A Tale of Two Fathers

Now, don’t go getting too excited. This is not a story about how I was raised by a nice gay couple. Nope. I was born way back in the 70’s. Two men were not allowed to get married and adopt a baby. This was REALLY frowned upon back in the polyester and disco era. The only two men who could openly live together back then were Burt and Ernie, and they had separate beds even if they were in a one-bedroom apartment. Nope. This is a story of the two fatherly type men in my life – my never around biological father and my fantastic stepfather.

This is where I get my sarcasm and my pre-diabetes.

Like everyone else on the planet, I have a biological father. I mean, duh, we all need TWO parents in order to become a person, right? But I use the word “parent” very lightly when it comes to my father. Really, “sperm donor who cheated on my mom and left for good when she was 7 months pregnant” is more accurate. Yep. My mom finally had enough of her husband’s Mad Men level philandering and kicked his ass out when she was full of pregnancy hormones. He left, taking both cars with him. Asshole.

I saw my father about five or ten times in my life. When I was first born he told everyone that I “looked Asian” and that I couldn’t possibly be his kid because my mom was a big ole cheater.   Not true. Then, as I grew older, I began to look EXACTLY like my paternal grandmother, his mama. So, he could no longer deny that I was his. He did, however, continue to deny to pay child support, but I digress.

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I don’t have any pictures of me WITH my father, but he did take this picture of me at the park, hanging with a duck.

The few times that I did talk to my dad as a kid, I liked him. My mom always told me what a crappy husband he was, and I knew that he rarely visited me, but I still liked him when I did see him. We seemed to share a dry, sarcastic sense of humor. He was intelligent, musical, and a little mystical at times. He read my Tarot cards and told me stories about the ghosts that haunted his house. I found him fascinating and like all kids of divorce, I used to wish that my parents would be back together. It never happened.

The last time I talked to my father was horrible. I was 14 and my mother had just married my stepfather. I was excited because my stepfather was going to adopt me and then I would have the same last name as him and my mom. We were going to be like a “normal” family. Growing up as the lone custodial child of a single mom (my brother lived with my father), I was always chasing “normal.” So, I was THRILLED that my stepfather was going to adopt me.   I told my father the good news over the phone one night. He got angry and said, “Well then you’re not my daughter anymore.” He hung up. I never talked to him again. He died the next year, at age 49, of a heart attack in a Denny’s parking lot. I was 15.

At first, it hurt to lose my father, even though I barely knew him. All of the future “should have beens” came rushing through my mind. He should have been there to see me graduate from high school, and college, too. He should have been there to walk me down the aisle when I got married, both times. He should have taken me on vacations to spend time with his parents and his sister and her kids. To this day, I really don’t know his entire side of the family. I thought we had years ahead of us to work through our fucked up father daughter relationship. We didn’t. To this day, I will not let someone leave or hang up the phone if they are angry with me.

I got out of the “my father died” funk when I realized he really wasn’t ever a father to me. Now, my stepfather, on the other hand, was a father to me. Not only did he teach me how to cook, clean, and not be an asshole, the man taught me that he had my back, right from the beginning.

fathers
This is where I get my ability to make lasagna and clean a kitchen floor on my hands and knees.

Before my mom even married my stepdad, he was there for me. Since he was 19 years older than my mom and already retired, he took me to the orthodontist and other appointments when mom was working. So, during these drives in his 1977 HUGE green Lincoln Town Car, we had some good talks. One time, I told him about a boy at school who was picking on me. This boy was calling me “pig lips.” I never really thought much about my lips one way or another, but once this jackwagon pointed out that my lips took up half my face, I spent most of the time trying to pucker inward and hide the majority of my huge lips. My stepdad set me straight.

One day, he sat me down on the couch and put a pile of fashion magazines on the coffee table. He flipped through them and said, “Look at all of these gills (he was from Boston and didn’t pronounce his R’s). They get shots in their lips to make them fullah,” he informed me.

“Well, they’re stupid!” I said with all of the seriousness an embarrassed 13-year-old girl can muster.

He didn’t stop; he kept flipping through the magazines, pointing out the “gills” with full mouths, and telling me I had what women paid plastic surgeons to get. It took me years to believe him. Now that I’m in my 40’s, I’m glad for my pig lips because they look a lot less pruny than skinny lips.

One of the best things my stepdad ever did was teach me how to drink. He had a very liberal policy on alcohol. He figured if you don’t make it a “big no no” then kids wouldn’t want it so much. I think he’s right about that. My stepdad bought me my first drink at one of those private clubs in Boston (I don’t remember if it was the Elks, the Eagles, or what, but you know what I mean). I was 15 and he had just picked me up from the airport. I had flown up to meet him in Boston, where he was visiting family. My mom was going to fly up in a few days. On the way home from the airport, he had to stop by this lodge of sorts and talk to a friend. My guess is it had something to do with betting on something as the man’s only vice was gambling. So, we sat down at the bar to wait for his friend and my stepdad asked me what I wanted to drink.

“A screwdriver,” I said, being sarcastic and not really knowing what the hell a screwdriver was.

He ordered it for me, and the bartender actually gave it to me. I drank it. Now, this was not the first time I ever drank alcohol. It was the 80’s and there were these things called wine coolers that high school kids could somehow get from stores who sold to teens. I’ve got lots of stories about wine coolers, but that is for another blog.

After that, my dad let me have drinks here and there. On New Year’s Day when I was 17, I came home from a sleepover with my friends. I told my parents about how one of my friends had drunk too much and barfed. I had not had any alcohol at all, so I held her hair. My dad immediately went into a lecture on “how to drink.” Here are his rules:

  • Stay away from the “dahk” stuff. (Dark stuff — Whiskey, dark rum, etc)
  • Stay away from the sweet stuff. (No froo froo drinks)
  • Don’t Mix. (That one is pretty self-explanatory. Stick with the same drink.)
  • Pace “yahself. Just keep a little buzz.” (Don’t over do it.)
  • Have some “watah.” (Stay hydrated.)

The man was right. I got all the way through college and young adulthood without barfing from drinking. I was 31 the first time I puked from alcohol, and that was the first of only three times. The three times that I have gotten sick from booze have been because I broke one or more of the drinking rules.

My stepdad was not only a great father to me, but he was an amazing grandfather during the short time that he was in my son’s life. After my son was born, I went back to school to get my Master’s degree. My mom and my stepdad babysat my son. They took him everywhere with them, to the mall, to the grocery store, everywhere. My stepdad even let my son “help” him build a trellis. Unfortunately, my son’s time with my stepdad was too short. He died when my son was 3.

Father’s Day is always kind of tough for me because I don’t really have a father anymore. I do have lots of wonderful men in my life who are fathers. First of all, there’s my husband, who, like my stepdad, took on the role of stepfather to my son. Then, there’s my son’s biological father who has maintained a good relationship with our son even though we live several states away. He also always paid child support, unlike my father. Last but not least, there is my father-in-law, who is a kind, warm, and friendly man. He would have to be; he raised my wonderful husband.

 So, we’ve talked about me enough. What are you up to on this sappy Hallmark card holiday weekend? Leave me a comment. I love hearing from you.

Middle Age: The Verbal Charades and Bad Hair Years

According to a few random Google search results, I have found out that 45 is the official beginning of middle age.  This means my son has been INCORRECT in calling me a middle-aged woman for the past ten years.  I was still considered a YOUNG adult until now.  Now I am 45 and ½.  So, I’m in the infancy of old age, but I can tell that I am definitely middle aged based on my shrinking vocabulary and shriveling hair.

It used to be that I could flat iron my hair and look good for three days.  Now, I fall asleep on it for 30 minutes and wake up looking like a Founding Father.  You know, I get that stringy “I’ve been forming a new nation and I have no time to run the boar’s bristle thing through my hair” style.  Because that’s what the founding fathers would’ve called a brush when they were middle aged.

Sometimes, my hair looks so bad that I just want to put it in a ponytail, but even that won’t work.  I get these little hairs that bow out on both sides of my neck.  I end up looking like a more haggard Ben Franklin. Not only has my hair gone all Ben Franklin on me, but I can’t form real verbal sentences.

It seems like the day I turned 45, I forgot a bunch of everyday words.  So, I substitute phrases with “thing” in them.

Closet Thing = Pantry

Foot Thing = Ottoman

I can just imagine what would happen if I were on Jeopardy.  I would know SO MANY of the answers; I just would not be able to actually say them.  Cue the music.

THIS IS JEOPARDY!!

Fast forward through canned audience applause and Alex introducing the contestants.

Lisa: Movie Stars for $400, Alex.

Alex: This actor is known for his role in Taxi Driver.

Lisa: OH! I know him.  Fuh – Um, sorry! Wait! He’s that Italian guy with the mole.  And he’s in all of the mafia movies with that other Italian guy.  Crap! Um! He was in that one movie with that one dark-haired guy who recently had prostate cancer.  You know, the one who has the funny comedy team parents.  He played that guy’s father-in-law. And he had a cat.

Alex: Yes. Who is Robert De Niro is correct!

Young contestant: But she never said, “Robert De Niro!”

Alex: Shut up, kid.  You’ll be middle-aged one day!  She said, “Robert De Niro.”

So, that’s middle age for me, so far.  There are other shitty things, like aches in joints I didn’t know I had.  (Young people, I’m talking about the joints that connect bones, not the kind that is legal in Colorado.)  There are a lot of good things about middle age, too.  One is that I don’t really give two shits if my hair looks like Ben Franklin’s.  I notice it, but I don’t get upset about it.  Well, not TOO upset.

What about you? Are you middle aged?  Do you have that I could sign the Declaration of Independence hair?  Can you still speak in full sentences without some version of “you know! That thing in the kitchen that cuts the food?”  Leave me a comment and let me know I’m not alone.

 

 

“At Least You’re Honest”

I’ve heard this a million times. Well, maybe not a million, but a lot.  It has been said to me whenever I say something unpopular, which is often, I guess.  I’ve been told that I “certainly don’t mince words” and several other clichéd ways of saying “please, just lie to me.”  I really don’t understand how honesty, something that used to be valued, became the least common denominator.  People would rather have some fictional version of reality than the truth, I guess. I have always found that annoying.  I just say what’s on my mind. I’m surprised that I am so straight forward as I learned very early in life to hold things in.

When I was two, we lived with my grandmother and step-grandfather for a bit.  When none of the other adults could watch me, my thirteen-year-old step-uncle babysat me.  He also forced me to perform fellatio on him.  After weeks of this, it finally dawned on me that this just wasn’t right.  He had told me not to tell anyone, but one day, when I was standing next to my grandmother in front of the refrigerator, I decided to say something.  I thought that my grandmother would certainly put an end to all this. In a way, she did because she ended any talking about it.  She got angry at me when I stumbled through my two-year-old version of what was happening. She didn’t wonder where I got the vocabulary to talk about a penis going into my mouth.  It was 1974. There was no internet and porn wasn’t widely accessible, at least not to toddlers.  Instead, she assumed I was just talking trash.  Grandmother told me, “We don’t talk like that!”

So, I didn’t.  We eventually moved out of my grandparents’ house and I never spoke of what happened, until it happened again.

I was quiet about it for five years until I was seven going on eight and decided to speak up again after a particularly terrifying night with my step-uncle. When I finally told on him, again, my big brother asked me why I was lying.  He was 17 at the time and should have beaten the shit out of someone who was raping his sister.  But no, like most people, he didn’t want to deal with the truth.  Since I did not receive any counseling or medical care after this episode, I assumed the rest of the family didn’t want to hear it either.  They simply couldn’t handle the truth. It was easier to just not talk about it. So, I didn’t.

The other day, I was unfriended on Facebook for being honest.  This person had posted something like, “If you are always saying ‘just being honest’ people hate you.” I commented that I really didn’t care if my honesty offended others.  The person told me that my friends probably didn’t like me, or something to that effect, and unfriended me.  When I noticed she unfriended me, I said “okeedokee” to myself and went along with my day.  This was a writer I had never met in real life, so it was no big loss.  Even if it was someone I did know in real life it would be no big loss because a “friend” who tells me to stifle myself is not a friend.

I am grateful that this particular former Facebook friend posted what she did and unfriended me.  She inspired me to take another look at how I have been communicating. I figured out that though it may seem like I have no filter, I have been holding a lot in, and that’s not good.  Holding everything in gives me stomachaches and headaches, and it gives me horrible writer’s block.  Every time I go to write something honest, I stop myself.  No more.  I intend to finally finish that memoir I have been procrastinating on. I’m going to be honest, and that may piss off some people, but I’m not sure I care.

In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lion

I wasn’t looking for a cat the day I met Andre. I think I was looking for a car charger for my Blackberry in Best Buy.  My husband, Chris, was next door at Petsmart buying dog bones, or at least that is what he was supposed to be doing. Instead, he came into Best Buy with a big smile on his face and no bag in his hands and said, “You have to see the kittens!”  Kittens?  It was odd that my husband was excited about baby cats as he was the dog person in our relationship.

“We have a cat already, and she’s old,” was my reply.  Our cross-eyed Siamese, Kidder, was about fifteen at that time.  I knew she would not appreciate a youngster.

“But they’re so cute!”  It was like my husband had been drugged with some cat-loving potion.  I just shook my head and followed him next door to Petsmart.

A lot of Petsmarts have cat adoption rooms, and this was the case in Indiana. The local ASPCA had several cats who needed homes. This room had a row of windows and was located right next to the dog food and treats. There were three levels of cats in cages.  Chris led me to his favorite, all the way at the end of the row in a bottom cage.

IMG_2472
Beautiful Andre

My husband was interested in Andre’s brother, a much shyer version of the cat we would eventually adopt.  Like Andre, he was a long-haired gray and white beauty, with a beautiful mane. Unlike Andre, he was incredibly shy. I crouched down to peer in this kitten’s bottom level cage.  He scurried to the back corner.  My husband wanted to pet him and get to know him, so the Petsmart person took him out.  The kitten immediately ran under the cages.

I sat on the cold floor and tried to lure the cat out.  He moved farther away from me. I looked up at my husband, who was standing next to Andre’s cage, and said, “This cat will never make it in our house.  We have two dogs and an old cranky cat.”

That’s when Andre, one level up from his brother and a couple of cages over, started grabbing my husband’s shirt.  My husband moved a little, but Andre kept pushing his paw out and trying to grab my husband.  It was like he was saying, “Forget about my brother; take me!”

“Now that one stands a chance. He doesn’t seem to be afraid of anything,” I said, and I was right.

When Chris and I got Andre home, we set him up in the guest bathroom with a baby gate.  This way the dogs could see him and he could see them, but they were still apart.  I figured that Andre wouldn’t want to jump the gate, and that our old cat Kidder would not jump in.  I was wrong on the first part.

We were barely home for ten minutes when Andre jumped the gate and walked right up to our Pit Bull/Black Lab, Mario.  Mario was used to cats, but the only time he had ever seen a fluffy tail like Andre’s was on a squirrel.  Mario hated squirrels.  So, he lunged at Andre.  Andre was not impressed or afraid.  He got on his hind feet and directed eight pounds of kitten fury in Mario’s face.  Andre boxed Mario’s face until he winced and backed away.  From that moment on, Andre was the boss.

Chris and I soon learned that Andre hated medical interventions more than he hated large dogs.  Andre’s first vet visit at 8 months old went great.  Everyone in the vet’s office loved him.  After all, he was a handsome boy with smooth, fluffy fur.  He was a lover, just like he was at home.  Andre snuggled with the vet, the assistants, and even the receptionist.  He seemed to love people.  For some reason, his loveable behavior at the vet’s office changed the next year when we brought him in for a checkup.

As soon as I put his carrier on the examining table and opened the door, Andre hissed and opened his mouth like a snake with unhinged jaws. Every time the doctor laid a hand on him, he tried to bite the doctor or the assistant who was holding him.  Finally, I helped two vet assistants hold him down.  Andre was insane, and totally not the sweet boy he was at home.  Every annual visit was worse than the last.   I decided that since Andre was an indoor only cat, he would only see the vet if he was sick. So, of course this is the cat that developed colon issues at age five.

When I first noticed Andre straining in the litter box, I thought he had the dreaded urinary blockage that male cats are prone to.  After a few vet visits, it was discovered that he was constipated.  Because of his behavior, Andre had to be sedated for every visit.  He would not tolerate a simple physical exam, never mind the ultrasounds and x-rays needed to diagnose his severe constipation.  And let’s not even talk about the enemas.  A few times, my husband, my son and I had to give Andre glycerin suppositories at home when the Miralax and Cisapride, the go to regimen for this level of constipation, was not working. We learned to cover him with a beach towel and work quickly so we could avoid battle scars.

When Andre turned eight, his megacolon was formally diagnosed.  During this time, Andre could no longer defecate on his own. The medication was simply not working.  The only thing that would work was the glycerin suppositories, and even they didn’t work all of the time.  Our only other choice was major colon surgery.  This would involve multiple visits to the specialist, in addition to the surgery itself.  As I may have mentioned, Andre did not tolerate medical procedures well.  The recovery from this surgery would be brutal, and being sedated multiple times in a short amount of time would be hard on him.  Chris and I made the very tough decision to end Andre’s suffering.

My husband was with Andre in the end.  I preferred to keep my last memory of hugging Andre in the dining room before putting him in the crate for his final trip to the vet.  I told him how much I loved him, and how sorry I was to be sending him off to the place he hated most.  Andre snuggled me, like he had his whole life.  He put his paws around my neck and squeezed. According to Chris, Andre fought the vet and his staff up until his last breath.  He fought the injection that was supposed to calm him down, and he fought the final injection that ended his life.  Andre came into our lives like a lion, and he went out the same way.

Catcallers and Creeps

I grew up in South Florida, where the weather is warm and the people are weird.  When you can run around half nude most of the year, I guess it can make you a bit odd.  I know, not only because I’m still recovering from living there, but because I had to interact with catcallers and creeps whenever I left my apartment.

The apartment building we lived in when I was a teen was on a circle.  So, traffic would exit the circle and onto the street I lived on, and then another street intersected with all of that.  It was a busy intersection and an all-around clusterfuck of traffic.  This was where the dumpster for our building was located.  Guess who’s job it was to take out the trash?

I felt like I was on stage whenever I did that walk of shame to the big, green, rusty dumpster. I hated the fact that I had to live in an apartment when all my friends lived in normal houses as the universe intended. So, I was always afraid someone would see me carrying out my meager apartment trash.  I was also a bit tired of the occasional honking and yelling from the cars that would whiz around the circle.

Me 15
I looked like THIS when creeps were hitting on me. I can only imagine what would have happened if I hadn’t looked like a 1970’s British school boy.

One day, when I was 15 and at the height of my trash anxiety, the granddaddy of all catcall creep episodes happened.  The garbage man took a fancy to my sweaty shorts, tank top, and shiny acne-faced look.  He started yelling and whistling at me from the back of the truck.  Lucky for me, they didn’t stop for the contents of my dumpster.  So, I wasn’t forced to run for my life in flip-flops. The truck kept going around the circle, with the truck riding creep yelling at me. Honestly, what did he really think would happen?  Did he think I would run after the truck, jump on the back with him, and ride off into the next South Florida thunderstorm while inhaling dirty diapers and Budweiser cans?  I shook my head over that one for a while, until I met a creepier man at the beach.

A few weeks later, while still only 15, I was at the beach with my friends.  Hollywood beach has a great broadwalk.  (No, it is not a boardwalk, as autocorrect is trying to tell me.  Look it up.) It’s not one of those boring full of only nature without any indoor plumbing beaches.  I hate those.  If I want to see nature, I will turn on the National Geographic channel. Hollywood Beach has a nice, paved walkway where you can walk or attempt to run into nice, innocent walkers on your bike by ignoring all bike lane rules. It also has stores, restaurants, and assorted ice cream places.  Our next creep was seated on a patio in one of the bar/restaurants.

Now, I will say that OBVIOUSLY this guy had partaken in the bar portion of the establishment quite a bit.  This is the only explanation for his behavior.  Well, I suppose he could have had the eyesight of Mr. Magoo since he didn’t notice that I was 15 going on 12. The gentleman in question, and I do use this term very loosely, was a middle-aged French-Canadian (We got LOTS of French Canadian visitors in Hollywood.) wearing a bikini bottom bathing suit and a desperate lack of soap or deodorant.  He was red, smelly, and creepy.

“Can I buy you zee drink?”  He asked me, as I walked by, barely filling out my newly shoplifted blue bikini.

I wanted to reply with, “Can I buy you zee mirror or zee working nostrils?”   Instead, I said, “no thank you.”

He answered in a way that only someone who is truly drunk and or impaired from the smell of their own body odor can.  “Iz your loss.”

Yep. That is what this lobster red, smelly, scantily clad, OLD man told me.  That is was MY loss.  YES.  He was right. I’m still kicking myself, 30 years later, that I didn’t get drunk and have stinky old man sex right there on Hollywood Beach.  What was I thinking?

I still look back to my time in South Florida and imagine what could have happened if I had been a more adventurous girl.  I could have married the trash man, or moved to Canada, or been murdered and dismembered.  One or the other.   Now, I live up north where people cannot run around half naked most of the year unless they really want to freeze to death.  I’m also 45 now, so I don’t get catcalled as often. I’m OK with all of this.

 

 

 

Finter, Winter, Sprinter, and Summer, oh my!

Boo Boo knows how to keep warm.
Boo Boo knows how to keep warm.

I can remember sitting on the patio of a restaurant in Cape Coral, Florida, saying goodbye to local friends and colleagues before my husband, son, and I moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana. I felt pretty good about the move. South Florida had gotten gritty, crowded, and nothing like it was when I was growing up there. I knew it would be cold up north, but I also knew there would not be tourists or as much traffic. I knew prices would be lower. After all, we were buying a house that was twice as big as our Florida home for LESS money.

One of my Florida friends, a bridesmaid in my wedding and fellow teacher, warned me about the cold. She was originally from New York and told me that my nose would constantly run and bleed all winter. She also told me I would never feel warm, no matter how many layers I put on. I rolled my eyes. I worked from home. I would just crank up the heat. No big deal. HA! You were right, M.

As I mentioned in Bite Me Polar Vortex, winter was cute when we first moved to Fort Wayne. There were deer in our backyard since our house was near the woods. The snow was like glitter. It was almost like Santa himself would appear on our lawn, which was buried under glitter, at any moment.

My new neighbors told me how wonderful it was to have four seasons, and how they could not imagine living in Florida. I looked forward to these four seasons I had always learned about in school: winter, spring, summer, and fall. I soon learned, that the seasons have different names when you are a Floridian.

Summer

This is truly my favorite time of the year because it is very Florida-like. A couple of years ago, temperatures in the Midwest got up to 100. I LOVED IT. Even though I hate reptiles, I must be one. There is nothing better than hot rock weather. So, from about mid-May until the beginning of September, I am OK with going outside.

Finter

Most people call this season “fall” or “autumn.” Really, for a southern person, it’s just winter light, or finter. It’s cold, windy and dreary. It even tends to snow in late October. UCK! The leaves are pretty, but finter still sucks.

Winter

This is by far my least favorite time of the year. I now understand why Pagans started having winter festivals and celebrations hundreds of years ago. It was to keep people from committing suicide. Winter is dark and cold and just all around miserable.

Sprinter

People like to think that spring begins at the end of March. It does not. Up here in Yankee land, the leaves do not grow back and flowers do not bloom until at least May. Early spring is still winter-like. It’s the time of year when you can get pinged in the head with freezing rain, hail, or sleet.  I still don’t know the difference. I just know that it’s hard and cold and miserable.

So, what are the seasons like where you live? Are you lucky enough to live in Florida, Southern California or Hawaii? Feel free to tell me all about how warm it is. I promise not to hate you. : )

Great Dane Lab
Sophie is the only one who is dumb enough to like winter.

The Jordache Smell

 

“You’ve been wearing those same pants all week,” Dickhead (not his real name) said to me in front of everyone in the hallway right after sixth-grade math. Until that moment, I had a crush on him. I looked into his smirking face and hated him and his dark good looks.

“Um, no I haven’t. I have a couple of different pairs, and anyway I washed them.” I stammered, trying not to cry.  This was total bullshit, as I had only one pair and we did not own a washing machine.  We took our clothes to the laundromat once a week.  My dad, whom I rarely saw thanks to divorce and his lack of interest in his own children, had just bought me a pair of dark blue Jordache jeans. I was so excited that I wore those jeans five days in a row, a big middle school no-no. So, instead of having “the Jordache look” I probably had the Jordache smell. No amount of Love’s Baby Soft could cover that up.

 

Dickhead and the others laughed at me as I walked away, turning red and feeling embarrassed about having only one pair of designer jeans. This was worse than the time I got my period on my chair in science class. I marched down the hall, staring straight down at my Trapper Keeper and trying to suck the tears back into my eyes. This is when I realized that I was poor.

I’m surprised it took me that long, as our little family (just mom and me – my brother lived with my father) had received government cheese twice.  It wasn’t bad, really. It was just a big block of American cheese. Also, I had taken some cold baths by candlelight when our electricity had been turned off due to non-payment. If the free cheese and cold baths hadn’t tipped me off, I probably should have realized we did not have money when we had to move into a two-room efficiency apartment with no kitchen. We did dishes in the bathroom sink and cooked dinner on a hot plate. We ended up staying only for a weekend because the landlady got drunk and hit on my mom. The apartment was attached to the landlady’s house. My mom borrowed some money, and we moved back to our two-bedroom, two-bathroom place somehow.

Even with all of these blaring clues, the poverty did not hit me until I became a middle school fashion outcast. Everyone had designer jeans, and I got made fun of a lot for not having the proper clothes. My father, during one of his rare moments when he remembered he was my father, had taken me to Burdines in his little MG convertible to buy the jeans the week before Dickhead called out my poor hygiene. I was THRILLED about the jeans, obviously. Today, they sell Jordache at Walmart, but back in the early 80’s they were only at Burdines or Macy’s or Jordan Marsh – places where poor people didn’t shop.

jordacheShortly after this, at Christmas, my mom’s boss bought me a pair of Gloria Vanderbilt black denim jeans because my mom could not afford them. I had seen the commercials and just had to have them. So when my mom’s boss asked her what I wanted for Christmas, she told him. He didn’t know what size I was, so he just grabbed a pair at Jordan Marsh and told my mom to exchange them. Of course, the pair he gave me was size “tall and skinny.”  I have always been size “short and stout as the little teapot.” After I exchanged the jeans and got the right size, I was able to rotate my pants throughout the week. I even got a pair of Sergio Valente jeans from my mom, but I hated them because they had pink threading. My mom has always loved pink.  I prefer black.

When I was in eighth grade, two amazing things happened.  First, the county changed the school boundaries.  This enabled me to leave McNichol Middle where everyone picked on me, and start attending Olsen. On my first day at Olsen, I met Hillary, a super nice girl who introduced me to all her friends. I finally had NICE friends who were not mean to me. Hillary also helped me dress better. She told me I needed to get Guess jeans and huge EG socks. Hillary also taught me how to layer my tank tops to match my layer socks. She helped me with my eye makeup so that I didn’t look like Ozzy Osbourne pretending to be a raccoon anymore.

 

The second amazing thing is my mom met my step-dad.  Until then, my mom had been super protective of me.  I wasn’t allowed to do much. My step-dad encouraged her to let me hang out with my new friends. I went to the mall, to the movies, and to the beach like a normal 13-year-old Floridian. My step-dad also liked to shop. He would bring me home Guess jeans and other cool things from Macy’s.  I had the right clothes and the right friends. Life was finally coming together.

I still got picked on by some kids for being chubby, having pimples, crying in math class (I’ve always loathed numbers) and sucking at every team sport ever played in middle school PE. I still had bad hair days because I insisted on having my hair chopped into an 80’s do, against Hilary’s advice. Overall, though, eighth grade was a big positive turning point.  I didn’t even wear my Jordache jeans anymore.  Guess was WAY cooler.

Originally published on  Knot So Subtle .

Thoughts on Jesus from Your Friendly Neighborhood Buddhist Thinking Atheist

Disclaimer:  Though I was forced to memorize Bible verses in the Lutheran school I attended in Kindergarten and first grade, and though I sat through many Bible lessons in Baptist summer camp, I am in no way familiar with the Bible.  I tried to read it as an adult, but became angry at the misogyny.  I am not looking to learn about the Bible, and if you knock on my door with a pamphlet, or just to chat about Jehovah, I will sick my poop-eating dog on you.  She kisses.

The whole Cosmosgate (Thanks to Megan S for this groovy term!) thing has me super irritated.  Did you know that there are people out there who are offended by Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson’s new version of Cosmos? A station in Oklahoma even went so far as to “accidentally” cut the evolution part out of the premiere episode.

This irritates me to no end.  I have friends who are Christians, and they have no issue with learning about science, too. Who are these people who are terrified of Cosmos?  It seems like there are always people speaking for Jesus, and making up crazy things that he cares about.  Even with my limited knowledge of all things Jesus, I’m pretty sure that he would probably be more concerned about famine, war, and the way we treat each other in general than the endless list of things people seem to care about on his behalf.

For example, Jesus probably does not care if you:

  • Eat meat on Fridays.   He’s got bigger fish to fry.  Pun intended.
  • watch Cosmos.   If God really did create the universe, Jesus is totally cool with you learning about it.
  • use the term “Mother Nature.”  I witnessed someone criticize someone else on Facebook for asking Mother Nature to make the weather better.  This person was angry because OBVIOUSLY “God makes the weather.”  Don’t get me started.
  •  drink alcohol.  HE MADE WINE.  He DOES care if you drive drunk.  This could hurt someone, and that is a no no.
  •  kneel to pray.  He just doesn’t strike me as the kind of person who would require this.
  •  get married if you are a priest.  If he’s all about love, everyone should have the opportunity to find lasting love.
  •  what you do on Sundays.  With all of the calendar changes throughout time, how do we even know if Sunday is Sunday? And so what if you are working to support yourself or a family.  That’s a good thing.
  •  wear a cross around your neck.  Think about it.  He DIED on the cross.  Crucifixion was the go to execution method back then.  This is kind of like wearing an electric chair around your neck.
  •  say his name in vain.  Personally, I would be thrilled if someone hollered out my name whenever they hurt themselves or had an emotional moment.  Feel free to do this if you want.  You can drop the R to make things easier.

My step-dad, who was raised Catholic and became an atheist, used to say, “Jesus was a hippie.”  I think he’s right.  From what I gather from my religious friends, Jesus was all about helping people and maybe having a glass of wine or two.  He did after all make the stuff.

The nectar of the gods
The nectar of the gods

Depo Provera is FABULOUS!

Recently, I had to undergo an exploratory D&C to determine the cause of some rather nifty cramping and crime scene-level bleeding. The doctor discovered and removed some polyps, which helped a little with the cramping, but it didn’t solve the problem completely.

After the surgery, I met with my doctor to discuss options for eliminating my horrific perimenopausal symptoms once and for all. Since I’d suffered a deep vein thrombosis a few years prior, and because I am forty-plus, estrogen was not an option for me. Progesterone medications were my only non-surgical alternatives. After talking with my doctor, it seemed that the Depo-Provera shot was the best choice for me.

Like most people would, I decided to do a Google search to see what others had to say about Depo. Big mistake. It seemed like there were nothing but horror stories out there. Everyone talked about becoming fat and homicidal after getting the shot. One woman even said she wanted to kill her kids when she was on Depo. Since I’m already chubby and mildly grouchy, this worried me.

Then I made another mistake. I reached out to my Facebook friends. I specifically asked if anyone had anything POSITIVE to say about Depo. Most people told me I would bleed to death, binge on Skittles, and growl. Terrific.

Still, despite what I’d discovered on the Internet, I chose to get the Depo-Provera shot. I was really nervous when I went in for my first one, but I’ve actually had five now, and guess what? I have not gained ANY weight at all, and I feel happier, not angrier. In addition to this overall sense of well-being, I’ve noticed a few more great side effects of Depo:

1. Energy. Depo-Provera makes me feel more focused and energized. I’m able to get work projects done more quickly, and I don’t feel as physically tired during the day. I tend to be a Type A person anyway, and the Depo kicks my obsessive-compulsive disorder up a notch. The Type B people out there might see this as a bad thing, but it works for me. I completely scrub out my refrigerator and freezer shortly after receiving each quarterly shot.

2. No Foreign Objects. For some reason, the medical community—as well as a lot of women my age—have a collective hard-on for the intrauterine device (IUD). I personally cannot say “NOPE” enough to that concept. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I am simply not comfortable with someone, even a medical professional, shoving a foreign object past my cervix and into my uterus. It would be too traumatic. This is why I had to have a D&C instead of an in-office, wide-awake uterine biopsy.

Even if the doctor could get an IUD inside me, my anxiety would never allow me to stop fixating on it. Any little stomach pain and I would assume that the IUD was gouging my innards or migrating someplace where it wasn’t supposed to be. Other than the brief poke of a needle, Depo-Provera does not necessitate a foreign object being placed into my body.

3. Endometriosis. I haven’t been officially diagnosed with endometriosis, because it’s a tricky diagnosis—it can hide in the Fallopian tubes or even the colon. However, my mother had endometriosis, and I have many of the symptoms, so my doctor recommended the Depo shot for me as a treatment for endometriosis, too. We are covering birth control, perimenopausal bleeding and cramping, and possible endometriosis all in one little shot. Yes, please.

4. Three Months. I only have to deal with taking this medication four times a year. Each shot lasts three months. When I was on the pill, I used to forget to take it sometimes. Also, if I took it on an empty stomach, I would get nauseated. Who has time for that impending puke feeling? Not this girl.

In short, my Depo experience has been fabulous. I’m so glad I didn’t listen to the numerous dramatic warnings from well-meaning people. Everyone’s body is different: birth control pills with a high amount of estrogen always made me bleed like crazy; some people gain a lot of weight on progesterone. This is why you should only take advice from your doctor, not your 4,765 Facebook “friends.” For me, Depo is a gift. It is the only thing that really works. My doctor tells me I can stay on it until menopause, and that makes me so happy.

Originally published on In The Powder Room in November, 2015.

Resolutions I Can Actually Keep

Like a lot of you out there, I make resolutions every New Year’s Eve.  I usually don’t publish them, or talk about them, because I know myself and I know I will fail at each and every one of them.  This is because I have some mental block that makes me do more of whatever bad behavior I’m trying to quit.  So, if I swear that I am going on a low carb diet, I will start the day with no carbs and end it by eating a roll of raw cookie dough.  It’s really a good think I never got into drugs.

So, this year, I’m trying something different.  I’m publically announcing my resolutions.  I figure if I tell everyone of my intentions, you all can keep me on track. Also, I’m picking resolutions that are doable.  Here they are, in no particular order.

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  • Drink less alcohol – except if I’m stressed out or if Donald Trump is president.
  • Use more positive language – Instead of saying, “I hate going outside” I will say, “I really, truly enjoy being inside where it is warm, dry, not windy, and doesn’t suck.”
  • Stop insulting myself – no more turning sideways when I look in the mirror and asking myself when I’m due. Instead I will ask myself how old the newborn that I obviously just had is.
  • Keep up my tireless anti-phone crusade – continue teaching people that emailing, texting and instant messaging are far more polite ways to communicate than actually calling someone and interrupting whatever they are doing with a loud screechy phone ring.
  • Spend less time on social media – only check FB once a week unless I’m in a waiting room, need to stalk someone, or have given up on ever doing anything productive.
  • Be a better dog mom – pet my dogs without telling them “mommy loves the kitties better.” In my defense, they don’t speak English.
  • Stop dieting – this usually means I eat nothing but protein and vegetables for breakfast and lunch and then down a pizza and Twinkies for dinner.

That’s it.  Those are my resolutions.  I’m confident that I can keep these because I BELIEVE I can.  I never thought I would lose twenty pounds last year or finish writing that novel I’ve been working on for four years anyway. What resolutions are you making this year? What resolutions have you failed to keep? Let me hear from you in the comment section.