July 1, 2017!
I finally planted asparagus today. It’s a presumptuous undertaking as you can’t cut or harvest the crop for two years. I have thought about doing this for many years, long enough that I could be replanting a worn-out ten-year-old bed tonight. Instead, I’m just getting going because you can’t do it all, fulfill every dream in your head, and asparagus has been on my backburner for…a while.
I remember telling someone, ten, no twenty years ago that I was considering becoming an asparagus farmer. She was impressed, and saying it aloud made it more real. I was trying it on, at least.
But one thing and another. I went back to college got a degree, then another. Not in asparagus farming. Now I’m retiring from that career, the one I went to college for. And first thing on my list, before the bad art is off the wall of my former office, I’m mucking in the mud spreading out the plants, “like mop-heads,” as the guy at the nursery told me.
Before the asparagus, I was clearing out my office and I left. Just left in the middle of the day. It’s not like they can fire me now. I left and went to the nursery and bought forty asparagus plants. The plants were male and female. I figured I’d take some of both because I know what happens when those two get together. If you’re in doubt…that I know…read my last article here called, Motherhood.
I’m trying to build an asparagus bridge to lead me from one solid place in my life to another, different place. One where planting has to be as important in scope as saving the planet has been for the past decade. At least in my own pointy head.
I wasn’t ready to be a mom. I didn’t particularly like children, and maybe that was because in so many ways I was still a child myself. But the doctor told me with the tone of voice he probably used to tell people they were terminal.
“The test was positive,” he said.
Yes, my head exploded, but that was my internal response. I was angry this guy would have the nerve to decide my child was some kind of tragedy. Granted, in hindsight he was viewing the ‘pregnancy’ as a tragedy because I’d already told him I wasn’t married. Big scandal back in the day. But something got forged in me right in his office. His F. D. R. Infamy-Speech-voice, the one used to address the bombing of Pearl Harbor, made an instant woman out of me. More than the act of procreating had. This stranger had cast aspersions on the idea of my child existing! And that ticked me off like a spring mama bear.
So I blew a Bazooka bubble and let it pop really loudly. That only garnered more alarm, and disgust on the doctor’s face. If he wanted proof I’d make a horrible mother, he seemed to have it.
“Okay, thanks,” I said gathering the gum off my face and standing.
“Wait a minute,” he said, “what are you going to do?”
“I’m…going to go home,” I said.
“Do you have a supportive family?”
That did make me smile. “Oh, sure,” I said, the room tilting slightly as I imagined my WW2 PTSD father’s angry face.
I got out of there lickety split, as if some distance would put the pregnancy thing on hold so I could throw up in Catholic-girl peace.
That evening I told my boyfriend.
“It’s not an ulcer?” he said.
I’d hoped it was an ulcer as my dad had one and who knows…it could run in the family.
“Not really,” I said.
“Well,” he said, “there goes my new ten-speed.” He’d been saving his money to get a new bike. As in bicycle. He was a Junior College art student and campus was only two blocks from his house, so you see the sense in it.
I felt relieved that he planned to stand by me. I knew we were in love, but beyond a couple of fights where I stormed home dramatically and he followed me in his mother’s Ford and begged me to get back in the car, which of course I did after he was sufficiently punished for not…calling me or whatever, our love hadn’t really been tested.
And that was forty-five years ago. I talked to her this morning, that little bundle of joy. She’s kind of formidable, running things all the time, and the mom of five boys. She’s kind of the most wonderful creature God ever made.
My boyfriend would get me pregnant three more times. But he’d be my husband by then so Dad didn’t take it so hard. Not like that first time when he sat at the kitchen table with his face against the formica and his hands just hanging.
I learned something then, it’s not over until the fat lady sings. Today’s biggest disaster can be tomorrow’s greatest blessing. When my oldest is in town, she visits my dad. She pulls up close to him, knee to knee and tells him about her life. And he smiles the whole time.
As do I.
Moderator–“I now call the meeting of CAA to order. I’m glad you are all here, making this decision to own your addiction and hold yourself accountable to one another. Martin…could you put your phone in the bucket, please? You know the rules.”
Martin–“But…I just got twenty hits on my blog and there’s a comment!”
Moderator–“Bill, get the dang thing out of his hand.”
Bill, a bouncer at a club, grabs Martin’s arm and wrangles with him a bit.
Moderator to Bill–“Don’t…break his..,” the phone crashes to the floor in three pieces, “…wrist.”
Martin drops to his knees as he holds his wrist and the remnants of his phone and whimpers.
Moderator–“Sorry it had to come to this, buddy. But your defiance hurts my progress.”
Rest of Group repeats out of sync with one another–“Your. Your. Your. Defiance. Your defiance. Defiance. Hurts. Hurts. Hurts my. Defiance hurts. My progress. Progress. Hurts Progress. Progress. Yada-Yada. Progress.”
Bill crawls back onto his chair.
Moderator–“Okay, we’re here to support one another. Remember. We’re not here to judge. This is a place where you can share where you’re at. Go for it.”
Bill: (Clears throat). “Yeah I ah…I sat in that crack between the toilet and the tub last night and…I texted. Twenty-six times.”
Martin whispers: “Loser.”
Tony whispers: “Girlfriend!”
Some tittering and clearing of throats.
Stan whispers with some amazement: “I could never sit in that crack. I for sure couldn’t get out if I got in.”
Tony: “In his crack?”
Moderator: “No crosstalk, Martin, Stan, Everyone.”
Martin to Bill: “You defiance hurts my progress!”
Moderator to Martin: “This is share time, buddy. Words are meant to build, not destroy.” Then, “Go on, Bill.”
Bill to Martin: “Least I didn’t bring my phone into the meeting, dude!” Bill’s pocket explodes with “Puppy Love,” by Donny Osmond. Bill crosses his arms over his lap and rocks forward, says to Moderator, “Sorry, Uncle Bob. I didn’t mean to.”
Martin stands and points at Bill, “Hypocrite!”
Tony whispers: “He’s the freakin’ nephew?”
Bill looks up at Martin, still rocking, “I didn’t know! I thought I’d left it in the car! I was rushed this morning, man. I took my sinus meds and they mess me up!”
Martin, outraged, looking from Bill to Moderator: “Excuses build bridges to nowhere! Excuses, man! Let me get his phone! I’ll rip it..!” Martin takes a step toward Bill.
Bill: “Don’t do it, man!”
Moderator: “Time out! Martin, take a seat. Bill…” Moderator stands, hand out for Bill’s phone. Bill leans back to dig the phone from his pocket.
Martin slowly takes his seat. “Oh, nice. He practically breaks my wrist and I can’t even… Nepotism. Or something.”
Moderator looking around the circle. “Anyone else?”
Several hang their heads as they move to dig phones from various hiding places on their persons.
Moderator looking amazed and angry. Last one to put his phone in the Moderator’s now full hands whispers, “We’re not here to judge.”
What I don’t like about now is not the sounds of protest, but the tactics employed to protest. When my issue becomes more important than the greater good than being a caring, compassionate human, then I’m driven by self-centeredness, and there is nothing noble in that. And yes, you will cite some examples of protests that raised holy heck and achieved great things. Still, the philosophy remains the same. We must, in the United States of America, care about everyone, even as we instruct others in a better way. When you attack me, I can no longer hear you.
There is always plenty to squawk about. There is always unfairness and injustice. Thankfully, we live in a country where the right to say, “No way!” is protected by the constitution. We must remember we are modeling ‘life,’ what it means to be human, to the generations behind us.
The idea behind peaceful protest can’t become novel in today’s world where social media often becomes a duck blind—something you hide behind while you shoot safely at the ducks.
Now, you’d be a fool not to take advantage of the potential of this great platform called the world-wide-web, but using it as a duck blind is often the path of bullies and cowards. Perhaps we have become drunk with power! When has the common man had such an opportunity? Finding a voice is a fundamental human need, and having a shot at being heard is headier than a dose of a powerful drug. And so, this opportunity can become a drug and must be used responsibly even as we’ve all become addicted to it.
We are clamoring to be significant. Our parents might have gotten it wrong, and some of us have deep wounds. Along comes a cause and we flume onto it to right all the wrongs—in ourselves! And too often we do that by leveling a howitzer of words at one another, forgetting we are human!
Use your voice for good. Use your voice to build humanity. Whatever you believe about human origins, human beings are sacred. If you don’t remember that, then I can’t entrust my children to your world.
I give humans the holy dimension of sacredness because a life is a tremendously important, multi-faceted being connected to and valued by many others. When you hurt someone, you are operating out of your hurt. You are spreading hurt. Your goal is no longer the cause you hide behind. Your pain has taken over.
We’re here to give life to one another. We’re here to challenge one another to value life. We’re here to listen and learn and direct one another to a better way.
Protest. People died to give us the right. The right to protest. Not to piss on one another, to cheapen and devalue humanity in the process of stating a belief or opinion. Not to become a new type of oppressor.
I have a dream about how it could be for authors. Mostly my dream is for helping and supporting Indie authors, but my dream works for all authors, too. The dream is co-operation. The dream is me, not making money off of you, my fellow-struggling authors. Rather, I’d like to make a fair wage for my labors from readers. My dream is authors helping authors by pooling their resources.
Our competition is not one another. We are competing with ourselves. Our last book. How to make the next one better. How to keep growing and going as an author?
My idea is author cells. Not just authors being a member of a big endlessly growing group, but letting that bigger group be broken into smaller groups of twelve. They could be broken down by genres or by fiction or nonfiction. And, an author is not limited by participation to one cell. An author can decide how much work she or he has time and ambition to do. But it’s one book you’ve written per cell. You commit to the other eleven authors in the cell. You agree to read one another’s title via gifted pdf or direct purchase of an author’s book (1.99 or less) and review on Goodreads and Amazon. If you want more from one another, you negotiate that in the cell. For instance, you may also agree to tweet one another’s title, or post it, etc. And why not? You agree in the cell. But you need to be serious and ride it through until you’ve read and reviewed all eleven books. And then you are ready to receive eleven reviews. If you have multiple titles, it’s one title per cell. Those of you more driven can take on as much work as you want. No more waiting for your turn or a special event in a big group. These are small, productive, tit for tat groups within a larger group. We work for one another’s success as success comes back to us.
We have started the first cell here: ttps://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/18600327
It is generosity and other-centeredness bringing good things back to yourself. I believe in that principle for life and it’s no different as an author. I welcome your comments.
How’d you like to face this everyday! Write, she says. Write! Write! Rewrite!
I live in a small town. I do the thing where I try to support local business. But I avoid our license renewal facility at all costs. Now that I can, I do it all online. But then, they mailed me that funky temporary sticker and I had to go in.
So I go in and for a couple of decades…three, I take the number from the old hanging numbers thingy and sit myself down to wait and grow old. It’s three workers, one customer at the counter, one in the seats besides me.
Two workers–youngish, and youngish and intimidated, are without customers but shuffling around behind the counter looking pensive so I think…okay. It’s a sitcom I live in. So chill.
Now ‘youngish and intimidated’ finishes shuffling paper and she looks up and calls out the next number. But guess what? Guy in the chairs who was there before me didn’t take a number like me, the smart winner that I am. But it’s all good. I tell him, “You were here first. Go on.”
He’s very grateful and I think I sent a good message to the whole place. We CAN all get along!
So dude goes up and youngish and you-know-the-rest is helping him out.
Now dude two comes in and he doesn’t take a number, but he stands at the end of the counter. And big hair, which is the third worker, the older one, she finishes with her dude and she says, “Next!” And I stand up, number in hand, and she turns to new dude who stands at the counter and says, “Can I help you?”
I say, “I was here next. I’ve got a number!” I say it kind of firm, I admit.
“He’s in line,” big bit…hair says to me pointing at this big sign over dude that says four or forty things, one of which is ‘form a line.’
I have never read that…sign, but I’ve always taken a freak…in…number. Now here’s where that amazing I. Q. kicks in. I say, “Your co-worker just called out a number and you say I have to be in line, now I’m confused.” I sound like Jack Nicholson, I think. No, I do!
And she makes no eye-contact. She grins and keeps looking down. “You stand in line here,” she says.
Oh, cry for your mama.
Dude at the counter says to me, “You go on now. You were here first.” He’s got his hands out like I’m that crazy junk yard dog.
So I step up there, my eyes watering from the heat coming off my face. I’m doing my Lamaze breathing and if you don’t know what that is you’re too young to be reading this. I was a furious beast.
“They sent me the wrong sticker,” I say. I don’t sound like Jack anymore. Jack’s mom, maybe.
She says, “Oh, you’re going to get a new license plate!” Like goodie, goodie. “Let me show you those pretty new plates,” she says.
I mumble, “No. No.” But she’s got the co-workers looking for the plates now and I’m saying, “I don’t want to see…to see..,” and finally I get my act together and I say, “I don’t want to see them!”
And hair ignores me and finds one of those plates carrying on like she won the Illinois Powerball. She shoves it under my nose and I jump like it’s an arm she just dug up out of the garden.
The other day I heard the state of Illinois is recalling those plates. Nobody likes them. In some sick way…it made me smile.
What I was going for in that last blog was a piece about writing. I got to thinking and garlic seemed like the perfect connection to the process of using words. It made perfect sense for two minutes. Then I started writing and I got into thinking about garlic–garlic chicken mostly–and I forgot what garlic had to do with writing.
I still can’t remember. So I wanted to say that, and this–about writing.
I don’t know a thing about it. When I was eighteen I did. But then I knew everything. Now…nada.
I know you must do it. Simply do it. I know you can’t think your way to it, you have to do it. Write.
I know I spent years rewriting. I don’t do that anymore. You might say I should return to that practice, but I’m telling you much of that rewriting was insecurity.
I’m still insecure. But I can’t fight that on the page. That comes later. In reviews, book sales, and Christmas parties where nobody likes me. It comes later when I start another story and think, “What am I doing?” But you know, that four word question has preceded all ultimately great acts in my life? It’s the truth!
I said it when I went to college, I said it when I kissed that one guy, I said it when I made a baby and didn’t know nothin’ about birthin’ no baby, I say it anytime I’m about to do public speaking, and I say it the whole time I write.
Doesn’t stop me. But I say it. I sincerely do.
Garlic wards off vampires. We all know that. And writing or words can’t do that. Vampires don’t care about words. Well, one might. If he’s written his biography and he hopes to sell a lot of books, that vampire might care about words. But mostly, from what we’ve been told, vampires will bite you even if you have “Mom,” tattooed on your neck.
Garlic is very sensitive to how it is handled. For all it’s pungency, garlic is a sensitive fellow. You put it through a press and you’re like a garlic abuser. You are beating the flavor right out of the clove. So a gentle handling can bring more flavor to your dish.
Still thinking about the word, ‘pungency?’ Thought so. Anyway, how you cook the garlic is also important. Once garlic is brown…dum-da-dum-dum. Ruined, as in bitter. And bitterness eats YOU.
Here’s my leap: Words have to be handled carefully. I don’t mean a continual censorship, I mean…carefully. It’s not so you can say nothing. It’s so you can say something…well. So you can bring out the flavor in the words.
Now I have to prove my case about handling words carefully. This is what the writer wrestles with.
Please call me when you get home.
Call me when you get home. Please.
When you get home, please, call me.
Please. When you get home, call me.
Call me, please, when you get home.
You get home please–call me.
Call me when you get home? Please?
Now go eat some garlic bread.