“Hello, my name is _______________ and I’m a Projectoholic.” 

There’s something wrong with me.

Don’t worry. I’m not sick and dying, or wanted by the police, pregnant, having an affair, or in need of a sex change. For God’s sake I’m too old to be having a baby. But, I do have a terrible, life long problem.

I must have a project. I need to design, demo, upgrade, fix, dig, plant, paint, repair, or caulk (Oh God, how I love caulk)!  I get the shakes just thinking about it.

nashphotoMy husband and I bought a sixty year old cottage in a small town in Texas, a few years ago. We were living in California at the time, but knew we were coming back to Texas and wanted to downsize and have a good place to retire and raise chickens.

Well, I wanted to raise chickens, but that’s a conversation for another time.

We took a 1500 square foot, two bed, one bath home, and made simple, but glorious, modifications. We gutted and redid the hall bath, installed a tankless water heater, (whoo hoo! ) created a master suite with a claw foot tub, marble tile and pedestal sinks, upgraded the kitchen with new appliances and counter tops, knocked down walls, added all new lighting, refinished our red oak floors, and painted and painted and painted.

bathunderconstrDuring most of the renovation, I had an upper respiratory infection. Parlay that with, no bathroom, except for a lone toilet in the middle of open stud walls, termites, and large holes in the floor that let in hungry creatures who scurried around in the middle of the night.  Add extreme noise and strange men (men who were strangers) in and out of our home, ten hours a day, I was in absolute misery. When I hit bottom, we checked into a hotel, just so I could take a bath and breathe dust free air.

Then we set our sights on the exterior. After eight pallets of sod, four new hallbathafterplanting beds,

twenty four Earth Kind roses (that now struggle with Rosette’s Disease) and a white picket fence, we were finished. We looked at what we had done, and saw that it was good.

We were happy. I was happy…for a while. Then..I hear my self say, “you know honey, it would look nice if we could…”

My husband cringes, but he sighs, nods and goes to Home Depot with me. He’s a fricking saint.

I wanted a fire pit, a deck and outside lighting. I knew the porches would look much better if we added a little slate tile and a wicker swing. And why stop with the porch? Just look at the front walkway. Slate and brick pavers (that I found for a steal, on Craig’s List) would truly enhance our curb appeal.

Then of course, I needed a garden to grow tomatoes, a hammock when I wanted to nap, and studio space for my art work and classes. I couldn’t stop myself. I dreamt about it at night, waking up each morning with a drill in my hand and a metallic gleam in my eye.

It’s been over a year and I’m still coughing from the dust, my knees hurt, my husband’s back is shot and he pretends he can’t hear me most of the time. But we soldier on.  Because, if we just did this one more thing…

Some think I need professional intervention, but I can stop any time I want, and as soon as we finish this last project, I promise, I’m going to stop.

For sure.

A Sorry Thing

by Joetta Currie
Sorrythingporch

I’m mopping the kitchen floor with leftover dishwater when I see Leon peeling paint off the back porch, trying for a fast get away. I holler out the open window. “Get back here you ornery shit. You don’t need to be seeing that woman. She’ll poison you.”

“Catch me if ya can Meggy,” he yells running across the yard.

I grab something off the counter and fling it as hard as I can in his direction. He stops and drops. “Really?” I yell. “I’m not buying that, get up.”  He’s not budging. “I mean it, get your possum ass back up.”

Then I see the red. God Almighty. I run out in the yard and there’s a butcher knife sticking in his back. Where did that come from? I pull it out and wipe it on my shorts. “Oh no, Leon, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to, you know I wouldn’t hurt you for anything in this world.” I pull my blouse off over my head and put it over the bloody gash. Tears fall down my face. I’m pissed as hell. He used to be quicker.

He looks up at me grinning. “Meggy,” he says, “About time you hit something, but that rock’s gonna leave a hell of a bruise. Did ya need to use such a big one’?”

“Honey, it’s bad. Worse than you think.”

He reaches back and feels the wet, then brings his hand round to his face. “Jesus Christ, Meggy, what did you fling at me?”

“That ole butcher knife. I didn’t mean to though. I just grabbed something and sailed it. I wasn’t looking.”

Blood’s coming fast. I press myself up against him to trying to sop it up with the shirt. He gasps and blood bubbles up out of his mouth.

“You’re in trouble,” he says, trying to get a breath… “Pop’s gonna be… be mad…he’ll strap you half to death.

“I don’t care about Pop right now. I need to get you some help.” I look around and see a big, flat rock lying next to the fence. I scramble over, grab it, stuff my blouse in the cut as much as I can without hurting him, and lay the rock on top. “Don’t you move, I’m gonna get someone.”

“Stay.” He grabs my hand. ”Get our story straight.” He’s struggling now. “Tell Pop…I fell.”

“No, that won’t work and shut up talking, so’s I can run and get help. I’ll run up to Lizzie Hughes. She’s a nurse’s aid, she’ll know how to fix you. Stay put.” He closes his eyes and smiles.

“I’ll be here,” he whispers, “less she walks by…then I’m a going with her.”

“Shit,” I say, pulling my hand from his grip. “Don’t start with that mess again. It’s that woman what caused this in the first place.”  He starts to hum a song. “Stop it,” I say.  “She don’t love you, she don’t love anything but the devil in a man’s pants.”

His face pains. “Don’t talk about that…not your business.”

I stand up, start away, then stop. “Leon?” His eyes are closed.

He nods his head and whispers, “I know.”

I run, shirtless, my titties flicking up and down as I trip over tree roots and broken sidewalks. I don’t wear a brassier. Nobody here to help me with those things and there’s not much to deal with anyways. When I was little, Mama would brush my hair every morning and say, “You’ll grow up to be a beautiful woman someday.”

But she died and nobody tells me that now. I guess I never made it to beautiful and Mama was either pretending or she was just plain wrong.

I get to Lizzie’s and she’s hanging clothes on the line out back. I’m naked from the waist up, covered in blood and I’ve got a butcher knife in my hand. The run got me all worked up and I’m crying and wheezing and can barely get a sane word out of my mouth. “Le..Leon…Oh, Jesus, help…us. Leon’s gone an…well…he, he fell on a knife and died.” What? What am I saying?

“Lord have mercy! Give me that,”she says, jerkin’ the knife out of my hand. She drops a sheet off the line, wraps it around me, binding me up like a nut job in a straight jacket. I start to wail. She slaps me hard cross the face.“Stop it. What happened? What’s wrong with Leon? Where’s your Pop?”

“Pop’s working. Leon’s hurt. Please, we got to go save him.” The sun streams through the wet clothes. A pink, half slip, a girdle and two enormous bras, flip around in the wind, making the light flash and slow down time.

Why did I do that, what’s wrong with me? I’m the worst there is; a bloody, not beautiful, hateful, horrible thing, who just murdered her big brother.

Lizzie pulls me in the house, lets me free my arms up and makes me drink an Alka-Seltzer while she dials the operator. The fizz reminds me of the red bubbles coming out of Leon’s mouth. I jump up, untangle myself and run out the door. Lizzie drops the phone and follows, dragging the sheet along with her. When she sees him lying dead-like on the ground, she starts slapping me, once for every word: “What (slap) in (slap) God’s (slap) name (slap) happened?” (slap)

My head reels, but I deserve it, so I don’t turn away. “We was just fooling round and he fell.”

Leon hears us and opens one eye. His coloring is all wrong. “Just fell.” He mutters.

Lizzie takes the rock off his back, lifts my blood soaked shirt, and says,”help me get him inside.

She puts the sheet across his back and starts to roll him over. He’s a big man and Lizzie struggles to flop him on his back. I stand there sobbing, chewing on my fingers to make them hurt. Drops of sweat fall off her nose and onto my brother’s face. She pulls the ends of the sheet under his arms and back over his head and says,“we got to drag him.” She hands one end of the sheet to me. I put it over my shoulder and we start moving him towards the house. “Keep him high up,” she says. “You done enough damage already.”

“I didn’t…”

“Don’t lie to me Meg Porter,” she says. “Nobody stabs themselves in the back.”

“Yes ma’m, but I didn’t mean…” she gives me a look.

“Meaning and doing are two contrary things that usually gets a person in the same damn mess. If Leon dies, your pop will beat you to death. No man wants a daughter when he could have a son, specially a man without a wife.”

It’s hard to drag him up the porch steps without scraping his back. Leon cries out and a whoosh of blood spurts from his mouth. His eyes open, then he’s gone.

Lizzie and I sit down on the steps beside him and cry. She closes his eyes, smooths his hair and prays. “Lord, please take this boy’s soul to heaven instead of hell where it probably belongs. And forgive this foolish girl. She’s better than most people think. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

She puts her arm around me and says,”You done it now Meggy. Your pop won’t let you last the night.” She takes off her apron and ties it around my neck to cover me.

I shoo flies from Leon’s mouth and watch as cloud shadows change the blood from bright red to crimson. The factory whistle blows in the distance. I know what waits me. I’d just get up and run off, but I can’t leave him like this.

“Well,” I say to Lizzie. “At least that nasty woman won’t ruin him. That’s some comfort.”

Lizzie sighs.”You can’t take comfort, not after what you’ve done.

“Stay.” I say. “Stay till Pop comes. Maybe he won’t hurt me as bad if you’re here too.”

She looks out towards the road and says, “I’ll do more than stay. I couldn’t save Leon, but I’m gonna save you. She fumbles through his pants and pulls out his pocket knife, reaches under him to see where my cut is, lines up and stabs him in the chest hard enough to push through and stick out the other side.”

“Thank you,” I whisper.

We sit there till we see Pop come over the edge of the road. He gets a wild-eyed look and starts running towards us, jerking off his belt, and waving it buckle end out, before he even knows what happened.

Lizzie spreads her arms out, stands up in front of me and says, “No need for that, Mr. Porter. Leon did it himself. Meg and me tried hard to save him. It’s a sorry thing, but your boy fell on his own knife and died.”

The Power of a Whisper

I get along with most people. Most people get along with me. But every once in a while I’ll run across someone evil. Cruella d’Vil kind of evil, soap opera villain evil. You know the type. Smart, driven, and friendly on the outside, but on the inside, a mean spirited, back stabbing, manipulative, soul sucking witch, with a capital B.Cruella

Usually, I see them coming and head the other way. But recently, I walked smack dab into a couple of bad ones. One female, the other male. Their gender helped to determine their motive and aggressive styles, but the effects of their nastiness were very similar.

I have to believe that Cruella, was manipulating the male, because he was not smart enough to do much more than yell and scream (literally) and act like a schoolyard bully. It was a unpleasant situation and frankly a waste of my time, money and effort. I’m glad to be free of it.

But that isn’t the point of this article, just the impetus for it.

Back in the early 90’s, I had the pleasure of being asked to teach art at a local elementary school.  It was a new school in our growing community and they needed a part time art teacher. I had been teaching for a while at my gallery. But, never in public school and never six hundred students-twenty five at a time.

I learned a lot my first year from the principal and other teachers. I learned more from my students. The most important thing they taught me was: they will listen if you whisper.Godfather

Being an art class, the students claimed a certain sense of freedom from the regular classroom rules. That and the fact they could smell a new teacher a mile down the hall, evoked a collective, “let’s see how much we can get away with…”

It was only a few days into the school year when I admitted to myself, I had no control over them. I didn’t know what to do when my class refused to settle down. Boys were shouting and sword fighting with paint brushes, girls were squealing and painting their faces to look like makeup. It was chaos.

I tried ringing a bell, holding up my hand, putting my fingers to my lips, writing names on the board and even yelling a little myself. None of those techniques met with success.

But as soon as I walked over to a student in the middle of the class and started to speak in a low voice about a painting I was working on with a warrior queen and evil shape shifters, the class got quiet.  Row by row, student by student, they started to listen. As I gained their attention, I started asking questions: “What color do you think the eyes should be? How would you transform the shapes? Should the queen have magical powers? What else would you add?”

As long as I whispered, they spoke in a low voice too, in turn, and in awe. They were excited to have input on such a cool idea. Each week they would ask about the painting and offer suggestions. They wanted to create their own “story art” and did so in a focused, calm manner. They seemed to connect the whisper with the painting. Did they still get a little crazy sometimes?  Sure, but all I had to do was make them want to listen by whispering about an interesting idea.  I love working with children. They are so open, so eager to learn and offer up their ideas in an open and ungarnished way.

Adults, not always the case. I forgot the power of a whisper in my recent experience. Although, I’m not sure any amount of whispering would have worked. Some of us, at a certain point in our lives, close ourselves off to listening, exploring and learning, and resort to nasty behavior. Next time I get in a toxic situation, I will speak in a low voice, share ideas, listen, and observe. Perhaps I can get others to build up, not tear down and offer solutions, instead of creating problems. If not, I will pick up my marbles and go home; another lesson I learned from children.

Wrinkle Day

I don’t mind getting older because the alternative is death, but that’s where my tolerance ends.

I don’t like taking pills to maintain bodily functions.  I don’t like waking up at four in the morning and not able to go back to sleep.  I don’t like peeing a bit when I cough or sneeze. (sometimes, not ALL the time)

And I don’t like getting wrinkles. Wrinkles on my face, my neck, my hands…they’re annoying and distract me from believing I’m still an attractive, smart, capable woman.  They distract other people from seeing it as well.  I get 20-year-old dental hygienists calling me “sweetie” and patting my shoulder, bag boys asking if I need help to my car, and sales clerks directing me with, “you might like some things in THIS part of the store” (sweetie, pat, pat).

I’m fifty freaking eight, not a hundred and two!

Image

Photographer Unknown

In her later years, my paternal grandmother had the most beautiful network of wrinkles on her face.  A Kentucky farmer, she worked in the sun most of the day, working the tobacco and tending to the large vegetable garden out behind the stable. Long before sunscreen, she wore a bonnet to keep the sun out of her eyes, more than protecting her face, and never used anything other than Corn Husker’s Lotion to soothe rough or reddened areas of skin.   My sisters and I used to help her by pulling the seedlings from the fabric covered beds so my dad and Aunt Hazel could set them in the field.  We tormented the caterpillars dining on our tomato plants, dug potatoes, picked and shelled peas and counted our sweat bee stings.  The one with the most was the winner as long as she didn’t cry.

Image

The American painter Georgia O’Keeffe, 1967 (Photo by Philippe Halsman)

Wrinkles, although probably not welcomed, were accepted, like the hard wind and rain that came in late spring, washing deep gullies in the plowed fields. Honestly, I think a face with wrinkles can reveal so much about a person.  A testament to their life’s adventures, to their “hard wind and rain.”

It’s deemed unacceptable today.  Wrinkles are bad.  We must minimize, abbreviate, eliminate, and eradicate.  We spend thousands to do this, without much success.  It makes me mad (frown line) to see the commercials depicting young, smooth-skinned women, touting a product that reveals their “younger, smoother, looking skin.  Big Woo!

I don’t hate wrinkles.  I just don’t like getting them one…by one…by one.

I propose, “Wrinkle Day”

In my perfect world, no one would get a single wrinkle anywhere, until they wake up on their 65th birthday. Then VOILA!  All of the wrinkles they will ever get in their lifetime will appear on their face.  No one could postpone or avoid it. No miracle creams, syringes or surgical procedures could change it.

One thing I know for sure. If there is something that is inevitable for everyone, everywhere.  Society will put a positive spin on it.  It will be a day of celebration, Wrinkle Day parties with a cake and presents, photographers, caterers, friends, booze and medicinal marijuana, in certain states.  Wrinkle Day greeting cards, T-shirts and restaurant specials will all boost the economy and make old people feel good about the arduous process of aging.   It can become a fundraising event for sexagenarian charities.  “Guess how many wrinkles the mayor will get on his Wrinkle Day!  Dollar A Guess! (Ten for $7)

Sexagenarian, yes it is the word for people in their 60’s.  We don’t use it often now, but individuals will embrace it on Wrinkle Day.  This would open up a whole new path for the personal intimacy market, i.e. vibrating canes, silver-streaked dildos, two-seater, walk-in tubs, and edible Depends. Well, maybe not that last one.

I’ve just purchased www.wrinkleday.com and am ready to begin a mass marketing campaign once I figure out how to make it all happen. I believe with the exploration of geonomics and the determination of this aging quinquagenerian there is hope for the future of Wrinkle Day.

It makes me happy just to think about it. (crows feet)

Image

Photographer Unknown

HELP! MURDER! POLICE…

Help! Murder! Police!  My wife fell in the grease.  I laughed so hard, I fell in the lard.  Help! Murder! Police!

I kid you not.

Image

This is what we chanted in 2nd grade, on the playground at Woodleigh Elementary in my small Kentucky town.  I guess every generation has their share of quirks or sayings they used for social interaction and parental confusion. Looking back, some of ours bordered on cruel and unusual. For example:

Posted

We used to touch something or someone we thought gross or stinky or inferior in some way, then touch someone else, cross our fingers and yell,” POSTED”.  That child then, had to find another person with uncrossed fingers and pass the stinky germs on to them. I spent a big part of my young academic life with a watchful eye and crossed fingers. I’m sure those so called “inferior” people felt the brunt of it and I feel ashamed.  But, I was a dumb kid.  What did I know?  It seemed to be accepted by teachers and parents.  I don’t ever remember a teacher taking a proactive step to stop us and I do remember Mrs. Collins having her fingers crossed behind her back on the playground one time.  But, that was probably for something else.

Then there were Slam Books.

A Slam Book was a spiral bound note book, usually decorated by the owner (girls of course, boys didn’t own them, but did sign them) The first page was a numbered column in which kids put their name, to get assigned a number. Consecutive pages had a random persons name at the top and everyone who signed in on the first page, could write a comment on each person’s using their assigned number as their signature.

Oh the nasty things people would say with 2 minutes of anonymity. Things like:

Cute, but fat  #12

or

I’m never speaking to her again. #3

and

She should put on nicer underwear if she’s going to climb up the slide.  # 11

Yes, really.

My page got mostly favorable comments, but there were a few:

Nice but weird  #9

or

Skinny Minnie # 6

and

Jesus doesn’t love you anymore #22

That last one worried me for a while because the blasphemous kid signed in as God on #22.

Fortunately, it wasn’t all mean spirited.  Who can forget that flavorful tune?

“Great, green gobs of greasy grimy gopher guts, marinated monkey meat, little dirty birdie feet.   All this good food I would like to eat, but I forgot my spoon.” 

Pure poetry.

Who Knew?

“Jo, you fall off of there and I’m gonna spank you,” says my grandfather, watching me tightrope-walk the front porch railing.

“Why?” I say, wishing I knew how to do a cartwheel. “I’d probably get hurt as it is.”

“Cause you shouldn’t be up there doing that.”

“Well, you didn’t say nothin.”

“I shouldn’t have to.  You should know better.”

I never knew better.  Never had a clue most of the time.  I would do things that got me in trouble and have absolutely no understanding of what I did wrong.

Like the time I built a tent out of blankets and chairs in the living room.  Fun, kid stuff right?  It was, until I decided we needed a campfire.  I got my mom’s big blue canning kettle, put some torn up newspaper in, and lit it up. Nothing smells better than a freshly struck wooden match and a toasted Marshmallow.  It seemed like the thing to do.  When our family went camping, we always had a campfire.  I wanted Barbie, Midge and Ken to have the same experience with me. I don’t even like Marshmallows if they haven’t been toasted.

ImageMy mom was at work at the time and our babysitter, Heidi came running in when she smelled, well…either the smoke or the delicious aroma of my toasty confection.  It was on fire and getting burned, just the right amount, when she pulled my tent apart, slammed the lid down on the canner, and put an end to my camping experience.

“Joetta Lynn, what do you think you’re doing?”  She yelled.  “You could have set yourself on fire and burned the whole house down.  You should know better!”

“But…” I was thinking how to explain the necessity of a good campfire when you’re in the wilderness of your living room.

Heidi says. “Butt is right and your’s is gonna get it when your daddy gets home.”

She never did tell him.  I convinced her that I wouldn’t do it again and I would “think seriously about the consequences, young lady before I upped and did something so foolish.”

Problem is I didn’t.  I couldn’t really.  I was a “why not, what if,” foolish, fun loving, kid who liked to take risks.  I’d climb high in my friend’s tree and put my ear up to the telephone lines that ran through it, just to see if I could listen in on a conversation. I couldn’t.

I’d see how far I could ride my bike with my eyes closed. Not very far.

Try to jump over two dogs at the same time and once, (only once) I tied my jump rope around my waist, put my roller skates on and tied the other end to the bumper of our neighbors Pontiac.  He only went about twenty feet before he saw me, but it was one wild ride!  I have the scars on my knees to prove it.

Again, I should have known better.

However, I think my youthful audacity paid off.  It allowed me the freedom to explore a bit of the flip side of life. To think about the impossible and attempt the improbable.  To create something from nothing without great concern for the end result.

Oh, I’m more responsible and understand the consequences of my actions now.  After all, I am an adult and being a mom and a teacher reigned me into the realities of life.  I channel my fun, foolish, risk-taking self, through my art and written words.  I paint what I imagine and create stories of people that find themselves in unpredictable and precarious situations. I let them get their knees skinned.  Behind the easel and over the keyboard is a place of redemption for me.  I can be that person, transformed in limitless ways.

I know I have a great character, when I sit back from my manuscript or work of art and think, “Oh yeah, You should have known better.”

Through a Rolling Donut Hole

My son and I love and respect one another.

We had a good conversation yesterday.  We talked, listened and ignored each other.  I was trying to give him advice and he was trying not to take it.  I was hoping to broaden his understanding of the workings of this world and he was letting me know that he already knew and what he didn’t know, he wanted to find out on his own. We are so much alike.

My son, Jackson is a good looking, highly intelligent, articulate and talented young man, confident in his abilities and determined to live life, his way.  We are so much alike…now.

His nineteen, is miles ahead of mine.  At nineteen, I was a smart mouth, college sophomore, unsure of myself and my abilities, easily manipulated and lead astray by anyone who said, “let’s party”.  I was irrational, hot tempered and slightly histrionic.  I had little understanding of the world, didn’t know where I was going and didn’t give a flying f#!*k what people thought.  A lovely young woman.

If I’d known then what I know now.  Right?  I understand why I didn’t have a clue.  But why is his view of the world so much keener than mine, at the time?  The Internet? Reddit? Facebook? video games, explicit movies? Blatant TV ?

Image

Yeah, I think so.  I grew up with Donna Reed, Father Knows Best and The Brady Bunch. Happy families with little depth, trivial conflicts and a pristine facade.  Sure, they made you feel, warm and fuzzy, but they presented such a false pretense of reality. The conflict was always resolved. There was always a happy ending.

Life just wasn’t like that and it caused problems.  First, those programs set high standards, too high.  Donna Reed  was beautiful, happily married to a doctor with a pretty, “do no wrong” daughter and a lovable, son.  She wore a dress and heels everyday, cooked big family meals and had a spotless house.  That’s a hard act to follow.  Most real families paled in comparison. Second, a kid grew up not knowing how bogus that was until they got far enough away from the nest to find out on their own.  Finding out was difficult.  You got advice from elders, which you didn’t want or employed the trial and error method and learned the hard way.  Although, there is something to be said for learning the hard way, it often produced devastating consequences.

Frankly, I’m a little jealous.  I’m not saying that it’s easier for my son.  The Information Age creates it’s own set of pitfalls and problems, but it does arm you with reality, the good, the bad and the ugliness of it all.  My husband and I started him off in the right direction.  Knowing what’s out there before he goes, gives him a better chance of making good decisions.

I hope my son and I will continue to talk, listen and ignore each other with love and respect.