Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Thank You For Playing

I'm pretty savvy about stuff.  As a natural born skeptic, I don't fall for much.  In this day and age, more and more scams and rip offs emerge on an almost hourly basis.  Sadly, a lot of people get taken for a ride and, in some cases, lose everything.  I recently saw a story about a computer programmer that someone tried the IRS scam on and he turned the tables in delicious fashion.  Those stories are awesome and hopefully, a lesson for all of us.

Once upon a time, we'd get the odd call on our home phone.  My method of dealing with them when they'd call for my beloved (usually butchering pronunciation of our last name, a tip off) was to burst into noisy tears and demand they tell me where the son of a bitch got himself off to leaving me alone with all these kids and no car and who the hell did he think he was anyway. The response from the other end of the line usually ranged from apologetic to sympathetic to extremely uncomfortable stammering but the end result was the same: I'd never hear from them again.  Bonus that I'd get to hone my acting skills at the same time.

I got a good one the other day, I'm sure you've heard of it, the "Windows Tech Support" call.  My call came in the form of Todd (I'm betting not his real name) who magically detected a serious problem with my computer and needed remote access to fix it. It being a bit of a slow day and this kind of shit pissing me off to no end, I decided to have a little fun with ToddNotTodd.
Our journey together begins when he tells me to get in front of my computer so he can talk me through the next steps, I happily comply (honing my acting skills again, YAY!). I immediately interrupt ToddNotTodd to tell him I turned it off because that's what they say to do on TV shows if your computer is broken and that ALWAYS fixes everything.  ToddNotTodd tells me I didn't need to do that but okay.  So we wait together while my imaginary computer reboots, I whistle tunelessly and he sighs a few times.  My imaginary computer rebooted, ToddNotTodd starts his instruction again, telling me to double click on "My Computer" on the start menu.  I say okee dokee and tell him that I've opened the start menu and clicked restart because I know that's different than turning it off and on again.  ToddNotTodd says "No!", and rather sharply, I must say.  I apologize profusely and tell him that it's showing the Windows picture and that's a good thing, right?  ToddNotTodd says that's fine, he seems a bit bothered at this point but is determined to help me.  I tell him about my five cats while we wait. ToddNotTodd seems less than enthusiastic to hear about about Boots, Sassy, Fluffy, Miss Priss and Tim.

My computer freshly rebooted, we are ready to proceed.  ToddNotTodd, a new spring in his step, gets back to the business at hand, getting me to allow him into my financials.  We move through the process slowly and on step two, I interrupt to tell him to wait a minute, Miss Priss has pulled the mouse cord loose and it doesn't work.  I tell ToddNotTodd not to worry, I can fix it by turning my computer off and on again.  I receive an anguished "DON'T DO THAT!" from the other end of the phone.  I tell ToddNotTodd it's okay, the computer will be ready in a couple on minutes.  ToddNotTodd thinks I'm low hanging fruit, too dumb to function, so he hangs in there for another restart.  I tell him how I tried to make a standing rib roast last night and after it came out of the oven, two of the cats and the dog knocked it onto the floor and we ended up having Taco John's instead and I don't usually eat that kind of food because of my digestion. ToddNotTodd is disinterested and is muttering continuously, I think it might be some kind of calming mantra.
Fourth restart finished, ToddNotTodd decides to sally forth, he has a mission to complete and failure is clearly not an option.  We start over, as I've forgotten by now what it was he wants me to do and we get three steps in when I tell him my computer just made a beep sound and I know that can't be good so what should we do? At this point, ToddNotTodd loses his head completely and shouts "DON'T, WHATEVER YOU DO, DON'T TURN IT OFF!" I respond with "Turn it off? Whatever you say, Todd!"
Who he thought he was dealing with.
Who he WAS dealing with.

Perhaps ToddNotTodd made a tearful plea to his God for a moment or two because there  is a long pause before he speaks again.  In very careful and measured tones, he starts again, enunciating every instruction as clearly as he possibly can while I make him repeat every single direction three times before acting on it.  I make him start over twice.  I believe ToddNottTodd has begun drinking from a hideout flask at this point because all the life has gone out of his demeanor, he seems sad and a little defeated.  I ask him if he's accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.  ToddNotTodd does not respond.  I tell him I accidentally turned to computer off again and ToddNotTodd becomes more than a little put out.  By now, we've been at it for almost 30 minutes and I have an appointment in less than an hour.  While ToddNotTodd weeps and bangs his head on his desk, I reveal my true nature and tell him that there was no way in hell this was going to end with a success on his part.  I tell him I hope I gave him a migraine and he should find a more honest way to make a living.  ToddNotTodd called me a foul name and hung up on me.  I don't think we're friends anymore.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

It's Not A PARTY Party

There is a cultural paradigm that I don't completely understand and, try as I might, cannot embrace.  I speak of the (Insert Something Here) party.  I'm not talking costume, kegger, Super Bowl or dance party; I'm talking the kind of party that involves demonstrations, catalogs and a huge, steaming slice of guilt. I have been to just a few of these events (I say event because, in no way do I consider them real parties) only out of a deep love for the friends who invite me.

The last one I attended was a Tupperware(tm) gathering. I was not planning to go but my very dear friend who was hosting called me an hour before it was due to start in a state of advanced panic that no one but her daughter was coming.  I love her so I went.  And that's when the trouble started.  Upon arriving at the soiree, I met Debbie the Tupperware(tm) lady.  Debbie is a true believer, a true Tupperware(tm) zealot, a high priestess of the Church of Plastic Food Storage and Other Plastic Items You Never Knew You Needed (CPFSOPIYNKYN for short). First off, High Priestess Debbie is a toucher, not a pat on the shoulder or too long handshake kind of toucher, but the kind that will rest a hand on your should when standing behind you while making her sales pitch...repeatedly, kind of toucher.
A little like that, yeah.

So right away High Priestess Debbie is giving me the willies with all the unnecessary touching, this does not bode well for the rest of the fete, but because I love my friend, I suppress my usual reaction to unwelcome touching and sally forth. HP Debbie is a bundle of energy, I'll give her that, she rocketed around the room with the kind of frenetic energy usually only seen in overstimulated toddlers and that thing Will Smith set loose in "Men In Black"

Yup, exactly.
She was a sight to behold, both her energy and enthusiasm were boundless, I do admire that kind of dedication so long as they don't try to suck me down their particular rabbit hole. That, however, is EXACTLY the goal of these affairs. Of course they're going to sell you loads of shit you MUST HAVE NOW or you will have a sad, unfulfilled life and will die alone. So you buy the shit.  But that's not all, you see. If you're smart, you buy your shit, fake a seizure and get the hell out of there before it goes any further.  I was overtired, hungry and my reflexes are not what they used to be so I did not quickly take the necessary steps to protect myself from what came next.

HP Debbie did not achieve her lofty position within the Tupperware(tm) corp by being complacent, no siree! She got there by sucking people into her vortex and getting them to agree to things they never would have dreamed themselves capable of doing outside of the mysterious and heady confines of a Tupperware(tm) fete. First, she tells you that you have the perfect personality to be a Tupperware(tm) consultant and that becoming one is a life-changing experience on par with orgasms or finding out that chocolate cures cancer, aging and makes you thin and hot.  She barely misses a beat when you find the strength within you to decline and parries with the suggestion (and I use that word loosely) that you host a party of your own.  When the temptations of all the free shit and discounted items that will rain down like manna from the gods don't work on you, she drops the Fat Man and Little Boy of guilt on your head. If you book a party, your friend, the one you love enough to come to this shindig, will get gifts and credits and discounts and if your really love her and she means anything to you at all and if you're any kind of friend and not a complete bastard coated bastard with a creamy bastard center dipped in bastard sauce with colorful bastard sprinkles you'll do it.

I tried to stand my ground, I hemmed, I hawed, I hedged, I broke...she got me. With my remaining backbone, I pleaded my case down to a "Facebook Party" so I could have all the benefits and none of the work. Whatever, by that point I truly believed I was never getting out of that room unless I agreed to something. I handed over a $140 check for the shit I purchased and beat a hasty retreat before I could betray any more of my beliefs that night.

I don't know how I got here.
I got home, back to the safety of my den and into the arms of my beloved, dazed, exhausted and salsa streaked, but whole and alive. I made it through the darkness and all the many dangers that threatened me, but damn it, I survived.  I immersed myself in my normal life and slowly put the events of that night behind me until a couple of weeks passed and my shit didn't arrive. WHERE IN THE HELL was my microwave breakfast maker and my vegetable keeper system?  I had been convinced that my life was incomplete without them by HP Debbie and was adrift and consumed by anguish without them. I did notice my check had been cashed posthaste.  Finally, the Holy Grail of kitchen items arrived and at last, the clouds parted and the skies turned blue again as I unboxed the items that I had been assured would change my life.

The microwave breakfast maker with the poached egg inserts (add. $8) emerged from the box like The Birth Of Venus as a choir of angelic voices heralded the arrival of all that is good and beautiful and purple plastic on this earth.  At last! I will be able to make omelets and French toast and poached eggs in 2 1/2 minutes any time I want to! It doesn't matter that I never wanted to before, I CAN.  A quick wash and dry and I'm ready to poach some eggs, don't care that it's 2:30 on a Thursday afternoon, I can poach eggs in the microwave.  I follow the instructions to the letter, I poke the yolk like I'm supposed to even though it's counter-intuitive, I do it. I set the timer for 2 and a half minutes, per the booklet. I push start and breathlessly watch the numbers tick down to silky, poached perfection.  It all goes as planned until the timer shows :27 and BANG! the lid pops off, the unit jumps like it was stung and egg suddenly coats the window of the microwave.  
My view now blocked, I can only imagine what's happening as further bangs and a strange hissing noise now fill the kitchen.  The cats have since fled the room, leaving me to face whatever is trying to escape the microwave on my own.  I cautiously, and with shaking hands, push "Cancel" to stop further mutation of the eggs within.  Opening the microwave after a couple of shots of liquid courage, I encounter carnage my kitchen has not seen since the Great Peeps slaughter of '03. Bits of egg have flown everywhere, restrained only by the door of the appliance, I owe it a life debt that can never be repaid.
Okay, maybe not QUITE.

Cautious but undeterred, I repeat the process and set the timer for 2 minutes. While the bangs and hissing return, nothing explodes this time, I am encouraged.  Opening the microwave, all appears to be well so I carefully open the purple, kidney shaped wonder that shall change the lives of all that use it to find solidified eggs.  This is not what is supposed to happen, poached eggs are supposed to be runny and gooey and gorgeous and sexy and not the approximate texture and appearance of a golf ball.  THIS SHALL NOT STAND.  I go in once more, setting for 1:30 this time.  The microwave gamely chugs on, doing its job without drama or argument. I am encouraged by the lack of fuss or fanfare from within the purple confines of the breakfast maker, I think we've done it.  The oven finishes its work and happily lets me know it's time for some lovely poached eggs.  Or not, once again, the breakfast maker with poached egg inserts (add. $8) has made a mockery of all I've been trying to accomplish.  The yolks are again hard and unyielding while the whites are still clear and only barely cooked.  Fine, I don't even want effing poached effing eggs any more.  Stupid eggs. Stupid breakfast maker. Stupid poached egg inserts (add. $8). Stupid Tupperware(tm). Stupid HP Debbie.

By now, I'm covered with sadness and bits of egg as a lay on the floor in the fetal position while the cats happily gorge on scattered chunks of weird, rubbery orange and white material that once was innocent, unspoiled eggs.  Damn me for what I have done to the eggs, the microwave and the kitchen at large.

Unfortunately for HP Debbie, this is the moment she chose to call to hear all about my Facebook Party that wasn't a party at all.  Parties are fun and have people and fun and not Tupperware(tm).  Oh Debbie, just no.  To say she was disappointed when I told her the entire thing had slipped my mind completely, is a bit of an understatement.  She tried her damndest to keep the dream alive by offering to extend the time another week. I finally told her that another week wasn't going to make a difference as I really had no desire to continue this charade and I was little sorry about that.  I could hear HP Debbie deflating, turning back into just Debbie, her powers gone, her hold over me broken at last, I was free.  Free to reclaim the word PARTY, to bring it back to its former glory, to reestablish its identity once again.  This is my gift to the world, I have liberated the word party from this sales pitch prison and that is, perhaps, the destiny I was born to fulfill.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

To My Family

As we come the the close of "the year of firsts", I need to pay tribute to my family.  I have these three sisters, you see, and I don't know that I have ever told them how truly bad ass I think they are.  I had to watch from afar for most of the year from hell as they juggled everything.  They had jobs they had to do, they had families that needed them and they had these two parents that careened off the rails at the same time.  They managed to handle it all, work as an incredible team and still love each other when the dust settled.  I don't know if they realized just how mammoth an undertaking that was, it was just something they had to do.  They coordinated doctor's appointments, emergency room trips, long term and rehabilitative care; they arranged cleaning, repair and emptying our beloved family home and no one hated each other when it was over.  I am not afraid of our family drifting apart because these incomparable women are made of the kind of glue that never, ever loses its strength.  I am in awe of them and I doubt I could ever come close to adequately expressing how much I love them.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention my brothers in law, the men who slogged through that mess with them.  In a day and age when something like one in three marriages end in divorce, they have chosen so well.  Four of us, all 20 years in and we're all here, still together and that's a hell of a thing.  These men that arrived in our family 25 and 30 years ago walked through fire with us and lightened the load that threatened to bury us last year.  They are my brothers, my friends and the men I admire the most because they love my sisters and endured that terrible year with patience, grace and an unbelievable amount of manual labor.  There is no way we could have made it through without you, we are so lucky.

Their kids put up with their lives being upended as well.  They pitched in and did the heavy lifting, the cleaning and whatever else was needed, they showed us what wonderful adults they are and will be. They put up with moms that weren't as available, that were maybe more fragile than they'd ever seen and dads that were perhaps feeling helpless and unsure.  These kids are our legacy and I'm not worried about what kind of people they're going to be when they grow up because I've already seen what they're made of.  I'm so proud of them.

My husband felt as bewildered and helpless as I did, but never let me see that.  He kept me calm when I became frantic and guilt ridden that I wasn't down there in the trenches with my sisters.  He sat on the floor next to me when I'd finally crack and dissolve into sobs because it seemed my world was ending.  He never complained when I left every other week and came back wrecked because I didn't want to be here, but there.  I won the lottery when I married that man.

My boys saw their mom falling apart at the seams and showed me what wonderful men they're going to be.  They did everything in their power to make it better and they succeeded, I don't know if I've ever told them how much they helped me during that awful time.  I see so much of their father's deep compassion in my boys, they already are good men.

The extended family saved our sanity time and time again.  They showed up and did whatever needed to be done, dirty work included.  They reminded us again and again that we were not doing this all alone and that they always and forever have our backs.  I know our cousins will forever bring us joy and laughter and that feeling that the world can never break us because we have them.  My earliest memories are of them and my deepest love is for them.

The aunts are the old guard, they have the stories and the memories of what came before all of us.  They are the grande dames and the mothers of us all now.  These three women are our pillars and our roots.  They knew mom and dad before they were mom and dad, they loved us all from the beginning and we owe so much to their influence in our lives.

Our non-blood family showed us that family isn't always family.  They loved us and supported us and did not leave us when things got bad.  Mom and dad's oldest friends stuck through it with them until the bitter end and held us up as we waded through our grief, we did not drown because of these people.  They were a life raft, they were the hug from mom and dad that we needed as we buried our parents and said those painful goodbyes.

I don't know how I will ever repay these incredible people that got us through, there is nothing I can say except thank you and I love all of you more than I can ever possibly express.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Getting It All Out

In trying to not let the bad stuff creep into this generally happy space I've attempted to create here, I have come to realize that I've hamstrung myself quite a bit.  Last year sucked, it sucked more than I ever imagined anything could actually suck and still be survivable and I'm still not put back together yet. There it is, I'm not there yet but I'm trying.  The world has become dark and scary and finding patches of light has become harder and harder but we manage to do so, we have to.  I am finding that I have to detox from the news and the internet from time to time because I'm far more fragile than I thought. Sometimes the sad and scary stuff overwhelms me, I want to talk to my mom and I can't and everything just seems that much worse.  I haven't written a word for several months because I really didn't want to keep on the "poor me, my parents died" theme but you know what? My parents died and while grownup me accepts and understands it all, the me that still wants her mom and dad to talk to when the world is ugly and scary doesn't understand and will never accept that they are gone and not coming back.  These two factions have been at war and have definitely handicapped me in a lot of ways, but I'm trying.

I figure if I just lay it all out and organize it, I can start to shed some of the darkness and really step back into the lighter place I normally occupy, so bear with me for a bit.

For starters, 2016 really needs to take it down a notch, from mom, David Bowie and Alan Rickman to Prince and Ali, can we be done for a while, please?

I try to keep my little corner of the blogosphere fairly politic free, so I'm just going to do this once. I hate what our system has become. We LOVE to hold ourselves up as this shining example of democracy and, in this woman's opinion, we are screwing it up so hard.  I tire of paying a bunch of people to do nothing.  If the rest of us went to work and said it out loud that we had no intention of doing our jobs because we don't like the other people in the office, our asses would be out the door while the words still hung in the cartoon speech bubble over our heads.
I cannot, for the life of me, comprehend the reality that someone like Donald Trump is a viable candidate for the highest office in the land.  To people who support him, I am not going to vilify you or call you names, I just want to say one thing.  I am so sorry that things are going so badly in your life, that you are so afraid and beaten down that embracing a man with nothing to offer but hate, isolation and fear seems like the only way back.  I hope you find something to believe in, something to bring you joy before it is too late.  My dearest wish is that your world, your life, your situation improves to the point that you have room for hope and joy and love again.  It's dark as hell right now, but remember that even in these tense and troubling times, people are good, we are good and the only way through the dark stuff is by reaching for the light.  There is light, I believe it with every bit of my soul.  All is not lost and we're going to get through it the only way we can, together.
I refuse to let the ugliness of rhetoric, bluster and political posturing drive me under the bed or into a bunker.  I do not believe my country is a hate filled place, I know it's good, despite what they show us on the news.  I am not going to let CNN, Twitter, Facebook or Fox rob me of my joy and my optimism, it's mine and you can't have it.  I will share it with you, I will help you find some of your own and I will celebrate with you when you do. I challenge you to find some joy in each day.  Not a chuckle, not a fleeting ghost of a smile, but something that when you think of it later in the day, you smile and get all warm and fuzzy.  Go play Pokemon and walk around your neighborhood, stomp in the puddle, pop the bubble wrap, eat the damn cookie. Just fricking do it and quit being an old poop.  I'm sure I'm sounding naive and perhaps even a bit simple to some, but to the rest, I ask you to give it a shot.  You might live longer, or at least you'll be happier while you last.  Take a step back, turn off the world and just find something that brings you joy, you need it, trust me. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

I'd Take That Class

My eldest was home for a few days last week and it was great for both of us.  I miss his company and he keenly misses just being home like the good old days before he was paying his own rent and buying his own groceries.  The discussion of how this whole business of being an adult is a lot harder than we thought when we were younger led to a discussion of what we wish we had known before we moved out. 
As a result, I've come up with a class everyone should take before moving out on their own.  I call it "Adulting 101", here is the course overview:

Money management:
  • Balancing a checkbook: the reality of "available balance" vs "actual balance"
  • Making and sticking to a budget that includes buying your own toothpaste and underwear
  • Taxes 101: how to fill all that shit out
  • Paychecks: who the hell is FICA and why do they take my money
  • Should I buy weed or beer?: prioritizing food, clothing and shelter
  • Entertainment on the cheap: it's not necessary to steal shopping carts
  • Paying bills: due dates are not suggestions, they fucking mean it
  • Renting that first apartment: questions to ask, what you have to pay up front and no, it should not smell like that
Feeding Yourself
  • Cereal: not always the answer, why toast matters
  • Preparing rice 87 ways, including some that don't suck!
  • Eggs: miracle food that even you can cook
  • When to throw it away: weird smells, bizarre colors and loss of structural integrity
  • Leftovers: why they won't actually kill you if eaten in a timely manner
  • Real butter: life is too short to use the fake shit
  • Nothing has an eternal shelf life: what not to buy more than one of
  • Buying in bulk: put half back, you don't have that much storage space
  • How to afford meat that isn't hot dogs or chicken nuggets
  • The freezer: not the key to food's eternal life, CLEAN IT OUT
  • Peanut butter: not the only protein source available to you
  • Chunky milk: you're not fooling anyone, you're not making yogurt in there and no, it should not smell like that
  • I don't know what the hell to do with quinoa, either, you're on your own
Laundry and Clothing
  • If it says "Dry Clean Only": why they mean it
  • You will never understand what all those symbols mean, no one does
  • Washing red things: it's going to bleed so keep away from whites 
  • Bedding DOES need to be washed on a regular basis: it shouldn't smell like that
  • Disappearing socks: you will never know why or how, a lesson in acceptance
  • Hot Topic: stop buying your clothes there before you graduate
  • Suits: you're going to need one sooner than you think
  • And nice shoes
  • And dress socks
  • And a "good" coat, your Arctic Cat snowmobile jacket will not cut it any more
  • You will never wear your letter jacket after your freshman year in college, buy the class ring instead, you won't wear that either, but it will take up less room in your tiny apartment
  • When to wash: no, it should not smell like that, do it now
You're Going To Get Sick But You're Not Dying
  • Surviving the flu: puking when you're sick is ten times worse than puking when you're drunk
  • When to call mom, the doctor, the ambulance or summon your God
  • Roommates: they aren't any better in a crisis than you are
  • Chicken noodle soup: voodoo magic that cures it all
  • What you should always have in the medicine cabinet and why pepto bismol is a gift from God
  • Alcohol is not a cure all: but a hot toddy will help a cold (this is a practical lesson, prepare accordingly)
  • It's not a tumor: headaches, hysteria and hypochondria
  • I think it's broken: when an ACE bandage just won't do
  • It might be infected: no, it should not smell like that
You Wanted A Car
  • What is that noise: when to turn the radio up and when to take it to the shop
  • Gas or food: the hard choice
  • When you just can't stop is past time to get the brakes done
  • Insurance: the most necessary evil and how it can save your ass
  • The backseat: not a dumpster, clothes hamper or junk drawer, CLEAN IT OUT
  • No, it should not smell like that: how to tell if something is living in your car
  • Winter driving: it sucks and you should avoid it as much as you can
  • Money pit: get used to putting money in constantly, good training for home ownership
  • Preventive maintenance: things to do before it starts smoking
You Live Here
  • Furniture buying: why you don't buy upholstered items from Craigslist (this will be an interactive lesson, please wear old clothes)
  • Beds: a mattress pad is not all you need, buy some damn sheets
  • Kitchen items: what to buy and what to steal from work
  • Paper plates are not considered fine tableware: some alternatives
  • Cleaning the bathroom: no, that's NOT frosted glass
  • Light up your life: why you need more than that one lamp
  • Decorating: why life sized cutouts from the bar are not a good idea
  • Pillows: you can wash them but you're probably better off throwing them out and getting new
  • Cleaning the toilet: no, it should not smell like that
I would have taken this class in a heartbeat.  Maybe I'll call the high school and offer my services.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Goodbye, Mom

I’ve had this image in my head of mom and dad.  Dad has been standing by the door these past couple of months, his jacket and cap on, mom’s coat over his arm and the car running, waiting for her to finally head out.  He was the the Irish leave, just slipping out the door and she, the Minnesota goodbye.  

Mom never taught us how to cook a standing rib roast, she didn't show us how to keep a perfect home with sparkling, streak free windows and things like knitting or crafts were forever a mystery to her. The things she taught us were far and away more important. She taught us to be passionate, dedicated and active members of our world. That it is possible and necessary to make a difference in our neighborhood, our school, our city and the greater world. We learned that anything is possible if you’re ballsy and determined enough. We were shown how strong a woman can be, how much power we have and how we could use it.  

We learned to be fearless from my mom, we learned that we had a voice and that speaking up was “what you do”. If Gayle had a catchphrase, it was “It’s what we do.” . You don't question, you don't wonder why, you don't think twice, you speak up, you take action, you take a stand...it’s what you do.  You stick up for people, individuals or groups, you don't let people get hurt if you can stop it and you never, ever let ANYONE get away with doing damage to the people you love, it’s what we do. 

Mom taught us how to be welcoming, embracing and how to bring people together. Gatherings at the Goodrich house were joyous, raucous and marvelous. Easter and Thanksgiving were the “sit down” holidays but there was always room for an extra chair or three.  The dinners lasted for hours and the world’s ills were usually solved before dessert.  Anyone could participate in the discussion with the unspoken rules of “stay on topic” and “don’t be mean”.  Christmas and the Fourth of July were events to behold.  Christmas at 2258 WAS Christmas, not only for us, but for so very many others, the open house became part of their holiday tradition.  Independence Day became the stuff of legend, due to my father’s love of explosives, ongoing skirmishes with St. Thomas security, disappearing Rice Krispie treats and the ever changing cast of characters, with Tom and Gayle at the center of it all.  Holidays were never meant for just family and there was almost always an honorary family member or ten included in the day. Strangers were never strangers for long, the seamlessness of being brought in and adopted into the family was something magical. You were welcome, you were embraced, you were loved. That’s what we do.

Mom showed us that there will never be anything as important as family. My sisters and I have been told repeatedly during this past year by doctors, nurses, social workers and the like how extraordinary we are that we haven't been fighting with each other, we have all been surprised by that.  It simply never occurred to us to behave that way, in times of crisis, you pull together and get things done, it’s what you do. Besides, when you’re not sharing a bathroom or cutting the hair off each other’s Barbie dolls, there’s really not much to fight about.  When her sister, Barb, moved back to Minnesota, mom added extra places at the table and we got down to the business of getting to know our cousins from the wilds of Michigan and now we can't imagine what life was like before they came home to us. When Grandma Summers got sick, mom was there for doctor’s appointment and hospital admissions because that’s what you do.  When my husband, Dan, lost his sister, mom and dad and Jenny came up to Crookston for the funeral, even though they had never met his sister. Dan was well and truly puzzled why they came and mom simply said “You're family, it’s what we do.” Growing up, I never could have imagined just how much this family they created would mean to me, but I know that there is nothing as sacred, as special or as wonderful as these people. She taught us that family can be so much more than what you're born into, family is what you create by who you love and with whom you surround yourself. Family is in laws, cousins, nieces and nephews, it's grandchildren and best friends. Family is neighbors and coworkers, it's the best legacy you can leave behind. Mom taught us that love is love and family is everything.  She and dad gave me the best gift I never even knew I wanted in this family. They taught us how rich you are when your family surrounds you. The past year has taught us how right they were, we never would have made it through without this family they created. We have been supported, helped and loved by the people she made our family. It’s what you do. It’s what we do.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Things We Leave Behind

My dad died a couple of weeks ago, it's been a horrible and long road this year. He is done suffering and out of pain, we will miss him forever but we know it was time to go.  I feel like I should be more grief stricken at losing him, but I keep thinking about the fact that he was supposed to die a long time ago.  He had a massive heart attack in 1990 that should have killed him at the age of 48 but it didn't.  We got 25 bonus years and he got to see all the things he wanted to see, all four of his daughters grown and married to good men, all eleven of his grandchildren born and all old enough to have good solid memories of him and even two great grandchildren.  He was never "supposed" to see any of it but he beat the hell out the odds.  How sad can we be, knowing he got 25 extra years with us?  I'm sure I'm going to crumble at some point, but for now, it's okay.
We also lost mom this year, although she is still technically alive, her Alzheimer's has taken her from us with even less pity than death. I wish she was dead. There, I said it. Sometimes I feel like a horrible person for thinking, much less saying that thought out loud, but most days I don't because death is kinder than this disease.

We've spent the past couple of months getting their house ready to sell, another death like loss.  My parents bought that house in 1972, I was four years old and have only vague, gauzy memories of living anywhere else.  So many great and notable things that happened to me from the age of four are centered on that house.
Three bedrooms, one and a half bathrooms, a spooky basement and that incredible front porch were the center of my world. Growing up in the 1970s and 80s in that neighborhood was a wonderful thing.  Tons of kids and the St. Paul Seminary campus across the street was basically an extension of our own yards. The Mississippi river was just a couple of blocks away and we were walking distance to Davanni's for pizza or Mr. Orth's tiny little store for candy (don't tell mom we crossed Cretin Ave and I'll buy you some).  The families in our corner of the world were prolific, very few had only one or two kids, the rest had at least four, Us, Cheneys, Nichols, Faricys, Brandts, Vellengas, Hoffmans, Gassmans, Hannigans, Lepaks, Mauns...the list was seemingly endless and there was little chance you wouldn't find someone to play with, sometimes more than you wanted.  Games of Ditch and Spider went on for hours into the summer evenings, kids spread all over "the Sem" and our parents frequently congregating on one of the facing front porches to theoretically keep an eye on us.  

My dad hung a rope swing on a huge cottonwood tree directly across from our house that quickly became a legendary thing.  The knot took on a life of its own with the frequent additions of old t shirts, torn bath towels and the like until it was the size of a small child and very comfortable on the hundreds of butts that gave it purpose.  The Nichols boys next door could usually be counted on for a heart stopping, thrilling push that sent you soaring over the street, a moment both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.  My sister Emily was just a tiny little thing, maybe four or so, and was completely fearless on that thing, much to my mother's eternal horror.  An "around the world" push took you in a huge circle, occasionally swinging just far enough to touch the trunk of the tree as you went past, an overzealous push could send you painfully bouncing off the trunk like a ball in a pinball machine but you'd take it like a man.  A true test of your kid credit was when one of your pals would grab your ankles and spin you as fast as they could.  The trick was keeping your legs locked around the rope and a light lunch. The swing lasted until St. Thomas College bought the Seminary campus and the grounds crew began to wage war on us neighborhood kids.  It took a lot of concentrated effort and I'm betting a whole lot of swearing to get rid of that swing, culminating in a very memorable day when the groundskeeper tied it to the bumper of his pickup truck in an attempt to make the rope snap.  It didn't break, but both the bough of the tree and his bumper did.  Served him right, the fun killing rat bastard.

The process of clearing out a lifetime's of stuff is not entirely heartbreaking, although heartbreak is certainly one component.  Lots of feelings pile on, you have sadness, of course, but there are also moments of fondness, a lot of happy memories bubble to the surface and we found plenty to puzzle over, more than we imagined. 
My family is quirky, to say the least. We found the mundane, usual kind of stuff you'd expect from 40 plus years, four kids and eleven grandchildren, but then we started to find the weird stuff, the unexpected stuff and then the downright mysterious.
The usual stuff included boxes upon boxes of photographs, scrapbooks and a crap ton of Christmas decor.  My mother hosted all the holiday dinners and had a prodigious amount of fine china (Lenox with a 14K gold rim), stemware (Waterford, Tramore pattern) and at least three full silver service sets.  My mother used to say she was going to smash all the Waterford and the china before she died so we wouldn't fight over it until I informed her that none of us is classy enough to own it except for my oldest sister, Jenny.  We found thousands of address labels from Easter Seals and the March of Dimes, decks of playing cards, cloth napkins for every season and, inexplicably, hundreds of greeting cards for any and all occasions.  They had more magazine subscriptions than they could possibly have ever read in a month and I suspect those were the result of my father's soft heart and a schoolkid with a fundraising packet.  There was a lot of evidence of the many, many holidays hosted at that house, shown in the sheer volume of stray, forgotten serving dishes and baking pans found in the back of the kitchen cupboards.  The basement yielded a treasure trove of newspapers from as far back as the  killing of Dillinger, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Neil Armstrong's walk on the moon and 9/11.  He saved every newspaper from the Grand Forks flood of 1997, as it affected me and my family directly.  He had pennant sets, buttons and papers from both of the Minnesota Twins World Series wins, all carefully saved in clear plastic totes.  I have no idea what he meant to do with the Coca Cola Christmas six pack bottle sets he had accumulated, but there were decades worth down there.  Jars of nails, screws, bolts, nuts and washers were meticulously arranged on the shelves alongside oddities like the broken propellers from the model planes we used to fly together.  There were a few pieces of old furniture sitting along the wall, partially hiding the seven foot long, fully functional slide rule that he got from his brother one birthday. Emily and I found truly the only thing in the house I was really hoping to find, the ugliest mugs known to mankind.  Carved wooden beer mugs that I remember vividly from my youth. I hadn't seen them for many, many years and they turned up in the very back of the very bottom shelf in the cabinet behind the dining room door.  At first we only found two, so we decided we just wouldn't tell the other two sisters we had found them but the other two turned up a while later.  I was absolutely overjoyed that we could each have one.
They're Glorious!

Mom had all of our wedding dresses, along with my paternal grandmother's, a bridesmaid dress from her sister's wedding and a mystery white dress no one could identify.  Our baby books were all there, Jenny's (the oldest) faithfully filled in almost every page, Melissa's (number 2) pretty well filled in for the first three or so years, mine (number 3) has some stuff in it, but mostly abandoned by about the first birthday and Emily (number 4) MIGHT have her name filled in and hospital tag stuck in the pages somewhere.  A testament to good intentions swallowed whole by the reality of having four kids.

That's really what's in here
A fine vintage
Personally, I think the best thing unearthed was the jar containing my great grandmother Minnie's gallstones (a whole damn lot of them, poor woman), bottled in July of 1934.  Seriously, not even kidding.

I am so lucky to come from a family that not only appreciates the absurd but celebrates it.  We seek out the odd, relish the weird and give it a place of honor in our lives. Why would you do anything but?  I cannot wait for the day that someone notices that strange little jar on the shelf in the living room and picks it up to take a better look and is either grossed out or completely delighted by it.  My kids better take note of all my weird stuff, that's their inheritance, right there.

We've also discovered two very strange and poignant mysteries. The first contained within a nondescript manila envelope, one of many in an old trunk in what used to be my bedroom but has been a tv room/computer room/sunroom ever since I moved out.  There were several in the truck, innocuously labeled "DFL", "SCHOOL", "MISC" and one marked "ADOPTION".  Emily and I both paused for a long moment until I turned to her and said "See? I always told you you were adopted."  She still doesn't think it's funny, trust me, it is.  Along with a battered and well-loved copy of "The Best Loved Doll" was a sheaf of paperwork, completely filled out and notarized (by dad's brother Joe) for the adoption of an eight month old Korean baby girl.  They were one signature away from this adoption and never filed the paperwork.  We asked both Aunt Carol (Joe's wife) and my mom's sisters and not one of them knew anything about it.  My parents had never even mentioned to possibility of adoption to anyone, not their closest relatives or, upon further investigation, their closest friends.  I think I will always wonder what became of that child, my almost sister.
The other, even more mystifying item wasn't found until after my father died.  Carefully tucked behind the pictures of his wife, daughters and grandchildren were two other photographs, small black and white photos of a strange woman none of us had ever seen before, taken in the summer of 1958.  That's not even the most mysterious thing about them:

The fact that they're mugshots set us back on our heels a bit.  Dad would have been just a month shy of seventeen in July of 1958 and as far as we knew, hadn't been to Florida yet.  She doesn't resemble anyone we know, he never spoke of a friend in prison but carried these photos in his wallet until the day he died. I doubt we will ever know this particular story.

Finding these two mysteries made me realize that as well as I thought I knew them, my parents had secrets they kept their whole lives.  They're entitled to their secrets, aren't we all?  Maybe we shouldn't try to figure these things out, but that goes against out very nature.  It certainly puts an interesting light on my boring old parents...yeah, I can't say that with anything even close to a straight face.

Someday, I'll tell you all about them.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

I Have No Idea What I'm Doing

Therapy is a weird thing.  The very concept is pretty strange if you really think about it, you pick a stranger seemingly at random, pour out your heart, soul and deepest secrets and expect them to have the solutions. I have to wonder how it all began.  Was there just that one guy in the village that had all the good advice?  Did one woman in the sewing circle seem to have all the answers? Does it go further back than that?  Was there a talking circle around the fire in the Neanderthal cave? Whoever has the bone has the floor? When did it evolve into an actual thing?

They died hugging it out, apparently.
      With all the mayhem, uncertainty and emotional upheaval of my mother's diagnosis, I realized I was holding on to some crap that I need to either let go of or learn to live with.  I have chosen to let go of the old stuff, mainly because trying to have it out with an Alzheimer's patient is unnecessarily cruel and completely unproductive. I decided to give the idea of "talking to a professional" a whirl.  While I have never sought therapy for myself, I did take my younger son when he was being bullied and saw real benefits come from the process.  I have always questioned those people you hear about saying something along the lines of "Oh, I love my therapist, they're the best in their field!  I've been going to him/her three times a week for the past twenty years!"  How can they be the best if you still need that much therapy?  Twenty years and you're still a non functional puddle on the floor?  I think you need to reassess what you consider progress. I am not making fun of anyone, before anyone gets outraged, I just tend to be result oriented and could never accept an apparent ongoing, never ending process as a good thing.

My own search for a therapist was not entirely easy, I evidently live in a town comprised entirely of crazy people as the first three therapists recommended as good fits for me were unavailable for months or unable to take on new clients.  I finally get an appointment with one and happened to mention the name of my intended to a friend that knows me extremely well who laughed heartily and told me to cancel that appointment and find someone else. Puzzled, I asked why and she said "Okay, remember that teacher from Harry Potter?  The one who wore all pink and had the kitten pictures all over the place?" I asked, incredulously, if she was referring to Dolores Umbridge, and she told me to imagine her with a bible in her hand.  I cancelled immediately and came up with a short checklist that my future head doctor was going to have to fulfill.

Since she's not available.

I'm not super anal or anything, I just really didn't want to waste a lot of time trying to find a good fit.  This going for help thing is a huge step for me, I usually tend to face the shitty stuff head on so I can get it over with  as soon as I can.  A false start or two would have simply driven the idea of therapy completely into the dumpster so I needed to find someone at least sort of on my wavelength from the outset.  My list of requirements was short and to the point.

  • I do not need to hear "It's part of God's plan." or "God doesn't give us more than we can handle." Both of those phrases are banal at best and rage inducing for someone like me.
  • You need to think "Monty Python and The Holy Grail" is hilarious. Being able to insert quotes from it into a therapy session will win my trust completely.
  • You must not be offended if, when angry or highly emotional, I use "Fuck" like a comma.

  Made a few calls, confounded a couple of receptionists and was about ready to bag the whole idea until I hit the last number on the list.  I hit the receptionist with the three bullet points and after a long pause, she said "I think Dr. W______ will be a good fit for you." In our first meeting, I mentioned this to  Dr. W_____ and he looked a little nonplussed, he had no idea what I was talking about so I told him what my requirements were.  He thought for a quick minute and laughed, "Yeah, she knows me pretty well, then."  I think I'm going to like this guy.

We're three months in at this point and I'm not entirely sure what the hell we're doing.  I haven't had any "a-ha" moments, nothing that's felt like breakthrough of any sort, and I haven't told him anything I haven't been able to talk to my husband, my sisters or my best friends about.  The closest we've gotten to anything that even felt like what I thought therapy was going to be like was when he observed that while I get teary from time to time, I don't seem to let myself full on cry.  That stayed with me for a couple of days, then I had a huge crying jag and all questions were answered.  I told him the next time I went that I don't usually cry for a few reasons:

  1. The Hangover - headache and sore throat for the whole next day and sensitive eyes for two whole days afterwards.
  2. If the situation is bad enough that I'm crying about it, there is a lot of shit that needs to get done, immediately.
  3. Mascara
Question answered and no real emotional scarring or blockage was the reason, nothing from my deep, dark past was a factor, dammit.  I am realizing that maybe I'm in better shape than I thought, or at least I have good enough support in my life that therapy isn't really necessary.  My beloved knows all the ins, outs and players in the family; my sisters are right there with me the whole way and one of my best friends is dealing with her own crazy parent situation while the other has nothing like this going on.  I seem to have the bases well covered so I'm wondering what I'm doing with this guy.  He's really nice, I'm sure he knows his stuff and I even got him to drop an F bomb last time, so maybe my work here is done.

Or. I actually am completely off my rocker and just think I'm not crazy and everyone is just too nice to say anything.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Back From The Not Quite Dead

It has been a frightfully long time since I've written a word. There are lots of reasons, a dead laptop, a Pinterest obsession, two ailing parents and many other life gets in the way excuses I could make. I let myself drift away from this thing I love to do, I'm not even sure why. Coming back to actively writing feels necessary right now, I have missed expressing myself this way, I find myself happier when I write and I need to keep my brain active. I feel terribly rusty right now and I promise to get my shit together sooner than later.

My mother has recently been diagnosed with advanced Alzheimer's disease and that is scaring the crap out of me. The idea of getting ill, while scary, has always seemed beatable, or at least, manageable.  This is not something you can beat and can barely be managed.  For the first time in my life, we are powerless.  I have never before been unable to see a way to fix or at least live with anything that has popped up in my path.  I'm a "pull up your socks and keep going" kind of person when adversity strikes.  I'm at a loss right now.  It's uncomfortable and pisses me off.

I know where it will end, I know that someday, and sooner than I wish, I will lose both of my parents.  I would love to fool myself into thinking I'll be prepared when that day comes, but I don't really believe that is ever the case.  I have been unprepared for losing them before they actually died.  That is how this feels and I have to figure out how to grieve for someone who isn't dead.  The people I remember, the parents of my childhood are gone already, replaced by people I feel I hardly know.  There is anger on all sides, there is sadness and grief and so many bad and negative feelings that it would be so easy to succumb and let those feelings be all that is left.  I admit to a feeling of dread when the phone rings and my parents' number appears, I don't want to talk to these relative strangers who repeat everything and remember nothing and seem almost robotic, I want to talk to my mom and dad. I miss who they used to be, while not perfect, at least I knew them.

If any good has come from this, it is the knowledge that I can and always will be able to count on my family, crisis mode or not.  I am the out of town daughter, my three sisters all live within 20 miles of my parents so they are constantly on call.  During the good times, I keenly feel the sucky part of being away.  I would hear about gatherings that I missed and be a little sad and jealous that I was missing out.  Now, the feeling is very different because while I wish I was there to help and do my share, I will also, ashamedly admit to being glad for the 300 mile bubble that separates me from the frequent madness that has started to consume the situation.  I have realized that my sisters are incredible women who can handle anything that's getting tossed their way.  I have never in my life loved or admired them more than I do right now. They are strong, smart, capable and beautiful souls that leave me awestruck on a regular basis.  These women who drove me crazy, took my stuff, bossed me around and just generally annoyed me my entire childhood are the best people I know. You should be jealous because they're my sisters and not yours.

                                          Shut up, we're gorgeous.

I am lucky to come from a family that loves family, not just my sisters that are incredible, but our husbands have been just as wonderfully supportive and are feeling this almost as deeply as we are.  Our children have tolerated a lot of disruption and weirdness, they know their moms are sad and worried.  Family goes so much deeper than just holiday get togethers and occasional greetings, it's about being there when you're needed.  I have cousins that are just as remarkable as you can imagine who have not simply offered help, but rolled up their sleeves and gotten tired and dirty in actually helping.  These are the people who will save us from letting things get too dark and sad.  They are my tribe, they are my people, they are the best this world has for me.

                                               There they are.

I promise not to be too maudlin and sentimental from here on out, but it may creep in from time to time.  There's still a lot of silly in me, I just needed to lance this first.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

It's Kind Of A Thing

A guy came into my store yesterday and made a rather curious declaration, "People around here are kind of strange.". I knew straight away he was not from this neck of the woods, the accent placed him far, far south of Minnesota.  Privately, I agreed with the guy, but then people are strange everywhere, right?  I asked what he meant by strange, wondering if he had perhaps run across some of our fair town's more colorful citizens.  He said he'd been in the area for a few days and couldn't get over how nice people have been.  He was crossing the street and got a little paranoid when a car stopped, thinking he was about to have a COPS moment, but the driver was simply stopping to let him cross the street. A lady at the laundromat asked him if he wanted to use the remainder of her small box of detergent as she didn't want to take that little bit home. People he doesn't know said hi to him in the grocery store and gave that little wave while driving.  The guy at the gas station greeted him like a regular customer on his second visit.  After his recitation, the poor fella looked a little wild eyed, as if he had been plopped down in Stepford and wasn't sure if he was next.  He said he's from Oklahoma and people just aren't that pleasant down there.  I assured him this wasn't an area controlled by a cult and no one had been body snatched, and what he was experiencing is simply what's referred to as "Minnesota nice".

It's funny that niceness is rare enough that it's odd, commented on and even labelled as a quirk.  It got me thinking about the whole "Minnesota nice" thing and I realized that it's a real thing.  We ARE nice people, not just the country or small town folks, but the Minneapolitans, Saint Paulites and the Duluthians as well.  We say hello to people we don't know, or at least make eye contact accompanied by a half smile or head nod.  We give up seats on crowded buses, we hold doors open and tend treat wait staff like actual human beings. We chat with strangers when we're all stuck waiting in line, we help when we someone trying to lift something heavy, we push cars out of snowbanks and put our carts away in the Kart Korral at the store.  We say please and thank you, and when we say "have a nice day" we genuinely hope you do.  "Can I help you" isn't just part of the script, we actually want to help.  Louie Anderson had a funny bit about Minnesota nice and four way stop signs that brings a smile to my face every time I encounter four cars at the four way.  He talked about the stages of the Minnesota four way stop:
1. We all smile at each other and wait for someone else to go.
2. We all wave for the guy across from us to go.
3. Everyone starts to go.
4. Repeat steps 1 and 2
5. "No no, I'll back up, you go."
6. One brave soul goes for it, breaking the stalemate and setting the others free.

 I think Minnesota nice comes from the fact that once upon a time, we truly had to rely on each other to make it. Whoever the first settlers of our fair state were, I am reasonably sure they did not settle here in January.  My bet is they showed up sometime in May and thought they had found the perfect climate.  Imagine their surprise that first December, but which time they were completely screwed and couldn't leave.  They had to help each other out, share resources and make sure the guy on the next farm was still around come spring.  Our forebears had to, literally and figuratively, huddle together to make it through.  I think some of that mindset still remains.  We see it every blizzard season in the neighbor with the nice snow blower who does the whole block.  We see it in the college guys who roam the streets looking for cars to push out of snowbanks.  We see it in the cup of coffee offered to the mail carrier as they struggle through waist high drifts.  It shows every summer on the lakes and in the parks that we flock to for as many days as we can because we know what's just around the corner.  We have the shared experience of coming out of hibernation every spring, happy to each other after the long, dark months.  We compare blizzard stories, we admire towering piles of snow that will occupy the end of driveways until May and we are glad to see everyone made it through the winter.  Minnesota nice started simply because our settler ancestors were so damn glad to see everyone made it through the winter, they just couldn't be mean to each other.
Yeah, something like that.

It's sometimes said mockingly, "Minnesota nice", but it's one of the best things about living here.  As Frank Burns famously said "It's nice to be nice to the nice."  I'm happy to be from a place that's known for being nice, assholes are overrated.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Few Things To Know

I see a lot of "Rules for dating my daughter" essays out there, most of them usually involve guns or God or ridiculous, fluffy sweet bullshit. There aren't as many about dating our sons, maybe because we see girls of dating age as fragile, innocent creatures and boys are only after that one thing.  What a load a crap, this notion that boys aren't as emotionally vulnerable and girls can't look out for themselves.  We still have such a long way to go on the whole equality thing, don't we?  In the spirit of equality, here is my take on the dating rules.

If You Plan On Dating My Son, Know These Things

1. He's not a doormat because he treats you well.

He treats you well because that's how he is expected to treat you and he knows that if his father and I find out otherwise, the wrath of God will look like a love fest by comparison. Being a gentleman does not translate to being a pussy.

2. Good manners are also not a sign of weakness, nor are they an attack on your feminist sensibilities.

He will do things like open doors, help with your coat and walk you to the door because it's polite. He grew up saying "please", "thank you" and "you're welcome", you'd do well to incorporate those phrases into your vocabulary as well.

3. Make sure we, his family, like you.

You do not have anywhere near the influence over him that we do at this point in his life.  We will win in the long run if it comes down to it.  No one on this earth knows him like we do and no one loves him as fiercely.  Learn to participate in our conversations and laugh along with us and we will welcome you with open arms. We will protect him from anyone we see as dangerous and we do not forgive easily.  We can be either your best allies or your worst nightmare.

4. This is for both boys and girls: KEEP THE INTERNET OUT OF YOUR RELATIONSHIP.

Your relationship has legitimacy even when it isn't "Facebook Official", seriously.  Posting your every date, fight, conversation and sexual experience is not only unnecessary, it's stupid.  As you well know, everyone in the world has an opinion and the vast majority of the time, theirs will not mesh with yours.  This causes stupid drama and only makes everything worse.  If you thrive on that sort of thing, you will spend a lot of your time angry or crying and no one likes to be around someone like that for very long, it's exhausting and annoying. They're called "personal relationships" for a reason...they're personal!

5. Be yourself from the very start.

If you hate football, video games and zombie movies, say so right away.  Don't pretend to like them at the beginning and try to wean him off the things he loves once you've got him, it's dishonest, unfair and confusing as hell.  If you have nothing in common and are only dating him because he's cute, is a superjock or the most popular guy in school, the relationship is doomed from the beginning. Be honest about who you are because he'll find out eventually. 

6. Become proficient at at least one video game, sport or some other "guy" thing.

It'll blow his socks off and make you the most fascinating creature he's ever met.

7. Don't keep him on the string while you keep your eye out for someone better.

He deserves a girl who wants to be with him because he's a great guy. And don't sleep with his friends, chances are he will forgive them faster than he will forgive you.  Being drunk is no excuse for acting like a slut, seriously.

8. If you dress like a tramp, I'm going to point it out, to you.

We all know you are young and have a hot body.  NEWS FLASH: I did too, before I got old and squishy and had kids and began to care more about dressing for me than for boys.  I'm sure you have lovely boobs, I don't care to have them hanging out at my dinner table.  If your skirt/shorts are tiny enough that I can see your underwear preference, I will offer you a pair of sweat pants to wear while in my presence. 

9. Don't cling, physically or otherwise.

You do not need to know where he is, who he is with and what he is doing at all times, that's my job and I've been doing it for years.  I do not need or want an assistant.  It's okay to be out of touch for a while, it allows for a more interesting answer to the question "How was your day?".  Unlimited texting is a plague. 
You also do not need to be physically touching each other every moment you are together, especially if you're in the presence of other people.  It's rude and can make people uncomfortable.  I'm all for hand holding and sitting close to one another, but there is a time and place for the other stuff.  Seriously.

10.  Having his baby means you have to deal with me for the rest of my life.

I won't be one of those uninvolved, uninterested grandparents and I will not allow my son to be an uninvolved parent.  If you don't like me in your relationship now, imagine dealing with me until I die.  I will meddle, judge and interfere, I promise you this.

Many of these rules can be seen either way, they are universally applicable for the most part.  I don't need a gun or God to scare the hell out of someone, I'm an Irish Catholic mother of two, I have a million tricks up my sleeve.  Passive aggressive is my birthright. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

What Works For You

 I have been casting about for a few years for a spiritual community that fits me.  I have decided there really isn't one.
I was raised Catholic, went to Catholic school, the whole nine yards.  I even have an aunt who is a Catholic nun.  I was kicked out of Catholic high school in my sophomore year but had really left long before.  I hold no personal resentment for the church of my birth, I had no traumatic experience that drove me away, it was far more subtle and gradual than that.  As a kid, I loved going to church, dressing up in our Sunday clothes and sometimes going out for breakfast after.  I loved the ritual, I loved singing as a group, I loved the familiarity of the routine that was going to church.  The gospels and sermons never really left much of an impression on me, it was far more the experience that was church.  My long goodbye began rather early, in the third grade when I was sent to the principal and my mother was called because I asked a question that I was told was disrespectful.  (See the post titled "Sister Mary Anunciata Does Not Approve" for details.) I was not allowed to question, I was expected to accept without reservation everything the church taught me.  I am not built to accept blindly, I don't believe humans are truly capable of giving up wonder and curiosity, nor should they. It was this refusal to embrace or even allow questions that eventually led to my departure. And, as it turns out, I am WAY too liberal for the church of my birth.
My beloved and I have been married for twenty years and have had only one major, knock down, drag out fight.  Whether or not our firstborn would be baptized in the Catholic church.  He left the church long ago as well, but for him it was less a crisis of faith and more the fact that he got busy doing other things.  We did end up baptizing number one son but not number two.  Considering that number one has only ever been to church for a couple of funerals and a wedding, I think the decision to leave number two undunked was legitimate.  My issues with baptism stem solely from my feminista side, I don't buy into the whole washing away the "sins of Eve" thing .
I have three sisters and only one of us still attends Catholic church, another has become Lutheran and one has tried out a few different religions and, like me, has not found one that works for her.  I know a lot of people my age that have drifted away from their respective religions for one reason or another.  For some it is a deep division between their beliefs and the teachings of their church.  For others, life got in the way and they just never got back into the habit.  And even some that just never felt "it".  I think I fall into all three of those categories. Have we gotten too busy for church? Are we becoming too cynical for faith?  Is it laziness that keeps many of us away? I'm not sure.
  I miss the feeling of community I got from going to church and being a part of that.  I have even had friends advise me to join a church for that reason alone but that feels false to me and I would feel like I was lying.  I occasionally feel a bit envious of my friends who still have that kind of connection to their deity.  I hear more and more people call themselves spiritual rather than religious and I am definitely one of those.  I started reading (and oversharing on Facebook) some of the Dalai Lama's writings, to the point that my eldest sister called and asked if I had joined a cult. She said I seemed like I was on "bliss overload", she may have been right.  I like the idea of being excellent to yourself and being excellent to everyone else.  I can get behind the concept that being good and being happy are what God, whatever God is to you, wants for all of us.  The idea that science and religion and peacefully coexist seems logical and smart. So, Buddhism it is!  Now to find a temple in northern Minnesota....

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Painful Truths

It's Christmastime, it's time for me come clean about a few things.  There are some things no one, not even my best friends and family.  I have hidden my true self from the world for far too long and I feel the time is now to reveal all.  I hope we can still be friends after you have seen the true me.

I truly love glitter and sparkle.  If I could decorate my entire house in the pretty sparklies of Christmastime, I believe I would. I love nothing more than sitting in dark room, lit only by the lights on the tree and watch the tinsel twinkle, the glittery ornaments sparkle in the low light.  My sister has referred to glitter as "the herpes of craft supplies" and she is right, glitter spilled is never truly gone.  You will find it months later, right there in the middle of everything, even though you have cleaned the defiled space any number of times, it reappears. I don't wear glittery sweaters, I don't paint into on my nails or use glitter eyeshadows, but I will shamelessly bedeck my halls with glitter.

The other shameful admission I must make here is this: I am not even slightly fond of most Christmas cookies. I don't bake them and I am not fond of eating them.  I am perhaps one of the only people who doesn't gain weight over Christmas through no effort on my part.  I appreciate the time and effort that goes into the production of the cookies, but I'd rather have just about anything else.  My father makes a huge batch of spicy meatballs every year for their Christmas party and there are always the first thing to run out. I think the cookies are pretty and all, but unless they're chocolate chip, I don't know why people even bother. Maybe the same plates of cookies should just be preserved year to year and put out every Christmas.

There they are, my secrets laid bare for the world to see.  I hope we're still friends.

On a related note, I finished my shopping today and I would like to put a few thoughts out there.  We choose to go to major centers of shopping in the weeks and days before Christmas so I think a few things need to be addressed.  We're all in the same boat, so let's treat each other like comrades in arms, weatherers of the same storm, passengers in the same lifeboat.  There's no need for rudeness, if you bump into someone you should still say "excuse me".  Letting another car into the line of cars ahead of you will not disrupt the space/time continuum, it will generally earn you a wave and a smile.  Even just the appearance of a good mood with lighten the day of others, smile at the people around you and see what happens.  Go into these remaining shopping days before Christmas with a smile on your face and a song in your heart and the "we're all in this together" mindset and you'll have a hell of a lot more fun.  Buy something weird, just for you, that makes you giggle, it eases the pain of spending a crapton of money on the ungrateful bastards you have to shop for every year!  I bought myself a glitter encrusted bird nest, you should get one.