Bummed

This has been a really intense Christmas, but it’s been good in ways that I’ve needed. I had a really good time with my nephew, who is just as delightful as they come. And I’ve had some good time with my parents.

It’s just a lot of togetherness and I am not that used to having this many people around and in need of constant attention. Hell, I sometimes get resentful of the dog when she’s too cuddly.

But there’s a kind of comradery that people in distressing situations can feel and I think that’s where we all are–in the same boat, humbled before the same problem. Talking to my mom, I think we’re kind of at the same place. Neither of us can figure out what can be done to help my brother. Jobs have been offered, places to stay have been offered, money is regularly offered and given (though not by me). If there’s more to be done for him, he’s going to have to figure it out and tell us.

Which is kind of a terrible spot to be in. But it just doesn’t seem like there’s any real alternative.

Which leaves us only to try to mitigate my parents’ suffering over the issue. The amount they blame themselves is overwhelming. And yet, they’re the ones who are really doing things–going to visits, trying to get the boys together, making sure there’s some kind of Christmas or birthdays for people.

It’s funny to see how guilt can function to make problems seem controllable. As if my parents just failed as parents and as if they can do everything right now and somehow fix things. I guess that’s easier to live with in some ways than “We did everything we knew to do and still, this is how things are.”

I’m just sad for them. And I feel pretty certain that that’s really about all I can do.

More Thoughts

I think the thing that makes this difficult, even though the nephew has a roof over his head and is doing well in school and is happy and kind and healthy and thoughtful, is that, because my sister-in-law is managing that well, that’s about as well as she can manage. I imagined that, once you fall into social services, certainly, they must get you back on your feet. But the truth is that it really is just a shitty safety net. Once you come to their attention, they won’t let you fall any lower, but you have to be able to pull yourself up.

But people aren’t stuck in the net because they’re too lazy to pull themselves up or because the net is so comfy. They’re like my sister-in-law who has some almost insurmountable things in her way–her new baby, her mental illness, my brother’s complete moral abdication of his family and refusal to divorce her. She, for instance, saved up once for a lawyer and got divorce papers drawn up. She had them sent to my brother. He claims he never got them. When will she have the money to do that again?

And the new baby is a big additional worry, but thanks to him, she’s eligible for the mental health service she needs. So, that’s good, but she’s not working because there’s no job she could get that would cover the cost of a baby in daycare. And since she’s not working–her family just has her boyfriend’s income–she’s stuck in pretty abject poverty. The only reason it isn’t worse is because of her boyfriend’s family. A boyfriend she can’t even marry. Worse than that–a boyfriend who, since my brother won’t divorce her, cannot be sure that the state will legally recognize his own child as his and not my brother’s should something happen to her.

All that could be straightened out in a divorce, but she’s got to re-come up with the money for it. And around we go.

And I dislike her about as much as a person can dislike someone. She practically destroyed my family and she tried to kill my dog. So, you know, if there weren’t any kids involved and she couldn’t get my brother to divorce her, I might find it funny.

But, honestly, the fact that this is the life of someone’s parent–someone I care about–and that this is her life with everything she can manage going as well as it can be managed? It makes me want to throw up.

The part of the mess that is her own making? Well, it is what it is.

The part of it that my brother is responsible for? I don’t even know how to process it. I don’t know what to say about it. I don’t even know how to think about it. This is someone whom I love dearly. Who has known me my whole life and who helped me when no one else in my family could. And I don’t know how to understand this. How stupid is my love that it exists in the face of this? That proximity and longevity and one kind deed are all that it needs to sustain itself?

My love is a stupid thing. It goes to people who do terrible things, things I would cut a friend off for without thinking twice about it, just because they’re my family.

And even knowing this, my heart wants to hurt like it’s been betrayed, like it’s learned something new and terrible, instead of it being the same old shit it’s been for most of my adult life.

Afternoon at the Museum

Adelicia Hayes

Adelicia Hayes

We spent the afternoon at the state museum, which was awesome. We have such a good state museum. We didn’t get to see Murrel’s thumb, but we did get to see the mummy and the guitar exhibit and Mom spent some time with Elvis.

My nephew thought the mummy was fake, since it lacked outer wrappings. But he was impressed with the number of things there are to sit on at the museum.

He walked back to the car with me in the rain (we left my parents inside where it was dry) and we had a chance to talk some about city street crossing safety. I told him, “There’s always some asshole. Remember that your whole life. Most everyone is cool, but there’s always some asshole–like this taxi driver who’s trying to sneak through the crosswalk between us and these people ahead of us. Keep your eye on the asshole.”

He laughed.

In other news, they have a really gorgeous portrait of Adelicia Hayes. The kind of portrait that makes you appreciate why the devil might tell her suggestive stories.

A Thing I Never Want to Hear Again

My sister-in-law lives in a shed behind her boyfriend’s mother’s house. With a baby. An honest to god shed. A metal box you put garden tools in, with two doors that swing open wide enough to run a riding mower through.

My nephew and the kid who would have been his step brother except for that his dad has never been able to marry my sister-in-law, because she’s still married to my brother, for reasons I cannot understand except that married men don’t pay child support to their wives, live in the would-have-been mother-in-law’s tiny house with her across the dirt yard from the shed where my sister-in-law lives.

At the end of the year 2012, if my sister-in-law wants to use the bathroom, she has to go outside and cross the dirt yard, and go into another woman’s house and use hers. She literally does not have her own pot to piss in.

Sometimes, when I talk about my nephews’ situations, people are like “Oh, but then it’s good that they have you. You doing [whatever] is really important and makes a big difference.”

I never, ever want to hear any fucking thing even remotely like that again in my goddamn life. Ever. What terrible bullshit. What complete and udder horseshit. It’s just some fairytale that makes my whole mouth taste like rot to even recall. Everything is just fucking inadequate in the face of reality.

A fucking shed.

How the hell are you going to knock on a shed door to collect your family member and not feel like you have utterly failed him? Completely? Without question and without qualification? Even if he seems happy, even if he’s doing fine in school. Even if he’s healthy.

There’s no way.

What I realized today is that, when my parents think about my brother and his families, they must feel a kind of soul-bottom terror that would drive them mad if they thought about it too much. I had an anxiety attack on the way home. My head is still spinning.

My nephew’s mother lives in a shed. She has to go outside to pee.

That this is the best possible outcome we’re capable of generating? Or willing to generate? It floors me.

And yet, what is there to do? My parents send her money when she asks. They tried letting her live with them and it almost destroyed their marriage. I wouldn’t let that mean terror know where I live, let alone invite her into my house. Yesterday was the first time I’d even talked to her in a decade. And, apparently, it doesn’t bother my brother that his wife lives in a shed.

And her dad and step-mom know she lives in a shed and I’d guess she’s burnt her bridges with them well enough that there she sits. And she seems fine with the shed, like it’s a workable option until they find something better.

And, my nephew adores her, so I have to respect that there’s something in her worth loving even if I loathe her.

I am exhausted. I am never going to be un-exhausted about this. I now see why my dad expects to die. A person cannot stand inadequate in the face of this–not seeing it for what it is–and not have it break you.

I’m having a hard time believing that I made it home in one piece, alive, to my own home. I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that this is a real place–this brick house with a big back yard–and that is a real place–a shed–and that there are people I care about in both of them.

Questions

–Is “have a baby” and “go to the gym every day for hours a day” really what Weight Watchers is touting as weightloss success now?

–The person who first sees the cat barf has to clean it up, right? And not the person who heard him barfing?

–How does one get pictures OFF this snazzy new camera?

–Does religion lead people to unrealistic expectations? A theory floated over breakfast.

–I wonder if the people who make “there’s not enough x in literature” pronouncements are ever embarrassed when they’re schooled like this? There are so many books. Any “there’s not enough x” discussion is always a confession that you just don’t read widely enough.

Merry Christmas

Things are going oddly here. Over the past two days, I’ve cooked a ton of food and read forty years’ worth of Christmas letters out loud.

Now, I’m going to try to sleep.

Color Theory

I’m not an artist, so I don’t actually know that much about color. But when I’m working on afghans, I do think a lot about it.  So, I have all the squares made for Rachel’s afghan (the tail tucking begins!) and it makes me think a lot about pink. I’m not very fond of pink as a color, but I like it in this pattern, because it has a color, but it lacks any intensity. To me, pink gives your eye an opportunity to rest. And in a busy work like this afghan, you want an effect, I think, not of overwhelming chaos–which you’d get if all the colors behaved the same way–but of first one thing jumping out and then another. So, you need somethings–like the orange–that insist you notice it first. And then you want all the beautiful colors to start to come into focus. And then you want the faint colors to bring up the rear.

Pink is a great color for that third role. White can be, too, if it’s an off-white. Too crisp and it’s in the first or second camp. But pink is pretty good.

So, that’s weird. After all these years, finding a love of pink

Actual Conversation My Parents Had

“We saw Loretta Lynn once at Ionia. She was not very good. Her voice was all shakey and she seemed really out of it and not happy to be there.”

“Yes, remember. Her son had just died.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

“Well, damn, in that case, she put on a good show considering the circumstances.”

One Problem with the Grouchy Approach to Life

I’m having another fairly delightful visit with my parents (I should really send a thank-you note to Del McCoury. I swear, ever since then, there’s just been a real change in the tenor of our visits.) in which we get a bunch of stuff done around the house, make many plans to cook delicious things, and eat at restaurants in Ashland City because, of course, we must go there twice in one day.

It’s lovely.

And so I’m half convinced one or the other of them is dying. Literally the only time they’re this nice for this prolonged a time is when something is terribly wrong.

But I have to say, I’m at the point where I’m like “Eh, fuck it. I’m just going to enjoy it.”

Even if they are going to make me go to church twice!!!

It’s funny, because, you know, I am among the many who find Christmas very difficult. Well, not Christmas. Usually, by this point in December, I’m feeling on firm ground once again and can enjoy the holidays (I mean, people, I’m going to church, because I’m having a good time hanging out with my parents, wtf?). But the couple of weeks before it are really grueling for me. But since it’s not usually a problem by the time they get here, I don’t mention it to them. It’s not their problem or anything.

Anyway, all of this is a long way of saying that my dad noted yet again that my grandma hates Christmas, doesn’t like getting presents, doesn’t like fussing or decorating or enjoying others’ decorations. And he’s made this observation before, but this year, I finally was like “I hear you, Grandma Doris.” It is hard and I hate getting things (though, like my Grandma, I appreciate a good present at any other time of the year) and I don’t want to decorate or undecorate.

And it make me feel closer to her, like we had something in common. And that is really nice.

I am in solidarity with you, Grandma.

The Past Pulls Close

Nothing in this whole wide world is ever over.

I’ve got a beer sitting out for any Ancestors who want to stop by and a fire to keep the darkness at bay.

This is it, the darkest plunge into the deepest night. There will be colder nights, but none so long, not until we swing around to this position again, the spiral ever twisting–the moon around us, we around the sun, the sun in its arm of a twirling galaxy.

We have not been here before. And yet, we keep coming back here.

Have a drink, my old gone friends. Come on out, into the light. As Gillians says, let me see the mark death made. And I will show you the scars on my body in return.

I tell the same story over and over again. And always I put myself in the middle of it. So angry at the betrayal of Paradise. Still holding out hope I’ll find a comfortable way in.

Always ready to fuck over the people who have been so good to me for the brief affections of those who have fucked me over.

Spinning, spinning.  Waiting, knocking.

And who waits at my door? Who knocks to be let in?

I really hate this time of year. It just feels like grief–stale and fresh. And I wonder when it happened. I wonder what, exactly, it is. And I can’t say. Only that I recognize that it’s gone.

I miss those folks so much sometimes that it takes my breath away. Who knew me like they did?

And yet, it was me who let go. It’s always me who lets go. The dance ends, the partners switch and I am gone.

Spinning. Slipping. Gone.

Until we’re back again, in the longest night. Me and my dead things, waiting.

Trying to make peace.

Weird Dreams

I had a weird dream that the Haunted House at Disney Land was walk-through and I was there with some guy I know who I won’t embarrass by mentioning. But there was real danger and we were separated. And looking for each other to escape. And then he stopped wandering. He just went to the heart of the house and waited for me there. And I, who had not stopped running hysterically from room to room did find him, rather easily. And we were safe.

And it was so brilliant that it woke me up.

But then all today I kept thinking, “How would that work in real life?” How would you know which person should stay still and which should keep moving? I guess it requires knowing which one of you is going to stumble around like a chicken with her head cut off no matter what.

The Art Lover by Carole Maso

Someone on Facebook recommended it and whoa, it blew me away. I wouldn’t say it’s among my favorite books, but it is among the books I respect the most. The structure of the plot (which is not the same as the structure of the book) is like sitting in the middle of a small peninsula watching the waves wash up on shore on all but one side of you and the story is what the water leaves in the sand after each wave.

There is a crescendo, but it’s not the point where the characters you’ve been following so far have some glorious climax. Instead, it’s where Maso says, “You’ve been watching the shore to your left and right, but you’ve missed everything going on at the point. Let’s look now.”

Ugh. It just tore my heart right out..

To me, writing is about longing and longing is the close sibling of grief. This is a book that really gets that.

Two Things for Your Enjoyment

1. I’m going to be mulling over this story, hard, not because I want to copy it, exactly, but because they want an index for Project X and I hadn’t considered the creative potential of such a beast.

2. I really love this post. I also think that narcissism as an accusation feels different to women. It’s not just that we’re being accused of self-absorption, but that in being so, we’re neglecting the things we ought to be doing, like women’s work.

News from My Lucifer Researcher (Slightly NSFW)

Oh, like you don’t have a researcher devoted at least part time to Lucifer? Please. What do you think the L in MLS is? Not that my Lucifer researcher has and MLS. I don’t actually know. I haven’t done a lot of research into my Lucifer researcher. Really, I’m not sure what qualifications one even needs to have to be a Lucifer researching. But if it doesn’t include and MLS or a Law degree, I’ll eat my hat.

How confident am I?

I don’t even have a hat.

Anyway, enough silliness. My Lucifer researcher stumbled upon the reason why Joseph Geefs’ statue may have been considered too racy for church, while his brother’s Lucifer, which is just dripping sex, was not. Turns out Joseph’s statue has an adorable tush. Like the kind that makes you hope against hope that, if you became a traditional witch, you… well… you know… might find that the old stories are true.

Continue reading

Same Story, Different Characters

I wonder if there’s a good book about the overlap between Germanic paganism and Christianity. Wikipedia claims that a lot of ritual sites sacred to Odin were turned into shrines to St. Michael.  And a lot of imagery of Christ would possibly have been familiar enough–the god who hangs from a tree, who is stabbed in the side with a spear, as a sacrifice. Different sacrifices, obviously, but still.

And it occurred to me, that you often hear that Jesus became blonder and more Baldr-looking the more north he moved, as if conversion were, in some part, like a soap opera, where characters stay the same, but the actors change, where backstories are re-figured to account for new facts. And so, as much fun as it is to look at St. Sebastian all sprawled out, the legend is that he was shot full of arrows. But a ton of the iconography shows just one arrow. Like Baldr. It makes me wonder.

It seems like we have a good understanding of how St. Peter or Lazarus is sometimes Legba, too.

1.legba Saint-Lazarus-Lwa-Legba

And so I find it a little frustrating that I don’t know how other gods we might have wanted to save were, if they were. Though, it seems like, of course, they must have been–carried along in art and iconography until they faded away or were revived again under their own names.

I’d just like to know more about it.

Like I Told My Mom, I’m Boring

My parents called last night to ask if I wanted mint chocolate chip cookies or regular chocolate chip cookies. Why they called to ask when they have their hearts set on making mint chocolate chip cookies, I do not know. But then they wanted to know what I was up to.

And you know what? I am up to glorious nothing. I’m reading a book. I have three squares on this afghan to finish up, but I’ll probably wait until I need something to keep my hands busy while people are here. And I’m resting Project X.

It’s very nice. Like a calm moment between busy waves.

St. Sebastian, You Put an Arrow Through My Heart

Saint_TheclaThe patron saint of Tiny Cat Pants has always been St. Thecla, not just because she wasn’t eaten by deadly seals, which is, you know, a terrible way to go, assuming you can find some, and she escaped them, but also because her name is a lovely pun in Spanish making her the unofficial patron saint of computers AND because she’s known as the equal of the Apostles. And because Teckla is my middle name.

Oh, oh, oh and she totally nagged Paul half to death and, if only she’d been able to succeed, think of how much better life would be for women and gay people in the Church.

St. Thecla, who does not love you?

But after spending the day looking at St. Sebastian tied up and draped over shit and filled with arrows, I think he’s got to be a minor patron saint of the blog. Plus, he’s doing work in Umbanda, being all syncretized with Oxossi. And so I can’t help but believe that when Thecla went to live in her mountain, she took like eight paintings of Sebastian to keep her company. I mean, seriously. Every single picture of St. Sebastian could be titled “Man who just got done fucking.” Here are some examples.

I can't quite figure out what the leg is doing there, but I'm not that worried about it.

I can’t quite figure out what the leg is doing there, but I’m not that worried about it.

I call this one "Oh, no, there's nothing psychosexual going on here at all!" Arrow t the crotch, red blood on a white towel, after sex lounging. I'm sure it's all very innocent and murderous.

I call this one “Oh, no, there’s nothing psychosexual going on here at all!” Arrow t the crotch, red blood on a white towel, after sex lounging. I’m sure it’s all very innocent and murderous.

Get your mind out of the gutters, people. He's near death, not post-coital. Please. Obviously.

Get your mind out of the gutters, people. He’s near death, not post-coital. Please. Obviously.

Are there hot mostly naked sculptures of saints or has Christianity pretty much conceded all the sexiness to the bad guys?

What the Devil?

Here’s the story as I heard it. A man was commissioned to make a statue of Lucifer for a church in Belgium. He made them a beautiful statue–Lucifer looking like a young man, his knees slightly apart, a snake coiled at his feet, a cloth draped demurely over his lap (though he does, at the Butcher noted, appear to be holding his junk). And it was in the church for a while, but church leaders became uncomfortable, because they thought the beauty of the statue might be distracting to young  ladies. Perhaps because of the open-kneed junk holding?

Enter dude’s brother. He makes a statue–probably using the same model–that has Lucifer sitting demurely with his knees together. He cannot chase your darling daughter, because he is chained to a rock. And look, it’s not fun to be the Devil. He has a tear of torment and the kind of toenails you do not want rubbing up against you in the night. Oh, and horns. This statue was deemed more acceptable and put in the place of the first one.

I guess the church leaders did not notice that his pose says “Oops, people who want to fuck me, I seem to have dropped one of my dildos by that apple down at m feet. Why don’t you grab it? Perhaps you’d like to touch my knee to stand back up? Perhaps you would not like to stand back up? I’m embarrassed to ask–so embarrassed that it brings a tear to my eye–,  but could you trim my toenails & give me a blow job?” Probably, because the church leaders thought that the toe-nail trimming bit would rule out any desire to give Lucifer a blow job. Which just goes to show you that the church leaders were doofuses.

Anyway, then an Italian sculptor hears about the sexy Lucifers and is all “I will sculpt one in this same vein.” And… well… I think what we can say about it is that it’s possible we now have an explanation for why the first brother’s Lucifer was holding his junk.

I mean, I know Satan is supposed to be evil and deviant, but is tree-humping really evil and deviant? It just seems weird.