Archive | December, 2011

Out Of The Woods

29 Dec

I’m out of the woods for a day or so and just wanted to drop in and say hello. I’m back on my regular schedule next week. For realsies, y’all.

In the meantime, here are some pictures I’ve taken this week.

 

I Haven’t Left

21 Dec

I’m still here! Please don’t leave! I’ve had to take a couple of holiday detours and then will be out in the woods for a few days. You may not hear from me gain until after the new year. I know this is devastating to you. Have a couple whiskey sours to take the edge off.

Be kind to each other.

Unsubscribe

16 Dec

Last year I listened to a podcast that sort of rocked me. It was a conversation about happiness between the Dalai Lama, the chief rabbi of Britian, a Muslim scholar, and an Episcopal bishop. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks said we have created a consumer society which has confused happiness with the thing that actually causes unhappiness.  The consumer culture, he says, is “the most efficient system yet devised for the manufacture and distribution of unhappiness…The consumer society is constantly tempting us to spend money we don’t have, to buy things we don’t need, for the sake of a happiness that won’t last.” That talk led me to do something radical. I unsubscribed to all my email sale notices.

Unemployment, underemployment, medical bills, car trouble, house trouble, back trouble, trouble trouble. Those things have contributed to our being less than stellar consumers the past couple of years. I realized I was subscribed to approximately 403, 297 email newsletters, sales notifications, new product notifications, and handy tips. I read roughly 5% of those, so why was I still getting them? At first, I thought it was because I liked looking at pretty things. And a $269 copper saucepan from Williams Sonoma is, indeed, a pretty thing. Then I realized they were just making me miserable.

This house is an advertiser’s worst nightmare. We don’t have cable so that means our TV time mainly consists of PBS. Chuck and I hate the commercial radio stations in town so the tuners are set to NPR and WEVL, which is listener-supported radio. We do watch football which has become one big beer and razor commercial. So there’s that. I spend a lot of time online and I get several magazines so it’s not like I’m all what is this commercial you speak of? We were raised in families who owned family business, my husband works for a family business now, and we’d rather shop the little guy. We were in retail for a combined 368 years so we understand about promotional pricing, shelf displays, and gifts with purchase. We’re more concerned with value than low price and we will generally wait to get the thing we want rather than just getting something to make do. That’s why I’m wearing a 30-year-old coat of my dad’s. I’ve yet to find a coat with all the features I require, but that’s another story. I stopped all the flyers and direct mail I could about three years ago and we’re opted out of credit card solicitation. I don’t believe a car is the same thing as status and I do not have deeply held convictions about high octane gas, nor do I believe there could possibly be that much difference between the $15 windshield wipers and the $30 ones. I’ve been buying store brand everything almost exclusively for years now, and my friends  have not once berated me on the quality of my Bolognese sauce due to inferior canned tomatoes.

You must understand that I’m not being that woman. I’m a First World Capitalist, make no mistake. I’m not saying giving up weekly emails from Crate and Barrel is the same as selling all my possessions and moving to a remote Andes village to work with blind llamas. I understand there are literally billions of people who would consider me the poster child for Ugly American Consumerism. What I am saying is that I seem to be much less miserable about the things I want that I don’t have, and I believe that to be because they aren’t flashing in front of my face all day. You know that saying that you can’t miss what you never had? It’s not true. That’s exactly what advertising does. You occasionally ache with love lost over that big screen TV you didn’t get. Admit it. We’ve all done it about something. Further, it’s ridiculous to say that we don’t need advertising. I believe we do mainly because I believe it to be an art form in its own way. Advertising touches something inside us just like Bach or a Calder mobile. And in their own ways, those things are advertising. Have you ever heard a song and then gone to buy the album?  Have you ever seen an exhibit in a museum and then gone to the gift shop to buy a book about the artist?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot since it’s the holiday season. (Let me just stop a minute and stress that HOLIDAY part. The season is more than just Christmas. We celebrated Thanksgiving and we will celebrate the new year. We have friends who celebrate Hanukkah, St. Nicholas Day, St. Lucia Day, Advent, Solstice, Kwanzaa, and Boxing Day. If this makes you angry, I’ll pray for you, but save the lecture. We can talk about putting the Christ back in Christmas as soon as you stop putting up a tree every year and tell your kids Santa’s not coming to town) I haven’t totally moved away from the orgy of holiday advertising, but I’m kind of living in the exurbs of it. I don’t know that I can say the silence has made me focus on the important part of the season. I’m not sure I still entirely understand what the important part of the season is. I know that I am released from the great pressure of BUY BUY BUY!! The past several years have made me view the holidays differently even before I went all UNSUBSCRIBE. No, that’s not true. I don’t view the holidays differently. What is important and what is good has changed for me regardless of what time of year it is.

Let me just tell you–in case you’re confused– that having the newest car, iPod, whatever does not fix a broken life. You’re not miserable because you don’t have an XBox or a Mercedes. You’re miserable because you’ve confused happiness with ownership. The one with me most toys doesn’t win. The credit card they were charged to does.

Stop With The Living, Laughing, Loving Already

14 Dec

Siddown. We need to talk about my issues with living, laughing, and loving. It is said one should live well, laugh often, and love much. You know who says that? THE WALLS. Your freaking freaky walls would like to talk to you about your life habits. Like such:

I, obviously, have a few issues here. First? Walls shouldn’t talk. Once the walls start talking, you’re going to have a really hard time selling. Just trust me on this one. Because once the walls start talking, you’re like ten minutes from blood coming out of the vents and your slut friend getting her throat slashed by a deranged clown zombie who used to be a janitor. IT HAPPENS. Now, allow me walk you point by point through some other issues.

  • Live Well.  Who can live well in this economy, huh? Do you really want your living room mocking you? Do you want your bedroom reminding you that you have resorted to hanging your business suit on the porch overnight because you can’t afford dry cleaning anymore? DO YOU? Perhaps you’d rather have your den remind you to live well while you’re stuffing your pie hole with raw cookie dough while watching your “Gilmore Girls” boxed set? Let’s take a wall decal out of the arrangement. Perhaps it’s a clock, a poster, or (*shudder*) a t-shirt on a teddy bear sitting on your mantel that’s telling you to live well. If you have to be reminded to live well, I’ll pray for your soul because no decorative plaster plaque or photograph of a girl with windblown hair walking on a beach is going to help you.
  • Laugh Often. Laughter is the best medicine only if there is no Shiraz in the house. Besides, there are plenty of cases where laughter is not appropriate. For example, when your slut friend is killed by that deranged clown zombie in front of your other dinner guests. Not a good time to laugh, but yet? The painted wooden blocks sitting at jaunty angles on your mantelpiece are telling your otherwise. Fellas, do you really want to be looking at that while you’re, um, with your special someone? Or even when you’re not. In fact, I’d say especially if you’re not. And this is a terrible dictum if you have children. How many times have you had to go all grown-up on your kid’s ass with a WIPE THAT SMIRK OFF YOUR FACE? What are you going to do when little Timmy points up at your cross-stitched motto and tells you to suck it? Huh? What then?
  • Love Much.  I don’t need to tell you how dangerous this one is. “Honey, I thought about not spending the afternoon in the supply closet with Wendy, but then I remembered that adorable rustic wooden sign with the hearts and stars and ducks. You know? The one hanging in the bathroom? And I thought, man, if I don’t tap th–I mean. It just made such an impression on me.” You do not need to love much. Simplify. Love occasionally. It will help with chafing.

Sweet Fancy Moses Award

12 Dec

Y’all, I feel like I’m beating my head against a hard brick wall of stupid. Today I’m introducing an award. It’s called The Sweet Fancy Moses. The winner or winners are people or issues that make me want to barricade myself inside my house and eat lots of fudge.  Let’s chat a moment, shall we?

Newt. We need to talk about Newt. Despite the fact that I totally yelled “BUUUUUURN!” at the television the other night when he told Romney he was not a career politician only because he lost to Teddy Kennedy in 1994, Newt has today earned a Sweet Fancy Moses from me by pledging “to uphold the institution of marriage through personal fidelity to my spouse.” Um? Newt? I don’t want to pick nits here, but didn’t you pretty much do that when you got married? All three times? Now, I understand your love of country got you all hawt and bothered. Okay, I don’t understand that. I understand that’s what you said after you’d cheated. “There’s no question at times in my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate.” You said that. So what, exactly, is going to happen if the fine people of The US of A elect you as our supreme overlord president? If you thought you were workin’ hard trying to crucify Clinton for knockin’ boots with an intern, what is it you think’s going to happen as president? Or do you just not feel as passionately about your country as you did then? There’s a pill for that. But if you stand for the Pledge Of Allegiance for more than four hours, call a doctor. 

A no adultery pledge means about as much as renewing wedding vows. THAT’S WHAT MARRIAGE MEANS. That part where you said you’d forsake all others until death? That means it’s not like your driver’s license. You don’t have to renew every four years.

Interestingly enough, in this pledge, Newt also promised to respect the marital bonds of others. AWESOME! So now I guess that means he believes the gays can get married and take part in such subversive acts as joint tax returns just like the rest…oh. I’m getting word that is not actually what that means. Newt also promised to do away with big government by using the federal government to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act, enacting and promoting legislation to allow healthcare workers not to treat people if it conflicts with their religious beliefs, and enact legislation to promote a pro-fetus agenda. Newt, I think you and I have a different idea of what big government means.

Congratulations, Newt. You’re in good company with your SFM Award. A company such as Lowe’s.

Apparently there’s a show called “All-American Muslim” which is, obviously, about a Catholic family in Tokyo. I kid. I’d never hear of it until today because I don’t have cable and I don’t get out much. You can watch the show on the same network that brings you such thought-provoking programs as “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant” and “Extreme Couponing”. It’s about Muslim families in Dearborn, Michigan. Point is, Lowe’s pulled out as an advertiser after pressure from a group called the Florida Family Association. I’m not linking to their site. You’ll have to go on your own if you want to get in on their particular brand of hate.

According to a story on mlive.com, a Michigan news site, a Lowe’s spokesperson said, “We understand the program raised concerns, complaints, or issues from multiple sides of the viewer spectrum, which we found after doing research of news articles and blogs covering the show. We based our decision to pull the advertising on this research and after hearing the concerns we received through emails, calls, through social media and in news reports.”

In case you’re interested in the sort of anti-American, jihadist propaganda the show espouses, let me show you something from the show. A new mother,  Nawal Aoude, wrote a letter to her newborn son. It will give you a good idea of their radical agenda up there in Michigan:

My dearest Naseem,

Before you were born, your father bought a journal. We agreed to write in it and document your first year in this world. When you’re old enough, you’ll read all about the adventures and emotions we had welcoming you into this world. He writes in it almost every day. However, you might notice that it takes many weeks (6 to be exact) before I write my first entry. There is a reason for this. Hopefully this letter will help you understand why it took me a while to find the strength and courage to write.  

Looking at you, now 4 months old, it is so hard for me to express or describe what these past months have been like. No amount of words can describe the worries, the joy, and most importantly the love that have consumed my heart all starting with your first breath of air at 11:28 am on August 5, 2011.

Becoming a mom, most importantly –YOUR mom, has been a wonderful experience and nothing will ever take the place of the emotions I felt the first time I held you in my arms. 

My lovely boy, bringing you home was the beginning of a rollercoaster ride of emotions that weren’t easy. In my mind, you had become my ultimate responsibility—it was just you and I, there were no more physicians, and no more nurses to help usher me into motherhood. This terrified me. I was so afraid that I wasn’t good enough.  Your beauty and innocence was intimidating. How could I care for such perfection? I am not perfect; I make mistakes, and what if I made a mistake? These were my thoughts…I couldn’t afford to make a mistake; the repercussions were too great to take any chances. So, what was I to do?  

Overwhelmed with all of these scary feelings was isolating. I felt helpless; I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that I wasn’t able to control the situation…(something you’ll come to learn is very unusual for me).

As I began to recover (physically) from delivering you into this world, I was desperately trying to recover emotionally and mentally as well. I lost all sense of my identity — who was I? Was I the respiratory therapist who nursed newborns back to health? The 25 year old, devoted wife of Nader Aoude, or now the loving and nurturing mother of Naseem Aoude? And if I’m a combination of all of these things, how do I begin to create this new and improved identity. It wasn’t easy to conceptualize.

In prayer, during Qunoot (supplication during prayer) I begged for answers. At Sujood (prostration during prayer) I cried and cried. I had no way of releasing my emotions but through my constant, uncontrollable cries and prayer.

But, my point Naseem, and this is the one most important thing I need you to always know: although my recovery was a hard time for me, in no way did this affect my love for you and happiness that was buried deep down inside.

The truth is, it was YOUR beautiful face that got me through these rough moments. It was the sound of YOUR voice that comforted me. It was YOU…..And your dad of course —lets not forget about him. He is the backbone to our family; and without him there is no us.

And now, as I find my way back to our new normal, one thing has become increasingly clear: Motherhood is one of God’s greatest rewards in life. And, Alhamdulillah (thank God), I have been blessed with this opportunity.  

Every new dawn is a new day, a new breath, a new Naseem. And it is you who brings me to life everyday. My little one, it is you who has taught me about the greatest rewards in this world.  It was you who brought me back to life. I have become a woman beyond capable measures—totally exceeding any expectations I ever had for myself.  Thank You  my angel.

I love you.  

Yours always,

Mama

Here’s a tissue. I kind of needed one after reading that. I think if you substituted “Margaret” for “Nawal” and “Brad” for “Naseem”, no one would give this show a second look. After perusing the website of the show, I recommend they change the name to “Muslims Doing Boring Stuff” or “Normal Americans Who Love Their Families”. These are fairly conservative Americans, guys.

Lowe’s has acted irresponsibly, and I don’t necessarily mean by pulling the ads. Lowe’s apparently didn’t do its homework on the front end to find out about where it was putting its advertising dollars. If they don’t want to advertise on a certain show, that’s fine. But there is doing what you want and doing what’s right. Lowe’s had a chance to do right and blew it. The company could have said, you know what? We don’t discriminate based on religion. Period, end of discussion. But it didn’t and now it’s getting tons of free publicity which, honestly, I believe to be the reason the company pulled the ads. Why pay for something you can get free? There’s no such thing as bad publicity, right? As Oscar Wilde said, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”

Congratulations to today’s Sweet Fancy Moses winners!

My 19th Nervous Breakdown

11 Dec

You know how you’re just going along, minding your own business, maybe humming a little Al Green, and then BOOM! You smack your head on something, you break your favorite coffee mug, you hate all of your clothes, and you realize you made a big mistake not going to that Meat Puppets concert the last time they were in town? And then you decide you hate the color of your living room, your husband averts his eyes and communicates in post-its rather than be in the same room with you because you are completely, totally, and incontrovertibly insane?

I know it’s not just me. I SAID, I KNOW IT’S NOT. JUST. ME.

Back when the world was young and I was a transfer student at THE University of Southern Mississippi, I had this sofa and chair I got from Salvation Army. They came en suite. Learn from my mistake: If it’s a two-for-one deal at Salvation Army? You need to run. Fast.  They were promptly covered with the finest boho sheets McRae’s in Hattiesburg, Mississippi could supply. Staple guns were involved. This was no amateur operation, obviously. Things in my world were a little upside down. I went through a period of truly horrible insomnia (an affliction that seems to have reversed itself nicely). There was a boy who was totally uninterested and another who was a little too interested. I believe he’d be what the kids today call a creeper. My philosophy professor convinced me that I really did not need to be a sociology major, I should be one of, oh, three women philosophy majors. There was talk of a scholarship which was quickly dropped when my professor lost track of what he was talking about and started ranting about the owner of the only health food store in town having flyers on the bulletin board for the John Birch Society.

The chair accepted its new slipcover nicely. With grace. The couch? The couch became the Marshall Stack of all the negative energy in my life with its percussive beat pounding out a tattoo of failure. It would not stay covered. It groaned, shrugged, and thoroughly rejected its new look. I would tuck in one side only to have the other pop out. It disdained its coat with all the enthusiasm as a six-year-old boy trying to get out of wearing his church clothes. The harder I tried to make the thing look presentable, the harder it worked to look distressed. No one would sit on it for fear it would eject a staple into an available buttock.

For everything that went wrong–I was convinced my macro economics instructor was not speaking English, my therapist seemed to have no interest in me as she was trying to build a career as a Pine Belt Dr. Phil, I couldn’t fit my favorite jeans–my couch would pop a staple or un-tuck itself. The couch became the symbol of My Very Sad Life. The more wound up about something I got, the more recalcitrant the couch became. I even–and this is God’s honest truth–said incantations over it and burned sage in a smudge pot trying to release the negative energy from it. When I moved, my friend’s mother wanted the thing. We again saged it in hopes it would not take its evilness with it to her home. I know the couch wasn’t the cause of my problems. I know that NOW. Then? I just knew when I was not there it huddled in the corner with its black eyeliner, combat boots, and burn book hatching plots to ruin my life. “Dear Diary, ” it would write, “I’m totally gonna come undone when she has company. She thinks she’s such hot snot. I’ll pop a cap in her ass. Or staple. Whateverrrrr. I was listening to The Cure waaaay before SHE was!!”

I have a room in my house like that now. We charitably call it the office, but it’s more an over-sized closet the former homeowners painted dark lacquer red after apparently suffering from some sort of seizure brought on by watching too much HGTV.  For reasons I don’t entirely understand, it’s become a Repository Of Crap. Most of the art supplies I worked to get moved into Standard Shed have migrated back into there, old photos are scattered all over. It looks like the morning after a raging kegger at the FIJI house. No, that’s not true. It’s like there were ten deranged scrapbookers living in there until their hot glue gun accidentally ignited some paint thinner and the place BLEW THE HELL UP.

I have placed all my anxiety in that room. And by that, I don’t mean that I’ve put it in there and locked it up so I can get on with life. I mean it’s become a symbol of everything I can’t control. The disorder of the room, in a trick worthy of the Old Testament,  has become the writing projects I haven’t finished, the laundry that didn’t get done before we were all out of socks, the kitchen that isn’t clean enough, the Christmas decorations that probably won’t get put up, the car that needs to go to the shop. And I know, on the surface, those things don’t really sound like things worthy of a nervous breakdown, which I believe myself to be having DESPITE THE FACT I have an amazing therapeutic team;  the most caring friends anyone could ask for; a husband who thinks I’m the nifty; a supportive family; AND that there isn’t actually any such thing as a nervous breakdown.

Some people respond to stress by making lists or organizing their sock drawers. I respond to stress by shutting down, craving carbohydrates, and bursting into tears every ten minutes. I want to disappear. I want to be away from myself, from anyone, because at that point I’ve turned toxic. No one should have to be around me.  The dirty kitchen becomes every failure of my life. And if there is one thing at which I excel, it’s spectacular failures.  The mess I feel I can’t control becomes the overwhelming emotion. It becomes glaringly obvious how everything is MY problem because everyone else is acting as if nothing’s wrong.

For as much as I can sit here and talk to invisible people on the other end of the internet about what’s going on in my head, it doesn’t actually come out like this when trying to explain to my husband why picking up a can of diced tomatoes is making me cry. So I write. Not just because I’m emotionally unavailable, but because I’d like not to be. That’s what you call your classic crazy person conundrum.

The mentally ill such as myself–and I really prefer the terms touched (Tetched, as we say here) or batshit crazy–don’t respond to things like the rest of the world. A problem isn’t a thing with a solution. IT’S SOMETHING I CAN’T HANDLE! I’M TOTALLY WORTHLESS! WHY DO YOU STAY WITH ME? A bad day isn’t just a bad day. It is the beginning of endless punishment for being a weak human being who can’t even wash some damn socks. Here’s the best way I know to explain what goes on when I get, well, weird. It’s like I’m driving a car from the backseat and I’m going to work naked. And I know I have to take exit 3A, but I know 3A is closed. Now, I can take 3B and go in a back way that takes a little longer, but gets me there. YET, I still take 3A. I think it must be like being a self-aware robot. Or a clone. The worst part isn’t that I took 3A. It’s that I knew to take 3B.

My friend says Mercury is in retrograde so a lot of people are kind of weird. Not–to use clinical terms–dealing with our shit very well right now. I figure there’s probably someone out there who feels my pain. Hot tea helps. So do clean socks. So go do a load of laundry and put on some lipstick. It’s a start. Also? I find The Rolling Stones always help.

Blech.

7 Dec

I make the world’s worst sick person. I worse than any man when I’m sick. I alternately want no one near me, yet someone close to cater to my every wish and tissue need. Today I feel like hammered snot. I’m typing this from my sickbed. See what I do for you, The Internetz? I’ll be back in a day or two.

Now, could you get me some Vapo-Rub and tea?