Saturday, May 31, 2014


There are only two perks of living where I live:  the first are the birds.  Shorebirds, migratory path heaven, strays blown in from across the Gulf, the usual suspects who inhabit the South.  Then there is the selection at the grocery store.  It means at my local market--the one in the middle of nowhere, fifteen miles from the nearest Wal-Mart--Neeco's, carries all the Cajun brands of food.  There is lots of sausage, Chesi's ham in the deli, anything you can imagine with a fleur-de-li stamped on it--beer cozies, bird baths, shirts, tattoos on the workers--and any spice you need to make a Cajun anything.  There is a little packet rack that has a Cajun meatloaf that is to die for.  

So meeting me when I came in the door was a display of Zatarain's,
the dry kind, not the little bottle of liquid crab boil, which I highly recommend.  (You can buy an onion-shaped onion cooker for the microwave.  Cut the bottom and the top off an onion, peel, put on one tablespoon of butter and one capful of Zatarain's.  Microwave until done. Heaven).  I took a box.  I am leaving here soon, which means I will not be to my father's grave for a very long time.  I've only visited it once since I was here, since he is nothing but ash now and I feel that he is gone.  If he can hear me, then he can hear me from anywhere.  I am glad he has not been here the past two years, it would have been impossible to care for him and cope.

He died in the most terrible shape.  He was a diabetic who would not yield to his condition, and lived in absolute squalor after my  mother and he broke up.  But that is not important.

What is important is that while he lived--although he was a very easily stressed and angry man--he loved people and had a gift.  That gift was anything that was taken from the sea or garden, and transforming it into something people rhapsodized about.

Understand Cajun culture:  Those of Southern Louisiana are their own set of personnes, they are extremely open and will call you "Boo" a lot.  "Boo, how you doin!"  "Boo, I love yew!", it goes on and on and although Gulfport is on the periphery, we still call each other Boo.  They show up.  They show up.  At your door.  Uninvited.  In my father's case, with coolers and coolers of shrimp or crawdads they have just bought off the boat.  They were there to eat.  They were there because my dad was a miracle of sorts to them.  "No Mississippi boy's gonna know how to cook shrimp," the largest man carrying the cooler had said a few years before.

They would go to the carport, opening the gates that swung shut over it wide.  Daddy had a propane burner and a 50 gallon pot.  And into it would go bottles--bottles, mind you--of Tabasco, two or three eight ounce containers of cayenne, masses of uhn-yauns, (pick seafood, crab, crawdad, shrimp), red potatoes, corn, and my personal favorite, weenies.  (They are hot dogs everywhere else).  Out would come the ping-pong table (it was the seventies, after all) and the Times-Picayune, which they would use to cover the table and then eat.  And eat.  And eat.

He was always amused by that line about a Mississippi boy not being able to Cajun properly.  He was the best around, cooking for as many as five hundred at a time.  His education came by being a barge captain in Baton Rouge, in the remote bayous, where the elderly Cajuns would tell him--from their porches where he would ease up the barge and talk to them from the deck--and take their secrets back with him to the carport in New Orleans.

Thus was born my first lesson ever about food--or the one that I remembered--"Sue-Sue," my mother would say, "Do not touch your eyes when you eat."  I took this as the gospel, and there are pictures of me sitting on top of a ten gallon pot peeling and eating my own shrimp, much like the one above, Polaroid with a little date to one side, with my red-headed brother beside me at an antiqued yellowed table.

I had some frozen shrimp in the freezer tonight and I threw it into a pot with the Zatarain's, the remains of an very large onion, and a bit of corn on the cob I had in the fridge.  And there was supper.  I had turned on the stove hood, but then I realized, I wanted the whole house to fill with the smell.  And then I leaned over the pot and breathed the incense of my childhood, that smell, wafting up in the dark of the carport, the darkest sky, the friendliest voices, the best food, and a gift exercised and appreciated.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Years ago, a friend of mine named Greg--whom I respect a great deal theologically, he is a very dedicated Catholic--had to sit down and write a letter explaining why he thought his first marriage (with no children) failed.  He said it took him months, and it was for his annulment within the church.

I am nearly at the two year mark of leaving my ex-husband.  I am divorced, and since I am not Catholic, I do not have to seek an annulment.  I just have to be.

But being can be hard when the losses are profound.  I read a quote today that really stopped me in my tracks, and was exactly what I needed to hear.

                                            Forgive yourself for the blindness that put you in the path of those who                                                         betrayed you.  Sometimes a good heart doesn't see the bad.

Pinterest, if you're wondering.  No credit;  I wish there were.

And that's the thing.  My man and I were talking today, about how we were never right where some of our loved ones were concerned.  One of each of our parents made us feel like utter failures all the time.  And so did our spouses.  His directly in a critical way--his career, his hobbies and his habits--none of which bother me.  Mine, indirectly.

In the very beginning of the marriage--which by all accounts was extremely happy--I remember thinking to myself--he feels more like a parent than a partner.  As the years wore on, he talked to me more and more like a parent.  What did I contribute to this process?  It is hard to live with a spouse who has both ADHD and microsleep.  (The microsleeping is no longer a problem, and thus so the ADHD abets as well).  I was over-emotional.  I could never keep a job.  I was a self-perpetuating hurricane on a lot of the situations I was involved in, particularly work.  I just couldn't keep it together, and I had no idea the humility and insight I lacked into how the world worked.

So I'm sure that got old.  I also have a highly dysfunctional family, although it is down to just my mother.  This is a devout Christian who constantly tells me how I am doing things wrong.  I need a lesson on how to flush the toilet, I need to be told how to park the car in the yard, I am constantly at the mercy of schedule changes--additional errands--when we are out, and no matter how much I beg for her to please not do that to me, it never changes.  When I have spoke up about it in the past, I've been screamed at--literally--about how selfish I am.

I called to tell her I was going to pick up a lawnmower that she had offered to buy me.  She insisted on coming.  Then she wanted me to go with her to sign the papers to her new house.  Then lunch.  Then another errand.  And when the third one came around and I said, "I really need to get home," she refused to give me the lawnmower and screamed--screamed, literally--at me because I was being selfish.  Because I didn't want to go to the utility company.  Yesterday, I got told how evil I am that I always want to be "rescued" and put down those who love me poisoning other's minds against her and others.

This from the woman who interred my father and sent me pictures afterwards.

I thought it was life, you know, to have to pick up repeatedly and start over.  I had no understanding--until I was well, just about a year ago--what a solid career meant.  I graduated with a writing degree about four years ago in an age where you could write for online content mills and make--at least for me--enough money to keep going on.  I had a nice freelance job there for a while working for a pair of strange Scientology sisters.  (One was super-Vulcan but nice, and one was super-crazy and uptight).  When that ended, we made a move to Virginia, where I found out a few things:  I didn't love him anymore, I didn't have access to any money, and I hadn't enough to stay in Virginia on my own.

There was a time when I dumpster dived food early in our marriage, and was happy to do so.  I dumpster dived a lot of stuff, I really got into it.  The question is, should I have had to?  I didn't understand what it meant to have my own career, and I grew up with an underemployed father.  Daddy never would have accepted the things I had to do to make it in my marriage.  On my 41st birthday, I realized to my horror that I had to go buy groceries and hope the money was in our account. It was typical.

I don't need to expound on what else occurred.  I just know that hopefully, my son and I are moving on soon to a new life with a wonderful person who will never let us fall grovel for what we need nor will he ever extend my hand to my mother and take whatever I can get.

My son and I live in a rural setting, and we loathe it.  We live in a very nice double wide (truly, it is) that was let to us by a friend of my mother's, but we've had nothing but crazy neighbors to our left and rear, children that my son eventually could not play with because of their high dysfunction.  It is hard to endure;  he stays in his room and plays Minecraft a lot, with the only true advantage is he does know some really nice kids on there and his dad plays, too.  Since his dad is 984 miles away, this is a good thing.

Talk was essential in my last marriage, and there was a lot of it, especially on my part.  There was a lot of dreaming of travel, which involved either history or science or both, particularly "Wouldn't It Be Nice If We Could Go To The Smithsonian."  Air and Space, etc.

The other day my son and I were visiting our forthcoming town--my old hometown--where we are going to be living quite soon, at least 15 miles closer to a decent grocery store than we are now.  No more running to the Dollar General for every little thing and having to plot and scheme just to get into town.  Karate comes back--I get karate back, even if it's just once a week.  I do squats in preparation, and have started to stretch and do push-ups again.  I ask God for guidance and say, "Just get me in my gi, Lord."  We were sitting in a parking lot as I was disoriented as to how to get to the magnet school which we were applying to.  He was on the phone with his dad, asking for some cash later that afternoon in order to take a trip through Toys R Us on the way back home.  He said that they were going on vacation on July 12th and that my mother was probably coming with them.

We got into the magnet school. My son said it was one of the best days of his life--no more little Redneck school where he was ostracized.

Am I alone in feeling dismayed that there they go--my ex-husband and my entire family--my two children and my mother on the trip that was supposed to belong to us and not just them?  I'm whining and complaining in this post, and I probably shouldn't publish it.  It's too dark around the edges, it's still more of the same, really.

If my mother goes, my daughter will have an escape hatch for her anxiety.  Her dad made her feel--like me--completely helpless in his mistakes, and being with my mom will mean she has options.  Being around him makes her crazy, but most things stress her out greatly because of the stress she had to endure in our leaving and in--quite honestly--a mother who fell apart afterwards.  She's also got a seven year gap between her and her brother and they won't be interested in doing the same things.  She lives with my mother because she no longer could be civil to her brother, for whatever reasons--probably because she had to step in as a parent in so many circumstances while I was waiting tables or doing whatever I could to make ends meet.

But part of me feels like my heart's been pulled underwater.  I will be with my future husband by this time, we will be forming a step family, and it will be immensely better for us financially and emotionally.  But come July, I hope that whatever grace God provides to the broken hearted coats me protectively.

Who knew, really, what would become of the baby in the basket when it was let downstream?  The Nile lead past many a temple, many a person, many a priest.  Would that baby land among the kind?  There was no way to know, was there?

And we are in a basket of linen and rush, pitched, and in the hands of God.  And sometimes we just have to go with it, to lay there and float.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Dear Future Husband,

You know how I'd much rather be pinning than writing Ye Olde Screenplays, or editing, or furthering my career by Tweeting or blogging, but I had to make an exception when I saw this pin.

I want you to know that after twenty-five years of knowing you and having been through not one but unfortunately two marriages before I Figured Out It Was You The Whole Damn Time, that I do not expect you to stop your job, spend the money, or plan to take a picture of The Moment.

Because between those last two, we had 33 years of marriage between us.  And we didn't get it right.  Yeah, there was bad stuff that happened to both of us and we wound up not being with the right people.  But parts of us are wise enough to know there was enough happiness not to regret it, despite the heartbreak of separation and divorce.  Because it all costs, and happiness--especially for our parents--wasn't a reality and we know how special and rare even the good moments with the wrong person were.  We got great children out of it, if nothing else--and how can one discount all the years spent forming them?  And our ex's, although not good to us, are good parents, and that in itself is a blessing.

Mine, for example, is never late on child support.  And having walked away from his money and wound up a waitress, I became incredibly grateful for his financial consistency, particularly listening to other waitresses.  And that I had the strength to walk away from his income to protect my dignity and my kid's respect of me and therefore, themselves.

They are better off without fighting parents.

This gal that made this pin, she doesn't realize this yet.  She just wants a picture.  What she doesn't realize is that the real moments are when you can stand beside each other and wash the dishes. When the baby has colic and you can't even stand to be in the house.  When you have mean, unkind narcissistic parents who say and do terrible things and you just deal with it and your spouse just smiles.  Just smiles.  Just helps ease your pain.

She doesn't realize that this is an incredibly private moment and if she really needs someone there to photograph it to remember it, she's missing the point.

Our spoiled Instagram Tweeting world.  It isn't about the ring.  It isn't about the moment.  It's about the hardship and the refusal to be bitter.  Everyone gets a cross.  No exceptions.  Marital couples who bind themselves together in spite of it don't need a photographer, they just pick it up and move on up the hill.

I know one of us will pass in front of the other, naked as they came.  I know cancer, car accidents, unhappy teenagers, bad choices, lack of retirement, lack of vacation, lack of financial validation will come.  And it will go.  And I will be bonded to you as much as I ever was, if not more.

Don't bother with a photographer, just your hand will do.