Wherein the Suburbohemian Finally Sees the Light and It is Not Coming from a Twitching Neon Sign in a Bar Named “The Crawl Inn and Die”

photo by Ross Mackey

photo by Ross Mackey

And thanks everyone who said “I told you so.”

My epiphany was announced by the kindly voices in my head put there by equally kind friends. They’d been gently admonishing me to not treat myself like cat vomit on the Persian rug of life (as they did not put it) but more like how I would treat others who’ve rocked along in a similar boat and found themselves becalmed in dank waters that were the opposite of where they intended to row.

I unexpectedly heard their voices as one would hear sweet, tinkly fairy bells when I sat with a close friend, who, like me, was coming out of a few years of uninterrupted disaster.  We were quietly celebrating our ongoing emergence from life on Planet Doom by having lunch in a neighborhood place where the neighbors tend to have truly entertaining levels of income.  We lolled among the swells and made plans to start taking care of ourselves and accomplish projects that had been delayed while we slayed other monsters and just tried to stay on the right side of the dirt.  Then I heard my friend bemoan how little she’d accomplished over the last two years and that’s when I snapped.

“She sounds like you” the kindly voices chimed. “This is the same mistake you make!”

  And Dear Reader, I told her so. I listed all she had done that was pretty damn amazing during times when she could have chosen to disappear into a haze of wine, denial or corrective shopping while her world burned to the ground. I told her that neither one of us gives ourselves enough credit for our accomplishments and  I had that on good authority from people who’d heard me undervalue my own work just because it took place in tough spots that had not led to where I had originally planned to ever go.

  Suddenly there was clarity peeking through shitty little clouds of distortion.

 I scurried home to a neighborhood where the neighbors are not entertained by their level of income and before I could slip back into the habit of the personal short sell, I decided to look for evidence of my own accomplishments. During my Time of Great Despair, I‘d kept track of an assortment of domestic projects that ranged from grindingly tedious to overwhelmingly icky and staggeringly dreadful.  I had come to think of these records and notes as place where good intentions had gone to die, but another look told me I’d done more than make a list and wander off in a despondent vapor.  They were more like mini- monuments to an effort made to move forward and not just give up the ghost. Some were set aside because they weren’t that huge a priority or were so boring as to make anyone with an ounce of imagination and even less energy weep bitter tears of defeat. But a lot of the things that had been left undone had required vastly more concentration, creativity and sense of possibility than I could scrounge at the moment. The accomplished tasks ranged from not too shabby to wow, I really did all that.

The lists weren’t perfectly complete, but they were completely acceptable efforts to get a lot of stuff done, usually under siege conditions with guaranteed interruptions.  Seeing them in print was validation for work that was mostly unpaid, totally essential and pretty much without value in the business world because it was done for family, for sick people—usually in circumstances and systems that weren’t user friendly.

Herein lies one of my challenges: taking this collection of efforts made, things learned and tasks beaten into submission to create part of a meaningful way to sell myself for a job that I might really want to do. That’s always been the goal.  Seeing before me the evidence of all I’ve done over the last few years for family has told me that I still have strengths and experience to offer. What was left undone now makes sense. Friends and associates saw that first and kept pointing it out until I finally saw some of it myself. Now that I can actually start to believe it a bit, I can scrape off some of the weird and get more help configuring this message to take on the road.

 

Collaborators are standing by.

 

Preparing for the End Times with Hot, Cheesy Mayan Maize Soup

No Camouflage Required

 The much ballyhooed end of civilization as supposedly predicted by the Mayan calendar has caused the preppers to gnash their remaining teeth and stockpile ammo, bottled water and probably porn. If that’s how you honor the end of civilization, you weren’t very civilized to begin with.  We are taking a different tack at our house because we are civilized Southerners who have more than a dash of gallows humor to go with our flair for living.   We have adorned our backyard with enough Christmas lights to be seen from space.  The idea is that it might prove a welcoming sight for whatever (alien?) forces are hell bent on destroying us or just make us a good target so that we are incinerated in the first wave and don’t have to bother with a zombie apocalypse or running out of toiletries. I, for one, don’t want to wait around while someone re-invents bathroom tissue and L’Occitane body wash.

To that effect I have “stockpiled” a bottle of champagne, a delicious ciabatta loaf and will prepare Mayan Maize Soup to await our fate.  My mother used to make this and it is shamelessly delish. You know it’s authentic because it calls for Velveeta Cheese just like the Mayans used to use.  The Mayans learned about Velveeta from the celestial visitors who helped them with their calendar. These visitors traveled with this cheese product because it did not need refrigeration and had a half life that could be measured in light years.  The recipe is attributed the David Wade, a suave, knowledgeable gent who  had his own cooking show in the Dallas area in the late 50’s through the late 60’s or early 70’s.  The “Dining with David Wade Show” featured “the Rembrandt of the kitchen” sporting an ascot and crested blazer while he enlightened his viewers on the subject of home cooked cuisine.  I can’t verify this specific Mayan Maize Soup recipe attributed to Mr. Wade by anything I can find online, but that’s what my mother wrote on her recipe index card that is now in my possession. And I think that’s good enough.

The recipe also called for cream cheese because the Mayans knew that one cannot have too many processed cheeses in one recipe. I don’t know which kind they preferred, but my mother used Philadelphia brand and one can certainly make do with that.  The only change I’ve made is sautéing the onions in butter or olive oil instead of “oleo” (margarine). Advanced civilizations have marched on from that option. The recipe ensues for your dining pleasure. Ascot optional, but cloth napkins preferred.

David Wade’s Mayan Maize Soup from the recipe collection of Millie Hudson

Sauté in TBS of butter or olive oil, one finely diced onion

Add ½ cup of milk

Add 1 can of cream style corn

Soften ½ lb. of Mexican style Velveeta cheese and one 8 oz package

of Philadelphia brand cream cheese.

Cook together slowly melting the cheeses until all is mixed. Serve with an adult beverage and light-hearted fatalism.

photo courtesy of www.thetruthseeker.co.uk

Prayer for the Dyscalculic

Part  1 of family bookkeeping and tax preparation for 2010 returns.

The Suburbohemian has never claimed to be a financial mastermind, but back in the day, I paid bills on time and did enough cipherin’ to balance my antique check book. I even had regular paycheck deductions for savings (I know!) with money left over for new shoes and dinners out.  But those days, along with an easily maintained waistline and hope for the future, are gone forever.

My loving spouse took over the reins of money management when we married and all was well for many years until it became apparent that 1) he was too busy to keep up the work in a timely fashion and 2) he had complicated it past the point of no return, aided and abetted by the modern joy of online banking and e-bills and 3) if he stroked out at his desk from too many all night web design parties, I would be completely fucked.

Wresting this task from him was about as easy as shaving a ferret.  God forbid that there was one place that contained account passwords for all financial institutions and vendors or the methodologies of how they were paid. (Online banking and through which account?  Vendor website? Automatic draft?  With a check and a stamp? Trade beads? Taking in laundry?)And all e-bills were sent only to him. It took 3 months of strategic badgering to compile the above info in useable format and another 3 months before the procedure revealed its quirky rhythms as opposed to appearing like random acts of fiduciary terror wreaked by a sadistic squad of business accounting majors.

Even then, there were struggles. Methadone aficionados don’t sweat and shake as much as I did while transposing numbers onto rolling spreadsheets that undulated before my eyes like Timothy Leary’s living room walls on any given evening during the 60’s.

Dyscalculia

This natural dread of numbers was enhanced by our paper filing system, whose logic was as intuitive as MS-DOS.  I would rather sit through the Sound of Music than file paper even when I know where it goes.  I redid the filing system to reflect, ummm….something meaningful.  The anal retentive Hubster was affronted by this foray into his territory.  Feathers were ruffled and breaches of diplomacy quickly flared to threats of armed conflict and unilateral disgust.

The real test would come when it was time to prepare the stack of paper documents for our CPA.  It would once again require asking for help and cooperation from someone who was 1) too busy 2) too stressed and 3) too much of a perfectionist introvert to share even if he weren’t busy and stressed.  I comforted myself with the notion that all my previous efforts would be understood and appreciated and he would be so relieved that this cup was taken from him that he would answer willingly and helpfully instead of whine-ily and pout-ily. I mean for shit’s sake, I’d been filing, organizing AND meditating for a better life outlook, so he could bloody well grace me with bits of wisdom and thoughtful observation warmed by our shared dislike of these odious labors.  The beast was almost wrestled to the ground.  I was envisioning a sort of bracing display of “Well done, then!” and the promise of good gin for my troubles.

Dear Reader, I was living in a fool’s paradise. To be continued…

T-shirt is available from Math T-Shirts.

tran-scen-dent:

 extending or lying beyond the limits of ordinary experience

We knew there was fun to be had. After all, the bride had been thrown a lingerie shower with an Elvis impersonator and had a bachelorette party at a drag club.  We had braced ourselves for bittersweet as well, because her mother, who was supposed to escort her down the aisle, had died this past spring.  She had been a friend to almost everyone there and so we expected tears, our own as well as the bride’s.

What we did not expect was how all the words about love would ring with such authenticity as if hearing them in new way.  Oh, sure there were bushels of romantic love. Romance was a given.  After all, the bride’s mother had engineered the match by asking her co-worker (and potential son-in-law) over to help move a heavy birdbath and, by chance, meet her lovely daughter. Kismet was alive and well in South Austin that day and the rest is history.

The wedding couple was so glow-y, they could have been used as an energy source. The young couple’s young friends glowed because they were happy, too and well, so young.  But even the aging boomers had a beneficent glow about us and it had started before the bar was even open.

That other Love; the kind that encompasses friend and foe alike and goes on forever and connects us all was in play.  We were in it up to our armpits and had no control over its presence or affect on us.   It was just there.  And we knew it because we kinda talked about it in roundabout ways at first and then a bit more directly.  Like people who’ve just seen something rare and don’t want to frighten it away or who don’t want to be mistaken for being mushy old coots.

It occurred to us that we were gathered here because of the love of one person for her daughter and for us; her motley collection of friends, co-workers and family.   She had cherished her child and her friendships and made life rather lovely for all of us.  She did this without a lot of time, very much money or particularly good health.  She did it because she wanted to and because it was, well, fun.   Even those among us who do not reach out much to others were encompassed for decades in a social network that rocked, rolled and toddled merrily along.   Beyond the accident of birth, she created a family of friends who sustained her and who felt special just because we knew her.

Many in the wedding party had gathered 8 months before in a favorite Tex-Mex restaurant to remember her and comfort each other with laughter and good food.   There, some of us met others for the first time after hearing the others’ names for years.   Reconvening at the wedding reminded us that this kind of love not only goes on, but may pop out yet again at the best possible moments.

As the evening progressed, the emotionally constrained among us finally looked each other in the eye (after a beverage or two) and said “transcendent” without irony or pretense or embarrassment, which is a pretty big deal.  We said it to each other the next day, too.

The spell still held.

Reset (to Space)

The clocks have been changed over but my body has yet to follow.  I have lists and goals and timelines but my mind hasn’t made the switch.   There are problems to be solved, issues to be sorted and a life to be recreated.  Seeking answers from the dream state has proven fruitless but only the bed has magnetic pull.  In seeking to be drawn through life rather than pushed, long meetings with agenda-less high-thread count sheets are the only thing that have appeal.

Creating a new schedule for building a new personal universe requires communing with those who have gone on the mission where no pedestrian mind has gone before. It requires inspiration beyond the tedium of duty and necessity. It needs robes of scarlet and gold. It has a language that befuddles search engines and televangelists alike. It sounds like be-bop raining down from the stars and up from the drainpipes. It needs reward of action NOW, before the checklist is completed. It requires the coaching of another traveler who didn’t differentiate, he created and he went. This coffee cup is my ticket to split. My ear will be my ride. I don’t need a passport.  Put your foot on the platform and unfasten that safety belt.