unrealistic expectations at a very young age makes me want to throttle someone. I am reminded of the woman in Texas who put a hit out on the mother of her daughter’s cheerleading rival. True story (click here for info). I am also reminded of the mother of a girl who went to my former high school. This mother called me after cheering tryouts at which I had judged to drill me about why her daughter had not been chosen. All I could think of was how she had gotten my phone number?

Who are these people? Where does that kind of obsessive behavior originate? It has to begin somewhere. “Little Miss Perfect” my ass.

More later. Peace.

Red House Painters, “Have You Forgotten?”

Lunatic Tales From The Ether

open-book460_276

Demented Bedtime Stories

The following story is true. Names of characters have not been changed because, well, what would be the point?  You know it’s me. I know it’s me. It’s so outrageous, that it could only be me. So let’s just agree that it’s a slice of my life, and the whipped cream has melted into a pitiful little pool.

The Mexicans in the Walls

Part 1

So, I suppose this all started when I hurt my back and found out that I needed surgery, which is not terribly exciting, but it’s what happened after the surgery the makes this story interesting. But before I go on, I probably should preface all of this by coming right out and saying that I have nothing against Mexicans. In fact, I happen to be one-eighth Hispanic, on my father’s side, my grandmother, so let’s just take care of that smug little grin on your face that you got when you saw that the title of my narrative was “Mexicans in the Walls.” I mean, you don’t have to admit it, but that PC part of you immediately thought, “Well, I know that I’m not going to like this story because it has racist overtones. After all, it has something to do with hiding Mexicans in walls, and that cannot possibly be a positive thing.” A lot you know. Well, actually, the Mexicans in the walls weren’t a good thing, but it has nothing to do with race, at least not in the way that you’re thinking. You see, it’s a matter of color, or rather, colors. Actually, it was the streamers. Well fuck. This is going nowhere. Let us start over at the beginning: the back operation, and see if I can’t dig myself out of this quagmire (love that word: quag mire. Sounds like a duck swallowed some pasty hoisin sauce, and couldn’t quite get that last hard sound out in its quack, so I envision this pissed off duck, waddling around, saying quag, quag, quag  . . . but I digress).

Okay, so last April, after many exorbitantly priced, uber-technical tests, my doctors told me that surgery was probably the best option for fixing my back and making the pain all better. Why not? The drugs certainly weren’t working. So they assured me that I’d have my own little pain pump, about a three to five day stay in the hospital, and about an eight week recovery period. Sign me up, and hooked me up to my IV because the pain couldn’t possibly be any worse. (Now let us pause for a moment here. Whenever someone says the words “couldn’t possibly be any worse” about anything in life, I believe that there should be someone standing on the sidelines whose sole job it is to walk up and throw an ice cold bucket of water over said person’s head and then look said person in the eye and ask the following: “Are you out of your freaking mind? Of course it could be worse.” And then, his or her job being done, the purveyor of truth could then take the bucket and move on to the next pinhead who is obviously not operating in reality.)

Post operation: I awoke to the worst pain in my life, and I have birthed four children, one without the assistance of any drugs (yeah, stupid, I was going through my earth mother phase, deserve a bucket for that one, too), and one by c-section. Fortunately, the entire time I was in the hospital, I just kept pressing that little button that delivered the happy medicine, and everything that happened there fell out of memory as unnecessary data to be preserved. My spouse, however, has very keen memories of this time, and I mention this only because it is relevant later when the S.W.A.T. team arrived and I had the sword, but more on that later.

We go home: Hooray for me (I think). I have this upper body immobilizing brace, and several bottles of heavy-duty pain pills and muscle relaxers and directions to my family on how to take care of me. I pay no attention as I am in pharmaceutical la la land and think only that life will be better at home. Uh, that would be a great big no.

Did I mention that I met some of the Beat Poets at some literary festivals? They were old and skinny and it was kind of sad in that awkward sad way. You know, you read them when they were espousing irresponsible behavior, and although you didn’t grow up in the sixties because you didn’t really have a good generation because you were an in betweener, like Fox Mulder, you WANTED TO BELIEVE. So anyway, they (the Beat Poets when they were cool) said that it was okay to experimhallucinationsent with drugs, which means that your friends Linda and Joyce did acid but you didn’t because you were too responsible, so all you did was pot and a little speed so you knew absolutely nothing about hallucinations, so when you started to hear the Mexicans in the walls, you were totally unprepared, and so, by the way, was the rest of your family.

Okay, so back to the story: I’m home. I lie down on my bed, which is more painful than the twenty-sixth mile of a marathon (which I know about from watching my ex-husband try to throw up his small intestine through his left nostril a tenth of a mile from the finish line all the while moaning something about god and misery). My husband is gently placing pillows all around my body creating a fort so that I won’t fall out of bed, which is something that I have been known to do without the addition of back surgery and pharmaceuticals (I’m clumsy, okay. Leave me alone.), and soon I am cocooned comfortably atop our very plush pillow-top mattress, praying to whatever gods that be to just let me sleep. Now, this is where things begin to get tricky, or as I like to put it, where all I am paid back for every transgression by the gods of vengeance and sarcasm. My eyes are closing, and I begin to hear Mariachi music coming from the walls. At first, I don’t say anything, thinking that perhaps someone in the living room is watching Desperado. That’s fine. Thoughts of Antonio Banderas are a wonderful way to drift off to dreamland. But the music gets louder, and it’s beginning to annoy me. So I do what only I can do: I bellow for my husband (did I mention that he has been sleeping in a chair at the hospital all of this time?) who comes running to the bedroom, thinking that I’ve fallen out of the bed. “What in the hell is that music and why is it so loud?” I ask sweetly.

“What music?”

Now, normally, I am a lovely, charming woman. Engaging, willing to have witty repartee, but not at this particular moment, “the damned Mariachi music. Could you please turn it off?”

Perplexed, my husband replied very tentatively, “There is no music. Why don’t you try to get some sleep?”

I was not going to be put off so lightly, but I was also not in any shape to do battle, so I acquiesced for the moment. I slept for a bit, and then I made the torturous trip to the bathroom, where I discovered that I could now here people speaking Spanish behind the walls of the bathroom. Let me pause again lest I lead you astray: Our house would be described by a realtor as a “starter home.” I know; I was marketing director for a realty company, and I know the lingo. Translation: not a lot of square footage. At the most, we have about 1100 square feet of living space. I’ve seen the floor plans for our house, and having worked closely with builders, I know how to read floor plans. Trust me when I say that there is no room in our floor plans for anyone to live between the walls, let alone set up a card table, play music, and drink coffee, but more on that later.

I came out of the bathroom and announced to my husband in a very firm voice that we had Mexicans living in the walls of our house, and I knew for a fact that my husband was hiding them there. Now, if you were my husband at this point, what would you do? Personally, if it were me, I would have packed up the kids, told them a whopper of a lie, and gone to the movies for a few days. But not him. He packs me back into my cocoon, gets me back to sleep, and gets the doctor on the phone and asks him what in the hell kind of drugs they are giving me to make me think that a family of Mexicans have moved into the walls of our house and if I need to be taken somewhere for my own safety. The doctor, a surgeon, says it’s nothing to worry about, just a reaction to the pain medications I had in the hospital, and it should clear up on its own. If not, just take me to the ER. Yep, that’ll work.

Did I mention that I’d moved on from just auditory hallucinations to visual—now that sounds like fun, doesn’t it? The next time I come out of the bathroom, I believe that my husband has remodeled the bedroom, as in built a new wall in the corner of the room so that he has more room to hide more Mexicans, but I actually like the change and the Queen Anne chair that he has placed there, so I don’t say anything. Granted, he made this change while I was in the bathroom (oh how I wish that he could remodel like that now, but we’ll just move right along on that, shall we?). By the way, in the midst of all of this, he is trying to explain to my sons that everything will be all right and that they should just avoid me for the time being, which is a bit hard as I accuse them of hiding Mexicans under their beds and in their closets. They look at their step-Dad for guidance, and at this point, exhaustion has taken over. He’s probably having his own hallucinations in which his wife is not loopy, and there are no Mexicans in the walls.

More to come . . . Peace.