June 26, 2009

The first rule of book club is you do not talk about books

I, for some reason, get weepy on planes. I don’t really know why this is. Maybe it is because I have to hold so much inside and refrain from saying and doing things on a plane that it escapes through my tear ducts. Right now, I am on a plane, in the window seat pressed against the wall, unable to move because the person next to me is kind of big. There is a family behind me with 2 small children. The kids are maybe 4 and 2. And they are bored. And trapped. And miserable. So am I, but I can’t cry and yell and kick the seat in front of me. I want to, but I can’t because it is frowned upon by the other people on the flight and airline employees.

I don’t mind that the 2 year old is kicking the back of my seat. I don’t care. There was a time when I would have. I would have been indignant and glared at the family because they could not “control” their children and were making me suffer. That was before I had a kid myself and realized that it is impossible to control a 2 year old anywhere much less on a plane and the most miserable person on the flight is generally the parent of the crying and screaming kids. I get that now and in fact, turned around and told the parents I did not care if their kid kicked the back of my chair all the way home to New Orleans. It, oddly, makes me feel closer to Max, who is home, in New Orleans.

A few years back, before the storm, before my mother died, before everything turned upside down and got all water logged, I was in a book club with my mom, my three sisters and some other women they knew. The number of us at each meeting fluctuated, but was usually about 7-8 women eating snacks, drinking wine and discussing the book of the month. This book club drove me bonkers. At the time, I was childless and traveled for my job even more than I do now. I was on planes 2-3 times a week and had a lot of free time. That free time, I now realize I squandered, but I digress.

During that time of my life, I was easily reading 5-7 books a week. I know, it is insane, but I had nothing but time. I would sit on airplanes and read novel after novel. I would devour a Gabriel Garcia Marquez book like normal people read People Magazine. At every airport I would buy more books to read – David Sedaris, David Eggers, John Irving, Yan Martel…the list goes on and on. I read so much, people grew tired of talking to me about books because I think they thought I was mocking them…or just lying.

Anyway, this monthly book club seemed like it would be a good fit since I was reading so much, right? Yeah, no. You see, most of the women were mothers of young children. In fact, I think one woman had something like 5 kids all under the age of 3 or something insane like that. Every book club meeting went something like this:

Me: I really like the way Zora Neale Hurston juxtaposed the voracious effects of rabies and the painful thirst that accompanies that awful disease with the deluge and violence of a hurricane. Didn’t you like that?

Haggard Mother #1: This hummus is good. Who brought it?

Haggard Mother #2: I did.

Haggard Mother #1: Did you make it?

Haggard Mother #2: Good God no. I don’t have time for that. I had to pick Jake up from Soccer and take Maggie to dance and then the tire blew out on the car, so I had to change it and by the time we got home, I only had time to run to Rouse’s and grab this and a bag of pita chips.

Me: I also really like Zora Neale Hurston’s use of…Betty, I think your phone is ringing.

Haggard Mother #3: Is that me?

Me: Yes, I think that ringing is coming from you.

Haggard Mother #3: Really? Oh wait, here it is. (As she grabs it from just inside her bra) Hello? No, no, you absolutely may not do that to your brother. I don’t care if he wants you to, I said no. Do you want me to come home right now? Do you? Because I will and so help me god you will rue the day…That’s what I thought. Click.

Me: So, well, was anyone else really impressed with the black dialect that Hurston employed throughout the book?

Haggard Mother #2: I skipped that part. It was too hard to follow.

Me: What?!?!

Haggard Mother #1: Yeah, me too. I just went to the middle part of the book and then I read the last 10 pages.

Haggard Mother #3: I never even bought the book.

Me: What? You’ve had a MONTH to read this book. A MONTH. I read it and about 37 others in this month. What is wrong…Betty, your tits are ringing again.

Haggard Mother #3: Damn kids, I swear to Jesus in Heaven they are going to kill me….

And so went just about every meeting of this book club. I could not, for the life of me, figure out what was wrong with these women. Were they so disorganized that they could not spend a few hours finishing a book in over thirty days? I am not sure that I ever actually said what I thought out loud. At least, I hope I never did, because since I had Max almost 4 years ago, I think I have managed to read about 10 books total.

For the first 2 years, the only thing I could manage to read was the crossword puzzle. That was the most mentally challenging thing I did outside of my job. I had a stack of books on my bedside table that I was saving for if and when my brain cells ever regenerated.

I was before, and am more so now, convinced that the majority of a woman’s brain cells exit her body with the afterbirth. They are chucked into whatever vile and disgusting disposal system a hospital uses for such things.

I have been able to return to reading, but not nearly at the rate I used to. It is harder now. I can’t concentrate, I get tired 5 minutes into the book, I start thinking of all the things that have gone undone in the day and I usually end up passing out with the book splayed across my chest, open to page 3 or something pathetic like that.

When I was pregnant and Mom was getting chemo treatments, I would often take her and sit with her. I was her only child who could do this because my offspring was still in his convenient carrying case – my uterus. One time, we were sitting in the doctor’s office waiting, which is what you do when you are dying of cancer, you wait to be told you are dying and then you wait to die.

I was rambling to my mom about some nonsense because all the waiting to find out she was dying was making me nervous and I talk when I am nervous. And I said these exact words, “I think I am going to be a better mother than my sisters because I am more organized.”

I honestly thought that day she was going to fall off of her chair she was laughing so hard. It was then that I realized I was doomed. I made her promise never to tell anyone what I had said. She wordlessly nodded her agreement through her howling laughter and tears.

A few months back, we tried to resuscitate the book club. I managed to read the book, but once I was with the other women, I had absolutely no desire to discuss the book because a) I could only remember tiny fragments of it (more proof of the afterbirth theory) and b) I was so thrilled to be around adult humans I just wanted to talk about hummus and pita chips and my kid and potty training. I wanted to connect with my friends over real life and not the written word. Besides, I couldn’t remember if I had actually finished the book or not anyway.

If I listen really carefully, I can hear my mother still laughing at me from her grave on Esplanade Avenue.

And it makes me happy and weepy and proud and sad all at the same time.

June 19, 2009

Misanthropy is Exhasuting

I suppose it was only a matter of time before I outed myself on this blog. One can only write about one’s self for so long without divulging one’s inner secretes. Additionally, one can only write for so long using “one” as the main pronoun for so long without sounding like one giant ass hole.

I want to write about something I read in a book. Here is the quote:

The idea that we can be possessively loving of a few, can ignore the many, and can continue to fear or hate anybody, has to be abandoned, if only a little at a time.

Seriously, go back and read it again.

Because it goes on to tell me this:

We can try to stop making unreasonable demands upon those we love. We can show kindness where we had shown none. With those we dislike we can begin to practice justice and courtesy, perhaps going out of our way to understand and help them.

Whenever we fail any of these people, we can promptly admit it--to ourselves always, and to them also, when the admission would be helpful. Courtesy, kindness, justice, and love are the keynotes by which we may come into harmony with practically anybody.

This is heavy stuff. I mean really heavy. I cannot speak for all, only the committee of grouches in my own head, but I can assure you that I have spent most of my life loving just a handful of people, hating perhaps another similar sized subset, and then feeling indifferent and apathetic toward the rest of the massive nameless, faceless great glob of people on this earth.

When I am not indifferent, I will actually claim to hate people. I have said this maybe 40,000 times in my life when frustrated at the “stupidity” of the person near me, or angry at the young mother who tossed her newborn in the lake, or down right spitting mad at the Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA.

But if I think about the statement, “I hate people” in greater detail and with a calm mind, it is both terrifying and not accurate. I don’t actually hate people, I am terrified of people. People are unpredictable and mysterious and convoluted and uncontrollable. They generally don’t do what I want them to and cause me to have uncomfortable feelings.

I know, when I write it out on paper and read it I have to laugh at myself and my self-centeredness.

I have made countless mistakes in my life. Crap, I have made countless mistakes in the past week and do I wish to be scorned by my fellows? Or do I hope to be loved anyway?

Back in the day, before I had a kid and got all mushy on the inside, I used to watch Law and Order. And, being a junky of all sorts, I watched it addictively. I would venture to say I have seen probably every episode of Law and Order. I am far too soft inside now to watch it. Even a fictionalized account of an abducted child will send me over the emotional edge for days.

This particular Law and Order I am thinking of was about a man who was a pharmacist. In order to skim money from his business to donate to this church, he watered down the chemo drugs for hundreds of patients. He had pledged money to his church that he could not afford and was too proud to tell the church. Instead, he defrauded the weak and disadvantaged.

When all this came to light, dramatically on the church steps with a slimmer, sexier Vincent D’Onofrio (has anyone noticed that over night he gained like 75 pounds?) with the congregation slack-jawed with disgust, he was ruined. His wife and his fellow congregants moved away from him in judgment and repulsion.

I remember thinking at that moment, “But, this is when he needs you most. This is his greatest moment of need. And you are walking away from him.”

It is so easy to see the flaws of others, especially when it is on TV and the cancer patients who died are SAG actors who got $500 for their day of work. In reality, I probably would have led the charge to tie this guy up and hang him on the church cross as a constant and vile reminder to all the other congregants.

But in the end, it is forgiveness and love and tolerance of all people in this world that is the way to go. It is exhausting to hate and fear a couple billion individuals. Ironically, it is actually easier to love everyone. Weird, huh?

I am a fish out of water in this territory. Fear, hate and anger (it's all really just fear, but with different tones of voice) have been my knee jerk reactions for so long, that I actually have to learn to react with love and tolerance much the same way someone would learn to ride a bike. And I hope, that like riding a bike, I never forget how and I have a padded seat for the long journey.

June 16, 2009

Bugging Out

I am annoyed…and my eyes are burning. I have become convinced that the bug man decided to take out his anger on me by over-spraying my house with flea poison. Here’s what happened….

We have used the same pest control company for the past 8 years. They come every spring and spray the shit out of the house and yard so that we don’t have an infestation of fleas. This was very important for 2 reasons – the first is that I do not like to be bitten by a hundred small bugs while sitting on my couch. The other is that Samantha the Wonder Dog had a bad flea allergy and if she got bit by even one flea, she would spend countless hours chewing all the fur off her ass and hind legs. It made for a disgusting sound, smell and sight.

Since Sam was still alive this spring and since I still don’t like to be bitten by little bugs in my own house, I called the same Pest Control company. Let’s call them Company X to make this sound like something really important.

Company X came out with their giant trucks and 2 men who stormed the backyard as if it were a war zone. They doused everything in a liquid substance. (I have to insert here that I have never even asked them what they are spraying all over my yard.) And then they came inside with aerosol cans of some equally mysterious substance. And as expected, nary a flea was seen and by the time I put Sam down a month later, she had most of the hair on her little body. Sure, she was blind and deaf and seemed to be teetering between this world and the next, but by golly, she was not flea infested.

Then, a few weeks ago, I was lying in bed and looked down at my hand and there was a flea. Frankly, I think I would have preferred seeing a masked intruder holding a machete. At least with the second scenario, my death would be quick and seeing one masked intruder does not mean there are 4,000 more in the house determined to procreate enough to take over the world.

After ripping all the covers off the bed and kicking Kenny the Boston Terrier to the couch, I decided to call Company X in the morning and have them come back to spray again. I figured this reinfestation was due to the crazy cat lady moving out across the street and leaving her 50 cats to roam the street. OK, let me confess here that I had no intention of calling Company X. For this level of confrontation, I needed to bring in the big guns – my husband.

Mike called Company X the next morning and they came out armed with little aerosol cans. They sprayed the house all over. Still, a few days later, I was still seeing fleas on Kenny. Once again, Mike called Company X and this morning the man came with big truck of liquid Flea Death and turned our backyard into a sea of poison. But, when Mike asked him to come inside to spray, he said he did not have the inside stuff.

I am not sure why, but I went bonkers. I called Company X myself and babbled and spurted my frustration. After a call between the bug man and Company X, he came inside armed with a small sprayer filled with the backyard liquid death and proceeded to spray it all over my house. He dropped that crap all over my floors, my son’s teddy bear, every where. I stood there, my jaw on the floor, while my husband asked, “This isn’t going to stain the floors is it?”

The floors? Well, I hope they aren’t messed up when everyone comes to our house for OUR FUNERALS.

And now, I am sitting here, wondering if the bug man, who insisted that it was harmless (I think the fleas would beg to differ,) decided to take out his 30 years of frustration working for Company X on me and my family. Perhaps he decided this is the day he snaps and gets rid of the aggravating flea bag house that seems to breed fleas?

I really want to write something meaningful and stirring each week in my blog, but some days, all I can muster is anger towards Company X and questions about my future on this planet. I think it is because I have mild brain damage from the torrent of bug spray in my living room.

June 8, 2009

It's My Party and I'll Cry If I Want To

I feel like I rode the emotional roller coaster all weekend and now I have carnival heart. It is all jumbled with happiness, sadness and grief…all at once.  I went to a funeral for a friend who died at 47 from stomach cancer. She was a beautiful person and a mother of 2 teenagers. Her service was attended by hundreds of people who loved her dearly and cherished her passion and beauty and honesty.

Because it was my birthday weekend, I was both saddened by the loss of her and filled with gratitude that I have been blessed with another day. Right after the funeral, my husband whisked me out to dinner to celebrate my birthday. We went by ourselves and had a beautiful dinner that in no way involved pizza or crayons and ridiculous attempts to entertain a 3 year old while waiting for food that will be shoveled at an alarming rate.


I had to shift from grief to joy in the car on the way to the restaurant.


On Sunday evening, I was to have dinner with my sister Emily. She picked me up and said she forgot the gift certificate at home, so we went back to her house where I was surprised with a little party that my husband planned. I was surprised by the party, but also surprised that besides me and my sister, there were three other people there.


Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled to have 3 good friends and feel like that is enough to last a life time, but, still, it was hard to ignore that there was food and drinks for more than 5 people. My husband planned a party like we used to have before Katrina. Before that STUPID FUCKING HURRICANE (oh, excuse me!) we used to have a core group of about 15 people who were regulars at every party, every function and every step of our lives.


These people were our friends that we shared holidays with and they were at our wedding…we saw them every Sunday night for maybe 10 years. And then the storm hit. And most of them were forced to move because they lost their jobs or their houses. Or, some of them just broke under the crushing weight of sadness. And they left. And I don’t blame them, I just miss them.


Again, I was flooded with both gratitude and sadness all at once. It was a beautiful gesture on my husband’s part and he is, without a doubt, the kindest and most caring person in my world. I have never, in all my years with him, felt anything but pure love and acceptance from him.


After an hour or so of hanging with the girls at the party and chowing down on the food, Mike and Max came back to the party for the cake. Everyone sang Happy Birthday and Max helped blow out the candles and we all ate big slices of chocolate doberge cake. It was the first time I have had sugar in 4 months.


Between the sugar, the vast swaying of emotions and missing the people who are no longer in my life, I am a mess, a crying mess. And that is ok. This is my reality and it is not always rosy and neat. Life is messy and life is hard. But it is life and I am grateful for it…all 40 years and counting of it.

Loving and Dancing

As a child, I did not feel that I was loved.  I know, that sounds harsh, doesn’t it? It implies I had a terrible relationship with my parents or was kept in a closet under the stairs for months at a time. None of that is true…well, I did hang out in the closet under the stairs a lot, but that was a self-imposed isolation.

 I just spent a lot of time not feeling like I was loved or wanted or even important in any way. This is a result, I suppose, of abysmal self esteem coupled with being the youngest of 4 children. I guess. I could spend the next 30 years in therapy to pin point why I felt that way, but I don’t feel that way anymore, so frankly, I don’t care why I felt that way.

What I care about now is absolutely making sure my son does not feel the same way. I could not bear for that sweet little face to crumple under the false notion he was not loved more than anyone could ever love another human being without snapping and actually eating him.

I went today to see his final ballet class. His little daycare last year started offering a once a week ballet class. I signed him up because he was 2 and he was friends with all of the little girls at daycare. What happened was unexpected…well, unexpected by me, I am sure others would have expected this. He developed better balance and he really LOVES his ballet teacher.

Last year, I went to his last day of class to see him and the other little kids “dance” and Max and maybe 4 other kids refused to dance. Max sat in my lap the whole time and would only watch the other kids. He was shy and scared and did not want to leave my side.

This year, he was a little Baryshnikov. Or a little ham, really, because there wasn’t a whole lot of ballet going on. He kept looking at me to make sure I was there and was watching him. He did the positions and the kicks and the “dancing” with the 5 other kids. He let me take his picture with Miss Nikki, the teacher. His little face lit up when everyone applauded.

I love him as much as did last year when he sat in my lap and shyly sucked his fingers. But this year, at least I got cute pictures, too.