The Boys

The Butcher’s other dog, the one he walks with Sonnyboy in the morning, came by the house this morning. I couldn’t tell if Sonnyboy was excited or not. He seemed kind of surprised to discover that the other dog could, in fact, show up at his house. And, I guess, come to think of it, that may be the first visit of another dog to our house. Sonnyboy was kind of mother-henning after the other dog–both like he was hopeful the other dog might find something cool that Sonnyboy had overlooked and worried that he wouldn’t get to share in it.

I’m becoming more concerned/convinced that Sonnyboy doesn’t see that well. Every time I convince myself that it’s just me being ridiculous, he’ll put his eyeball right on my toe, like he somehow missed that it was just hanging out there. And sometimes I catch him adjusting his head, like he’s trying to give his right eye a better look at whatever he wants to see. But I’m not exactly sure how to tell for sure if he’s just not seeing well out of one eye.

My favorite thing in the morning is to follow him around while he follows the Butcher around. Sadie never really got that. But Sonnyboy seems to get that it’s a game. He’s just not sure how to play it.

And I gave him a carrot again this morning and he not-so-discretely spit it right back out in the most hilarious manner. I’m going to try to get it on video.

I swear, things won’t just be the dog once I get settled and get the new person settled in here at work. But I’m busier than I ever have been, but it just takes up my whole brain. It’s weird to not have part of me just churning away on things to think about, but, frankly, considering what a shitty job my brain does with fretting over things until I can’t bear it, I’m also relieved.

I’m Not Saying I Needed a Jacket But

My walk usually takes me between 20 and 25 minutes. I did it today in 15. Because it was really, really cold for not having a jacket.

But the other part I find baffling is that, while I feel like I must be in the worst shape of my life, I’m taking longer walks than I did with Sadie and they still take the same amount of time.

I am, objectively, speeding up.

I’m really enjoying my new job. I know it can’t last forever, but right now it’s still really interesting and exciting to me.

It’s nice to be thinking about my job on my walk and have it be because I’m curious about how I’m going to tackle this challenge or some other.

Another Thing about Sonnyboy

He’s a kitchen dog. It’s his favorite room in the house. He likes it for food purposes, of course, but, if you’re just hanging out in the kitchen, talking to your mom, he wants to come and lay on the floor and listen. If you’re cooking dinner and the time for scraps has passed, he’ll still hang out with you and keep you company.

And every day, when I make my lunch, he gets so super excited when I pull the baby carrots out of the fridge. And sometimes, he looks so excited about them that I give him one and, every fucking time, he gets this look on his face like “What the hell is this piece of shit you just put in my mouth?!” Like the corners of his mouth turn down and his eyes go all “eheheh” (which I know eyes don’t make noise, but, if they could, even his eyes would be spitting the carrot out).

And every time I’m like “I told you it was a carrot. I showed you it was a carrot. And you still wanted it. I’m not the asshole here.”

Game of WTF?

I don’t watch “Game of Thrones,” but I just want to say this. If you run a show and you say something like “the scene wasn’t rape, because by the end of the sex, she wanted it,” you, sir, are a dumbass. The idea that you can fuck your way into a yes is really, really disturbing. And probably something you should think long and hard about.

Blue Springs Creek

One thing that sucks about my sunburn is that, even though I’m not uncomfortable anymore, when I go out in the sun, it feels like someone pushing a finger into a bruise.

But I went out yesterday and drove around Blue Springs Creek, which is one of the major tributaries of Sycamore Creek, and also the creek along which Joseph Deraque supposedly died. I also went by the Sycamore Chapel Church of Christ, which one of the Durards at the Demonbreun Society told me is on old Binkley land–that Asa Binkley, whose wife was a Durard–gave it to the church. I think, judging by the headstones, it may have actually been the land of Asa Jr., whose mother was a Durard, but still. I did wonder if Joseph might be in that cemetery, unmarked, hence the reason it became a church yard. There’s also another cemetery down right at the creek, but it’s always padlocked and I don’t quite trust myself to climb into it.

Anyway, I’m sure if he is either place, the headstone is long gone. There are Girards in the churchyard, though.

There are only three Girard families in Tennessee–as far as Find-a-Grave goes. Some over in Memphis (who have a straggler wife in Joelton), some in the Catholic cemetery, who are all related to a bigamist whose real name was Gerard, and the Girards in the Sycamore Chapel Church of Christ Graveyard. One is William Washington Girard, a painter. His father was Joseph.

Are these Girards our Durards, though? I don’t know. Folks on Ancestry seem to think so–that his father, Joseph, was Timothy Durard’s kid.

Anyway, there aren’t that many Durards in Tennessee, either, but a big mess of them appear to be up in the Cedar Hill cemetery, so I need to get around to that.


The dog and the Butcher went camping, which, judging by how they both came home and slept all afternoon, was a rousing success. But the part that makes me happiest is how the dog apparently got in the car sometime Saturday night and barked at the Butcher, like “Okay, I had a good time, but I’m ready to be home now.” He’s done this before to the Butcher, been visiting with people he likes all happy and then he’s just had enough and he’s ready to come back home.

It makes me happy. It makes me feel like we’ve made him a place he likes to be.

Also, we watched “Brave,” which I hadn’t seen before. I liked it. Except lord, was the music horrible! You have all of Scottish tradition to draw on and that’s what you end up with?!


This is the first Easter I haven’t gone to church. In my whole life. But the house is empty–the Butcher and the dog are camping, the cats are sleeping, the rest of the family is in Georgia. And so it still feels like a holiday–one in which I’ve been left to make sure that everything runs smoothly while the rest of the folks actually do the things.

I’ve got a draft of my story done. I’m going to write my Pith post and then go for a walk.

My dad brought me down a box of Grandma’s stuff. I guess I could open that, too.

I’m tired in a part of my soul I don’t know how to rest. I keep trying to rest the things I know how to cut back on, but it doesn’t seem to hit at the weariness I feel.

I feel like my life is a pile of events and things I did (or didn’t do) while I was waiting to figure out what I wanted to do. Or while I’m figuring out if I can do the thing I want to do.

Forty years I’ve been on this planet and I just don’t know if I’ve… I don’t know how to finish that sentence. We’re bumping up right against that untouchable weariness. I want … something unnameable, something I don’t know how to articulate … and I don’t know if I’ll recognize it when I’ve done it.

When we were young, I taught the Butcher how to drive. And I can remember how we would cruise around the flat, straight backroads of Illinois and, every once in a while, you’d unexpectedly curve down into a river bottom or around an old stand of trees, and I’d just have this feeling like we were so close to someplace else, that it sat right next to this world and sometimes leaked over into it, and we were, sometimes, on the verge of breaking over into that world ourselves. We might turn a corner and find ourselves along a backroads in that world, one that they’d left forgotten, so the roadblocks between here and there had been neglected and lost.

And now that I’m middle aged, I wonder if I made it to that place and didn’t realize it–came and left again without ever seeing that I was where I wanted to be all along.

Story Research Hits a Snag

I’m writing a story about a creek, well about a dance done in 5/4 taught to a man by some dudes he met near a creek that barely exists anymore. Today I went out to photograph said creek. It did not go as well as I hoped, because my goal was to go out on the bridge, reach the camera over the side of the bridge and… take some pictures. It doesn’t seem like too much to ask, but it was. It seemed fine at first, but the longer I stood there, the dizzier I became and the more unable to get off the damn bridge I found myself.

But I’m glad I went, because I put my creek in the story in slightly the wrong spot.


I love the tiny violets in the yard. Walking this morning was brutal. I’m not sure why but I just lumbered around the neighborhood and couldn’t wake up.

But you do some things, even if they suck at the time, because you know it’s going to be better later that you did.

Dancing around the living room

My story. Eh, it goes. How will it end? Who knows? But it continues to feature a mysterious song sung and danced in 5/4 prominently in it. And so I needed a dance in 5/4 to do to the song. So, I moved everything out of the way and the dog got all excited thinking something was happening. I determined that a line of people (or a circle of people who needed to sing to you) could do a simple grapevine–step right, left in front of right, step right, left behind right, bring feet together. Repeat as needed in your giant circle or line while you sing said mysterious song.

But could you do a couple’s dance?

That took me most of the evening to figure out. I wanted to go grapevine, grapevine, turn, because I’m a Midwesterner and, to me, the most important part of a dance is whether I get to wear a twirly skirt and, if I get to twirl in said skirt. But, if I go grapevine, grapevine, turn, I couldn’t figure out how my partner was supposed to turn me around him. If we’re mirror images of each other–in other words, I’m leading with my right foot and my left goes behind, but he leads with his left foot and his right goes behind, when we turn, it’s going to be away from each other. Plus, if our feet are apart, how are we ready to lead with our lead feet?

So, what I worked out is that the turn has to come on the fourth count–right, behind, right, in front and pivot, step together–and he’s got to be doing the compliment–left, in front, left, behind and pivot, step together.

I’m still not entirely sure it will work, because my partner was the dog and, frankly, he was not cooperating.

Oh, you guys, he was being so naughty yesterday, since it’s been raining and he hadn’t had his morning walk either Monday or yesterday. He got out the back door on the Butcher, ran around my car while I was trying to park, got into the car and refused to get out and then ran, full speed, head back, tongue hanging out, around the yard. If he were a kid, he would have just been going “oOOOOOoooo” the whole way.

And then, he leaped into the house, just cleared all the stairs in the garage and sat and was like “Let’s have a treat!” and we were like “Okay,” because we’re terrible dog owners.

And this morning, he ate half a frozen pizza out of the garbage. And the Butcher told me, since I didn’t stop him, I have to clean it up if he’s sick when we get home. But it did seem like a big waste and it was a meat pizza. Plus, how he ate it was hilarious. He put the half down on the floor in front of him, put his paw on it, and then stripped the layers of things off of it. And when he was finished, I was like “Damn, that was awesome.”

The Butcher got mad at me because the dog is not supposed to be eating out of the trash and we’re supposed to be working on breaking him of it. But, much like his running around the yard like a wildman, it was so audacious and joyful I couldn’t be angry. And by the time the Butcher realized what was going on, it was too late.

For the sake of the dog, I need to get my shit together. But I’ve been in such a funk for so long (I hear you all saying “No shit”) that I’m having a problem stopping him from doing things that make him happy and make me laugh.

I don’t know. The next time I’m confronted with pizza, I may stand on it, just to see what the big deal is.

Anyway, the dog. Terrible dance partner. Wouldn’t even try to learn the moves. Hilarious eater. But kind of disgusting.

And Further

I think the thing is that I resent that I feel like a terrible person when it comes to my brother. Why can’t I just listen and be supportive and, if he needs help and I can give it, give it? People have been so kind and generous to me. Who am I to not pay it forward to my brother?

This isn’t a question you can answer. It’s not that kind of question. It’s the question that nags at me. It’s the question I have to answer, every day, in order to keep living this life. And every day, I choose being a terrible person, by my own standards, over not being.

I think it’s the right thing to do. For a lot of reasons. But mostly because I don’t think that jumping up to help my brother with every little thing is what he wants (I think), but just want I’ve been conditioned to think of as my role, and I don’t think it would help. My ideas about what would help involve me telling everyone what to do and then accompanying them everywhere they need to go in order to make sure they do it.

This is one of the stupidest things about my life–how I’m constantly teased for being “too bossy” (the sin second to fatness that makes me unlovable) when what at least half the people in this family want is a boss. Someone they can hate and resent who will make them do all the things they need to do in order to have a functioning life.

It’s a weird thing, to feel like you’re being continually asked to be the monster you’ve been shamed out of being.

But I also just feel like I don’t want to do it. I’d like to not want to do it and not feel bad about not wanting to do it. But, if I can’t get that, I’ll take just not wanting to do it.

But mainly I’d like to figure out a way in my own head to short-circuit this dynamic. Usually, stressful terrible things happen to people and you help them and things get resolved. Even if they hit a bad patch, it’s months (or a few bad years) and then shit gets together. Your help actually helps.

But I feel like, if I read back through the annals of TCP, I’d find something with my brother–something along these lines–once a month, once every other month at the most. Something happens. I get brought into it. I feel like how it’s being handled is a stressful clusterfuck, but I say nothing  and just make supportive noises because otherwise, I risk getting pulled deeper into the mess. No matter what’s going on in my life, there’s some bigger drama in his.

I’m so tired of it. And I don’t really understand how he’s not also tired of it. I don’t understand how he doesn’t take measures to save himself. Let alone his kids.

Working for What?

I keep meaning to say that I saw someone the other day comparing blogs to phonographs–this ancient technology no one but weirdos still uses–and it made me laugh. And it stuck with me. A decade I’ve been writing here (at least come this fall) and so many good things have come of it. It’s weird to think of that wonderfulness, shoot, just the opportunity for that wonderfulness fading away.

Anyway, our brother wanted me to look over his resume yesterday because he dislikes his job. And I spent much of the afternoon being irately angry at him. Like just who does he think he is that he gets to have three kids and a girlfriend who’s staying at home to take care of them and a wife who needs divorcing and he gets to decide that he’s working “too much.” Like, aren’t those the kinds of life decisions that generally result in people having to work really hard at things they don’t like in order to finance the whole thing? And, if he decides he’s going to quit this job in a pique, isn’t he basically just then relying on my parents to support his family? And you know I worry that the stress of dealing with our brother is going to kill my dad.

But then last night I was struggling with this story, my second one of the year, the second one I’ve struggled with like a motherfucker, and I wondered if it was too hard for no payoff. And it gave me some sympathy for our brother.

I read a post yesterday (man, I guess I should have emailed all these things to myself so that I can link to them, but it’s a guy whose being published by Angry Robot) and he was talking about the number of novels that (Oh, here it is!) he’s written that sucked and how his short stories sucked until he went to Clarion and so one and then he got good and now he has a publisher. And he says,

I’d been struggling to get a novel published for twenty-four years now, clawing at the walls of the Word Mines, and I had no hope of anything but oh God I couldn’t stop and I realized that I wasn’t going to stop, that the breath in my body would run out before I stopped writing tales and who the hell cared if I got published or not I was locked in.  I had to create.  I had to.

And boy do I know that feeling! But I also know our brother’s feeling–of doing something and being okay at it and just not seeing how it’s going to go anywhere. Or, in my own situation, frankly, not being sure what “anywhere” looks like.

I’m very lucky. I realize that. But I want to be good. No, I want to be great. And I don’t know how to be.

Ha ha ha ha ha. Lord, I’m sure you were like “Oh, Betsy has a new job she really likes. I’m sure her days of fretting and longing are over.” Wrong, buckoos. Fretting and longing are my default settings.

Worlds apart

I talked to my second-oldest friend in the world on Saturday. The only person I’m not related to I’ve known longer is his brother. When we were little, I kind of just assumed I would eventually marry him. I also assumed I was going to marry my cousin J., so all that nonsense I said last week about not giving a shit about polygamy? Well, little B. was counting on it.

Anyway, it was really nice to talk to him.

It’s hard not to get down about the world, sometimes. I mean, take what happened yesterday. That’s the world I want to live in–where a Methodist grandpa takes his grandson to the Jewish community center because it’s a community center where things people in the community are interested in happen. I want to live in a world where Jewish people have no reason to fear letting non-Jewish people into their buildings. I want to live in a world where Christians don’t feel threatened or uncomfortable going to the Jewish community center.

But I live in a world where people just trying to live in the world I want to live in pay with their lives.

But what can you do in the face of fuckers except persevere for as long as you can? It aggravates me when people are like “Just love each other” or “just be kind.” But I recognize that there’s a nugget of something radical there.


Not a Cover Song

So, hey, listen, I’m going to talk about the Hozier song “Take Me to Church” and I’m including the video because I’m assuming not all of us have heard it. But the video is really affecting. Like you’re going to watch it and then you’re not going to feel like talking about what I want to talk about. You may want to cry. So, fair warning.

Anyway, so Lightning 100 has been playing this song:

And I have been insisting to the Butcher that it’s a cover of a Rihanna song. He insists I’m nuts. So, today at lunch I found the Rihanna song and they aren’t the same song, at all.

But, my people, they are the same song. You’ll probably be asked to sit through a commercial on the Rihanna one, but as soon as it finishes, hit play on the Hozier song. Just let them play together. See if I’m not right.

More Pee

I can’t even be mad. But there, on the couch, right where Sadie peed, was pee this morning. Not a lot, which somehow made it sadder for me. Like he knew peeing on the couch was weird, but here was this smell and he just had to do what he had to do.

I sometimes feel like I’m living with… not a ghost, exactly, but a haunting absence. Something about the ongoing lack of Sadie haunts me. But for him, there are all these smells (that we thought we got rid of, but apparently not) of a dog he’s never seen. For him, it must really sometimes feel like he’s just waiting in someone else’s house for her to get back.

Things I Like

1. Cuddling with the dog.

2. My new job. Yesterday, I was all “All I have to do today are these two spreadsheets” but then I had to solve a problem for the MTSU bookstore and figure out if we had enough books for a big order, which we did, but then we had to reprint and I got to weigh in on how many we should reprint. And so my whole day just filled right up. Today I’m hoping that a book hits the warehouse so I can do all the things I need to do when that happens. And I’m going to try to get a letter out.

3. I started the short story I need to start.

4. When the cats want to come inside, they knock on the window. It never fails to amuse me.

5. I had a dream that I took the orange cat to visit K. at the Blair School of Music and he used the bathroom. Like went into the men’s room and just peed in the toilet. And in my dream, I was all like “Of course, my cat pees in the toilet. He’s civilized.” But in real life I can’t believe dream me wasn’t shocked!

6. Walking right at dawn.

7. This piece from the Scene. It references my Think Progress piece, but is so much better.

8. Why shouldn’t a man who’s friends with men pretending to be rednecks pretend to be a Christian while he’s fucking another man’s wife? The best line:

“I know his beliefs. When he ran one of his commercials, he said ‘I need your prayers,’ and I asked, ‘When did you get religious?’ He said, ‘When I needed votes,’” Heath Peacock told CNN. “He broke out the religious card and he’s about the most non-religious person I know.”


I’ve become kind of boring to myself. The blog has become kind of boring. The dog was peeing in the corner of my room, where Sadie peed when she was sick. So, Murphy’s Oil is not the cure-all I had previously thought. My story got rejected again. It’s hard to know about some rejections. There’s the kind of rejection that makes you feel like a story just doesn’t have it and you can’t see it. And then there’s the kind of story where everyone seems to like it almost well enough. And you wonder, or I do anyway, do you keep tinkering? Or since they all put their fingers on different things they think the problem is, do you keep searching for someone who will like it?

I don’t know. I’ll probably keep sending it out, I guess.

I have promised yet another story to a person to do some free crap with it. The march story, which I just have to hunker down and write.

I really hope I’ve got the dog situation resolved. He pees a lot in one squat. I mean, it’s impressive how much he pees. So, yeah, I really don’t need him doing that in the house.

Polygamous Marriage

I wrote a post at Pith on our curtailed second amendment rights here in Tennessee. No, really.

Sadly, there was already a comment there by the time I got around to reading the post when it went live, so I had to see it. But I just want to say this. 1. It’s really fucked up to argue that you have to keep oppressing gay people or the polygamists are going to get out of line. So, I should be able to kick all my commenters to keep anyone who might be thinking about commenting in line? 2. I just could not give a shit less about polygamy among consenting adults as long as women are free to marry as many people at the same time as men are. I do not want to be and cannot foresee a time when I will want to be in a polygamous relationship. But I have now lived in this world four decades and I have seen a lot of people make for themselves defacto polygamous relationships and a lot of people in unwitting defacto polygamous relationships. I’m not frightened by or uncomfortable about the ones where everyone’s consenting and happy together coming into the legal light. And I’m for sure not bothered by the long-term mistress being able to have some legal protections.

I don’t foresee becoming some great champion of polygamous marriage, but I’m not opposed to it. It’s not some effective boogeyman to convince me that we can’t have gay marriage.


On the way home last night I heard a story on NPR about how pleasing we find repetition in music and how said repetition lets us shift our perceptions. I have this theory that, whatever your brain is able to do on drugs, you should be able to train your brain to do without drugs. Call it a mystical experience instead of a trip, but the same thing.

But it also makes me wonder if this is why I love routine so much. If everything just goes how it’s supposed to go, then I can let go of the part of me that frets over that shit and shift my perception to other things.

Rebellion in the Wet Grass

Today when I walked the dog, I actually had a dog to walk, because someone, and I’m not naming names, but it was totally the Butcher, stayed up to watch basketball, so he didn’t get up to take the dogs to the park. And our walk was lovely. And at about the 3/4 mark, the dog pitched himself into the grass face-first in order to protest the head harness–as one does–and I shouted, “Oh, so it’s a rebellion in the wet grass, is it?!” and then I said, “that should be the name of your first bluegrass album” and he got up and trotted along side me. “Can you learn how to play the banjo?” I asked and he looked up at me like “Eh, we’ll see.”

I had a really interesting day at work yesterday. All of my days are interesting so far, but I was saying–when I was at my meeting at the Frist!!!!! (which, holy shit! gets you free motherfucking parking at the Frist!!!!)–that this first week has felt like watching a montage of interesting things fly by so quickly I can barely pay attention to it. But I’m starting to feel like I have my feet beneath me.

I’m having a little trouble believing this is my life.

In Which I Startle New Kitty’s Acquaintance

There I was, talking on the phone to the Professor in the garage, with the door to the outside world cracked a tiny bit so that I could watch the bird (we seem to have a baseball team’s worth of cardinals this year), when new kitty came hollering in the garage from said outside. Mrrrrrrroooowororowoowroroowechech. And hot on her tail was a black cat. He came into the garage. I stood up. He looked at me like “What the fuck is this thing?” and then he hightailed it back out of the garage.  He then tried to play it cool, skulking off like it was no big deal that he’d just encountered the new kitty’s ape. But I could tell he was shaken.

He was beautiful, though. I didn’t see any white on him–just solid back. And big. But his tail looked as wide as a raccoon’s, which is how I knew I’d scared the shit out of him.