The Tupperware of My Enemy Is My Friend…Or at Least My Goodwill Donation

Are you like I have been? Do you invite everyone over? When you move someplace new, do you invite the neighbors in, rather than wait for them to possibly invite you? (Pre-Covid and all that…) Are you the first to say, “Need a place to hold it? We can come to my place!”

I am that person.

Or, I should correct, I have always been.

Some people are cautious, with their time, their privacy, their resources, their personhood.

I have not been very good at any of that, and I have always gone on the assumption that everyone will be open and welcoming, given the chance to be so, so why not be the one to start the ball rolling?

I’m less sure of that now, and I don’t think it is a bad thing. In any case, I’m no longer interested in it.

Don’t bemoan my fate. I’ve not become a hater or anything. I’m just changing my priorities, or, I might even say, having some.

Back-in-the-day, as we old-heads say, the people I was having in were usually people I’d grown up with, and their extended new friends/family. That was almost always fine, because we had a life-long understanding of each other, and we knew that the night was going to end with everyone, drunk or sober, belting out “Born to Run” as loud as possible. (That’s right, as LOUD as possible, not as loudly as possible, for we were from Philly, and we didn’t give a good fuck about grammar.) I never had to specify pot-luck. Everyone knew, and the tables would groan under the weight of the too many dishes everyone (many of them fine Italian cooks) would bring. It was pretty great.

But, as happens, we all moved, followed our partners, our passions, or the sun, and ended up too far away for those parties to happen anymore.

I went forward, assuming that everyone would be similar, that people were people like my people, but that is not the case, and, truly, I was dumb-da-dumb-dumb-stupid to think so.

Still, it’s probably good that I went forward into the world swinging wide the doors to my house. I think that’s where my head and my heart were at the time, and I think it was right for me, and lot’s of good came of it, but, ultimately, whatever came of it, good or bad, really wasn’t what I was looking for.

So what was I looking for? What are you looking for? Do you know?

I think some of that changes as we age, and some of it stays the same, of course, Captain Obvious in the house..

My priorities have shifted. They are much more about my family of three, and much less about everyone else. I have been a care-taker, not with the old-school Philly peeps, but with all who came after, more or less, and that’s who I thought I was, and who I thought I wanted to be, and how I thought I mattered in the world.

It has long been a goal of mine to, in some way, matter in the world. And I think I kept that as a hope, clenched in my hand, and now, I’ve let go of it. Whether or not I matter in the world, whether or not anyone knows I was alive after I am dead, these things no longer matter to me. I matter to me, and being happy and enjoying my life matter to me. When I’m dead, I won’t care if I mattered to you or not. I will care, right before I die, if I’ve enjoyed my life, and spent it with the people who matter to me, and not spent it continually courting the people I kept hoping I would matter to. And why did I hope I would matter to them? I think I thought they were cooler than me. How junior high is that? I’m a dope. I’m cool enough on my own.

As I pack up and get ready to move from where I am to someplace that, in my view, is, for a whole host of reasons, better, I am clearing things out, taking car loads of things, things I no longer need or care about, to Goodwill. Putting furniture out and listing it FREE on Craigslist. Instead of opening the door to the house and beckoning people in, I’m opening the door to the house and shooing things out.

Of all the houses I have owned and the apartments I have rented, this is the one I have loved the most, and been the most comfortable in, and now cannot wait to get away from. I accomplished all I could, and now I want to leave it behind; it is too big; it holds too many people and things; it’s so beyond what I need or want that it is a chore. I want to lighten up, to spend my time walking hand-in-hand with my husband, or hitting the beach or the mall with my daughter, or traveling with both of them, just for fun, and, aside from work, which we all must do, not doing a heck-of-a-fuck else. I’ve said my goodbyes, in the way I want to say them, and seen who I want to see, and soon I’ll be on the road, which I love. I love being on the road. I like the new thing, the next chapter, I just don’t like the holding pattern of transition, and the goodbyes before leaving.

So, during this last adventure, here in this big house, I may have had more people in then I have ever had over before, and I have been asked to visit less of those people in their homes than ever before. I ran into a lot of takers. Not that they are, in fact, my enemies (as the title implies…). They just never were true friends. They were just people who were happy to be invited someplace. I gave them something to do that cost them little-to-no effort. They gave me a feeling of purpose, I guess. Occasionally those people, willing or under duress, brought things to the house, and, sometimes, accidentally left them here, and some of those things are serving dishes or plastic-wear (hence the title of this post), or odd little gifts that were stand-ins for time spent together caring about each other, and no matter what it was, it really has no meaning or love behind its presence here, and it all gotta go.

And so too must my attention, care, concern, and friendship. In the words of Roy Orbison, “It’s over; it’s over; it’s over.”

If I sound angry, that is only the limits of the written word. I’m not at all angry. I’m relieved. I never fit here, and the lack of true friendship was only part of the lack of a good fit. But it took me about 3 years to see it, which is 3 too many, and 3 I’ll never get back. For those lost years I am a little dissatisfied with myself, but, I grew me during that time, and I grew my marriage, and I grew my child, who is really a formed person unto herself, and did not fall apart, but thrived, during the pandemic, and of who I am so very fond of and proud to know. I want to give her better soil to grow in than they have here. And I am exploring my heart’s desires, and reaching for what I want, and I am wholly focused on it.

Time, if the pandemic taught us anything, is not limitless. Maybe it is for a virus, or the universe, but for poor frail humans it is very much a trip that comes to an end. And, maybe the second thing I feel I learned is that when, where, and how that end happens is not in our control. So, up until that ending comes and knocks at your door, you had better be spending all the time you can afford to (meaning all your away from work time) doing things that will make you miss you, when you are gone. And to hell with everything else. I’m certainly going to try to do it, and I’m going to be very imperfect at it, and it’s about damn time I shifted my focus from out-there, and on you or you or you, or that guy, to in here, and on me and we three.

With love to Wes Anderson, for teaching me all I ever needed to learn:

Forward Through Grief

I am one of those annoying people who always has advice, and who is always thinking about how to proceed with life.

When we lose people, places, things, etc., the challenge is moving forward. Sometimes it can feel disrespectful to move forward, as if we are not giving enough notice to grief, and what is gone. Also, though, I have noticed that it sometimes feels, when I am in grief, like I am a rock in a stream. I am still, and grieving, but everything, including the thing being grieved, is whipping past me in the current, and it becomes my choice, I often feel, to decide whether to stay behind, and if so, how long, or whether or not to move forward.

There is a brilliant chapter in the brilliant book, The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien, that covers this very point. The chapter, “Speaking of Courage,” illustrates quite clearly how a soldier, home from war, and in grief, is not only passed-by by life, everyone around him that he used to be in step with has moved forward in life, and his time in the war made him behind them, but his grief keeps him behind. He is grieving the loss of a fellow soldier, and feeling responsible for it, and he cannot let go. War, of course, is a shit-show, and none of the foot soldiers are really responsible for what happens after they find themselves in the meat grinder of war, but that lack of control almost makes them hold on to their position as the rock in the stream when they return, and they stay where they are, hoping for a way to affect a situation that they had no control over, and that, for them, is over. For myself, when a pet dies, like my cat Jones, see prior post, I often feel myself asking what might have happened differently to cause a different outcome. I think this double whammy of grief, and trying to control the out-of-control, keeps us still in the water, cemented, while everything alive and good rushes past us.

And, so, we must first (and here is the annoying advice part) tell ourselves that we are allowed to pick our feet up out of the riverbed. We are allowed to recline onto the water, and let the current move us forward until we can start paddling and directing our flow again. The first step to heal is to allow ourselves to move. It’s not disloyal, or shirking our duty, or unkind. There are so many living things around us, still needing and wanting us in our lives, that to stay still is the selfish part as it helps no one.

But how the fuck do you get yourself to loose your grip on the pain of grief, the pain of being out-of-control?

One thing that always helps me is to watch a funny movie, like really funny, can’t help but laugh even a little. Or my favorite movie, which is all about releasing grip, The Darjeeling Limited. That one always helps, even though it’s not funny.

Another tried and true way for me to become alive again is to create. When we lose something, and we respond by creating, we gain something. Maybe it is not as wonderful or large or etc. as what we lost, but it is creation in a space that is left bereft. We begin, in a small way, to fill the void.

So, today, I created my lunch. Homemade hummus (which makes it almost impossible to eat store bought), is what I have created today. My hummus has chick peas (garbanzo beans) in it, and also olive oil, and lemon juice, and tahini, and garlic, and cumin (I love cumin!). To serve my hummus I like to add some chickpeas on top, and some drizzled olive oil, and some ground salt, and… this to me is the genius part, some hand-chopped pistachios. You could make this with any bean of your choice almost (maybe pintos would be too soft), and any spice, and any nut or seed. It would probably be great covered in sesame, or served with little pickles maybe! I ate mine with some tortillas that I laid in a hot cast-iron pan for a minute to stiffen up.

I look out the window at the white tulips atop Jones, and I feel so sad, and I miss him. I told one of the other cats last night as we looked out the window that Jones was on the wrong side of the glass. And he is. But, he had a bad disease that I couldn’t fix, and it broke my heart to let him go. And isn’t that the best we all can hope for, that we break someone’s heart a little when we have to be let go?

But I cannot stop and be a rock in the stream. There are other people and pets I am supposed to be loving, and they deserve me too. I need to start moving in the water again. And creating, even a fancy lunch, is a good way to start.

Today’s Blog Post Is Brought To You By The Letter T

HA! I took this snap, just to see what I’m looking like these days while I tutor… and there it was… Tina Belcher, TUK shoes, and Tom (Robbins). Three Ts. Coincidence? Probably, she typed, with a wry expression on her face.

Lots been going on lately, not all good, but all different.

We said goodbye last week, to Baby Jones, or Jones, or Pinstripe Jones, as he was originally named.

Jones was a very sweet boy. He loved chasing the laser more than anything else, and he liked treats (Temptations) and wet food, and tuna. The funny thing about Jones, he always had his cuddle moments with me, but otherwise he kept to himself, and, just like Rosie, about two weeks before we could see he was sick, he started getting more friendly and cuddly with the other two humans I live with. He is the kitten I stole from a little girl while at the SPCA. Yes, I did that. We were in the kitten cage… she and her mom and me and one other person, and they released about 30 kittens that had just become eligible for adoption into the cage. It was like being in the glass case full of dollar bills from that old TV game show… you know what I mean. There he was, Jones, the striped boy I wanted. I tried to grab him, but he was like lightening around the cage and then, like that, the little girl somehow nabbed him. “I’m sorry; he’s mine,” I said, and took him and turned and walked out of the cage, while she and her mother stared at me with their mouths open. And just last week Jones died, too young, and with a very aggressive form of cancer. Am I sorry I stole him from a little girl? Nope. I’d take a short-lived Jones any day over no Jones at all. He was a very sweet young man. Sorry little girl. But, you’re in your teens now, and probably glad your cat is still alive. And I’m glad that Jones had us to live with in his short life. It is my feeling, having had a few feral cats now as pets (and Jones definitely was the son of a feral cat, and a bit uncivilized himself) that feral cats just don’t get the lifespan of non-feral cats. They have a charm all their own, and they certainly need us more, but they’re going to break your heart sooner than their more domestic brothers and sisters. I think the outdoor life is just hard, down to the cells and the bones.

At one point we had five cats here. And in the last three years, one went back to my mother (she had asked us to take two of her cats, and one, Henry, just never got comfortable around our dog, though our dog basically ignores the cats, so Henry went back to my mother who, after she gave us her two cats, went and got another one! So now Henry is with her, and her other cat, Joey, and is happy.), and Rosie, the feral tortie darling I rescued from a school parking lot that was wedged between I-95 and 295, succumbed to cancer (in her nose, and not treatable) in 2020, and Jones left us this year. It’s curious, because I was so worried about how Jones was going to take traveling when we move next month (in other news, we’re moving), and he always loved Rosie best of all; they often snuggled, and I have felt he’s missed her, and now he’s right next to her, together forever. I would have rather had Jones with me, but maybe he had other ideas about who he wanted to be with. I do think, having had five, that there is a limit to how many you can give good attention to if you have more than one cat per person. I know that we loved Henry, but it seemed like there was always someone else trying to get rubs first, and then add his fear of dogs in… it’s tough to give enough to all. And our dog is a fellow who doesn’t like to share his mom!

I was going to continue… but maybe that’s enough for today. Jones deserves his time, and so does my grief, which feels deep, as it always does when I lose a furry baby. It is down in there, burrowing away into my heart, and it won’t stay quiet for some time to come.

Oh, Baby Jones, Baby Jones, how I miss you. You had the softest most luxurious fur I ever felt, even softer than your long-haired brother. You had a sweet and gentle personality, and you were a big boy; you looked like a mountain lion until the day, oddly enough, you didn’t; you seemed to have gotten smaller overnight, and we should have known that it was not our perceptive abilities that had declined, but your physical ones. I love you, and you’ll always be so special to me, and I hope your journey was easy across the rainbow bridge to find your darling Rosie. Give her a kiss and a cuddle from us.

AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE

When’s the last time you visited my page?

Check me out!

An even better question is, “When is the last time you updated your own page?”

Are you a published writer? You gotta link your page to your blog, and keep it updated. Go in every so often and change your photo, etc. I always find it strange when I meet a writer who looks nothing like his/her photo because the photo is so old. Get rid of your HS yearbook photo and update it. Listen, you may have a wrinkle or two you didn’t have before, but your true fans wanna see you. The real you. Sometimes, if you look at your page as if you don’t know you, it can give you a boost, seeing all you’ve done, or it can give you some juice, seeing, “I can do more!”

Update yourself. 🙂

DEAD PEOPLE SHOULD NOT VISIT

Do you know the words to the Pink Panther theme song by the great Henri Mancini?

The words are, “Dead aunt, dead aunt, dead aunt dead aunt dead aunt dead aunt dead auuuuunt de-eh-eh-ed aunt.” And so on.

At exactly 3:08 pm yesterday I heard my dead aunt say my name.

My dead aunt, when she was alive, had a habit, throughout her life, that I was not fond of. She was a practitioner, nay, even a master, of the pop-in.

She was my mother’s older sister, significantly older, so she seemed to feel she had the right to do certain things, one of which was to pop-in.

And, as my mother never kept her door locked, and never would have turned her sister away anyway, my aunt could always pop-in.

This usually meant that whatever was happening at home, from cooking dinner to eating dinner, from hanging laundry on the line, to playing a game as a family, to being about to leave to go to a movie, or to the beach for a week, whatever it was, it had to stop, immediately, and wait until my aunt decided the pop-in was over. And, frequently, my aunt showed up to complain about her very emotionally cruel husband, or just to be vague and ask all of us a lot of questions to try to make some conversation as she was bored, her husband was cruel, and her kids had gotten the hell out of there as soon as they could, so she was lonely, and alone. I knew it, and I loved her, but geez, she had bad timing. As an example, she refused to come to the baby shower my friends threw me for adopting Sophie; she didn’t cotton to the whole adopting from another race and country thing, but she didn’t mind showing up just when we were about to leave (I was home from CA and staying with my mom) and making us all an hour late. We were literally on the front step when she pulled up, and my mother, who had the only car at the time, turned around and marched back into the house and sat down, clutching her keys so that we knew we were not escaping without her. My aunt slowly lumbered out of her car, up the drive, and into the house, and I had to make everyone tea and get out cookies. My aunt spent the hour or so dropping little hints about the adoption not being a good idea, was generally unencouraging and moody, and, I think, handed me a 50 dollar bill before she sighed a long sigh and left. Boy, was it fun driving to that shower with my mother after that (as my mother always thought her sister knew best because she was older, and she had married very rich), because now my mother was also in opposition to the adoption plan, and anxious about being so very late to a shower where my father’s girlfriend was also going to be, and where they all had been kindly and awkwardly waiting for us for over an hour by the time we arrived. My other aunt, my mom’s best friend, showed up and was a lot of fun. Here’s to dearly departed Aunt Peg, who I enjoyed enough to almost be willing to see while she is dead.

I want to pause here and say that we all have a birth-family, and a childhood family, and they may or may not be the same family, but when you get your very own, grown-up family (GUF), that you put together out of your chosen combination of spouse, kids, friends, pets, etc., your GUF should come first, people.

OMGosh. Do I really need to write that?

Yes. I do.

“I’m so sorry; we’re just headed out the door. I will call you_______” when I’m not headed to the movies with my kids for the last showing of (movie) that if we don’t leave now we will miss. SERIOUSLY.

When my aunt popped in she would open the front door, stick in her head, and say, “Dianne?” emphasis on ANNE, with a slightly louder-than-usual, slightly aggrieved-sounding voice.

That is what I heard yesterday, just when I had finished my long to-do of household chores, and, very hungry, was going to make a sandwich. I heard what sounded like the front door swooshing (my front door, not the one in the house where my aunt used to visit my mom), and my name, said in the same way (I am, unhappily, named after my mother.), “Di-ANNE?”

The chills.

Lets face it, there are people I knew who are dead who I would love to see again for one last chat, except that, for all of them, universally, they’d be dead.

Dearly departed please don’t visit.

Dead people should stay dead and not visit.

No one has ever accused me of having a spiritual side. I do not believe in an afterlife, or a divine whatsit, or prayer, or past lives, or karma, or karma-chameleon, or zen, or chanting, or whatever. Nope. That dog don’t hunt in my worldview.

And so I knew that it was not my aunt yesterday, but just a trick of the milieu of house noises + hunger.

I do not believe my dead aunt was suddenly thinking of me, or that she died, years ago now, at exactly that moment, or that she wants to tell me she’s glad I got the child, or still recommends against getting the child, or that I should call my mother, or that she’s hanging out with my brother and he’s okay, or that the money she always meant to give me is hidden in the samovar, or whatever. And, in truth, for those who espouse such thoughts about their own lives, it sounds to me not unlike a tropical fruit that people have been known to slip on.

The sound I heard sounded like my aunt, but, of course (do I need to write “of course?”), it was not my aunt. But it did once again reaffirm for me that, no, no, no: dead people should not visit, and, in my view, it’s the thought of them being able to visit that makes horror so horrifying. And not because they’d be zombies or ghosts, but simply because they’d be back. And dead, and probably smell.

Dead aunt, dead aunt, dead aunt, dead aunt, dead aunt, dead- I think Mancini must have felt the same way as me.

THANK A VETERAN, LIKE WILLIAM F. CRANDELL

It’s Veteran’s Day in the US of A, and there are lots of things you can do to thank a veteran, like picking up the tab at Starbucks, or saying, “Thank you for your service,” or many other things.

One thing you can do is to read a man’s book. That’s right; there is nothing you can do that will make a writer happier than reading something he, or she, wrote.

William Crandell, who is a veteran of the Vietnam War, happens to be a really talented writer in addition to being a veteran. He won the best short story nationally in 2019, in addition to his win in the state of Delaware.

Bill is releasing his first novel, one in a series of four starring hardboiled detective Jack Griffin, and he has already gotten a stellar review for it from Midwest Reviews.

Am I using a post about Veteran’s Day to hawk a man’s book? I am. It is no small thing to have served in a combat zone. 

And, therefore, why not? What better gift could you give Bill than to read his book? He served; we should care, and while we have limited time and what-have-you, this is one way people who like writers and creative writing can also add in appreciation for veterans. 

And, aside from that, this is really a very well-written book. It’s gonna grab you and transport you. And it’s fun; it has all that Humphrey-Bogart-patter you love in a good noir mystery.

So, you know, get a copy. Or give a copy. Today.

Thanks for your service, Bill.

POEM WITH ME

Whenever possible I have a little fun with my creative writing classes with Magnetic Poetry.

This semester, while cleaning up from our play-day, I found some nice word combos, and isn’t that the point of Magnetic Poetry?

So, c’mon, poem with me…

Comment with your creation!

No, you don’t have to use them in that order…. 😉

*SIGH* WHAT’S FOR DINNER?

Have you got any idea what to have?

This is one thing I would improve in my life, if I could.

Which is stupid to say because, of course I could.

But I just can’t! WAAAAAAaaaaaaaaah!

I mean, seriously, what to have for dinner?

Maybe you know what you’re having… tonight, you ol’ smarty you. But what about tomorrow night? Or the night after that?

I gotcha, don’t I?

It’s the “night after night.”

We actually have a friend, single guy, eats fast food every night of the week that he is on his own. I know it’s not a healthy way to live, and he is not in great shape, but, I get it. Zero thought.

I don’t mind cooking.

I just don’t want to have to have the thought.

Usually, my day starts with a wild run out the door to work, and my under-sung husband is wonderful enough to provide me with a half an egg sandwich (I only want 1/2) and coffee.

Six hours later I am home. When I walk in the door hubs is working, child is in her school a few blocks away, and I need desperately to pee and eat.

Cue two guinea pigs three cats and one dog to all squeal, meow, howl, and whine to be fed, walked, and watered all at the same time.

Finally, I get a chance to eat (pee first!) and I usually throw a packet of tuna on top of some lettuce. Then, some days, on Zoom ’till 5 or later, or grading papers, and pick up child at school. I tend to get hungry, shockers, a third time, and so do the other non-pet people who live with me, but we want to eat now! And no one has had an idea of what t cook yet.

Dinner. It’s so… extra.

One thing I have treated myself to, now that I am back to work, I order my groceries online. I go and pick them up at the grocery store, but that it, about 30 minutes in the car vs. 30 + an hour or more to do the shopping. I hate grocery shopping. At the closest crappy option for groceries, Food Lion, this luxury, of having another human load the cart and the bags for me, costs me $1.59. That’s the service fee. The groceries cost the same, plus a buck 59 to do the shopping. Honey I am worth it!

Yes, I tip the shopper.

I also buy less when I shop this way, and tend to plan what I am going to cook a bit more (a tiny bit). They say some writers are planners and some are pantsers. As a cook and a writer, I am a pantser.

What about you?

What’s for dinner tonight????

PS. Tonight, Dad and daughter are having leftover enchiladas I made last night. I am eating leftover oatmeal! It’s sad.

“Is it Work If You Do it From Home?”

Wow. I hope Nadja doesn’t mind me pointing you to her blog.

This post is just so on point.

I absolutely get her, as I sit here stealing a few minutes to write while Sophie is in an Outschool class.

Man, I wasn’t making it through the last year of homeschooling without Outschool.

And I was just thinking, yesterday, on a walk with the dog (who, since the pandemic, demands several each day, but, hey, how freaking boring is being a dog? I get it, my handsome Oliver.), how there were about 3 times over the last year where I had a “come to Jesus” meeting with my husband and daughter over homeschooling. Sure, Sophie loved practicing her instruments, taking art classes on Outschool, or doing science experiments with Dad. But math or grammar with Mom? Ho, oh, oh, no. “It’s not fair!” I whined. Yet, looking back on it on the walk yesterday, I think that, all-in-all, we did okay.

There’s something about motherhood though; a lot is expected of motherhood, and little is given in terms of respect for it. It’s like “Do the best freaking job at this of anyone, anywhere! And we’ll tell you how much more important what we’re doing is, and, if you screw up even an iota, we’ll tell you that too.” *sigh*

On the other hand, I feel like I am generally doing okay at raising a really nice kid who is truly dedicated to music and art, and can and will practice both independently. As, when I was a child, I wouldn’t practice anything independently (besides hiding well and reading), I think I’m doing a better job than my own, always angry, mother. It’s funny to call it a job, though, isn’t it? It both is, and isn’t, a job.

And I love every minute of being with my daughter, and I also want some minutes without her.

In any case, Nadja did a wonderful piece that I think will truly resonate with you, and her other writing ain’t bad either, as you can see in this piece.