Out With The Old

1.  I finally bought a photo scanner.  Why oh why did I wait so long?  The first picture I scanned was of my mother towards the end.  She looks perplexed.  My second scan was of me towards the beginning.  Before I learned to read.

2.  There’s been a pile of papers — all manuscript related — on the floor of the dining room (aka my office) since October.  And by ‘pile’ I mean it’s a good 2 feet high.  Yesterday I tossed half of it in the recycling bin.  The other half I filed away.  Ancient news.

3.  I found Jesus on a gold metal cross in the midst of the pile.  It was from Grandpa Red’s funeral in 1989.  No idea how it got there.

4.  I shoved all of my college notebooks and syllabi and teacher comments into one big clear-plastic carton.  And sealed the top shut.

5.  I’ve been wanting to burn one especially cruel critique that’s been haunting me for 6 months.  I finally took it out back, tore all the pages in half, and put them in the dogs’ stainless steel bowl.  Then I tried 4 times to light the edges — 4 times! — but they wouldn’t catch.  Being as scared shitless as I am of fire, I figured it was a sign, so I decided to drown the pages instead.  I used the dogs’ water.  It felt good, watching and waiting for the ink to bleed.

6.  I lost my sunglasses.  The good ones.

7.  For graduation, my daughter gave me a red scrapbook for Rejection Collection.  Here’s what her note on the front says:  I thought you could use this scrapbook to hold your acceptance and rejection letters to magazines and other publications you’ve submitted your brilliant work to.  I figure even the bad ones you’ll still want to read some day.  If nothing else but to mock their ignorance!  Ha!  Congratulations on your official graduation.  XO.  Smart girl.

8.  It’s raining real rain.  But I live in a place where it does not rain — not a single drop — from June through October.  I demand an explanation.

9.  Mira Bartok sent me the nicest note the other day.  Please check out Mira’s List for the latest news on all manner of artistic support and free money.  You can’t win if you don’t play!  A friend of mine just found out Friday that he was awarded the Steinbeck Fellowship — that’s $10,000 and a university office to write in for a year.  Not to mention exposure.  Congratulations, John.

10.  Also in the Rejection Collection notebook, this gem:

True success is overcoming the fear of being unsuccessful. – Paul Sweeney, author

23 thoughts on “Out With The Old

  1. Downith

    Teri, where do I begin? Your daughter’s gift is wonderful! And good for you for getting rid of that cruel critique – let it go.

    1. Teri Post author

      What a fun gift for a writer! And yes about the critique — when I first got it, a friend said, You should burn it. She was right. Some things require ceremony to either bring them in or get rid of them completely …

  2. macdougalstreetbaby

    I have a picture of my mother three weeks before she died. She was literally blue in the face but, as always, smiling. I wonder what her expression would have been had she known she had such a short time left.

    I love finding unexpected things in the rubble of my life, always thinking there’s a sign associated with them. Could Grandpa Red be trying to tell you something?

    Sorry ’bout the sunglasses. I know how sensitive your eyes are. I guess there’s one reason to be thankful it’s raining in your neck of the woods.

    I’m with Mrs. D… let it go.

    1. Teri Post author

      Literally blue in the face. Wow. My mother is wearing her oxygen in this photo — she would have surely been blue without it.

      In this photo, honestly, I feel like she’s sitting there wondering, How in the hell did I get here?

  3. Averil Dean

    I’m so glad you tossed out that horrible critique, Teri.

    I have a photo like that of my dad, at my son’s birthday party. He wasn’t blue in the face, but so thin, so sick. I wish I’d photographed him more at the end. I remember feeling it was distasteful to record his decline.

    1. Lyra

      The pictures Annie Leibowitz took of Sontag…that just sprung to mind. As much as I wanted to appreciate the artistry, and her need for something, I just couldn’t wrap my head around it.
      Neither here nor there, but what you said reminded me.

      1. Teri Post author

        I remember this book when it first went on sale. There was one, un-plastic-wrapped book that you could open and see inside. I looked a few pages of Susan in her hospital bed and put it back. It felt like the worst kind breech.

        And I love Annie Leibowitz.

      2. Lyra

        That was it, a violation. Yet, it wasn’t that simple. Sontag’s son felt that way and wrote about it, but Annie…I wonder if it wasn’t the only way she knew how to deal with losing this woman she loved.

    2. Teri Post author

      Sometimes I think my mother was as dismayed by what being ill did to her looks as she was the illness itself. She talked about it constantly. The loss of her external beauty sapped her sassiness — or at least it seems like it happened that way. I only have a few photos of her from that last year …

      1. lizisilver

        It feels vain, but the external effects of illness sting almost as much (more than?) the internal ones that can be felt but not seen. I often tell my husband that if I must die a difficult, drowning death so be it, but the thought of dying ugly scares me even more.

        I guess it’s never ever pretty, though, is it?

      2. Teri Post author

        It doesn’t sound vain at all. It sounds real. When I was in middle school, my mother had a 5 yr long love affair, the love of her life. It didn’t work. Fast forward 25 years. A few months before she died, I sent her a gift via UPS. Guess who was the UPS man? He told her she was just as beautiful as he’d remembered her. At first, she was mortified that he’d seen her. Within a week, she was giddy that he found her still beautiful. “Do you think he really mean it?” she kept asking me. She believed him and I think it helped.

        The UPS man. Really. What are the chances.

  4. Lyra

    Your daughter getting you that notebook, but moreso the note she left. How is it that kids are so free with support and love? Brilliant girl.

    There is something about the fact that the words that ass wrote were left to bleed into a dog’s water dish. You may have to perform some sort of exorcism on the dish though.

      1. Teri Post author

        I recommend the burning or the drowning. I was particularly proud of myself for not re-reading it before killing it off. Many a cruel detail has faded in my mind over the last 6 months. Poof! gone….

  5. amyg

    i agree with lyra. those words were poison–get rid of whatever they touch. so much clearing! it’s got to feel good and your daughter’s gift is the best thing i’ve ever heard of for a writer gift. seriously, that’s a business plan, it’d go with the journals over on the gift shelves at barnes and noble.

    today i am cleaning my office (it looks like i turned over a dumpster of paper recyclables throughout). i’m catching up on all my favorite bloggers and i may, just may write something. we’ll see.

  6. Laura

    Love love love that you used the dog water to soak those pages!!

    This is unrelated, but I finished THE KISS a few days ago. Jesus. It blew my mind.

    1. Teri Post author

      I’m glad you finished it, Laura. It really is like being run over by a train. Just brilliant.

    1. Teri Post author

      And it was a broken Jesus, no less. Pair that with the Catholic Church I’ve walked my dogs by everyday for 4 years — and never entered — it all gets weird. Which is code for fun if you’re a writer!

  7. lizisilver

    Teri, your post smells like spring cleaning, even if you weren’t able to get that fire going. Ah, freshness. Perhaps the rain is doing exactly what it is supposed to?

  8. lisahgolden

    What a thoughtful and encouraging gift from your daughter. She gets it. She understands.

    Didn’t it feel good to physically dispatch all that stuff? Sometimes it’s a good clearing out that gets me ready to work on new material. I’m glad to hear this day (Sunday) was productive for you.

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