Your listening pleasure

TELL me . . . [pleading tone] Whatever possessed me to go to Fry’s Electronics without carrying my tape recorder?

Who would do something that dumb?

Well, OK, I’m on this diet. And hubby was in a hurry, having decided he needed one of those stick-memory-drive-thingamajigs. So I ran out the door without snatching up my recorder–actually a Roland Edirol R-1, a secret spy device I’ve been watching for some time at high-end music stores until it just finally went on clearance for about $400 instead of the $600 it used to cost.

But! As I had hoped, the pianist was there. They have a Steinway concert grand at this Fry’s, the centerpiece of the computer game aisles, and they have a PianoDisc hooked up to it that plays most of the time. But on Fridays and Saturdays, they often have a piano player. I had spoken very briefly to him a few weeks ago when he was playing through Beethoven sonatas and talking to two of his friends from the graduate music school at SMU. This time, I was the only one who stood inconspicuously* by as he played through the Liebestraume #3. At the end, I couldn’t restrain my applause.

[* Okay, *I* can’t be that inconspicuous, even when not applauding. Too flamboyant. Kind of like putting a blonde Jo Ann Worley in the center of a bunch of Amish guys. But in a way, middle-aged fat women ARE invisible, for the most part. However, that is changing somewhat as I become more normal-sized.]

Applause didn’t scare him. “Isn’t that a beautiful composition?” He turned around and grinned. “What would you like to hear?”

Of course I couldn’t think of anything. He had already played all the old chestnuts that I love (the Beethoven “Moonlight” sonata, Rhapsody in Blue, Schubert’s Moments Musical, etc.), as it was almost quittin’ time (5 PM), and I couldn’t think of anything thrillingly obscure.

However, then we got to chatting about various pieces, and he ended up playing fragments of Beethoven’s Sonata in C# minor (“Moonlight”) as we discussed how I might go about learning the third movement (“practice slowly”). And the “Rhapsody in Blue.” And the first of the Gershwin preludes. And music from various video games (“Mario,” I think, is the one I recognized.) And various other fragments that must have driven everyone else in the store mad. (*GRIN*) I know they were expecting a normal playlist.

I really wish I had turned around and gone back into the house for the Edirol. (I also forgot to take it to the piano party. What kind of fool AM I? A forgetful one, indeed.)

We compared hand sizes. At first he claimed his hands weren’t going to be that much larger. Then I actually held my palm up against one of his, and it was like your one-year-old holding a palm up against Mickey Mouse’s at Disneyland (the guys in those costumes have to wear HUGE gloves.) Unfair advantage! I was also supposed to be TALLER than this. I should have been issued platform boots at birth.

It turns out that the pianist has a video on YouTube, too. I told him I’d link to his video so that he could become world-famous on the ‘net! (Well, at least he’ll get a couple of viewings out of it.)

Thiago playing the Volodos arrangement of Mozart’s Rondo Alla Turca. Camera work is wacky, though.

And here’s someone playing an Improvisation on Rondo Alla Turca. Camera work is steady.

While we’re on the topic of listening. . . .

I love Radio Bastet. Every month, she puts up music off of old, out-of-print 1970s belly dance (beledi) and Middle Eastern LPs as a kind of podcast. Be sure you have a way for your browser to open a page and play an MP3 file (or pop to WinAmp or another player.) What happens for me is that I click on the link and then after a pause WinAmp pops open and begins playing her opening monologue. The tracks are authentically off of old LPs found at flea markets and in thrift shops, and they have not been “cleaned up” from having pops sometimes, so be warned. You also need to be a fan of the 1970s/80s belly dance records or be a dancer or you won’t really be fascinated by this one.

Listen to Marisa’s new podcast at Radio Bastet Playlist 72. Visit her homepage at Radio Bastet.

The belly dance class I’m taking from my friend starts on August 1st. I’m stoked and properly prepared (complete with copper-toned ankle bracelets made of bells, a beaded hip scarf, and a homemade chiffon veil to match), ready for the other beginners to goggle at the Fat Broad who already knows most of the moves. You burn more calories when people point and laugh as you exercise, you know.

Lucky thing.

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Oh, dear. Just got e-mail from a piano teacher with whom I had scheduled an audition/appointment for today at noon. Of course she had e-mailed me about this last Monday as a reminder. Of course I got all caught up in the events of the weekend (we met my sister-in-law at a large electronics store to buy her a computer on Saturday, went to a piano party, had my ear “pop” and drive me crazy Sunday night, etc.–just normal stuff) and forgot about it entirely. In fact, I woke up at seven when the dog wanted to go out and tinkle and took a shower and started doing some de-junking. At nine-thirty I sat down to watch a re-run of Dick Van Dyke or something and fell asleep. By noon I was up to my knees in various plastic boxes that I was trying to sort through to see if I could use them for storage. . . .

You’d think that by my age, I’d be “organized.” Nope. I have bought endless numbers of calendars, guided by the Type A friends I always seem to have . . . you know, the people who buy a new notebook for every school year or every new business quarter, fill it with all sorts of specialized pages and a ruler and an area code map, and then note down all manner of things on the various pages. They sit patiently with me and set up an elaborate system of remembering stuff, but it simply is not in my nature to do it. I can’t keep a food diary. (Boring! And who is thinking that much about food? It’s tough to remember to write down when I drink a shake or eat a bowl of Medifast oatmeal *even now*, because that requires me to focus on the immediate present, the now, and on the mundane details. I’m usually busy thinking about something else equally useless but more interesting.) I never keep up with calendars. I’m grateful that our doctor’s office has a service that calls us the morning before the day of an appointment or blood draw to remind us about it. I’m thankful that *most* of my friends and acquaintances tolerate the seeming absent-mindedness and occasional tardiness. Still, it probably would be helpful if I could at LEAST follow a calendar.

I know where you’re going . . . you’re going to say, “If you are on the computer so much, why not use one of the many Notifying programs and the built-in calendar? Why not get a Palm Pilot and set that up for alarms?” That would, again, be something an organized person would do. Is there something in the calendar function of Windows XP that’ll do reminders? That would be interesting to try out.

Now comes the worst part of a forgotten appointment . . . the calling to apologize and explain. *sigh* What’s the explanation, though? “I forgot all about you” makes it sound as if I hadn’t been planning for the get-together, but in fact I had been practicing and polishing up a few pieces for the audition. I just hadn’t kept track of the day of the week and when this was actually going to be. I know, that’s tough for those of you who think concretely/organized-ly to buy, but that’s the way the ol’ brain works around here. I could make up white lies, but they count as sins, and what’s the point . . . people know you’re just making something up. The *best* thing would be not to make any appointments at all. I never remember that when I come up with a new I-Love-Lucy Plan, though.

I can remember stuff that happens regularly, oddly enough. Every other Wednesday we do the writers’ group, and I usually know by the weekend before that I need to do my critiques and post my chapter. Every three months we go to the doctor for a diabetes check, and I start getting a feeling that it’s time to go back around then. Tuesdays and Fridays are our trash pick-up days, and if I remember that it’s Tuesday, I always get that trash put out by 9 AM. *grin*

When I worked at a Regular Job, I used to have methods for remembering meetings. One was post-it notes stuck on the side of the computer monitor. The other was my cubicle neighbors (who typically went to the same status meetings and were aware of this absent-ness of mine), who would start getting ready ten minutes in advance and yell over the cubicle walls for me to come on already. Another method was to get a phone call from the people in the conference room asking where I was.

I wasn’t a candidate for management, you may rest assured. I was a “think tank” and “innovation” type. You can’t have EVERYthing.

Having a personal assistant would work wonders. Wouldn’t that be grand? And I could make him/her read through questionable passages in the book, or listen to a few measures of a piano piece to see if I’m getting there, or talk to the people who invariably call while I’m trying to write a journal entry or e-mail. Wonder how much THAT would cost? (Ha!!)

And there, on cue, is the telephone! *click*

This is only a drill

Well, I’m kind of disappointed. But also a little relieved. We won’t have to start keeping the house spotless after all. . . . (Not that I was ever going to be able to!)

I’ll bet you’ve been wondering exactly why I suddenly felt the need a couple of weeks ago to mount a major cleanup/organizational project here at Slacker Cottage. I’m not the kind of person who needs to see perfection in every room (like my mother) or who worries too much about anything more than basic cleanliness and comfort. Because, of course, I’m typically occupied with one or another of my creative projects. And I could never keep up with picking up after this messy family. I really need Rosie the Robot from the Jetsons. (We have been waiting quite a while for them to develop her model for sale. Money is no object.)

But I’ve been doing a lot of this fixing-up in anticipation of having my cousin’s daughter Steffanie come to live with us, not permanently o’course, but just to spend at least a couple of semesters of her freshman year (starting this fall) living in our third bedroom. She’s the eldest of my cousin’s children–and her mom is the only one of my cousins on my dad’s side whom we’ve really kept in touch with that well. I have been kind of looking forward to getting to know her better now that she’s entering college and coming to the big city (to double-major in music/piano pedagogy and computer science at my old alma mater, in fact.) I was kind of anticipating getting to meet and greet a lot of young(er) people–her friends and classmates–and playing a role that my mom used to play for us, the Earth Mother type who listens and commisserates and gives advice and watches benignly over things. I thought it would be fun to play housemother, in a way, for a while. She’s never lived away from home (a small town north of here) and has really not spent many nights away, either, other than at piano camps and vacation weeks. We thought this would be a good way for her to ease into big city life. And fun, too.

But alas (for me), it isn’t meant to be. Steffanie has found a sweet deal with three roommates way down there in near East Dallas (Lakewood area), in an older house not far from the university she’ll start attending this fall. It’s like your grandmother’s house probably was–built in the 1930s or so, it has wood floors that creak when you walk on them, smells a little musty, and has an overgrown landscape and older kitchen appliances. But every bedroom is large and has a door exiting to the outdoors (remember when houses were built like that, because of cross-ventilation and/or fire considerations?) and a fairly large closet and a couple of windows. She’ll have access to the kitchen (not that she knows how to cook) and the main living areas, and has a carport-like area where she’ll park her car under the trees.

Two of the kids (ha–now I’m talking like my grandmother) have been there a year already, and the third is the daughter of a friend of her parents’ from church who will also be new to the household. Each one has her own bedroom. They will share the rent and utility payments. (Her parents won’t have any trouble helping her out, although she’s already trying to arrange for an on-campus job and perhaps some other work.)

Here at Casa el Dumpo, she’d have had about a twelve-mile commute in her little acid-green New Volkswagen. There, it’s more like three to five miles. Here, she’d have used my mom’s old Midcentury Modern bedroom suite and part of my office bookcases. There, she’ll have her own stuff. The room she’s renting is empty, but we had no trouble getting stuff to fill it last weekend at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.

In fact, it rather amazed me what one can pick up for under $500. I took her out shopping last weekend when she had finalized her leasing arrangements and realized she had no furniture. At BB&B, they have these really neat folding bookcases in two heights/widths, made of metal and wood. She got a couple of those and a folding computer desk/hutch to match . . . all of which will line her walls now, but then will fold up and move easily to the next place she needs to go, or into the garage when she goes home for the summer next summer (if that’s what happens–her parents think it will, but we’ll see). We also got a computer-desk rolling chair and a “recliner”-type chair that looks kind of modern and cool. She got an AeroBed at Target, full-sized, so she’ll just inflate that and leave it inflated as her bed. (We’ll see how comfy that turns out to be.) Pottery Barn Teens has some great stuff in the catalog that she has ordered–sheets, shelving, a 1950s-style lamp-on-a-stick. She got a multi-armed lamp and a bedside lamp (as well as bedside tables) at Target for nearly nothing. Her parents got her a mini-fridge, mini-microwave, blender, and toaster oven that they seem to think she can keep in her room . . . I think the toaster oven/blender will end up in the communal kitchen, though. She’s going to bring a couple of posters and some odds and ends to make things homey, now that she has her own blank walls to cover.

She won’t have to worry about turning on the phone the way I did when I got my first place because she (of course) already has her cell phone. And her iPod with portable speakers. And her laptop. The roommates have a networked computer setup so that she can get on the ‘net using her wireless card, and she can go to Starbucks or other coffee shops or to the school library and do the same. There’s even an old-but-good upright piano in the front room of the house, and she’s going to get it tuned and will have access to it. (She’ll have to arrange for times to practice, but that won’t be tough, I hope. Before, she’d have been playing on my old baby grand, which I’d have enjoyed hearing. She does have a Yamaha full-sized keyboard–one big enough to need a stand and have its own pedal–which she has all connected into a MIDI setup with her desktop computer at home, and I figure that she’ll bring all that along as well now that she’ll have more room. That means she won’t have to wait around for the practice rooms at school, although she still may choose to do that. Their pianos are a quantum leap nicer than the old upright. It’s one of those no-name honky-tonks like I used to have as a kid.)

All in all, an unbelievable piece of luck and a great setup. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that it all continues to work out well! Even though I’m disappointed, I’m excited on her behalf. I didn’t really think about how easy it is nowadays to set up housekeeping and be on the go, but it is. I suppose I’m way out of touch. And will stay that way, unless she keeps her promise to come by and visit us . . . and lets us come over to visit sometimes.

They’re thinking about getting a cat. There are already neighborhood cats that one of the roommates feeds. And an aquarium. Saltwater, yet.

We’ll see. I mean, this all sounds too good to be true. But maybe sometimes that kind of thing happens.

It’ll be way more fun for her as a new freshman to be down there near the social life of the school and the Dallas nightlife. Here in Richardson, at least in our neck of the woods, the sidewalks pretty much roll up around 9:30 PM. There’s a petition going around to allow beer/wine and liquor-by-the-drink in restaurants so that our restaurants will have a fighting chance of staying open more than a few months, but I wouldn’t call this area a jumpin’ nightlife district.

Still . . . it would have been fun for *me*.

I *think*. I’m so eccentric and such a critter of randomness that it might have been a real stretch. But sometimes we like to stretch. And sometimes we even need to.

This does mean that I can continue de-junking at a somewhat lesser pace. Good thing, too, because I just don’t have a lot of energy on this diet. There’s a piano party tonight (where a number of adult piano students get together at somebody’s house to perform and listen to each other play), and my aunt’s 82nd birthday party is *next* weekend . . . I already made her a mix CD (of old Western and country hits that she likes) and am coordinating the effort to get us up there with a cake. (Where they live, about 60 miles north of here, they’ve suffered with temperatures of 108, even hotter than our highs of 105 and 107, and none of my elderly relatives have been able to go out of the house.) Trust me, it’s going to be a feat to get Mama ready to go and to persuade hubby to shut up and come along. (He’d rather stay home and play WoW on his computer, but he needs to shut up and come along to some family events. It’ll be good for him to deny himself for a change.) We’ll have a lot of stuff going on. Still. . . .

. . . that Earth Mother stuff might have been fun. And talk about material for a new book!

I need to get back to business, anyway. I’ve got to record those two songs for Dennis. I’ll be sending the first five chapters of _Nice Work_ to that agent. I’m going to send the full manuscript of _Camille_ and perhaps the full manuscript of _Little Rituals_ out again. And I must get back to work on that Ranch Romance. Surely I can come up with something to write for the “rescue from the pit” scene.

Too hot to go geocaching. Don’t wanna clean house. Maybe I’ll just sit at the breakfast table and watch the birds fight over the birdbath and the feeders outside the window for a while. It’s only 91 now . . . the day hasn’t even warmed up yet.

A cold front is also on its way! (Keep your fingers crossed. There could even be rain. That dance seems to be working.)

# # #
Is crochet harder than knitting?

This guy has built an amazing library of scanned-in player piano music rolls and MIDI files.

The archive of Unheard Beethoven, music that has been neglected. They are SO nice here–go visit and send ’em a note telling them how nice the site is.

Ways to destroy the planet without really trying

The Young Frankenstein sound bite page

Long time no write

Did you miss me? Of course not! But for those following the Saga, I’ve been unable to get to the computer or to the desk to do much writing, even on a journal entry, because for the past couple of weeks we’ve had a Mission:Organization effort going here at Casa el Dumpo. It wasn’t a concerted effort by a huge HGTV show crew, but just me. That made it take lots longer.

I took everything out of the kitchen cabinets and organized them. We took the island out of the kitchen and reassembled it on the other side of the breakfast bar. (It wasn’t a built-in, but something I wanted to keep.) I slipcovered the breakfast room chairs. It still doesn’t look as if I did much of anything.

Then I started the Herculean task of cleaning out the closets. Lots worse than the Aegean stables, and I didn’t have a river to divert (we’re in the second year of a drought, and there’s a nationwide heat wave anyhow.) I had clothes in every size. I decided we should only have things that we do wear or actually could wear in the closets. You can well imagine the chaos. It was worse because on the VLCD* I’m on, you run out of energy and have to rest a lot.

(* Vewwy Low Calorie Diet. It seems to be working somewhat.)

As I wrote to Dennis:
“I’ve spent all week . . . all day every day, just about . . . working on unjunking all the closets. I had clothes from every era, size, etc. Stuff I got on sale or mail-ordered, then folded or hung up but never really wore because [choose one] it didn’t really fit right / it wasn’t becoming/ it made me look the size of a double-wide trailer/ the color made me turn pumpkin-orange/ it was just too matronly/ it was over-the-top in pattern and would put people temporarily blind when they looked my direction/ it was blah and looked like a nearsighted little old biddy had sewn it with loving hands at home/ I never could really find shoes or whatever to go with it/ I wore it once and got a stain right on the boob area, but kept thinking I would sew a patch over the stain, so kept the item/ it was something I bought a size or two too small so I could have “incentive” to lose weight/ it was so out of style by the time I ever tried it on again that it would’ve been embarrassing/ I forgot I even had it because there was so much stuff. My left index finger is going OWOWOW at the first joint because of carrying all those hangers back and forth, putting together a cheapie shelving unit and hauling it into the closet, hauling all that stuff out and sorting it to be tossed, folded, or re-hung up.

“Hubby had a bunch of his dad’s clothes that we brought home right after his dad passed away, and I thought at the time that it would be nice if he wore them because they were hardly worn at all–some of them almost new, bought before his dad got sick–but of course you know perfectly well that he would NEVER TOUCH THEM and they were just taking up 1/2 of one side of the closet and they were depressing to look at. I just stuffed them all into a couple of lawn bags and am trying to make myself give them away. My crazy/alcoholic uncle could probably wear some of them, but if he found out where they came from, they’d go into the trash . . . it’s a shame, but that’s the usual dilemma. But anyhow I did make room for the stuff hubs actually wears, which was hanging on these hooks over the doors to the second and third bedrooms and to the bathroom. (Y’know those hooks that go over the door, meant to hold a few things . . . were always holding whatever I had just washed that he’d wear again, jeans and Dockers and golf shirts and a couple of cloth shirts, recycling through the same 25 or 30 things. They never made it to the closet.) I kept all the ties and a few hankies and a couple of gimme caps of his dad’s, and we’ll put those somewhere else, out of the normal clothes storage area.

“Mama tried to/wanted to be happy about this plan to clean/organize, but she’s an old-school perfectionist, so whenever she would amble back here to “check on me” (several times I was all red-faced and I did need to take a break!), she’d just get all upset. “How can anyone live like this…” “You’re the worst slob in the world…” And so forth. Then she’d try to dust some other area by running her hand over it, then blowing the dust out into the air so that we’d have to breathe it in. I kept saying that I had to start at the back room/closet and work my way out, and that I would handle that NEXT, and please don’t get sidetracked off what I am doing, because that leads to just bits and pieces and nothing ever gets finished and suddenly the day is over. She got kind of crazy a couple of times and really went into some hurtful personal attacks–partly because she’s got a stomach problem from taking those antibiotics, and because she’s still not quite well from being sick, and partly because I have just been the whipping boy for 40+ years and she doesn’t even realize she is saying it. In fact, when I said that “When you say I don’t deserve to have a house and don’t deserve to live and should die in filth, that hurts my feelings, and now that I don’t have the outlet of stuffing my mouth with whatever is lying around in the fridge, it is very upsetting,” she said that she never said that. I believe she really does forget the stuff she says. It would destroy her perfect internal self-image to admit that she DOES say those things in anger, so she can’t remember it. She says, “You make things up and you always have.” Now, why would I make up something that just made me upset and made me cry later when she finally left the room? (You don’t want to cry in front of this type of person–if they know they’ve gotten to you, then they dig deeper, and they say it’s crocodile tears that you are using to manipulate them.) At least she finally stopped telling everyone that I was demon-possessed a few years ago. (She used to say that when I was a teenager if I ever expressed any kind of anger, even mildly or mild disagreement, and would tell her friends/my friends/her family that I was making this or that up . . . and she really believed it all. It’s just that she could not see anything from a different perspective than her own internal one, which whitewashed some things and hid others, so the way she saw it, everyone but her was completely delusional. However, she quit saying that after we had those health scares. I think that really put the fear of God into her, in a sense.)

“How could it take a whole freaking week to sort out these closets?!?! And then last week I did the kitchen, and I didn’t really get it completely finished. I have to rest so often with this diet. It’s supposed to be 900 calories, five mini-meals and one “lean and green,” but I’m sure I have eaten slightly more some days. I divide the salad-and-protein thing into lunch and dinner. You get 2-1/2 cups of lettuce and other green veggies and 6 oz of chicken or other protein, and so I divide that. Then you get the mini-meal stuff, meaning the shakes or the soup or the “chili” or a powerbar-type thing, five times a day, about every two to three hours. It works well, but if you are working hard, you use up that food energy faster than a cat outrunnin’ a skunk.

“And with this, there’s no cooking, or hardly any. NO hours and hours of chopping and weighing and so forth, as in most other diets. When I finally get near some kind of reasonable weight zone, we’ll have a bit of that again, but for now it’s mostly just figuring out how to keep the other two fed.”

I forgot to mention that over the past couple of months, hubby and Mama have taken turns having bronchitis and needing to be waited on. They’re finally over it, but they still want to be waited on!

But I did get a chance to send some song lyrics to a friend (in fact, the same guy!) whose granddaughter just signed with Warner and will be making her first CD soon. I also e-mailed one of my fantasy novels (with approval) to the Macmillan First Novel project in the UK. I figure that my writing is more like the stuff that comes out of the UK than it is like the stuff that gets published here, so it’s worth a shot.

Otherwise, though, it’s just one thing after another. I hooked up my old turntable to the computer so I could convert some of Mama’s old albums to CD. She’s balking because she thinks she won’t be able to use a CD player, but she’s wrong. Wait until she hears the stuff with the pops and static taken out. I’m doing that during “rest” (ha) periods.

Tomorrow is the sort-of-biweekly meeting of our new critique group, too (Pook’s Peeps, which is a name that means something to the people who created the group.) I’m looking forward to seeing all of them, because we missed the last meeting. However, I haven’t written any more on the “Ranch” romance, so I’m giving them the opening of “Camille.” Never hurts to get more input on an opening.

Now, if only my mother will restrain her hypochondria and allow me to attend the noontime session without having an asthma attack just before I leave, or getting the barfs, or something similar. (One time she went with me, but she complained later that it was too boring and doesn’t want to go again. She spilled her coffee on my new purse that time, but it didn’t stain, and I didn’t like the purse anyway.) If she’d try to enjoy going to Borders–maybe walk around, go sit in the cafe and engage some strangers in her endless conversation, read a book for free–maybe she’d be happier. But what she wants is for me to stay home so she can pace around nagging, complaining, and berating me about the condition of the house and telling me how pointless and stupid it is to write song lyrics (let alone let anyone else read them) and novels (let alone send the damn things out). Her ideal daughter, in her mind, would be a Successful Person with an Immaculate Executive Home and a Life. Too bad she didn’t raise me to be that person.

When she was raising me, her values were different (or so she thought–what she thought she wanted turned out not to be as useful to her as she later needed it to be.) She basically raised me to be a bohemian artist type who lives the life of the mind and doesn’t measure success by the standard measures. She didn’t MEAN to, but that’s what she ended up with. Now she wishes she’d raised a Junior Leaguer like my shallowest cousin. But you know what . . . I don’t think it would have worked. I think I would still have turned out a worthless, useless, lazy slob. The collar’s gotta match the cuffs.

I *told* her to have another kid. (I always wanted a sister.) Maybe that one would have turned out all Stepford and stuff. So this is her OWN fault!

On the other hand, with our luck the other kid would have turned out even worse and we’d have had to clean up after him or her and/or carry the handbasket. . . .

Third day of 105 temps outside and water restrictions. I hate summer.

I curse sometimes; I have had an impure thought; I answer surveys (WARNING: LOONNGG)

I thought about doing the currently hot meme, filling out that survey that appears as boxes with an “X” for each statement you agree with, but ultimately it felt too much like one of those employment pre-screening psychological tests on which you never know whether or not to answer “Yes” to “I have disturbing dreams,” because MY idea of a disturbing dream is one in which Boy Wonder, my one-time Love of My Life, appears in some form and says to me some variation of “Everyone’s the same, so it doesn’t matter whether you love me or someone else, you still fulfill your purpose,” and THEIR idea of a disturbing dream is one in which monsters pursue you across a vast desert hellpit with sandworms popping up helter-skelter and the sky turns into blood and drips down your nostrils and they keep chopping you into little bits that then turn into demons. Therefore, I didn’t fill out that survey. And you probably shouldn’t, either.

That survey has some really incriminating questions.

Who would admit to having been the psycho ex in a relationship, anyhow? Well, maybe *I* was when Boy Wonder said that he didn’t really love me like he should and that he wanted to get out there and see if there was somebody better, and I said sure, go on out there and see if you can get someone else (ya loser), and he said, but how? And I said, ask some girl out (ya moron), and he said, but a date? Where would I take her on a date? (Since he hadn’t really taken me anywhere on a real date for over a year) And I proceeded to give suggestions, thinking (with the false confidence of one who believes she has found The One) that he would ultimately find out that they weren’t like me and that he really loved me and would return, yadda yadda, suggestions such as “Take her to the Shakespeare in the Park and take a picnic lunch” and “Take her to the flea market and tell her you are searching for a particular LP that your dad used to have, and try on the old-timey clothes” and “Take her to the top of Reunion Tower and look out over Dallas.” These suggestions backfried (typo hell) on me and he ended up making some dumb girl fall in love with him, and they had sex, and she got pregnant, and they got married in a big white wedding at church within the year. Until I realized that God had taken Boy Wonder away from me (or had allowed me to sabotage myself along with the relationship), I continued to try to “be friends” and find out whether those two were really serious. We acted out that “Patrick and Daphne” scene in the first chapter of my novel, where he knocks her down with his car door. I even called him a couple of times after that and actually called her to finally find out whether she was for real (he was a homely little thing and I couldn’t imagine her liking him That Way because all of MY friends were just this side of grossed out and often made Jughead jokes behind his back because he had buck teeth and knock-knees).

Stalking? To be fair, they both went to my church (or should I say that I went to THEIR church, as I joined HIS church and it became MY church . . . y’know), so this was not a stalker call to her out of the blue, but a call from a vague acquaintance with whom she had attended group functions, but still. Maybe I was the psycho ex. At any rate, as soon as his mother came by my house the day before I graduated from college (the same college he left in order to go off to the new woman’s college to be with her) and told me that they were getting married and going to live here in this very town and continue to go to my church, I accepted the situation and even decided that I would leave and find another church, as the idea of having to run into one or the other of them constantly erased my sanity. I told my friends at the church (who numbered many) and the lay preacher who had baptized me into that very church and everyone who would listen that I was going to leave so no one would laugh at me any more over this and there would be no awkwardness. It hurt a lot to leave the people I loved and the church I loved, but the avoidance was that important. So . . . psycho? I don’t know.

And that was over 25 YEARS ago, kids. But I probably shouldn’t admit to it, either way.

I wouldn’t even be typing all this if I weren’t depressed, I’m sure.

I knew that when I lost my coping mechanism (stuffing down pieces of bread or handfuls of peanut butter crackers or whatever vegetable was handy), I would spiral downward. The compensatory mechanism of eating and/or snacking/grazing and ultimately overeating is now gone, because this diet (Medifast with the Green and Lean option of one meal a day, or two smaller meals of the same amount) makes you not-hungry by having you eat just about every three hours. And you have semi-anorexia and aren’t really tempted by outside foods, unlike with outer diets. Besides, I’m committed to not being the fattest extra in Dennis’s movie next year. So . . . anyway, now I don’t have any way to subdue the feelings of hopelessness and craptasmicness. I haven’t sent anything out to agents or editors because, really, what’s the point? I don’t write the kind of stuff that gets published now. Agents always hate me. I hate them. If I met one right now, I would probably say something insulting. Editors fare somewhat better . . . until I descend to a lower Circle.

Which will happen. My mother still makes cutting remarks all the time. Yesterday I was sitting at the dinner table writing out the checks for a few bills, having just finished my 1/2 cup serving of “veggie chili” and one dill pickle for lunch, when she limped past and noticed that the dog had tinkled on the leg of his playpen at some point (yes, my Pom has a playpen in the breakfast nook . . . he goes in there when we need to keep him up off the floor or when we feed him . . . his bed is in there and his squeakies and water dish.) She looked at me as if I should be taken to Iraq wearing a sign that said “Blow My Ass Up NOW And Win Extra Virgins!!” “Why didn’t you wipe that up? You are a worthless creature,” she said, tossing one of my best bath towels over the spot. I had not noticed the tiny puddle because I live in my mind and don’t really SEE the details of the house and so forth when I am thinking of other stuff. This is one quality of an INTP personality. She feels that the INTP personality is evil and always has. This leads to some tension now and then. She can’t get her mind around the fact that I am now the homeowner, that SHE lives with US, that I pay for EVERYthing (her food, her clothing, everything but her medicine and the occasional gift she buys), that SHE is supposed to now take the secondary role in running the household . . . that it’s OK if my house is not constantly spotless, that artistic pursuits are laudable even if the carpet could use a good vacuuming beneath my feet while I practice Chopin’s “Raindrop” prelude on the baby grand . . . y’know, the usual mother/daughter conflicts.

Yes, I know . . . I do give her a break because she IS older, she DOES have infirmities, we love her, etc. I never say anything nasty back. I always murmur some soft answer, but it never turneth away wrath. She always snorts and makes some cutting remark. My brain is still wired such that this comes across as a Parental Directive, so it always hurts. I sometimes say things like, “That can wait, can’t it?” or “Oh, well, you know I’m working on something else and will take care of it later,” but they never work, because they elicit putdowns of their own. Hubby avoids this whole situation by either agreeing with her or getting into a long argument that they call a “discussion” (but the Pom puts his ears back and makes sad eyes, because he can tell it’s a cursefight in disguise.) Afterward, each of them is convinced that he or she won, and each comes up behind me (at different times) and gives me an earful about how awful the other one is. I have given up defending each one to the other and just murmur platitudes, but I can’t tune it completely out in case there really is an issue to resolve. For instance . . .

. . . on Monday she needed to go to the doctor and get antibiotics. He nagged at me to do something about that. She nagged at me to shut up about her doing anything and not to boss her around. Finally I had him tell her that HE was worried and thought she should go. She put on her shoes and a brassiere (under her customary long-sleeved top and wench pants) and said, “Doc is going to work me in. Let’s go.”

So sometimes they can actually work together. How do people with children live? When is it going to be my turn? Is it selfish to even ask that? Am I supposed to serve by serving and be content, like Mother Teresa? Is there an “h” in her first name? Why do they call it a “first” name and not something else?

Ahem. Anyway, I really shouldn’t even think about filling out those kinds of surveys.

I do wish I could become immersed in working on my “new” novel or working on a revision of another, but there’s SO MUCH to do now that we’re trying to organize the house. It was tougher the last couple of weeks with hubby and Mama having the “Dallas flu” one after the other (and hers turned into a lung infection, and she slashed her leg with her toenail and it looks really bad). I am also trying to go through all these clothes in all sizes that I’ve bought and stacked up in the closets. Since I am only slightly taller than Herve Villiachaise (“Da Plane!! Da Plane!!”) and am long-waisted with short legs, most of the stuff made for Goddess-Sized Queen-Sized Big Fat Mamas looks ridiculous or worse on me . . . but I still bought a lot of stuff that “should look good on me.” I also bought stuff in smaller sizes as an incentive. (Lest ye believe we be rich(e) and/or bankrupt, be it known that I surfed the Target clearance racks and got stuff for $3 at WallyWorld on final clearance, as well as going to the Penneys twofer sale and hitting Mervyn’s as they closed all their Texas stores and withdrew to the paradise that is their native California, meaning that I paid very very little for Shelly What’s her Name Laundry and Jones New York items.) I also kept all the stuff that I “outgrew.” SOME of that is still in style, but other stuff should never have been in style. You can imagine what a chore is before me. However . . .

I *have* gone down at least one dress size, and I have only been on this diet for just short of three weeks. Now the jeans that were an inch away from buttoning at the waist actually fall off my butt. I wore my jeans skirt and a white tee to the mall yesterday and the skirt played as a Low Rider (it really ISN’T) and I kept having to pull the tee down over my butt, but that was OK because the shirt is suddenly a lot longer. My ta-tas are not overflowing the cuppes, and I can see my feet! And I am wearing my rings again!! I had taken off my wedding/engagement bands and my trusty Frog ring some time ago because I had to butter them and take off the first layer of skin to get them on and off . . . I was afraid they’d get stuck. I lost all that water I was carrying around, and now I can just slip ’em on and off. This ring is actually a size seven and a half, and IT FITS! ! ! (I was retaining the Dead Sea, apparently. So THAT was where it had gone!)

This should make me happy. It does, a little. But I have this overweening sense of blackpit because I can’t get published and it really doesn’t seem as if I ever can and it’s such a lot of labor to even send stuff out and who really cares anyway because nobody reads. The Black Dog sits on the hilltop looking down into my valley. And I think, I don’t care if I die. But I am such a weenie yellowdog coward that I then shout, Yes I Do, because I want to sit here and look out the window at the doves taking a dirt bath under my birdbath and see the PassionFlower trying to bloom as the butterfly lays eggs all over its leaves and hold my Pom on his leash as he tinkles on the mailbox post and we bark at the kids riding their bikes down the street toward the splashy country club Texas-shaped pool. It is fun to bang on the keyboard (piano or typer) and to lie on the couch and to websurf and to cook these measly meals. Even if that’s all I do with my life, I am selfish and I want to do it as long as I can. So sue me.

But I’d really rather be able to make a contribution.

(Cue: pass the collection plates)

The Glorious Fourth!!

Happy Independence Day! Hope yours is a festival of fun.

Our neighborhood had a kids’ parade this morning down the main street that leads from UTD to the park. It was cute–the little ones pulling their little red wagons with their dolls (or little brother) inside, girls on tricycles, a little boy leading his dog (the dog was dressed up as Uncle Sam with a bunting and a hat), and a full-sized Uncle Sam carrying cardboard firecrackers! I painted my fingernails alternately red, white, and blue for the occasion.

We probably won’t seek out fireworks tonight. I used to love ’em, but now I’m content to see the Boston Pops on TV with a few fireworks in the background. I once worked for a woman whose husband’s hobby was pyrotechnics, and one year she had us all come out to her land in the country and watch as her husband and a couple of his good friends blew stuff up and made sparklies. Strangely enough, I was not completely consumed by mosquitoes out there in Tom Bean, Texas. (There really is such a town. Some of our relatives live in Ed Huby, I drove through Bug Tussle once, and we’ve been to the Fink Festival in Fink. I drew the line at moving to Fate, though, or living on Naked Indian Trail. Shame, though, ’cause that was one big purty house.)

And so to Yahoo’s question and answer of the day:

Dear Yahoo!: Who invented fireworks and why are they associated with the Fourth of July?

“Fireworks have been entertaining the easily entertained since the Han
Dynasty of ancient China (206 B.C. to 220 A.D.). So it’s difficult to
figure out exactly who invented (or “discovered”) the finger-maiming
explosives. However, we can explain why they’re so big on Independence
Day.

According to this page from InventHelp, the first fireworks were
bamboo rods set on fire. Rather than being used for celebrations, they
were used for exhortations — their loud sounds were believed to ward
off evil spirits. “Modern fireworks” didn’t explode onto the scene
until the Chinese invented gunpowder many years later.

In the following centuries, fireworks caught fire in Europe, before
the United States (then just colonies) proudly and publicly got in on
the fun. The first Independence Day celebration took place in 1777,
one year after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Again,
according to InventHelp, fireworks “helped steel the early Americans’
resolve and gave them a common feeling of patriotism.”

And though the sight of bottle rockets in the hands of children is
enough to make some mothers renounce their citizenship, the tradition
has continued ever since.”

Well, and they’re purty, too. I like sparklers myself. Used to, anyroad.

Off to sight-read from the Sousa piano transcriptions! (Not really–but you’d be impressed if I *could*, you betcha–you ought to see them.) Have a happy!