Closed Door

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Part 47


Dear Diary, 

I’ve given up waiting for Cal to have time.  I’ve also given up the idea of being able to afford the lumber to fix the porch much less being able to get to the store to buy it.   

It isn’t Cal’s fault.  All area LEOs are working double shifts.  Sometimes he is so tired he can’t risk driving home and he just collapses where ever there is space at the department or substation depending on where he ends his second shift.  

This might have gone off much more easily for the feds if they’d picked some nice Yankee city that didn’t mind putting up with more new laws and heavier application of existing laws.  But they aren’t up north where the weather is cooling rapidly and people don’t mind staying inside.  They are here in the Deep South where it is still warm enough that people don’t mind being outside and creating a mess.   

Rather than quiet things down martial law is making things worse.  And trouble is starting to pop up in other cities now too.  Some of the mainstream and cable media outlets just can’t seem to bring themselves to understand it.  The government is just here to help us after all.  Yeah right.  

And for those media outlets and bloggers that dare to raise a dissenting opinion, a few have mysteriously gone dark.  Some pulled their own plug but not all of them.  I stopped trying to keep up with it all after a cameraman accidentally on purpose panned back from a news desk on one of the cable networks normally considered conservative by most people and low and behold there were some uniformed men standing there with some serious fire power backing them up … the DHS insignia clearly visible. 

The whole incident was spun so much it is a wonder the cream didn’t turn to butter.  Apparently they were just there for an interview … no wait … they were there for an inspection … oh, it was all just a misunderstanding, see they were there to protect the media personality because he’d been threatened.  Uh huh.  And I’m going to believe that this side of Heaven’s Gate.  Not likely.  And now the Department of Justice is involved and the cameraman, media personality (who refused to play ball with the spun story), and the owners of the network are all under investigation.  How convenient. 

I get so flustered when I think about it that sometimes all I can do is put it away, put it out of my mind, and focus on my personal problems and try and find some creative solution.

Part 46


Dear Diary, 

I’m trying not to be upset.  I’m trying not to panic.  There really isn’t a need to panic, none at all, at least that’s what I keep telling myself.  But how did things go downhill so fast?!  I’m not ready!   

OK, anxiety attack under control and over with.  At least until the next flutter gets away from me and turns into a screaming osprey in my chest. 

Martial law is completely getting in the way of my plans.  No travel but essential travel.  They say they will let up on that in a few days, that this is basically just a calming down period for everyone.  Yeah right, I’ll believe it when I see it.  When people take power it is very hard for them to turn loose of it.   

And by people I don’t mean the cops or even the state government … I mean the feds that seem to have invaded the land.  DHS is particularly snobby about sharing their plans.  Cal says it is making it very difficult for their department to do their job because there are feds all over the place looming like hungry vultures.  They’ve got the 911 phone system so disrupted that you might as well be calling the non-emergency phone line.  Response times are way down because DHS wants to clear every call, send observers on certain types of calls, and even cop cars get stopped at the check points, even if they are running with lights and siren blasting. 

The FBI, DHS, and some of the other alphabet agencies have been making arrests on their own authority and then the people just kind of disappear and then reappear in odd locations like out of state with no formal notification to their family or area law enforcement.  As a matter of fact local law enforcement is slowly being cut completely out of the information loop on the off chance that “dissidents and/or activists fill the ranks of the various law enforcement agencies in the state.”  And yes, that was a direct quote from an interview some DHS honcho did on a talk show.  But something keeps niggling in the back of my mind that martial law is a military thing; it’s not supposed to be the way they are running it. 

But seriously, could they paint the bull’s eye on the backs of our guys and gals just a little bigger and brighter?!  At first people were so thankful that the administration had acted decisively and quickly – for the first time in who knows how long – but now that reality is setting in they aren’t quite so happy.  And who do they blame?  Themselves for voting in those yahoos that sit in power?  Of course not.  No, they blame the cops for “being such babies and running crying to the feds that someone was picking on them which everyone seems to know they deserved.”    And yeah, I’ve really heard a few people say it like that on network news as well out in the streets … when I get out at all.  The few people that still remain in the gated community there at the mouth of the river that haven’t barricaded themselves inside like agoraphobics are getting on my nerves more than a little with the way they act. 

Doesn’t matter how many times or ways they are told that the feds came in uninvited and against states’ rights, they want to blame who and what is closest at hand because it gives them a handy target and makes them feel better.  Doesn’t seem to matter that if someone will beat down on the cops they won’t even hesitate at beating on regular ol’ Joe Schmoe on the street.  Hardly anyone cackles when the feds haul someone away under cloak of darkness and silence but let the cops pull someone over for speeding or bust them during a domestic call and the rocks and bottles start. 

The National Guard is also getting targeted but to a lesser degree.  The fatigues, or maybe it is the large automatic rifles, make them a less desirable target apparently.  It could also be if you interfere with a National Guardsman’s ability to do his or her job it is a federal/military crime.  You can kill a cop and you’ll still only be prosecuted at the local and state level.  It is just really freaky to seeing this stuff going on in the 21st century in the USA; Daddy and Papa would be horrified.   

There is zero traffic on my little private road but I see the Coast Guard, boats from MacDill, and a couple that even say Department of Homeland Security emblazoned on them patrolling the bay and mouth of the river.  The Port Authority boats are also out in force.  I hear on the news that they are also out in the Gulf on the other side of Pinellas and further south along the coast. 

The foreign boats that dock at the Port of Tampa are subject to search and seizure.  Their crews are not allowed to leave their boats at all, not even when the Seaman’s Ministry said that they would house a few at a time to allow them to use their communications facility to call or email home to let their families know how they fare.  I have a feeling the powers that be would close the Port completely if it could be done without creating even more economic chaos for the unions.  Or maybe they are just afraid of looking like what they are - fascists. 

I think they are intentionally making Tampa, and to a lesser extent the entire state of Florida, into an example they can hold up to others.  Either play by our rules, do what we say, or we’ll bankrupt you into obedience.  I don’t want to think about that part too much because I start having trouble breathing.  I’ve read about this sort of stuff in history books but I never thought I would ever live to experience it.  Kings would travel their lands giving fiefs and land owners the “privilege” of hosting the monarch and his entire entourage.  The cost of the privilege could empty a family’s coffers and starve them making them dependent on the charity of the king.  I know it isn’t exactly the same thing going on here but it sure seems like some of the same tactics. 

Oh and don’t get the bickering going between the classes and ethnic groups; you’ll start world war III without even trying.  The blacks blame the whites, the whites blame a lot of the minorities.  The Hispanics blame the blacks and the rich whites.  The rich of all colors blame the poor of all colors and vice versa.  Everyone blames the illegal immigrants and the illegal immigrants are doing the best they can to escape but finding it difficult to travel with martial law in place.  In other words, everyone is nuts; and, they all want a piece of local law enforcement because they believe that’s who started this mess. 

Then in comes politics and it’s the democrats blaming the republicans, the republicans blaming the democrats, the conservatives blaming the liberal progressives and the liberal progressives blaming everyone – including their parents – for their financial and psychological misery … everyone but themselves naturally. 

On a more micro level things are just as bad.  Even if I was free to travel I can’t justify using the gas.  They’ve cut the amount of fuel you can buy at the pump to twenty dollars and even with price controls in place that isn’t much and for some people that means going to the pump every day just to have enough fuel to get to and from work.  Despite the price controls, or maybe because of them, the feds have levied a surcharge on the gas to pay for our own occupation. 

And yes, it feels like an occupation.  I can’t remember why Daddy and Papa were discussing it … and I can’t even remember what “it” was … but I remember the feel of the conversation.  I also remember the following statement:  “You can’t enjoy your freedoms if you are dead but you can’t enjoy living if you aren’t free.  The Constitution is supposed to provide a balanced solution to that conundrum by stating the explicit rights and laws of the land but men will manage to destroy that one of these days.” 

It makes me wonder if those days have arrived.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Part 45


Dear Diary, 

It wasn’t Cal.  I know it happened last night and all is well but I’m still shaking.  I caught it just in time.  There’s damage but it is fixable. 

I better back up because I’m not making much sense when I just read what I wrote.   

I got up last night when I thought it was Cal coming home early.  I thought he must have dropped his keys or something because usually he is quiet as a cat, first because he can and second so he doesn’t wake up Feena.  As I was going down the stairs my phone buzzed and I looked down and indeed it was Cal calling.  Rather than answer I flipped on the outside light and then I hear what sounded like a heard of elephants leaving the porch.  When I couldn’t see anything through the peep hole I started wondering if Cal was pulling some kind of security test on me so I used my phone to access the little pinhole camera Cal installed out there.  That’s when I see flames. 

I grabbed the kitchen fire extinguisher – thank you Cal for insisting I get a big one and then teaching me how to use it – and got out through the door and shutter as quick as I could.  If I had waited a minute more it might have been too far gone for me to stop.  The guy from the fire department said they used some kind of accelerant that busted right through the fire retardant capabilities in the house paint. 

While I’m spraying the extinguisher and wondering if I should just give up, run upstairs and grab Feena I heard a horrible crash.  The first thought through my head was that whoever took off must have clipped the tree trunk that still hangs out in the road a bit.  I was too busy coughing and trying to put out the flames to use too many brain cells on it.  Then I heard all sorts of noise from down at the drive and then someone was running around the house. 

I look up, my eyes tearing up because while the fire is out everything is still smoking, and see a couple of people with a rifles.  I squeal like a blasted old lady, and accidentally shoot one of them in the face with the extinguisher until it snorts empty.  For some unknown reason I then throw the extinguisher at the head of the other one, practically fall back into the house slamming the shutters and door shut behind me.  I’m up the stairs, grabbing Feena and we’re both half way out the bedroom window before I recognize Cal’s bellow from below telling me it’s OK that the guys – the guys I just blinded and tried to decapitate – are the good guys. 

I hope no one thinks badly of me but once I got back inside I slid down the wall and cried doing a pretty good imitation of Feena who was horribly upset at being jerked out of a sound sleep.  My heart nearly stopped when something big swooped down on me.  Then I smelled Cal’s aftershave and cried even harder. 

Anxiously he asked, “Did they hurt you or Feena?” 

“What?” 

“Look at me Aria, did they hurt you or Feena?” 

I shook my head and let him help me stand up.  Completely ignoring the fact that I had also just been close to howling I said, “I need to get Fenna a cup or she’s not going to stop fussing.” 

He held her for me while I washed my face that had tear streaks through the soot that covered me from head to toe.  When we got downstairs there were strangers out in the yard and I was finally calm enough to pray they wouldn’t go off into the garden and trample anything.   

“Dang it Cal, someone tried to set the porch on fire!” I told him as I took care of my hot tempered daughter.  I didn’t want to put her down but she wanted her bed and her blankey.  I put her back down and then came downstairs and asked Cal, “How did you get here so fast?” 

He put his hand on my shoulder and I realized it was to stop me from nervously rocking myself.  “Here, let me see that rag; you still have soot in the corners of your eyes.”  As he was getting the last of it out he told me, “I was on my way home when the calls started coming in.” 

I said, “What calls?  I didn’t make any calls.” 

Law enforcement officers all over the county, including in the city limits where TPD is in charge, were targeted and hit nearly simultaneously.  Last night they thought it was one large organization but this morning, after thoroughly questioning some of those that had been caught in the act, they discovered that it was actually more like a flash mob.  If you wanted to play you replied with a txt and you were sent an address.  Most thought it was just a prank, never realizing they were hitting the homes and families of cops. 

A group claiming to be Constitutional patriots quickly claimed responsibility and they say that this is only the first “volley” of the New American Revolution.  The broadcast media is having a field day with it and eating it up but a lot of cops, including Cal, aren’t buying it.  Cal says he is pretty sure it is what he calls a false flag event.  False flags are meant to deceive and while everyone is pretty sure last night’s terror is a false flag, without proof the investigators are not ruling anything out.  And the feds are involved making things into an even bigger Chinese fire drill and getting in the way of the local investigation.  Not just the FBI but the DOJ, NSA, and a few other alphabet groups I can’t remember.  MacDill is also on lock down as is all other military facilities here in the state.   

Cal wanted to stay home – I wanted him to stay home but more because he was exhausted than because I was still scared – but it is all hands on deck.  All leaves have been indefinitely cancelled, everyone is to go out and about in body armor (regardless of temperature I might add), everyone rides with a partner, emergency management has been triggered for some reason, and much more.  Hillsborough County is under strict martial law.  So is Pinellas and Pasco that also saw some of the same violence.  All other counties in the state are on different levels of curfew and it is spreading to other states. 

Not too many stores were open today.  I got through to Dorrie but only after several tries and the line sounded funny, like it had an echo.  Josh and her Uncle Darryl are keeping watching the house.  It took me a few minutes to calm her down, she was crying because it had scared her when she heard how close the fire had come to getting out of hand. 

“Haven’t you been through enough?!  It’s not ..” 

“Don’t you dare use that four letter word with me; you know how I feel about it.” 

She hiccupped a gasp of a laugh the asked, “How can you be so calm?” 

“Well,” I said still feeling embarrassed.  “I wasn’t at the time.  I sprayed the uniform of some poor National Guard boy with extinguisher fluff and then threw the actual extinguisher at another one.” 

“You … you did what?!” 

“It was dark.  All I saw was their guns.” 

She tried to choke back a laugh and then we were both giggling worse than when we were in middle school.  “I could have just died of embarrassment but they were really nice about it.” 

“What did Cal say?” 

“Don’t even remind me.  He is such a big brother and you know what big brothers are like when they get a scare.”  What I didn’t tell her was that there were now several hidden guns throughout the house.  They are all out of Feena’s reach – she’d rather walk than be carried these days – and a couple of them are even out of my reach as they are specifically there for Cal who is tall enough to palm a basketball and barely make any effort to put in in the hoop.  The boy is broad as well as tall; for me to see around him I actually have to walk around him.  He never uses his size against me but it can be irritating nonetheless when he stands between me and something else like a constipated guard dog. 

For instance last night, different people kept wanting to ask me to repeat what had happened but that last time Cal put his foot down.  I told him that no, it was OK, anything to help catch who did it but he just turned his back and stared whoever it was down while I got to stare at his back.  You’d think I was made of cotton candy or something and would melt if someone looked at me too hard. 

But suddenly not having to answer questions gave me time to think and suddenly I was trying to run outside only instead I ran into – literally – Cal and bounced off hard enough to lose my balance.   

In a worried tone he asked, “What’s wrong?” 

“I didn’t think about the animals … or the garden … or my trees … or … oh not … the panels!  I’ve got to go check …” 

He shoo’d me back in the house and said quietly, “Easy, I’ve already checked.  And I threw a tarp over the panels before most of the people out there arrived.  No need to explain if they can’t see them to ask about them.” 

I relaxed.  “Thank you.  I don’t know where my head is at.” 

That’s when he tried not to snicker and instead said, “If you’d had more time to aim I know a national guardsman that would be asking that same question.” 

“Oh you!”  I tried to throw the wet dish rag at him but for a big guy he can move fast.  Instead of hitting Cal it caught Det. McLeod in the side of the head. 

“Oh Lord, I’m so sorry!” 

Det. McLeod tried to look stern but then cracked a smile.  “It’s all right.  It’s good to see you are recovering from your shock.” 

I shrugged.  “I’ve been through worse.”  I blanched and then shook the memory away as fast as I could.  Once I was back in the room mentally Cal was standing beside me and Det. McLeod was looking at me in concern.   

I shook my head.  “Stop it Cal.  I’m fine.  Or I’ll be fine.  I’m not made of glass.” 

He said, “I know you’re not but humor me and take it easy for a little bit.” 

“I will after everyone leaves.” 

Det. McLeod said, “That’s going to be some time.  We need daylight to take some of the pictures we need.” 

He walked out and I turned to Cal and asked quietly, “Should I make coffee or something?  I think we have enough left without having to open a new can.” 

“Not the coffee,” he said guarding our supplies jealously.  “If they want coffee they can get it from home or at the station.  If you want to maybe use that big orange igloo cooler we take fishing and get some ice water fixed up I’ll haul it outside and put it on a bench.” 

“What will people use for cups?” 

“Everyone carries canteens or water bottles these days.  But I mean it, after that I want you to go upstairs and stay with Feena for a while.  Underneath that soot you are as white as a ghost.” 

Which is just what I did though I didn’t do much but pace around until the wee hours of the morning. 

All’s well that ends well … at least for us personally … at least this time.  The only thing we have to do is replace some wood on the porch and throw some geraniums in the compost heap.  Not all of those attacked got off so lightly.   

But what does this all mean?  How is this going to affect our future?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Part 44


Dear Diary, 

OK, I felt like a dork but I did it.  I gave into temptation and ate a piece of dollar weed just to see what it tasted like.  Well, it sure didn’t taste like lettuce and I wouldn’t want to eat a bowlful by itself but … well … it wasn’t all that terrible.  I made sure to do it when Cal was at work because no way was I going to have him thinking that I’d finally lost what little bit of mind I have left.  Bad enough I had a dream last night were we were all out in the yard, grazing like the goats and scratching around in the sand like the chickens.  But it has got me thinking about what I can do to piece out what we have.   

First off I know I need a green house, a real one.  Might not happen any time soon but I do need one.  I think that I can maybe afford some PVC pipes and some visqueen sheeting with which I could build something sorta like some of the organic and hydroponic farms use.  It wouldn’t be big and I’d be afraid it would blow over in a storm but at least I could start seeds early and have someplace besides the Florida room to put the potted trees like the cocoa that I bought from the nursery.  The deep south tropicals are outside right now but as soon as the weather starts dropping below forty-five at night I’m going to have to move them into some kind of protected structure. 

Second off, dang but there are a lot of wild plants you can eat.  I’ve been looking at some of the books I picked up from the library sale.  I used “Florida’s Best Herbs and Spices” to decide what to order from the nursery that time so I know that when something is growing it doesn’t always look exactly how you are used to seeing it in a bottle on the grocery store shelf.  Still … I mean, I never imagined you could eat cattails.  Come on, cattails … those fuzzy things that grow in ditches … but apparently they are like gourmet in the world of wild edibles.  From roots to shoots to pollen there are a bunch of different ways to use them.   

And that’s not all.  You can make a lemonade like drink from dried sumac berries … I thought those things were poisonous but apparently the poisonous kind isn’t what grows around here.  There are a whole bunch of sumac growing up in the palmetto stand area; they stick out like a sore thumb.  I’ll test it out on myself first and if I don’t croak then I’ll give some to Cal and maybe a tiny bit to Feena just to see her make a face the way she does with lemons.  

And I finally know what fiddleheads are … I thought they were a fish … they are actually baby ferns, the kind that are still curled up like snail shells.  People pay big bucks to eat them in fancy restaurants.  Who knew?!  Heck, we have enough ferns growing in the wood lot to supply every fancy restaurant in Miami, Tallahassee, and Jacksonville combined. 

I went looking around the property with a guide book that had both drawings and real photographs – blasted rattler nearly had me climbing a tree until I saw a hawk or something had already killed it – and found a few things, then realized I’d never remember where I saw them and went back to the house and got some awful colored yarn that I had bought a couple of years ago to crochet a bed cover with until Daniel had emphatically nixed sleeping under fluorescent pink poofs.  In hindsight I can’t say I blame him but I’m glad I can finally put the stuff to some use.  It is so bright it gives you a headache just looking at it for long. 

There is a freak ton of wild anise on the property but I already knew that.  Papa and Daddy swore it was their fishing secret … they’d rub it on their lures and never failed to catch something when they did.  The thing is I just didn’t know you could eat it.  I mean you can really get anise from the seeds just like at the grocery but apparently the leaves are edible too … like you can add it to a salad or make a tea out of them. I love anise tea with honey when I have that gassy bloated feeling at a certain time of the month.  Papa used to love Anise Tea if he’d eaten too many garbanzo beans and they had upset his stomach. 

There’s a big ol’ achiote bush near the barn – annatto for you Yankee talkers – that is the same plant that you get the stuff like you buy in the store from.  If I had known that you know good and well I wouldn’t have spent any money on it in the store even though I was getting it deep discount.  Why spend any money if you can get something just as good for free or barter.  I bet it was something that either Abuela or Momma planted.  They both were really into growing things and loved plants and flowers.  Both of them grew up very poor and had to make do a lot.  I think that is why they were such kindred spirits and that my grandparents were so happy with Daddy’s choice of bride.  She wasn’t Spanish – which I guess makes me a bit of a mutt – but that’s not the first time that’s happened in the family.  Papa said our family tree had more diversity in it than the UN … and we still managed to make a lot more sense.  Daddy always said that that wasn’t that much of an accomplishment since the UN made so little sense.  Then Papa would laugh.  It was an old joke between them.  I hadn’t thought about that in years. 

And the fruit of our bilimbi tree is edible!  I know I keep saying who knew but … who knew?  I thought it was just some strange ornamental Abuela had planted before I was born.  It has these freaky fruits that grow from the trunk and because of the way they look I always called it the cucumber tree.  That fruit is actually edible.  I think Papa brought it back from one of his early missionary trips to southeast Asia.  He used to do stuff like that before customs got so picky. 

There’s chicory all up and down the road.  I thought the stuff was just a stupid weed with cute little flowers.  Young leaves can be used in salads but what most people go after are the roots.  You dry those suckers and grind them up and you have coffee.  Now that I’ve read it I remember hearing about chicory coffee being a Louisiana delicacy.  I swear, the things you learn when you bother to read and listen.  It’s like understanding that two plus two equals four for the first time. 

And all that lemon grass that I replanted around the house like it was when I was growing up because it keeps away the mosquitos?  Yeah, that’s edible too.  And let me tell you it is good.  I sliced some up when I was broiling some fish and also put some in the rice and tried it on Cal and Josh (Cal picked him up to get him out of the house for a while and I think they were doing some guy talking) and they raved about it.  Hah!  I’m almost tempted to not tell Cal what the secret ingredient was.   

And for sure I’m not going to tell Josh … he makes funny faces about nearly everything but French fries, hot dogs, and mac-n-cheese.  He’s a spoiled mess … I’ve tried to tell him what actually goes in hot dogs and what the casings are made out of and he just sticks his fingers in his ears and goes la-la-la-la like some kid.  Dorrie said he was the pickiest eater imaginable until he was forced to eat what she gave him or go hungry before he could get out of bed for more than a couple of minutes at a time.  At least now he will actually eat something green without closing his eyes. 

Those little orange things that are left on the heirloom rose bushes after the blooms are done are called “hips” – I know, silly name – but they are edible too.  I only remember Papa telling me that Abuela used to make perfume out of the rose petals.  The sunny parts of the fence rows used to be covered with the wild roses but the renters didn’t take care of them.  I’ve started cutting the dead parts out but it is not a job to do when it is hot.  It also isn’t a job to do without chain mail and armor … those thorns are nasty. 

All of the plants have given me ideas of for the Barter Bizarre.  I’m thinking that if I could gather enough I might even open my own booth … but it would have to be worth my while and there would have to be people out there willing to try something new.  Maybe if they get hungry enough.  But what a thought that is, that people here in the US of A might get hungry enough that they’d be willing to eat weeds. 

I could go on and on; you should see the pages of notes that I’ve made while going through the books.  But the one thing that I think makes this hard – adding wild stuff to my food inventory – is that it takes so much time to locate and harvest enough to be worth anything.  That is one of the reasons why I used the pink yarn; I was lucky to find them the first time around, I don’t want to be stumbling and wasting more time trying to find them again. 

And speaking of stumbling, sounds like Cal is home.  He must have tripped over something on the porch.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Part 43


Dear Diary, 

First week of October, hard to believe.  It has finally cooled off … but only marginally; it takes ten minutes to start sweating instead of two.  Real cool weather won’t be here until the end of this month or the beginning of next and then it could decide to leave again until January, but at least it won’t be August and September kind of hot.  Hopefully it will also cool people’s tempers off.  We can pray it does anyway. 

Oh, and I saw another drone flying along the river.  They are becoming commonplace; like annoying mosquitoes, you just want to swat them.  Makes me feel like I need to go inside and close all the shutters.  And I’ve gotten paranoid about making sure I’m out of my nightgown and dressed for the day before I open the shears in the morning.  I don’t get undressed until I’m ready to crawl between the sheets because I keep imagining one of those golf ball size drones is outside the window just waiting to take pictures.  Dorrie says she swears that some pervert is operating the one that flies around their place every once in a while because it always seems to go by her window right as she is changing her bra and since she is on the ample size well … I don’t blame her for having the wooly boogers.  I’d say it was her imagination if not for the fact the news had a story on some college students that had made a mock government drone to do just that up in Virginia.  Technically savvy deviants, just what the world needs more of.  

Now on to more constructive musings.  Let’s see this week I’ve planted beets, burdock, carrots, onions, parsnips, salsify, shallots, turnips, broccoli, cabbage, celtuce, collards, leeks, lettuce, mustard greens, spinach, English peas, strawberries, snap beans, brussel sprouts, Chinese cabbage.  I’m not sure what celtuce even is and some of the others I’ve never eaten much less grown, but when it comes to seeds beggars can’t be choosers.  I picked them up the end of September at one of the monthly Barter Bizarres that is being sponsored by several local churches.  There is a “no cash allowed” rule although vendors still have to issue receipts and keep records per the IRS (yes, bartering is taxable).  I know they did it for people that have no or little cash coming in and I admit that it is a neat concept, but you still have the “haves” and “have nots” and those that are able to outbid if two or more people go after the same item. 

That particular bizarre was the first one that I had attended so I kind of wandered around trying to get the feel for things before I got my feet wet.  Had a guy that tried to invade my personal space but some of the men from the church acting as security spotted what was going on and came over to handle it.  There is a zero-tolerance rule for harassing and intimidation.  We’ll see how long that lasts.  After the creep went away I generally tried not to stand alone too much but stuck in groups of two or three with other women, some with small children just like me.   

Heard some local gossip while I was there.  There was an outbreak of measles at the Brandon campus of HCC.  It didn’t really go far in the student population since they are required to show proof of MMR prior to admission – those that can still afford to go anyway – but it has really hit the staff pretty hard.  They made me get an MMR booster when I was still in the hospital after Feena was born because when they pulled my blood work it showed that I had a negative resistance to almost all of the childhood diseases that I hadn’t had growing up.   I asked Cal when the last time he’d had any boosters was and he said that two years ago there was a department wide push to get all the deputies in the county up to date on their immunization boosters because there was a chicken pox epidemic in the Orient Road jail. 

“And then there were three cases of hepatitis in one of the juvie facilities.  So, I’m all up to date.  My parents were not real fond of vaccines when I was a kid but since I was homeschooled it was never an issue.”   

“Wait … you were homeschooled?”  I reached across the table and slapped his arm. 

I’d knocked a meatball off of his fork and he glared.  You never get between a hungry man and his food.  “What was that for?” 

“You never told me you all were homeschooled.” 

He shrugged.  “My brothers weren’t but I was.  That’s how I finished my BS at nineteen.  I dual enrolled at HCC and then entered USF right as I was turning eighteen only a couple of credits shy of being a Senior.  I had to take some additional credits that didn’t carry over to my degree in Criminology and … uh … too much information?” 

“No,” I sniffed in response.  “I’m jealous.  I always wanted to be homeschooled but Momma got sick the first time right as I was to start kindergarten.  Then Daddy thought I needed … I don’t know … what he called structure or something like that while she was sick and then didn’t get better.  She died when I was going into middle school.  Daddy died within a couple months of her which left everything at sixes and sevens. Papa was seriously considering it when he saw what high school was like but was worried that I wouldn’t have any friends and then he died and I got shoved into the foster care system.  You know the rest.  Edgewater was the only constant there for a while except for …” 

I stuck a forkful of pasta in my mouth to keep from finishing the sentence.  Wisely Cal got the message and didn’t mention Daniel’s name.  Instead he asked, “Would you want to homeschool Feena?” 

“I’m considering it.  A lot depends on what she needs and if they change the laws by the time she gets school age.  They keep making all this noise about making homeschooling illegal.  I’m sure you’ve heard all of that junk coming out of the UN about international educational standards as well as standardize curriculum for everyone worldwide. And some whack job up in DC actually had the nerve to say that homeschooling creates militants.” 

Thoughtfully Cal said, “He’s got a point, just not for the reason he thinks.” 

“What?!” 

Cal shrugged and after consuming the last meatball on his plate in one bite said, “Think about it.  Homeschoolers are usually grounded in free will and critical thinking.  They’ve got boundaries and consequences that a lot of kids don’t and usually wind up being internally motivated to succeed for whatever reason you want to pick.  Most of them are also grounded in their parents’ worldview yet are still encouraged to be individuals rather than crowd followers.  All of that is very dangerous to groups that espouse socialism or communism.  They want cogs for their wheels, fodder for their cannons, not leaders that will wrest power away from them and show people there is a different way than being indoctrinated from birth to be an automaton.” 

My mouth had fallen open and then I felt a giggle gurgle out. 

He shrugged grumpily and said, “Look.  You asked.” 

“Aw, don’t get your feelings hurt.  I was just imaging how well you would have gotten along with Daddy and Papa.  They ate that kind of stuff up and talked about it all the time.” 

He looked at me but his mouth was full of pasta and garlic toast which he almost choked on in laughter of his own when Feena chose that moment to peg me with a long string of spaghetti. 

And speaking of food, I learned something else today at that bizarre that I’d never even thought of … dollar weed is edible.  And no I’m not kidding although it sounds like a bad joke.  Some people are down to looking in their lawns for something to eat.  I mean I know you can eat some flowers and I know herbs get eaten and technically I guess I know that there are a lot of things out there that are edible that you wouldn’t normally think of in that way.  But it has given me pause.  What if our garden doesn’t work out the way I hope?  What if all the produce stands close?  What if there are no u-pick farms next year?  Worst of all, what if the benefit checks stop coming in and I don’t have anything to go to the grocery store with? 

I haven’t said anything to Cal about that.  I know he has his own worries.  Lily’s lawyer called and started making some noise, trying to rework their agreement.  Lily hasn’t lost her job but she’s at half pay and hasn’t seen a commission since the divorce proceedings started.  Personally I think she is more interested in her social life than her professional life and it has had its consequences.  She’s also going into arrears in the house payments.    

Luckily Cal didn’t wait around for Lily to take care of things and notified the lender of the divorce proceedings and they quit claimed his name off of the deed.  His name hadn’t been on the loan docs to begin with because basically the down payment had been a gift from Lily’s parents (they’d also picked out the house) … kinda like saying they didn’t trust Cal to look after their daughter appropriately.  But the lawyer was trying to say that Lily’s change in economic standing was solely a direct result of Cal leaving her.  Cal called his lawyer who was not happy that the other lawyer was trying to take his legal counsel out of the loop and told him to leave it to her.  I guess we will have to see where it goes; hopefully nowhere.   

Cal has enough on his mind with the way things are out in the public now.  When he comes home it looks like he’s been figuratively worked over.  Morale is suffering.  No one likes to be viewed as the bad guy all the time.  When he is feeling low he will sometimes tell me about various cases and then ask rhetorically if people hate the cops so much why do they call them anytime they need help?  I’m not sure what to tell him.  I know there are bad cops but they are only one or two bad apples; that really isn’t how the majority of cops are.  They hired on to do a job which is to do their best to enforce the laws on the books.  If the public wants to blame someone how about blaming the people that created the laws … the politicians … or suggested the laws … such as group that sent in petition after petition to get something done?  But people never want to take personal responsibility; they have to have a bad guy to blame to make themselves look better. 

All of it is sitting heavy on my chest; my problems, Cal’s problems, and the problems we both have that overlap.  I can’t dump one more on him; I’ve got to pull my weight.  I’m starting to tally up how dependent we are on various things.  Cal gives me money every paycheck to add to the household funds but I am NOT going to turn into a charity case.  Even if I didn’t have my pride no way am I going to watch Cal go from supporting Lily to supporting me and Feena anymore than he already does.  Actually that sounds kind of … never mind.  I’m just not going to have it.  Period.  I’ve got to start thinking outside the box even more than I already try to do.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Part 42


Dear Diary, 

I know it’s selfish.  No one needs to give me a lecture on how selfish it is.  Part of me has been dreading this day while the other part is so thankful that it actually happened. 

Josefina Delores Lowery is officially one year old today.  Josefina for my mother (who had a Spanish name but no Spanish blood, she was named after a heroine in a romance novel) and Delores for my grandmother (who had an English name but who was more Cuban than Castro, who was named after the woman that ran the orphanage where she grew up).  I hope that when Feena gets older she’ll appreciate the irony of that and not judge people based on names or ethnicity.  You are who you are based on your insides and the choices you make, not what you look or sound like. 

A good example of that is Dorrie’s Uncle Darryl.  He is good looking in a road hard and hung up wet kind of way; had a lot of advantages growing up too.  But through his own choices he has turned into a Grade A donkey’s behind; and he’s only slightly mellowed by the tragedy of losing his hand.  Although Dorrie has said he is better than I am giving him credit for being; that she thinks he may act that way around me in particular just to get my goat.  Well he can’t have my goat or any other part of me.  If he thinks showing his … er … attitude is going to get my attention he needs a seriously good knock in the head. 

I suppose I shouldn’t be so hard on the man; I’m not exactly the model for unbiased thinking and behavior these days.  I feel way older than I ever thought I could.  And there are things that just start me down a thought path that is hard to get out of.  If I ever had a cat scan you’d probably see ruts in my psyche.  I said that once to Cal and he said I had the most vivid imagination.  His exact words, I’m not kidding.  He tickles me sometimes the odd things he says. 

Speaking of Cal, he insisted on taking us to lunch to celebrate Feena’s birthday … a real restaurant … while we were in St. Pete today to celebrate.  We went to Munch’s on 6th Street South.  I’d never been there but had heard about it for years.  It was on that old show … Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives … Or Dives, Diners and … whatever, that show with the guy that had the peroxide spiked ‘do that always made me want to give him a seriously deep conditioning.  The burgers were incredible; Cal ordered for me while I was in the ladies’ room and since he was buying I didn’t complain, actually thought it was kind of sweet in a very Cal kind of way.  He wouldn’t let me see the check either when it came which says more than it doesn’t.  Sigh.    

Next year I’ll try and do a cake and all that … or at least a cupcake depending on if flour is still as expensive as it is.  This year I am ashamed to admit, it was just all beyond me. 

I kept myself as busy as I could throughout the day and I did try and sing Happy Birthday to Feena – try being the operative word since my singing voice is so rusty that I don’t even think WD40 would help.  But that fateful day kept coming back to haunt me.  So did other things.   

One of the things we did while over in Pinellas was to scope out the stores to see what they had versus what we had easy access to.  We scored a few things as we stopped at three going out of business sales … all in the same strip center.  I heard lots of hushed and worried talk from people wondering how they were going to make ends meet.  Heard one woman mention that there was a waiting list so long just to get in the application process for public assistance that it would take at least three years to clear the backlog.  Heard another man complaining that he had so many relatives wanting to come down and live with him he’d lost count, and most of them he hadn’t seen or heard from in years.  Heard a couple of others say they couldn’t wait to move out of state because cold weather or not they never wanted to have to deal with hurricanes again.  Each to his own, I’ll take wind and water over snow and who knows what else any day. 

We also took a chance and stopped at a grocery store just to see what they had and while I was walking the aisles I heard a baby crying that sounded so much like the baby in my old nightmare that my brain went on autopilot and I nearly pushed my cart into this old lady; would have if Cal hadn’t grabbed the front of the cart. 

He asked, “You OK?” 

“Yeah,” I answered.  Did … did you hear a baby crying?” 

“Crying?  Are you kidding?  The kid was on his way to breaking glass.  The mother never even looked at him while she stared into the meat cooler.  Little girl that couldn’t have even been ten years old came running from down another aisle and picked him up out of the carrier.  Mother looks messed up or high on something.  Store employees are surreptitiously tailing her around the store.” 

That was a lot of details but Cal is a very detail oriented kind of guy.  Don’t ask him a question unless you are prepared for him to answer it.  Rarely does he give a simple yes or no. 

Then as we were walking out of the store my knees nearly buckled as a young man in fatigues walked in and I swear he could have been Daniel’s twin right down to the broken nose and dimpled chin.  I started to fall and grabbed Cal’s arm so I wouldn’t go down to my knees on the black asphalt of the parking lot.  Feena, who was on my hip in the sling, complained bitterly as she got mashed between the two of us. 

“Hey, you really …”  He never finished what he was going to say.  I saw his eyes widen and his head turn and follow the young man into the store.  Then he was helping me out to his truck.  He took Feena and made me sit down while he buckled her in. 

“You … you OK?” he asked. 

I looked at him and realized he’d seen the same thing I had so at least it hadn’t been a ghost.  I shook myself and tried to act normal.  “Sure.  We better get over to the nursery or they’re going to think I decided to give up my deposit on those plants.” 

“We will but not until you can tell me you’re fine enough for me to actually believe you.” 

I closed my eyes briefly then admitted.  “I’ll … I’ll be fine.  This is just a hard day.  One of those milestones that part of me has been dreading but wanting to celebrate at the same time and the day seems to be conspiring against me by sending ghosts.” 

I pulled my legs in and started to buckle up.  He said, “Yeah, you WILL be fine.  But you don’t have to keep it bottled up when you aren’t.  You’ve let me vent more than a time or two about Lily.  You can talk to me about Daniel if you need or want to.” 

I sighed.  “All I did was talk to you … and Lily … about Daniel there for a while.” 

“So?” 

“So … I’ve got to … to keep this craziness that comes over me sometimes in check.  If I don’t it might completely take over and I’ll … I’ll wind up completely useless and then what is going to happen to Feena and our plans to keep her safe?” 

“Our plans?” 

“Uh …” 

“Easy Aria … I like the way you say it.  Makes me feel like my wheels aren’t as likely to fall off since I’ve got some purpose.  If I didn’t have you two to look after I don’t know where I’d be right now.  So that’s what I mean … you need or want to talk, I’m here.”  After a moment he said, “Look, I’m not saying that you’re necessarily doing anything wrong and I’m probably the last person you should be taking advice from about this sort of stuff, but keeping it in check is one thing, trying to completely bury it is another.  You gotta let some steam off sometimes.” 

“Steam makes it sound like I’m mad and I’m not … not really … not anymore.” 

“If you aren’t mad then what are you?” 

“Some days I don’t think I’m anything anymore.  I’ve pretty well accepted I can’t change what happened just sometimes … like today when everything is so … so in my face … it just really hits me.” 

“What does?” he asked trying to understand. 

“All of it.  That it wasn’t just some poor girl whose story got splash across the tv with sordid sensationalism, it was me.  That it wasn’t someone else’s crazy life, that it was mine.  That it wasn’t some other woman whose husband tried … whose husband tried to kill her and their baby, it was me.  And the rest of it as well.  On some days … most days … it has already become a lifetime ago.  But today it seems like it was just yesterday.” 

He patted my hands awkwardly where they lay bunched up in my lap and then went around and got in.  We were both silent on the way to the nursery but the heat and hard work of moving all of those flower pots into the bed of the truck and into the trailer helped me to find my balance again.  Paying the remainder of my bill certainly brought me back to reality. 

I spent the rest of the day intentionally playing with Feena but she was a little cranky.  She’s teething … again.  Anything that gets near her mouth gets chewed on, including other people’s body parts.  She bit Cal’s finger when he was giving her a taste of peanut butter from his sandwich and he had a hard time getting her to let go.  She’s going to wind up with as many teeth as a shark does if she keeps this up.  She certainly has the temperament of one right now. 

Cal is home tonight … I can hear his congested snores from here, I have got to find out what that boy is allergic to before he brings the ceiling down … but he leaves early tomorrow for a double shift.  I’ve got oatmeal doing its thing in a thermos for our breakfast so I don’t have to cook first thing and heat the house up and his lunch is already packed; cold fried chicken, fresh tropical fruit salad, and a couple of hard boiled eggs.  The next couple of days, but especially tomorrow, are going to be busier than normal as I get all of those plants and trees in the ground so they have time to take root before the weather changes and their growth slows down.