Friday, October 25, 2013

post traumatic fish tank smash

Last week my fish tank inexplicably exploded as I walked by - I stood there gasping not unlike the gourami on the floor, amongst the decorative stones, glass shards and water. Lots and lots of water. It was random and crazy, and I can still only imagine how much worse it would have been if the tank had been bigger, if more blood had been shed, if N.Lo hadn't been home sick with me called in to work. 

Obviously I lived to tell the tale. Cleanup ensued. Electronics lived, skin remained mostly unscathed, many books were rescued while others soaked and died. Even those goddamn fish are still swimming around in a pitcher, all six of them, though I don't know for how long. 

But one thing is still bothering me. I'm going to write it here and never speak of it again. Because ultimately it is just one of those terrible, itchy, imperfect things in life that you can do absolutely nothing about. 

My floorboards are warped. You have to stare at them to see it, or shuffle your feet like I do when I walk around the house to feel it. The wood is still glossy and shiny and lovely, I get that. And it could have been so much worse, I also get that. But there it is, on so many of the planks the water met, a slight bow to the edges, a vexing, audible unevenness under my slippered strides, which won't ever, ever be amended, save for an entire reinstallation. Which I know darn well will never happen. 


There. I said it. Now I'm never talking about again. Bah!

Saturday, October 12, 2013


Here in the southeast, there is a bug for every season, I recently shared with M--a literal bug. Spring is the season for tick-abundance, and like freckle posers or ends-of-sentences they appear on your skin as if they can escape your constantly editing eye. Or else they burrow in the dogs and have a feast, dislodge themselves and waddle away, brainless and dumb, off to provide a feast for birds or, in a decidedly lesser contribution to the circle of life, a horrifying squish experience for your bare foot.

Summer is mosquitoes, wasps and, toward the end, deer flies. Itchy, oppressive and mean as the heat itself. You fight them with toxic sprays and swatting hands and running feet, but ultimately you just have to endure their existence until the cool arrives, providing them an expiration date and you a sigh of relief.

Fall brings the stink bugs, brown and shield-shaped, and seeking a warm home. In spite of their unfortunate name, I have yet to encounter the actual stink, perhaps because my research came to me in advance of any encounter and I know better than to kill them. I simply ferry them from their place on the curtains and walls and window screens back outside. To me, these are the least offensive of all the bugs, because they are just there. Hanging out solo or in groups. Minding their own business, not attacking, and maybe more importantly, not scurrying.

Which brings me to winter and the bugs that are not bugs - mice. Every year we have at least two, appearing for the same reason as their predecessors (warmth), but these I cannot abide. Perhaps they tap into my deep-seated anxiety toward balloons and biscuit cans: the element of suspense, surprise. Or else I'm intimidated by a cleverness and physicality that can lead them, in spite of blindness, toward the darkened depths not in, but behind, a dishwasher.

Are these creatures questionable mascots for each season, a reason to wish the time away? Or are they simply what is there, a defining attribute or buggy backdrop to the scene...

dear bruckner,

I know, right? It's a total crisis, this Book Purgatory thing. And that terrible thought about All Books - I shudder thinking it ever even skipped across my brain-screen, if only for a nanosecond.

My favorite book currently is "Will Grayson, Will Grayson," which is a collaboration between my two favorite authors, David Levithan and John Green. Separately they slay with me with their wit and heart; in this book they get together and it's like, boom. Mind. Blown.

Now for the hap-py-blog-iversary questions (which I'm writing before reading M's own responses):

1) Do either of you remember why you started blogging? And why do you suppose nine years later you're still doing it?

I distinctly remember that I started blogging because M insisted. I didn't really get the whole concept of blogs at the time, or what sort of thing we were each meant to contribute, but I could not ultimately resist the offer to collaborate. Nine years later, I still can't resist that offer. And, as M has often said, this has become a written record of us. A little treasure box in the ether of our words. It's Pen&M, a history.

2) In these last nine years, what has been your most personal post?

Hmm, tricky. The Best of Bailey post comes to mind, although maybe there is another squirreled away in there. Certainly M is going to have many more to sift through and choose because, and this has always been and continues to be a blog-philosophy split, I veer away from the personal. Or at least too personal. For years I stuck to reality TV and other mostly non-personal topics in my blog-posts, and with prodding evolved to at least share daily life details and a slice of my feelings toward them.

However, I have trust issues, and while I do believe one's best writing can happen when one is at her most vulnerable, I am pretty firm about not delving into that vulnerability on a blog. So in some ways that's a hindrance to my writing here, but then, different forums dictate different styles, so I feel like my blogging retains its own value. I just refuse to bare my soul here, where anyone can just happen by and sift through its contents. Trust has to be earned, dammit!

Maybe that was my most personal post, right there.

3) Are there any topics that are off limits to blogging? If so, what are they?

Please see above.

4) If this blog continues on for another nine years, what do you suppose you will be writing about then?

The aches and pains of aging, for sure. And the increased incidence of death surrounding us. Also, holy crap, my children will be well into their teens by then, and I'm sure I'll have a lot to say. And I'm hopeful that I'll have more travel stories by then. Or some at all, as the case may be.

5) If you could go back nine years to just before this blog's inception, what would you tell yourselves about the arduous literary journey ahead?

I'd show me the recent words M wrote reminding me about unique voices, perspectives, experiences, and how not only are they meant to be shared, but that they are completely worth sharing. I'd tell me to shut up and just blog already.

6) Do either of you have drafts of unfinished posts? If so, how many? And what were your reasons for not pushing the publish button?

It's possible that I have unfinished posts, but more likely in my brain rather than on the blogger dashboard. Because I can't stand the idea of such detritus and would likely delete it to clear away virtual clutter. Unpublished drafts in my brain remain so purely because of time.

7) Have you ever considered posting under your real names? Would doing so dramatically change your blogging approach?

I've thought about it many times over the years. I imagine my posts would be more polished and pointed rather than rambling? Perhaps product-driven, rather than process-driven. So basically, my posts would all be pretty, shiny finished things, rather than scribbles and half-thoughts. But I don't think that'd necessarily be any better. I think there's more freedom under a pseudonym.

8) If a stranger happens upon your blog for the first time today, what do you believe they'd think about it? What would you want them to think about it?

I think there would be a whole lot of head-scratching at first. But ultimately after some sifting, I think they'd see it as a long and important conversation between friends.

9) Have you ever placed a hidden meaning in a post? If so, would it be too much of me to ask you to share an example? And if it wouldn't be too much for me to ask you to share an example, will you share one?

I'm sure I have, but what? That's one of those questions where you can think of the answer until you're asked.

Oh - maybe there have been references to terrible family members on here that were veiled. That's entirely possible.

10) Finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say about your blog when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

I'd like for God to tell me that my blogging, for all of its flaws and lacking, were still enough.

You might also substitute the word blogging for other things there. Friendship. Parenting. Wife-ness. All around person-dom. I think it's something everyone needs to feel or hear.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

To Bruckners 10, by Mendacious

Thank you Bruckner for taking the time to draft such sincere questions to which I sincerely respond. I can't say I was sarcastic, pithy or comical once. What has happened to my heart?

Do either of you remember why you started blogging? And why do you suppose nine years later you're still doing it?

At the time, I think we came late to the blogfad even back in 2004, I was a year out from gradschool where I produced daily in a highly neurotic and compressed environment. So obviously displaying my work seemed a logical next step and forcing output vital. I look back to our first post and it still stands- I had a fear going through grad school that I would stop writing. I remember some of the best writers looking at me thinking, no way, you won't stop, and besides this blog, I have. I'm not producing anything for it's own sake. The great Californian novel lying dormant. Phyllis Moore, our favorite teacher at SAIC, would be haunting us right now if she weren't a recluse somewhere with her cats and typewriter and amazing pecan pies (last heard was in Kansas/no will never forget her). Coupled with that fear, my friendship with Penelope or AMRF (L), gained traction and flourished over electronic media, and so our tethering together was a wise and pertinent choice at the time, since we were ever faithful in our correspondence- and at the time we'd already had 3 years behind us- so what could go wrong? And wouldn't it always be? ACCOUNTABILITY.

I hold myself to that same standard 9 years later. Why aren't I writing? Telling my friend what's going on and how I feel is a small but significant, however challenging, stab in the face of not writing at all. So for me it has worked in varying degrees, to continue to believe in magic, and act against the dark in us all- perhaps just a gasp- and maybe the blog is a visible record of its success and its neglect- even as our letter writing over email fades in and out you can't really track the loss like you can over yawning gaps on the kronos meter that is the blog. I like it because in that sense it's a truth teller. And that's something isn't it?

2) In these last nine years, what has been your most personal post?

Ooo, I don't know. I'd have to go through the archives. I don't have interns to do that. I will say fresh off anything where I express anger or hurt (not just pithy sarcasm, or epic storytelling) is pretty personal. I try to tread lightly, despite the missteps. But my journey from wrath to a hurt heart is pretty personal- so maybe the arch in general. And that there is something significant in the shift. We rarely argue so when we do... ouch.

3) Are there any topics that are off limits to blogging? If so, what are they?

I think Pen has more than I do. Probably part of our tension. Ironic I will say as she is a non-fiction writer. I probably talk about friends less on here though then I could. I am, I don't know where it came from, a referential writer-- and so to me it's not so much gossiping but struggling over difference. Beth remarked she tried to read our blog, or had off and on but that it felt she was peeping into something personal. It didn't used to be that- it was much more "writerly". Even if you were still reading between the lines and when Pen was still talking about Survivor. It was a big shift for me to begin to write about faith so much, and to try and share that with my cohort- as I felt the things that I was experiencing and going through were difficult to translate and how to translate them over a continent.

4) If this blog continues on for another nine years, what do you suppose you will be writing about then?

Bruckner, you are gifted at question asking. I only have one other friend so adept at it- and that's Danica who gave up reading blogs apparently, but has the same gift at pulling threads. Perhaps I can talk about her more since. But anyway- that's a good question. I'd like it to be less self-conscious of even how boring I can be or same- we have always been conscious of our space and usness. I suppose our proclivity will be to talk about life in varying degrees of honesty and revelation. Perhaps at the end we'll just tweet words after updating only sentences until just symbols will be used to communicate nothing at all but a vague sense of emotionally deceptive circumstances and nothing whatever to do with reality- but it will also be the tension of the two of us- our coming together and our failing in coming together- the shifts and differences in our lives- and if in giving up on the blog does it say we give up on one another? Why should it? Is it something that should keep going or do we consider one more year to make it an even 10 and let ourselves off the hook to do something else? It makes me ponder the cancelation of such a long running show. Long after everyone has gone- something to think about. Like, if as a response to her silence, I return the silence? And for what purpose? Or do I continue to believe and to reach out like a sad extinct species? Or do we keep it neat and clean before anything like that happens? Are we still getting anything out if it and does that matter? Have we surpassed that in relationship when it becomes more about love and covenant than it does about titillating fulfillment. Ive had some sad friendship revelations but I can only hope she and I have built this friendship house on rock. But you never know.

5) If you could go back nine years to just before this blog's inception, what would you tell yourselves about the arduous literary journey ahead?

It's a marathon. It's pace. It's relationship and tenacity. I don't know if that would've helped me or prepared me for what it looks like to be faithful to this construct for so long- 2520 posts? What is that? And is anyone going to care? Does it matter? Are we perhaps being Proust on a larger scale- so that to pluck out the story maybe 100 posts will suffice to tell you something- but not everything. Are we actually succeeding in communicating or is all of this failed chitterchattery. I would've told myself to prepare to repeat yourself over and over and over, and in that, the left over parts is something that won't be swept away, like 50 1st dates- vital remnants remain. I think I would tell myself this is the one and only way you will sometimes be faithful to writing or to your self-- and to believe in what you're building even if you can't really see it. Though maybe more deliberateness- can you imagine if we'd developed a story arc for a decade? like projected what we would do and how it should go? How it's going to end? Maybe that is why we are sometimes a little like Lost.

6) Do either of you have drafts of unfinished posts? If so, how many? And what were your reasons for not pushing the publish button?

Funny that. We are very tidy. Oddly. There are only 4 drafts currently on the blog. 2 of which are being written to you right now, another to pen and there's a fourth but I don't know what it is. But the number is likely to go back to zero. We'll delete them before leaving them to dangle too deathly.

7) Have you ever considered posting under your real names? Would doing so dramatically change your blogging approach?

I've grown so fond of our pseudonyms but it's true- as we've become more personal and less lit/fic meets E! meets...  Why? You could accuse of us of trying to be clever, and writerly. But also we were so sensitive to the current moors of our schooling- of the absolute push to succeed. Hence the blog name and our mocking of fame and but if not that, then what? I'd say maybe if Pen is up for it, we could do that- it would sort of be shocking to me to learn to relate to her as herself. There is and was a barrier in the beginning- but why not write as ourselves? Would it push us to be honest despite the readership? Because of the readership? Would it truly be great and at what cost? Our faces are already out there. But maybe Pen can give better perspective on this. By the nature of being read and known already keeps up hemmed in- what does it matter- would it change how we write? I can't say.

8) If a stranger happens upon your blog for the first time today, what do you believe they'd think about it? What would you want them to think about it?

Oh man, I don't know anymore. I haven't thought about that in a few years. Perhaps after Kurt left us and Sarah stopped blogging or caring if anyone else was. I did have a friend out of blue realize we were still blogging. She said she was surprised and that I was a good writer and loved the piece I wrote about the 'hate letters'. So there is something lovely about being rediscovered. I think I'd want to be known in someway. Some meta way that I don't even know myself. I think though if they were investigative they'd say holyshit! what?! What is this? Who are these people? I don't know if it's entirely obvious at the start. I'd want them to be curious maybe to try and discover and mine and explore the depths and find it worth their time- but I can't say I write with that in mind or that the minutia of our lives is that interesting to anyone who doesn't know us. We've never been good at marketing. It would be funny in this next year to actually market us- with friend quotes and pictures and bios. really make a SALE maybe. Pen what do you think? Also what would it be like to discover us and start from the beginning?! What would keep a reader going? IF it were me? Would I ?

9) Have you ever placed a hidden meaning in a post? If so, would it be too much of me to ask you to share an example? And if it wouldn't be too much for me to ask you to share an example, will you share one?

No interns.
When another one comes across I will [*] for you.

10) Finally, if Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say about your blog when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Well done, my good and faithful servant.

(A record of love in all it's facets)

Monday, October 7, 2013

Dear Friend,

I suspect technology is trying to keep us apart as much the same as it kept us together. Did you receive my last letter? and the new stationary-

I woke up with some sort of white wine hangover and have been useless today on most fronts. As Cat says it's postwedding we're not married blues. As inevitable as the hangover I guess, or the faux pas of asking where a man's wife was and the divorce is 4 years old. Or the equally inevitable string of people I had marginal to some interest in seeing as 18 years takes its toll on how much enthusiasm one can muster at peppered small talk and being passed from one somewhat interested person to the next and you're just praying someone walks up so you can pingpong to the next. . .

biblio-ADD and other things

Hello from the land of Burt's Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream. I finally cracked and decided $5.99 for a giant container of lovely smelling cracked-cuticles preventative. We're talking years of ghastly nail care here. I don't require bright, shining, enviable nails, but merely an un-ravaged set. Clean, neat and healthy, or as much as they can be taking into account my daily channeling of anxiety into "evening" them all out. With my teeth.

I'm in Book Purgatory once again and it's a terrible, terrible place to be. M. Rescue me. Somebody! The terrible thought entered my brain the other day that I no longer even like books, that they all suck, a waste of time. I cannot even believe the neurons and synapses conjured that assessment, however brief. But nothing is holding me. For months now, I haven't finished one single thing. The next book club selection, which happens to have a fabulous cover of a women flashing a field of cows - midwestern breast cancer story - turned out to be a self-published abomination wherein the "author" copy/pasted her CaringBridge journal into a single document and called it a book. Reader comments and all. Bah. Everything else, meaning the real books I've checked out from the library to try, have failed to hold me. Too dark, too fluffy, too predictable, too copying of the latest popular thing.


And I get that death is a part of life, but lately there seems to be a surrounding wave. Excessive hearse sightings. News of passings-on that have been both expected and not. Two and three degrees away, rather than the usual five or six. I don't know what to make of it all except to take in the beauty of remembrances, grieve with the most closely affected, ponder the great beyond...

Okay it's days later and that clearly was the middle of a thought or even a sentence.

I did find a book! That so far I like, maybe 35 or so pages in with no ship-jumping thoughts or anything. Thanks, RHE, for being that engaging of a writer. Your thoughts on Martha Stewart's Housekeeping Handbook alone earn a gold star. I'm on exactly the same page with those daily, weekly, monthly and yearly checklists and am totally living in squalor, too.

I've had "Happy Blog-iversary" in my head since Friday at least. Haaaaaaaaaaaaappy Blog-iversary. Woo! Nine years seems both impossible and completely accurate. I do miss the pre-FB, pre-Pinterest, pre-Tumblr days of blogging, when the writing/content took center stage. Now it's all popping in occasionally whenever we can spare a moment away from the mini-micro blogs that are tweets and FB posts. Onward, as ever, but I'm always given pause by the question of, what did we lose?

Also, if I were to create a pie graph of personal energy spent each day - well maybe I should do that. Graph it. Because maybe I'm not really aware of where it's all going. I suspect stressing over failed expectations? Like I'm not doing enough, ever, or whatever I do accomplish somehow lacks. Which is frustrating because I'm doing the best that I can? And it's not only my voice that I hear putting forth this assessment. And some distant part of me is also aware that were those voices to be silenced, I'd probably a whole lot more energy, even creative energy, to expend.

Moving on from that entirely subjective thought strand, let's wish one fourth of our readership a happy birthday! Yay, AA!

The weather-cooling brought on by the formidable Karen-storm occurred behind schedule but is here at last. Windows are thrown open.
A field trip to the farm tomorrow with a group of tiny people is on tap. (Their parents will all be present, too.)
Yesterday I did a 1-mile walk in the sun to help stop hunger - a much different experience than last year's chilly gray 5K walk. I brought a puppy and a 5-year-old with me, so a mile seemed wise.
Today I folded laundry and made ribbon dancers for my preschoolers while watching ProRun. Queue the Helen Meltdown in 5-4-3... I'm so glad TimGunn told her to suck it up in his TimGunn way. And I love Heidi's charming attempts at Americanisms, like "the dangling sausage," and "hitting it on the nail." Also, some surprisingly kickass looks? I'm a little bored of the whole inevitable duking it out among the lower-ranked, but whatever. Still do NOT agree with the Kate oust... rooting for Dom maybe, ultimately? We'll see.

Ah, behold our blog-look. Behold us! I await the questions from another quarter of our readership. I will make it a point to blog just about BUGS next post.
For now - sleep.
xoxoxo to you,


2005- we were funny and so was our interviewer johann
2006-Johann Visits Wilmington to Interview Penelope
2007- mendacious says, dear Penelope...
2008- no mention... blogdom mourns the forgetfulness of Pen &M.
2009- another shocking "no mention"
2010- woh, wait 3rd year going and mums the word. am I missing someth...
2011- um, seriously? maybe I thought it was a different month? I... uh...
2012- I uh... I feel like we must've mentioned it somewhere in here... oh my GOD.... i'm sure we did.
2013- ...

Saturday, October 5, 2013


Listening to Adele. Playing Gears. Drinking iced-tea. Unsweet. Wearing paintclothes for no particular reason but I'm ready dear friend, for the day.

Happy Anniversary.

It's been 9 years of words exchanged over this enchanted device. And in the midst of having friends that make me think why even bother having enemies, I have you, and I wanted to remind you Narnia is real in the midst of pain and elusive gmail archiving problems. Don't cease to believe. It is the one tragic thing I could not bear in this life, and

If encouraging you is one of my sole purposii in life I am happy to do it. Because you my dear one, are priceless.

It's been a few weeks since I heard from you, and though you can't feel it, there is magic humming at your fingertips- that table is a series of molecules moving at a rate we can't perceive- we run our fingers over the smooth and cool of the surface. It seems so ordinary and we look out- the way the wind whips right now through the sky into the tree, trouncing the leaves they twist shudder and unfurl. They bend but don't break. They fly off and out and the tree won't forget them. The way my cat's whiskers arch and twitch as he yawns. The way the light dances through the eye, the way our muscles move into smiles. The breath, deep in a sigh our whole body responds aching for peace. Rest be with us this day. God be faithful. Bring unity to our hearts and bodies. Bring us to wholeness.

Can I understand the miracle of my hands?
To be silent and let it pass without an exclamation?
To leave you there disbelieving in your extraordinary life?
When look how you are and how much God must love you.
My heart beats fast at the thought.

Let me run into the yard and disappear into space.
And I just went to try but the hose needed to be moved and Twist was mewing at me and I picked her up. That green of her eyes staring wide at me and the pincing of her claws as she wonders why the water is disturbing her rest. She mews. She mews. Her fur a midnight with streaking stars. And the morning glory blooming that ostentatious purple mocking me and the weeds taking over the orderly roses. And the warmth of my flipflops against the sun. And I heard no need to fall away up and out and into because I am right here. You haven't far to go. Sit beside me.

I will, always and forever Penelope,


Friday, October 4, 2013

While you've been gone,

I've had a spate of adventures.

This one's for you Bruckner, and for Penelope too.