The Dead Romantics

August 12, 2023

Dear Ashley Poston,

I discovered you a month or so ago at the Champions Barnes & Noble Booksellers because The Woodlands store's without. All the time. And I decided to make the trek to the other store because I have very much needed to escape into some GOOD literature. I always mean to support Jenny Lawson's Nowhere Bookshop. MUST do so, starting now.

When I was in college or when I could hole up in my room without worrying my mother, I read about love and life so I could hope to know both some day. Too sheltered was I, and yet, so lacking in innocence. I disappeared, something I'd never been able to do before, and trust me, I'd tried HARD to be invisible. At some point, though, stories stopped being a solace. Maybe because I'd become too jaded. Or maybe because the publishing industry'd begun its decades-long affair with dystopia and destruction, monsters and mayhem. I'd known enough of that in my life. I didn't need nor want to read about it. So I stopped reading. And then... the store manager introduced me to you.

Reading The Seven Year Slip took a matter of hours, and so eager was I to read more of your work, I rushed to the mall--no time for driving to Champions!--the day after that to get The Dead Romantics. Gushed about the first story to as many women as I could find. Even sold a few copies for you. And made myself wait until today to read this other: The Dead Romantics. Bought it without knowing anything about it. And then read the back, and part of me thought, this one sounds a bit too weird. I worried I wouldn't like it. So waiting a couple days wasn't that much of a challenge. I chose your book, too, to fit a category for Book Challenge by Erin. I started it at nine am. Would've read it straight through and had it finished at half past three, except I had a two-ish hour physical therapy appointment. What I've loved:

Whenever I came to visit the offices, I was always hyperaware of how people took one look at me--in my squeaky flats and darned hose and too-big plaid overcoat--and came to the conclusion that I was not tall enough to ride this ride(page 4).

It was like one day I knew how to write; I knew the scenes, knew the meet-cutes and the swoony moments, exactly how the hero tasted when my heroine kissed him... and the next day it was all gone (page 18).

THIS. SO many times in my life. T H I S. And everyone assumes writing is so easy, so fun, so magical. It can be. I've written pages in an hour before. And then I've sat at my laptop or with my pad and pen for nine hours and written nothing. The last time I felt like writing was seven years ago or so. And I should be. Or so people say. Sometimes so I say. God knows my professors would say so.

It should've been easy--a grand romantic gesture, a beautiful proposal, a happily ever after. The kind my parents had, and I'd spent my entire life looking for one just as grand... I just wanted what my parents had... I wanted that. I searched for that. And then I realized, standing in the rain that April evening, almost a year ago exactly--I'd never have that (page 28).

Ironic that this is on page 28. I lost the only man I've ever loved on April 28. The losing began twelve days before. It was sunny at my San Antonio apartment and sunny at his. But the stretch of 410 between his and mine? It started raining right around the 281 interchange and hailing at I-10. I should've turned around. I should've gone home. Hell, the night he met me at IHOP and we gave each other Tarot card readings and I'd asked the cards (silently, of course) whether he was my guy (because we'd been emailing for about week, and I was already hooked) to have him flip over the Ace of Spades (the death card... Cue Carmen and her deadly music), I should have gone home THEN. Oh but it's Tarot cards and they mean nothing and I LIKE this one. Oh but it's rain and springtime in Texas and I LOVE this one... So on the sixteenth he'd held me, one arm wrapped around me, my hand resting on his shirt, our legs entwined and run his mouth about how he really liked me and enjoyed spending time with me, but he felt like things were headed for serious and he didn't want that... I should've gone home when his answer to my request for tissues was toilet paper, when he'd said after I'd wiped my tears that he was going to frame it and call it Jenn's Tears. Who does that? Longhorned electrical engineers who sucker punch romance writers bleeding maroon. This was two decades ago. No man's crushed my heart so well as he. And reading about the man who crushed Florence's. You did this well, woman. You did this well. And I knew I would never have it, either. Before him. But I'd forgotten. Carmen reminded me why.

could go up there. I could read something I jotted down on my phone a while back. I could put a little bit of creativity into the world that seemed to want to suck it from your very marrow.... because storybook love only existed for a very few--like my parents. They were the exception to the rule, not the rule itself. It was rare, and it was fleeting. Love was a high for a moment that left you hollow when it left... (page 41).


...and you spent the rest of your life chasing that feeling. A false memory, too good to be true... (41).

He said later that he'd thought I'd colored my memories with emotions, and those memories were different for me than him. He'd tried to make me doubt what I'd felt, to belittle it, to deny it, to make me feel more foolish than I was. And oh, was I foolish. For two decades, I've told myself I know nothing of love. Eight years ago, I'd convinced myself this was truth. And then I stopped writing. Hard to pick up the pen again when you know you're a fraud. Can't write what you don't know.

...and I'd been fooling myself for far too long, believing in Grand Romantic Gestures and Happily Ever Afters. Those weren't written for me. I wasn't the exception. I was the rule (41).

"It's not me being stuck unalive, it's you" (page 150).

A few weeks ago, I sat in a therapist's office and let her do some muscle testing on me. She stopped, withdrew a laminated page and all but slammed it down before me. Normally I watch her work but things had gone south fast during this session, and I'd struggled to hold on to the happy I felt. The card made it worse. An ugly red circle, outlined in black and bearing in that same black the word STUCK glared at me. Why was I stuck, she wondered. I could think of a thousand reasons. She'd said I had an idea allergy, and what could that be? I'm stuck in this life. I'm allergic to living. All I've wanted since I was eight years old was death. But God keeps waking me up. I tell myself it's because He wants me to love. I don't know how. I am as unalive as a girl can be without being dead. Mostly dead. I am mostly dead. And your book is about a man helping a woman who is mostly dead. All I've ever learned from love is how to shoot somebody who outdrew me. The romantic in me wishes a man like Ben could come along and help me believe in love again. But... men don't see me. I've done a remarkably good job of ensuring that.

I tried love. It didn't work. The end. There were bigger things in my life that I had to tackle than something so frivolous (page 150).

Yeah. Those first three sentences are truth. The last is the lie I tell myself that needs to be truth. Because somewhere in some cell that sleeps is the knowledge that love is the thing.

Have you seen a ghost float through, by any chance? Six foot sexy, with just a hint of nerd? (page 152).

"I read a book once that changed me. And I realized I wanted to help writers write more books like that, and find more books like that, and give them the chance they wouldn't have otherwise (page 154).

I studied literature in college but never read any of the assigned texts. I buried my nose in romance novels, so desperate was I to know love, so desperate was I to believe I could love and be loved. One spring I read Nora Roberts' dream trilogy and thought enough of myself and my ability to craft fiction that I made up, eventually, eight characters, four couples. Because I'd wanted to do for others what Nora had done for me. To put hope in someone's heart that maybe someday...

"I don't know how to finish Ann's manuscript."

He cocked his head. "What do you mean?"

"I mean I don't know how. I ... I don't think I can" (page 155).

I don't know how to finish mine. I have failed my characters, these imaginary friends I made up, some of them as far back as 27 years ago. They became my children when I had none of my own. I want so much to give them their much deserved happy endings, because they ARE SO good, even the manwhore whom I know eventually redeems himself. I gave up on love. And then they gave up on me.

"We've all got ghosts, Florence. You just happen to be the only one who can't handle yours (page 162).

I didn't know exactly what I wanted.

But it wasn't what I had (page 177).

I missed those days. When I could write. When I didn't just sleep all day, and stare at my ceiling all night and scroll through Twitter to see who else in the writing community got book deals and went on tour and hit bestseller lists. It was a certain kind of soul-sucking year I'd had, and I didn't realize how empty I was until I needed to write. 

And by then, I couldn't (pages 186-7).

And the author is tired. And maybe she was never good at writing to begin with. Maybe she never really understood romance. Maybe she's not cutout for love stories--"

He leaned in close to me--so close that if he were alive, I would be able to smell the cologne he wore, the toothpaste he brushed with, the shampoo he used--and he said in a low voice, "Or maybe she just needs someone to show her that she is" (page 190).

The basement door had a latch on the outside but it was unlocked. When I'd been trapped down there for a night, I hadn't been afraid of the corpses in the freezers. They were like shells, and when the person was done with them, the shell cracked and broke (page 195).

I... never thought of myself, my story, my life as anything more than a boring book shelved in a boring library in a boring town (page 213).

Plenty of people would say my life's not boring, that I'm not. Hard to believe otherwise when you crawl into an empty bed every night, and every day is almost exactly as the one before.

But for today, I lived in your story, and it was lovely. Thank you.

Three Hundred Sixty Five

June 25, 2022

I'm going to see how long it takes me to watch three hundred sixty-five films. Some of yall know my intense love of film and suspect, I'm sure, this won't be much of a challenge. One movie a day. Shouldn't be too tricky. Yall. I've not watched barely any movies AT ALL. This year, I've seen one in theaters: Top Gun: Maverick (twice, because it's badass). The films for this challenge can be those I've seen, and genre does not matter. The kick is each film has to be connected to the previous one by at least one actor.

Example: Top Gun stars Val Kilmer who's in Tombstone with Michael Rooker. 

Begun: May twenty-sixth.

One. Top Gun. I love Maverick and Goose. The story sucks, but I want to like it so I remember it being better than it is. Kelly McGillis and Tom Cruise have NO chemistry whatsoever. I mean, she plays a different field so why should they?

Two. Tombstone. BEST. WESTERN. E V E R. Val Kilmer at his finest. Good cast. Great story.

Three. Days of Thunder. Meh. Typical Jerry Bruckheimer and Tony Scott fanfare.

Four. For Love of the Game. BEST. BASEBALL. FLICK. E V E R. Great story. LOVE Kelly Preston's character and her portrayal. Would that they would've gotten someone other than Kevin Costner, but... oh well.

Five. Into the Wild. Never seen it. Good story. SAD. Did not end at all the way I would've liked.

Six. The Adam Project. 
Love Ryan Reynolds, Jennifer Garner and Zoe Saldana. Cool story, bro. I enjoyed it. I don't know what it is, but something about Ryan in this one reminds me of my affable older brother... and that awkward little boy reminds me of myself. And watching those two interact kind of reminded me of how Jon and I would, and it makes me miss him and wish I'd been better to him.

Seven. Definitely, Maybe. LOVE LOVE LOVE Isla Fisher. I've seen this before but not in its entirety. Cute movie. Clever. Maybe not so different than the one before it after all. Also I now understand why people prefer American Spirits.

Eight. Tag.
I love stories inspired by real life stuff. A group of boys have been playing the same game of Tag for thirty years. In the film, one of them's NEVER been tagged. Isla Fisher makes this movie for me. This is my favorite film of hers.

Nine. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. This the only film in this franchise I've seen beginning to end. I suspect they're all like this one. I dig the cast, though.

Ten. Top Gun: Maverick. SO, SO, SO much BETTER than the first one. Penny Benjamin!!! Goose, Jr.! And the STORY... it actually HAS a story, not just a bunch of dudes flying around with their hair on fire. Good times, yall. GOOD times.

Eleven. Apollo Thirteen. I love EVERYTHING about this film.

Twelve. The Terminator. First time I saw it, at nine, I was petrified. Now… meh.

Thirteen. Vertical Limit. Never seen it. Never have I been so happy to see a bad guy die.

Fourteen. The Right Stuff. Never seen it in its entirety. LOVE this movie. Love this cast.

Fifteen. American Underdog.
Never seen it. SUCH a KICKASS story. Beyond WORTHY of the screen. I was bored OUT OF MY MIND the first third of it... and found mild interest in the film here and there after that. Bad screenwriting, bad casting. SUPER disappointed in this one. I did LOVE the Wheaties scene though. Best thing about the movie was watching him wrestle with dreams while trudging through mediocrity.

Sixteen. Collateral. Never seen it. Liked a LOT of it but not one I'd want to watch again.

Seventeen. Thanks for Sharing. Never seen it. Man this one's rough. Never, ever want to watch it again.

Eighteen. The Lucky Ones. Never seen it. NOT to be confused with the Lucky One. I feel like this one flew well below radar with regard to publicity, and maybe it's not a stellar movie, but I liked it... And then when I was copying text from Facebook (where I started keeping track) to here, I had to remind myself what movie this was, so... apparently it's forgettable.

Nineteen. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Not my favorite Marvel dude. Only watched the others because of the other Marvel dudes in them. Only watched this one because I needed something Rachel McAdams and wanted to do something I'd not seen and to see the other Marvel dudes so of course I had low expectations. Of the Strange flicks, I like this one the best. Its visual stun and several scenes shock and awe. And, most impressive to me, Vision's role--her longing, heartbreak, impotence and rage. A perfect storm.

Twenty. War Horse. Never seen it. Took me three days to finish it. Neat story but POORLY executed and MUCH TOO long.

Twenty-one. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. I'm still pissed they broke this book into two movies. Half the scenes in this one could've been cut. I didn't need to see Hermione obliviate her parents or dance with Harry in a tent or listen to Billy Nighy tell the muggle ministry that the magical ministry would stand to protect them... Harry found what... one horcrux in this movie? Hogwash. I'd thought when I'd seen it the first time I was being too critical. Nonsense.

Twenty-two. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. Haven't seen it in its entirety. I do love me some Captain Jack... and maybe some Will Turner, too. And the visuals are awesome. I liked that this one was more complex than the original. An abundance of characters contributes to that, but all those people can overwhelm. I liked it. Probably won't watch it again though because Keira Knightley sucks. 

Twenty-three. Finding Nemo. I like everything about this movie except Dory.

Twenty-four. Incredibles 2.

Twenty-five. Wall-E. Never seen it. Never want to see it again.

Twenty-six. Monsters Inc. Never seen it. Cute movie. But I've gotten myself into cartoon hell...

Twenty-seven. Inside Llewellyn Davis. Never seen it. DO NOT WATCH THIS. MORBID and DEPRESSING. And Oscar Issac’s character is a piece of shit. You never get inside his head. No redemption. Utter waste of time. Worst one on the list so far, by far.

Twenty-eight. Dune. Never seen it. STUPID. STUPID. S T U P I D.

Twenty-nine. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Never seen it. LOVED its complexity and intricacy. GOOD movie.

And now I am in one degree hell because the next movie I've watched is Zombieland, which means I've to figure out a way to get from Michael Douglas, Carey Mulligan, Charlie Sheen, Josh Brolin, Frank Langella and Shia LeBouf to Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, that wuss Jesse Eisenberg and Bill Murray. So far, the only way I can do it in one is No Country for Old Men. I am NOT watching that shit. I've seen clips. I get the gist.

So... in less than five minutes after I originally posted this, I found a movie starring both Charlie Sheen and Bill Murray. HUZZAH!!!

Thirty. A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III. Never seen it. Never heard of it. Similar to Inside Llewelyn Davis in that the main character is a selfish bastard and there's no redemption, in the notion that the character becomes better, in the end. Better because people love Charles, despite that selfishness. Because here's the thing, the dude does care. Not well, and not consistently, but he loves. He is messed up, but he owns it. Super obvious, though, that Charles and Charlie are the same person. Interesting, self-deprecating characters paired with some mid-century funk makes for a good mix. 

Thirty-one. Zombieland. Heard of it. Never seen it, nor have I wanted to do so. Working at a liquor store with a coworker during slow times means we watch a LOT of movies. He'd chosen eight of these, including this one, and next on the list makes nine. He loves this movie because it turns up to eleven every plot device used in every zombie ever made. It's sheer ridiculousness. I did not enjoy it. And I've already said what I think of Jesse Eisenberg. Ultimately, he's the reason I've not watched this before. 

Thirty-two. Dedication. I freaking LOVE this movie. HARD. I remember working the music shift at Barnes and Noble one dull night and keeping myself occupied by watching trailers on the Red Dot kiosks. After viewing this one's, I bought the DVD, confident I would love it, and I DID. It's ballsy, yall. It starts in a porn theater--children's book collaborators stumped for a book idea. It's got a solid cast, and Billy Crudup excels in his role. I think it's his best work. I never tire of watching this one. Justin Theroux did good with this one.

Thirty-three. Hot Fuzz. Never seen it. Another coworker selection--a favorite of his. I dig it. It's fun. And Simon Pegg is a rock star.

Thirty-four. How to Lose Friends and Alienate People. Never seen it in its entirety. Some have suggested I read that Dale Carnegie book. My psyche leans more to this film's title, though--in a snarky way. But the first time I tried to watch it, I quit after like fifteen minutes. This time I made myself get past the crazy and hang with the story, and I'm glad I did so. Pegg's character wasn't doing the alienating so much as others strove to alienate him.

Thirty-five. Skyfall. Seen it. LOVE this bond flick, mostly because of Javier Bardem. He rocks the psychotic bad guy SO WELL.

Thirty-six. This is Forty. Never Seen it. One of the FEW Apatow films I can appreciate. Good story, and Leslie Mann is wonderful.

Thirty-seven. She's Funny That Way. Never Seen it. The title SUCKS and has nothing to do with the story. Good cast. LOVE Kathryn Hahn. Liked the story. Loathed Jennifer Aniston's and Owen Wilson's characters.

Thirty-eight. A Bad Moms Christmas. Never seen it. I liked it for the most part. Good cast.

Thirty-nine: Anchorman Two: The Legend Continues. Never seen it. HATED the first one. This one was FUN. I dig it. 

Forty. Minions: The Rise of Gru. Never seen it. Never seen ANY of the minions flicks. I love those guys. Such a cute and fun movie.

Forty-one. I Can Do Bad All by Myself. Never seen it. Good story, but a little cliche at times. I love Taraji Henson.

Forty-two. Tyler Perry’s A Madea Homecoming. Never seen it. I liked it a lot

Forty-three. Star Trek. Seen it a thousand times. Never tire of this one.

Forty-four. Starsky and Hutch. Seen it. I like Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman and Snoop Dogg’s characters. Stiller and Owen are decent.

Forty-five. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Seen it. Love it. I think it’s Stiller’s best work.

Forty-six. The Last Word. Never seen it. Really liked it. Woman wants her obituary written before she dies, only she doesn’t like how the obit writer sums up her life so they make a mad dash to change the ending.

Forty-seven. Because I Said So. Seen it. Like it well enough. LOVE Gabriel Macht.

Forty-eight. Morning Glory. Seen it. LOVE this movie. Girl dreams of working for the Today Show and struggles to make that a reality. Love Diane Keaton—her character in this film is my favorite of her work. Love Harrison Ford. LOVE Rachel McAdams—she plays cute well.

Forty-nine. The Hot Chick. Never seen it. Wish I hadn’t.

Fifty. Seventeen Again. Seen it. Remember liking it when I watched it but talked myself into thinking it was stupid since. But Scarlet, Ned and the principal entertain me.

Fifty-one. The Other Woman. Seen it. LOVE IT. Cracks me UP.

Fifty-two. Wimbledon. Seen it. Had forgotten that I’d enjoyed it. Light-hearted and fun. Plus: Paul Bettany’s adorable.

Fifty-three. Mona Lisa Smile. Seen it. Like it well enough.

Fifty-four. Confessions of a Shopaholic. Seen it. Cute.

Fifty-five. Instant Family. Seen it. Liked it better the second time.

Fifty-six. Spirited. Never seen it. Enjoyed it. And I don’t usually like musicals.

Fifty-seven. Daddy’s Home 2. Never seen it. Hadn’t seen the first one. Hadn’t wanted to watch that one, but this one with Mel Gibson and John Lithgow… meh.

Fifty-eight. The Departed. Seen it. Couldn’t remember why I loved it because it’s GOOD… and then I remembered it gets REALLY REALLY lame.

Fifty-nine. Ford Vs. Ferrari. Seen it. LOVE this movie HARD. SO much perfection.

Sixty. The Lincoln Lawyer. Seen it. LOVE this movie more and more every time I watch it.

Sixty-one. Someone Like You. Seen it. Like the characters. Story sucks.

Sixty-two. Where the Heart Is. Seen it. Sucks.

Sixty-three. Thor: Love and Thunder. Never seen it. Thought I might like it better than the last one. It sucked more than ALL the other Thors combined. ALL OF THEM.

Sixty-four. The Big Short. Never seen it. Bankers are SLEAZE, the politicians who sleep with them have incurable diseases, and the dudes who profited from it are the sickest bastards ever to walk the earth. 

Sixty-five. By the Sea. Never seen it. SLOW. Not a lot happening on the surface of things. Good undercurrents though.

Sixty-six. Playing by Heart. Seen it. LOVE this movie. Awesome cast. Slow, but I don’t mind it. Cleverly told. LOVE the characters and complexity.

Sixty-seven. The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. Seen it. LOVE it.

Sixty-eight. The Lost City. Seen it. Sucked.

Sixty-nine. Free Guy. Never seen it. It’s clever… and then plugging into the Matrix came to mind, and I couldn’t stop comparing Guy to Neo. And then one character threw in “white privilege”, and I lost interest… but I can’t use Sandra Bullock more than once at a time, and I don’t feel like picking a different one. Lots of Deadpool feels. Also main girl dreams of being Uma Thurman in Kill Bill and Pulp Fiction. Only so many stories out there, and I’m all for parody, but… pilfering’s shit. Which IS, I ultimately realized, the point.

Seventy. The Proposal. Seen it. Like it. Like it more having realized I love Sandra Bullock’s character’s depth—it’s FAR greater than in any other of her films.

Seventy-one. Miss Congeniality. Seen it. Like it.

Seventy-two. Miss Congeniality 2. Seen it. SUCKS.

Seventy-three. A Cinderella Story. Never seen it. Y'all. This may very well be the shittiest on the list. 

Seventy-four. The Coneheads. Never seen it. I was too serious to appreciate them in my childhood. I liked it MUCH better than I thought I would. Phil Hartman!! Chris Farley!! The story would never NEVER EVER fly now.

Seventy-five. You’ve Got Mail. Seen it. I always think I like this one better than I do. But but the big, bad, chain store (for and to which I have whored myself dozens of times) seeks to wreak havoc in the community and shut down all the small shops. And Meg and Tom are IN RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHER PEOPLE… which bothers me more and more every time I watch it. I think Heather Burns, Dave Chapelle, Parker Posey and Steve Zahn make this movie. The ending BLOWS.

Seventy-six. Larry Crowne. Seen it. Forgettable—because I’d forgotten I’d seen it. Stupid story. Julia Roberts is ridiculous.

Seventy-seven. Ticket to Paradise. Never seen it. Stupid. Julia Roberts is almost as ridiculous in this one as the last.

Seventy-eight. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Never seen it. More of the same… but the tale and characters get a little more lackluster with every new chapter. I watch them because of the dude playing the villain… but they’re more of the same.

Seventy-nine. Eat Pray Love. Never seen it. Didn’t care much for it until the end. While I liked the ending it’s not enough to save it.

Eighty. Prisoners. Seen it. SO good. Gripping and gutsy story-telling.

Eighty-one. Far from Heaven. Never seen it. This one was like watching an old school movie or play in theater. Such beautiful craftsmanship. The story will wreck you, though. I'm glad I watched it. I don't want to see it again.

Eighty-two. Non-Stop. Never seen it. Typical Liam Neeson… always the same gruff, barely-tethered, traumatized, God-complexed savior.

Eighty-three. The Gentlemen. Never seen it. Not one I’d normally choose, but the cast ensemble interested me. I LOVE Hugh Grant in it. Also Matthew McC—and I don’t normally love him. This is definitely my favorite of his films. He’s a BADASS in it. I like this one a LOT. Have watched it multiple times since the first viewing.

Eighty-four. The Banshees of Inisherin. HAUNTING and awful. Steer CLEAR of this one. It’s MESSED UP. NEVER want to see it again. Shockingly awful. This got nominated for, and I’m sure won, some Oscars. That should tell you EVERYTHING you need to know.

Eighty-five. Mission Impossible II. I don’t think I’d seen it before. More of the same. Just another money-making vessel.

Eighty-six. The Saint. Seen it. I remember liking it better, probably because Val Kilmer.

Eighty-seven. The Bookshop. Seen it. Lovely. Inspired me to read Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine, which is awesome. Oh but the film's SO sad. I’m not eager to see, again, Patricia Clarkson play SUCH a bitch, but then Bill Nighy is SO SO sweet, and it’s got a beautiful love story to balance all the hate. I watched this with my parents at River Oaks' theater. Never has a film filled me with such rage at the ruination of a woman and her dream, at the despicable influence one woman has on a village. It's the best rendition of cancel culture at its worst. Everyone should watch it. The machinations in this film are IMPRESSIVE. 

Eighty-eight. Miracle. SUCH an AWESOME story and a perfect telling. The opening credits are some of the best sequencing and piecing I’ve ever seen, and the music is LOVELY.

Eighty-nine. Pieces of April. Seen it. I adore this film. Mostly because of Patricia Clarkson… she plays a bitch… but redeems herself, and it’s so gratifying to see… ESPECIALLY since the film’s set on Thanksgiving.

Ninety. It Runs in the Family. Never seen it. This is pathetic in SO many ways. I wanted to turn it off twenty minutes into it. I do like Mrs. Douglas. She redeems it a wee bit. And then there’s Bernadette. I chose it because of her. It’s not awful. I wouldn’t watch it again.

Ninety-one. Winter Solstice. Never seen it. Wish I hadn't. One of the most boring films ever. Should've had great depth and intense conflict. Barely scratched the surface.

Ninety-two. X-Men: The Last Stand. Seen it. This movie is SUCH shit.

Ninety-three. Jesus Revolution. Never seen it. MUCH better than I thought it would be.

Ninety-four. Dear Eleanor. Never seen it. Cute flick. I enjoyed it, mostly because of the characters and cast. Not one I'd want to see again.

Ninety-five. Some Kind of Beautiful. Never seen it. Picked it because I love Salma Hayek and like Jessica Alba, and I appreciated both of them in this movie. Salma's got some GREAT scenes. Pierce Brosnan annoyed me, and the story's lame.

Ninety-six. The Greatest. Never seen it. Painfully slow, but it should be. Carey Mulligan’s the best thing about it. Not one I’d want to watch again.

Ninety-seven. The Client. Seen it. LOVE IT. Didn't mind watching it again. Good story, and I LOVE Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones. 

Ninety-eight. Double Jeopardy. Seen it. LOVE it. I shouldn’t because SO SO much of it’s hokey as hell, but…

Ninety-nine. Kingsmen: The Golden Circle. Never seen it. Entertaining but not one I want to see again. Julianne Moore can't do bad guy AT ALL.

One hundred. Trust the Man. Never seen it. Liked it. Parts of it show truly despicable men and cemented the notion (again) that I could live perfectly fine without them (which I can... but you need reminding now and again, yeah?) and other parts cracked me up so that by the end, I wanted these asshats to be happy. I don't know that I'd watch it again willingly, but if I happened upon it, I wouldn't switch off.

One. Hitch. Seen it. Like it. Happy to watch it again. LOVE Kevin James. SO SO much.

Two. Little Black Book. Seen it. Liked it SO much better the second time around. Brittany Murphy’s SO GOOD in this.

Three. O Brother Where Art Thou? Seen it. Didn't want to watch it again, but it must be done.
This movie is D U M B.

Four. Up in the Air. Never seen it. Didn't want to, but it too must be done.

Five. Tropic Thunder. Never seen it. Pretty sure this wouldn't fly now.

Six. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Seen it but had forgotten I’d seen it… so… yeah.

Seven. Fatherhood. Never seen it. GOOD movie. Based on the memoir Two Kisses for Maddie by Matt Lougelin.

Eight. The Marrying Man. Never seen it. OH. MY. GOD. This SUCKED. SO SO MUCH.

Nine. Batman. Seen it. LOVE this movie. LOVE Michael Keaton. LOVE LOVE LOVE Jack Nicholson.

Ten. The Quick and the Dead. Never seen it. Never wanted to watch it but I had to get to Cry Macho, and this was quickest way. SO SO SO awful. GOOD GOD, y'all. STEER CLEAR of this one. I'd rather watch The Marrying Man than to have to watch this trash again.

Eleven. Absolute Power. Never seen it. Never been curious enough to watch it. I like Gene Hackman. His character is ABSOLUTELY terrible, and he plays him WELL. That's the only good thing I've to say about this one.

Twelve. Cry Macho. Never seen it. Yet another Clint Eastwood being his typical gruff, I-hate-people-but-must-be-the-one-to-save-them grumpy bugger badass. I didn't like anything about this movie and never want to see it again. 

Thirteen. Hollywood Homicide. Never seen it. Crap. 

Fourteen. Man on a Ledge. Seen it. I love a good revenge story. This one's solid.

Fifteen. People Like Us. Seen it. LOVE this movie. Such a wonderful story.

Sixteen. Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. Never seen it. Never want to see it again.

Seventeen. All the Bright Places. Never seen it. Read and loved the book. People talk all the time about why someone struggling with mental illness "never" asked for help. BULLSHIT. People just don't want to see it. One character asks for help, but no one wants to give it. Because he can recognize the need for help in others, he saves a girl from grief. And she recognizes that he needs it himself... It's GOOD, y'all. Please watch it.

Eighteen. Bottle Rocket. Never seen it. NOT good. Don't bother.

Nineteen. Wedding Crashers. Seen it. Didn't want to watch it again, but I needed to connect some dots, and I thought maybe I'd like it better the second time around... so many people LOVE this movie, it seems. I wanted to be able to do so. It's TRASH.

Twenty. Aloha. Not seen it in its entirety. Tried to watch it but couldn't get into it. John Krasinski's AWESOME in it. Alec Baldwin's good. The rest of the cast blows... because the story BLOWS.

Twenty-one. Burnt. Seen it. LOVE this movie, too. GOOD story, great characters. Redemption, y'all. Redemption is AWESOME.

Twenty-two. Rush. Seen it. Niki Lauda's story is MIRACULOUS. Everyone should see it.

Twenty-three. Easy A. Seen it. LOVE it. Loved watching it again. This might be my favorite of Emma's films.

Twenty-four. Burlesque. Seen it. Like it.

Twenty-five. Safe Haven. Seen it. This is probably the best of Nicholas Sparks' stories. All his films have been cute and sappy and sweet and saccharine and blah blah blah. This one, though... this one had me jumping out of my skin in the theater, and that one of his story's could do that shocked the hell out of me. It's GOOD, y'all.

Twenty-six. Spider-Man: Far from Home. Never seen it. Predictable as hell. Too reliant on CGI. But I do like Tom Holland, Marissa Tomei and Zendaya.

Twenty-seven. The Italian Job. Seen it. LOVE it.

Twenty-eight. Bombshell. Never seen it. John Lithgow, y'all. He's GOOD in this movie. His character's utterly revolting, but he rocks the role. Good cast. Great story.

Twenty-nine. The Truman Show. Seen pieces of it. Good story.

Thirty. Dumb and Dumber. Seen it. Liked it better the second time... but not by much.

Thirty-one. Oh, God! Seen it. Meh.

Thirty-two. Pretty Woman. Seen it. Like it a little more every time I watch it. Still wish they'd chosen someone other than Richard Gere, but apparently Julia Roberts really wanted him to play the part he'd originally refused.

Thirty-three. Mystic Pizza. Seen pieces of it. Know it's loved by many. Not my thing.

Thirty-four. Air. Never seen it. SO SO good!

Thirty-five. It's Kind of a Funny Story. Seen pieces of it. Couldn't get into it before. Glad I watched it. GOOD story.

Thirty-six. The Hangover. Never seen it. NEVER wanted to watch this one. Glad I did! Cracked me UP.

Thirty-seven. We’re the Millers. Never seen it. Never wanted to watch this one, either, but I had time for one more movie, and friends recommended it, so... Meh. 

Extraordinary Activity

 I've been wanting to write this for months but wasn't ready to do so. I attend a church whose benediction, spoken at the conclusion of each service, goes like this:

Because we have received the DNA of Jesus and because we want to see His kingdom come, we will be His hands and feet in a broken world. We will be love where there is no love, we will be peace where there is no peace, we will be hope where there is no hope, and we will expect extraordinary God activity at all times, knowing wherever we go, the kingdom goes with us for His fame and glory. Amen.

I have never witnessed such extraordinary activity in my life as I have this year.

For three weeks in January, we fast with intention to develop new habits, whether they're emotional, mental, physical or spiritual. The church seeks to develop a habit of daily, hourlong time with Jesus from six to seven a.m. It's still black outside, and cold (yes, Texas knows cold), and the drive to church takes a good twenty minutes for me. The last thing I want to do is get up in the bleak of morn to drive twenty minutes to church to spend time with Jesus and pray with other when I can't keep my eyes open. But I do it... not daily, of course, but I do go enough that I am content with my effort.

The church isn't open on Friday. They give the staff that morning to sleep. I'd forgotten this. He woke me. I got up, dressed, drove and found that only one other car was in the parking lot, one belonging to my friend, also named Jennifer. She sad her cat had woken her by sitting on her face. She figured she was supposed to get up. We sat in her SUV talking for a good while. I'd asked her why people didn't want to spend time with me. She didn't want to upset me, was wary of answering, but I told her I wanted to know so I could be better with people. She told me then I talk too much.

I wish I could tell you I've always struggled with this. My parents spent a significant amount of money taking me to assorted counselors in my childhood and adolescence. I had so much about which to talk, so many subjects I could broach, so many wounds needing healing. But I was ashamed of them all. Some still weigh heavy in my mind and heart. I couldn't talk. I couldn't let the world know how much I hated myself for the things I'd done, how much I hated my peers and teachers. How much I wanted to die. I couldn't admit any of it.

When I thought I'd found love twenty years ago, when I'd been spinning at the top of a glorious whirlpool and he said things that, like the hand of God, shoved me into its depths where I stayed for years afterward... the things he said made sense. It was the way he said them... on his couch with our legs and arms entwined, my head resting on his shoulder, my hand resting on his heart, my tears leaking onto his shirt... NOT because of what he'd said, but all the ghosts, all the boys I'd known. I heard him. I was on the same page he was. If I could've said so, maybe I would've found a way out of the water and onto the shore, where he'd gone. If I could've said I'm with you... but in that moment, I wasn't there. Somehow I'd found the drain and gone through it into the abyss where the ghosts, all the terrible things boys have said to me up to the time I'd met him, where they hide and lie and wait. And I cannot kill them. I could not tell him where I'd gone or how I'd gotten there. I didn't want his pity. 

I've dated since him... but still I could not communicate. One said I had internal conflicts and reservations, and that pissed me off. What woman doesn't? What man? I wasn't able to communicate with a man until my last relationship bought it six years ago. Oh was I glad to be free of him. I had no trouble whatsoever losing him. His idea of a relationship was emotional and mental abuse. I got enough of that from myself, especially for completely dropping the bar my fathers, uncles and cousins had set, allowing him the opportunity to all but ruin me. Damned if I'd take it from him, too. Damned if I'll do that again.

The point is... like in every other aspect of my character, I've gone from not talking about things that matter to me to talking about ALL the things. I share too much. I've yet to learn to listen. 

I say all this because a few days ago, I'd been talking to yet another Bumbler, a traveling nurse who was in my neck of the woods. I'd notice the traveling bit in his profile but had overlooked where home was for him. I'm too hasty with the swiping sometimes. I know this. We exchanged numbers and began talking. One of the first questions I'd asked was about the traveling and where he was based. He'd said Lubbock. 

Lubbock. The mouthbreather from six years before, his last location known to me was Lubbock. Two thoughts: Oh, this again. SWELL. Also, fuck if I drive to Lubbock. I don't care how good the guy might be. I am NEVER going back to that city. I felt this in my gut. I acknowledge it but didn't act on it. And then there were all the words, the keys shall we say that unlock a woman's defenses. I recognized them, but didn't act on them. We met. More unease. And that same day, I let him go.

Yall. I can't tell you how proud of this I am. I engaged in what had, for the most part, been good conversation. I was more alert to the flags. I saw them waving. But I also didn't want to assume the dude was a jackass just because the rest I've known had been so... and I would've wanted a man to give me the same grace. I gave it. I rescinded it, and I did so in what I thought was a mature and eloquent manner. Of course he didn't respond... just disappeared as all the others have done. Yes, I probably should've heeded the first flag and nipped it in the bud then and there. I'm learning. Still. 

Listening's hard stuff. God's been teaching me, and I'm starting to pay attention.

BUT, while that is, to me gold, these other things, like Jennifer and I both going to church that Friday when it was closed, I have seen miracles.

I've talked about the dental work, and all the ordeals from that. I believe I referenced in that post the goodness I've known through those experiences.

Let me tell you about my favorite, the most extraordinary activity of all.

I severed ties with my previous employer, a tutoring facility, January fifth. They'd cut my hours from full to part-time and reduced them to something like five per week. That would've been about eighty dollars, and with taxes cut I would've seen about sixty-five. It cost me, at the time about sixty bucks to fill up my tank. So I would've been commuting an hour round trip three days a week to earn the money I'd need to spend on gas to get me to work. No thank you. I cleared out my cubicle, most of my belongings there were food, and resigned, effective immediately. On the way home I found a woman dressed in a pink parka with heavy brown fur lining, standing roadside on the edge of Trader Joe's parking lot. I thought, help her. And then I thought I've twenty bucks, and I just quit my job. I passed her. I thought again, you have food, and she needs that twenty bucks more. So I turned into the parking lot, circled back to her and gave her what I had.

Two days later, as I was leaving Target, I saw an elderly man standing at the lot's exit to the intersection. I had ten dollars. I gave it to him.

The next day, Saturday, I got up and went to prayer at the church, I'd dreaded the immature way I'd handled my funds over the past week or so. I needed roughly a thousand dollars to get me through the coming month. That's how irresponsible I'd been. I stood and shared the troubles then sat while others prayed aloud for me. I felt called to turn the gentleman behind me and reach for his hand. When I did, he took it and slipped something inside it. I knew it was cash. I didn't look then to see how much it was. When I left the church, the prayer pastor handed me money she wanted to give to me. And then I had breakfast with another church member, and she hired me, paying me five hundred dollars, to help her with work for the charity she ran.

I tithed, in my own way, thirty dollars after resigning that job, one God had been telling me for weeks to leave.

The man seated behind me blessed me with one hundred dollars--ten times what I'd given the man standing alone. The prayer pastor, a generous woman, blessed me with two hundred--twice what I'd given the woman standing alone. And then another woman blessed me with five hundred. 

I took fifty dollars from the money she'd given me and bought groceries for the church's children's food drive. Exactly fifty dollars worth. When has that ever happened? I used some of the money to update my vehicles registration and inspection, and while there, I asked the manager, a friend of mine for almost three decades, about the food drive going on, and how hardly anyone's donated, and would he be willing to contribute fifty bucks. He said yes and reached in his wallet before I'd finished the question. So with his help, I purchased one hundred dollars of food and took it with me to church the next day.

And while I sat in the 9:45 service, the prayer pastor texted wanting to know if I were there and then, yes, she saw me on live feed. Someone else had given her money to pass onto me. Two hundred more dollars. Twentyfold what I'd spent the day before. 

Yall. It is so easy to look at the people following too closely or sitting too long at the light or constantly getting in your way when you've got ten minutes to grab something for that dinner with friends and think the day is SHIT. It is SO easy.

I dare you to look instead for the extraordinary.

With Teeth

April 19, 2022

I know. I know. Yall should be used to the infrequent posts by now, though, yeah? I haven't wanted to write. But four months is inexcusable. Let me catch yall up. 

January. I started the year weighing one hundred thirty-five pounds. This has not happened in well over a decade. Last April I weighed fifty pounds more than now.

The past is prologue: I'd put most of that weight on beginning April five years before and kept it because I had given up on life and love and was waiting to die. I suspect the darkness of the past posts have reflected this well. I'd been drinking much too much during that period, and the more despaired I became, the more I drink. Hello. Alcohol's a depressant. I know this. I knew it would expedite the process of dying. It could not come fast enough.

I'd bought a miniature refrigerator for my bedroom to stash food and canned sodas so I wouldn't have to see my parents so much. And then I stopped stocking the food and sodas I did not need to eat and replaced those with canned wine and hard seltzers. I'd work (this was pretty much all last year), come home to have dinner and watch Fox with my parents, then go upstairs, take the prescriptions to help me sleep (drugs that weren't working--can't imagine why... DUH), grab four cans of wine or seltzer, play Seekers Notes on my mother's computer and drink until I felt I could sleep. Rinse. Repeat.

I couldn't tell you how long this went on... but there came a night when I'd puked up so much red wine I'd disgusted myself. And another night... or maybe the same one, I can't remember... I stumbled (my parents thought I'd slipped on a bath mat and, the next day put those rug holder things underneath them) and landed on my right elbow. Nothing hurt. My cousin, a surgical tech, said drunks often don't hurt themselves because their bodies are so lax. I woke my parents. My father called from the bottom of the stairs (thank you, Jesus, for keeping him so distant) to ensure I was alright, as I wrapped my elbow in an Ace bandage so I wouldn't get blood on the sheets. 

The next morning I woke to see I'd bled through most of the bandage. The cut on my elbow looked much deeper than the night before (can't imagine why). My mother said it needed stitches, and so I got them. 

My father knew I was drinking too much, of course. But he only mentioned it one time, long before this happened. 

I stopped drinking so much after this. I've not stocked alcohol upstairs since that fall. This would be one of the reasons I lost weight. The other is I stopped shoveling so much crap. So... January...

I resigned my job as a tutor because I wasn't tutoring. I had five hours a week to work with children, and the rest of the time I was doing administrative tasks. Part-time tutors were given more opportunity to work with students. My boss, a man who took over management of the center in December because the owner wanted to see a greater financial return on his investment, decided because I showed reluctance to do the work I had not been hired to do that he would demote me to part-time...which meant five hours times sixteen dollars... which means eighty dollars per week... which is sixty-five or so after taxes... and that will buy me one tank of gas because of Biden's inflation. The commute is thirteen miles, which doesn't sound so bad, except it takes about forty minutes, and my thirteen-year-old Nissan doesn't get the best gas mileage. So basically I'd be making money to buy gas to get to work to make money to buy gas... and I loathed the new manager, whose wife is the assistant manager. Neither of these people speak a word of truth, and the things they say to children are flabbergasting. The manager told two unrelated first-graders their parents had named them after a gun and his favorite adult beverage. What man in his right mind speaks to children this way? I quit cold turkey and collected unemployment, which was more than I would've made had I stayed.

I have seen five different dentists in the past decade.

Caveat: I smoked as many as three packs of cigarettes a day, beginning in April of 'ninety-two through June of 'seven. When I lost Adam in 'two and Jon in 'three, for a couple months after each loss, I went days without brushing my teeth. I smoked lots of cigarettes and drank lots of sodas. I have caused all the forthcoming crap with negligence and disregard.

The first of these, and I don't remember how long he "treated" me, loved milking patients for money by doing poor work which necessitated costlier work. One of those faulty jobs resulted in a necessary tooth extraction... I'd posted about this at the time of the surgery, but that post did not survive the great culling of 'fifteen... as far I can tell anyway.

After that surgery, I started seeing my mother's dentist, who informed me the previous one had left drill bits where he'd done root canals, who neglected to adhere to my caution at the beginning about my high tolerance for pain, resulting in the need for yet another extraction.

I was about to lose my job at the newspaper (which I did not mind, by the way, because they were working on moving me to covering news, and I didn't want to write such stories because I knew they would only feed my psyche's darkness, which has become less and less tolerable... I suppose because of the drinking, but more because I've been trying to understand things I should not touch). Anyway... I had nine hundred dollars on an FSA card that I had to use in four days or I'd lose it, and my dentist couldn't see me.

So I found another who extracted, without sedation, that tooth and put a crown on the one next to it.

The next dentist did not think my teeth had issues meriting attention.

The next one seemed better... which brings us to January.

I noticed that the last crowned tooth's gums had receded more than felt comfortable to me and looked gray. I went to that dentist, who said it just needed another crown. It didn't. I knew it didn't... the pain below it was too significant, even to me, and it looked like things were dying down there. She insisted. I went to church to pray I'd find a better one.

Four days before I'd seen that dentist, I drew a sort of barometric pressure map of how my face's muscles feel. That morning, I'm standing in this dentist's lobby, looking at an abstract painting that looked much too similar to that map, only the picture was flipped. Not a reflection of me but as though I'd come face-to-face replica, one that was eye-level. It was like looking at my soul. I'm standing there as an office assistant is trying to get a hold of my insurance company, and tears are streaming... so I go speak to the dentist again and reiterate my concerns and how I think the pain is caused by some sort of toxins. She says, "I'm a dentist. I deal in teeth. I can recommend a holistic dentist for you..." And so I went back to the reception area to stare at the painting some more, to weep some more. It's gray at this office. I see no blue anywhere but in that painting. When the assistant informs they do not take my insurance, I head for church.

When I arrive, the sky blue for what seems like miles. No gray. Anywhere. 

I go to the prayer pastor's office to get the wifi password. She sees I am stressed and offers to help. I tell. She listens. And then she tells me to give her my insurance card so she can make a copy of it and that she wants to find me a dentist. I let her. She texts me that afternoon with four names.

That Saturday, another crown comes off. This one's on the other side of the extraction site. The tooth is black and brown. I am grateful that it's come off so that when I tell the next dentist, whomever that is, of how serious my concerns are he or she might take me seriously. I had ruled out one of the four dentists. I call the others. One of the three doesn't have an answering machine. I rule him out, too, and leave messages with the other two. 

Monday morning, I decide against waiting until they return my call. I go to the one nearest my house. His doors are locked with signage all over them about COVID restrictions. I decide that's not my guy. I go to the other. That office had a cancellation five minutes ago and can see me right now. And I meet a woman who seems genuinely concerned about her patients. She believes she can save the first tooth, even though there's not much tooth left, that it only needs a crown, as the other does. So they put on temporaries. And when the permanents arrive... the crown on the back tooth (not the one that had looked gray) goes on without a hitch. The other one, though... the dentist who put the crown on it (the one I'd paid with my FSA) left little tooth. When the dental assistant goes to fit that crown, it fits so well the tooth breaks down to the gum when he takes it off to put cement in it. So... extraction, but I have to wait until February.

While I'm waiting, another tooth needs a root canal, and she sends me to an endodontist. This one's top left... the other work's been lower right so far. The endodontist says he can fix the root canal, but the guy who did it earlier punctured something he can't fix, and the root canal would be pointless. Another extraction.

Two more teeth need crowns and another needs a cavity repaired, but the extractions take precedence. I schedule the surgery, which would've been done in mid-March, except I found courage to insist it's an emergency... and so it goes on the calendar mid-February instead.

Right around this time I find work at a liquor store. (And before you say, oh shit! This is SERIOUSLY good for me. The more I stock these bottles of badness, the more I see the regular day-drinkers, the greater my resolve becomes to never touch the stuff). I've made all these plans. Fortunately, the owner is good with all of them.

February. Surgery, done Friday morning, goes well. Recovery goes well, I think, until Sunday night I notice something that looks like a pinprick at the broken tooth's surgical site. My jaw hurts, but I figure it's because of the surgery. I shrug it off, but by Friday I figure it shouldn't be hurting so I go back to learn I've got a dry socket.

Don't know what that is? Bone's exposed. The gum's not healing over it. Anything that touches that bone could cause serious infection. Not good. It takes weeks to heal.

I'm feeling as though I'm a nuisance with all the visits to the oral surgeon, the dentist and the orthodontist--I need Invisalign, too. All this work costs, before insurance, some thirteen-thousand dollars. My parents had thirty-thousand save to replace one of their aging vehicles. My father says they'll have to use that money to pay for all this. The guilt for all the work needing to be done, caused by all the neglect from decades before, weighed HEAVY on me. 

And then I go to the orthodontist for a consult. He takes REALLY good pictures of my teeth, and I see that they look SO MUCH MORE disgusting than I'd thought. The weight of all that guilt is crushed by the heartbreak of never feeling so ugly as I did that moment. I felt like monstrous inside and out. I struggled with that for weeks.

I wrote it out and realized all the gains I'd mad e in the past four years, of how this was third and four and I needed to get the first because the goalpost was too far down field. My mind replays footage of quarterbacks throwing balls that don't connect but the ref declares forward progress so they get to try again. I get to try again. And after all this work's done--the cavity, the crowns, the braces, the implants, the crowns--my smile will be amazing again. People used to say all the time my smile's amazing. I've not heard that in too long a time, and I miss the compliment. Anyway...

March. The dry socket heals. I get the cavity fixed. The bottom left molar and the tooth above it, the one next to the tooth that was no longer there, need crowns. The temporaries are put in, though the dental assistant helping this time seems agitated and somewhat inept. She doesn't get a good mold for the lower molar. That temporary comes off about a week later. It's got a hole on the top.  Another assistant fixes the hole, supposedly, and puts it back on over what's left of that tooth. A week later while having lunch with a friend, the lower molar's temporary crown comes off again as I'm eating, and I crush it. 

April. They make another temporary crown. It stays put. I make an appointment to see the orthodontist the day after I get the permanents placed.

A couple weeks later I go to get the permanents. The top one goes on without a hitch.

The lower molar's crown, poorly made by the absentminded assistant, feels terribly wrong in my mouth. I say so. The assistant--there are two I like, and he's one of them--tells me not to move and reaches for some tool to take it out, but my body reacts to the foreign object like you would expect. My tongue pops it off, but the crown lands too far back. He tells me not to sit up, but my body does this anyway, and my tongue's making feeble attempts to get the crown closer to my lips. But my throat is opposed to this. It can't handle that something's so close to it, and as though it's food, swallows it. The crown then gets stuck somewhere around my larynx. I'm coughing and swallowing, and eventually the thing goes down. Amazingly enough, I am laughing about this. I've not been able to laugh about dental work in a decade. I shouldn't be laughing about this, but I think at this point I'm delirious or something. Fortunately, and never has that word seemed more perfect to me, my parents haven't had to pay for temporary and permanent crown recreation. The guy makes a new impression for the permanent and puts on again the temporary. We schedule a new date for the permanent. I reschedule my orthodontist appointment for the day after that.

They tell me, yet again, to chew on my right side. I'm missing three lower teeth. Can you imagine for a moment how hard it would be to chew on your right side when there are no teeth there? And it's barely been a month since the last of those three was removed.

Saturday, the sixteenth. I'm watching Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald with my family. I braved a small bag of popcorn. I'm doing my best to eat on my right side but... I'm halfway through the bag when I feel something that's not a kernel. I suspect I've broken the crown in half. No. Not in half. I've crushed the thing. I fish splinters out of my mouth. 

Monday. I go to the gym and then the dentist. She can see me right then (it's half past nine), but I have to open the store at ten. 

Tuesday, today. They joke that I swallowed the temporary. It's funny, seriously. I laugh. They make me a new temporary, and now I sit at the counter banging these keys.

I have to keep this thing on my tooth until May second. It must happen. Please pray.

I'm in the Dark, Here!

December 30, 2021

So news first... for the last two decades or so, doctors have marveled at how my heart murmurs and wrote orders for echocardiograms which I neglected to fulfill... and if they gave me the paper copy, I would throw it in the nearest receptacle after leaving the office. My heart's like every other muscle in my body, and it's gonna break just like the rest of them have done or will do. It will do what it wants, and I will not be able to stop it. The latest doctor I've seen marveled at it on my first visit, and we discussed a few visits later... What happens after I get the echo? And since I've no intention of prolonging this life through the means my parents have used to prolong theirs, it's always seemed pointless to me to bother with it. If there's not a pill I can take to make it bearable, why muck with it? 

But this year... the middle of my back been's causing greater pain that normal... kinda near where my lungs are... and my depression's gotten worse, and my meds don't work quite as well as they used to do, and I'm too hopeless these days. Almost as bad as I was four years ago. Four years ago I was in fuck it mode. I was waiting on the good Lord to take me, assuming I was worthy of the rescue. Knowing my history, I'm more likely bound to be raging at the surface or sinking in the abyss of the river Styx. And maybe if I could fix my heart to doctors' best ability, maybe that'll alleviate the depression and the pain in my back. It's in my legs, too. It's basically everywhere. It makes me tired. 

This doctor let me listen to my heart, and then he let me listen to his. Mine sounds pretty bad, yall. Not at all what it should sound like. Not a clean thump thump but a whoosh whoosh whoosh, like the sound water makes when it is pushed through a flapping door. And the thump thump is buried underneath that. I can hear it in my head at night as I'm trying to sleep. He said mine's something like a three or four. I'm thinking of cancer stages... three or four can't be good.

I'm housesitting for a friend. She introduced me to another friend who lives on her street, and that woman asked me to care for her cat, Roxy. I housesat for another friend before sitting for this one, and the cat's needs overlapped. 

I'm barely hanging on to sanity right now. I've quit drinking because the doctor prescribed new medicine to alleviate the rage and firmly ordered me to stop drinking.

In the past few years, I've come to know that I would've been a horrible teacher, and know I'm seeing I would've been a much worse mother. And I can't tend house worth a damn because I'm too concerned with myself and nothing else.

The cat made a mess on the carpet. I cleaned it up but failed to clean out the machine after... mostly because I was too afraid of breaking it. I suspect she'll never ask me to care for her cat again. I can tell you, when I went into the house today to find it still not there (I'd asked her if I could use it the day before), I texted see if I could borrow the cleaner to clean up the piss on the rug of the friend who introduced me to the cat... she texted me: I think I don’t actually want all of everyone’s pet poopoo in it. I’m sorry. It’s hard enough for me to clean it out after cleaning up Roxys messes. The day before she'd agreed to let me borrow it but bring it back so they could use it if the cat made a mess. But today, I got that text. So either the folks who are now watching their cat used it to clean up a mess one of their animals had made in their home OR they'd complained to this woman that I'd left it foul. 

So the three dogs here... they exhaust me, and I'm feeling more like I should ask this friend to find someone else to watch them in the future because I'm doing such a lousy job of it. These are puppies. Can you imagine how shitty I'd be with children??

All these dreams I've had... they die ugly deaths... one by one. 

And so now... now, I very much would love to be that hermit.

When I Was a Child...

September 30, 2021

That Scripture from Matthew or wherever... it doesn't matter, does it? Yall know what it says... I spoke like a child... 

I speak like a child all the time. Most of the time it's because I am so stinking happy I can't control it. Like I can't control it when I'm mad or sad or bad. I take drugs for that... lots of them actually. So the gleeful gal or the banshee... whichever has the reins... you can only see a small percentage of the giddy or the gorey. On a whim last Saturday, I cut my hair OFF (again)--something I'd not done in almost twenty years. I did it because when I looked in the mirror, I felt like a haggard, lonely woman, and the feeling did not sit well with me... but what finally drove me to do it was the vision that in five years or so my hair could be barely there on the top of my head and straggly threads on the back and sides... and that vision made me feel SO. MUCH. UGLIER. And yes, I know... I'm made in Christ's image, and it's easy to run those words through my head, but as they do so, it's in a tone that's mocking and demented... because I go outside and the words seem to hold no value. And yes, I know that's my faith wavering. I know it.

Once upon a time I worked at a bookstore, and one of its managers told me she thought of me as fearless. When I asked her why she'd chosen that word, she said something to the effect of that no matter how much I struggle when out and about in my days, I get up and go out, and that is fearless.

I do it because I have to do it. Just like when during my school days, and this is something my mother marvels at still, I never said I don't want to go or asked if I could stay home. Yall. My father was the superintendent. OF. COURSE. Like I COULD ask that. Like they'd let me stay home.

We're doing Priscilla Shirer's Elijah study at church. It's a good one--hard-hitting, as a study should be. I hadn't worked on it this past week. One of the questions we addressed today (NOT phrased as it should be because my book's in my car, and I'm upstairs in my room and too lazy to get it because I know yall'll get the point) what's something you've wanted and not gotten? I've wanted requited, romantic love, independence from my parents, and financial stability. I've never known these things. And reading them, I felt like a child. Seeing this in print just drives the hurt in a little bit deeper... and it's been a hurt that's lasted for the better part of three decades. I bent my head and allowed myself to feel that hurt but reined it in just before tears fell. And I carried myself through that study well enough this morning. I'm always SO happy to go to study because there are SO many women there whom I love and take pleasure in spending time with them. But the pleasure and the joy are sucked out like a vacuum at the conclusion... the room gets grayer and grayer and grows more and more silent... and I am there taking out the trash. Just before the last people left, I'd overheard some who lead the ministry talk about needing someone to lead the giving tree and thought, "THAT. I can totally rock that." So eager was I to help, so pleased that I could use my gifts for good, I shouted, "I'll help." Like a first grader eager to help her teacher. Childish. 

Moments before this, I'd marveled at how much more youthful I felt because of this haircut. I feel like I'm ten years younger. At least.

And then the people left... and all the things whammied me. The immaturity of my life--the lack of a spouse, the lack of children, the lack of a romantic relationship, the lack of independence, the lack of funds in my account, the lack of being able to lead when I so often feel called to do so. Who would put a child in charge? That's crazy right? All these women, they have the husbands, the children, the independence (though I'm sure most would say they don't... because of the husbands and the children), the funds in their accounts, the ability to lead (and don't tell me yall don't, because I know danged well who rules those houses).

I cried like a little girl, yall. I walked into that sanctuary, sanitized my hands and let my fingers feel the piano keys played earlier that morning by a gifted man as we'd worshipped. There is so much music in me, and yet, I lack the ability to play it--the hand-width, coordination and strength. I prayed: The highs are so high, Lord, and the lows are so low. And it's hard to dance with the devil on my back, but I do not have the strength to shake him. You do, though. So please, God, get him off me.

My throat hurts. It started, interestingly enough, not long before I joined in a Bible Study Fellowship study of Romans. There's some line in there, something like, Your throat is an open grave.

I try to sing in church, but my throat REALLY hurts after the second song or so. So I sit, and let the music swirl around me... and then I start thinking the devil's sat me down, so I force myself back up and I tell myself to sing anyway. But it hurts, and singing was the thing that saved me in my childhood. Always. I'd walk the streets of my neighborhood and sing Bette Midler's The Rose... and the song was always a prayer, and I had such confidence that in the winter I would know love. And yall, when I'd sing that song, it was always with the love of a good man in mind. I needed to sing it because the boys I knew were so unbearably cruel. The men I've known have been.

Winter's never come, though.

I have buried myself. I have boxed myself in. Stunted my growth.

Yall might think it's easy for me to unload. It's not. I might have shared about my physical aches... it's easy for me to complain about those, yall, because they HURT and are so plentiful that I can't help myself. But once upon a time I was a champion internalizer like my brothers, like my parents. And about five years after I started blogging, I began to use this site as a sort of therapy. I'd type. Lots. And it would help. Hardly anyone I knew read it, and that's okay. That was PERFECT because I didn't feel as though I burdened anyone with any of it. 

I didn't start unloading the baggage upon my friends until about four years ago or so. And there is such guilt and shame in me for burdening them. Such hatred because I cannot carry my cross with grace like all the others do. And I lean heavily on the words they've said back to me... but they are words. And I, like any writer, know words can be like vapor.


July 16, 2021

I'm here today because I cannot post on my Wordpress site because I haven't been able to pay the webhosting stuff... something like two hundred bucks, which I don't have because I'm a child when it comes to managing money.

I lost one of my part-time gigs at the end of May. The other's hours would've been bumped up to about thirty-five a week, which is more than I've worked in at one job in five years... but the owner keeps a black Lab mix on the premises, and while I can hold my own around other dogs (friendly reminder, I'm pathetically allergic to pretty much everything), this dog makes me vomit so I spent May and June trying to find other work, and those searches proved more promising that in the past, which gave me hope... which was crushed, and every time it was I sunk a lot deeper into depression. At the end of June I gave up. So I'm working at the shop with the dog. If you're the praying sort, PLEASE put some up for me that I can work this job through December because I gave the man my word I would.

Also pray that I can get a better grip on my finances.

My life feels as though it's coming off the rails. Pray for better highway vision. Thank you.


May 4, 2020

I feel like typing, yall. So here... have some nonsense.

One of my favorite scenes in Top Gun is when Iceman tells Maverick, You can be my wingman anytime, and Mav responds, Bullshit! You can be mine.

My girlfriends can't understand why I'm single. It frustrates them, some much more than others. I want to tell them what I know from what men have told me, but I figure their responses would be to shrug those comments off as idiocy. But yall, it's not idiocy. I don't like wasting people's time. Never have. I'm too quick to move people through the lines as a cashier, too quick to get them off the phone, too quick to get them gone, and I'm good at it--getting them gone. It's my best talent. I can lose a dude in days. Hours. Minutes. Seconds. It's easy. All I have to say is I have cerebral palsy, or I've only had sex with one dude. Poof! I think this is a defense mechanism. I want love, but holy hell does it terrify me--so much more than physical intimacy does, and yall... I'm damned near phobic of that, and it's not just because of what could happen... it's because I'm afraid I can't do it. I'm more afraid that I can't love. That the feelings would be too big in me, and I wouldn't be able to contain them, and... so I say the other... but only when the dude interests me. Never when I'm trying to tell them to fuck off. How weird is that? The ones who don't deserve it get the drama, and the ones who do don't. Maybe it's that the ones worth knowing... I know their time is valuable, and I know I will waste it, and I forget who I am for a second. I forget the fear and the imperfections. And then all the sudden... Poof! There they are again... there I go again. And there he goes.

I say I don't like bullshitting people... I'm the queen of it, yall. I excel at that shit.

I say men have been disappointing. I wonder how many I have disappointed. Or is that hubris in me to imagine that I have that kind of power? Because really, I don't think I do... and yet... still I wonder.

Yall... I don't have much passion for anything anymore. In fact, I don't know that I have any. I can't even rouse some for football and film, and I think yall know how fond I've been of such things. I put a shit ton of Packers crap on my Amazon wishlist in hopes I could rekindled some enthusiasm.

The words a pastor once spoke to me have been circling for days... Go hard after Jesus for ninety days, and see who's still standing. It's a fine idea. I wouldn't know how to begin.

Some dude used the word dastardly in conversation. That's a never-before-seen thing for me. I was impressed.

Five favorite films... there's the five I say are the BEST: Star Wars: Episode V-The Empire Strikes Back (and NO, I have not seen Rise of Skywalker. I WILL NOT. I read the general plot, and it's shit, and it ruins the whole shebang for me, and I'm clinging HARD to the love I've had for this film for practically four decades); Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Director's Cut); Star Trek (2009); Serenity; Steel Magnolias. But they're not my favorites, necessarily. I mean I FREAKING LOVE them. BUT... the ones that have made room in my heart are: Life Itself; Playing by Heart; Steel MagnoliasDedication; Gifted. But most people will only have seen maybe ONE of those, so... I say the others because they're more commonly known.

Five favorite books: Eleanor and Park and Landline by Rainbow Rowell; The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh; Lovers and Dreamers and Irish Born by Nora Roberts; Right Before Your Eyes by Ellen Shanman. Now here, I don't give a damn that they're maybe not all so widely known. How interesting is that?

Five favorite bands: Van Halen; U2; Depeche Mode; Def Leppard; Tori Amos.

I've only watched parts of No Country for Old Men and The Big Lebowski. The first was too intense for me; the second too bizarre--I think that one you've got to watch with friends, and I was by myself. I did see Alien. That might surprise some of yall--I can't often do skeery, and it was kind of skeery. I damned well won't watch others in that series, no matter how the storyline might intrigue me. And I finally got around to watching Planes, Trains and Automobiles. SO good, yall. I miss John Candy. I am a perfect mix of those two characters. Odd, oblivious and annoying like Candy's character... uptight, impatient and angry like Martin's.

FYI: I just used the above bullshit (and yall, how awesome is it that I don't have to make this shit UP?... because really... what writer could come up with all that tragedy and heap it on a gal's shoulders?) on a dude I have little interest in knowing. Twenty bucks says he's gone by the time I finish typing this post.

I've since changed it again, by the way, from what it was on that most recent post because I got tired of dudes swiping right just because of the words rack and ass--I used a film quote from the film Dedication.

Some dude remarked that my profile had gotten his attention more than most and his instincts told him there was a strong personality there, so he had to see for himself. He thought he was right. I sure wish he was. I sure wish I wasn't.

I like baseball well enough. I can't stand basketball.

The best place I've been is London, England. I'd live there if I could.

That's enough for today. That dude I've little interest in knowing... his mug's still in my Bumblebee line.

I wish I could find Han Solo. I wish such a dude existed. I wish, were he to exist and were I to find him, that I wouldn't fuck it up from fear.


April 20, 2020

I've written about this before. April fifteenth is the day he'd asked me to be his girl. April sixteenth is the day he broke my heart. April seventeenth would've been an anniversary of sorts. April nineteenth is the last day I saw him. And these damned numbers are EVERYWHERE. I really hate it when it they're tied to the month, too. I LOATHE the coincidence. I hate how desperate I've become to lessen its significance. How futile those attempts have been.

Eighteen years ago yesterday I went on the last date with the only man I've ever loved--three days after he'd broken my heart; nine days before he'd crushed it. Would that I could know love. Would that a man could love me.

I lived in San Antonio and worked as the merchandise supervisor at Borders. It was one of those rare Fridays that I didn't have to close--not sure how that happened, actually. He'd called me the night before to make sure we were still on. We went to a Greek restaurant.

And then we went to Amy's at Quarry Market for ice cream. And then he drove me by his parents' house (again)... because he wanted me to meet his folks, and I was willing, but he was afraid to introduce me... and then we went back to his place, only this time I didn't stay for awhile.

But I didn't leave right away. I stood in the parking lot, smoked a cigarette. Decided I wanted a Dr. Pepper. He kept a stash in the refrigerator for me, even though he didn't drink them. He smiled, was happy to see that I'd come back, had thought I'd changed my mind. But I hadn't. I didn't come in, made him get a can out of the fridge for me. That's the last time I saw him.

The strongest memory from that day: when I'd gotten to his apartment, I'd told him I wasn't touching him. He had a goldfish named Icarus. I'd set my things on the counter beside the bowl. We were getting ready to go, and I'd stopped to get my stuff and was staring at the fish, floating the water. I thought of Greek mythology...

I thought, You've flown too close to the sun, Jennifer. And right then, he stood behind me, inches away. If I'd leaned back a fraction, we would've been touching. Those chills you get? They were a flood from head to toe, and I'd wondered if he felt them, and if he did, why they didn't matter.

I'd wanted to weep. Wanted to say I can't do this and leave. I should've. But I tried to play it cool, like a goddamned fool.

How I Feel About Dating

April 8, 2020

I Can't Do It, Captain. I Don't Have the...

April 6, 2020

Oh, yeah, that's a big fat F for me with regard to quarantining. Two days. That's the best I've been able to do so far.

Friday, April Third. I had to go to my place of employment and collect my paycheck, then take it to the bank (but I chose the one inside a grocery store because I needed to drop some clothes off at a cleaners and pick up a package at my box, and the grocery store was in the same shopping center as both of those places). So I went to pick up the box, then I went to the grocery store to deposit my check (I did wear a mask), then ordered pizza from Papa John's (also in the same center... a small pepperoni for the gals working The Shipping Store, where my box is, that day and a small pineapple with bell peppers for me--I remembered it was Friday and not to have meat), then I went to the dry cleaners to get bags for my clothes (from the store room--too many to wash, and I didn't want to wash them), then I picked up my pizza and took the girls theirs, then I sorted my clothes and took them to the cleaners. And then I went home.

Saturday, April Fourth. Mom didn't want to cook, so I picked up food from Zanti's Italian Cucina (usually delicious... kind of lacking this time... probably because it was take out), and I was out of Coke, so I hit a gas station on the way home and grabbed some of that and some Aleve PM because sleep is a beautiful thing.

This will last about a week... maybe ten days
Sunday, April Fifth. I ran out of Peace Tea Green Tea. I went to two gas stations to grab some. Which I would not have had to do had I kept my subscription to this on Amazon and had it delivered to my home instead of my box (but to be honest, I would MUCH rather things be delivered to my box).

Monday, April Sixth. I got another package at The Shipping Store--food from Nutrisystem (which I haven't been able to do because our microwave has been busted), and I thought it was the frozen food and had to be picked up today. It was not. It could've waited. I could've called first. I didn't think of that until just this very second.

SO... I am going to do my damnedest to STAY IN THIS HOUSE until Friday, when I get paid again and will NEED to get that money in the bank. Wish me luck.


April 2, 2020

They say stay home. I’ve not been following orders. I have been one of those miscreants who has run errands, albeit minimal. So I am going to stay inside my home for fourteen days. I will not leave the house.
Day One: Five Loads of Laundry
Day Two: When the World Lets You Stay in Bed All Day

Light in the Darkness

March 30, 2020

I am clinging... perhaps a little too desperately at the moment... to the kindness others have shown me. The friends who came to help me move my shit the other day. To the brief conversation I had with a Bumbler:

Dude used the word nuanced in a sentence. That's not something I see all that often. Of course... I think he's vanished, but... I did like the momentary distraction. I'm not so experienced with relationships. That tends to be a dealbreaker. So be it.

But mostly... the brightest light has been this comment from one of my freshmen at college:

You're SO good. Not just 'good enough'... NO. You're just Goooooood.

I am leaning on that something fierce right now.

This was in my Facebook memories. Something I'd shared a year ago, and it still rings true for me today. I strive to be open. It's often a struggle for me, to be honest. But I know that withholding my thoughts and feelings doesn't serve me in the slightest.

I'm trying. I'm hoping one day it will count for something. That said... I totally jacked with my Bumble profile. I'm really not in the mood for more disappointment. My plate's full. It's gonna take me a good while to chew on this shit.