A Ruin

Thursday morning I wake to the sound of rain falling on the yet to bloom hydrangea bushes outside my bedroom window. Birds are singing songs I wish I knew. I lie here for a long time. Every once in a while a car swooshes down the wet street and even though I’m not looking, I can see the water spray out from turning wheels and settle back into the ruts and potholes that keep our sleepy street sleepy.

Finally, because I have been writing in my head for three days, I get up and pour a cup of the still-hot coffee my husband made early before he went to work, grab my computer off the desk in the kitchen, and return to my rumpled sheets-only bed. Two fans are churning the air–one hanging from the ceiling and one to my left so that every once in a while air catches the edge of my sheet and billows it over my legs. I set the computer in a strategic position on my lap where its open screen beckons me to write this damned blog.

I write for over two hours. I write about laziness and artistic intention and summer’s long, loose days. I write about my lack of ambition and how I don’t have a job other than being a writer and a mother and a keeper of the house we all live in. But I’m not happy with it. Maybe this is a blog post for the future when I figure out how Keats’ idea of negative capability figures into my dueling theories that work is both bedrock and overblown.

My stomach’s in knots. I have words flying through my head, skittering across the screen as I try again and again to write my way willy nilly into this blog. When I’ve written for two hours and still have nothing, it’s time to chuck it. I push the computer from my lap as if it’s a misbehaving pug and go to the kitchen to smash an avocado and spread it on some toast.


An hour later, I’m dressed and on the front porch. The rain’s gone, and the birds continue to mock me with songs I don’t know while diving down to the wet grass for worms. A few years ago, I read somewhere that worms come to the surface to avoid drowning in the drenched soil, but that isn’t the truth. Worms surface because it’s a better way to travel. When the ground is wet, they slide along its surface instead of trudging through the thick clay.

Right now I count two robins doing their strange run a few steps and stop dance and three blackbirds walking like chickens in the front yard. So far, not one has  yanked a worm from its migration. It’s a good time to get back to the blog, before one of those birds commits worm murder.

What should I write?

I go back through my blog posts, thinking I might do an update of sorts:

√ No tassel yet. I haven’t done a thorough cleaning of the room, but I still suspect that our big pug had something to do with its disappearance.  He tilts his head in that cute and quizzical pug way when I stare him down.

√ No letter of apology from the oft-quoted and brilliant Annie Dillard who doesn’t read women authors although the legendary Gay Talese did get a thumping for his public admission that he couldn’t name a single woman author who inspired him.

√ My dad saw Peanut’s new tattoo, and he grimaced a little bit and shook his head in that sad and confused way I probably do when Peanut tells me she thinks she’d like a tragus piercing–WTF is a tragus?

My new bras are working overtime in this hot sultry weather and are standing up to the increasingly difficult challenge of keeping my breasts where they belong.

√ I continue, behind closed doors, to engage in humor that might be considered offensive. Case in point. Last night, Eric and I were joking around when he reached down beside the bed, grabbed his iPad and pulled up a picture of an old-timey baseball manager whose balls were clearly defined in his khaki pants. According to Eric this is called a moose knuckle. Who knew? I was both appalled and unable to look away. We laughed so hard I couldn’t fall asleep for another hour–or maybe I was just haunted–how could pants do that?

√ I went to hear Lee Martin (who is definitely a man, darnit) read from his new book last week in Lawrenceville, IL. He killed it, and still I can’t read Late One Night until January 1 because of the damned New Year’s Resolution I am going to keep because I haven’t kept the one about copying a poem every day although I’m trying which may or may not be the truth but is more hopeful than saying the effort is kaput.

Type 1 Diabetes still sucks. Last week, I took Peanut to the doctor in St. Louis for her three-month check-up. Her last appointment, three months ago, was one of bells and whistles and lots of cheering. Her A1C (this is a number that gives us a pretty good idea of what her blood sugar has averaged the past three months) was spectacularly good. Peanut (and I) received congratulations and huge smiles from the doctor, the dietician, the nurses, and the receptionists. The whole place was balloons and smiles and stellar numbers.

In Type 1 Diabetes, the numbers tell the story of blood sugar control; however, they do not tell the story of day to day life with the perverse permutations of this ill-willed opponent.  Blood sugar is a mighty hard thing to control, especially for teenagers whose activity, sleep patterns, and eating habits fluctuate on an hourly basis. I knew this three months ago when that A1C was good, and still I felt ridiculously proud. Proud of Peanut, and damned proud of myself too. If she was doing something right, then by God, I was doing something right too.

It’s a long way down when the numbers tell the story of blood sugar run amok.

We sat in the office, and Peanut’s doctor pored over the new numbers, trying to figure out what had happened to make a 7.1 go up to an 8.6, and the blood drained from my beautiful girl’s face. She sat beside me still and pale, her hands crossed in her lap while she watched her doctor puzzle through her records.

We expected the underwhelming report, we did. In the past three months, Peanut had changed insulin therapies three times with the requisite blood sugar highs that come along with insulin adjustment. This A1C hike wasn’t a surprise, but it feels like failure to Peanut who strives for control over numbers that are elusive and plain mean. And I can’t do shit. I am both embarrassed by my own failure and aggravated by my embarrassment. It’s a disease, for God’s sake.

√ Falling, failing, falling, failing–I fall every day. The sun has taken a liking to the faint scars from my overdone facial resurfacing. I don’t mind it too much.

And then there’s this–ruined might be a pretty good place to beginfrom that very first blog post on February 4th.

Did you know that the archaic definition of “ruin” is “a falling down?”

I have been writing about “ruin” this entire time, and I didn’t even know it.


Darnit! Lee Martin Is A Man!

It’s not as if I didn’t know this.

I’ve met him several times. Lee Martin hails from a small town only 15 minutes from the small town where I live in southern Illinois. We have friends in common. I’ve heard him read several times because while he doesn’t live in this area, he comes home.

His book of essays, Such a Life, is one of my favorites.  You see, in his fiction and nonfiction, Lee Martin writes about folks who live in small towns in rural areas where the landscape is field–yes, field is a landscape type. He often writes about events (many tragic) that happened in neighboring villages.

The true story Martin’s The Bright Forever, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, was based on unfurled just a county over. I didn’t live here then, but my husband did. He was a teenager and remembers how when the young girl went missing people from all over went searching. I don’t know Lee Martin well, but from what I can tell, he is generous, kind, and male.

The male part poses a problem for me.

Yesterday afternoon, when UPS showed up and I unwrapped the heavier than I expected package–heavier than I expected because I thought it contained an elasticized belt for carrying phones or insulin pumps during exercise–and found the belt, yes, but also Lee Martin’s new book, Late One Night, I was both surprised and delighted. Who doesn’t like receiving a new book, especially one by a great writer/human being? (I know, I know–there are those who say the great human being part doesn’t matter, that the words on the pages between the covers should stand on their own, but they don’t, at least not for me.)

Now it’s not that books don’t regularly show up on my doorstep, dropped off by Gary of the big brown box truck, because they do. I have a book ordering problem, and one-click ordering doesn’t help. I’m a book hoarder. It is not a surprise when a book (or seven) in a box shows up on my front porch although I try to act surprised if Eric’s home. I might say, “Wow, one of my delightful and literary friends has sent me a box of new books. I’m so lucky.” Eric just rolls his eyes; he is not often fooled by such a ruse.

I knew that Lee Martin’s new book was out or was soon to be out, and I knew I would read it, but I wasn’t expecting it, and because I wasn’t expecting it, I lost my head. I turned the book in my greedy little hands, admired the dark cover and the compact heft of it. Without thinking, I carried my new treasure out the back door into the bright spring sun, and I went straight for my chair.

I blasted through the first three chapters. I love Lee Martin’s books because I know the people in them. They live down the road or around the corner. I see them in the grocery store and when I go for dog food at Rural King. I dive in and find myself strangely at home. And even though his books are often dark, plumbing the depths of evil, hope, and human resilience, there is what Richard Rohr might call a “bright sadness” to Martin’s characters.

I closed the book after the third chapter and sat with my eyes shut against the afternoon shine for a moment, and then it occurred to me–“Shit! Lee Martin’s a man!”  I promised myself that I would read books by women–only women–this year. I can’t read this book today or tomorrow or even next week or next month.

I can’t read this book until January 1st.

I’ll be honest. I’ve been reading mostly women writers for a long time, so when I made the women writers vow, I didn’t expect to rue the decision even once. Expectations are a bitch, though, and now I’m pissed. I started Late One Night, and I want to finish it. I could cheat, and I consider it. But in the end, I know I won’t.

So here’s the deal. Yes, there’s a deal.  Since I can’t read this lovely book yet, one of you can.  No, you can’t have my book. I am hanging onto it. I’m a book hoarder, after all. This one is on my night stand where it will remain unopened until January 1. But if you comment below, I will put your name in a hat or a cup or a small box or probably a little basket. On Monday, I will draw a name, and to that lucky winner, I will send a copy of Late One Night.

If you are the winner, the only thing I ask you to do is share the book with your friends, and you will want to. I know it’s a good one!