Open Book Test: May (18 years ago), 1997

When: May (18 years ago), 1997
Where: Santa Cruz, Guanacaste, Costa Rica
What: I’ve been married to my first husband for 5 months.  Every day I go to work in Tamarindo where I oversee a little tourist information center.
Age: 26

Hey! It’s Friday and me and G haven’t had one argument all week! That’s marvelous. Peace on earth.

This is one big old Indian Summer. It’s hot and dry and windy again. Hello. Well, I imagine that when the rainy season comes de verdad, it will come with a huge dumping aguacero. Hope this holds up at least long enough to wash out clothes one more time!

I crack myself up. I I’m going to give my friend Candy some clothes tomorrow and I am so excited, I can hardly wait. You’d think someone was giving them to me. I keep wanting to tell her, but I’d better not. Then she might get excited and have to be disappointed when she sees them. Plus there’s nothing like a happy surprise. It’s so nice to have a nice friend. Candy talks a lot and doesn’t ask much, but I like her. I’m a little cautious about deciding I love people I’ve just met, but she’s growing on me.

There is something in me that cannot or will not believe that G is mine. I wake in the night, I go to the bathroom and come back to the bed and there he is: sprawled in the gale of the fan with the sheet tangled around him. Something somewhere in me cannot or will not believe that he is really mine, that no one will take him from me, that he himself will not leave.

Sometimes I feel really furious about something. I feel really furious with my parents for being the good upright Christian people that they are. It screws up my whole life. How am I ever going to write anything publishable? I guess being married helps a little, but sometimes I think what a great book sections of my diary would make and I’ll never do it because I write about love and sex and true guttural things and I swear and marry a man with children. How can this be? I hate it. Why can’t I be a rebel? Why do I not have it in me? Why am I so nice? It depresses me because I love my parents and I want them to live long lives but I can’t write a thing until they and their siblings are dead. Oh, pain. It makes me feel like giving up. I mean, I guess I can still write it, but all it does is lie around in fat notebooks. How annoying. If you’re making up tales that’s one thing, but if you’re writing about your life, that’s something else.

The Social Worker In The Blue Dress

(A flash of short fact/fiction)

The social worker in the blue dress is not about to be bitten by small dogs today. She came to see you because her boss asked her to, to make sure that you haven’t killed yourself yet, that your baby is getting fat, and that your two-year-old is wearing clothes.

The social worker in the blue dress thinks the evil-spirited pack of chihuahuas is yours. She thinks you have done a particularly terrible job of training them but she doesn’t blame you, having two babies to take care of and a complicated husband. She scurries from the gate into your one-room apartment behind the main house, receiving only one slight sharp-toothed nip to the heel.

You convince her that you’re doing alright. You apologize for the mess in the kitchen. She didn’t exactly call to tell you she was coming, or ask if it was a good time. It’s not a good time. But you don’t exactly have a phone, because your husband takes it to work with him. She’s nice enough and she ignores the mess, points out to you that your baby is really good at following things with his eyes.

As she’s leaving, she asks you to call off the dogs and you tell her that they aren’t your dogs. They are the landlady’s dogs. And the landlady isn’t home.

The social worker in the blue dress walks to the door and the menacing pack of furious chihuahuas is nowhere to be seen, so she steps out into the sunshine of the yard. She is halfway to the gate when they see the intruder, and come snarling at her, needle teeth bared. They take turns lunging at her while she shouts and tries to frighten them.

They aren’t frightened. Each lunge comes closer to her ankles and their camaraderie emboldens them. You scream at them uselessly from the safety of your doorway.

The social worker in the blue dress doesn’t have much time to think, but there is one thing that she is sure of–that she is not about to be bitten by small dogs today. With complete disregard for her dignity, she breaks into a dead run, headed toward the rickrty wooden fence. She won’t have time for the gate. She isn’t even running toward the gate. She hits the top of the wooden fence with both hands and vaults. There is the flash of pink polka dotted panties in the sun.

You stare at the social worker in the blue dress who is suddenly standing on the other side of the fence, panting, safe, looking surprised and a little sheepish. The stunned chihuahuas fall silent for a moment.

“Alright,” she says breathlessly, patting her hair and straightening her blue dress.

The chihuahuas find their voices and leap at the fence.

You don’t quite know what to say to the social worker in the blue dress who just jumped over your fence. She doesn’t seem to know quite what to say to you.

“Sorry about the dogs,” you offer.

“No problem,” she answers, and then giggles a little, accidentally. “Sorry to run away.”

“Oh,” you say, because you can’t think of anything.

“I didn’t want to get bitten,” she says.

“Yeah,” you reply.

She gets into her car and drives away. The dogs look at you disappointedly and begin sniffing her footprints in the yard.

You turn around and go back into the dark, dirty apartment where your two year old is pouring milk on the floor beside a cup. But instead of yelling at her, you sit down on a chair and laugh for the first time since you can remember.

The Open Book Test: May (4 years ago), 2011

When: May (4 years ago), 2011
Where: Manheim, Pennsylvania
What: My husband and I embarked on a cross-country road trip, six months after coming to the USA from Costa Rica.  We left my parents’ home in Pennsylvania and aimed the car toward my sister’s home in Washington State. First stop:  other sister in Ohio.
Age:  40

Yesterday we stuffed everything possible into Claudia the Car and drove away. We were so happy, actually. It was a pretty day, Camomilo and Victor (the cats we brought from Costa Rica but gave up for adoption) aren’t lonely, and mom and dad seemed happy for us.

Now I’m sitting in Y’s chilly back yard and P is sleeping in her chilly house. It’s just as cold inside as it is outside.  Y took us to dinner last night. Today she is running a 13 mile race and then in the afternoon she has to leave for Denver. We had to take Luis the cat to the vet this morning because his eye is infected.

P drove all the way here yesterday. I took pictures, looked at license plates, looked at the map, made notes and neither of us were one bit sleepy. I was thinking about how “the road trip” is something that most all Americans do at some point in their lives. But ours is different from the average “road trip” because we’re also on a quest. We’re looking for a home; we don’t have one to go back to. The six months in PA were good for many things, one of which is that P now also totally gets where I come from—loves it dearly and is driven to desperation by it, just like me. One more thing we’re on the same page about. I’ve lived with his kids, he’s lived with my parents. Ha ha.

I think today is going to be cold and gray and then tomorrow we’ll go to Goshen. I’m having so much fun. I love journeys.

Where I come from, this is what the gateway to the rest of the world looks like.

Where I come from, this is what the gateway to the rest of the world looks like.

The Open Book Test: April (20 years ago), 1995

 

When:  April (20 years ago), 1995
Where:  Manheim, PA
What:  On the day of the Oklahoma City bombing.  In a few days I will leave for Costa Rica where I will find my life.  But I don’t know this.  I only know it’s too late to turn back.
Age:  24

I so desperately want to be old. Not now, but someday. I want to live to be old and gnarled, nearsighted and wrinkled as a sycamore. I hope that if I am fortunate enough to watch my hair turn gray, I remember this day. Today someone bombed a government building in Oklahoma City and countless people were killed. At 9 AM. I am so fearful of disease and disaster. I feel like each year I survive, I should be decorated with a medal for survival. Even though I am happy and hopeful, I am full of fear of death. I guess it is mostly my drive to live – the flip side of which is an anger at death. My most present terror is of a plane crash. Sometimes I wish I did suffer from the delusion that nothing terrible can happen to me. I am so frightened. Mostly, I am sickened. It makes me very suspicious of God. Either God is not omnipotent, or is not omniscient, or is not. It makes me suspect that there is a Satan.

In Lancaster, however, it was in the 80’s and gorgeous It was a perfect, beautiful day. It feels so strange to be eyeball to eyeball with the Great Unknown. Maybe this is something like dying.  Time is flying, now, unlike 6 or 8 months ago.

I wonder so much what it will be like and what will become of me. I plan to try life in Guaitil and if it flops, go to San Jose. It will probably be even harder in San Jose. I keep asking myself, what’s the default plan? If all else fails, what? I could go to Texas with Mark and Erika. There’s Madison. I would get over D. There’s New Mexico with Marvin and Lisa. Lancaster again is basically not an option for the immediate future.  The main thing is that if/when I come back, I will be flat broke. No money for a down payment. Probably no bus money. So I’ll have to fly into whatever city I want to live in. And mooch and borrow for a little while.

Ultimate best-case scenario: after I am through in Costa Rica, I fly back into Santa Fe, New Mexico and bum off of D for a while–who has moved there in the mean time. He falls desperately in love with me, I make some money, I go to grad school, we get married, I have a daughter just before I’m too old, and we live happily ever after. Or something like that. I know I’m a dreamer and a story-teller so I try not to take even my most serious ideas too seriously. Luckily I am usually happy, and love most things.

What To Drink With a Pyonder

Ever hear of The Drunken Menno Blog? Don’t miss it! It’s smart. It’s hilarious. It’s sometimes pissy and sometimes sweet, undeniably true and always historically correct. With an original Mennonite cocktail recipe to follow each post. Yes! Where has this kindred spirit been all my life? Um, somewhere in Canada.

I sent the author a copy of “When the Roll Is Called a Pyonder,” she read it and has come up with the perfect drink.  It’s called The “Green Stick.”  If the ironies are too much for you, my apologies. But you are over 21, aren’t you? Then you’re old enough to work it out.

http://imaginarynovelist.weebly.com/drunken-menno-blog/what-to-drink-with-a-pyonder

My favorite part is this:
“No one ever really thought about applying our public pacifism to the private realm until the middle of the twentieth century and even then it hasn’t been done consistently. Children posed something of a problem to early Anabaptists…”

I would not have referred to my childhood spankings as “beatings,” although The Drunken Menno does. And I guess if you’re getting smacked with a stick for the purpose of making you cry over something naughty you have done, what you call it is a matter of semantics.

Have a read.  Have a snicker.  Scratch your head…  Cheers!

The Green Stick, original Mennonite cocktail designed for you and me by The Drunken Menno.  Click the link for the recipe.

The Green Stick, original Mennonite cocktail designed for you and me by The Drunken Menno. Click the link for the recipe.

Pie (a poem for Uncle Roy)

Uncle Roy is the uncle
I don’t remember,
the one who called grandma
on the phone
after Christmas dinner
to say hello.
He was the exotic uncle,
the special one, the uncle
who went all the way west
to Oregon
and stayed.

I know about being the oldest,
about being restless and
how you can love your home
and still not be able
to stay there.

Uncle Roy was the unorthodox uncle
who did what he wanted,
not what he was told.
His mysterious sickness
confounded the doctors and the
analysts who shook their
heads at him as he
walked away.

On his deathbed he
willed us all to eat pie
in his honor—sugar,
in our family, being
the universal language of love.
Now he’s gone again—
off to somewhere we’ve all
heard of, but
none of us have been.

The Open Book Test: April (6 years ago), 2009

When: April (6 years ago), 2009
Where: Tamarindo, Costa Rica
What: A terrible month in a terrible year.   In three months, we will make the sad decision to leave Costa Rica and move to the States.  This is the only thing I can find that is fit to share.
Age:  38

I went looking for waves today and all I found was water. So I came home. Anticlimactic, yes, but I have a wine headache and I couldn’t think of anything better to do. P took me out for sushi last night. We had a wonderful time spending money we don’t have and drinking too much wine. We even went to Mike and Wendy’s bar which is how I got too much wine. Bleagh.

I am going to have one very busy weekend. I also think that if I do not soon paint this kitchen, I am going to go entirely insane. I cannot take it ANY MORE.

I invented a way to make a shirt out of a pillow case and it is so cute! Now I need Ruthann’s sewing machine.

What a horrid headache I have.