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Random Quarter

March 28, 2020

One. Gumbo or bisque? Bisque. Because lobster and butternut squash.

Two. Hallmark or American Greetings? Hallmark. Because I care enough to send the very best.

Three. Photoshop: Yes or no? No. Because it's not easy.

Four. Boutique or resale shops? Boutique. Because I prefer new clothes to hand-me-downs.

Five. Infinity or olympic swimming pool? Olympic. Because I'd want to get a good workout rather than a soak.

Six. Polish or Italian sausage? Italian. Because it sounds better.

Seven. Five minute writing prompt: Foil. So in the past couple of weeks, my father has been diagnosed with heart and kidney failure and cannot get the proper care he needs to prolong his life because of COVID-19 and the measures hospitals have taken to protect their current patients and staff. I have whittled my expenses to half of what they once were. I have spent the majority of the past week at the store room, whittling my belongings and relocating them from a ten by fifteen unit to a ten by ten because it costs half the price to have a room two-thirds the size, and I knew I was wasting money on the larger unit, but I hadn't wanted to jack with moving the crap because I knew it would suck, and it did, especially because the county in which I reside is now on lockdown because of the virus... I'd thought I'd have until the thirty-first, but no... It had to be finished yesterday, and I miraculously managed to find a few souls who were strong and courageous enough to help me. And then on the way home I got a flat tire. This month has SUCKED. Foiled again.

Eight. After work, a woman boards the train she usually takes home. Her car is almost empty, which strikes her as a bit strange -- it is six o'clock in the afternoon, well into rush hour. She shrugs it off to luck and and sets to reading her book.

When the train makes its first stop, however, the woman realizes something is wrong. The stop is not one with which she is familiar -- or indeed that should exist in reality at all.

Because the first stop is the actually the only stop -- the banks of the River Styx, and Charon awaits  in his canoe with an outstretched hand for the quarters needed to pass into hell. She has none. But she cannot stay on the train. The conductor drags her from her seat and boots her onto the ground -- her book and bag fly after her, then vanish. She is the last to leave. The train vanishes. She watches as the others board the ferry, and then they, too, vanish. The world is gray and bleak, and she sees nothing.

Nine. A visiting opera gains fame when one of its actors dies on stage, during a live performance. What is more, the cause of death is by no means natural. 

The man died because the owner of the theater where the opera was being performed has been struggling to make ends meet and needed a draw. When the owner learned the lead was deathly allergic to peanuts, he bought a giant bag, crushed them up and hid them strategically in the costumes and props.

Ten. If you had to make a pros and cons list about yourself, what would the top three be in each category? Pros: Resilience, tenacity, and generosity. Cons: Temper, paranoia, fearfulness.

Eleven. What do you think is the most important thing to save money for? Rainy days... like the ones we're experiencing now.

Twelve. Do you think peace is an illusion? No.

Thirteen. What makes you a good friend? Empathy.

Fourteen. What is your most expressive characteristic, and in what waits do you express it?  Crassness, often in the words I choose and the tone of voice I use.

Fifteen. What makes you sentimental? Love.

Sixteen. Dancing or singing? Singing. Because I'm better at it, and it brings me comfort.

Seventeen. Vintage or modern? Vintage in style, but new. Because modern decor seems cold to me, but I don't like hand-me-downs.

Eighteen. Video games or board games? Board games because they're always changing and allow for good competition with others.

Nineteen. Private jet or yacht? I would rather not have either, but if I was forced to choose, the jet because it gets there faster and allows for more convenient travel.

Twenty. Are you a planner or spontaneous? Spontaneous, because plans invite disappointment.

Twenty-one. What is the first thing you notice about other people? Pallor and stature.

Twenty-two. What is the rudest thing a person can do to another? Ignore someone. Fail to acknowledge.

Twenty-three. What's the most valuable thing you own? It's an exception, and that's one of the reasons it's so valuable to me: the antique icebox my great-uncle restored and great-aunt painted.

Twenty-four. Whom do you think is the best Olympian ever? Michael Phelps.

Twenty-five. Do you think artists should censor their work so they don't offend anyone? Hell no.

Silver Linings

March 23, 2020


Funny how catastrophes can illuminate the past to make it seem glorious. How they can demand action. I was bitching a while back about how life is my problem, how I struggle with loving it and wanting it.

And then some folks in China decide to eat exotic meat that carries a deadly virus, their government covers it up for weeks if not months, and now here we are... the wheels of the world are slowly grinding to a halt. I wasn't worried about this. I had more pressing matters with which to concern myself.

And then, today, I learned that after this week, I will not be working for a while. I'm not being laid off or let go... we're just not going to be conducting business for a time.

So I've spent my afternoon canceling services I've not used in sometime that I've been meaning to cancel, but their monthly charges were so slight I've not bothered with it. Shaving my vehicular insurance's policy and my cellular plan to the bones. Registering for a smaller storage unit--one that's two-thirds the size of that I currently use and costs half as much. Requesting a forbearance for my student loans. Acquiring less expensive health insurance.

I spent most of my afternoon going through the boxes that have, for the most part, been untouched for fifteen years. I purged, and will continue to do so over the course of the next week.

It's like God's forcing my hand. Like He's reminding me that my life wasn't as shitty as I thought.

I keep thinking I've found the bottom, and then CHAOS erupts, and I learn a new kind of misery.

So... hours at the store room today. I pitched four or five garbage bags filled with crap I'd once thought I should keep... or that I'd get around to pitching eventually... some other day.

CRAP, yall. Like cheap promotional materials--pens, magnets, KOOZIES. I don't freaking USE koozies, but for some reason, I'd saved them.

But I got to look at things I've loved, too. Like Pottery Barn's Moss Green Sausalito stoneware. That green! SO vibrant and, simultaneously, soothing.

After those hours... I had a meltdown in the parking lot because I couldn't put the trash in the dumpster on the premises because it's reserved for management. One more inconvenience. One more pain in my ass. I loaded my two-door coupe with four yard bags and four boxes filled with trash and lugged it across town to dump in the bin belonging to the company where I work. My father, my finances, my so-called friends... my faith. All these things are crippling me.

I will be better for all this in the long run. I know it. Oh, but I don't feel like running right now.

Still... the vision of a tidier life does please me.

I've Lost the Light... I Don't Know Where

March 18, 2020

Some dude on Bumble (because I am that idiotic hopeless romantic and can't hold onto my resolve any better than I can hold onto a dollar bill): Your blog made me laugh. Kind of wondering what I have to do to be a subject.

Me: My blog made you laugh? That's good because I've been feeling like it's been dark lately. To be a subject? Surprise me.

So apparently, all he needed to do was say Picky made him laugh. Except he's not really the subject here, though it did surprise me that I'd made him laugh. I reread the most recent posts the other day and couldn't find much of it amusing.

There is such darkness in my world, and it's gotten darker still.

My father's in the hospital. He didn't want to go. He's not in favor of extreme measures and has the paperwork to prove it. He went to a cardiologist a week ago yesterday, who ordered blood work to be done that Friday. Cardiologist had forgotten something in his office and went back up on Saturday to find my father's lab results on the top of his desk and was alarmed to see how low my father's hemoglobin was. He called to ask my father to come to the emergency room to have the test redone because he thought perhaps there was an error in its execution.

My father didn't want to go. But I wanted him to do so. My mother did. The cardiologist did. I thought it would be in and out fairly quickly. A retake.

It wasn't.

He's been on high blood pressure medicine for quite some time, has been routinely checking it, as well as his blood sugar because his father was diabetic. He's been coughing, badly, for about two years now. Probably more than that. As though his allergies are heinous and he can't quite get the mucus out of his chest.

Because it was fluid, not mucus. He's got aortic stenosis, which means the aortic valve is flapping in on itself or something like that. His heart's overtaxed because he's losing blood because there's something wrong with his digestive system... probably his kidneys. His sodium levels are insanely low, which you would think wouldn't be the case because he guzzles carbonated beverages like they're water. So he's bleeding somewhere... most likely has been for quite some time.

And maybe all of this could be fixed, but hospitals aren't performing surgeries unless they're caused by life-threatening conditions. And hospitals closed to visitors yesterday, so this seventy-eight-year-old man who'd rather be here with us, sitting in his chair watching Fox News and eating my mother's cooking and bitching that he can't hear the television because my mother and I keep talking over the commentators...

Yall, he could barely walk, could barely move, could barely speak. He is positive he's dying.

We made him go. And I'm beginning to think my father's going to die alone in that hospital, and I won't get to say goodbye to him. And all I want to do is curl up in his lap like I did when I was a toddler. I can't because we made him go.

And I keep thinking of when my brother died. Of how he died alone in the dark. How I didn't get to say goodbye. How I had no one upon whom to lean to grieve.

I don't want to do this again. I don't want to have to suck up my sadness so I don't burden my mother and my brother and God knows who else...

I want my father home.

I want someone to make these shadows go away.

* * *

This morning Mom told me his kidneys were failing. I was more concerned that he would die. I texted him and asked him again if he wanted me to bail him out. He didn't respond right away, but hours later, I got a text from him saying not yet. I called my brother on the way to work to ask about his opinion of the situation. Both Mom and he were on the side of hospitalization. I went to work. 

I called my father on the way home and asked again if he wanted me to come get him. He said no.

When I got home, I watered his rather impressive cactus garden. 

Not long after finishing that, Mom came home to announce that he was coming home. Still very sick. Still lots of doctors' care required, but they could do it from our home. He'll be here this afternoon. I am somewhat relieved.

A Girl Gives Her Testimony to a Group of Much Better Women than She and It Is Well-Received

March 3, 2020

I presented my story at one of those Bible studies in which I participate. I worried over what to write for two weeks. I was asked last night if I could go today instead of next week. I said, "Sure." I hadn't figured out what I was going to say, didn't have any props (because people like to look at things)... I knew it would come to me, but... yall... it came to me at eight-thirty a.m. this morning... sixty minutes before I was to speak. Once a procrastinator, always a procrastinator. I thought I'd share what I'd said--most of you who've followed Picky for some time know the spiel, but for the newcomer:

I don't look good on paper. Three years shy of fifty, unmarried, childless, physically and mentally disabled, financially and emotionally insecure, underemployed with no prospects or drive for better opportunities, living with my parents, driving a twelve-year-old vehicle with nearly two hundred thousand miles on it. The longest romantic relationship I've had lasted four months... four months longer than it should have because I had no interest in him. The one that mattered most lasted six weeks... if that... because I had too much interest in him. The worst one lasted three months and ended with him verbally, emotionally and mentally abusing me. If I could manage to find and keep a good man, I've doubted whether I could give him children anyway because I have cerebral palsy: my hips were dislocated at birth; my bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles are poorly-constructed things; and my brain suffers chemical imbalances that cause severe depression and rage... even if I'd been physically capable of carrying a child and having a healthy pregnancy, I questioned whether I would've been sound enough to be a nurturing mother. I've not kept any job for longer than five years, and none of them have paid well; the majority of them have been in retail.

I don't look good in person. My face feels like a Picasso painting: scraps jumbled together and colored red for the rage, yellow for the jaundiced skin, blue for the sadness and the tempest, and black for the fear and the despair. I've had six surgeries, three of which were on my eyes. I bear some thirty scars from those surgeries, and ten of them are above my chin. I've been told of how ugly I am more times than I could possibly begin to fathom. I've been told I should kill myself because I'm taking up valuable air and space and there are more important people who need it. That no one would ever want to marry me because I was too ugly and no one wants to wake up next to something--not someone--that ugly every morning. I had a teacher put my desk in an appliance box because she couldn't stand having me in her classroom, couldn't bear the sight of me, but couldn't put me in another one because I was too smart to be in special education. The world is flat to me--I have no depth perception. I see things like you would see them on a television or theater screen or in a magazine or photograph. I constantly have to guess where things are, and my hands often reach for things to help secure my place--walking in a crowded mall or grocery store is more terrifying to me than driving on an interstate. People move around like gaseous molecules with no regard for others. And when I stop to wait for people to go by or I press myself against the shelves in a store until they have passed, people stare at me and ask, "What the hell is your problem?"

Life has been my problem. Loving it, wanting it. I have battled suicidal ideation since I was eight years old... since that teacher put my desk in that refrigerator box.

I am that electron that doesn't belong anywhere. The free radical floating in the cosmos, screwing things up. The fifth wheel. The black hole. The voyeur. The wallflower. Eager for, but incapable of, belonging. Unwelcome. Unnecessary.

Two and a half years ago, while on a Sunday drive, my father said I seemed happier, that I wasn't fighting as much. I wanted to cry. I wasn't fighting at all. I'd stopped clambering for the surface. I had dreams of an Aggie ring, marriage, family, home, career. One by one they'd died. I'd been mourning their deaths and waiting for mine, knowing it could be decades away. And two weeks or so later... My oldest friend called, inviting me to her classroom to teach first graders how to write. I met a little boy, and then I met his mother, the woman who leads the small group of which I am a member and heads the women's ministry of the church I sometimes attend.

I know the ways I have been blessed. I am here today because of those blessings, those lifelines God has thrown me. He's never thrown me so many as He has in the past two years.

Twenty-One Days

January 16, 2020


A lot of the friendships I've strengthened and valued most in the past year have been those formed through faith-based events: gals I've met through volunteering at a Christian school; the retreat I attended in the spring; the Bible studies I've attended. These women are beautiful creatures; I feel blessed to know them. Would that I could be more like them.

The men I've met in the past few months haven't wanted to scratch the surface. When I look at my reflection, I can see that I'm not giving them much of a reason to want to do so. At the same time, though, I want to find the man who'd be inclined to dig a little BECAUSE the surface seems so ordinary. God know there's an abundance of complexity beneath.

The church I've been attending for the past year or so is doing a twenty-one day fast and holding prayer hours at six a.m. and again at noon. I can't make the noon ones because of work. Last week I managed to get up at five a.m. for four days and show up to pray with and for others. The first two days I loved it; the next two I felt like a farce -- like the demons in me balked at the goodness of it and mocked those in attendance because of how they prayed. I was too unsettled by the hypocrisy I felt to continue.

Who among you struggles with this in your faiths? How do you overcome it?

I've heard that you can create new habits in twenty-one days. I understand why this number was chosen for the fasting and the praying. I know that I would love to create new habits, that life begins outside our comfort zones, and I have been much too comfortable these days.

Last night in Bible study, a friend spoke of how her husband had matured over the years, especially when he'd begun digging into the Word at the start of his day. It sounds like such a fine idea, but part of me can't bring myself to do it. Is it fear? Is it laziness? Is it that I don't want to be uncomfortable? How could I bring myself to get up at five a.m., dress and drive twenty minutes in the dark to pray with strangers for an hour, but I can't bring myself to get out of bed and open a book for that amount of time? Is it the weak student who never studied and can't bring herself to do so now as a struggling adult? How do I silence the doubt and skepticism so that my faith can grow?

Dandelion Wine

January 14, 2020

So first of all... the New Year's Resolution was to reclaim a usage of capital letters. I struggled with whether to make Picky exempt from this because for nearly fifteen years I have refrained, but... a resolution's a resolution, so... capitals.

Why I wanted to read it: Last year, my parents and I saw The Bookshop in River Oaks Theater in Houston, and two of the characters in that film read it. My mother used to teach it; it is a favorite of hers, and also of my father's. I thought I'd give it a go.

What I loved: SO, SO much. It is damned near perfect. The best thing about it is how involved you become in the characters' plights... as if you're watching a ball on a roulette table go click... click... click... and take FOREVER to stop. Bradbury's a genius at building suspense. He's a genius at carrying themes throughout this collection of vignettes. He's a genius at creating a town and fostering an appreciation for its inhabitants.

What sucked: NOTHING.

Having said all that: READ IT.