This Rant’s Been Coming for a While

No Telling

There’s been too much tragedy around here without reasonable explanation, and I think it’s time for a few answers. In the stages of grieving this would be #3 – Anger and Bargaining. Clearly I’m on the upper end of of it and a good four stages away from anything close to Acceptance or Hope.

I guess the horror of Thursday’s campground flood here in Arkansas is the last straw for me. If I were a church-going woman there might be words to comfort during such an event. Here in the South we’ve been inundated by disasters natural and unnatural, and I refuse to believe it’s part of some plan, punishment, or reward orchestrated by a God arranging and rearranging our fates like a macabre puppet master. If That Televangelist (he knows who he is) chimes in to blame us all for homosexuality, Obama, or using the wrong dinner fork, my head will explode. Better yet, I’ll go fetch him so he can dig barehanded in the muddy bank of the Little Missouri River for other people’s children.

The tornadoes, the oil, the flooding. Hurricane season just began and we’re all waiting for the other shoe to drop. And it probably will. When Katrina turned New Orleans into a scene from Dante, we pushed the boundaries of English attempting to create language to describe it. Tragedy, disaster, catastrophe – these won’t be enough to describe what could happen when hurricane meets oil, two, three, maybe four times. People will leave the coast forever.

My heart hurts and I’m angry. The Southern religious litany that makes reasons for unreasonable tragedies is too much for me to hear right now. All that “God’s plan” and “gone to a better place” business only makes it worse. I need to avoid all my Fundamentalist friends for a while – at least until I get to one of those other stages of grief.

I Love Her Despite Those Janky Ballpoint Pens

No Telling

My only daughter has disappointed me. Nature vs. nurture? I know I didn’t teach her this, and I’m convinced my genetic code was pristine on this matter. Clearly there is some throw-back DNA from her father’s side. And bad friends. There’s that. Why else would Em prefer trashy, generic ballpoint pens?

It’s not my fault. I come from a long and distinguished line of scribblers who appreciate fine writing instruments. Since my baby was able to make a little biscuit-fist I’ve given her only the sharpest of new crayons, the slickest Ticonderogas. At my writing desk, she’s had a life-long cotillion class of paper and pen.

Montblanc, Parker, Waterman – where did I go wrong?

The preacher’s kid rebels by breaking Commandments. A teacher’s kid skips school. My girl flaunts the cheapest of ballpoint stick pens and leaves them everywhere just to watch me cringe.

I‘ve tried to pretend they don’t bother me so I won’t feed the monster. This is a parental smoke screen I used with a particularly unsavory beau she wouldn’t shake. It didn’t work then, either.

(Honestly, I’d rather spend the rest of my writing life with a nasty ballpoint in hand than see that particular young man again. Things could be worse. It’s all about perspective and deciding which hill to die on. Don’t tell Em.)

The upshot here is The Perfect Grandson. Our hours at the desk together give me hope. Lay out one fine pen next to the trash his mother scribbles with – he’ll choose the Waterman every time. He may grow up to wreck cars and young girls’ hearts, but I’m guessing he’ll do both with a decent pen in his pocket.

He has to. I’m counting on him.

When a Lady Drops Her Hankie…


Yes, with a spritz of starch you can roll that antique handkerchief into the typewriter. With a drawer full of these I\’ve only just begun. These are perfect for lines of poetry, quotes, or cryptic messages. I feel a Silent Type entry coming on, so look out.

Thanks to my friend Stephanie who found the inspiration for this at the lovely blog 52 Flea. Steph knows where the good stuff is and always tells me.

Note on the Fridge to BP

No Telling

Dear BP,

I don’t know where to begin. Clearly, neither do you. There’s no point in telling you how appalled I am at your corporate behavior and misbehavior. There are more than enough talking heads on every news channel and politicians running for re-election telling you that, and they’ve articulated this much better than I ever could. Besides, who am I to tell an oil conglomerate what to do?

As a mother and grandmother I am qualified to say this:

When you break something you must fix it.

We’re watching you, BP.

Live feed from

Growing a Writer

No Telling

The Perfect Grandson loves a good story. Always has. And it’s a good thing, because he’s surrounded by women who write and love to tell tales. Until recently, he’s been an appreciative audience when he could sit still long enough to hear the end of something. But that’s all changed now. The Perfect Grandson has learned the power of telling, and now we are the audience.

That picture, for example, is not an errant scribble. It’s an epic story of good versus evil, the treachery of power, of fighting snakes and roly pollies. The insects win, of course, because they are balled up and patient while the snakes ultimately turn on each other. There is no love interest in The Perfect Grandson’s story, but there is a great deal of grimacing and growling. I took this picture quickly, since his stories (much like his block-towers) are made to be erased/wadded up/knocked down. The MagnaDoodle is a perfect medium for such a writer.

Two days ago a bunny wandered into our yard and he spent the better part of five minutes talking to it from the window in a very personal way. The next five minutes, and until the bunny was frightened off, he made a story of how the rabbit came to be there, what he was planning, and where he was going after bounding off into the azaleas.

He’s figured out that everyone has a story. Some of these begin as nonfiction, take a left at creative non, eventually throttling full-down into the fictional straightaway. The Perfect Grandson went to the zoo yesterday, where he saw a few impressive snakes. Later, he and I poked around in our small garden where more than a few roly pollies scattered from under the clay pots. Voila.

I haven’t heard a serpent vs. rabbit story yet, but I will. I can count on it.

His mama started out this way, though not with erasable, bloody epics. Em sang her stories, playing fearlessly with sound and word combinations. Sometimes she’d stop suddenly, then begin again singing the song with alterations both verbal and melodic. I spent hours in the yard scribbling down her Singing on a Swing creations, knowing she was in full experimental/editing mode. One afternoon she slid triumphantly out of the swing, looked at me, and lisped “Princesses don’t have days like these.” Em pushed her hair out of her eyes and fell back into song. I understood completely.

Now she follows The Perfect Grandson around, taking notes because it’s her turn. Not long ago he came home from preschool crushing on a new girl. “I love Lilly,” he said, “She’s pretty like butterflies.” Em always seems a little gut-punched by his casual poetry, although some of that is an irrational fear concerning garage bands and hidden tattoos. He’s not yet three. God knows what he’ll do to break her heart by the time he’s sixteen, but I’m sure it will be something ridiculous she never saw coming. Better to relax while you can, I say.

When he’s not busy trying to put a baseball through my china cabinet, The Perfect Grandson and I spend time at my desk, writing. Already he has an eye for fine pens and reams of unlined paper. All he needs now is power over the alphabet and a some hand-eye coordination. A few days ago I was labeling his latest art story as he sat in my lap. Scads of carefully constructed diagonal lines.

“Put a name here, Mimi.”

“Okay, what’s this one about?”

“Snakes inna Rain.”

So I wrote down the title in big capital letters. He looked at one and pointed.

“Whas dat, Mimi?”

“That’s an ‘S’, punkin. It goes ‘sssssssssssssss'”

“Like a snake.”

“Exactly,” I said. And so it begins.

Off the Page

No Telling

This has been an unanticipated, extended blog break, hasn’t it? The thing is, the dozens of times I sat down to write, I came up blank. I firmly believe there’s no such thing as writer’s block, but I do believe in a kind of swirling madness that keeps writers unfocused and off the page.

There’s simply been too much going on and most of it was bad. Writing about unhappy events day after day feels too much like a junior high diary flashback, and we all know that’s no place to park a healthy psyche. Besides, there are enough Whiner Blogs out there who do this sadness-and-sorry thing much better than I ever could. I did a great deal of scribbling with fountain pens and Moleskines, not that I’ll ever want to read back over any of that maudlin crap. The beauty of a notebook is that 1) you can close it, and 2) you can throw the whole mess in the forgettable top of a closet or sling it into a fireplace.

Then the heavens opened up, remembered all that karma/balance business, and dropped something lovely in my lap. One of my other blogs, Easy Street Prompts, was listed on Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Websites for Writers. I danced, I twirled, I made up celebratory songs and sang them with the Perfect Grandson. Then I ran away with friends to Branson so we could do the post-final-exams shopping trip. We drank wine, ate sushi, and stormed the outlet malls. Glorious, I tell you.

Not until I returned did I remember the Easy Street site was kind of a forgotten mess. It took a little paint and html coding, but all is right with the world there now. In the process I found that making up prompts for others helped to get me back on the (nonflammable) page.

While I still don’t feel like writing up the sad things just yet, I’ve decided angry and funny are perfectly comfortable right now. There are plenty of fist-waving disasters and head-shaking crazies out there to keep me on the page while I work through those other things.

I believe I’m mostly cured now. Between inclusion on the Writer’s Digest list and that Liz Claiborne bag I fount at 70% off, I’m golden.

I’ve Moved, Sorta

No Telling

Still in the same Blogspotty place, of course. The only difference is a new address:

This is nothing drastic, and Blogger promises to redirect everyone quite nicely should they use the old address in feed readers and bookmarks and such. I tell you, the whole move has been ridiculously easy (and inexpensive) through Blogger.

I tried to snag the .com, but apparently there’s this unfriendly gentleman in Argentina who bought it years ago and wants to sell it like a bag of diamonds. Since I’m neither a conglomerate nor a Rockerfeller, he can keep it.

I like “net” anyway. Reminds me of mama’s Aquanet hairspray, a miracle right up there with electricity and the virgin birth.

Accidental Tourists

No Telling

Whew. It’s Spring Break.

The days have been slamming into each other at such a fast clip, and suddenly there’s a bit of stillness. It’s nice. I’m actually faced with a day when I don’t have to be anywhere at any particular time, and the only pressing item on the to-do list is housework.

I’d go outside and spend the day in the sun, but there’s been some meteorological confusion recently and the high here will be in the low 40s today. There’s a bizarre chance of snow tonight. I’m sure the weather will right itself in a few days, though. It’s not like Arkansas is anyone’s Spring Break Destination, so there’s no danger of losing the college-boy tourism dollar.

The danger is when the ground warms back up. That’s when the creepy crawlies set up housekeeping in the garage and odd high corners. Spiders – as long as they’re not furry or unduly large – I can deal with. It’s the snake situation that’s making me nervous. In the fall, there was a local phenomenon that somehow introduced scads of baby copperheads into neighborhoods where they’d not previously visited. Em killed one, a neighbor lady had an incident, and we saw two flattened in the road. I’m not convinced we’ve seen the whole family yet, is all I’m saying.

Since Aruba is out this year (well, every year) it looks like I’ll be close to home. I’m itching to throw a soul-cleansing yard sale, even though it means braving creepy crawlies in both the garage and the attic. Anything’s better than a surprise snake, though. Anything.

I’m praying for this funky-cold weather to continue through Friday, just for good measure. If anyone out there is an expert on the seasonal behavior of Arkansas copperheads, please give me a heads up.

Waiting for the Tsunami

No Telling

It’s a funny thing, all this science predicting natural occurrences. Historically, acts of God came on suddenly, randomly. Now we can watch numbers bounce off of carefully placed buoys bobbing about in the ocean, those numbers singing to satellites which turn them into warnings, a chance to gather supplies, find higher ground. There is time, now, to evade the Great Wave.

On Tuesday, my friend Olive Hilliard did not hear the singing. She died the next day from the massive stroke that never bothered to give her warning. Olive was 52, a mother, a sister, a teacher, a light.

For three years, Olive and I shared a windowless office and our lives. We nursed each other’s wounds, bragged, cursed, ate chocolate and dieted. We traded the secrets of teaching and wept over our children. Two women talking in an enclosed space, we decided, could eventually repair all the broken things in the world. I still believe that’s true.

The fact that she is gone now feels like a lie. Her beautiful children, the reflection of her goodness and bottomless love, had no chance to gather reserves, find higher ground before losing their mother. Their lives now are split into two chapters, and they have to figure out how to live in this new story. I ache for them.

The rest of us, her friends and women of a certain age, are hugging our children more closely. Whether we talk about it or not, we’re suddenly listening to our internals for signs of the singing, hoping we’ll be able to predict The Wave where Olive could not. And we grieve.