March 31, 2009

Break and enter

Family traditions

I've been talking to my uncle J. on the phone over the course of the last few days. He has been in and out of mental hospitals and rehab, did crack for years, and a whole host of other things not worth going into at the moment. He is also bipolar, and this is largely why I wanted to talk to him. He is one of only two people who I know that deals with this issue, and I crave understanding on this topic. He and I have a difficult history, but I needed to know more about his experiences, his diagnosis, his medication, how he feels right now.

It has been enlightening and terrifying and disturbing.

On one hand, he was very kind and supportive and reassuring. He understood things that I do and think and feel that not many people understand at this time. But hearing that he has to change his medication every couple of years because his body gets used to them, and hearing his descriptions of feeling full of rage and confusion and being locked in a room in a hospital were scary.

It's also apparent that he's not particularly well-controlled by his medication right now. "Believe me," he said. "You have an advantage over everyone! You're better than everyone else!"

"What?" I asked in bewilderment.

"Some people look at this like a disease or a disability or a problem that has to be dealt with. But it's not! You know how shit works! You know how life is! You get to experience it to the fullest--the highest of the highs that no one else will ever know, and the low, low, lows, too! It's an advantage, and you just have to start looking at it that way," he explained.

I sighed and said, "I know what you mean, and there are times that I love that I'm so emotional and so changeable and so...intense. But I'm exhausted. I just want some stability. I just want some quiet. I would like to have a little bit better of an idea of how I'm going to feel from one moment to the next."

He had a hard time understanding this.

March 30, 2009

A good shake

Today we had an earthquake while I was at work. It was a 4.3 centered near San Jose, so I felt it pretty strongly in Los Altos (20 minutes away).

I will never get used to earthquakes; I don't care what everyone around here says.

March 29, 2009

Planning ahead, repeating: A series of vignettes

I always wanted to go to summer camp, but my family was broke, broke, broke. So I slept in the backyard and ate clover, pretending they were special wild mushrooms I'd found that would give me the power to fly away if I just ate enough. I wonder what the neighbors thought--see the wild-haired little girl in the yard with her pillow, gobbling down grass, desperately wanting it to be enough.


I used to keep a small bag packed in case our house caught on fire. I wanted my most treasured items at arm’s reach at all times in case I needed to flee fast. I remember one incarnation of my emergency kit was a little plastic suitcase that included my grandmother’s obituary, a quarter my grandpa gave me for good luck before my 4th grade spelling bee, a little red metal truck—not much bigger than one of the Hot Wheels—that came from my dead great grandfather in the event I was born a boy, a rubber mermaid with blue hair that I loved, and a piece of my mother’s lingerie because it smelled like her perfume.

Looking back I’m quite impressed with my emergency kit’s thoroughness because, at present, my emergency earthquake kit only contains a few bottles of water.


Repetition has always comforted me. As a child, one way I fulfilled this need was by pretending to sell hot dogs. It's still not clear to me why I did this because, for as long as I can remember, I've loathed hot dogs. But when I was upset and alone I would regularly gather up the raw hot-dog-making materials and pretend to sell them for hours.

The green waxy rhododendron leaves from the bush in our front yard made perfect buns. Broken sticks served as the actual "meat" (if any part of a hot dog can be called such). Freshly mown grass played the part of multiple toppings, including relish and sauerkraut. But my personal favorites were the onions. I would scrape white paint chips off our house that badly needed re-painting--and if I were ever to have been caught for this there would have been hell to pay--and break them up into bits for chopped onions. In my neighbor's yard a small dried up well with a lid made a perfect drive thru window.

I prided myself on the quality of my ingredients (each one hand gathered!), the value of my hot dogs (only pennies apiece!), and my unfailingly courteous service. Every once in awhile, though, a customer would get snippy with me. At my hot dog stand, the customer was not always right. When I was unable to reason with them I would take their order, throw it through the drive-thru window into their car, and tell them to go fuck themselves as I’d heard my mother do with various real and imaginary people. Then I would brush the chopped onions off my hands while muttering, "Some people are never happy," and put on a big smile for the next customer pulling up for their order.


My grandpa and I spent a lot of time together when I was very young. On weekends we often went out to breakfast. We would eat in silence, mostly looking out the window or at the other diners; occasionally we would comment on the quality of the food.

My favorite weekends were those when we went to Shoney’s. If you’re not familiar with Shoney’s, it’s a sit-down family restaurant that has breakfast, lunch, and dinner. On the weekends they were known for their breakfast bar with its endless supply of steak fingers and bacon. I enjoyed the food, but what I really loved was filling out the comment cards.

Part of my excitement was that I was even allowed to fill one out in the first place. My mother never would have allowed this, but my grandpa patiently loaned me his pen and answered my questions about the spelling and meaning of words like “accuracy” and “promptness.” If asked, he would also describe to me his own assessment of the meal.

I was also excited because it was so rare that anyone wanted to hear what I had to say, and here was a restaurant—a corporation—who wanted to know in detail about how my dining experience had been. So I told them. Over and over. I filled a card out each and every time we went to Shoney’s. I related the details of our order down to who had ranch dressing on the side. I carefully and truthfully rated our service and meal and overall dining experience. I reported on the server’s cheerfulness and the cleanliness of our table. I was convinced I was providing an important service. The Shoney’s company had a reliable source on the operations of their store in Bridgeport, WV and, because I loved Shoney’s, my comment cards were invariably glowing.

One day an official-looking letter arrived for me at my grandpa’s house. I squealed with glee when I saw that it was from Shoney’s. I just knew they were writing to thank me for all my efforts, and to encourage me to continue providing them with feedback! I ripped it open excitedly and my grandpa and I read it together:

Dear Miss Ashcraft, it began. How thrilling! How official! We at Shoney’s thank you for your business and your feedback via our comment cards. I knew they were paying attention! We value the feedback of our other customers, too, and ask that you do not complete any more comment cards. Please continue to enjoy our restaurants. Sincerely, Shoney’s

I was crushed and began to cry. I had thought they wanted to hear what I had to say, even if I ate the same meal every visit. I never did fill out any more comment cards at Shoney’s. I was filled with terror that—as soon as I picked one up—gunmen would surround my grandpa and I and haul us off to jail. He was just an old man! He wouldn't be able to handle doing time like I would. I put on my stiff upper lip and fought the urge to comment, knowing in my heart I was protecting our futures.

An incomplete recount

I dreamed of you again.

You were finally alone, which you never are when I've seen you. It makes me wonder what you'd do if you were.

I digress.

You had been away a long, long time, and I ran into you at home. Your mom and brother were so happy to see you. I had been up for three days without sleep, and was preparing to return to San Francisco. A pair of someone else's pants was mixed in with mine and, not thinking, I put them on.

When you and I spoke you were very quiet. You didn't say much but your brown eyes fixed on me intently. I saw your eyes flick to the pants I was wearing. "Oh, my God," I said, "Are these yours?"

"No, they're my wife's pants," you said, sitting down. Is it just me or did you emphasize the word wife a little too much? I thought. My next thought was, I must've lost weight. She's skinnier than me! And the thought after that was one that recalled the suspicion I always had that you wanted a skinny art chick who rode bikes and enjoyed things like finding meaning in repetitive wallpaper. (Remember our little joking arguments about that kind of stuff? I hate to point out that I was right, but if the chamois fits...)

When I woke up I was so irritated that I'd focused on my fucking weight in that dream. Then I felt moody and morose.

Must. Bake. Cookies.

My favorite postcard this week

My log has a message for you, too.

I miss S. My life and social activities--hell, San Francisco, in general--just aren't the same without him, goddammit. I just read an email he sent around answering questions about himself, and it made me miss him worse:

Subject of email: RE: Bout me - Send one back :) (this is the expression i am wearing right now!)‏

Text of email prior to quiz, including his signature of sorts: drunk and bored, so suck on it, tiger!

My log has a message for you.
-Log Lady

March 28, 2009

I am planning to send my kids to summer camp.

I always wanted to go to camp myself, but my family was broke, broke, broke. So I slept in the backyard and ate clover, pretending they were special wild mushrooms I'd found that would give me the power to fly away if I just ate enough. I wonder what the neighbors thought--see the wild-haired little girl in the yard with her pillow, gobbling down grass, desperately wanting it to be enough.

March 27, 2009

Los Logos

My talented friend Jill at Flyeye Design is working on a logo for me for 6 Birds Cards. Here are the first two possibilities she sent. I really like the first one best, and sent her some thoughts and feedback on it along with an additional idea of my own (that is probably lamer than your grandpa's bowling shoes. What's that you say? Your grandpa's bowling shoes rock the house? Well, alright then...).


I'm excited!

And my book club is coming over tonight. And I'm working on buying Jenny's little mini couch because I miss my own desperately.

And and...

Morning reflection

*sigh* *smile*

I will never get tired of having dinner cooked for me. It's only ever happened a couple of times on a one-on-one basis, and it's utterly addictive. And it turns out that playing Scrabble at 2am in a hole in the wall joint in the Tenderloin is really fun.

How lovely.

*proceeds with caution*

March 26, 2009

Everyone Deserves A Roof

While driving to work at 4:45 am this morning (ugh) I heard NPR's "Marketplace" talking about EDAR (Everyone Deserves a Roof). Apparently, the EDAR serves as a heavy duty shopping cart by day and a tent on wheels at night. It is intended to provide homeless people with weather resistant shelter, particularly in light of the sharp increase in homelessness in light of the current economic circumstances. They were interviewing a family that consisted of two parents, two children, and two grandchildren who were living in EDARs since the husband lost his job in November. I was simultaneously struck by the sadness of needing a product like this and the cleverness of the design. If some of the same minds who worked on designing a dry, mobile, practical shelter could be put to use on a more permanent solution to homelessness, imagine what could happen.

March 24, 2009

In my mind...

...a group of us get together, tell her to go fuck herself, and march out arm in arm. Then we go toast our badassness over a margarita.

March 23, 2009


[After an earlier discussion of my tendency to speak through analogy...]

J.T.: I just want to know if I'm barking up the wrong tree.

A: What if I'm a fire hydrant instead of a tree?

J.T.: So I'm supposed to piss on you? That's the worst analogy ever!

Bits of news

I've commissioned a logo for 6 Birds Cards. And I'll put it on a business card. Once the logo is done and the cards are made, I'm getting myself in gear to start taking them to merchants. I'm making stockpiles of cards. I package them in little sleeves and everything.

I'm very, very close to having a new part-time job here.

It's weird to end up with someone who is a better communicator than you (because I like to *think* that I am but my shortcomings have been quite apparent in the last couple of days).

This evening I'm remembering the intimacy and comfort of seeing your laundry mingle with someone else's in the dryer.

Lamictal is $138.00. I can't pay that.

March 22, 2009

For my papa

Last night I dreamed of my Papaw and Grandmother's house on Chestnut St. in Clarksburg. They lived in a big old two-story red house across from the graveyard until I was about 12 years old, and I have so many memories of being in this house.

In fact, if I could go back in time and do anything, one of the two things I would do would be to spend a weekend with them at this house circa summer 1984.

In my dream they were still gone, but the house was frozen in time--down to an icy glass of Papaw's bourbon and Sprite sitting on the end table next to his place on the couch. I wandered through the house and took everything in.

I examined the threadbare flower-print couch. The clock on the horse and carriage still sat on top of the giant television, along with pictures of papaw and grandmother as children. There was the small set of shelves with my aunt and uncles' and father's senior pictures on it next to the living room doorway. The sheers hanging on the windows still smelled like papaw's cigarette smoke.

In the hallway was the old desk with years of doodling on it and the old yellow telephone with the dial. The china cabinets in the hall and dining room still sat silently, holding their fancy dishes. The organ waited to be played. As I walked to the back of the house, it started to grow dark outside and I felt my old childhood fears of what was waiting for me around the corner re-emerge.

The kitchen smelled of coffee and still contained my cousins' and I's Strawberry Shortcake mugs, the yellow tupperware sugar bowl, and the little ceramic figurine of a little girl that held the toothpicks. My eyes shifted to the dark doorway that was the entrance to the basement, and I knew I was too afraid to go down there. Instead, I decided to go upstairs.

I climbed the 17 stairs covered in old green shag carpeting, and along the way I touched the pieces of wood in the banister that I knew were loose. My memories of this staircase were particularly strong, because my cousins and I regularly slid down the steps on our butts, counting each step as we thumped our way down; my uncles Jim and Joe regularly put us on their backs and shoulders and ran down the staircase. We screamed with delight and terror as they yelled, "Who's your favorite uncle!?"

I came to the top of the staircase to the clothes hamper and the bathroom doorway, and recalled that my grandmother reported seeing her mother-in-law's ghost at this very spot. A shiver of fear ran down me. I gulped it down, wanting my dreamy reverie to last longer.

The bathroom still contained my favorite things: the child's backscrubber shaped like a giraffe (which I now own); my grandmother's robin's egg blue Estee Lauder power box with the giant silky powder puff inside; Close-Up toothpaste; a bar of Zest soap in the shower, and the bottle of Chloroseptic which I loved to spray into my mouth to make my throat numb. I smiled when I eyed the toilet paper, remembering the day Michelle and I had unraveled two whole rolls to wad up and stuff under our shirts to make us look pregnant. We got in trouble for being so wasteful, and the family used a plastic bag of wadded up toilet paper for the next couple of days.

That's as far as I got in my dream. I never made it into any of the bedrooms. But I was grateful to re-experience the sights and smells and memories of this house again.

"Picture me rolling."

My friend Nick makes the most hilarious videos of his son Elliot. In this one he learns to roll with his homies.

March 19, 2009

Grandmother; swallows

(Perhaps I should separate those two topics better.)

Today, March 19, has been two years since my grandmother died.

Today is also apparently the day the swallows return to San Juan Capistrano, CA.

March 18, 2009

Hours of entertaining myself

I found this book on clearance at Border's: The Bird Songs Anthology (200 birds from North America and Beyond featuring Audio from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology). It's like a See 'n Say of bird species because you can listen to the different calls and clucks of each bird. My own birdies get very worked up when I play it, and I never seem to get tired of hearing them squawk in unison at each bird call. I am very careful not to play the cries of their natural predators, however; that would be cruel.

I am now working on or have completed 7 boxes! This morning I got up extra early so I could spend some peaceful pre-dawn moments working on one before leaving for the grind. I can lose myself in them for hours. The one I'm working on now is particularly personal to me (and that's saying a lot because they ALL are personal to me) and involves cutting the page number 98 out of dozens and dozens of my books to be put on the box. Perhaps with his fancy new camera and its enviable bokeh capabilities that my own crappy little camera does not share, Matt might assist me in documenting the boxes before I sell or give them away...

March 15, 2009

Why any of this surprises me anymore I don't know.

Setting: In the car at the end of a first date. We had been driving around and, after I made it clear we were not going to end up at my house, I told him I'd take him to a BART station. I am about to pull out of a parking place, and I'm selecting a playlist from my iPod.

K: [takes iPod out of my hands] Do you just wanna make out?

A: [sits back against driver side door] What?

K: Do you just wanna make out for a little while?

A: No...

K: [in a surprised voice] Really? Just for a little bit?

A: No. I'm sorry to disappoint you. You're nice, but I would need to go out with you a couple of times before I knew if I wanted to make out with you.

K: You don't make out on the first date?

A: No, I don't. [pauses to gauge his reaction] Is that so shocking to you?

K: Well, yeah. I mean, how do you know if you want to go out with someone again or not? I have to make out with someone first and then I can tell if I want to go out with them again. If I like kissing you, then I'll know...

A: Is that the only way you have of telling if you want to go out with someone again?

K: [thinks for a second] Well, it's not the only way. But it's the way I use. You really don't make out on the first date? I can't believe it.

A: Obviously I'm not the girl for you.

K: So you're just taking me to BART now?

A: Well, if I don't want to make out and you don't want to talk...

K: It's just that there are limits to talking. I only have so much I'd want to say anyway.

March 14, 2009

Thank you. I think.

Email from a friend who saw my blog for the first time:

M.F.: Your blog rules. I can read all kinds of embarrassing stuff about you on my phone while taking a dump now!

March 13, 2009

The way to my heart is apparently through my trash.

If there's one thing in this world I hate to do, it's taking out the trash. I don't want to smell it or touch it or look at it or think about it.

When I lived in Richmond, I would put it it off as long as possible. Then, when I couldn't stand it anymore, I'd fling all the trash bags over my balcony and then head down to the yard and drag them to the trash cans next to the alley. (It's no wonder I hated it so much when I left myself with four or five bags to deal with at once.)

Upon moving into my present three unit apartment building, all of the tenants had a very loosely structured system of taking turns dragging the trash and recycling cans to the curb. They're huge and smelly and dirty and hideous. Admittedly, I didn't fully do my share of it. Some weeks no one in the building would drag it over, and the entire building would suffer.

Then we got a new trash collector man. And I fell in love.

For awhile I was suspecting that no one from the building was dragging our cans to the curb yet it was still being emptied every week. On one of the Friday mornings when I had to move my car for street cleaning at 7am, my suspicions were confirmed. Our trash collector comes and gets it for us. What service! Plus, he's cute! San Francisco must hire the best trash collectors on earth. Since he came along, I have tried to make a conscious effort to stop calling him the "trash man" because that is derogatory toward him.

Part of me feels a little guilty. He has a job that I would certainly not want, and would it be so terrible for me to do my part of make it a little easier on him? Yet, that doesn't persuade me. I try to make it up to both of us by sending him good thoughts and mumbling "I love you" to myself when I see him on Friday mornings. I'm sure he feels my gratitude as I shyly duck my head and dart to my car in my pajamas in the early dawn light, avoiding his eyes.

Plus, this morning I saw him pick up some random litter in the street and throw it away. I think I got an erection.

March 12, 2009

Another puzzle piece in place

I was incredibly nervous about my psychiatric evaluation today, but there was no need to be. I'm exhausted now, but it was incredibly helpful and encouraging. I will be taking Lamictal, an anticonvulsant. I thought it seemed strange that something designed to treat epilepsy should be used for bipolar disorder, but my doctor explained that bipolar is very much like having seizures in the mood-controlling areas of your brain. This made so much sense. Sometimes it FEELS that way.

I also got some stuff to provide immediate, emergency relief because it will take a few weeks until the Lamictal is fully into my system and providing theraputic effects. But I'm not going into all that. I'm already late to my street corner tonight, and that bitch Candy horns in on my turf every chance she gets.

Dear Nintendo

Dear Nintendo,

We need a new Mario game, where you rescue the princess in the first ten minutes, and for the rest of the game you try and push down that sick feeling in your stomach that she’s “damaged goods,” a concept detailed again and again in the profoundly sex negative instruction booklet, and when Luigi makes a crack about her and Bowser, you break his nose and immediately regret it. When Peach asks you, in the quiet of her mushroom castle bedroom “do you still love me?” you pretend to be asleep. You press the A button rhythmically, to control your breath, keep it even.

- Joey Comeau

March 11, 2009

I'm greedy.

I don't want to lose this.

At this time I'm happiest when I'm writing and I spend evenings and late nights when I can't sleep on boxes. A couple I've originally intended as presents for other people, but by the time I'm finished they contain a piece of my life story and I've become so attached that I can't bear the thought of parting with them.

Things could start changing after my appointments tomorrow.

I have other things I want to do, too. I mostly want to start running again. I think about it nearly every day. I also want to be able to focus and concentrate and sleep and have normal conversations. I'm ready to stop fighting the urge to step on the gas when a Muni train is crossing.

Thank God for J. She is bipolar as well, and is the only person I've ever talked to that really, really understands. She gives me hope, and she gives me courage.

Dirty Barbies [*revised*]

[Note: This is the first thing I ever wrote a couple of years ago, and I've been meaning to add onto and revise it forever!]

Like many little girls, my evolving understanding of human anatomy, sexuality, and the complexities of relationships were reflected in my Barbies.

For quite some time, I didn’t have a Ken doll and my Barbies were all lesbians. If I wanted a male figure I was forced to create imaginary ones or else to play at a friend’s house so as to take advantage of her Ken-doll-possessing good fortune. I often ended up at my friend Katie’s.

There were pros and cons to playing at Katie’s house. On one hand, she had fancier Barbie accessories than I, such as the dream house and the pink corvette. She also owned a cute little pink nightie that was sure to get Barbie laid. Much to my initial dismay, however, Katie wanted her Barbies to do devious things.

“Let’s play like my Ken sleeps with another Barbie and you divorce him,” she would always suggest. At first I hated this.

“Can’t we just play like they love each other and take a vacation together?” I would counter. Katie dismissed that as boring and we usually ended up doing things her way. I found I got into it very quickly.

We’d dress up one Barbie all slutty-like: in a short skirt, tight sweater, and high heels. She would saunter casually up to Ken, place an ever-rigid, outstretched arm on his, and say, “Hey baby, wanna come over to my place? My parents aren’t home.” Ken, of course, was always game. He practically panted as he followed her eagerly back to the Dream House.

We only had a vague understanding of what Ken and Slutty were supposed to do together. We knew it was wonderfully bad and involved being naked with a lot of moaning. We also had very little concept of the seduction process. “Let’s pretend the air conditioner is broken and it’s really hot, so they can’t stand to wear their clothes,” I would suggest. So Ken and Slutty would lounge together naked on a little plastic couch with their legs sticking straight out in front of them.

“Can I lay on top of you?” Ken would ask hopefully.

“Sure!” Slutty agreed.

In our earliest dirty Barbie adventures that’s as far as we ever got. As our learning expanded and our bravery grew, Ken and Slutty experimented with different positions. There were little “clack-clack” noises as naked, plastic body parts eagerly rubbed together. Slutty’s legs usually ended up straight up in the air as she assertively instructed Ken as to how to please her. Irrespective of the scenario we enacted, Slutty always ended up pissed off and throwing Ken and his clothes out the door. “And stay out!” she would huff, angry and naked. Meanwhile, Wife Barbie would be stuck at home blowing wisps of frazzled hair out of her face. She was fed up with her life that consisted of three filthy, screaming kids, an old wood-paneled station wagon, a dog with chronic diarrhea, a burning dinner on the stove, and a husband who didn’t make her feel like a woman anymore.

One Christmas, I was thrilled to get my very own Ken doll. I was dismayed, however, that he wasn’t a “normal” one with a painted-on helmet of yellow hair. Instead, he had a sort of white man’s frizzy Afro of synthetic hair that framed his chiseled features like a puffy cloud. While I was now able to enact my own dirty Barbie scenarios, I was increasingly disappointed with naked Ken’s flesh-colored, painted on underwear over his vague hump for a penis. But I came up with a brilliant plan.

I cut off his hair close to his head and glued it onto his crotch. I sat back to admire my work. I realized that Ken’s new pubic hair only told part of the story of what was down there, but I was still immensely satisfied with the results. I pulled on his pants not really realizing how ridiculous he now looked with the hairy, bushy bulge that now made them too tight. Tendrils of hair curled up and over his elastic waistband: a tantalizing promise of what was to be found underneath.

I rushed into the kitchen to show my grandma what I had done, proud of my ingenuity. She was talking to my great-grandmother, and waved me away while silently mouthing the words “I’m on the phone.” I tapped my foot impatiently for a moment, and then decided I couldn’t wait any longer. No verbal explanation was really needed, and I was eager to get back to my bedroom to explore all the possibilities Ken’s new pubic hair offered to the ladies in his life. I thrust Ken in front of her face and flashed her by pulling down the front of his pants so that his fluffy, black, and still glue-damp pubes dramatically burst forth.

“Oh, my God!” she cried. “Mom, you won’t believe what this child has done!” I was dismayed to see that some stray tufts of damp hair fell into clumps on her lap. I quickly realized the magnitude of my error, and ran with Ken back into the bedroom to hide. Soon afterward his glorious hair disappeared and I was left with an awkward-looking Ken with a bad haircut and a scaly crotch.

I was undeterred by these setbacks, however, and quickly set about exploring other sexual avenues for my Barbies to explore. One of the most exciting things to happen in my young life was a trip to the movie theater to see Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, and soon afterward scenes from the entire Star Wars trilogy played out in my Barbie games—especially those involving punishment.

As soon as Ken had arrived on the scene that Christmas, he had tried to lay claim to all the Barbies as if they were his personal harem. But the Barbies had been sleeping together long before he arrived and weren’t eager to give that freedom up or to be told what to do. Despite his own frequent infidelity, Ken was furious when he caught Wife Barbie with her best friend. He immediately took her to court.

The arrival of the trial proved to be a big day. All the Barbies, Cabbage Patch Kids, and various stuffed animals gathered around the perimeter of my bed to view the spectacle. A large Ewok made an unsympathetic and physically imposing judge. Despite her tears and pleas for mercy, Wife Barbie was sentenced to being frozen in carbonite for two weeks and Ken was granted a divorce. The trial attendants left the proceedings with their heads down, feeling sad that pleasures of the flesh could lead to such terrible consequences. I was disappointed with the sentence, too, but solemnly set about implementing the judge’s orders.

I closed the door to my grandparents’ bathroom and rummaged around in the cabinets. I concocted a thick and aromatic mixture of shampoo, talcum powder, bubble bath, and toothpaste. Wife Barbie obediently allowed me to submerge her, and all that was left visible of her were the tips of her nose and chin and her little plastic hands pressed forward in her last desperate act before being “frozen.” The quickly-hardening conglomeration was placed under the basement steps. I dutifully marked the day fourteen days from then on the calendar when her sentence would be complete.

At the end of two weeks I chiseled the newly subdued Divorced Barbie out of the “carbonite” and she was free to resume her life. Crumbles of plaster remained in the corner of her eyes and in her joints from that point forward; they served as a constant reminder of what she had done. None of the other Barbies wanted to interact with her. They averted their eyes when she passed and shunned all her attempts at companionship and conversation. She lived out the remainder of her life in solitude and celibacy, and for a long time patriarchy ruled the once free and sexually liberated Barbies.

Changes are afoot around here.

Sit tight as things get added and moved around!

March 10, 2009

In honor of Chuck Norris' 69th birthday...

For you

I remember when all I needed to get through the week was to know that you were the weekend. I figured out so many things we both did wrong in hindsight, but we didn't know any better at the time. We were just kids. We built such high walls around us because we both had so many fears. They gave me the strength to do things I would have never been able to do otherwise; in the end, I think they were suffocating us both. I will be forever haunted by the belief that I cannot be loved that way again, that you were a fluke of the universe.

Vanilla Ice says "Sorry"

March 9, 2009

Rediscovering the pleasures of "Exile in Guyville"

I only ask because I'm a real cunt in spring
You can rent me by the hour

(From "Dance of the Seven Veils")

I don't know if I could drive a car
Fast enough to get to where you are
or wild enough not to miss the boat completely
Honey, I'm thinking maybe
You know just maybe

I don't know if I could fly a plane
Well enough to tail spin out your name
Or high enough to lose control completely
Honey, I'm thinking maybe
You know just maybe, maybe

(From "Shatter")

And the license said
You had to stick around until I was dead
But if you're tired of looking at my face I guess I already am
But you've never been a waste of my time
It's never been a drag

(From "Divorce Song")

I think I've been taken
For everything I own
I've been hurt so badly
I'm alone, baby, I'm alone

(From "Johnny Sunshine")

It took an hour, maybe a day
But once I really listened, the noise
Just went away

(From "Stratford-on-Guy")


My uncle's friend is a 3rd grad teacher, and this paper was turned into her.

"Be the change you want to see in the world."

All week, NBC Nightly News is doing a series on "good news"--stories of people being kind to each other in light of the difficult economic circumstances. Stories of a local dry cleaning business providing the free cleaning of suits for folks going on job interviews, a cafe in Denver that allows people to "pay-what-you-can," and so on.

This warms my heart.

On sharing writing

I was invited to participate in a reading tomorrow evening with some friends and their friends--people who enjoy writing, want to share their writing, and want to be inspired by others' writing. I'm quite excited about it and am going through my files trying to decide what to read--something old and unseen by human eyes other than my own? something new? something that I write tomorrow?

Occasionally when I get blocked up or when I have too many things swirling in my head to make sense of, I do some free writing. I've found a bunch of these tonight as I look through old folders and thought I'd share this one. It's simply labeled, and quite short.

Free writing May 2008

The trim was uneven. Jagged edges. Seems symbolic somehow. The weekly seven minute phone call. We check in, confirm that we’re okay. We say goodbye. It seems like there should be more to say. My words lately come in spurts. I try to censor them—to dam them up—for everyone’s good. But sometimes the pressure builds up and they come gushing out until I can make repairs again. Little bits accumulating around me. Probably I should take care of them before they become overwhelming. Probably. Feel like I am in limbo. Patience does not come naturally to me. I wonder if others wonder the same things. I’d like to harness just a little bit of that again.

March 8, 2009

Connection and reconnection

I have been consistently amazed by the folks that social networking sites have brought into and back into my life. On Facebook, for example, are friends that I played with in preschool, people I went to school with from kindergarten through high school, college and grad school folks, siblings, kids I used to babysit for, girls I was a colorguard with, my high school chemistry and band teacher, my college english professor, those who worked as summer camp counselors with me in my early 20s, students from classes I've taught, friends I just spent time with yesterday, and so on. I realize that I'm not alone in this, but I'm just so AMAZED.

And I just found my ballet teacher, Romona Rose, from when I was five years old. I can't even believe it. I freaked out and sent her an overly excited message. (I hope I don't scare the poor woman.) I can still remember the entire ballet routine to "On My Tiny Toes." Here is a picture of me from that dance recital looking like quite the strumpet and with ambitions of being a prima ballerina in my head.

March 7, 2009

To Do Today (in no particular order)

Coffee (this one should indeed come first)
Say goodbye
Bird baths
Retrieve from dryer
Work on "98 feet deep"
Encourage D.
DFW obscure writings
take a stab at book proposal
Make something with goat cheese
Improve scandalous toenail situation

March 6, 2009

"All I ever learned from love was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you..."

Baby I've been here before
I've seen this room and I've walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you
I've seen your flag on the marble arch
but love is not a victory march
it's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah


Well there was a time when you let me know
what's really going on below
but now you never show that to me do you?...


Despite the difficulties and the wild swings and the erraticism and the strains that what I'm going through place on my personal relationships, I am enjoying a period of creativity right now unlike any I've ever known.

I'm making my boxes and I fucking love them. I made one a couple days ago of which I'm incredibly proud. As part of this endeavor I discovered SCRAP and am terribly excited by it.

Six Birds Cards was born, and I have hopes of trying to market them more seriously in the very near future.

I've written more than I've ever written in my life. I went this week and got Writer's Market 2009 and Guide to Literary Agents in order to learn more about writing query letters to potential publishers and about writing a complete proposal for the book whose pieces I've worked on.

This is all just part of the picture, of course: the good part.

Next week I have my first psychiatry appointment and I am both relieved and nervous. I am relieved because the rapid cycles of my mood and anxiety are wearing me out. I'm exhausted. I'm nervous because I will be on medication. Forever.

My therapist assuages my fears by telling me that I'll be much more level and that, while I won't have the same bursts of energy and motivation and optimism, I also won't have the long periods of complete blackness and apathy either. This is really scary to me.

I'm afraid of losing moments of relative brilliance.

I'm afraid of losing the parts of me that--though immensely challenging at times (just ask C!)--make me ME.

I'm also afraid that I'm just one giant fucked up package of crazy and that people will be afraid to be part of my life.

March 5, 2009

"Stay all day if you want to."

It still hurts an unbelievable amount. I honestly never thought the day would come when such coldness would be used.

Ridiculous text messages this afternoon with K.

A: K?

K: Yes

A: Do you like crunchy peanut butter?

K: Yes

A: Okay. Now you ask me a question.

K: Do you like grapes?

A: Seedless ones. Do you like donkeys?

K: No, but I like Donkey Kong. Have you ever seen a dinosaur dick?

A: I’ve never seen a dinosaur, let alone his dick.

K: Well you’re missing out.

A: What did you have for lunch?

K: Krystal Burgers…you?

A: Lately I thrive on a diet of Greek yogurt, Ativan, and dashed hopes and dreams.

K: So why then are we asking questions rather than talking?

[K then calls me at work.]

For anyone who writes, wants to write, or has written

"The Nature of the Fun" by David Foster Wallace

(Thanks, Matt.)

Melodrama... my middle name.

It was a bitch to learn to spell when I was a kid.

Narrate my life

A great deal of my life has been devoted to performing for the imaginary audience in my head.

From a very young age, I had a large number of household responsibilities. I would imagine that it was late at night after the bar had closed, and I was the last one cleaning up after everyone else had gone. I would pause in my sweeping, rest my chin on my hand atop the broom, and gaze sadly off into the distance. I would start to sing Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” in a soft voice:

“He says, ‘Bill I believe this is killing me,’
As the smile ran away from his face
‘Well I’m sure that I could be a movie star
if I could get out of this place…’”

I would imagine this scene as a flashback to my childhood—to the days when I was young and powerless over my life. The audience would know by that point that I’d already made it. While watching the flashback with me sweeping with a broom as tall as me, they’d think, “Look how far she came! It’s hard to believe there was ever a time when people didn’t want her autograph!”

I would perform long, dramatic monologues for imaginary lovers. Wearing a bathrobe and slamming a glass of watery ice cubes down on the table, I would run my hands through my hair with drunken anguish and cry, “But I don’t love you anymore! You’ve hurt me too many times!” He would beg me to stay, saying he couldn’t LIVE without me, but I held firm. “My bags are packed,” I sniffed unsympathetically. “I’m leaving and you’ll never hear from me again.” The audience would marvel at how strong I was being. Other girls might take that man back, but not their Amie!

The audience witnessed the darker times, too. The evil stepfather hated our cats, and liked to make up games to amuse himself.

“See all the cat food on the floor?” he would ask. “Pick it up.” I put on my best stiff upper lip for the audience and picked up the two pieces on the floor and threw them in the trash.

“Okay,” I answered. “I’m done.” (Whew! That was an easy one.)

“Don’t fuck with me,” he would snap. “Pick it up.”

The audience and I caught onto his game simultaneously. I went around, gathering up the rest of the invisible pieces. I would pick up a few and hunt around, certain there were more; then I’d have an “aha!” moment as I discovered some hidden in the corner. As I gather the imaginary pieces in my hands, the audience held their breath, and I carefully watched the stepfather’s face for a sign as to when I could stop pretending to pick up invisible cat foot.

He was tricky, though. Just when his face relaxed and I brushed off my hands to skip off to do something else, his eyes blazed. I backed slowly toward the audience. Through clenched teeth he said, “I told you to pick up the fucking cat food.”

“I did! I will, I will!” I cried.

The audience gasped as he grabbed a handful of my hair and pounded my head against the wall to punctuate each word: “Don’t! Stop! Until! I! Say! So!” He let go of my hair and stormed out of the house. I crumpled to the floor, crying quietly. After a sufficient time had passed to demonstrate my pain, I lifted my chin, and parted my hair from my face so they could see the tears rolling down my cheeks. I stepped into the role of the narrator: “And that’s when she knew she would leave forever,” I told the people in the hushed darkness.

March 2, 2009


We used to keep a taxidermied squirrel in our living room when I was a kid.

“Squirrelly,” or the slightly more original “Squirrelly-Man” as he was sometimes known, had been shot by my stepfather and then mounted on a thick cross-section of tree trunk that formerly had a Budweiser beer logo shellacked onto it. Squirrelly sat up on his haunches in an alert, curious position with his fluffy tail neatly shaped into a question mark behind him. His eyes were bright and glossy, his nails were sharp, and his coat was soft.

At first I was excited when we brought Squirrelly home. Now I had the opportunity to be close to a creature that formerly eluded me with its speed and agility. Even better was that Squirrelly helped fulfill a portion of my own personal Disney-fueled dream. I loved movies like “Cinderella” and “Sleeping Beauty” not for their predictable being-rescued-by-the-handsome-prince plotline, but because all the little forest creatures wanted to be around those ladies. All one of them had to do was begin to sing, and flocks of bunnies, squirrels, and fat little chirping bluebirds would alight on and around them and gaze in adoration at the poor, persecuted girl with the sweet and melodious sounds emanating from her mouth.

I couldn’t sing to save my soul, but I had tried standing in the yard on many occasions—singing earnestly until I was hoarse—waiting for creatures to gather eagerly around me. There were rarely bunnies in sight; the squirrels rushed up the trunks of the tallest trees; the fat little bluebirds (as well as the cardinals, robins, finches, bluejays, starlings, and crows) remained high in the branches or—the worst insult of all—flew away.

Squirrelly’s arrival brought new hope to this endeavor. I would place him in front of me in the yard and sing loudly to him with my arms outstretched in hopeful anticipation of an avian audience. “See?” I would croon imploringly, to all the animals in the vicinity: “This squirrel loves my song. Come and listen with him!” I eventually grew bored with my lack of success and moved on to utilize Squirrelly in other ways.

My family was rather poor, and at times the only meat we had was whatever my stepfather had hunted: deer, rabbits, squirrels, and grouse were the most common animals in our crockpot and at our dinner table. I felt incredibly guilty about this, and worried about the psychological effects it might have on Squirrelly. Soon it became a personal mission for me to give him a good life in order to make up for the one that got cut short as a result of my family’s need for food. I would stroke him tenderly, carry him around with me as I played so that he wouldn’t feel lonely, and whisper encouraging things in his ear. I wanted to reassure him that getting shot hadn’t been his fault. I couldn’t tolerate the thought that he might be under the impression that he’d gotten caught because he was a slow squirrel or a stupid squirrel.

Squirrelly particularly liked to play Barbies with me. He was skilled and willing to fill in for boyfriends, husbands, brothers, large dogs, and horses given my dearth of Ken dolls and Barbie pets. Within moments he could go from holding the most beautiful Barbie in his arms and kissing her passionately to serving as the valiant steed who would carry her far, far away to a different kingdom where a new king and queen would take them both in and adopt them.

Squirrelly and I dreamed of real escape, too. Sometimes we would stand out in my front yard, putting ourselves on display for car and pedestrian passersby. I was convinced if I just nailed the facial expression that conveyed the perfectly balanced combination of hopefulness, innocence, and pathos, someone would have mercy on my stuffed squirrel and I. They would jump out of their car and urge me to hurry, hurry! Get in the car!

I wouldn’t have to explain about my stepfather and his cruelty. I wouldn’t have to assure them that I was actually a nice and helpful girl and they would not regret adopting me. I wouldn’t have to ask if I could bring Squirrelly. All this would be understood the first time my new parents and I looked at each other, and Squirrelly and I would jump in the car, never to set foot on Lawman Ave. again.