Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday's Random Thoughts - VCC Lexicon Edition


Today, Jacob, Todd, my brother Tim, and I are driving to Athens to see Louis C.K perform at the Classic Center. The Great Chris Talley™ and his wife The Great Heather Talley™are also going and we're all meeting up for dinner beforehand.

As you might know, Louis C.K. is runner-up to George Clooney for position of pretend boyfriend. I believe this is proof that I am not shallow and only looking for the dreamboat. I also like slightly overweight, balding gingers.

It's really all about the personality. When I was in college, a guy approached my friend Liz and asked the best way to get my interest. (This is back in the day when guys in bars wanted me to be interested. Sigh. Those were the days. I believe this is why I now feel put out if I have to pay for my own drinks.)

Liz said, "Make her laugh."

I have been to Athens once before and when I told my mother about it, she said, "Oh! You were conceived there! In the Callaway Gardens apartment complex."

Good to know, Mom.

Sunday night, I'm going to see Duncan Sheik at Workplay. Oh Duncan, how I love thee!

I will also spend part of the weekend shopping at the 7th Annual Holiday Craft Bazaar. The event is held at several locations, such as Naked Art and Avondale Brewery. I highly recommend you stop by Bottletree, 3719 3rd Ave South, and buy something from my friend Chris Davis. Get his autograph while you're there. He's famous. 

Chris and I are excited to be in the same issue of Weld this week and writing for our former coworker Nick Patterson. (You can take the folks out of Southern Living...)

Come Monday...well, I guess I'm done. I will proceed to fall into a long winter's nap. Wake me on March 1, please.

Speaking of taking the folks out...

Did you hear the news that Jenna Bush Hager is the new editor-at-large for Southern Living?

As my spirit animal Tina Fey once said, "I want you to pay attention to the following over-the-top eye roll."

I know I shouldn't take it personally. Two years ago, when I got the news that I could no longer write essays for the magazine's back page because Rick Bragg would be doing them every month, I dealt with it with class and dignity.

No, I'm thankful to have yet another example of what matters in publishing. I was starting to forget how 15-plus literary agents have told me that, no matter how good my book might be, I don't have a platform. I'm not famous. I don't have a famous dad. I'm not the most amateurish  interviewer on the Today Show EVER. (Speaking of Today, this headline made me laugh: Matt Lauer Will Be Fired If Today Show Continues to Suck.)

Say What Now? 

Last night after reading my blog, Todd said that we must add "Go home, Lindsay Lohan" to our lexicon.

Todd and I have our own vocabulary. Yes, we're those people. We like to say things and crack up, and  other people don't have a clue what the hell we mean by "banana and pear."

So here's a little VCC vocabulary lesson.

Go home, Lindsay Lohan: You're drunk, dude. Seriously, go home.

Sacrilicious: This is my favorite descriptive word for all religion-based jokes, including the irreverent  things I write about Bad Boyfriend Jesus.

Shut up, Carrie Underwood: One day I was telling Todd about how I'd watched Soul Surfer, the inspirational movie about a girl who loses her arm in a shark attack. Carrie Underwood plays a do-gooder friend who, at some point, gives the girl who lost her arm a little lecture about healing, moving on, and trusting in God. As I was telling Todd about this scene, I said, "Oh shut up, Carrie Underwood!"

"Shut up, Carrie Underwood" is shorthand for indicating a person who does not understand shit about your situation but feels the need to tell you how to deal with it anyway.

You and Mark Twain: Todd wrote a story that I edited. I told him to remove an exclamation mark from one sentence. I said, "You know, Mark Twain said using an exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke."

"Well," Todd said, "You and Mark Twain can suck it."

If one of us says "you and Mark Twain," that means you can suck it.
*Mark Twain didn't actually say this. It was F. Scott Fitzgerald. I blame the movie Marley & Me for misleading me. 

Banana and pear: In the car on the way to lunch several years ago, our friend Rob was complaining about all the dumb jokes people send nonstop via email. During his rant, he threw out this gem: "'What did the banana say to the pear?' Fuck you!" We cracked up. So if we say "banana and pear," it means "Fuck you."

Now, next time you hear us say one of these things, you will know what we mean and will be appropriately offended. You're welcome.

The VCC Mailbox

Hey kids, let's go to the mailbox!

This week was a stellar week for mail up in here.

Tina has been unpacking boxes that had been in storage for quite some time. She found a card addressed to me that she never mailed. She didn't open it. She sent it to me and it arrived Tuesday. It reads "Sorry this is so tardy! Happy belated birthday and Mother's Day!"

I don't know what year it's from, but I guess it was that year she never told me happy birthday, dammit.

Tina also sent me a Thanksgiving card with $5 for a latte. Awesome friend is awesome.

Also in the mailbox: a package from my cousin Richard. The packaged contained this amazing little book:


I can't wait to try out all my new "miraculous moves." I hope you'll join me in The Apostolic Conga Line.

Last but certainly not least, I got an amazing note from someone who reads my blog. He sent me a Starbucks card to fuel Friday's Random Thoughts!

I don't think I say it enough, but thank you all for reading and supporting my rants and random thoughts. It means the absolute world to me. I'm not just saying that. Without you, I'd just be a girl with a dream sitting here talking to herself. I mean, I am sitting here talking to myself, but let's just pretend I'm talking to the cats.

Happy Friday, friends!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Lindsay Lohan Needs a Curfew

In the wee hours of the morning, Lindsay Lohan was arrested for assault at a New York City nightclub.

I know. Shocking, right?

This brings up an important piece of advice from me, your spirit animal Amy B.

You should be home by midnight. Nothing good happens after midnight.

Have you forgotten what you learned from Gremlins?

Are you too young to remember Gremlins?

If you forgot, here it is: Do not feed the creature after midnight. (In this case, the creature is you and all your totally bad ideas. No, going home with that guy is not a good idea. No, going to that club for more drinking is not a good idea. No, consuming a huge amount of breakfast foods at Waffle House is not a good idea. Go home.)

I have spent plenty of nights out past midnight and, oh yes, having plenty of fun, but you can be quite sure none of it was good for me. And the next day I felt like ass.

I strongly believe that life is better - and not as full of regret and hangovers - if you just get your butt home and in pajamas by midnight. I don't always follow my own advice, but when I do, I wake up on time and I am productive the next day. If I don't, I sleep late and, when I do drag myself out of bed, my brain is good for nothing more than watching Lifetime movies or reality shows on E! (otherwise known as Hangover TV).

Another important piece of advice to remember next time you're out: "Never go with a hippie to a second location." - Jack Donaghy, 30 Rock.


But this advice is not why I have called you here today, my friends.

No, what I'd like to talk about is my complicated feelings every time I hear news of poor Lindsay.

I hate her.

My friend and former coworker Rob used to keep a list of people who belonged on the Celebrity Death Plane. Lindsay is at the top of the list.

I bet she makes the lives of everyone around her stressful and miserable. I bet everyone around her is on guard all the time because they never know what's going to happen.

When you spend time with an addict, you can't be sure if the night will go well or go horribly off the rails. You can't be sure if you will be showered with love or pounded with insults. You might get pushed to the ground. You might laugh so hard you almost wet your pants. You might wonder how things got so out of control. You might wonder what you can do to fix it all. (Nothing. You can do nothing to fix it.)

Seriously, I hate this bitch for going around making the lives of those who love her harder than they have to be.

I sincerely believe she is incapable of getting her act together. She will never sober up. Rehab will never work for her. Screw this selfish little twit, I think.

So here's where it gets complicated.

In my lifetime, I have loved an addict. And I get incredibly frustrated when people say cruel things.

"The people around the addict should have done more. I would have done more." (No, you wouldn't have. If you have the secret for getting addicts to clean up, you could bottle it, sell it, and make billions of dollars.)
"The addict is just a piece of shit. Cut him/her out of your life. It's not that hard." (Yes, it is that hard. Have you ever loved someone?)
"The addict got what was coming to him/her. The addict was asking for trouble. The addict should just stop. It's not hard." (Please shut up.)

All of these statements come from a lack of experience with living with an addict.

And do you see that paradox of the things people say? You should do more, but you should kick that person out of your life. You should do more while you care less.

Good luck with all that.

The addict is not a piece of shit or a scumbag or beneath you. (Go ahead and thank your lucky stars right now that you aren't one.) He/she has a problem. A real, huge, awful, life-defining problem.

Lindsay Lohan has a real, huge, awful, life-defining problem.

I wish she could sober up and have a nice life in which she is home by midnight wearing pajamas and fuzzy socks, in which she wakes up the next morning feeling good and hopeful about life.

I doubt very much that she ever wakes up feeling good and hopeful. I think she wakes up with a bottomless pit of need that she attempts to fill with pills and booze and whatever else might make her feel better for a moment or a day.

I find myself wishing that someone would reach out a hand to Lindsay Lohan and help guide her back to a safe and healthy life.

Then I realize I am doing the same thing I did for years and years. I thought I could be that hand. I thought I could figure out the magical thing that would guide someone back to a safe and healthy life. That was a lie I told myself. In fact, I still tell myself that lie sometimes. It always comes to me in the dark, after midnight.

See, I told you. After midnight is a wasteland full of pits of quicksand. After midnight is the fire swamp from The Princess Bride. Watch out for the ROUSes.

Even though I can't stand this ridiculous woman, I remember what it was like to love someone like that. I would hate it if people placed bets on when he would die. (Check the comment section of any story about Lindsay Lohan today and you will find those types of wagers.)

It would break my heart if people said bad things about him or hated him for it...even though sometimes I hate him for it.

Part of me wants to see Lindsay Lohan crash and burn. Part of me wants to revel in the Schadenfreude. Here's your seat assignment on the Celebrity Death Plane, Ms. Lohan.

But I already know exactly what it's like to watch someone crash and burn.

It's not pretty. It's not entertaining. It's not anything anyone was asking for. It's not anything anyone deserves.

It's only human wreckage.

Do you want a front row seat for that? Trust me, you don't.

It's past your curfew. Go home.

Related posts:
Making Peace with Hemingway

An Enormous Green Rape Monster

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Zombie Treehouse Wishes and George Clooney Dreams

The Powerball jackpot is up to half a billion dollars. Apparently, the chances of winning are 176 million to 1. I don't really understand odds, but I'm going to guess that's not great.

However, your chances of having some smug prick tell you you're an idiot for buying a ticket are 1 in, I don't know, 2? Is that a good chance?

Basically, if you are in a state with the Powerball and you are buying a ticket today, someone in your life is going to act like you're an idiot.

If you're housebound and you don't interact with other humans, you can just read a whole rant about it here.

Come on, it's $2 to spend a day indulging all your wildest daydreams. (For instance, my friend J.J. is going to build the Weirdly Positive Zombie Treehouse with his winnings.)

This got me thinking about what we spend our money on and how people don't sit around  smugly telling you what a dumb shit you are for buying those things even though it's probably not going to pan out for you.

For example:

Over-the-counter wrinkle cream. 
You spend $15 on it, you slather it on.
You dream about how young you are going to look.
You know why? Because, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, that stuff doesn't prevent or reverse wrinkles.

Cellulite cream.
You spend $15 on something called "Good-bye Cellulite" by Nivea. You slather it on.
You dream about how smooth your skin is going to look.
That stuff doesn't work either.
This is not you. You will not look like this.

I could go on with this. Shampoo that promises to smooth your wild hair, conditioner that promises to make your hair color last longer, diet pills, weight-loss shakes, etc.

You spend money on something to make you feel better about your life.

We all spend money on all sorts of things we do not need to make us feel better, to make us feel hopeful, to encourage our dreams. Is it silly? Sure, it is.

But $2 isn't all that much to spend so you can imagine how you're going to buy your mom a new house; send your kids to college; visit the offices of Sallie Mae so you can pay off your student loan, demand to see someone named Sallie Mae, and tell her to kiss your ass; surprise everyone you know with enormous checks; buy decent health insurance; bid on one of those charity "Win a date with George Clooney" things; and spend every winter in Bora Bora.

No, you're not going to win. And if you do win, it's probably going to ruin your life.

But dammit, don't be the smug bastard that goes around telling people that.

If you're buying a ticket, please remember that I fully supported your decision to do so, that you have always been my favorite person, that we have something truly special, and that I loved you before you had a half billion dollars. Don't ever forget that.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Clooney Tuesday - Confessions of a Non-Stalker

Because it's Clooney Tuesday, I did what is becoming a weekly Tuesday morning activity. Looking for inspiration for something to blog about, I googled the man.

I found the latest "news" that George Clooney spent the holiday in Cabo with Stacy Keibler, Cindy Crawford and Cindy's husband Rande Gerber. (Yes, his name is spelled with an e because his parents were ridiculous.)

Here's a photo from via FameFlynet Pictures:
See Cindy on the right?
Looks like she's yawning, doesn't it?

That's because this is BORING.

So here's my confession: I do not care about this stuff at all. I love George Clooney, but I love the George Clooney in my mind, Pretend Boyfriend George Clooney.

That's what it comes down to: I realize that I only love the idea of George Clooney. My idea of him doesn't require actual news about what he's doing in real life.

I mean, "yea" for these rich folks and their jaunts to warm-weather destinations. I just don't give a hoot.

My pretend boyfriend would never go to Cabo with some blonde chick while I sit here broke, cold, and discouraged about the state of publishing and the future of this goddamn book I have written.

The End.

Monday, November 26, 2012

I Don't Feel Like Writing Anything

So why am I here?

I don't even know.

I thought I'd try to write something - anything - since it's been several days since I posted. I haven't written anything since last week because I've been so busy eating my weight in Thanksgiving leftovers while sitting on my sofa reading Broken Harbor, a novel by Tana French, and watching Lifetime movies.

The beautiful thing about Lifetime movies is that you can watch them while you read, because Lifetime movies are so predictable. They are like comfort food for your brain. Lifetime movies are also excellent when you have a hangover.

Here's a little leftover from last year about Lifetime movies and why I am perfect for one: A Very Special Lifetime Christmas Movie...Starring Me.

This weekend I watched a movie that takes the characters of Little Women and puts them in a modern-day setting. It was complete crap. Louisa May Alcott is rolling over in her grave.

I watched Dear Santa, a movie about a psycho who stalks a widower and his daughter after she finds the daughter's letter to Santa asking for a new wife for her dad. OK, it's not presented as stalking. It's presented as FATE and LOVE and a whole host of other bullshit things that would make a woman track down a man so she can be some little girl's new mom. (The dead spouse is key in these movies, in case you didn't read my post about A Very Special Lifetime Christmas Movie.)

I also watched Love at the Christmas Table about two people who grow up spending Christmas Eve together every year. Over the years, they fall in love. At the end, of course, they get engaged. Because deciding to marry someone with whom you have spent one day out of the year is totally reasonable and that marriage is definitely going to work out.

After all that, I fixed myself a cocktail and I watched Lindsay Lohan play the role of Elizabeth Taylor in Liz & Dick. When I told Kate the title of what I was watching, she started giggling uncontrollably. And this is why you never hear about little boys being named Dick anymore.

The movie was pretty bad (everyone MUST stop pretending that Lindsay Lohan would be a great actress if only she didn't get in so much trouble). But the movie isn't bad enough to become campy fun. There aren't any good lines you can take from it and repeat obnoxiously. For instance, over the holiday I also watched some of R. Kelly's "hip-hopera" Trapped In The Closet and, if you visit me and stand in my kitchen for more than five minutes, you are likely to hear me sing this: He looks at the cabinet, he walks to the cabinet, he's close to the cabinet, now he's opening the cabinet. 

While "watching" all these masterpieces, I finished Broken Harbor. I recommend all of Tana French's books. She's an excellent writer. All of her books are murder mysteries set in Ireland, but they go beyond your standard detective novels.

Broken Harbor really hit home for me in a lot of ways. I don't want to give too much away, but basically there were things that were painfully familiar to me, like how things can go so wrong in a short amount of time, how you can spend your entire life getting over something and still blaming yourself for it, and how dealing with someone who is mentally unstable is exhausting and frustrating and damaging to your own mental health.

I cried a little yesterday because I always cry after a holiday. Even when everything goes well, the holidays are difficult. We spent Thanksgiving Day with The Great Chris and Heather Talley™ and it was a wonderful day. The food was amazing. The company was excellent. I have asked Chris and Heather to officially adopt me and Kate and Jacob. They'd be fools not to at least consider it!

Having dinner with the Talleys allowed me to continue my 39-year streak of not cooking Thanksgiving dinner.

Friday, Kate convinced me we should put up the tree and decorate it. I was a little grumpy about it at first, but I'm glad we did it. The living room was festive for the arrival of Charles's parents, who we call MeMe and Bob. They arrived Friday afternoon bearing Thanksgiving leftovers. They left early yesterday morning and, about 20 minutes later, I noticed that they'd left a laptop behind. I called and they turned around to come pick it up.

Kate said, "Oh, good! I missed them already!"

Saying goodbye to your grandparents is hard. There's one thing that's hard about holidays. They always involve saying goodbye.

The holidays also are hard because they naturally evoke memories of past holidays. Thanksgiving was Charles's favorite holiday. Eating, watching football, eating some more. Taking home leftovers. Eating again. I told the kids that I think their dad loved the leftovers even more than the original meal.

We have one  piece of apple pie left in the house and I am so grateful that it's almost gone. It turns out I can not be trusted around apple pie. I hope one of the kids comes home from school and eats it before tonight to save me from myself.

This morning I had scrambled egg whites for breakfast, a little post-Thanksgiving penance. As much as I love wearing elastic-waist pants, I would like to be able to fit into the rest of my clothes come January.

But first...

Maybe I should eat that last piece of apple pie before the kids get home.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Oh Dammit

I accidentally bought "light" cranberry juice.

Thankful for...Vodka

I spent several hours today cleaning my 12-year-old daughter's bedroom.

Below is what I discovered when I moved her bed.

A few things you can't see in the photo: 

That purple plaid backpack is crammed full of things I asked her to clean up one day. 

A hamburger bun shoved between the pages of a notebook.

An entire container of French fries. 

A YA novel "glued" shut with a grape Jolly Rancher. 

I'm so tired. My body is aching. 

I'm sitting down with a cocktail. Self-medication is real and it is amazing.

Also real and amazing? Motherly love. Only motherly love could keep me from whipping a certain someone's ass today. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Let's Talk About This Crap

Please take note of this blurb: Secrets of an overnight superstar ("Wow, why am I not dating?!")

Excuse my language, but...What. The. Fuck.

Jessica Chastain appeared in six films that were released in 2011. Several of those films were critically acclaimed. Jessica Chastain was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in The Help.

According to Marie Claire, Chastain went from "the scrappy life of a working actress to the ultra-rarefied ranks of A-lister."

And yet...


The cover blurb includes some bullshit about how she's not dating?

That's it. I'm done with women's magazines.

If you read the article, you find that Chastain's quote is part of an anecdote about not dating, about being more "available" in spite of her shy nature. It comes at the very end. It comes after this obnoxious statement by the writer:
Chastain won't say whether she's dating anyone, but the likely answer is no. (And if she is it's happening so far off the grid as to be nothing serious or a long-distance relationship, and you know how those go.
So here's Jessica Chastain, who has had an incredible year when things in her career came together, magically, miraculously, after years of hard work.

And the cover of this magazine points out that she's NOT DATING.

And the article inside makes assumptions about her personal life based on what exactly? It makes predictions in a snide manner ("and you know how those go").

This is the sort of crap that makes women's lives so much more difficult than they should be. You work hard. Your career is coming together in this incredible manner, but...Oh, so sorry, you're still single.

You lose.

This is what you might call the Jennifer Aniston Judgement.

Poor Jennifer Aniston. All anyone wants to talk about is her singlehood, her lust for a child. FILL MY EMPTY WOMB! DAMN YOU, ANGELINA JOLIE!

Oh, thank God Jennifer Aniston is FINALLY engaged. At last she has a man to validate her existence.

The success isn't enough. The money. The achievements. The friends. The travel.

No, no, no.

Where's your man, Jessica Chastain?


This is some bullshit, that's what this is.

Thankful for...Comfort Food

Potato soup. Food Styling by Kate Mercer
I will never be a foodie. I will never be a bon vivant. And if I had a cooking show on television it would be called The Frantic Chef.™ Don't try to steal that. It's mine. It's the latest hit on Food Network because it's full of drama.

If I have more than one dish going on the stove at once or one dish that requires a lot of work, I am FRANTIC. I'm kind of shocked I haven't chopped off a digit yet in my rare, misguided attempts to prepare gourmet meals from Cooking Light and Bon Appetit.

I will never be the person who is calm and cool in the kitchen, sipping wine, visiting with company, and with seeming effortlessness, whipping up an elaborate meal that makes everyone swoon. That's not me. 

I am, however, the person sipping wine and whipping up the one-dish meal while wearing her pajama pants and fuzzy socks. Oh yeah, I am all about one-dish meals. 

Tonight, I made potato soup. Tina sent me the recipe earlier today. It was easy to make and delicious. 

2 packages O’Brien-style hash browns
2 cans cream of chicken soup
2 cans milk
2 cans water
2 chicken bouillon cubes
½ TO 1 lb. Velveeta, chopped (Life is short. Go for the full pound!)
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix together the hash browns, soup, milk, water, bouillon cubes, Velveeta cheese, salt and pepper. Cook 30 to 45 minutes over medium heat, stirring often, careful not to scorch. 
Serve with French bread. 
(Need meat? Add chopped ham, chicken, crab, crawfish or shrimp.) 

Sometimes I worry myself to the point of anxiety. I do this at night in private. I work myself up about Jacob going to college in a year and a half. He has no college fund. I work myself up about how I am an irresponsible parent. My son is so intelligent. I want him to have every opportunity to succeed. It feels like he was born barely a moment ago and here he is practically a grown man, taller than me, driving, applying for a job at the movie theater up the road. He is *thisclose* to applying to colleges. Here's me: FRANTIC. 

I freak out about bills. I am not making as much money as I once did. I am wondering what will happen when I am too old and senile to work, and I end up on the streets pushing a shopping cart full of books, wearing a tin foil hat and a T-shirt that reads, "I still (heart) George Clooney." 

On the outside I look calm and together, but inside my nerves are a jangled mess of FUTURE FUTURE FUTURE OH MY GOD THE FUCKING FUTURE! 

See, that's me: The Frantic Chef. 

So it should be no surprise that I like comfort food. A warm meal in a bowl? Oh, hell yes. 

Bring. It. To. Me.

I will eat it while I am curled up on the sofa, my feet tucked up under a throw blanket, the television tuned to something funny, a cloth napkin draped over the arm of the sofa. 

Is the world ending? Some say it is (because they are idiots). OK, let's say the world is ending. A meteor in the shape of Barack Obama's beautiful, big-eared head is hurtling toward the planet. Oh, so sad. Are you wearing your apocalypse pants? Do you have all your doomsday gear stacked up in the garage? 

I have no doomsday gear in the garage. 

But I have some cheesy, warm goodness in a bowl and my apocalypse pants have an elastic waist. 

I feel better already.

I am thankful for comfort food. I am thankful for one-dish meals that can be made by cranking open can after can after can. There is nothing frantic about working a can opener and dumping stuff in a big ol' pot, turning the heat to medium, stirring occasionally, and warming a loaf of crusty bread in the oven. Don't forget the butter. 

 If this world goes down, it will go down with me on the sofa eating cheesy potatoes out of a bowl, my friends. Mmm, good. 

Note: This week I'll write each day about something for which I'm thankful.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thankful for...Home

Note: This week I'll write each day about something for which I'm thankful. 

Dorm life was never for me. Even twenty years later, I can recall that feeling of just how much I wanted to go home. When I was a freshman in a college only a few miles from my mother's duplex, I would sometimes walk there in the afternoon. My mother would still be at work. I would fix a glass of water. I would sit on the sofa surrounded by my mother's things. I'd feel comforted.

I never did live at home again, though. I lived with my grandmother for a bit in college and I loved that. I liked how she had a routine that could be counted on. She was up early. She ate half a grapefruit. She worked the puzzles in the daily paper. She ran errands and went to meetings and walked around her neighborhood. She had a cocktail at 5. She watched the news. At 9 pm, she took a phone call from her friend Mrs. Nance.

The freedom of college never held as much appeal for me as the comfort of a routine like my grandmother's. My grandmother's house felt like a home. It was full of things that were familiar to me, things I'd been seeing in her home since I was born.

When I look back at the places I've lived in my adulthood, I can tell you the places that felt most like home to me.

The townhouse Charles and I lived in when Jacob was born. Home.
The first house we bought in Shreveport when Kate was 1 and Jacob was 5. Home.
The house we bought a few months after we moved to Birmingham. Home.
The first rent house the kids and I lived in after the divorce. Home.

There were places in between these homes. Places we lived to save money. Places that were transitions, an attempt to repair something damaged in the place before so that we could move forward.

Every place I have lived in Birmingham, the first thing I have done is set up my bookshelves. A room is instantly inviting and comfortable if you cover a wall with books. Try it. Works every time. (I am thankful for my mother and my dear friend Gretchen who helped me move all my books during my last move.)

Next step: Set up your bed. Put a lamp on a bedside table. Put the book you are currently reading on the bedside table.

Home is never a place. Home is a feeling.

Homesickness is a longing in your soul, likely for something that no longer exists. Not in physical form anyway.

I have experienced homesickness for the house I lived in when I was 12 and I know what I am longing for is my mother.

I have experienced homesickness for my grandmother's townhouse and I know what I am longing for is my grandmother.

The house we live in now, the first house I bought on my own, is home. We have lived here longer than any place we've lived since Jacob was born.

Considering how often we have moved makes me realize how much upheaval there has been and how much I have attempted to temper the upheaval with things that can be counted on, with the comforts and routines of home.

Set up the books. Turn on the lamps. Hang pictures. Put a throw blanket on the sofa. Set out the things that remind you of those you love.

The past couple of days I have been cleaning the house and moving things around.

I hung several framed things that came from my dad and stepmother's home. They downsized last year and, when we drove home after a Thanksgiving visit, we brought home a trunk full of items: Framed menus from New Orleans restaurants they visited 30 years ago; a framed poster from a 1976 Shakespeare festival.

I realized these things have been stacked in a corner of my bedroom for nearly a full year. What have I been doing, I wonder. How has an entire year gone by?

But now these things are just where they belong. I like seeing them. I like how they remind me of my dad and stepmother, of their home in Indiana.

I've also been busy hanging art by my friend Chris. I look around and his work is everywhere. A dog painting in the kitchen. Three small dog paintings in the living room. A tiny platypus picture on the mantle. Four tiny platypus figures in a row. One of them, holding a tiny kitten, was sculpted especially for Kate. One of them is holding a four-leaf clover, ready for good luck. All of them have Chris's fingerprints pressed into the clay. All of them make me smile.

I am thankful for these things.

Of course, I realize the difference between a place feeling like home or not lies within me. I am thankful for the feeling that this is home, not simply a transition between one place and the next. Though it is undeniable that this is a place where things are repaired and healed, where life moves forward, where my children are transitioning from childhood into adulthood.

I am thankful that I get to share this place with Kate and Jacob. I suspect one day they will long for it the way I sometimes long for my mother's home. I hope they will figure out how to carry the feeling of home within them wherever they go.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Friday's Random Thoughts - A Letter to the Universe

“It isn't for the moment you are struck that you need courage, but for that long uphill climb back to sanity and faith and security.” ― Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Dear Universe,

Things have been tough for me the past several years. I'm sure you know this since you have been so busy dropping steaming piles of dog poop on my front porch, setting them on fire, and running away. Hardy har har. You're hilarious. 

I thank you for those piles. I have learned a lot putting out flames and cleaning up messes. 

Unfortunately, I have gotten into a habit of waiting for you to deliver something great to me to make up for all the crap. 

I suspect a lot of people do this. It's a pretty common tactic to deal with daily life. We like to believe in balance. Something horribly bad happens. We want to believe that something amazing will happen to make the bad thing seem like it happened for a reason. 


Yes, I'm yelling at you. Don't get all offended. I know you can take it. You are notoriously indifferent. You're like that hot guy with whom we keep sleeping and from whom we accept phone calls and texts even though we know he is the absolute worst, most selfish jerk on the planet. 

Universe, is it that you're just not that into me? 

The other day I was telling Tina about a scene in The Pursuit of Happyness, the Will Smith movie about a real man who went from homelessness to huge success. She said she hadn't seen it, because she knew it might be too much to take. 

"Oh yeah, it's definitely 'misfortune porn,'" I said. 

Misfortune porn is a movie in which the main character just keeps getting screwed nonstop until the very end. Then the main character gets his or her reward. 

The scene I was talking about was when Will Smith goes to his friend to ask that he repay the money Will loaned him. The friend doesn't have it and Will yells at him. It's a small amount, maybe $8. I can't remember. It is an amount so small that there are thousands of people in this world who would say, "What's the big deal?" 

Tina works for a company that often sends out checks to folks. She sometimes gets frantic phone calls from people wondering where their checks are. Some of those checks are for $42. 

Yesterday, on Facebook, a friend posted an update about how a new set of tires for some ridiculous car would cost $17,000, but if you can afford this car, a $1.2 million vehicle, then it would barely be worth your time to bend over and pick up $20,000 if you dropped it. 

That's hard to imagine. 

It's interesting how perspective changes as income does. 

I once watched an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show during which Oprah expressed shock that a guest on the show didn't change her bedsheets every day. EVERY DAY. That is the shock of someone who obviously employs household staff and does not change or launder her own sheets. That is the shock of someone whose perspective has changed. 

I don't know what my point is other than that $20,000 is a lot of money. $42 is a lot of money. $8 can be the difference between eating a meal that night or going to bed hungry. And changing your bedsheets every day is ridiculous. 

There are a lot of people who think they have more money than other people because they deserve it, that the universe is rewarding them for how good they are. 

Incidentally, I believe this fallacy is the fire that fuels much of America's hatred for its poor. I believe this is why Donald Trump has a platform for his disgusting point of view while so many others are silenced. I believe this is why there is a such a snide attitude toward people who struggle financially. It makes me sad, not for the poverty-stricken, but for the people who are so full of hate for their fellow man. I bet all that hate gives them heartburn. They should try chewing on some perspective. 

This belief that the universe rewards and punishes based on goodness is what fuels the mistaken opinion that a victim was "asking for it," that a person has "gotten what was coming to him." 

This widespread belief that the universe rewards and punishes us justly is proof that most of us haven't learned much in our short time on this planet. 

It's interesting how perspective changes as circumstances do. 

The problem with looking to the universe for a reason is that, if you aren't being rewarded in some manner, you start to wonder what you are doing wrong, what you are failing to learn. 

This can lead a person to believe she is being punished. Then she must question why. She will do this at night when her defenses are down. 

Looking for a reason, waiting for it to be revealed in some dramatic flourish, might work for some people, but it is not healthy for me. I have learned this much at least. 

I have also realized that I am unnecessarily cruel to myself. 

Yesterday evening, I worked out for the first time in two months. That two-month span is the longest I have gone without working out in more than four years. I couldn't tell you why I stopped. One day, I didn't want to do it and then I kept not wanting to do it. I didn't even make excuses. I only said to myself, "No, I don't want to." 

So, when I worked out last night, I should have been happy with myself for doing so. I should have given myself a pat on the back. Instead, I kept thinking how much I hated myself for getting out of shape, for gasping during the workout, for having to chug water every few minutes. 

I am constantly stunned by the awful things I will say to myself, things I would never say to or believe about another person. 

Tomorrow is the 14th Annual International Survivors of Suicide Day. This is not about people who have survived suicide attempts. It is for those who have survived a loss by suicide. They call it "a day of healing for bereavement after suicide." 

Sometimes I wonder if I should stop writing about this, as if my time should be up on trying to figure out what the fuck just happened here. 

That's how it feels. There is no better way to express it. It happened. Days and years can go by, and there is still part of me that is standing in my garage thinking, "What the fuck just happened here?" 

Sometimes I have to physically shake my head, to attempt to shake off these memories that haunt me. 

God, I hate that kind of talk. Memories that haunt me. Blech. Shut the fuck up, Amy. 

The term "suicide survivor" seems odd and not quite right for those left behind. When someone dies in a car crash, his family is not referred to as car crash survivors. But I guess there is no other way to say it really. 

And it is, no doubt, a work of survival. On a daily basis, you must find a way to breath when the question of why, when the searching for a reason, threatens to drown you in its salty depths. 

The reason why will never be enough, no matter what it is. That is the problem. I have read enough from other survivors to know that some of them are in pain because the person left a note and some of them are in pain because there was no note. Some of them are in pain because the reason is obvious. Some of them are in pain because they cannot figure out the reason. 

(Maybe the reason is lack of reason.) 

Charles left a suicide note. Not many people know that, actually. The police didn't find it. It was on the kitchen counter. Even when the cleaning crew came in, even when a friend of mine followed behind to clean again, it was not discovered. They might have seen it, but they simply did not recognize it for what it was. 

When I came back to my house after more than a week away, I went through a stack of papers someone had cleaned off the kitchen counter. One of them was the receipt from Kate's school registration. 

It was no wonder no one noticed the note on it. 

It was only two short lines at the bottom of the print-out. It was written in what I always called Charles's "rock-star handwriting" because his signature was an illegible autograph scrawled in haste.

Maybe it was only right that a mustached man in a uniform didn't find it. Charles meant for me to see it, much like everything else that happened that night. 

I called the detective who'd come the night Charles died and told him about the note. He came by the house to pick it up. He asked how I was, if everyone had been kind to me at the funeral. Yes, of course, I told him. 

"It's not always that way," he said. 

He took the note back to the station to make a copy. He kept the original. He said this was in case anyone ever questioned the circumstances of Charles's death. 

Can you imagine this, that your life might unfold (unravel?) in such a way that someone could conjure up this  maybe, this possibly, this what if

What the fuck just happened here?

What am I to do with this note? Look to it for answers? Memorize it? Tuck it away in a box? 

The reason is lack of perspective. 

I seek perspective. I crave it. I fight daily for it. 

After I worked out and berated myself for my oh-so-many failings, I texted Tina and told her that it is clear to me that I got lost somewhere along the way since 2009. I can handle this, I said to myself and to those who love me. But then I fell in a sinkhole of my own disappointment.

I catch myself wishing to be the person I was before, working it over in my mind how I can get there again. I find myself listing silly things about the me of before: I ate oatmeal for breakfast every day. I drank Diet Coke. I ate a half a turkey sandwich for lunch almost every day. I worked out every afternoon at 4:30. I did yoga. What if I did all those things again? Could I go back to being the person who, let's face it, I have romanticized into some "golden days" version of who I really was.

Now I tell myself this: I cannot keep sitting around waiting for the universe to bring me some great thing that will make it all seem OK. I cannot keep wallowing in my disappointment. 

"We're going to have to take matters into our own hands," I told Tina.

Do you hear me?

I am determined to start moving again.

I am determined to be kinder to myself.

I am determined to stop focusing on my self-perceived failures. 

I am determined to have perspective. 

I am determined to see the greatness and beauty that surrounds me every day. 

I am determined to be grateful every day for all I have that money could never buy. 

What I believe I must do in the process is release my tight grip on the book I have written and what I see as its failure to matter. I have attached too much significance to it, as if it will be the way I redeem myself for failing to save someone from his own destruction. 

I know enough to know that I could not save him. I don't seem to know enough yet to feel that I could not save him. 

I must attempt to, as the wonderful Todd Childs likes to say, "Give that shit to Jesus." 

There is a balance between feeling like someone who is giving up and someone who is letting go, and I am determined to find it.

I am not giving up on my book. I must only give up the idea that the monetary value of something I have written is indicative of the value of my life, of my worth as a person, or that it is the trick to earning forgiveness for myself.

This is how one survives, I think.

On days of bereavement.

On days of healing.

On days when the sun is shining and the fall color outside my window is so stunning that it makes me want to cry. 

"I'm so sorry. This is very hard."

That is what he wrote. 

That is all. 

It is an answer. It is a truth

It is why I write and write and write and never come to the end, to the grand and glorious reckoning I so foolishly desire. 

I have written thousands upon thousands of words, and it occurs to me again and again that all I have written is only another way of saying, "I'm so sorry. This is very hard."

As the leaves fall from the trees, I can see above and beyond the houses across the street from me. I can see the wide expanse of peaks and valleys that is invisible to me when everything is in bloom. 

I can see so clearly the gorgeousness that happens when things end, when the ending is really only something beginning again. 

I cry and rant and lock myself in the prison of asking why. 

But then I shake it off. I look outside. I fight for my own freedom. I keep moving. I attempt to accept with gratitude what the universe brings me. 

I begin again. 

“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.” ― Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and John Kessler


International Survivors of Suicide Day
On Saturday, November 17, survivors of suicide loss gather together in locations around the world to feel a sense of community, to promote healing, and to connect with others like them.

For more information or to find a gathering near you, click here to visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website.

If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Take That Magic Somewhere Else, Buddy

If you're familiar with Elf Magic, then you already know that these little assholes show up every year after Thanksgiving and start playing pranks and making messes, all in the name of "holiday spirit."

Holiday spirit, my ass.

Here's one good thing about getting older. I now have one child who is nearly a grown man and could give two hoots about pretending certain things exist. I have another child who is not a girl, not yet a woman. No, wait, that's Britney Spears circa 2001. The person in my house is a pre-teen with a penchant for drama and drinking orange Fanta. She also likes to "believe."

Kate's enthusiasm for holiday traditions is one of the things I love about her. She is very different from me in this way. I am not a person who gets overly worked up about the holidays or making sure we do the same thing year after year.  Kate wants a tree the day after Thanksgiving. She wants to decorate the entire house. She wants to know why I won't decorate the house with lights. (No. 1, I don't own a ladder. No. 2, I don't want to have to take down the lights a month later.)

Keeping up with these mother-effing elves is not one of my favorite holiday activities. (My favorite holiday activities are drinking bourbon, making S'mores, watching The Sound of Music until right after the gazebo scene, and posting this 2007 photo of what Jacob did with my stepmother's salt and pepper shakers.)

I like all these things but I don't like anything that creates more clean-up work for me.

That is why I DO NOT condone the mess-making that is supposed to occur with these elves and their "magic."

No, no, no.

Are there parents out there who don't have enough to do? Because, if you're that hard up for activities, I've got about 6 loads of laundry you can come put away.

Why would you create a mess just so your child will believe that Santa's elves are complete jackasses?!

I don't get it.

Parents should sit their little freeloaders down and say, "Santa sent one of his elves to help us out this holiday season. The holidays are very busy and it's important that everyone pitch in."

Nope, apparently Santa Claus sends his elves to jack up your shit. Thanks for nothing, you fat bastard.

So this year, if the girl is still into playing pretend, these elves better make themselves useful and not behave like the worst houseguests in the history of houseguestery!

They will clean. Yea! Look what Eileen did, she cleaned the kitchen last night!

They will cook. Yea! Bedford made us a batch of macaroni and cheese.
Oh, look, the elves teamed up to make Mommy a drink.

There will be none of last year's shenanigans, like when Bedford got drunk and naked, took a bath in marshmallows, and shoved his face in whipped cream.
He also called your mother a whore.

Bedford, you so nasty.

The elves will not:

Mess up the living room with five gajillion post-it notes.
Seriously, who does this? 

Waste the toilet paper.
In this economy? Oh, hell no. Ain't nobody got money to waste on toilet paper.

Fish out of the toilet. Dude, that's gross.

Clean the toilet? Yes.

I expect the elves to be extremely well-behaved this year.

Or else I'll let our evil cat Lucy have her way with them.
Satan sent me here to destroy everything in your house.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

This Hater's Gonna Hate (Bad Mood Gif Party)

Channing Tatum is People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive. This is likely the only time you will ever hear the sentence, "The sexiest man alive is from Alabama."

So enjoy it while you can, Alabama. Because mostly you are only likely to win Baldest or Puffiest or Visor-Wearingest or North-Face-Jacket-But-No-Physical-Activity-Havingest.

I apologize, Alabama. That was uncalled for.

I'm in a grumpy mood today. I mean, something must be wrong, because I just clicked through an entire gallery of photos of "sexy" men on and mostly I thought this:


Who cares?

Yeah, maybe...
OK, sort of.
How much gel is in your hair, man?
Blah again.
Meh again.

I blame the weather. I blame this gloomy day. I blame fall. I blame Julia Roberts. Don't question why, just do it. You'll feel better if you blame her, too.

(Want to feel even better? Go read the greatest movie review EVER of Eat Pray Love.)

I also blame the fact that I woke up this morning feeling incredibly old and fat and tired.

I feel like gravity is really taking a toll on me lately. It's just a theory, right? Can I choose to ignore it the way people ignore evolution or climate change? Will this stop me from feeling like my eyelids and mouth and neck and boobs and ass are all trying desperately to touch the ground?

If I see one more story about people signing petitions to secede, I might scream.

The focus seems to be largely on Texas, although numerous other dumbasses in other states have signed petitions. Some folks are signing petitions for states in which they don't even live. Congratulations, you're an idiot.

The percentage of people signing these petitions is incredibly small. The media might as well do stories on kids who threaten to run away from home. The threats carry the same potential for actual follow-through, and the parents probably react much as most of America is right now. Don't forget to pack your underwear. Here's a PB&J. Have a nice trip. Good luck out there.

I have now read two stories about men who "committed suicide because Obama was reelected." This makes me want to scream, too. A person doesn't commit suicide because of who won an election. A person commits suicide because he is mentally ill. MENTALLY ILL. Americans, who will spend all damn day talking about cancer and buying bullshit pink toasters, can't spend half a second discussing mental illness and the toll it takes on the country every day.

This isn't about being crazy. This is about mental health. This is about suffering from depression or intense anxiety or paranoia or any other number of things. (A case could probably be made that one of these other number of things is exacerbated by watching too much irresponsible fear-mongering on Fox News.)

A mentally ill person will latch onto a reason that makes no sense in the grand scheme of things. Here, look, here's the reason. Those left behind will do this, too.

I live with this truth every God damn day of my life, so you can just go ahead and believe me.

Fuck these stories and their sensationalism.


The General Petraeus thing doesn't interest me. Too many people involved, too much immature silliness, too many people using the phrase "Tampa socialite" with a straight face.

Do you ever hate-watch The 700 Club just to see what that senile fool Pat Robertson might say? I do. He said you can't blame the general. He was in a foreign land, lonely, and a woman was throwing herself at him. And this: "He's a man."

So all men cheat? (And it's because a woman was throwing herself at the man, naturally.)

I've heard this before. We have to hear this EVERY time a person of fame cheats on his wife. A man with whom I briefly went out told me that it is IMPOSSIBLE for men not to cheat if given the opportunity.

Chris Rock put it perfectly when he said, "Men are as faithful as their options."

It makes me sad for men that people obviously believe this about them. It makes men seem rather pathetic.

But I don't actually believe that ALL men cheat, because I don't believe that ALL (fill-in-the-blank people of a certain group) always do (fill-in-the-blank with a certain activity).

For instance, it's that time of year when I want to call radio stations and tell them to shove their obnoxious jewelry store advertisements, because, if you listen to a few of these, you will start to believe that ALL women are money-grubbing, diamond-lusting pains in the ass.

Just as certain magazines make me realize I will never be Southern enough (that's a post for another day), advertisements for jewelry stores make me realize I will never be woman enough.

These ads are all of the "Ladies love diamonds, son! You better get Whoredelia a diamond or you'll be in the doghouse. Hardy har har!" variety.

I've never been one to lust over jewelry. I once knew someone who bragged about the value of all the jewelry she was wearing on her body often enough that one would be right to question the value of what was in her heart.

I think maybe I just don't like the pressure that some people put on other people to buy them things that better cost the right amount and be from the right store and send the right message.

A friend once told me a story about a woman who turned down an engagement ring from her fiance, a ring that his grandmother brought to America from the "old country," because it was not WORTH ENOUGH.

People like this get married every day. For better or worse? HA! Count on the worse, buddy boy.

But in no way are ALL women acting this way just as not ALL men are cheating. (I do have a theory that most of the cheaters are married to the that's-not-worth-enough people, but I could be wrong.)

If I see one more person on the Internet argue that this country was founded as a Christian nation and then use as proof that "God" is in the Pledge of Allegiance, I will pummel someone with a history book. "In God we trust" became the official motto of the country in the 1950s and that is also when God was added to the Pledge (1954). Seriously, why are people so unashamed to reveal their ignorance online? I mean, discuss all the livelong day whether or not you totally love the idea of a "free" country being based on only one religious doctrine, but at least get your damn facts straight.

Just whatever.
It's best to stay away from me today. I have been taking care of a sick seventh-grader for five days.
It is like serving an irrational dictator in a country where middle school lasts FOREVER. That is if dictators cry about getting Sunkist instead of orange Fanta.

You want to mess with me today?