Things I’m Thinking About

–The botched execution in Oklahoma last night. The thing I don’t understand is that, in general, it’s very easy to lose your life. Lives slip away while people are sleeping. You’re driving down the road and a car crosses the center line and there you go. You get drunk at the lake and you pitch into the water and you don’t come back up. You pick up a gun you think is unloaded and try to demonstrate that fact to your buddy and, oops, he’s gone. So, why can’t Oklahoma cleanly kill a man? I mean, I’m opposed to the death penalty, simply because we don’t have a good way of keeping innocent people from being killed. But, even if I supported the death penalty, the problem of us not being able to quickly and humanely kill people is still a big one. And not just because we aren’t supposed to cruelly and unusually punish people, but because can you imagine being the people in that room last night? You have to live with that shit for the rest of your life.

Crap at Vanderbilt. I honestly can’t understand what the fuck is going on in this case. But it feels to me like there’s what we know from the prosecution, what’s being insinuated by the defense, and then a third agenda that the defense is kind of hinting at and the prosecution is avoiding. I’d like to know more about that third part. Like, I don’t think that there were more people involved in the rape. But I do wonder how many people who helped cover it up are being deliberately left alone?

Fucking Haslam. You can almost bet that, in any instance, he’ll follow the lead of the person who appears to be the toughest. A million medical professionals, women’s advocates, and people who know there aren’t any rehab beds can all say “Wow, this is a bad idea” but the big tough guys want it so that’s what he’s going for. You can see why, with this dynamic in place, women have fared so well under Haslam, since it’s pretty hard for us to be the baddest badass in any given room. But what’s more embarrassing for Haslam is, Jesus Christ, man, have you not seen how Ramsey plays you using this very dynamic?

Still, it’s interesting. I think Jimmy was obviously the “bad ass” of the two and Bill has always been “the reasonable one,” who doesn’t act rashly and who collects information and who shows that what his brother wants, though it seems ridiculous, actually makes sense, or can be made to work. And here we are, decades into these men’s adult lives, watching them both flounder around trying to or failing to replicate that dynamic.

The Dog Runs Like a Puppy

Oh, you guys, this dog is the worst runner I’ve ever seen in a dog–and I used to live with a dachshund. He trots beautifully. He trots like a fucking champ. But this afternoon in the yard, he broke out into a full-bore run and… bwah ha ha ha ha. I mean, I know I don’t have any room to talk. Because I’m sure I also look ridiculous when I’m running. But he’s so bad at it!

Like, his butt end was clearly going faster than his front end and, at the end, he didn’t so much stop and kind of slide and fall down.

I’m trying to think if we’ve seen him run before and I don’t guess we have, just his beautiful trotting. But wow, it’s hilariously awesome. But also a little sad and curious. Did he not run free in his farm dog life? Because he seems particularly unpracticed.

More Proof My Jaw Thing is Actually an Ear Thing

It hurts much, much less today than yesterday. Almost like some pressure change happened when the storm came through.

As it was storming, I had a heavy pressure on my face, that ran from the hing of my jaw, to my ear and then curled around to my eye.

When I press right along that curve now, on that side of my face, it feels really, really good.

My ear is clogged the fuck up.

My Process

Over at Pith, I wrote about how I suspect Melverina Elverina Peppercorn is not a real person, at least not under that name. It pretty much walks you through how I go about finding out anything about any historical figure–I first just broadly Google them to see what other people believe about them (sometimes, nothing, because I’m often curious about people who’ve been forgotten), then I look for them in Google Books. Then I turn to to see if I can find them in the Census. If I’m looking for a woman with a distinctive first name–like Melverina–I’ll sometimes just broadly search the census records to see if Melverina X might be a plausible candidate.

If this all fails, I take a step back. And this can fail, especially with women. If they have a distinctive last name (or hell, I’ve done this for the Phillipses) and I know an approximate area where they lived, I search Find-a-Grave for plausible people for my person. Find-a-Grave isn’t going to catch every Peppercorn, for instance, but it sure gives you a big-picture look at the Peppercorns in the U.S. who appear to have been mostly Catholic and, broadly, came through Ohio into Kansas and Oklahoma. There are a couple of male Peppercorns dead outside that swath, but in port cities. This doesn’t really fit with what we know of the lives of most Tennesseans, especially most Tennesseans who felt strongly enough to fight in the Civil War. Those tended to be people who had lived in the South for a generation or two (or three).

If I had found a cemetery or two with Peppercorns in it in the South, that’s where I would have started looking for Melverina. If I had found Peppercorns in Nashville, for instance, that might be when I take a trip to the Nashville room or either Archives to see what they might know about the Peppercorn family.

But, curiously enough, I couldn’t find anything that suggests there were Peppercorns, let alone Melverina. Hence why I suspect that’s a pseudonym–thought, god, what a delicious pseudonym.

I’m also just speculating, but I kind of believe Meriwether was trying to give some clues about the real woman. Somewhere, I believe, is a woman with a similar name–Amelia Bedelia Hopscotch (or something)–with a brother with a great leader’s name–George Washington Hopscotch, Julius Caesar Hopscotch, something–and two sisters with ordinary names. But I’m not looking for her!

Times Like This

On the one hand, I’m going to be so happy when the Butcher’s car is fixed. Because this waking up at a quarter to six when I’m used to waking up at twenty after is doing me in. It doesn’t seem like it should be that big a deal, but it seems like I’m missing some crucial last part of a sleep cycle or something.

But on the other hand, I like having a half an hour a day where we just talk about shit. Not that we don’t do that at home, but… well, no, not really. We’re watching TV or each doing our own thing.

Anyway, I wrote this thing for Pith. What I’m mulling over is that we tell history like it is just one great person popping up, island after island, like Hawaii in metaphorical terms. But you can’t look too closely at any particular person without seeing all the ways they’re tired to the people who came before them.

Lazy Day

We had a really nice lazy day yesterday where, after I got back from coffee, we just sat around and watched movies, which, weirdly, all shared a theme of people seeing people who weren’t there.

I have fucked up my jaw somehow. But since it’s my jaw, my ear, and my eye, I’m hoping that it’s just sinus crap.

Tonight I’m making paella. Unless we’re blown away by tornadoes. Ugh.

There’s something about how it works these days where you can watch storms roll across the nation, see the destruction and suffering hours before that same storm gets to you.

I wonder if the Red Cross, in cases like this, sees donations follow the route. I mean, what happened in Arkansas is so terrible, but I wonder if people who are about to get hit by the storm wait to donate until after the storm has passed them by?

Dog Thoughts

Today at Ugly Mugs, there was a yellow lab. I couldn’t take my eyes off him, because he was so small compared to Sonnyboy.

Also, I have decided that Sonnyboy’s labradoodle friend is actually a greyhound/labrador mix. It has to be something narrow with a deep chest like a poodle, but Sonnyboy’s friend has no curly hair and he has pointy ears. Plus, he’s taller than Sonnyboy.



The Butcher says I’m being bossy at home this week.

Which, I concede, I may be being.

But it’s really fun to boss people around and get things done. My power is corrupting me!

More Random Things

–I started a new story. Just something to fiddle with. It’s the first thing I’ve written this year that doesn’t already have some place it needs to be.

–I’m waiting to hear back from my beta reader on the story that does have a home. She’s busy so I’m trying not to pester her every 20 minutes, but I totally want to pester her every twenty minutes.

–I have been following this Bryan Singer thing more than necessary. But, regardless of the validity of this guy’s claims, of course there’s something sketchy about powerful Hollywood bigwigs wanting a bunch of 18-20 year olds around them all the time, especially when there’s a level of titillation about just how close to 18 you can pluck them up. That’s not just a desire for youth. It’s a desire to skirt right up to the line of what’s forbidden. And, I’m sorry, but I just do not believe that people who are sitting around calculating the moment you’re 18 and “safe,” when drunk or stoned, aren’t all “Woo, I care not for this line.”

–But it irritates me the amount of places that are like “So? What’s the big deal? This has been going on in Hollywood with young women and old men forever and no one cares.” WTF? Of course people care. Just not, apparently, people anyone listens to. But, yeah, folks speak out against that weirdness all the fucking time.

–I’m really surprised by how much I’m enjoying my new job. I mean, I thought it would be fine, but no, it’s really interesting.

First Iris

A lot of places already have irises in bloom, but I’m still in my own little subclimate where this is the first one. Saw it this morning.

first iris

Different Thoughts

1. This was for a conference of Christian thought-leaders. $775 to sit around and talk about how to be a good Christian. This is a problem we have in this country–where, for some people, $775 is an unimaginably large amount of money–their house payment, what they need for all their bills for the month, an unattainable car repair, etc.–and for some people, it’s play money you can spend to sit around and talk about how to be a good Christian. And, in fairness, I’m sure, even in Tennessee, $775 could be, for these people, nothing. They could give away millions of dollars. If you gave a million dollars to a food pantry last year, is spending $775 to talk about Christianity with your fellow Christians really outrageous? Not in that context. But man, it’s so much money for most people. And I think the disconnect between the two is insurmountable, for the most part. If you know how much money $775 is, you’re never going to be on the radar of most people who know how little money that is.

2. Bwah ha ha ha ha ha ha. Of course the guy who wants to be treated like a special snowflake by the federal government resents the black people he thinks are being treated like special snowflakes.

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.

Everything Itches

You don’t know weird until you’ve sunburnt the inside of your ear. It’s, in fact, a rather unpleasant feeling.

I highly recommend avoiding it.

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.