AJAX BELL

Author of the Queen City Boys books


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Not Far From the Tree (part one)

Guess what I just got?!

IMG_20140530_175850836It’s newest book in my mom’s Rain City Comedy of Manners series, Artemis in the Desert. Just in time for beach reading, bed reading, park reading, weekend reading, airport reading, or really any kind of reading there is. Like the other books in the series (Nine Volt Heart–likeable rock stars, and The Grrrl of Limberlost–punk rock nerd girl coder) it features strong female characters, crazy bad guys and such lush backdrop descriptions that you’ll wish you were there inside the book (well except maybe camping in the cold rain in the desert, you won’t wish for that but you’ll really feel it). And like all her other books, even though I’ve already read it a couple times (in various stages of completion) I’m going to read it again now that i can just enjoy it.

My mom has been a huge inspiration to me. All the usual blah blah blahs: she’s smart, strong, independent, gave me a love of books and words, etc. Lately though she’s knocking it out of the park in the getting shit done department. Writing, editing, and publishing a huge variety of works (her own and other people’s) at a rocket fast pace without sacrificing quality on anything (look at how gorgeous her book layouts are, read how neatly crafted her books are). I aspire every day to her level of productivity and her quality of output.

Plus she’s just super awesome to hang with. If you can’t get to her garden to have fancy gin drink and good hang out, you can still find her other places she hangs. She has a website where she talks about writing, editing, her stories and other various things. You can also follow her Twitter where she is very funny and her Facebook for updates about what she’s got coming up.


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An open letter to Sherman Alexie

Just read a line in a Sherman Alexie story about standing in line at Bartell’s and suddenly I’m so homesick I’m not sure I can live through the heartbreak of it. In my head I ask Sherman Alexie if he imagines how many of his throw away lines profoundly affect people?  I think of every word I’ve put out there, every bit of fiction I’ve written, and no one has ever come back to me with the important words, with the phrases that I labored over, they only come to tell me about the how they were moved by my fast lines, the ones that drop out, that I don’t consider at all before I put them to paper.

Perhaps the lines I don’t labor over mean the most, come more truly from me?  Perhaps there is no meaning in any of it and will just keeping spilling out words, looking for the turn of phrase that will free my soul and find it someday.  Perhaps Sherman Alexie labored over that line and still will never know will never know how his two sentences made me break my own heart.  I could write him a letter and tell him, but I would labor too hard over the words, I would lose the importance of sharing what he gave me.  I have always been writing this letter to him in my head, through out the years, every time I read his stories and poems.  A letter that never makes it to paper, to computer screen, never achieves more than some small form of therapy for me.

I am talking to Sherman in my head (can I call you, Sherman, I feel we are close enough now) about my homesickness, about how I cannot ever really understand where he is from and he cannot understand how I am from where he is now.  I tell him it is a continuum that no one but me can see, a story that can’t quite be told, but is important all the same.  And the The Butchies pop up on shuffle on the old mp3 player and I start to cry because this is more homesickness than a soul can bear.  But this makes me get up and start to cook dinner: fettuccine alfredo with smoked salmon (real, PNW smoked salmon), peas and caramelized onions.  Because I am homesick and if I lived close enough that I could call my mom and ask if I could come over she would walk to me to a restaurant near her house (one Sherman Alexie has surely been too) and I would order some variation of this dish because you don’t really find it anywhere else in the world, not the way we make it in Seattle.

And while I am chopping onions the mp3 player turns again and gives me Kevin Gordon singing Watching the Sun Go Down, and I remember how I stopped at 6:42 am, on my way to work, to photograph the sunrise over an electrical power station, and got distracted by some horses too.  I think of how the redbuds are surely more beautiful this year than they have ever been before, blooming riotously, everywhere, making the edges of every roadway glow purple.  I think of how  the heat in Tennessee makes me feel warm all the way through to my bones, like I’ve never been warm before.

So I tell Sherman that he is lucky indeed, to be able wait in line at Bartell’s, but he has to go through cold rain to get there and I am saved by the sun  and the green in spring and the sounds, all the sounds, here in the dirty South.  Perhaps I am homesick for a place that no longer exists.  A place I visited, moved through in childhood, that is just a fairytale now, I can not go back.  My adult self does not have the magic to cross back over the boundaries of the places I’ve been before, I can only go to new places or create them myself. And I’m still crying when I sit down to eat my dinner, but not because I miss anything.  I am so lucky to have been so many places, both real and imagined. Lucky to be me and to be still so full of emotions good and bad (love) about all of those places I have been and the people in them.  Even the rude lady in the Bartell’s line that you have to tell to fuck all the way off.  So thanks, Sherman, for reminding of my home, the past one, the new one, the one that is always me and goes everywhere inside my heart.  I’m certain that you never knew that namedropping Bartell’s in a story would make some girl in Tennessee break out the fancy smoked salmon from way back home and cook herself a good dinner on a night when she would otherwise have been too tired, too worn down by work, to do more than make a quesadilla.  Thanks for dinner, Sherman, I really feel like we are close now.

 

(Pictures taken early this morning in Tennessee, when I stopped, before I even had coffee, to remember that there is beauty in the world.  Even when you feel like you break to pieces because of the stress that swirls around you and puts the anxiety inside you, there is still the color purple and leaves that were not that green yesterday and sunrises.  The redbuds really are spectacular this year.)


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Resolve

I was trying to think of a fitting send off for 2011, but really I wish it would sneak quietly out the back door and be done with.  I can’t really even be bothered to tell it not to let the door hit its ass on the way out.

In 2011 I got better.  I recovered, almost completely, from 2010 and 2009.  I reconnected with some amazing, beautiful old friends who I am so very glad to have back in my life.  I reconnected with my old online community which is no different than sitting down with old friends.  I learned, I changed, I stayed the same, I became more me, I remembered who I was, and who I want to be.  I think I managed to find myself again, or at least the creative center of myself, even if the rest of me seems much changed than who I was even a year ago.  I am glad to be moving forward, looking forward, and carrying on with the people I have around me.

In 2012 I plan to take myself less seriously.  I want to worry less about external pressures and ask less of myself.  I want to write more and laugh more and sing loudly even when I’m out of tune.

I have an extensive list of new projects I want to work on in 2012.  I’m not sure yet which will make the cut and which will fall by the wayside but I am going to strongly commit to one or a few and be dedicated and vigilant in my work on what I do choose.

I will be smarter and more me by the end of the 2012.  I don’t think that’s too much to ask of myself.

I am so grateful for my huge, wonderful family, for my mother and my sisters.  I am so very thankful for my friends and my community.  I wish I had the words and time to tell each of you just how much I love you and how much you mean to me.  I will carry that love in my heart every single day, I will use it to bolster myself against the hard times.  I will do my best to love you all even more, every single day.  I will trust you all and work to to learn to trust myself and my instincts more.  I will try harder to be worthy of the love given back to me.

Here we go!


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Everything that came before now

I might have way over committed myself in the past couple weeks.  If I owe you something, I promise it’s coming quickly.

Between my new position at work and a a few days out to the PNW to see Crackerjack Sister graduate, I’m wiped out. My capacity for critical thinking is surely at an all time a low, and even that is devoted to work.

I did have a great time in Seattle.  I put the pics up here, though most of them are probably only interesting to you if you’re related to me in some way.  I tagged along on many shopping trips from which I benefited greatly (new Converse, fancy new shirt, excellent new dress).  I got an awesome new laptop which is so light and fast that I feel like I can go everywhere with it, though I probably won’t, since one doesn’t need to be computing all the time.

Back in TN now, where it looks like we got a very brief reprieve from the oppressive heat.  I’m already planning to stay inside all weekend and finish projects of my own and other people’s.  At least the cicadas seem to have all passed while I was out of town!  Plus I missed Bonnaroo and CMAfest crowds, both of which are cicada like in their noisy and mass.

Obviously no sewing going on lately.  I did buy new handbags yesterday as I can’t resist a good deal.  I love Fossil handbags.  All of the ones I’ve owned except the one I’m currently using, which I got used, quite cheap and I just sort of hate it.  So I got this one and this one (in a brownish grey not depicted there) for $101 total for both!  I spent forever standing in the store trying to decide which and then made a last minute choice to get both.  Hurrah!  I should be set for a good long time now.  Both came with an extra detachable strap and I can’t figure out what it’s for.  The extra, removable strap is that same length as the strap on the bag already.  If it was much longer or something, it would make sense to me, but at the same length, it just seems weird.

So, uh, yes, there’s all the news that’s fit to print. I better get to doing something, so I’ll have something good to show off, eh?

I took these pictures with my phone to remind myself of the color of the sky after 9pm, in June in the Pacific Northwest.  One of the things I really miss is the summer light.


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My Mother

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ve met my mother.  And probably that impacted your life in some positive and major way.

She is the best person imaginable to be my mother, we are in some ways perfectly suited to each other in temperment and good company, and in the ways we are not, she is perfectly suited to be my sister’s companion, as my sister is also mine. We are an even triangle of companionability, love, understanding and the little ripple of conflict that always arises when people are too like each other.  The three of us, I think are so bound together that I couldn’t explain it to you, nor would I want to let you inside the place that’s ours.

But this is about my mother.  You don’t really need to know about her being a good mother to me, because that only matters, really, to her children.


You should know that she is an incredible sister, an amazing aunt, a brilliant manager, a trusted friend and a devoted partner.  If you have a daughter or a son, probably my mother is someone you would want to help them if they were in need in any way.  She has been an unbelievable pillar of support to our extended family, sometimes openly, sometimes secretly, sometimes thanked, somtimes ignored.  She is thoughtful, generous to a fault, and always willing to help if you ask.

She deserves more than just a phone call or some flowers from her daughters, who would both rather show their love in other way anyhow, she deserves the acknowledgement and respect of every person whose life she has touched or helped in some way.

She is so smart and so together and so organized and I think everyone who knows her recognizes that.  But maybe sometimes we forget to think about how kind she is and how unflagging she is in her support of what any one of us is trying to do to improve our lives.

She is, in my mind, the perfect embodiment of everything that was good and beautiful in her own parents.  She has done an amazing job of raising children, not just me and my sister, but others around us too, even my cousins in secondhand sort of way.

If everone who knows her would take just 30 seconds and think of how she’s positively impacted their lives, that would make me so happy.

I also want to send love to all of my aunts, cousins and friends who are mothers.  Each of you is doing an amazing job in your own way and I am proud to know you and see your lives change and see the wonderful people your children are becoming.

And finally, I know it’s Mother’s Day, but sisters don’t get one and I’d like to point out that my little sister is perhaps the best and brightest of us all and even though I’m sure she’s only 3 and still clutching at my leg when she’s nervous, she’s actually become and amazing, beautiful, poised, intelligent woman and in some ways, I’m grateful to my mother most of all for giving me me my sister.

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!  I hope you all have someone to thank or remember, someone who you love and admire as much as I love and admire my mom.


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There is not enough time to do all the nothing we want to do

So I’m moving in a couple weeks. Trying to keep it as low key and not stressful as possible.  I figured the best way to do that was to embark on a bunch of really ambitious projects right before moving.  Hahahaha!  Sometimes I am dumb.  Still most of these projects revolve around refinishing or painting furniture that I’ve been meaning to update or fix forever and would love to have in its finished form in the new house.  Thus it’s been fun and I need something to keep me busy and out of trouble anyway.

Oh my!  Look at this tiny, pretty indoor pond.   I have been messing with terrariums for a bit now, on and off.  My new apartment has great light and I’m hoping to be more successful with my terrariums this spring.  But look at these amazing water terrariums, which, uh, I guess are aquariums, but just for plants!  So pretty.  There might be one of these in my future once I’m settled and done with everything else.

Also I love this hippo shower curtain, although I’m not buying it because I got clear shower curtains to take advantage of the light from all the windows in the new bathroom.  I’m hoping to get lucky some day and find fabric like this curtain, I love the cute little helpers the hippos have!

Here are some random bits about my new apartment:

My current commute is a marathon round trip: 26.1 miles
New commute: 21 miles
Annual driving miles eliminated: 1300
New apartment currently only has one (1) interior door
Ratio of wall light switches to interior doors: 1:1 (heh, most the lights have pull cords from the ceiling rather than switches)
Number of hobbit sized closets in the new space: 3
Number of hobbit sized people living in the apartment: 1 (me)
Amount of support provided by quite overly generous mother, both emotional and financial, in this move: incalculable (but surely somewhere in the billions)
Number of friends I realized I have while dealing with the things surrounding moving: 129,567 (if we are calculating at a rate that measures each person’s individual emotional worth)
Days until I move: 14
Things needed doing by then: 570,000
Personal excitement level about the new apartment, on a scale of 1-10: 42

Here is a sneak peak at a ‘before’ picture of the apartment:


Looking forward to having many after pictures to show!

(Title quoted from the peerless Bill Watterson.)


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Day 37: Still Tuesday

Talks-to-Owls and I have agreed that this Tuesday never seems to end. It’s been about 37 days since we last had a day off of work.  Which makes every single day Tuesday.  In a regular week you can spend Monday reflecting on the past weekend, on Wednesday you’re halfway through, Thursday is almost Friday, and Friday is the end!  But Tuesday? Just another day with nothing great on either side of it.  So here I am having been through more than a month of Tuesdays, with half a dozen to a dozen more in front of me. Sure the bulk of it is behind me, but still, the light at the end of the tunnel is faint and seemingly far away.  I guess it won’t truly be bright until I actually have a solid end date. And that end date does depend on how fast my team can work, but it has many wobbly and unknowable outside factors creeping out of the tunnel shadows.

I work in the construction industry, in an office that was, until my arrival, mostly male.  I currently have a staff of 5 temps, all female, that are sitting in the larger shared office space that was, as stated, all male.  Overheard this morning (before the girls arrived):

S: Man, the ratio of boys to girls here is just so different you can’t even be yourself no more.
K: Better let one off before the girls get here.
S: T just did.
*I walk into the room laughing*
T: I ate daffodils for dinner last night.  It’s flowery when I let one off.
S: Farting honeysuckle everywhere you go, I knew you were that kind of guy.
T: Flowers and poppy seeds, that’s all I eat.

On the one hand, hilarious.  On the other hand, what does it even mean? I’ve been having weird Wizard of Oz field of poppies visions all morning because of that conversation leading to me to read more into it than I should and wonder what the underlying metaphors I missed were.  (The answer, none, no metaphors, just boys BSing.)

I have mentioned elsewhere that I am making a conscious decision NOT to boycott BP over the oil spill.  There are many reasons for this, the main one though is that the gas station I drive by every morning, my most convenient station, is a BP station.  I have been going there regularly for 4 years.  I know and like the people who own it.  I don’t want their livelihood to disappear just because they signed the “wrong” franchise agreement.  Honestly it could have been any oil company that caused this disaster and I do not want to see any more of the little guys get hurt.

(Southern Beale has written an excellent post on the kind of “punishment” that is fit for BP after this disaster.  Surely much more effective than a consumer boycott.)

Truly I ache for the fishermen, the people who live on those coasts and all the regular people who are so seriously impacted by this (we all are in the environmental sense, but the folks who might not pay bills right now because of it really weigh on me).  And it’s so wide reaching.  Like now BP might withhold dividends on stocks? Which would hurt British retirees whose retirement funds include BP stock.  How many more average people can BP fuck over with their greed and incompetence?

Here are some things I like:

Firefly lamp

Tom Robbins is weird

Synchronous fireflies

Banksy, especially his “Shop”

Blooming lamp

And my cousin and his wife had their first baby this week!!   Welcome Caleb James (who was clearly named after me, though that’s a joke that probably only my mom will get).  Weighing in at 9lbs and 4oz!  Hello big boy!  He’s healthy and home with mama, poppa and puppies.  HOORAY!  Here’s his “little” toes: