When I was in third grade, Arnold, the abusive step-uncle, came to live with my mother and me in Florida. From what I could overhear when my mother talked to my grandmother on the phone, Arnold was having trouble in school and was just too much for grandmother and grandfather to handle. So, the adults thought it would be a good idea for Arnold to live with my mom and me, her eight-year-old daughter, in Florida, in our two-bedroom apartment.
I remember this apartment well. Aside from all of the bad things that happened in it, this was one of my favorite apartments. It had dark red carpet throughout, and the furniture that came with the apartment was cool. There was a black and white sofa and a really comfortable chaise lounge. I think it was golden colored, but I’m not sure. Sometimes, during the summer or if I was homesick, I would spend almost the whole day in that chaise. I would even eat there while watching cartoons.
The only furniture that did not come with the apartment was the small brown bar and bar stools that my mom had purchased. My mom has never been a drinker, so it was an odd purchase for a single mom. She did keep the bar well-stocked, or at least it looked that way when I was eight.
The master bedroom of the apartment was really an efficiency, with its own entrance. It did not have a kitchen, just a bedroom and bathroom. The entrance led to the driveway of the triplex next door. “Aunt” Hanna, her daughter Laurie and Hanna’s dad lived there. That’s another reason that I loved that apartment. I loved being near Hanna. She took care of me when my mom worked and she picked me up from school. Before she took over, Hanna’s mom, Katie used to take care of me. Katie passed away when I was 5. That’s the first time I remember losing someone I loved. Katie’s grave is the only one that I have ever visited because I am just not a visitor of graves. Sometimes, I just need to talk to her.
There was a time when my mom couldn’t afford to rent the apartment as a two-bedroom apartment, so the landlady locked the deadbolt on the master bedroom door and rented the efficiency to someone else. Mom and I would share a bedroom then. The funny thing was there was an air vent that opened from our hallway into the closet of the efficiency. So, we really had no privacy and neither did the other tenant. I could hear everything that went on over there. I always wondered if they heard me home alone or heard me crying. I became a latch key kid at 8, after my mom and Hanna had a fight.
When Arnold came to live with us, we were in possession of both bedrooms. Mom had the master bedroom and Arnold was to share a room with me. Yes. You read that right. A teenage boy, sixteen by this time, was supposed to share a room with a little girl. Even if mom didn’t know what had happened back in Peoria, this still was a bad idea. I have often shaken my head about this one.
So, Arnold slept in a twin bed in my room and I slept in the other twin bed. Previously, Arnold’s bed had been home to my stuffed animals. They were relocated to a garbage bag in the closet, which I wasn’t happy about because I thought they would suffocate.
Arnold was acting normally for a while. Then, I had to come home early from school for vomiting one day. I remember the grown-ups thinking that I vomited because I got overheated on the playground or something like that, and I remember thinking that sounded a bit silly, but I was a kid so I didn’t question them. Mom picked me up and brought me home, and when Arnold got home from high school she went back to work, leaving him to care for me. I got nervous, but I said nothing.
I was lying on the black and white couch when Arnold wanted to “play a game”. I had been eating the potato chips he had given me and watching TV. Yes. He really gave a child who just vomited potato chips. I had eaten quite a few when he started his old tricks. He unzipped his pants and I started to feel sick. He forced my head down to his crotch. I’m sure he must have said something first, trying to persuade me that this was a good idea, but I don’t remember any of that. I just remember vomiting potato chips all over his crotch and a little on the sofa. He smacked me and I started crying, from the vomiting and from being smacked. To this day, I still cry when I puke. Neither one of us mentioned any of this to my mom when she got home.
Later, it could have been days, months or weeks, Arnold molested me for the last time. It was night, a school night, I had had a bad dream and woke Arnold with my sniffling. He told me to come over to his bed. I’m not sure why I complied, but I did. I got into his bed. At first, he held me and comforted me and I started dozing. The next thing I remember, Arnold was on top of me, with his pants off. He was pulling down my pajama pants and telling me, “It’s ok. You’ll make it. It’s ok.” I didn’t think it was ok. I don’t know where I got the energy, but I got out from under him and ran into my mother’s room, where she was sleeping with Raul, her boyfriend.
Raul really needs his own chapter as he spent seven solid years of my childhood with my mother. Raul had many issues. He was an alcoholic who became vicious when he drank. He dislocated my mother’s jaw twice. No; my mother never filed charges, though she did call the cops once. Once, I grabbed a steak knife and threatened to stab him if he wouldn’t stop beating my mother. When I began to go through puberty, he began to kiss me open-mouthed and often visited when he knew my mom wasn’t home. He was a prize winner for sure. He was also married. As you can imagine, we don’t talk about Raul much either.
So, I went running into mom’s bedroom crying and telling my story. Raul got out of bed and went into my room to get Arnold. I’m not sure what happened or where Arnold slept the rest of the night. I heard yelling. The next day, I was sent to school. I never saw a doctor; nor was I taken to any sort of therapist. That was that. Life went on. It was like nothing had happened.
Afterschool, Arnold was sent home on a plane. Before he left, he was sitting at the little bar in our apartment with my brother, Timothy. Arnold and Timothy were close in age and always got along well. They were talking about how horrible it was that Arnold had to leave. Personally, I was relieved and couldn’t wait for him to leave. Timothy was angry at me and blamed me for this. He asked me why I “lied” about this. I was stunned. I really couldn’t believe that my big brother was not taking my side. That’s the day that I decided that I didn’t like my big brother very much. This was when I started considering myself an only child. Timothy didn’t live with us anyway. After the divorce, he lived with our father and I stayed with mom. So, having nothing better to reply with, I gave him the answer that a lot of kids give every day. “I don’t know.”
This is an excerpt from my memoir. The names have been changed to protect the guilty.
So, in the car we went, with as many belongings as the car could hold. Mom and I made the drive up to Peoria and moved in with my grandmother, her second husband, Pat and his son, Arnold. Arnold was about fourteen at this time and seemed nice. I remember that he paid a lot of attention to me, and I loved this, of course. What little kid doesn’t like attention?
I don’t know how long we lived there before the weird shit started. This is when another obstacle was thrown in my way. I already had living in a single parent home and not having a relationship with my father to screw me up; but now, the granddaddy of all issues came into play. Arnold began sexually abusing me.
Yes, I know that being sexually abused by my teenaged step-uncle sounds like something off the Doctor Phil show, and maybe the whole family would benefit from being featured on the show; but, this was real and was a part of my life for most of my childhood. Since Arnold was home and available, he became my caregiver.
My mother got a job at a hospital in Peoria and my grandmother was supposed to watch me. Sometimes, grandma would need, or rather want, to go out so she would have Arnold babysit me. Since I was young, my memories are hazy, but the episodes of abuse really stand out.
The first memory of the abuse is sort of innocent. It was night, and I was home alone with Arnold. We were both lying on our sides on the couch in the front room of grandmother’s house. Arnold was lying behind me on the scratchy plaid couch with his arms around me, spooning me. I remember that it felt good to be hugged even though he seemed to be hugging me too tightly. At this point, I still considered Arnold to be nice and I did what he told me to do. Then, I remember seeing headlights reflecting on the wall, from the front window, and Arnold told me to pretend that I was asleep. I wasn’t sure why he was telling me this, but I did what he said.
The next thing I remember is the first time Arnold forced me to perform oral sex on him. Again, I was two. TWO. I was sitting on his lap in the recliner just outside of grandma’s bedroom. The house was small so my grandmother’s room was directly off the living room. I don’t think anyone was home. It was dark. The big old floor model TV was on, tuned in to some 1970’s show. I don’t remember the show, just the noise of the TV and the flickering lights. At some point, Arnold unzipped his pants and showed me his penis. I remember feeling afraid. I had no clue what the thing was. He told me not to be afraid and told me it was nice. He told me to kiss it and then forced it into my mouth. I felt like I was going to choke and I gagged and cried. Arnold got mad at me and pushed me off the chair. He got up and left the room.
Sometime after that, I was alone in the kitchen with my grandmother. While we were standing in front of the refrigerator, I tried to tell her about what was happening with Arnold. Her eyes turned cold and blank and she told me never to talk like that again. I shut up immediately and never said a word about it to her again.
Later, when I was alone in the kitchen, feeling embarrassed and sad, I opened the refrigerator and stuck my finger in the baking soda box, licking the powder from my fingers. It tasted horrible and I never did eat baking soda again, but I did eat a lot of other things over the years in an attempt to deal with the feelings that I didn’t understand and I wasn’t allowed to talk about. I learned to hold things in that day. I got the message that no one would really help me anyway.
“He shouldn’t hit me. You shouldn’t hit me about God, Mamma. You should never hit anybody about God—”
The Conversion of the Jews
I was in my classroom at Bonita Springs Middle School. I taught drama, or at least I tried to. I was horrible at classroom management. School started at 9:35, and it was before my first period class. A kid, Tyler, ran in and said, “Miss Petty, I know it’s the JAPS!!” I was so confused. Tyler was a good kid, and I did not suspect drugs. I thought he was just, you know, acting for me. Then, he turned on the TV in my class, and my jaw dropped. We kept that TV on all day. All I wanted to do was leave and get my son from preschool, but we did not dismiss early. It was the day after my 30th birthday. Suddenly, being 30, wearing a size 8 (which was “fat” for me at the time), and having too many bills for my salary did not matter.
When I could leave for the day, I picked up my son, who was 4 and very much unaware of what had happened. He wanted to have dinner at McDonald’s. After all, they had a playground, toys, and fries. What more do you need in life? I didn’t take him to McDonald’s. We drove through, instead. I was afraid to sit with my son in a public place. I was afraid that some crazy person would walk in with a bomb, or Anthrax (the poison, not the band), or a gun, or something. So, we drove through and ate our fries at home, where I felt safe, but still wondered how far I was from a military base, a power plant, or any possible target for terrorism. I still think like this whenever I go to an amusement park.
I did not show my son that I was afraid. I did not cry. This morning, twelve years later, I finally cried about 9/11. I was watching the Moment of Silence on the Today Show. The screen was split, with people in New York on the left and Mr. and Mrs. Obama, Mr. and Mrs. Biden, and a lot of other people in Washington, D.C. on the right. There was a woman in New York, with brown curly hair; maybe you saw her. She started crying so hard that she had to lean on someone. I thought, “She probably lost someone that day. Maybe it was her husband, or a sibling, or a cousin, or a friend. She lost SOMEONE.” That is when I cried. That is what it is all about really. People are getting killed over differences of opinion. Seriously. People are real. They bleed. They die. We should not “hit” anyone about God or Politics, or anything else.
Note: This post was originally posted on 9/11/13.
Some families have great genetics. Everyone lives until they’re 95 even though they drink, smoke, and eat sides of beef. This is not my family. On my father’s side, we have heart disease, diabetes, and anxiety disorders. My father and one of my half-brothers died incredibly early. My father was 49 and my brother was 35. This is why I exercise daily and don’t allow myself to become the size of a small whale.
On my mother’s side, we have breast cancer, colon cancer, Crohn’s disease, and anxiety disorders. This is also why I exercise daily and watch my weight. In addition, because of the strong breast cancer history, I also endure more medical tests than the average woman. I had to start having mammograms at 30, and now, I have to have an annual breast MRI, too. It’s not so bad, though. Unlike the mammogram, breast MRIs do not hurt. There are a few other great things about this procedure. Here they are in no particular order.
New Google Material – During the second part of the MRI they inject you with a contrast fluid. In my case, it was Dotarem. In today’s super-litigious society, doctors must inform you about any and every possible risk greater than a toe stub. So, I received a full-page document that basically said, “So far no one has died from having Dotarem injected, but you know, we don’t really know for sure if it’s harmful, but we think it probably isn’t, so maybe don’t worry about it for now.” Okey-doke. That made me feel much better. In addition to worrying about having a claustrophobia-induced panic attack in the tube, I now had to worry about turning into the Incredible Hulk in a few years. Peachy. You know I will be Googling Dotarem every time I feel remotely ill from now until I’m 97 and a half.
Pretend Spa Time – For this procedure, you have to, I mean you GET TO, lie face down in a face donut thing and listen to music for 45 minutes. It is JUST like getting a massage except no one actually kneads the knots out of your shoulders, and you can’t actually hear the music because all you can hear are magnets banging together, and your boobs sort of hang awkwardly in their own donut contraption. OK. I’m lying. It is nothing like a massage.
You EARN Treats – After you endure this nonsense, you can and should get yourself a treat. There was a Starbucks a couple blocks away from the medical facility, so I thought of driving there. After the test, I felt super hungry, so I settled for the Tim Horton’s that was IN the facility. I got a donut and a cup of coffee. I regretted it and vowed to always go to Starbucks. I’ve only lived “up north” for the past decade or so. I still don’t get the appeal of Tim Horton’s. Lesson learned.
No Glamour – When you are getting ready for your appointment, you will be amazed at how quickly you can get out the door when make-up, jewelry, and deodorant are not allowed. This is because there is a strict no metal rule in the MRI machine and these items can contain metal. Think about it – MRIs use MAGNETS to take images. If you had metallic eyeshadow on, well, I hate to think how that would play out. If you passed fourth grade you know what metals and magnets do.
No Bra—You get a solid 45 minutes of bra free time. Once you and your MRI tech work together to awkwardly (could she at least buy me a drink first) place your breasts in their proper magnet holes, and once the padded breastbone bar is in a spot where it doesn’t feel like your ribs will crack or your stomach will cave in, you can lounge peacefully without a bra. Maybe it is like spa time.
Open in FRONT—This is the one time in your life when you will be permitted to wear a hospital gown that is open in the front. YAY! At least your butt won’t hang out for this procedure. Just your boobs. Oh well.
Peace of Mind—If you are like me and have shitty genetics, getting a breast MRI in addition to a mammogram is a smart thing to do. MRIs catch things that mammograms miss and vice versa.
So, if you are getting an MRI soon, I hope this helped clear up some of the mystery. It’s not fun, but it’s not the worst thing ever. It’s non-invasive. It’s not a colonoscopy or a uterine biopsy. I’ve had both of those and the breast MRI is MUCH easier. There’s no prep, other than not wearing deodorant, jewelry, or makeup, and there’s just a small needle to deal with. If you are claustrophobic, your doctor can prescribe a tranquilizer for the procedure. I was able to get by without it this time because it was my SECOND MRI, so I knew what to expect. Plus, you are on your face, so you don’t really see the machine much. My facility was super cool and had mirrors in the face hole that showed me the room, not the tunnel I was in.
Have you had a breast MRI? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section. Also, if you have any questions, I would love to try to answer them.
Dear Generic Suburban White Man who was in the Kroger Parking lot,
Yes, that was me who screamed “FUCK!” in a tone that can only be described as warring tomcats. I appreciate your look of judgment at my choice of language, which is why I gave you the little wave with my unburned hand and the polite, “sorry!”
You see, in my never-ending quest to not have unnecessary trash to get rid of, I said no to the little green stopper at the Kroger Starbucks. Thus, when I hit a bump in the parking lot while holding on to my beloved flat white and my cart, the coffee when flying out of that tiny drinking whole and all over my even more beloved Kate Spade Purse.
And while my “sorry” and wave may have meant I wouldn’t yell fuck again, I did when I spilled the coffee two more times on my way to the car. It’s a good thing you had already driven away when I was attempting to open my car door with coffee all over my hand and purse. When I hit the coffee cup against the door, not on purpose, it spilled some more down the interior of the door, at which point I literally growled, “Fuck! How many fucking times am I going to spill this fucking coffee?”
After that, I went digging in my console for anything to soak up coffee. You see, I’m an incredibly neat person and I don’t hoard napkins or Kleenex in my car. Luckily, I found a Norwex mitten duster and a pair of yarn gloves, along with some hand sanitizer. I managed to clean the car door and purse. I licked off the top of the lid to get the large amount of coffee that had gathered there.
When I finally unloaded my cart and got in my car, I thought three things. One, I will always ask for that frigging stopper. Two, it’s a good thing I went to Pam’s Norwex party four years ago. Three, I really need to just let the husband do the shopping. (Yes, someone married this rude woman.) Something awkward always happens to me at Kroger.
That Short Chubby Chic with the Potty Mouth
I grew up in a single parent democratic household with many democratic family friends. I heard a lot about how Republicans were nothing but “warmongers” who would not help the poor. I was told that they wanted to spend all of our tax money on bombs not food for the poor. They sounded like horrible people to young Lisa, but I didn’t pay much attention to politics until Ronald Reagan was elected.
Reagan was elected when I was in 4th grade when I was a poor kid on reduced price lunch. I was upset that he beat Carter because I LOVED Carter. Our teacher made us watch the inauguration speech in class. One of my classmates, Kenny, yelled, “Tell ‘em Reagan!” I told him to be quiet and my teacher got mad at me. Later, when Reagan wanted to make ketchup count as a vegetable in the school lunch, I hated him more. That is one of the first times I felt like the lone liberal. The lone liberal actually sounds like a superhero who wears a mask and rides a horse, but it’s really not that exciting.
Last week, we found out that President Trump would be coming to our local high school. My liberal friends were posting about it on Facebook, saying that it would be a “circus” and they would stay away from it. I agreed. I had no desire to go. So, when my husband registered for tickets and said he wanted to go “see a sitting president” I was scared. At first, I really did not want to go. I got really anxious about it.
What we imagine is always worse than reality. I imagined being physically thrown out of the rally. I imagined being burned at the stake. I imagined being arrested. I imagined a lot of horrible things, and then I remembered that I don’t have Democrat tattooed on my forehead, or anywhere.
When the time came to drive over to the school, I was super stressed. So, the husband and I had a drink. I was not drunk, but my stomach stopped cramping and I felt like maybe I would not be lynched.
We had to park like a mile from the school. The speech was supposed to start at 6:30 and doors opened at 3:30. We got there at around 6:00 and heard that people had been in line since 8:00am. Why? Do they not have Twitter? You can “hear” him speak at any time.
So, we were at the end of a very long line. It was super-hot and I had worn jeans. I thought we would be in an overly airconditioned auditorium. I was wrong. We didn’t even make it in the building. We were put in an overflow area, a small grassy spot between the parking lot and the school, where a screen was set up. When my son and his girlfriend went to see President Obama a couple of years ago, they ended up in an overflow room with ac and seats. Not here. Even the overflow rooms were filled. We were standing outside and SWEATING.
As we were standing there, I noticed a lot of really smart people. They were the people who were selling things to a captive audience. There were hats, t-shirts, and even socks for sale. There were people selling water, lemonade, and iced tea. There was even someone selling beer across the street from the school. We bought a couple of bottled waters.
Honestly, everything was cool and almost normal, except for everyone being white. It was nothing like I expected. And then the president took the stage and the crowd became a little more energetic. Everyone applauded loudly. I used both hands to hold my bottled water to get out of clapping. There were chants of “build the wall” and “CNN sucks.” I kept quiet.
President Trump began his speech by talking about “the elite” who snub his followers. He said, “they are more elite than me? I have everything better than they have. And I became president. And it is driving them crazy.” The crowd cheered. I clung to my water.
Next President Trump, began talking about Senator Jim Jordan, the former OSU assistant wrestling coach who is a candidate for speaker of the house while being accused of covering up sexual abuse at OSU while he worked there. The president introduced him, “Jim Jordan—how great is he? Come up here, Jim.” There were chants of “speaker of the house.” Trump joked with him and asked him if he had wrestled at the high school where the speech was being held.
Jordan stepped up to the microphone and spoke to the crowd. The biggest cheers for Jordan came when he said: “embassy is going to Jerusalem.”
After Jordan stepped away from the microphone, President Trump took over again. He mentioned that “Maxine Waters is a seriously low IQ person.” Then, he started talking about our local Democratic candidate for Congress, Danny O’Connor. “A vote for Danny boy and the Democrats is a vote to let drugs and criminals into the country.” He followed up with, “they don’t care about the crime, they don’t care about the military, and they don’t care about your vets.”
I stood there and thought about how wrong he was. I have a lot of liberal friends. We care about our military and our vets. We frequently donate to veteran causes and send care packages to the military. I wish the president wouldn’t add to this already divisive political culture. I also wish he would get his facts straight and look at actual crime statistics.
But there was no such luck, Trump went on to say, “we want our country to be a sanctuary for law-abiding citizens, not illegal aliens.” The crowd chanted “build that wall.” I clung to my water bottle.
A woman who was standing next to me leaned over and said, “he really is a great speaker.” I had talked to her earlier before the speech started. She is a teacher with a husband and at least one teen son, who was there with a red Make America Great Again hat. I had also chatted with her husband about jury duty. Like me, he was horrified by the brutal crimes that occurred in our sleepy little county.
By this point, my husband and I were super sweaty and just wanted to go get ice cream. So, we left early. As we were walking to the school’s exit, a man and his tween son started walking with us. The man told us they had gotten there early and made it into the school, but that is was very hot inside, too. For some reason, we got on the subject of animals. This man and his family had rescued a few dogs from shelters. My husband talked to him about our rescues and we all really bonded over our love of animals. I also chatted a bit with his son about how much I loved American Chinese food. He said, “You mean the kind with peas and carrots in the fried rice.” I said, “Exactly! Totally not authentic.” We laughed.
As we got near the exit, we noticed an old couple leaning against a cement pole together. The man we were walking with asked them, “Are you OK? I can go get my van and take you to your car.” They thanked him but said someone was coming to get them. He made sure they were ok and then we kept walking together until we had to go our separate ways to our parking spots.
As we walked back to our car, which as I mentioned was a mile away or so, I was lost in my thoughts. I had gone there expecting to be frightened by Trump followers. I had actually worn closed shoes instead of flip-flops in case I needed to make a run for it. I didn’t like what the president had to say, and I never do, but I was pleasantly surprised by his followers. They don’t have horns. They aren’t stupid. They are animal lovers, teachers, and parents. They really are a lot more like us than they are different. Maybe we should go to each other’s rallies more often, not to protest, but just to listen.
I’m still a Democrat. I still want to help immigrants and poor people. I think of America as a melting pot, or a colorful tossed salad of cultures, not a walled compound. Really, we are all immigrants. Let’s be nice to each other and actually talk to each other as people. Most of us don’t have horns.
Last week, I had my yearly lady garden inspection. Well, I suppose they inspect they whole structure, not just the garden. Anyway, as per protocol, I was a wee bit nervous when I got there. So, I was relieved when the receptionist smiled and only handed me two forms to review and sign. At least, I didn’t have to write a bunch. Then, she pointed out a third form, that was really an advertisement for CoolSculpting.
For those of you who haven’t Googled it yet, or who are otherwise out of the loop, CoolSculpting is a procedure where they wrap you in some sort of cold torture device freeze your fat cells. I could tell that the receptionist felt a little odd bringing it up since she was basically calling me a fat ass.
Receptionist: The third page is just, uh, well, we will be doing CoolSculpting and you can fill this out if you are interested.
Me: (looking down at the form with pictures of various chubby body parts with checkboxes next to them) Oh! I’m interested. I’d love to check all of the boxes.
Receptionist: (looking excited. They must get a bonus for everyone who signs up or something) Really?!
Me: Yep! I mean, you should probably just put my whole chubby body in an ice chest, but the husband would probably remind me that we have a kid in college so we shouldn’t spend money on stuff like that.
Receptionist: (looking down at her desk, and a bit awkward because there was a really heavy woman and a pregnant woman in the waiting room. Oops!) OK. (nervous laugh) Well, just sign those two forms and hand them back to me.
I stopped cracking fat jokes about myself and reviewed the two forms to be sure all of the information was still current. Then, I took a look at the CoolSculpting flier. Seriously, they had every possible body part that you could get a CoolSculpting contraption around other than the dreaded Fupa. I guess you can’t freeze a Fupa, even at the gyno office.
I don’t know how to feel about CoolSculpting at the gyno. I mean, isn’t this one of those places where women already feel vulnerable. You already dread sitting there with a paper blanket over your legs in meat locker level air-conditioning. Then, there is the part when you have to keep scooting down the table to the stirrups, and you hope you don’t fart or have any toilet paper stuck anywhere. And with all that stress already, they want to greet us with, “Hey, fatty! Let’s freeze that shit off!”
I don’t know how to feel about this, or if I need to feel anything about it. What do you think? Should the gynecologist offer CoolSculpting?
And, one more thing, if fat can be frozen, why aren’t Eskimos skinny?