Deployment

Lately I’ve been blocked with my writing… but the good thing about that is I’m an artist (or maybe more accurately a wannabe artist) who likes to express myself in a multitude of pursuits. Like sewing, drawing, knitting, painting… and as of late, I’ve really connected with my paint brush.

Bleeding through paint is much like bleeding through words, maybe just a touch more literal. The piece I’m working on now is simply titled Deployment. My husband has been deployed a few months now, and loneliness starts to seep onto every little creavice of your life. It doesn’t defeat happiness, not altogether, but it tries.

Every stupid thing you do reminds you they’re not there. Reminds you that you know they’ll come home, but what if they don’t? When will they skype next? Are they okay? Are they hungry, or cold, or too hot, or feeling just as helpless as you? Do they need anything? Are they eating enough, and taking their vitamins?

You go to bed, and you squeeze his pillow so tightly against you it threatens to suffocate you, the ringer on your phone is all the way up, just in case he might call at 4 am. You wouldn’t dare miss it. You bury your face in the pillow searching out his scent like the sex deprived, stressed out bloodhound of a woman you are. And when you find it you cry. Maybe softly. Maybe so hard your entire body heaves with the emotion of it all. Eventually you go to sleep, and do it all over again.

Damsels in Demand 

I haven’t been totally gone… Sure, the cycle of self isolation has definitely taken root, but there are always pros – it’s brought back my desire to create more art than ever. 

Writing will always be my first love, and I’ve been working on that too. But the last 2 weeks drawing and painting, with a dash of knitting, have taken grasp of my heart. Knowing so many people with young children, or ones on the way, helps and has provided plenty of ideas and inspiration. 

This one is just a practice piece. My goal is give my niece a collection of princess paintings where the princess doesn’t need no stinkin’ saving. Ariel wielding a trident, Belle with her nose in a quantum mechanics book while she invents way cooler stuff than her father, Cinderella dumping that dirty mop water on her stepmother and marching out with her troop of clothed mice.

You get the general idea. Damsels in distress are so 90’s. 

The Darknesses

When I was a child I was afraid of the dark, but not just any old dark. When the lights went out I wasn’t filled with dread. Instead I was afraid of a very specific kind of darkness. That special kind of darkness that lives only beneath the bed of a child. The kind that waits, and breathes and listens.

When it was time for bed I would stand at my light switch, situated exactly 6 feet, 3.65 inches and 10 full steps from the safety of my bed. I would ready myself like an Olympic gymnast before the next event. As soon as the room went dark I bounded and vaulted with perfect grace into the waiting heap of sheets and pillows. Had the lights been on to witness my feat any present judge would be forced to have awarded me with at least a 9.5/10.

As it is well known, and stated clearly in the Handbook of Rules and Regulations Applying to Mythical Monsters and Scary Sleuths, once your feet are tucked deep inside the safety of a blanket – you’re officially safe. The Darkness, of course, is still there, but you are tucked away from its grasp. All it can do is lay in wait for another chance, maybe tomorrow, when you might fail to stick the landing quite as expertly.

But what do the Darknesses to when the children are gone? They can’t stay put while they escape to summer camps, sleep overs and family vacations. Instead they make their ways to their local meeting hall.

It’s always one of those gorgeous old Victorian homes on outskirts of every suburb. There they stand, huge and foreboding, but empty and forgotten all the same. The state of their disrepair and the thought of every utility bill makes parents shudder when they drive by and their kids point to the house and ask why no one lives there. Inside, between furniture coated in three decades of dust, corners stuffed with cobwebs and a solitary mirror stained and worn in all the right ways to make it more beautiful than it ever was in its previous life, the Darknesses gather.

There are plenty of rooms for them to pick from, but they of course prefer the master bedroom. In the middle there’s a massive four poster bed, what were once ornate and deep, velvety bed curtains hang in tattered, moth eaten shreds. The lack of electricity and pesky nightlights pleases them, now they can gather and talk.

They talk of all the children they saw grow into adults, whose own children they then saw grow. They would tell each other of all the dreams they saw over all these years, especially the ones based on a horror movie and a scary story the children snuck glances at. Of seeing little feet grow larger, and small thin limbs grow to long and shapely ones. How the toys would always eventually migrate from the room, and how nice it was each time their bed was upgraded.

The cribs were the worst, there was no storage and barely the room to lay during daytime. And you really only ever saw their parents’ feet, that were once so small. But how wonderful when a crib became a twin, a twin became a full, and if they were truly lucky, when a full become a queen. When this happened they gained room to stretch and relax, and every now and then a very interesting book would make its way down there. All the Darknesses were quite fond of H.P. Lovecraft. His childhood Darkness always had the best stories to tell at these meetings, the ones that even little Howard lost in the realm of his own dreams.

They talk about how these days’ children seemed to be much less fearful of them. This was good, in its own way, the Darknesses don’t necessarily enjoy inspiring fear in their children, but did it mean they were being forgotten? They feared, each secretly so as not to have to utter it aloud, of being relegated to the list of other creatures and tales that languished without human thoughts and fears to keep them around.

Like poor Spring-Heeled Jack. Jack once kept millions of children awake far past their bed times, staring sleepily out their windows to catch a glimpse of his storied figure run across a rooftop, or sliding down a drain pipe to fade into an alleyway. He ran from town to town, scurrying through the night with boundless abandon always knowing where he was needed.

But then one day all the children’s children’s children grew up, and he was slowly forgotten about. Children no longer gathered in schoolyards in circles to whisper his name in broad daylight. For a long time, he still wandered the sleepy towns and cities, but no one looked for him. Slowly he grew thin and tired, his eyes that once glowed (though they glowed a deep blue, not the rumored red), burned out aand went dull. Eventually he ceased his wandering and another day was simply gone. And there was no one to tell them to where he went.

“But surely you can’t be rid of all the Darknesses?”

“Can we be sure?” A Darkness that sat on the dusty bed asked nervously. The thought that they could vanish, too, silenced the room.

“But who then will watch over them?” One said.

With that the sun began to break the horizon and many went home, hoping to see those little feet.

Shame Pizza is Still Pizza

Being alone is hard.In general the whole matter of it is hard, but when you’ve been doing it for a while you start to get a handle on it, you might even like it better that way. But being alone when you’re used to having a partner there with you is especially hard.

Well, most of the time it’s hard – some times it’s the only way you don’t fantasize about how many objects currently surrounding you could be used to bludgeon someone with. How much damage could a rubix cube do? What about that decorative elephant over on the shelf? This coaster?

The lucky ones of us end up finding a person that makes life feel it does when you’re peacefully alone – but better. Complete with a witty commentary, a meal you didn’t even have to make, or to remind you that you’re an absolute slob and they’re not your mother.  Sometimes that person has to leave, for a short time, or a long time, or, in the worst scenario, for the rest of time.

Then you have to learn to be alone again. One morning after the next you wake up, and realize that, again, there isn’t a person next to you, there isn’t a person to leave their damp towels on your side of the bed and the only dirty laundry laying right next to the hamper is actually your dirty laundry. You do spend less time fighting about the hot water and the last slice of pizza, or whose turn it really is to do the dishes. But then you start to miss those stupid parts of life – you’d gladly give up the hot water, and do the dishes, and at least learn how to split that last piece of pizza. Or at least give them 2 of 3. Or just pretend there is no last slice, and then ravenously eat it in silence and secret shame at 2 am. Shame pizza is still pizza.

Time becomes this concept you don’t even want to think about – how many more hours, weeks, months until they’re back? Before you know if you find yourself in a philosophical conversation with your dog about what is time, really? They typically have pretty nutter opinions about that entire business.

You start doing some really weird things when you’re alone, too. Suddenly a pillow with a button up and a maybe even a pair of pants on doesn’t seem so out of the question, and why not just eat half a jar of olives while you marathon Bates Motel? There’s no one there to stop you! Feast! Feast upon your olives in your underwear at 2 am – that’s probably what royalty does. I won’t believe you for a second if you tell me Tyrion Lannister has never done it. And the Queen, tah! She just does it with a cup of tea, and one of those tiny fancy forks that’s probably worth more than your car.

Learning how to be alone is much harder than learning how to live with someone, in my opinion. There’s no where else for your focus to lie. Nowhere but your own messiness, or your own lack of motivation, shortcomings, and failures. All the things you want to change. Why is it so easy for us to see all the wonderful, and silly and beautiful things in someone else, but when standing in front of a mirror we only see the greasy smudges that we still haven’t cleaned?

On Feeding Your Dogs

Pets.

They’re pesky, and needy, and lovable and fluffy – all in one big bunch. And the need to feed them and care for them doesn’t just go away. Well, until they die of course, there’s really no use feeding a dead dog. Unless you’re into that. This is a judgement free zone.

A year ago we rescued a Walking Treeing Coonhound 60 minutes before she was due to be euthanised. She weighed 32 pounds, cowered at our every touch and constantly looked for places to hide from us – all from the cruelty she had witnessed in her life before us. It took months of working with her to convince her that this past life, this horrible life she had lived, was over – it was done, and now we were only here to love her.

I’d like to say that now she’s a good girl – and really, she mostly is. She gets along with our gentle natured lab, but she steals from the counter every chance she gets, she tears up any item you may hold dear (I swear she has a way of knowing which items these really are), and she takes great joy in directly disobeying you. This is no joke, you can see the joy in her eyes when she hears “No,” but decides “Fuck that word.” But she doesn’t cower from pets anymore, she weighs double what she did before, and she spends most of her time making herself at home in our bed. When we go for walks she decides where we go. She’s pushy, obstinate, and vocal – and really, we love it. She’s the perfect counterpart to our people-pleasing, quiet, loyal lab who wouldn’t dream of doing something to upset her human counterparts.

In that last few months the act of feeding my pets has brought about a realization, a routine really. My husband, as I’ve mentioned before on this blog, is an Active Duty Airman. He’s currently deployed, and while I struggle with depression and anxiety when he’s here, it always starts to feel like more of a losing battle while he is gone. The lack of someone to take care of, to please and cook for and love and be around every day takes something from me. Maybe it’s a sense of purpose or it’s really just a distraction from all the things on the never ending list of things to deal with. A way of hiding from them, putting in place a convenient blinder to avoid it all.

Feeding the dogs gives me a reason to get up. Sure, you can lay in bed all day and feel bad for yourself. But when you have another living creature depending on you – then you need to get up. You need to love them and pet them and walk them and brush them and generally deal with them being up your ass with how much they love you. Which really does help.

You have this creature, that for whatever reason, thinks the very sun shines out of your asshole. You’re the best thing ever to them. And how great is that? All you had to do was give them some Purina and throw a ball and all of the sudden you are the best thing ever. You can do no wrong.

When it’s time to go bed, there they are, one at my feet, the other at my side, making sure that, truly, I never sleep alone. You get to wake up to cold, wet noses in your face. The best kiss the animal kingdom can offer.

Pets (and in my biased opinion, dogs) are one of the best things to happen to the human race. Embrace them. Love them. Play with them. Give them too many treats. They’re with us for far too short of a time, and really we all need more treats. 

Relocation Rumination

My stars! Time flies, doesn’t it?

I’ve been away from the blogosphere for what feels like a small eternity. (There’s a new oxymoron.) The absence is mostly explained by moving several states South, and getting back into the sync of married life after 14 months of military separation.

Both of those things are far more easily said than done. It’s something like getting your best friend back, but there’s something not quite right about them, or perhaps it’s you, people change after all, or during time apart you simply forget all the things that drive you absolutely insane about each other, and there’s a few more annoying habits tacked on. Or, more likely, it’s all of those things and now you get to navigate how to actually deal with it. Sure, we had our month in Korea together, but that was a month full of distraction. It was being reunited with a big buffer of rice, tourism and booze. It might have been my favorite buffer of all time.

Within a week of returning stateside from Korea we were packing our little Focus to bursting, and making the drive 14 hours South to North Carolina. Then it took months for all of the furniture put away in storage in Las Vegas to arrive. Which was everything – the couch, chairs, tables, bed frame, dresser, mattress, pots, pans, dishes… all of it. For those two months I got to revisit the lavish life of a broke college student eating dinner on lawn chairs and sleeping first on an air mattress, and eventually a cheap futon.

Now the challenge of adjusting to small town, Southern living is most prevalent. Every now and then you’ll hear people from other countries comment on America’s lack of a collective culture, and that’s an unfair thing to say. Especially when you compare the size of America to basically any European one. Every European country can fit into America on map with room to spare. We have culture, but it’s spread out. You’ve got the midwest, the good ol’ wild west, the east coast, the west coast, the South and of course, Texas. And that’s not even counting Alaska and Hawaii. That’s a whole lot of space.

As a girl who’s spent most of her life in Michigan and Nevada, I melded very well with the respective cultures there. But I’ve never been South of Washington D.C., and that was only for a week. The South is undeniably different from the North, and I don’t say that out of some still remaining Civil-War-winner hubris. It just is. They fry their pickles here! In fact, a lot of things are fried in the town we’re in, a practice not as popular in places like Michigan. We’re big on baking and grilling things, and the bubbly stuff we drink is called ‘pop.’ Only Coke is called Coke.

One thing’s for sure, North Carolina isn’t where we planned on ending up, but the military doesn’t care what your plans are, and life is about the journey and the journey is what you make it… or something like that.

Homecoming

I got back into Michigan last night, stiff and exhausted from the three and half hour bus ride to Incheon Airport and the thirteen hours stuck on an airplane, ready to stretch out on my own bed with my dog at my side. For thirteen long hours I slept. Nothing could wake me, not even a tornado.

That night the wind was picking up some, thunder rumbled low in the distance and as I was laying in bed reading before sleep the power went out, I took that as good ol’ Michigan telling me to go to bed. By morning the power was still out.

In the kitchen there’s a note taped to the fridge. “DO NOT OPEN, DO NOT OPEN.” My grandfather has a habit of saying everything twice. But still, this isn’t unusual for Michigan. We get thunderstorms that light up transformers and even bring down a tree or two on a fairly regular basis. A day long power outage isn’t out of the question in the heat of July, bringing the sound of a cleanup crew with it.

But these cleanup crews had a lot more to deal with. Outside it was apparent that this wasn’t a normal Michigan thunderstorm. The neighborhood looks like a giant trampled garden, trees plucked up and dropped like common weeds.

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It’s hard to explain what it’s like seeing this little neighborhood my grandparents have lived in for more than 40 years being swiftly and violently re-landscaped. But thankfully everyone I talked to was alright, despite the fact that no siren went off – for a tornado that touched down for 10 minutes.

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I still don’t have power, and I don’t have any more time to spend outside of my house to finish this post right now. More when electricity is returned.