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Hello 100 words, I almost forgot you today. That would have been awful, because I would have had to wait another month to get to know you. I am looking forward to an interesting month. I can see the challenges presented here, but I think I can meet them. I had already written something today, but it was much longer than 100 words, and I sorta vilified my wife in it. My agent, who has still not sold my book, suggested that I go back and put two nice things in about my wife. Ok, but first my 100 words.
I decided to look for words while walking my dog Dallas this morning. I found the first 25 tucked in a culvert by the road. The dog sniffed out the next 17 behind a rock on the corner of Christine and Dann. I found a tasty bundle of 32 words in a child's wagon on a driveway guarded by two nasty dogs. Dallas kept the dogs away while I made off with the words. By the lake we found 13 more growing like weeds near a pond. Finally, coming home I opened the mail and found my last 13 words.
I tried calling today because it was starting again; that creepy diffused smog of pain starting to shuttle through my body, soaking up through my arms, into my chest, lodging in my brain. I tried calling from instinct as much as anything, knowing you would probably be busy. There is nothing you can do. I forgot my meds last night, and I am short on sleep. Both may be factors. You see, it goes through phases, distinct phases. And during some of those phases, despite your inability to help, I find I don't want to be alone. Odd, isn't that?
How can I remember to do this every day? I know, should have done it before. I'll put a reminder in my Palm Pilot. That's what I do with everything else. It tells me when to get up, when to take my medicine, and when to remind my son to take his medicine. It tells me where my CDs are and which ones I have. The Palms are getting smarter, but not smaller. I will buy my next one when they work down the size and it becomes a tie-tack microphone and holographic projector—not that I wear ties anymore.
In the University of Michigan Art Museum basement is a statue. I don't know if it is still there, and I should check this before writing, but the deadline requires me to write this now. The statue was of some goddess, Athena. I think; She stood 9 feet in flowing marble robes at the bottom of a circular staircase. When the morning sun hit her, a magnificent thing happened. The shape of her entire graceful body shown through the marble dress. The sculptor had carved her that way, the marble so thin about her that the sun carried straight through.
The cottonwood leaves are lazy sweeping the breeze, while the black locust leaves hardly move at all. It was 59 degrees in the house this morning, but seems ok now. I am considering a visit to the sweet lady Catatonia, that blue-eyed, white bosomed flower of the county. But that would mean dressing for the occasion, ordering the coach and four around, and it all seems like so much trouble. Still, her father is wealthy, and any young writer could always use another patron. I am sure he would be happy to compensate me for ceasing to call on her.
I have handed my son over to the dentist. It is a kiddy dentist, but I have been here before. A pretty young woman took me in briefly to ask if he had any new meds, new diseases, or new insurance. Yes to one and three. Behind the steel door and the four-foot counter, he is now some room with the pretty young woman having his mouth inspected. We are always telling him he should watch his mouth. Now we are paying someone to do it for him. That is the way things are. You pay. One way or another.
When it becomes necessary to reach for new words; you must slip your arm into the weight of air where it disappears into that fifth dimension to pull out a dripping handful of seaweed, slime, and stardust. Vision microscopic at this miracle of fist, you lean back and hurl the mess against the wall like some artist who has breathed too much turpentine. To kneel and watch intently and curious as the muck slip down the wall, the components separating like DNA in a centrifuge: the sperm to the egg, the cockroach to the corner, the remains to the morgue.
It was hot in here when I began, sweat drops running down my neck. I retrieved my fan from the bedroom and now it is comfortable here. Every evening I move the fan to the bedroom. Every morning I bring it back to the study. Perhaps I should get another fan, so I wouldn't have to do this. Perhaps I should leave it at one fan and continue the ritual. Ritual taken in small measure gives a foundation and frame to your life. It can strengthen and give you perspective. It gives identity. So I continue to move the fan.
Sipping my coffee, I like walking the cool damp mornings. I see tiny cars pulling out of the driveways as my neighbors leave to go to work in their office buildings in one of the surrounding cities. They all have SUV's in their garages, but they drive the tiny cars to work, so they will be already starting to work up a good level of stress from being cramped and bumped around in their Yugo. But I live in a state of grace. I walk the shady streets, returning to my study to write. I write, therefore I am blessed.
The study is a mess. I have papers, office equipment, and bills sliding off the desk onto the floor. I can't find adequate time to write and be Mr. Mom too. There is no room in the study to walk from one place to the other. The kitchen chairs have disappeared and the sink is piled with dishes. Coffee stains adorn the living room carpet. The bathroom toilet won't stop running and the sink is clogged. There is no clean laundry and I can't find my children. I think they may have they have gone to the neighbors to eat.
I have recently passed my test and become a certified PMP. That's a Project Manager Professional. It was the last act of my professional life, although I didn't know it at the time. I did suspect that something was wrong with things, that I didn't seem to fit the place I had fallen into in life. So now I have fallen into a new place, a place where I lived once before happily. And this place seems to fit. A place where I can be a good father and an honest writer—as honest as any writer dares to be.
I scorched the spaghetti sauce this afternoon. You just can't get away with doing too many things at once. True, someone was watching it when I went to the store, but I can't blame them. I knew to turn it off. Tonight I will have to face my family with scorched spaghetti sauce after promising homemade. There is time. I could make more. I have a couple hours. Just throw out the old stuff and start over. Add a little honey to make it taste like's it's been sitting around all day. Maybe I should taste it one more time.
The teenagers descended last night, the third time this week. They swarmed around 5 p.m. and by 3 a.m. there were 8 of them lounging around, gorging on whatever food they could find, and building a fire in the back yard. It's times like this I go to bed, put on my headphones, and hope for sleep. They are in their 17-20's and as a parent I am in strategic retreat. In the morning, I know what a caterer feels like after the party. My daughter promises, "I'll clean it up. I gotta go to work now. I love you."
I am carefully conserving myself this morning practicing personal resource conservation. I am able to absorb only so much stimulation, and the weekends are the most difficult. I made it through yesterday to my early bedtime, but today pose a special challenge. It is a lawn party what will have a large number of in-laws present. So, I am resting this morning instead of burning myself in the morning and resting in the evening. I will be saving as much as possible for the party, and may talk to my wife about leaving early. I think I can make it.
My sandals have been the only footgear I've worn this summer. Purchased for under $20 at my local Meijer store, they hurt my feet at first. Then I found, neatly sewed under a strap, the foot hurter, an extra the manufacturer had designed in. I cut them off and the sandals have been comfortable ever since. I do have one small worry though. The few times I have tried to wear shoes and socks, they have hurt my feet, even old favorites. I am beginning to wonder if these sandals are adjusting my feet rather than my feet adjusting them.
I'm at the dentist again, second time this week. This visit is for Amanda. Soon, it will be my turn. I go to a different dentist though. It is a place where I have been longer than anyone else associated with the practice. The office is an old house in a part of Ann Arbor where the students live. It is a one-woman practice, and the records and scheduling are still done on paper. The dentist I first saw there has long since retired. He has been replaced by a children's dentist who used to clean my teeth for me.
My knee hurts from bending under the table, I've already cranked two thousand words today, and now this. I took my son, a sophomore, this morning for school registration. My daughter, the senior, I did Monday. She was more expensive and took more time. Son was harder though. Then somewhere around a thousand words I had to see my psychiatrist who explained why it was a bad idea to go back to work, and that I should let the "what shall we eat" questions iron themselves out. "Who knows," he said. "Maybe your agent will sell that book of yours."
It's a beautiful day and I feel I'm living in a state of grace. With every good thing in life eventually comes the fear and suspicion that someone will try to take it from you, and that destroys the value of the thing, and sometimes it destroys the value of the person as well. So I have this thing, and I must protect it. I must protect it from myself, and from others. But it is a thing worth protecting. It is worth maintaining serenity for. It is worth giving up what I have to give up to keep it.
The boys, Michael Jr. and Gary his friend slept in late this morning, Judging by the looks of the kitchen, the family room and the basement, they had been up late. The TV was still on, but since it usually is, I got no clues there. I woke them up for breakfast at 11 and fixed some eggs, bacon, and toast. That's what Michael and I usually have for breakfast. Gary will be here until I take him to his soccer game at 4. We have a wedding tomorrow, and I've got a lot to do. Stress day, I'm thinking.
It's a cool morning, and I'm up early because that is what life brought me today. I have an out-of-state wedding to attend today, and I will need to be ready by 10:30 or earlier to leave. This means I have to get Michael Jr. up at 9:30. We will be picking up my older son, Tom on the way, and my grandson, Daniel. This will be the first time my parents have seen their great grandson, even though he just turned 8. Daniel was missing for his first seven years, but that is a different and somewhat longer story.
Getting to the morning place where I write, I got my coffee and went to the study. But my seat and computer were taken. My daughter Amanda was there and the desk was piled high with illegal copies of compact disks while the computer's burner whirled heavy metal songs into yet another one. She was having a marathon, and I was having no place to write. I offered several solutions, but she was too happy there. I have made the study too comfortable. So I retired to the tiny VAIO downstairs and tried to keep up with my writing schedule.
I got an email today from my friend Matthew, On reading my fish story he had an idea to collect my Ohio stories into a book like Sherwood Anderson's Winesberg, Ohio. He wanted to help by suggesting ways to organize the stories. This mail makes me feel like my back is breaking from too much work I appreciate the confidence, but I haven't finished the Ohio stories. Too much pain and too much joy need to be unraveled and re-woven there before those stories are ready. Besides Fish needs a re-write itself. I wonder if I should read Anderson's book?
"Daddy," My daughter said, "There is no food to eat in the house." I replied that there was plenty of food to eat, that I ate all the time and had no trouble. "But there is nothing I can eat," she wailed. I asked what she would like, pointing out that if I had no direction from her that I would continue to perform poorly. She had no idea. I told her to come up with a list of what she needed and I would get it. It was an off-hand comment, and it only cost me a hundred bucks.
I told my daughter this morning that I was frustrated. "Is there anything I can do?" she asked. Yes, there was. "Is it me?" Yes, in fact it was. I explained that I had taken her and her friend on a hundred-dollar food-buying spree yesterday and all I got this morning was a trashed house. I explained that I was very liberal in letting her friends stay over, but all I ever got for it was a trashed house. I explained that the "I was going to clean it in the morning" didn't float. I explained that I loved her.
Amanda and Molly are out getting some Velveeta cheese. They've already picked a can of re-fried beans from the pantry, so they must be planning something Mexican for their dinner. Amanda asked me for a couple bucks to get the cheese. I told her we already had a box of Velveeta. "No we don't," she said. I insisted it was on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. "Nope," she said. "I opened it yesterday and it was rotten. I threw it out." It takes a long time for a log of Velveeta to rot. I know this for a fact.
Life is so rich, so full of grace, that it is difficult to choose what to write about. Some people ask, "How do you think up all that stuff?" I usually tell them that that's just what happened to me that day. Actually, I spend time wondering how to choose from all that grace, that beauty, that pain. And if I tend to choose one category over the other, it may be that day I am too close to one of the others to gain perspective. Or does it mean I am saturated with one, and can't go anywhere else?
Can you see the sun sparks on their way into the dark that will swallow them no matter what we can think or do about these things that splash against our hearts like sweet ave's against my brain is tinkering, is tickled, is taken by these flights of manic fueled delight in sweet apples in the fall when the grass is browning and it seemed that my feet were bare, that I could feel the rough bark of the tree as I climbed her and the warmth of her web as she cradled me and I tasted her moist fruit.
I took my son to get school clothes this morning. We went to a department store my wife had recommended as a reasonably priced place to shop for clothes. Michael didn't want to go, but Terry wanted him to. I was indifferent, but wanted to please Terry, so we went. I soon realized that anything I picked out for him was not right. I had to let him pick out his own clothes. When he finished, I asked if he had bought pants. "No," he said. We were supposed to buy pants I reminded him. He shrugged. So we left.
I finally stopped the noise. Every year my son wants to buy fireworks. I give in every third year or so and am quickly reminded why I quit. This year we got a great deal on especially loud ones. The noise was ceaseless. My neighbor asked him to stop. Michael lit an entire package. My neighbor offered to call the police. Michael quit for the night. Yesterday he needed money for an anniversary date with his girl friend. I offered to buy the firecrackers. This was a painful decision, but he did it. And I bought the damn firecrackers twice.
I don't think I can do more here without coffee. I am falling asleep. I haven't heard from my agent for days either. She has bought a new house, or she is using that as an excuse for dodging me because she hasn't sold my book yet. Of course she would say I haven't finished it yet, but I'm close. My sister sold one based on the first three chapters Of course, they wanted the rest of the book immediately, and she got into a bit of a jam making the deadline. I need some coffee. I am falling asleep.
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