The Sook and the Book

I am starting this entry at 0613, and it is currently 28º (F) in the nation’s capital. Opinions are mixed as to whether we’ll get any snow this week. Being the snow lover that I am, here’s hoping. If we do get any, Capital Weather Gang is saying it will be the last little bit. Spring is coming early, and the Cherry Blossom Festival is scheduled around St. Patrick’s Day.

As long as I’ve lived here (three years in Silver Spring, MD and, in 2001-2, 18 months in Alexandria, VA), I’ve never been. Perhaps I will brave the crowds this year just to take pictures. The Tidal Basin and the Jefferson Memorial make an excellent backdrop for the flowers… so much so that there are plenty of photographers better than I am who’ll sell their images to the media for almost as much as an average IT paycheck. Maybe I’ll skip taking pictures and just “live in the now,” although my camera is an excellent way to be alone in the midst of a crowd.

Photography allows me to feel like I am floating above the fray, which is exactly the way I like it. I have a lot to do before I can think about pictures, though. As I’ve said, I’m now on my second book review. I’m not finished with the book yet, and I have to get a rough draft to my editor by Thursday. This book is also about a group of women, which I didn’t know when I offered to write about it. I was hoping for something completely different just based on the title. However, it is a little different in that the women are British and the slang doesn’t always translate well. Sometimes I can pick it up just from context clues, sometimes I feel dumber than usual. I also have no idea what any of the acronyms mean. I need to get in touch with an ABP,™ which in my own lexicon stands for “Authentic British Person.” That being said, I don’t have any friends in Manchester (I don’t think), and I don’t know how much of the language is regional. My go-to ABP is from Scotland, and I’m sure she’d help me out to the extent that she could, but I think I’ll actually finish the book and then think about reaching out.

I will say that the writing style is different and much more emotional. I got weepy yesterday, made worse by well, sometimes I get the menstrual cramps real hard… Quite frankly, this book makes my insides squish and I think about Argo intensely, because it’s about the kind of friendship we could have had if I’d not been so blind, fumbling around in the dark. I have others to fill the void quite nicely, but no one is her and it’s not like I can go to the Argo store and pick out a new one. The mold broke after she was made… and I’m betting she knows it. It’s pretty good odds. 😛

It also makes me think about Dana, but to a lesser degree. We did have that kind of friendship, but I have truly blessed & released her into the universe because we both broke each other’s hearts. In this case, we’ll never go home again. I am sure I have said this before, but because Dana and I had such a mutually assured destruction, I feel so much less guilt regarding her than I do about being such a loose cannon jackass to Argo. I “clicked off safe” and said things to her that I’d never say to anyone to their faces, so why I did it online weighs on my conscience heavily. It doesn’t work for everyone, but guilt, for me, was a powerful motivator to become a better person…. a constant reminder that I didn’t like that person and I never want to see her again, because she’s so mean……… often not even realizing it until the consequences arrive. Again, blind. Fumbling in the dark. Loose cannon jackass.

My actions remind me of the Billy Joel classic, Summer, Highland Falls……. they say that these are not the best of times, but they’re the only times I’ve ever known, and I believe there is a time for meditation in cathedrals of our own. I can’t tell you how many times I went to the Episcopal church in my neighborhood just so I could recite this specific excerpt from the prayer of confession and pardon:


Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone
.

Those are the words that every week would beat me into submission, because I realized that although God might forgive me for these things, I couldn’t…. at least, not then. I’m doing much better with absolution now. I realized that I couldn’t beat myself up forever, because it was stopping me from moving forward. You can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you can’t make yourself put on boots in the first place.

But there are always going to be things that trigger me into the past, and I have to work hard not to stay there. I’ve always been this way. If someone sculpted me, they’d call it The Overthinker. Now, though, when rumination eats my lunch, I can find my way out… mostly through great music……

And books to review, because the rough draft is due on Thursday.

Maxwell House Max

This morning I am sitting in the sun room with a large cup of Maxwell House™ Max, a new product that has 1.75x the amount of caffeine as a regular cup of coffee. I have some errands to run and chores to do, so I don’t feel bad about front loading a lot of chemical fortitude. If I had to take a wild guess, brewed coffee is getting its ass kicked by energy drinks, and this is basically “shots fired.” I like it black with a good amount of Splenda,™ because there are a lot of chocolate undertones you miss if you add creamer.

Plus, it’s not very expensive. Coffee can just be a beverage again instead of a lifestyle choice. Even I can’t pinpoint the percentage of my income that has gone to outrageously expensive beans, but I guarantee that it’s astronomical. That being said, I do save a lot of money even with buying expensive beans, because it’s still cheaper than going to a coffee shop and paying for one cup at a time.

Sometimes I marvel at how we got here- that the market will bear $3 for a plain cup of coffee. I save a little bit at Starbucks, because people give me gift cards all the time, and because I’m a Gold Member, I get free refills on coffee & tea. Because of this, I have learned that Venti is Italian for “too lazy to get up.” Also, pro tip- SBUX coffee is so much better if you buy the beans and brew them in your own coffee pot… two reasons. You can make it to your own taste, and you know exactly how long it’s been sitting there.

I’d like to support my local indie coffee shops, but since I get gift cards to Starbucks, free coffee is too good to pass up. One $15 gift card will keep me in coffee for two weeks.

However, I am guessing that you don’t come to this web site to hear me extol the virtues of coffee… well, at least, not all of you. You want to know what’s been going on in my life, and I haven’t updated you in a while.

Samantha has signed up for cosmetology school at the Aveda Institute, which is 223 feet from the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro stop. She’d never taken public transit before, so she wanted me to go with her on a “dry run” to make sure she knew where she was going on the first day. It was absolutely adorable, really. I don’t know anyone who is better at “winning friends and influencing people,” so not only did we get where we were going fairly fast, on the way back we made friends with the bus driver… well, she did, anyway. I just sat back and interjected into the conversation, as I am wont to do. He told us that he was from Haiti, and he was about my age, so I asked him, you don’t have to answer this if you don’t want to, but did you come here to escape Baby Doc? He said, and this is a direct quote, how the fuck did you know that? Get off this bus. He made a big show of opening the door. It was a Slumdog Millionaire moment as I remembered that my dad was a missionary in Haiti in the ’80s.

Then, a couple of days later, we had a wind storm that sounded like a freight train, blowing the side door open at our house and blowing debris and branches all over the ciy. So far, I only know of one person that died, a six-year-old who was hit by a branch in just the right spot to cause his mortality. In terms of history, one of the trees that President Washington planted at Mount Vernon was knocked over, as well.

Everyone in our household stayed safe, and we didn’t lose electricity… even though the wind at National Airport reached 70mph. As Ron White so eloquently put it, it’s not that the wind is blowing, it’s what the wind is blowing. He was talking about a tornado, but the point is the same. You might be able to outrun the wind itself, but not the car bumper it’s carrying.

I am now reading my second book for review, an advance copy that’s not even on Amazon yet… I suppose you would say that I’m a beta reader, because this is far past first draft work. I’m not far enough along in the book to tell you if the story is better than The Reel Sisters, but I can tell you that the writing style is much more advanced and closer to the fiction I’ve enjoyed before I started reviewing professionally.

I’m hoping my editor sticks with me, because even though I can’t send her a copy of the book (I’m sworn to secrecy), she can at least tell me if the review is good enough for publication or to go back to the drawing board.

As I told her, no one in formal writing makes it on their own…. or they lie. When my first review got published, my e-mail to her said, we did it.

This web site is absolutely not formal writing. It’s just whatever I’m thinking that day… and the very next day, I might say the exact opposite. Sometimes I’ve changed my mind. Sometimes it’s just cognitive dissonance in which each idea is true to me and I carry them both.

I don’t have a problem with thinking two opposite things at once. It’s like love. You never forget that your partner is an amazing part of your world, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t occasionally fantasize about smothering them in their sleep and collecting the insurance money when they haven’t taken out the garbage like you asked them to do two days ago.

Because I’m single, I get the pleasure of being annoyed at myself for those things. I can’t decide if that’s better or worse. Probably better, because I haven’t broken up with me yet…. even on the days I wish I could, like when I’m really mean to me before I’ve had my coffee.

The Last Little Bit

With all of the holiday craziness, it has been nearly impossible to find time to write. Now that I am back home in DC, I am getting in one last entry before the new year starts. It’s probably not going to be Hemingway, but good writing has never been the focal point of this site. It’s always nice when it happens, but the true nature is just to catalogue what has happened so I have a written record. You matter, but not as much as I do. I’m not even going to ask if that’s okay, because I can be codependent enough without asking “international television” their opinion (if you’re just joining us, that’s my nickname for all the “Fanagans-” it’s funny #crickets).

It has not been a good year, but it hasn’t been a bad one, either. I continue to learn more about myself every day, as well as escaping grief through copious amounts of reading. Through novels, I have traveled overseas, mostly to the Middle East. I read a ton on fictional intelligence (both govvie and non), because it is the one thing that will get me completely “out of my element, Donnie.” I don’t think as fast on my feet as Jane Whitefield, Atticus Kodiak, or Kathy Mallory… but thanks to them, I can at least rip them off verbatim should I ever get into a bit of a situation. For instance, I have learned that hair dye and different glasses (possibly a hat) are enough to fool nearly everyone in the world. 😛

For Christmas, I got a new novel called The Murderer’s Daughter, which I was told to read by the fire in my pajamas. I followed those directions explicitly, and enjoyed the hell out of myself after the hard-yet-amazing experience of decorating my mother’s grave for Christmas. My sister even found treble clef ornaments for “Fred,” my name for the tree that sits in front of her headstone.

Last year, when my mother had just died in October, I did not allow Christmas to happen. I did not wait for the baby, I did not count on new hope, I did not see magic in any form. I, in fact, went to sleep on Christmas Eve and did not wake up until Christmas Day was almost over. I didn’t get together with friends, and opened my presents alone in my room. In my devastation, I didn’t know what else to do, and nothing else felt right. I’d have ideas, and then think, “nah.” I didn’t sleep because I was tired. I slept because nothing else lifted me out of my pain. In retrospect, I should have gone to help the homeless or to Arlington National Cemetery, because if there is anything I have learned this year, a reminder that I’m not the only one who has ever experienced tragedy is powerful. But, again, I learned that this year. Last year, I was barely strong enough to go downstairs, much less leave the house… and by this year, I mean over Christmas at home, in the cemetery where my mother is buried, I found a set of three gravestones. They were all children who’d been burned up in a house fire.

Not only did it remind me not to be so egocentric, Lindsay reminded me that when our house caught fire, my mother could not find me, because I’d run to the neighbors’ house to call 911. Without even thinking about it, she sprinted into the burning house, because that’s what mothers do.

In our house fire, no one was hurt physically, but we all carry different sorts of psychological trauma from it. How could we not? It has faded mightily since December 20th, 1990, but there are certain things that stick with me, like my parents scrambling to buy new Christmas presents and thinking that all my birthday presents, my computer, and my clothes were gone. In fact, that last one knocked me out…. I didn’t have any clothes.

But like all tragedies, there were positive lessons, too. For instance, I do not give a rat’s ass about any of my property. My treasure lies in my relationships, which I often mess up for a whole host of reasons, but I keep trying to get them right, because I know a laptop won’t love me back.

2017 was all about learning to love again, after completely shutting down and refusing to emote unless I was writing. I could love as an idea, but I could not as a verb. Many people reached out to me which resulted in a lot of unanswered calls, texts, and e-mails. The only person I’d get back to immediately (or as immediately as I could) was my dad, because I felt so guilty that I’d shut out my mom in my depression that I absolutely could not alienate another parent. But everyone else just got the short end of the stick, because I didn’t have anything to give. Everything in my cup was the dregs from Pandora’s box.

Slowly, surely, things have changed… are changing.

This year, I got to wait for four babies, the eternal living Christ and three new characters to “Stories” as yet unnamed…. they’re still living in their first apartments, and won’t be evicted til Spring. I can’t name their parents because the news isn’t public, but I can tell you that two of them are sharing the same “bedroom.”

2018 is looking better and better every day, because there is no greater news than birth after dealing with death. I am now more and more excited to live my own life, rather than through the fictional pictures novels create.

It’s time.

#prayingonthespaces