This Body is Closed for Business (and no, that doesn’t mean what it sounds like)

Today I went for a walk. Twice. I had a PB&J for breakfast/lunch, a small snack, and a sensible dinner. I drank lots of water, and my midnight (er, 1:00 a.m.) snack is some hot tea and an apple. Yes, well, there was a minor indiscretion at Starbucks earlier, but I think the second walk took care of that.

All this healthy living comes courtesy of my otherwise lovely doctor who had the audacity last week to tell me that I have high cholesterol. Now there are at least two things wrong with this. First, high cholesterol is for old people. Working off the thirty-is-the-new-twenty model, however, I am barely old enough for a quarter-life crisis (What? I’ll only have to live to 132), much less a crisis my granny had to deal with. Second, and most importantly, I absolutely, positively, and rather vehemently REFUSE to have high cholesterol.

I already have rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s, and possibly lupus, in addition to all the other more minor maladies, such as perpetually angry sinuses and a soupcon of short-term memory loss, that occasionally plague me. I take ten pills a day and sixteen on Fridays. I simply will not accept any more entries on my medical chart.

So I have an announcement to make to any potential illnesses, conditions, or nuisances that are considering taking up residence on, in, or anywhere near my person: I am OFF LIMITS. Closed for business. Go find a stable, ‘cause there’s no more room at the inn. And if that means I have to forego butter (I miss your warm, artery-clogging embrace already, old friend) and eat an apple instead, then pass the freakin’ bushel, ‘cause this chick holds no quarter for you and your misbegotten kind.

That is all.  Carry on…

All Irons and No Fire

We’ve all heard the expression “All hat and no cattle.” It’s a great phrase. Every time I hear it, I think of Texas and picture a little man in a giant, Arby’s-style hat. The little man looks like Ross Perot–probably just because he’s small and from Texas, since I’m sure he could have plenty of cattle if he wanted them and I don’t know that I’ve ever seen him in a hat.

That particular phrase means that someone is pretending to be something they aren’t (or at least I think it does; I’m guessing, being rather short on both hats and cattle myself). Or maybe just that someone’s rocking a touch too much swagger. Y’know, like when Adam Levine sings that he’s got the moves like Jagger (no rhyme intended).

My granny liked to tell me I kept too many irons in the fire. I was always running around from one place to the next, juggling choirs and theatre and church and friends and boys. I was a busy teenager, which is when I remember my granny dispensing most of her wisdom.

I was comparatively lazy in my twenties and early thirties. Well, as lazy as a law school student, philosophy grad, realtor, and mom can be. Lately, though, I’ve found myself juggling again. This time it’s choirs and work and church and friends and boys (in the form of a son and a husband and cub scouts). I’m loving every second of it, but I’m “wore plum out” (to borrow another Grannyism) much of the time.

But that isn’t what I wanted to write about. That’s the normal stuff. Every mom is eyeballs-deep in kids’ activities and dinner plans and laundry. And if they’re smart, they’ll balance that out with selfish, grown-up stuff like frequent coffee with friends and singing in a choir (or three).

No, the irons that I’m talking about–and the lack of a fire to heat them–are in the form of my gajillion-and-one unfinished home improvement and/or otherwise domestic projects. I’m like a junkie, and Lowe’s and Hobby Lobby are where I get my fix.

Rhyan and I are currently trying to get our house organized. Now, if you know us at all and have been to our house, you know what a gargantuan (and arguably laughable) task this is. We aren’t TLC-worthy hoarders, but we have entirely too much of everything and have a tendency to leave it all lying about willy-nilly.

I’ve read that the trick is to take one room at a time, but in addition to being disorganized and in possession of an obscene amount of stuff, I am also a furniture juggler. I like to move things around, and my vision of a perfectly organized house involves a furniture plan that requires the removal and replacement of at least one piece of furniture from every room in the house. Currently, toward this end, there is a mattress in the laundry room (and on the porch), a shelf and a small chest of drawers in the middle of my bedroom floor, a dresser in the bathroom, and a whole family of desks and side tables in various places awaiting their final destination.

In addition to all of this, I have a half-demolished vanity in my bathroom; built–in bookshelves in the living room that are currently lacking actual shelves (which have yet to be stained and cut, not to mention installed); kitchen cabinets in need of crown moulding; and a closet full of flooring that will be put down whenever we can get around to ripping out the carpet in the master bedroom. Oh, and I’m knitting hats and scarves for the holidays, and planning some new sewing projects, and writing two books.  You see, it’s the planning and beginning of projects that I love; the actual follow-through not so much (with the exception of the books–I’m proud to say I’ve actually finished one of those).

I think I’m considerably beyond having too many irons in the fire. I ran out of irons a long time ago and now I’m just shoving in whatever I can get my hands on (which I told my husband could be the solution to our organization woes). No wonder I’m tired all the time.

If my granny were still alive, she would probably just shake her head at me in hopeless bewilderment. Then she’d feed me some biscuits and sweet tea and we’d watch Wheel of Fortune.

I miss my granny.

The Holy Book

For someone who doesn’t particularly believe in the thing, I own an inordinate number of bibles. I just counted six on my bookshelf downstairs, and I’m pretty sure at least two or three made it into a recent “Donate” pile.

Two of them are student bibles, the non-KJVs that are actually readable. I used those back before I was a heathen, or now when I want to look something up. The rest have some sentimental value. There is the one my grandparents got me when I was “saved” (we went to a Southern Baptist Church where the moment when my soul was no longer doomed for eternal damnation was really a big deal). That one has my name engraved on the cover in gold and still looks brand new…which probably says something about my current spiritual status.

A couple of my bibles belonged to my Papaw. They’re big and leather-bound and falling apart because he actually read them. And since my Papaw was the nearest thing to God I knew as a kid, there’s a certain symmetry in my hanging onto them as an adult. I know now that he was just a man, with all the attendant complications and flaws that accompany folks of the human persuasion, but he loved me unconditionally and served as my soft place to fall until the day he died, and so he remains my reference point for divinity. I think his bibles might have been his soft place to fall, so, irrational as it is, my keeping them makes me feel like he’s still around for me.

The one that struck an unexpected chord with me recently, however, and the one which prompted this entry, was not my Papaw’s.  It was my dad’s.  For those who don’t know, my dad passed away a couple of years ago (he and my mom divorced when I was a baby), and like the human condition itself, our relationship was both complicated and flawed.  He was a good man, though, at his core, and if my Papaw remains my reference point for divinity, my dad will forever be my reference point for unrealized potential and promise.  And he pressed that promise between the pages of his bible.

I won’t get into the details of his tragic life and death, but it is enough to know that they were tragic.  He was bright and talented and troubled and, like my Papaw, he loved unconditionally and completely.  The bible that I inherited from him is a sparse testament to all of these.

It’s an unwieldy thing, the book itself.  One of those heirloom bibles that is meant to serve as a repository for family record rather than a thing to read.  Its front cover reveals that it was a wedding gift, given way back in 1976.  In it, he told of his siblings, including his beloved little brother Larry, who died too soon–at the age of eleven–in 1970.  My dad was fourteen at the time.  I think my young, unknown uncle’s death set in motion the events that would ultimately lead to Dad’s own untimely end.  Dad’s entry in the bible of his little brother’s birth and death, under the stark heading “Deaths,” was written in large, uneven letters.  In marker, rather than ink, as though he wanted the record of his brother to seep into the pages more completely, unfading and unerasable.

My own birth is in there, too.  It was likely entered sometime later, since he got the year wrong, but it’s there, in the same untidy scrawl that immortalized his brother.  With it, scattered amidst the pages, are pictures of me.  A photo he took, a newspaper clipping from an article about my eighth-grade drama team.  He didn’t see me often, but he kept watch, recording my various moments of being and doing in his sacred book.

What struck me most, however, weren’t the images of me, however touched I was to find them.  No, it was evidence of his own being and doing, of his hoping and searching and remembering, that made my chest ache and my fingers turn to keys with a need to keep my own record.  It was the pictures from his baptism, looking young and nervous.  An editorial asking simply, “Can I go to Heaven?”.  A note from a preacher thanking him for his gift, which I’m sure he couldn’t really afford.  The tabbed pages and highlighted passages that spoke of love and heart and peace and hope.

And, finally, amidst all this paper and ink were the broken remains of a laurel leaf, a perfectly pressed carnation, and a crumbling rose.  Mementos, no doubt, of happier times.  Of unrealized potential.  Of promises, withered and broken.  Pieces of his life that reflect all too accurately the man he was and the life he led.

I will keep Dad’s bible with a full and heavy heart.  I might even continue the family tree and insert my own mementos into its pages.  I think he’d like that.  My son, Ephraim, will inherit the book someday and, while he might doubt the sacredness of the book itself, he will hopefully understand that between its faded leather cover lies a sacredness of another sort.  It is a place where love was poured, where troubles and hopes alike were pressed into the pages as surely as the carnation and the rose.  Where family was remembered and preserved and held, as hallowed and soul-feeding as the text was ever meant to be.

But I will not add any more flowers to the book–their inevitable darkening and decay too perfect a symbol for the tragic side of life.  I’ll focus on the hope, and hope that my inclusions reflect my life back to my son someday as poignantly as my father’s do to me.

Tonight I forgot how to count to 3

I had a choir rehearsal tonight and, even though I mastered single digits round about 30 years ago, I somehow managed to forget how to count to three. More than once.

Now in some choirs–beginning ones or huge ones, for example–this wouldn’t be such a big deal. It’s at least conceivable that no one one would notice. But tonight’s rehearsal was for a small group of pro-level singers that I recently joined (Les Jongleurs–our concert is December 11, you should come if you’re in the central Kentucky area then), and tonight I was the only first soprano in the room. And I’m loud. I’m pretty sure people noticed.

You see, most of the time, I can count to three. I can read a key signature and translate a full rest and read notes. I can certainly tell whether the little buggers are ascending or descending. Except tonight.

I blame camping. See, I spent two of the past three nights on the ground in 40-odd-degree temps. And after getting off his normal routine, my son was up at 2:30 this morning. And my sinuses are presently trying to drill their way out of my skull. All this considered, I ought to just give myself a pass for my performance tonight and hope the director is as generous (Hi, John! Please don’t cut me!!!).

Sadly, though, I seldom do what I ought. And as I drove home wallowing in my imaginary hair shirt in penance for my terrible musicianship this evening, I realized that the experience dovetails rather nicely with a conversation (translation: incomprehensibly frustrating argument that ended in tears and a slammed door) I had earlier today with my seven year old son.

Ephraim is to math what I am to music. That is, he doesn’t know all the super-advanced, technical stuff, but what he does (namely addition, subtraction and some multiplication) he does very well. Scary well sometimes, which means he takes a lot of pride in his math skills and gets particularly pissed off when he messes up.

I made the mistake today of trying to help him (for homework, he was supposed to work on doubling numbers up to 6, as in 6 + 6 = 12, and we were up to 27 + 27, going in random order, when he faltered and said 52). When I said “Close” instead of “Yep, good job,” he stormed off, cried, and told me later that making a mistake makes him feel stupid. I did my best to convince him that making mistakes has nothing at all to do with being stupid. Mistakes are how we learn and grow, and even more importantly, they demonstrate that we have the courage to TRY.

Yet here I was a few hours later, hauling my Prius up I-75, castigating myself for needing a few tries to read a whole rest as three beats instead of two. And then getting lost a couple of times while sight reading, and getting so hung up on the German text in another piece that I kind of stopped reading the notes altogether. For maybe 25% of the evening, I was terrible.

That means, though, that 75% of the time, I was somewhere north of terrible. And eventually, I did get most of it right. But I still felt like Ephraim did earlier (minus the tears and growls and foot stomping).

In logic terms, the syllogism would go like this:
If I made mistakes, I am not smart (or good at music, in this case).
I made mistakes.
Therefore, I am not smart.

It’s a solid piece of logic. No arguing with that seamless bit of deductive reasoning  Except that there is. The conclusion above relies on a faulty assumption, namely that making mistakes equals being bad/stupid/inadequate. Even my seven year old, when pressed, admits that it isn’t true, and yet it’s a hard pill to swallow.

We all want to do well. And if we’re used to doing well, we want to be perfect. When we fall off a horse we’ve ridden a million times, we’re often tempted to call it a day and take up knitting instead of risking our foot in another stirrup. But then we’d miss out on the chance to do better. We’d never know the outer banks of our potential. We’d miss the thrill of the ride.  Worst of all, we’d be cowards.  And that would be one really stupid mistake.

Meet the “Trashy” Me

A while ago, I started a blog titled “Another Mind’s Treasure,” where I intended (and still do…eventually) to post my own and others’ bits of fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, musings, etc.  My friend Amanda and I hatched a fantasy plan to start our own indie publishing biz someday and the blog was intended to be our toe in the water.  We’re both hammering away on separate works of fiction and wanted a place to release little bits of it out into the universe and see how it fared.  Of course when it comes to blogging and publishing online, neither of us knows what we’re doing, we’re both horrific procrastinators, and she, at least, has a real, full-time, grown-up job.  All this translates to the fact that Another Mind’s Treasure is still languishing with only one sad little introductory post on its menu.  I’ll set about correcting that soon…ish.  Procrastinator, remember?

When I set up AMT, however, I had the foresight to also register the blog title “One Mind’s Trash,” which brings us here.  “Treasure” will be the inclusive, more lofty, and more literary side of the coin (assuming I ever get the damned thing off the ground), while “Trash” will be the receptacle for my own personal observations, rants, and contemplative ramblings.  Given how my brain works–my thoughts all intersect and slosh together like a plate of extra saucy spaghetti–I suspect the twain shall often meet.  So if you’re here and you like spaghetti, look up Another Mind’s Treasure (link’s on the sidebar) and tell me what you think…once I actually manage to post something there beyond the introduction, at least.