TMI Thursday: Bare Jam

TMI Thursday

Every year in late April, Smoky Mountain National Park has its annual Wildflower Pilgrimage. Tourons (tourist + moron) pay hundreds of dollars to be led around the park by rangers and volunteers, to see all of the spring wildflowers in their glory. Which is funny to me, because if you’re hiking the right trails, you can’t miss even the rare ones.

The ex and I went out to one of the best trails in the park for spring wildflowers. We split up, and he spent the morning fishing the river, while I hiked seven miles round trip and took several hundred pictures, one of which is the thumbnail in my right hand column over there.

We met back at the truck, pulled our lunch out of the cooler, and hiked off trail to a nice spot by the river. It was fairly far from the road, back in the woods, next to a good run for him to fish after lunch, and a beautiful plunge pool.

I spread out the ground cover, and we had lunch. It was a little past noon, and the sun was high overhead. We were both tired in the best way- that tiredness that comes from catching lots of fish and finding lots of wildflowers. We were not so tired, though, as to be completely uninterested in each other.

We seemed far enough from the road, which was not busy,  and though the trees were not completely leafed out, there was some cover between the blanket and the road… and so we decided to have each other for dessert. It was necessarily short, but not so short as to prevent me from enjoying the sun and breeze on my mostly bare skin. I sat up to put my shorts back on, and that was when I realized.

Apparently, I overestimated the amount of cover we were afforded, and possibly the distance from the road. When people can see a bear from the road, all traffic stops until the bear ambles off out of sight. We locals, as well as park officials, call this a “bear jam”. Well, it would appear that the ex and I created our own little “bare jam”, because as I slipped my shorts back on, I noticed several cars stopped on the road in direct sight of our picnic blanket. It was right about that time that the “bare jam” moved along and the road was quiet again.

Funny enough, that didn’t stop me from skinny dipping in the plunge pool after the ex wandered off for more fishing. That was easier to get away with, though, because the river bank was tall, and you couldn’t see the water from the road. We should have had our little rendezvous on one of the large boulders next to the plunge pool. Live and learn, I guess.

We’re lucky that we didn’t get heckled, photographed, or ticketed. No, the only consequence was a little sheepishness, and a bruise the exact size and shape of a sweetgum ball on the small of my back. 😉

Loose Ends

Internet? My lawn is making me crazy. It mocks me from every window of the house. The grass is so tall that Adicus gets scent tracking practice when we play fetch. It’s tall enough that I’m afraid of what might be slithering through it when I walk around out in the yard.

The garden is a god awful mess. Rotten veggies hiding beneath a sea of weeds, some of which are taller than me. Whole cabbages rolling around in the depths of it, paths hidden by weeds and grass and marigolds gone wild. The corn didn’t even send out ears, it stunted and turned brown and died.

I want to plant berries and garlic this fall. To do that, I have to rehab the garden. To do that, I have to figure out how to get it plowed, or alternately, till it 4000 times. To do that, I have to get it somewhat cleared out. To do that, I have to weedwack or mow it. Which is hard to do when your lawnmower is broken and the guy who has the part and knows what to do has no phone. This guy is really sweet, but I am really, really frustrated with how long all of this has taken. Plus I’m scared of the weedwacker. The ex never used it without promptly angering a yellowjacket nest.

My poor cellular signal repeater landed in Utah today, so hopefully they will send out a good one, with the directional antenna they promised, and hopefully it won’t take a week and a half to get here, and hopefully my friend’s boyfriend will be more on the ball than the lawnmower guy. Because I miss you. Badly. Oh, and taking an online college class when you can’t get online at home? Difficult. Awkward.

My wedding dress is still hanging on the back of my office door. I refuse to bring it back in the house. I just won’t. What on Earth I’ll do with it, I don’t know. I’m seriously considering taking it to Goodwill. I can’t afford to have it cleaned to sell it. No one seems to want to buy it anyway. Let someone who might not have had a proper wedding dress without Goodwill wear it down the aisle. We’ll all just hope that her story has a better ending than mine.

There are good things, and good news, and just general goodness, like the package that someone sent me– full of love and gummy worms and notecards and little things that mean as much as the big things, because you know that you’re loved and thought of and it makes you cry when you didn’t even feel like you were going to cry, but you’re headed to Belk to sell your wedding ring, and you’re thinking about how good it felt to have someone in this world, even though it turned out that you really didn’t have someone, probably ever, but only thought you did, but still, denial was an okay place to live for awhile, and you didn’t eat dinner alone. So you open your mailbox, and her pretty handwriting is staring back at you, and you burst into tears, because it occurs to you that you have a lot of people in the this world, even if you have no one to eat dinner with.

I’m really fearful that if I don’t have a yard I’m not ashamed of and a working internet connection under my roof by the beginning of next week? I’ll be writing the three part series on girls who make me crazy from the looney bin.

Manpon

Recent events led me to list “men who act like girls” on a recent Facebook note, under pet peeves. I’m all for the evolution of the male gender into more expressive and emotional creatures, and don’t misunderstand- I love men. This is by no means a man-hating post. They know  stuff I’m clueless about, some of them are cute and smell good, they’re funny and entertaining in general. This post is a plea for more masculinity and maturity. My tolerance for moodiness, hand-wringing, and lack of confidence in men is nonexistent. Too much of this behavior destroys my respect and affection with a quickness.

Talk to Me.

I don’t expect men to communicate with the depth and frequency that women do. Perhaps a good rule for men to follow: if something is bothering you, and it’s affecting the way you deal with other people, you might make them aware of it. Have a problem with me? Have an opinion about me? Want something from me? Need something from me? Need or want less of something from me? Just let me know, already. No amount of mixed signals is going to convey your message. I’m a big girl- I can handle the truth, if I know what it is. Are you a big enough man to tell me? For fuck’s sake, when you do tell me, don’t apologize for it. Don’t simper and whine. Own it. It’s your thought/feeling/problem/opinion/need/request, and if it’s important enough to drive your behavior, it’s important enough to put out there in words, and it’s important enough to be heard and considered. You men should be well aware that fishing is best done in the water and nowhere else.

Make Up Your Mind

I am the Queen of Indecision. I understand the need to review your options, consider your circumstances, and try to predict outcomes. I’m a talker, so I understand gathering opinions and talking through your own thoughts and feelings. There comes a time, however, when you just have to make up your mind and lay your bets. Preferably, you’ll do this before I get tired of listening to you analyze it. God help you if I’m waiting for you to make a decision that affects me, because my patience with your hand-wringing just left town. That’s probably the quickest way to get me out of your hair. If you take too long to decide on something I’m involved with, I’m likely to make your decision for you, if you catch my drift.

Be Confident, or at least Fake It Till You Make It

I’m not referring to the occasional bout of self-doubt we all suffer or the fine line between confidence and arrogance. I will say that I have a higher tolerance for arrogance than self depreciation. Whether we’re family, friends, or otherwise involved, people want to be around people that have something to offer, that bring something to the table. So be proud of what you bring to the table. Also, when you talk yourself down to me, I feel your need to be dis proven or argued out of your self-doubt. Again, fishing is done in rivers. Not in conversation. I can’t convince you of your worth, and I’ll spend not another hot minute of my life trying to do that for anyone. When you tell me that you, your job, your house, your hobbies, your whatever is “nothing special”, you’ve just told me I’m wasting my time talking to you. At the very least, you’re wasting your life away working and doing and keeping “nothing special”. Don’t apologize for complimenting me. How simpering and weak. If you admire my writing, tell me. If you admire my figure, tell me. Then don’t apologize for telling me. I don’t know if other girls aren’t good at accepting compliments or what, but you may as well have not complimented me if you feel the need to apologize immediately afterward. If you’re behaving in this way because you’re intimidated by me somehow, then we’re both wasting our time. So go find someone you can talk to like a man.

You’re the Hunter, Not Me

I won’t chase men. I may get a little too direct, friendly or responsive when I’m attracted to someone, but in general, you need to do the pursuing or we will never get anywhere. I’ll look at you from across the room, catch your eye and smile. I’ll continue a conversation you start. You’ll know during that conversation whether or not I’d be willing to have another conversation with you, say, over dinner or coffee. I won’t give you my number, more than likely, unless I’ve accepted a date from you. Why? Because I don’t want to give you my number and then receive random half-hearted and grammatically horrific text messages. “wold like to cu sometimes” “ur hot” “ur beyond belief” “i has no girlfriend”. My response, whether you receive it or not, is: UR SUCH A NEUTERED IDIOT. Ask me if I’d like to something specific within a specific time frame if you’re going to ask me out. I’m worth the effort, and I need to know that you are willing and capable of making at least that much of an effort before I invest any time in you. Of course, you won’t do that if you’re just trying to get me into bed…..

Can You Handle It?

If you are just trying to get me into bed, you’ll have to be twice as confident and charming, because you’re trying to convince me to make a bigger investment with little to no return on investment after the deed is done. You’re not going to get anywhere unless I’m as sure as possible that you are respectful, discreet and mature enough to handle such an arrangement.  I’ve seen many men screw up a casual sex arrangement with a girl because they felt compelled to treat her like a leper or a piece of trash, lest she start hearing wedding bells. Some women actually mean what we say when we say we don’t want a relationship. When you pointedly treat us like stalkers or trash, you kill the chemistry that created the environment for the arrangement in the first place.

Men, please take these words to heart. Grow up, get smart, and be MEN. I thank you, my friends thank you, women everywhere thank you.

/rant

TMI Thursday: Don’t Stand So Close To Me

I know, lovelies, I’m late to the party. Better late than never, yes?

TMI Thursday

Once upon a time, there was a little girl. This little girl was always breaking out in poison ivy, oak or sumac. (this little girl is in no way my baby sister, evar, no way, it’s a dirty lie). Her Mama was a working girl (not THAT kind, ya’ll, I mean all corporate and stuff) who left at the ass crack of dawn to get the office early.

So that was how this little girl found herself packing her book bag for a field trip all alone. She had a nasty patch of the Ivy on the small of her back, and it was itchin’ like a bitch. The little girl is in second or third grade maybe. She called her Mama and asked where the poison ivy medicine was so she could take it on her field trip. Her Mama told her to look for the cream with hydro-cortisone in on her bathroom counter and rushed her off the phone, because Mama was IMPORTANT and couldn’t be bothered with the little girl’s rash issues at the moment.

The little girl was a smart cookie- she found the tube that said “whatever % hydro-cortisone” on the front, threw it in her backpack and caught the bus to school.

Later that day at where ever the hell the field trip was, she walked up to her favorite teacher. Her favorite teacher was the new one- the cute young guy that had just started at the school and was very sweet to all the kids. The little girl just thought this teacher hung the moon, she loved him so.

You can imagine how it hurt her feelings when she handed him the tube of cream, asked him to help her with the itching, and turned her back on him and he ran away. Ran away to an old lady teacher and muttered something and threw the tube at the old lady and disappeared for awhile…

Well, it hurt her feelings real bad. Really bad enough that when her awesome sauce big sister got home from school, she had to cry and snot all over her and tell her all about it. Because her awesome big sister is an EVEN smarter cookie than she is, she said to the little girl- “bring me the cream you took to school today. RIGHT NOW.”

That big sister was still an angsty teenager with a liver full of sibling rivarly and hatred. So when the little girl produced a tube of Preparation H? She could only roll around on the floor, convulsing in a fit of pee inducing laughter.

Because she truly was an awesome sauce big sister, she found the REAL poison ivy medicine for the little girl, and the little girl and the old lady teacher talked to the very cute and thoroughly disturbed new male teacher the next day and everyone was happy…..

This may seem a little immature, now that I’m almost thirty and I love that little girl so much it makes my heart hurt, but…

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA! She asked her teacher to help her with hemorrhoid cream! BWAHAHAHA!

A Reformed Yankee’s Guide to Dixie

A dear friend of mine is gearing up for a move from the bitter north to the south land. I thought I would put together a little primer for her and for anyone else who needs a little help with Southern culture.

Disclaimer:  I’ve been south of the Mason-Dixon for half my life now. I love it here. You couldn’t pay me (well, *maybe* if you paid me) to return to the Midwest. So if you’re Southern, and I upset you, bless my heart, go easy on me. I am, after all, a Yankee by birth. Some things can’t be helped.

  1. Be nice. You’ve heard of southern hospitality, right? So no getting antsy when the guy in front of you in line spends five minutes chatting with the cashier. Here it is common to freely engage in conversation with anyone and everyone.
  2. Beware the Carpetbagger’s Syndrome. No one likes it when you move to their area and tell them what they should do differently, or what back home is better than here. In the South, it’s a cardinal sin. Why?
  3. The South Will Rise Again. Understand the Civil War. Understand that most people here will grant that slavery was not a very honorable business. They want you to understand that the Industrial Revolution had not made it south of the Mason Dixon by the time the whole slavery debate got heated. The slavery issue and the resulting discord and war wasn’t so much about slavery as an institution as it was about destroying a people’s economy and way of life without considering that even slaveholders need to feed their families. Then came Reconstruction, which is when everyone that wasn’t from the South came down here to boss people around and show them how they ought to live. That’s why Southerners can be suspicious of outsiders, and that’s why the Civil War is still important here. You don’t have to agree on all of those points, but it would behoove you to understand and accept the Southern perspective.
  4. Sweet tea. It is the stuff of gods, but if you’re diabetic, you better learn to ask for Unsweetened, because the sweet stuff will kill you in the first sip. The default is sweet. It is a misdemeanor in Georgia not to serve sweet tea in a restaurant. No, I’m not fucking with you. Look it up.
  5. Pace versus Intelligence. Things run a little slower here. Part of it is the talking (see #1). Part of it is the heat. Mostly, though, it just is what it is. Be careful not to assume that a slower pace and a lovely Southern drawl indicate a lack of intelligence. Big mistake.
  6. Respect and deference. Things that don’t happen elsewhere are expected here. Call your elders and your higher ups ma’am and sir until they correct you. Children call adults “Miss Catherine”. People help the elderly, disabled, and the pregnant. People help each other more here, period, due to their willingness to approach strangers, and you will be looked down upon for letting the door close on someone with their hands full.
  7. Rednecks, Southerners, Hillbillies- these are the last group of people that society allows discrimination and bigotry against. Don’t do this. Just don’t. We all wear shoes down here, and we know ’bout the importance of good learnin’. Not cool.
  8. Re: discrimination and bigotry… race relations are a little different here. There are parts of the area and certain situations and company where you will here outright, flagrant, heart-wrenching racism. It will do you no good to argue. I have found that sometimes the victims of this nasty holdover will be more suspicious of friendly overtures than in other parts of the country. This is probably why.
  9. She’s such a whore, bless her heart. People in the South are more open about flying the crazy flag, and they have more of a tendency to call a spade a spade, though generally not to their face. Pointing out someone’s flaws or mistakes is not a sign of a lack of affection, either.  Read some Tennessee Williams and some Pat Conroy if you have more questions.
  10. Manners. People will be painfully nice to you here, even if they hate your guts. There are ways to tell, but how you are treated in a social situation is not one of them. Which is nice, at least, in that it makes things less awkward, once you understand what is going on.
  11. DO NOT TURN DOWN FOOD. EVEN FATBACK AND COLLARDS. Food is love.
  12. Buckle your Belt. This is the Bible belt. People are going to ask you what church you attend, or if you’ve found one. You have two choices if you’re not a churchgoer. You can admit that, and realize that it might mean you have to decline invitations for witness, or that you might lose points socially. You can also be Methodist. DO NOT BE UNITARIAN. The Southern translation is New Age Hippy. There’s no point in pretending to be Unitarian. The Methodists are cool.
  13. Buy Booze on Saturday. Most jurisdictions do not allow purchase of alcohol on Sundays. Some places allow it to be served by the drink, some not at all. Watch out for your dry counties, where you can’t buy it at all, even Monday through Saturday.
  14. Casual but careful. At work, the environment will likely be more casual than formal. From the dress code to tolerance of idle chatter and tardiness. Beware- you still need to hold to the rules of professionalism, until you get a feel for the level of tolerance. If your plumber is late, though, don’t expect him to fall all over himself about it.
  15. Honking your horn is pretty much unheard of here, unless you’ve counted to ten and the car in front of you still hasn’t realized that the light is green, or you are about to die in a fiery accident. Blinkers are optional.
  16. A lot of the people living here weren’t born here. So while all of these points are valid in my experience and that of others, as with anything else, they aren’t hard and fast rules without exceptions.

There you have it, lovelies. Most of these points are the reasons I love it here. Where else can you drink sweet tea while some stranger puts your spare on for you and tells you about his drunk of a cousin who can’t hold a job to save his life? 😉

Angel

Sunday morning, a sweet little calico cat showed up in my driveway. She is thin as a rail and sweeter than syrup. I fed her (it’s what I do- feed animals), and now she’s decided to live on my porch. Adicus and Scooter have tried to run her off twice now (although I didn’t see Scooter yesterday, and it probably just means that a barn cat next door is in heat, but I’m gun-shy at this point), to no avail. She is nothing if not determined.

Yesterday I got home from work and she was sunning herself in my chair. Adicus, having figured out how to sneak out of my bedroom window (with a dresser in front of it, ya’ll!) like an oppressed teenager, came onto the porch with me. He walked up to the new cat, sniffed her as she hissed, and then licked her gently but thoroughly. She sat there, annoyed but accepting.

Damn. The dog’s on her side now.

Ivan and Lewis are still not sure they’re putting up with this coup, and she’s not set foot in the house, despite my leaving the front door open when I’m home, because one of the two of them sits sentry on the couch. What they would do if she crossed the threshold, I’m not sure, but she’s not decided to find out yet.

Where do I stand? She’s a sweet, sweet cat. No cat will ever replace Gizzy, and he and I shared a special bond that isn’t quite there with the others, as much as I love them. She has the potential for that bond, maybe.

But I’m not ready.

Sure, I like getting to know her better. Letting her sit in my lap, rubbing the back of her head. I don’t mind feeding her and letting her sleep on the porch. As far as anything else, it just seems too soon. Too easy. Like using new love to heal the wounds of lost love. I don’t trust her. I don’t trust her to stick around, not to get sick and die, not to leave me. I’m not sure it’s what’s best for the other animals, who are already dealing with a lot of confusing change and can’t drink vodka and whine to their friends about it like I can.

In the practical sense, I have a male cat that is overdue to be neutered, shots and flea medicine needed all around, and a sizeable bill for Gizzy’s hospital stay (though I will be talking to the vet this week about the shitty ROI on that one). It feels irresponsible to take on another animal when the ones I have are not being cared for to the standard I’ve set for responsible pet ownership. Also, I worry about the other cats judging me for loving another too soon, or hurting their feelings, because maybe they think they’re not enough for me. (Yes, I realize that I’ve gone off the deep end with that last one!)

How, though, do I resist fate? She came to me, she wants to be here. I like her. I could love her, if I let myself. So, last night I named her Angel and I promised her that by the time that sleeping on the porch is no longer a pleasant prospect, I would be ready to bring her in the house. Maybe by then, I’ll also be ready to bring her into my heart.

Goodbye, My Sweet Orange Boy

I picked Gizzy up from the vet on Friday. They said he was doing well, and compared to what he looked like when I took him in, he seemed much better. He was still weak, and I was told to feed him as much of whatever I could as possible.

So I got him some fresh trout, and he would eat a few pieces and lumber off under the couch for a nap. He was not the same cat- he couldn’t jump up or down, and he didn’t follow me around the house and the yard, though if it seemed I was pretty stationary, he would settle in the room I was in.

Sunday morning, he was chipper and chatty and he ate more trout at one time than I had been able to get him to eat before.

Sunday afternoon, he was so sick and weak that I knew he wouldn’t survive the trip to the vet. I sent the ex a text, and waited with Gizzy while he made the trip from his new place to live to my house. I stroked his head, buried my face in his soft fur, told him how much I loved him, what a great cat he was. I laid on the floor with him, cried and sobbed, and begged him not to leave me.

By the time the ex came in, I don’t think he even knew who we were anymore. The ex took care of everything, did the hardest thing you can do for an animal you love, and took care of me.

We buried him in an out of the way spot in the backyard, and the ex cut some of my orange sunflowers to lay on his grave.

Gizzy, my marmalade monster. I miss you so much. I remember all ten years of your lovely little life as if it were a book, or a movie. The day that you came home. When you wet the bed. The time that you thought my sister was hurting her cat, and promptly bit her. The time you got yourself into trouble climbing trees, and my sister brought you down off the limb. Watching you whip the dog into shape. Chasing you away from my chicken and fish when I cut them up on the kitchen counters.

You were always there for me. Right by my side. I’m sorry I used to get irritated with you when you would give me love bites on my calves while I was peeing. I’m sorry, too, if there was anything more I could have done for you. I don’t think that there was, but the possibility breaks my heart into even smaller pieces, if that is possible.

Scooter, Ivan, Magoo and Adicus all miss you. They looked for you last night, and when they couldn’t find you, they came and laid on the couch with me. It was wonderful, but it was so hard to know that you won’t curl up next to me on the couch and put your sweet little paw on my leg anymore.

I love you. Thank you for being such a wonder and a comfort to me. I hope that I brought you some comfort and love in that last hour. I also hope that the memory of you in your last breaths, and the ugly awful way that your life ended fades quickly, and when I close my eyes and dream at night, I see you in your glory and not as life was leaving you. Goodbye, my darling. You were the best cat friend a girl could ever want.