Monday, December 9, 2013

Not Finding Nemo

This little tale begins in October at the Arizona State Fair when the kids both won goldfish in a ring toss game. They proudly and enthusiastically picked out their fish, one white (soon-to-be-named Snow) and one gold (Goldy). 

Now, we all know how long we can expect these fish to last, but we took them home and set them up in a new pet hotel to make them comfortable. Goldy thrived. Snow? Not so much. After a week or so, Snow sadly dwindled and died. Rest in peace, little Snow. 

My daughter insisted on having a funeral for the fish and not a "burial at sea" as is customary in these circumstances. So we went out in to our dirt pile, I mean, "back yard" and dug an appropriate hole. We invited the rest of the family and the dogs to be present at the interment. It was very moving. 

After the ceremony, we retired to the house for the reception. Towards the end, my daughter went to put up the grave marker only to find the grave mysteriously disturbed! Shockingly (not really), the dogs decided that sushi would be a palatable snack. (At least, that's what I am hoping. It's that or we have a zombie fish on the loose.) My daughter refused to speak to the dogs for the entire week following the incident. 

You would think this would be the end of my little tale, but it isn't. About a week after the ill fated Sushi Incident, my daughter found herself in possession of yet another fair-won fish.  This time from the school's fall festival. 

We added our new acquisition Goldy's tank and hoped for the best. This time they both thrived and we all, naively, resumed a life unconcerned that the fish would survive. It was bliss. 

Until...last Sunday morning when I was woken up by my daughter asking me if I knew where Goldy was. 

What do you mean?, I asked. In his tank, I presume, I responded sleepily. He was there when I came home very late that night. 

No, Mommy! He's not in there!, she replied urgently. 

Now what!, I grumbled "pleasantly" for I had not yet had my tea and I do not tolerate being woken up for anything. 

I scraped myself out of bed and stumbled down the stair to the kitchen to the tank. I peered inside to do a quick head count. One....two? Huh? One!? 

Goldy was gone. Not in the tank. Not out of the tank. Just gone. Gone. No where to be found. 

It's been a week now and at night, we still hear the disconcerting gurgle of Goldy rampaging the house looking for fish brains on which to feed. Too bad the dogs are not good zombie fish fare. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

First Impressions (or My Pet Ferret Rasputin)

Spent the other evening at my work's "holiday" party. A nice event and a bit of low-key fun that might have turned a bit more raucous after I left with the way everyone was pounding margaritas. Teachers! (I refused to have more than one margarita. If they had cider, though, I might have been in some trouble.)

Anyway, the conversation turned to first impressions when the social studies teacher turned to me and asked how my pet ferret was. 

I was a bit confused. The conversation went something like this...

Me: Ferret?
Her: Yes. Rasputin?
Me: Huh?
Her: You said you had a pet ferret named Rasputin. 
Me: Um...when?
Her: On the first day. You told the entire staff. 

The plot thickened. I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. The only Rasputin I knew was the rooster. I teach about Rasputin the rooster, but I hadn't started teaching yet. It was the first day. 

I'm also not one for making up untruths. Usually. Only minor ones of no consequence when I'm feeling spunky. Then, I usually cave in a fit of unbridled honesty. I am not a good liar. 

Puzzled, I turned for confirmation from the others at the table. "Help me out here. Do I have a pet ferret? Named Rasputin?"

"Yes!" They all concurred. 

WTF! Now I was truly perplexed. I mean I can see how one person could think I have a pet ferret named Rasputin (not really), but everyone? Then, it hit me!

Ah-ha! On the first day in our full-staff meeting we played Two Truths and a Lie. Everyone had to write down two truths about themselves and a lie. Then we had to stay up in front of the 100 plus staff members and say them. The object was for the people to pick out the lie. The problem? The acoustics in the room were terrible. You could barely hear anyone. 

My lie was that I had a pet ferret named Rasputin. Those around me correctly learned that this was a lie, but the majority of the room did not and I suddenly became the proud owner of an imaginary pet ferret, Rapsutin. 

Once I realized what had happened, I pondered whether or not to fix the error. Did I say, "oh! How funny! Here's what happened"? Or, did I say, "oh, THAT Rasputin! He's fine. Had a little trouble getting stuck in paper towel roll a few weeks ago, but he seems to have recovered and is back to his old antics"? What a dilemma!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

HobbyQuest 2013

I need a hobby. A good one. Not just a boring old oh-yes-I-collect-gynecological-medical-equipment-from-the-late-1800s hobby, but a real, absorbing, fulfilling, and interesting hobby.

My life has been in a huge amount of upheavel this year and while it has been a lot of fun, I need something just for me. Something to focus on that isn't everything else. It is so bad that I haven't been able to read a book since May. Considering the fact that I would have previously described myself as a compulsive reader that is a significant lack of accomplishment. 

The problem is that I just have no gumption to find one; mid-life crisis is so exhausting. Between working, child care, dog-hamster-fish care, texting, and a new found passion for a social life, I just can't get my brain to focus on one thing long enough to accomplish anything meaningful. Even blogging. (Hence the lengthy gap in posts.)

Sigh. Perhaps someone could suggest   something? I might even make a commitment to trying anything suggested at least once....

PS: Don't tell me to join the gym. Been there. Done that. Training for a 5K already. Boring!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Ghost Post: Marriage

Ladies and Gentlemen, another ghost post. That's two, my friends! Keep 'em coming!
Things have been a bit tense on the marriage front recently, so I was a bit alarmed after dinner tonight when my stomach started rumbling painfully. After spending some time worshipping the Porcelain Goddess, I tactfully confronted my husband.

ME: Hey, uh, does your....stomach hurt?
HIM: After dinner, yes. It did. It's fine now though...Does yours?
ME: Yes!! Oh! Thank, God! I thought you were trying to poison me.
HIM: I thought you were trying to poison me! Well, that's a relief.

I have never been so happy to have eaten bad meat in my whole life. And, I'm thinking, perhaps a little less Who the (Bleep) Did I Marry? on ID.

Friday, May 3, 2013


Two years ago, we got a dog. (See "exhibit A")

Exhibit A: The final exam of obedience training.
It was Hell. For months, I asked every person I saw if they had a dog and when did it stop making them crazy.

I watched The Dog Whisperer obsessively. The dog would sit next to me on the couch watching the part of the show that shows badly behaved dogs and as soon as Cesar Milan came on the screen, he jumped off the couch looking for something less stressful to do.

He was only learning the bad stuff. Not the good. So, I dragged him and the kids to dog training ("exhibit A"). For two months, we played sit, down, come, heel. For two months, he behaved perfectly in class. Then, we'd come home and dash off on another seek and destroy mission.

The dog was (and still is) neurotic, afraid of water, afraid of the car, and believed that the kids are his herd. Not only that, but he needed to go out in the middle of the night so he could peruse the landscape and decide on an optimal location for his business. It was Hell. I swore I would NEVER.DO.IT.AGAIN.

At that time, I was single parenting for several years because my husband had been stationed overseas. While he was gone, the dog grew up and became tolerable, if not, down right lovable. My husband did not get to experience puppyhood in all its glory, but mostly got to see the somewhat improved final draft. So I knew I was in trouble one evening after he has moved here ahead of us when he texted me a photo of a sweet, little puppy....

Fortunately, I started working brutal hours a week after I moved here. Although we knew Exhibit A was lonely by himself all day, it was obvious that a second dog would not be a good idea. But in January, my substitute teaching job ended and my schedule was wiped clear, except for the endless laundry, school work, and parenting responsibilities, of course.

About a week later, our paths crossed with a jaunty little puppy who suckered us all into taking her home. (see "exhibit B")
Exhibit B: Shortly after her arrival. She looks as shocked as I was.
Life since has been the second dimension of Hell. We got a weimaraner because we'd read and heard that they were such smart dogs. Very family-oriented. Et cetera. Apparently, all the "literature" was written by weim breeders and WRONG because we have yet to see evidence of this intelligence. All we've seen is evidence of destruction (see "exhibits C and D").
Exhibit C: Couch (this is one of two effected cushions)

Exhibit D: Carpet
And lots of it. In fact, she is actually at the point now where you can see she knows there will be consequences for her malfeasance, but she just chooses to big-fat-do-it-anyway. She has determined that the consequences are not so bad after all. In fact, she LIKES the taste of bitter apple spray. She actually licks it off whatever you spray it on to make her stop licking it.

While I'm not exactly enjoying puppyhood, it is definitely my husband's turn to feel the pressure of an untrained and seemingly untrainable puppy. And the pressure is pretty bad. It is 24/7 psycho house here. Chewed up stuff everywhere. Dog smell. Roughhousing all the time. It is exhausting and smelly.

But, that's about to end! In ONE WEEK I'm bringing in the big guns. Dog-aggedon is coming! (It is even on the Mayan's calendar so it must be true!) In one week, the best dog trainer in town is coming to my house and life as Exhibit B knows it is about to end. We are going to kick some doggie butt and life will be good. She will sit, stay, come, refrain from jumping, barking, and soiling in the house AND, because I got a GROUPON, she should also be able to cook, clean, do dishes, do laundry, and help with homework as well!!! My life is about to get very good! I can't believe I didn't get a second dog sooner. Update soon!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Pretense is the mother f@%$er of dissention

Yes, I know. I'm slightly misquoting Plato here, but mostly I just wanted to write this post so I could use this badass title. However, the more I think about what I'm going to say to make it work, the more I'm agreeing with my miraculously brilliant brain. (See what I you are irritated with me because of my pretentiousness! Perfection!! It totally works!) Plus, I'm running a little behind on my commitment to overexposing myself so I needed to post something.

You see, I mentioned before that my mind is rebellious. I was always taught to think critically about things. Question everything. Don't accept information at its face value. As a result, I don't cognitively comply with much. I will always think, "you said you are 39, but I think you are...not."

That's all fine and well until this incessant questioning pairs itself up with a compliant spirit (also mentioned before). The problem is that a rebellious mind partnered with a compliant spirit typically manifests itself in a perpetually conflicted mind.

Then, sprinkle a little expectation on that...just a little something that someone else thinks I need to be doing...and the whole thing starts to implode. If I am confronted by an expectation, I will instantly rebel in my head, but comply (equally as instantly) in my body. First, I question the validity of the request. Then, I rebel against it. Then, I big-fat-do-it-anyway. Ridiculous, right? How can anyone be happy selling themselves out 24/7?

In fact, don't tell anyone, but the quickest way to get me to do something is to tell me I can't. And if you really want to piss me off to get slightly quicker compliance, just tell me I can't because I'm...a woman...not good at it....not smart enough...not coordinated enough...not pretty enough...not skinny, the list can go on ad infinitum.

In practice, this looks like this...I don't want to do something, but I do it anyway. I don't like something, but I let it continue. I don't like BBQ at all, but I'll eat it anyway.

So basically, now I'm doing both what people tell me to do and what they tell me I can't do. And, it turns out, I can only do so much. I just figured out that I'm not thinking for myself anywhere in this and that's seriously fucked up! So now I'm pissed! And there is nothing worse than an angry pleaser, let me tell you!

Now, there's one more layer to this...pretense. Add pretense to this expectation that there is a perfect, one way to do things. An image to which I am supposed to aspire or something I should just do because I should. Because it is the "right thing" to do. And suddenly I don't really want to do that so much any more. Now I'm dissenting. An angry, dissenting pleaser. With a brain about to melt out of my ears!

I know I'm not alone on this either; I think this is true for most people. No one wants to be told what to do; yet we spend our entire lives trying to figure out how to follow conventions enough to get away with not following them completely. Think about all that experimenting you did in high school or college. Bucking the system is ingrained in our DNA. (Or, at least, I think it is. It should be. I'm too lazy to do the research so don't quote me on that.) But the part I never got out of all that mess was that you are supposed to end up with a definition of self. Who you are and what you think and what you do. Self-ownership.

Well, I've decided to take action. And I'm totally going to mid-life crisis my ass all over this one albeit in a very conventional way. However, I will say that back when I conceived of it, it wasn't so conventional. (At least, I'll give myself that in my quest for perfect imperfection.) I'm going to go back in time to right a wrong I made to myself more than 20 years ago! And here's what my action looks like....

I have wanted a tattoo since 1991, but I didn't do it for so many reasons. None of which are because I didn't want to. I'm not surrounded by a posse of people who would agree that getting a tattoo is really the best idea and, therefore, it bucks convention to a certain degree in my world. Because of my tendency to comply, I never really trusted myself to do it. I let myself be talked out of it many a time.

Now here's the tattoo has belonged here for so long that when I finally did it, I felt relief. It is as though my outsides and insides are starting to align. My tattoo is a reminder to me that my body and my mind are my own. A reminder that no person should take lightly. For various reasons, I've let mine be owned by others for so long and I'm taking it back! And the owl is a reminder of that wisdom.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Ghost Post: Fit to be tied

I am the privileged recipient of my first ghost post. Yeah! If this becomes a popular thing, I might have to start charging. But, seriously, this was submitted by an anonymous contributor. So...not my midlife crisis. Someone else's. Enjoy!! (And let me know if you want to ghost post yourself! I would love it!)


I just heard these words come out of my mouth: "Be careful tying yourselves up!". My kids were cinching themselves to rolled-up camping pads with the straps intended to keep the pads in a tightly rolled configuration. As I walked out of their room, I started questioning myself: should they be tying themselves up at all? Should I have just shut up and let them have their fun? Is it actually dangerous to the point where they should stop? See, I have no idea. My parents might be described as having been shockingly neglectful in many ways, so I have a very limited sense of appropriate boundaries in many, many situations. But I do recall getting occasional advice from my dad, and one of the things he told me, probably repeatedly, was to never, ever let anyone tie me up, even if it's called a game. Reasonable advice? I don't know. Here's a few other nuggets from him:
  • always keep your eye on your wallet
  • if it happens to you, it's your fault (this might easily be misconstrued: I believe his intent was to address things like not getting an application in on time because the mail carrier was late; clearly you should have planned ahead a little more and given yourself some margin for error. He did not intend to blame victims of crimes or similar).
  • never trust the son of a bitch (this refers to drivers with their signals on; never believe they are actually turning until you see them turn. They might have it on and not know, or change their mind at the last minute, etc.)
Wise counsel? Seems like it. He also insisted I learn to pump gas, change a tire, and learn to drive an old three on the tree manual transmission Chevy pickup before I could get my license, and made me take hunter safety classes. But no one noticed when I snuck out my bedroom approximately 382728282 nights during high school and was hungover an approximately equal number of mornings. No one noticed when I hit puberty and overnight literally had no clothes that I could fit into to wear to school. Including a bathing suit for mandatory 9th grade swimming. I had absolutely no idea the ridiculous lengths teenage (and adult!) boys will go to get in your pants. I could go on but I'm pretty sure you get the picture.

So. Back to my probably questionable parenting practices. I know I do it wrong. I have proof! Last year one of my kids had an earache while we were on vacation. I dosed him up on Advil, feeling all competent and shit. It just kept getting worse and I kept giving him more medicine. My husband thought we should take him to the doctor and I argued. I had at least a million earaches when I was a kid, no one ever took me to a doctor. Actually, I doubt I got the meds, either. Sometimes they'd go away and sometimes my eardrum would pop and bloody fluid would come out and it would feel better. If I was lucky it was just one side. So, a doctor? What for, right? Sure enough, his eardrum popped, and my husband INSISTED we go to the ER. So we went. And the doctor, with a horrified look on her face, informed us how DANGEROUS AND STUPID it was to just ignore an excruciating earache. Huh. Who knew?

At the same time, I think I have developed my finest qualities from having been left alone to fend for myself. There must be a balance there somewhere, but I have no idea where it is. I think I'm just going to close their bedroom door, get myself a beer, and think about bondage.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Code Talkers (or, Damn it! My kids have learned to read.)

Learning to read is an awesome thing. The whole world opens up to you when you can make sense of the mess that we call the English language. However, this milestone is also one of the worst evolutions in parenthood. The parental communications system breaks down dramatically once the code is broken and I believe that it's integrity can never be fully restored.

Suddenly, we cannot let our kids play with our smart phones to kill time any more. Instead of playing games, they now read our text and email messages. If I had a nickel for every time I've heard, "Mommy, your friend said that she needs a drink! Doesn't she have water where she lives?" or "Mommy, it says that your <embarrassing item> order has shipped" I would be rich!

Not only that, but also we cannot spell our way around an issue any more because they can spell, too. We have tried a few code talking strategies, but none are viable for long. First, we went through a period of working our way around conversations using a strange array of intense "you know what I mean" looks (that don't actually end up meaning much to the person trying to understand us). Then, we used a system of unusual descriptors that were only marginally better. For example, instead of "Target", we might say "the circle dot". (Well, until they figured it out.)

Currently, we are using a strategy recommended by a brilliant friend with older kids. She explained that the next phase is to spell everything backwards. Works great, for now, but I don't have much hope it will last too much longer. Plus, honestly, I'm a terrible speller. Spelling forwards is barely tolerable. Backwards spelling takes an IQ above my means.

The other snafu in the "my kids can read" equation is that we can no longer avoid the hot bed topic of graffiti. Recently, I was listening to my 6-year old reading the graffiti on the playground equipment aloud. All was going smoothly until there was a pause and a horrified gasp. She came running over to tell me that someone had written "the f-word" on the slide. Another time, "Mommy, what's a <four letter word that start a c> ?" That was a fun one, let me tell you.

Well, the plus side is know, I can't really think of a plus side on this one. Life was so much easier when my kids were kept in the dark. The blissful ignorance years are over. The years of awkward conversations are just beginning.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Impostor (or the not-so-funny story of PTSD)

SPOILER ALERT: This story is not funny. For those of you who read my blog for humor, you should probably just go back a post and read about cacti shaped like penises or about whacked out taxi rides. This is a little different. This will affect the way you see me. If you don't want to alter that, don't read it. Some things you just cannot unsee.

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat? Or been out walking the dog and felt that creepy need-to-get-home feeling? Or perhaps you might have even just got a plain old "bad feeling" about something or someone? Most of us have. It's normal. Our mind's eye sees things before we do. Once our brain sees something, it lets our bodies know it. Often before we even know what's happening.

But sometimes, something bad actually happens. And, when something bad happens, we can react two different ways. We can move on and learn the lesson. Or, we can move on, but our brain is still stuck in the moment trying to figure it out. It becomes a layer of awareness that is constantly buzzing in our brain as it waits for that something to happen again. Our brains don't like to be fooled. Our brains don't want to miss anything that it can protect us from. And, if something bad happens over and over again, our brain ceases to know how to handle the problem. It shuts down reason and turns on constant vigilance. At length, we cannot cope with constant vigilance. It takes so much energy that everything else becomes crippled. Normal human functioning ceases.

This is what happens to some people who survive trauma. It can happen on the battlefield. It can happen as a result of abuse or being the child of an alcoholic. It can happen after car wrecks. It can even happen when we see something traumatic on television. For me, it began when I was only 16.

I suffer from PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder. And, believe me, PTSD is no fucking joke. This is the first time I've ever tried to write about this issue in a personal way so I'm not completely sure where this is going. I hope that, if you read this, you will realize that and be forgiving.

I talk about PTSD a lot in relation to the general population and trying to raise some awareness of the issue, but I tend not to make it too personal. Most people have no idea why I discuss it. They probably just think I talk about it as a dutiful military spouse. I do have a few people who are familiar with my story, but I've always carried the weight of it around privately because I didn't want people to feel sorry for me or judge me for my history. (In fact, I always say that I don't want people to pray for me. Over the years, I've learned that this is also a form of denial or self-protection. If someone else recognizes how bad it was, then I might be forced to see it as that bad as well. I don't have the strength for that...yet. Perhaps, I still feel like I don't deserve it either.)

Having said that I wouldn't say I keep it a secret exactly, but it takes a whole-lotta-while for me to cop to it. And, I tend to cop to it in a way that prevents anyone from really seeing how deeply it has hurt me. The "oh, yeah. It sucks, but I'm ok" face is very exhausting and it gets in the way of living. Actually living and enjoying.

But I have decided I'm done with that. I'm done feeling responsible for this and I really think it might be a learning experience for others out there. Because, in reality, I know I'm not the only one. This happens every day, but this is my story of my day.

At 16, I was an artist, a dancer, and a passionate thespian. I was kind, sensitive, creative, and pretty outgoing. The child of two teacher/priests and sister to two brothers. I was whole. But by the time I was sixteen and a half, I was desperately clinging to the idea of me whole, but, in reality, I had become an impostor in my own life. Completely shattered, but trying not to let anyone see it. I became an expert in becoming what everyone else wanted to see. That kept me safely hidden.

When I was 16, over the period of about 3 months, I was raped multiple times by a boy I had been dating. He had a gun and used it. I live this experience every day of my life. Every day. Without exception. Some days, it is more in passing. Some days, it grabs me by the throat and threatens to kill me. Recently, I was reminded of a song that the rapist used to sing repeatedly. Before I even had chance to realize that I was even thinking of the song, I was gripped by a panic attack. Panic first. Then reason. That's how my brain functions. My brain was not going to let him get away with it again. Ever.

It wasn't until I was 35 and in serious crisis, that my path finally crossed with someone who could help me. You see, back in 1989, when I was raped, PTSD was pretty much an unknown quantity. There was no treatment. I could have talked about being raped until the cows came home, but no one really knew how to make it better. We had a generation of Vietnam veterans who were suffering, but we didn't know how to help them. We were in the first Gulf War, but were not seeing lasting effects of trauma....yet. However, over the next 20 years, we have become all to familiar with the effects of trauma. (In particular, related to battle, but other trauma as well.) We are seeing patterns in soldiers, families with alcoholics, families with abuse, and crime me.

But, in 2009, it was a different story. I was living overseas when I went into crisis. (Some of you might remember this, but did not know until now why.) I was working hard as a volunteer base leader and my life went kaboom. I remember standing on the balcony of my 7th floor apartment and wondering to myself what it would be like to just go over the edge. It was scary as shit because I knew I wasn't thinking right. I attribute some of it to living in a place where we practiced "war mentality" such as practicing evacuation procedures and witnessing pretend gun-fights happening around us. Guns had been involved in my trauma and I had never felt safe around them.

My only resource was the military family social worker at the clinic. I met with him a few times, but wasn't getting very far very fast. I was thinking that everything I was feeling was new. Homesickness. That kind of thing. I never really made the connection to something that had happened 19 years earlier. I always mentioned it to therapists in passing and down played it as usual. "Well, yeah. When I was 16, I was raped by a boyfriend. But I'm ok now." That was my story. Because they didn't respond as though it was serious, I discounted the intensity of my feelings about it. I blamed myself for over-reacting.

But this time when I mentioned it, the person hearing my story had heard it all before and he wasn't messing around. As a military member, he'd seen PTSD and understood how to treat it. And that's when my life began to change.

The treatments for PTSD are quite effective now. Very painful, but effective. I basically had to force myself to describe (in first person) what happened to me for each and every rape. In intense detail. I told it. Recorded it. Listened to it. Over and over and over and over and over again. And then some more. As I retold the story, my social worker helped me see it for the first time as it was. A serious, premeditated crime. It wasn't until then, that I learned to understand that I didn't cause it to happen. And I finally began to feel some relief. The more I told the story, the less power it had over me. This man saved my life. I will never ever forget him for that.

The legacy of the trauma, however, infuses every corner of my life. Family life. Work life. Social life. Everything. There are still immense ramifications. It took so long to figure out what the problem was that the Impostor was the Helen that everyone knew. The real Helen actually seemed like a fraud. It has been an incredibly painful journey, but it is getting better.

Now on to the lessons.....

There are so many lessons in this whole experience and, as I reflect upon my experience as a parent wanting to protect my own children from danger, there is one fact that strikes me as most important.

This was someone I knew. This was not a stranger. All the tricks and skills I had learned to protect myself in life would never have helped me. Because I knew this person, he had time to work. It was not a sudden experience. He learned to master me over six months. Once he mastered me, he went in for the kill. This was cold, calculated, criminal.

I was a kind and patient kid. I was also the kid who tried not to rock the boat. I always tried to keep it together. If something bad happened (and it did), I would have been the least likely person to say anything to anyone about it. I didn't want to cause a fuss. He knew this, too.

He had a hard life and I thought he really needed a friend. After 6 months of painful emotional drama, things began to take a turn for the worse. For six months, he tested my loyalty and my boundaries. Once he mastered me, the games began in earnest. The insulting began. The dehumanizing began. The overwhelming control began. He would tell me what to wear. Who to talk to. Why I was no good. He would make fun of every damn thing I did, said, or was interested in. He told me that no one else would bother with me and that he was doing me a favor. That I was a "Plain Jane". And then, once he knew he had broken me, he told me he needed me.

I mention this because it is a critical step in a relationship like this. "Why did she stay in the relationship?" People often ask this question when victims don't leave their abusers. Or, worse, "I would have left." This is why. They hold their victims' minds prisoner. The victim no longer believes that the way they think about something is real. They are constantly questioning their own judgement. It happens slowly. It is insidious. (And remember, I was only 16.)

I said nothing.

It took me three years to "confess" even a tiny bit of what happened to me. The "I was raped but it wasn't a big deal" years followed and lasted until I was 35. In the mean time, the Impostor took over my life. Helen disappeared completely.

So, this is a very unpleasant tale to tell and I am already second guessing my judgement to post about it. But I've decided to tell it now in the hopes that I can free myself just a little bit more from it. In doing so, I'm also hoping that someone who might be suffering themselves can start to see that there is a way out. And, perhaps, for you parents in the midst, you might be more aware of some of the dynamics that may affect your children in the hopes that a few of them might be saved a journey like mine. Because my journey with PTSD is not yet over. And that is just how it will be, I guess.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The P-Word (or, Awkward)

In an effort to become more teacher-like, I have been volunteering in a local school to supplement my student teaching. Well, I can occasionally pull-off "teacher-like", using the most broad definition, of course, but the more time I have in-service the better my job search will be, I hope. Basically, I'm selfishly volunteering to further my own career. It's all good.

Anyway, I've been spending quite a bit of time in this one classroom in which the teacher is nearing her retirement. She's a nice lady who seems to have survived teaching with a fair degree of grace, except for one minor thing.

On it's own, this minor thing may not be a problem for her, but when you pair her "minor thing" with my "little problem" (see previous, we have sheer terror in the classroom. You see, her problem appears to be a weakness for sharing...inappropriately. Which also means she is no match for my little problem in which people feel compelled to share.

The first time I was in her classroom, all was well. The next time, not so bad...perhaps, in retrospect, a few untoward comments that suggested some struggles with mental health, but nothing significant. But by the third time (and, honestly, knowing what I know now, I'm a little surprised she held out so long) trouble was brewing.

I trotted in that morning happily flipping my volunteer photo (!) ID around my neck. I was greeted like a rock star (which is, frankly, the whole reason I even bother). And, then, I sat down and got to work with my normal duties.

The kids all got back to what they were doing when, moments later, the teacher quietly popped up behind me. I jumped and turned around only to come face-to-face with something that looked like this....

Is that a cactus in your pocket....?
Not what I was expecting, but ok. I can flex with the best. She started to explain.

HER: Look! This is a cactus from my garden. It blew over in the wind last night so I thought I'd take the chance to show the kids before I replant it.

ME: Oh! Cool! Weird cactus. Arizona has some crazy plants!

HER: I know. I love this one....

Then she leaned in close.....

HER: ....I call this "my big man".

ME: (Looking at her quizzically.)

HER: It looks like a big, hairy penis!

ME: (BLUSH!!!!!)

Now I'm a modest individual who has a hard time slipping the "p-word" in to her daily vocabulary (although I have given it the ole college try on a few occasions). But out of the mouth of a fourth-grade pillar of the community was just about more than my teensy little brain could handle. It exploded. I was, once again, speechless....and BRIGHT RED! I absolutely did not know how to respond. I must have look like an instant lobotomy patient.

She merrily turned and went back to teaching something about something and the day went on. I think. At least, that's what the EMTs told me after they treated me for near-fatal mortification.

I was so disappointed. We all know that teachers are the bastions of our society. They don't swear. (Ever!) They don't drink. (Much.) They don't share inappropriate stories. (In public.) And they certainly don't say...the "p-word". (Unless they are a science teacher. In which case, a rare exception can be made. But, frankly, those science teachers can be a little shady and I'm not terribly comfortable with bending the rules for them a whole lot.) My whole perspective on all the lovely little-old-lady teachers that I'd had in my life was tanking. Dramatically.

And, worse still, if it's not the teachers, then I have to ask, is it me? Why do people say these things to me? My face must be on a "If You See This Woman Humiliate Her" list on the internet somewhere as a joke. It must be. I simply can't bear the thought that people just think I'm as crazy as they are.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

My name is Helen and I'm an addict

It has been less than 24 hours since I decided to put my social e-life on hold for about two weeks and I'm a mess. I'd be lying to say I haven't found a reason to pop-in and spy for a minute or so. There is just so much to keep up with. So now, instead of being a Facebook user, I'm a Facebook stalker. And I'm not proud. I thought this was going to be a lesson in sanity and an opportunity to demonstrate my high degree of self-control, but I'm discovering that may not be the case. Perhaps going cold turkey was a seriously bad idea.

On any given day, I am used to watching all the unfolding minutia of people's days in real time; planning for the perfect comment; liking the unlikable; sharing with appropriate frequency so that it enhances (not overwhelms) my friends' news feeds; monitoring my chat sessions; and just sitting back with my cup of tea and chillin' with my peeps in between dreary home life, school life, and work life responsibilities. As someone with peeps in just about every time zone, this is excellent social time! Who could ask for more?

Perhaps the biggest disappointment is that I had finally perfected my news feed so that it had the right silliness:seriousness ratio. And now, I don't even get to see it!

Instead of annoying people selectively and in an evenly distributed fashion, I have taken to bothering my friends who text instead. Way more inconvenient for them to be sure, but it seems to help sooth the savage beast. I'm not sure they completely agree though. In fact, one wise (read "bossy") friend has suggested that I find a nice smooth rock to rub to sublimate my frustration and anxiety about going cold turkey. Here's my rock:

Isn't he sweet? And perfectly smooth for rubbing...a lot...

In order to distract from my heart's desire, I'm doing more mundane activities to include:
  • Shaving my legs
  • Planning for my tattoo
  • Cleaning
  • Writing...(yes! This counts!)
  • Playing 4 Pics 1 Word
  • Rubbing my sublimation rock
  • Painting (will probably start on this tomorrow)
Sounds fulfilling, doesn't it? My willpower is waning, but I. Must. Not. Give. least for another few hours.

Text me, PLEASE! Don't leave me to suffer alone!! (Email will work as well, if you are so inclined.) I'm lonely. (Sad face emoticon which doesn't exist on Blogger.....)

Friday, April 5, 2013

Highway to Hell (Or, it's 3 am and you must be lonely)

Actually, 2:30 AM is really when this story began. That was when I had to get up this morning to shower and be ready for my flight that left at o-dark hundred for a much anticipated trip Back East.

I am not a morning person. I'm ok if I don't have to go to bed first, but I could not justify not going to bed knowing I was traveling across three time zones, but that is really not too important right now. This just sets the stage for 3:00 AM when the driver came to get me.

The ride started off innocuously enough. I confess that I was still a little groggy. Not on my game which may have prevented my brain raising the red, DEFCON-5 (or is it 1? I can never remember.) warning flag. Anyway, bag in. Climb in. Sit down. Relax for a lengthy haul to the airport.

But then the driver started to talk.... (As a reminder for those who need to be brought up to speed, remember I told you people tell me stuff. Lots of stuff. Well, today I wish that I was warned because I would have just paid for parking.)

Really, I blame myself. I spoke first. Something like, "God, it's early." Seemed harmless enough. It was just me and the driver after all. I couldn't just not say anything. I'm not sure exactly how it started beyond that really.

The next thing I know, he's telling me about all the speeding tickets he has managed to escape, including one where he was sobbing because his girlfriend had dumped him and one where he was drag racing and didn't realize he had a cop behind him. Not exactly the kind of stuff you want to hear from the person you are trusting to get you to the airport on time.

But 20/20 hindsight would soon tell me that I should have been happy with this track of conversation because it was about to go straight to Hell.

The "conversation" (if it could so be called) lulled as I was quickly hacking out my Last Will and Testament on this stupid, (insert f-bomb here), keyboard. Making sure that those who needed the comfort of my last words had it., After a few minutes, he decided to broach a new topic.

That's when he told me that he had finally (!) figured out what's wrong with his ex-girlfriend. I tried to demonstrate disinterest, but apparently that is not well-read when driving along in the dark and so I was subject to his thoughts. All of them.

He explained that he "just" broke up with his girlfriend (5 1/2 months ago!!!!). He met her in a scuba class he was teaching during which her boyfriend dumped her and he chivalrously rode in on his oxygen tank to save her. But, I suppose, love was not meant to be and she dumped him with neither a heretofore. So sad.

In the time since, he has been researching on the Internet to figure out what happened and finally stumbled across an answer! Hooray! Apparently, she is a sex addict. (Although I'm not completely sure by which standards he was making this diagnosis.) And! And! He had proof!

It turns out that proof was on his cell phone. "How do you know this?," you might innocently ask. Well, I know this because he showed me! Pictures!!' Pictures of his ex-girlfriend in various states of undress!!! No. I. Am. Not. Joking!!

He then went on to say that he was going to confront her with it and that he thought she was getting treatment because she had stopped smoking (he believed). But, sadly, she hasn't stopped drinking yet. Again, the logic astounds.

Honestly, I'm not really sure what I said. This was pretty well up there on my list of absurd and disturbing interactions caused by my weird little problem (as I discussed in last post). But I probably said my usual stop-gap measure.."well, that must be really hard for you." But the conversation didn't stop.

Even after other customers got picked-up, he kept talking to me about it in "code". Did I think his plan would work? What else could it be? Blah. Blah. Blah.

After a very long journey, we made it to the airport and I was finally released back to the wild. Next time, I'm packing heat.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Operation Rx

Today, I had to make a quickie trip to Safeway for some dinner items and a pharmacy trip. (They'd been calling me for days threatening to put my prescription back on the shelf if I didn't get it today so it was a must.) I quickly grabbed the food stuffs I needed for dinner and sashayed my way over to the pharmacy which is always a somewhat strange experience because, you know....pharmacists know what all the drugs they serve are for.

When I told them my name, the pharmacist raised his eye brows and said, "Oh, yes. I'm glad you came." Now this might sound like a fairly normal interaction between a customer and his client, but for me, this type of statement usually leads to some exceptionally weird shit. You see, I have this little problem. The problem is that people tend to tell me stuff. Lots of people. Lots of stuff.

For example, it is not unusual for me to be in line at the grocery store and to have the person next to me suddenly tell me all their most private, personal stuff. It's pretty weird and occasionally embarrassing. I mean what do you say when someone says, "You know that butter reminds me of the last time I tried to commit suicide?" Granted, there are a lot possibilities, but few are really appropriate. I smile and nod and try to move on, but sometimes they just follow me around continuing the story. I've learned to say, "That must be really hard for you" when what I really want to say is, "What exactly did you do with the butter?"

In fact, the last time I spoke to this pharmacist, he chose to have a whole discussion about how my birthday was exactly 23 days after his and exactly what he thought about his upcoming birthday and exactly how hard high school was and that I "looked pretty good for my age" and that I should really just try this supplement. Really. Truly. No. Shit.

But I digress, so when the pharmacist started the conversation with "oh, yes. I'm glad you came," I admit I was a little on edge. He toddled off to get my prescription and came back with the goods. So far, so good.

I showed my ID, paid, and signed my name on the screen-that-no-one-really-knows-what-it's-for and looked up to find the pharmacist leaning over the counter with the container of one of my meds open. He was uncomfortably close. I was scared.

He leaned over to my ear and whispered, "This is your <for example, we'll just call it "X"> here." Then he closed it up, gave me a I-know-all-your-little-secrets look, and dropped it into the little white pharmacy baggie. Now I thought that was just a little weird even for my little problem. I felt like I was buying some Rx crack or something. But I shrugged it off and headed for the food checkout.

When I got to the checkout, I unloaded all my goods on to the conveyor belt and noticed that my little white pharmacy bag was in fact this....

It says, "signature cafe" on it!

So now I was in line with a bag that looks like it could have held donuts, but in fact held my Rx crack. I was afraid that when I told her that I paid and it was from the pharmacy that she would insist on seeing it for herself, and then my whole entire cat would be out of my little white cafe bag, and that I would be standing there with no escape route.

Fortunately, my little white cat was not forced to show its ugly little face. Not today anyway. I escaped with only the spit of my pharmacist lingering in my ear and a little more afraid to leave the house than I was before.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Surprise! You just learned something (Or, Surprise! It's the boring version.)

Wow, my brain has been on a huge journey over the past couple of weeks and it appears to have ended in a big exploding ball of both joy and humiliation! It's all very complicated really and I don't intend to be too much clearer about the details, but HOLY COW! Just too much stuff. Instead, I've just decided to skip the details and hop right to the learnings. (Which I realize is very annoying. I hate it when people don't dish the whole story, but oh well. This time you just have to trust me.) But the results are pretty universal and can apply to many situations, so deal.

Here are some lessons learned in real time over the past couple of weeks:

1. Don't be surprised by surprising events. You can be bee-bopping your way merrily along every day in the same way and all of a sudden, SMACK!, the way you see the world will change. I didn't realize how dense the fog was that I was living in, I guess. Shaking that up has brought me great joy.

2. Don't be afraid to put it all on the line when the moment arrives. It probably won't be pretty, but that's ok. It's part of living a passion-filled life. And it's a way to see who you really are with crystal clarity.

3. There is a big downside to putting it all on the line. You cannot take it back. Some people have a harder time putting themselves on the line than others. I've spent a lot of time being afraid to do so, but I think I'm learning that I don't want to do that any more. This is a good lesson for me, albeit a painful one. Not all the lessons can be completely good, I guess. This is epitomized in the words of Martin Blank (Jon Cusack, in the movie Grosse Pointe Blank) while talking to his therapist (Alan Arkin) after seeing his childhood home turned in to a 7-11, " You can never go home again, Oatman. But you can shop there." Which brings me to lesson number 4....

4. Accept pain as a part of change. Embrace it. It is an integral part of makes us human. The part of us that feels pain also feels joy. And if we find a way to dull the pain (there are lots of good ways!) we will also dull the joy and who wants that? (Just think of our good friends the cavemen. Just imagine how many people got hurt in the making of the wheel. If they didn't work through the pain, we would still be wearing stinky wooly mammoth skin dresses. Men and women. Seriously.)

Oh, stop snoring! Learn it your own damn way!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Internet is an amazing thing (or, why aren't there jobs any more?)

This will be a long, rambling, going-nowhere kind of post. You can skip it. You won't hurt my feelings. I'm just thinking, with words and stuff. Might as well post it.

I grew up in the 70s and 80s. That should say a lot, but here is a list of things that define me as a child of the 70s....

1968 Mini
  • ABBA
  • Going on vacation in a Mini (think Mr. Bean or see right)
  • Records...LPs!
  • Pay phones
  • The Muppet Show
  • Bunny ears on my TV
  • AM radio
  • Disco dancing!
All of this complicated even further by the fact that I was born and raised in England until 1981 so my cultural references are always slightly off. When you say "Sesame Street", I say "what?" When you say, "crackers"? You think Saltines. I think Christmas crackers.

Most of my American pop-culture references of this time are grown-up ones, not kids ones. I remember, for example, watching the Dallas finale on British TV when a sitter came over one evening to sit on me. (That would probably not have been OK with my parents since I was only 5 at the time. This was back when people cared what children watched on TV.) I didn't have a clue what the heck was going on, but noticed that Americans lived in the country and wore big hats and were very concerned with "Who shot JR?"(which I think they damn well should have been.) And, we also had the Dukes of Hazzard. Another winning piece of Americana and further reinforcement of the Dallas lessons to boot. So when we moved to the States you can imagine the information pool we had to pull from to anticipate what life would be like in the Colonies. (OK, we didn't really call it that, but it was pretty close.)

And, then there was the 80s...
  • Princess Di and "The Royal Wedding"
  • DOUBLE-pierced (!) ears (which I actually did. Only on one side. I was such a rebel!)
  • Writing ones deepest, most private thoughts in a diary where no one else can see or read them
  • FM radio
  • Colecovision,  Atari 64, PAC-Man fever!
  • Legwarmers, clogs, Alligator shirts, Tretorns
  • Young Kevin Bacon and Michael J. Fox (before his unfortunate diagnosis)
  • ET, Ferris Bueller, Ghostbusters, The Goonies, Back to the Future
  • Getting dropped off to meet my friends at "The Mall"
  • Station wagons
  • Cablevision!
  • Remote controls that connected to your TV by a long wire that the stupid dog would always chew through forcing you to get up out of your seat anyway just like you did the year before in the old days
  • MTV with MUSIC videos!
  • Madonna-the Like A Virgin (but not actually one)/Material Girl version
  • Michael Jackson-the PEPSI/Thriller/Beat It version
  • Journey, Van Halen, The Police (not the "lights and sirens" kind)
  • Recording songs from the radio onto cassette tapes by holding the recording device up to the speakers of the radio device waiting for the song you want to record to play. All the while, hoping that no one coughs, laughs, or otherwise interrupts your split-second judgement for getting the song without the DJ messing it up. In fact, if you were really smart, you'd call the radio station ahead of time a d request the song be played without them talking over it. Sometimes they would comply and you would accomplish the near-impossible comment-free recording of a song. Then, you would put all these perfect copies on one mix-tape to listen at your leisure. So exhausting, but that's how it was in the old days.
  • The space shuttle
  • Rubix cube and all its derivatives
  • VCRs and VHS tapes (We never did get beta)
  • Trivial Pursuit
If I wanted to know something or do a "report" for school, I would have to haul the Encyclopedia Britannica off the shelf and damn-well look it up. The. Hard. Way. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to live in a home with a complete set! A trip to the actual library was rarely needed.

Now the plus-side of all this ignorance was a simpler life. If I wanted to wait for someone to call me, I had to sit by the phone. Doing virtually nothing, except maybe reading an actual book made of actual paper or watching reruns of The Flintstones (which I still love). And wait for the phone which was connected permanently to the wall to ring. If I wanted to play with my next door neighbor, I could go next door and ask. It didn't require looking at a master calendar and setting up a carefully contrived play date.

Apple IIe c. 1983
But, then, in the mid-80s, we got a new-fangled invention called the "home computer" Apple IIe! A new world was on the horizon. We did basic programming by plotting points (square dots on a grid) in BASIC to draw pictures and played gripping games like Lemonade Stand, but no email or Internet. I still typed actual letters on my dad's ribbon typewriter and put the letters in the actual US mail! Beyond that I didn't really touch a computer until I was in college. College! 1991!

It wasn't long thereafter that the Internet was invented by Al Gore. And suddenly, everyone became experts in everything. And then there was Wikipedia which made it nearly impossible for me to continue my career path as a pathological know-it-all. I had to find some thing else to do and stat!

Now, I can think of any obscure topic and zoom in to outer-computerworld to find an answer from other career know-it-alls. (There is a club.) The answer might not actually be right, but that's inconsequential really. I can look at anything. I can even look at lots of things I didn't mean to look at. For example, I now know that if I want to go to the White House (in DC) web site, I have to go to WhiteHouse dot GOV, not dot COM. (Don't do it. You'll regret it!) The world is a frightening place.

And then there's a whole slew of other deviations from the old traditional way of doing things....

Phones. They go with us. Everywhere. It's magical. I can stand outside of some one's house and call them to "see if they're home" when I can see them in their kitchen window making dinner! Then I can bust them on Facebook when they post that they are in China posting Photoshopped photos of themselves on the Great Wall of China by asking if I can stop by for dinner since I'm "in the neighborhood".

Music. Doesn't. Exist. Anymore. It's all just an illusion. You give Apple money. They play the song on a device that is completely unique and incompatible with any other device. "Proprietary," they call it. "Rip off," I call it. You can't even will your music to someone when you die.

Journals or diaries are now blogs (web-logs) which are technically diaries with personal, private ideas out there for public shredding consumption and COMMENT. (Yet, for some reason, we are all still very wrapped up in our privacy rights.) We publish our business, a few people read it, probably laugh at us, and go on with their day. Crazy. Right?

Social media. Facebook where one hooks-up with everyone with whom one has ever crossed paths. And I'm talking everyone. It is sooo awesome! It helps us visit the uncomfortable worlds of our past and present. Simultaneously! And, Twitter which, frankly, I still (after 7 years) don't get. I need more than 140 characters per thought. But it is perfect for all those kids who can't string more than that together even with a gun to their head.

In the meantime, computers are getting smarter and people are getting stupider. (Sounds wrong, I know, but it's the right word. The internet says so.) We need less people to do the same amount of things; yet the populations abounds. Someone needs to create an effective method of dumbing down the computer population so that the human population will still have options for a paycheck. That master mind will make a bundle!

That's it. Told you I wasn't going anywhere with it. Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Still doing homework at 40

I thought that once I hit 40 I'd be in so much physical pain from my newly acquired advanced age that some of life's other "treats" (homework, for example) would take a respite. Unfortunately, however, this does not appear to be the case.

Specifically, homework-related parenting consumes most of my post-school/pre-bedtime policies and procedures. Basically, the policy is "get your homework done!" The procedures, however, vary considerably from day-to-day. Not because I don't have procedures, but more because the kids have no intention of executing the policy my way.

Today, the negotiations were particularly tricky. I had my class to get to and so I had to make sure the bulk of the work was done prior to departure. Also on Mondays, the homework is extensive because the teachers feel that they need to make up for two whole days of free-thinking. Then, toss in a little dinner and bath and you have yourself a recipe for failure in a nanosecond.

Along the way, I have learned that forewarning is helpful, but that it does not preclude the torturously, endless negotiating strategies that will ensue when the starting shot goes off. Today, it began with a little, "can't I just do it after dinner?" from The Older One (9 years old) to a slightly more complicated diversion in The Little One (6 years old).

Both my kids are intelligent, but "The Little One" (as I shall call her to protect her fragile privacy) is dangerously smart. (Think Super Villain.) If you have never been around someone who is dangerously smart, then you are probably living a happy, fulfilled life with nary a care in the world. I, on the other hand, am plagued by a child who is continuously at least one giant leap ahead of my in just about every situation. As such, I never know what is going to happen from one second to the next.

A case in point: one day she came home from kindergarten complaining that she hated school and it was boring. She said she didn't want to go back and, if I loved her, I wouldn't make her go. For once, I thought I had a convincing response to this recurring dilemma so I dove right in. "Well, you want to be an entomologist or zookeeper, right?" She eyed me suspiciously, "yes..." And, I said, "you have to go to school to learn enough to be able to do that job!" She instantly smelled a rat. "Mommy! We don't do any of that stuff at school. School is stupid." How dare I try to manipulate her! But I digress...

So today, I tell "The Little One" that she would start her homework in five minutes. She popped up off the couch (where she was watching SpongeBob), slipped her shoes on her feet, and headed for the door. I asked her where she was going and she said, "I'm going outside. Don't come and get me. I know how long five minutes is." Curses, foiled again!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

If Anderson Cooper can, why can't I?

I got my first gray hair when I was sixteen. I remember it clearly because I was sitting in French class when one of the more annoying and power-hungry members of my class walked up behind me, plucked out the hair, and announced her discovery to the class. (Thankfully, the teacher did not encourage her to repeat her discovery en francais.) I was mortified. And, if I ever see her again, let it be known that I still carry the receipts from my therapy and I will seek revenge reimbursement.

While I didn't go rapidly grayer at such a young age, grayness has always been winning. (Not to be confused with #winning.) Now at (ahem) nearly 40 my hair has become largely gray.

This probably seems somewhat unusual to many people who don't get to see gray hair so often. Remember, many people my age with a similar "affliction" dye their hair and that is their prerogative. But keep in mind, the average age of grayness is in the 30s. I might have been unlucky with the pace of my grayness, but I'm not a freak! So please stop commenting on it.

I know seeing my gray hair probably makes some people feel old themselves. It's hard not to recognize that you are getting old alongside me. But, get over it. My decision not to dye my hair isn't a political statement, a feminist statement, or any other kind if statement. At the moment, it just is what it is. One day, I may chose to do something different, but, just to let you know, it won't be a statement then either. (Although it might be pink.)

No, I don't want to be unappealing and unattractive and all that stuff. I wish I believed that my gray hair didn't make me those things, but unfortunately, I have been told otherwise too many times. In reality, culturally, we are not there yet.

In fact, when you comment on my gray hair it makes me feel bad! I am a kind soul. I try to approach most things with an element of humor. I might go along with your ribbing because I don't know what else to do. I may even be so unassuming that you assume you can say what you want to me without consequence, but you can't. So stop it. Leave me alone.

No, I'm not being unusually sensitive. In fact, I think you are being unusually insensitive. I would never comment on your physical appearance without the intention of building you up. I don't seek to make myself bigger and better by making you smaller. On the other hand, I don't expect you to build me up, but I do hope you will reach down to your humanity and recognize how inhumane you may be. I am human. I am not an object of observation and amusement.

So I'm saying it once and I'm saying it loud....the next time you feel tempted to comment on my gray hair, be forewarned. I will speak my mind. You better be perfect because it might not be pretty. It might even force me to make a statement, but I know I will at least send you the bill.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Damned Perspective!

The other day as I was going through the gate on base, the gate guard noticed my impending birthday and mentioned it.

I was feeling wallow-y and said, "yeah, 40" followed with a sad shrug and an appropriate level of "poor me" as the over all message. I felt like I'd earned it. Isn't that one of the things we are allowed at 40? Self-pity?

He responded cheerfully, "Don't be sad! Lots of people don't make it to 40! It's a gift." In his line of work, in particular, this is probably all too true.

Damnit! Some kind of perspective.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Risqué Business

Ninja gnome
I accidentally skipped a step in my quest for the perfect mid-life crisis while I was surfing the net looking for a budget-mindful way start my garden gnome collection. I mentioned that I am not a great risk taker. If I'm taking a risk, it is usually an accident or an exercise in self-preservation (e.g. to prevent lasting physical damage) so when I found myself looking at a Groupon-like "experience" for burlesque classes, I was surprise to find that my interest was piqued!

From my limited understanding, burlesque unites the basic principles of dance and theater. You know, vaudeville, variety show. That kind of thing. Having experience in both dance and theater, I thought that this might be a fun opportunity to socialize a bit, workout, and do something new and mid-life crisis-y-like. I think I was picturing Fred and Ethyl Mertz on I Love Lucy. Not too risky. So without much ado, I leaped at the offer. Not just the 4-class minimum either, but 8! If I was going to do it, I would go whole hog.

In my usual ass-backwards way, I quickly bought the deal (it was so cheap!) and then I googled my way in to some research. I needed to get some idea of what I was getting myself in to and...OH SHIT! Apparently, there are two forms of burlesque....the European (think variety show) and the American (think strip tease!).

Horrified, I frantically read the terms and conditions to my purchase in search of a merciful loophole that would allow me to return the damn thing. No luck. Those terms must have been written by tax lawyers. I was stuck with it. In a final act of desperation, I gathered my wits and placed a call to the teacher. "Um, I just bought a Groupon...and, I, uh, have a few, um, questions...."

I was overjoyed to discover that I would be allowed to keep my clothes on and that the only things I needed would be gloves, a feather boa, and dancing shoes. Lucky for me, I was already just about equipped! I was also thrilled to find out that the place was a good 45 minutes away so there would be little chance of any witnesses. I do have a (borderline) reputation to protect.

When the first night arrived with alarming speed, I hemmed and hawed some more about going and spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out what was appropriate to wear for a burlesque class. I mean, I had the required accessories, but my wardrobe is far from even the most broad definitions of burlesque. Eventually, I got myself together, threw all my belongings into an eco-friendly shopping tote, and off I went with utmost trepidation.

An hour later, I was standing in the lobby feeling clammy with a similarly shell-shocked looking group of women with a smattering of more "experienced" dancers. (When I say "experienced", read "unusually limber".) All I could do was pray that I could keep what was left of my dignity intact. It was then that I looked down and realized that I'd thrown all my "accessories" in to a eco-friendly, Toys R Us (!) bag. Glam. No doubt.

Just as the panic started to break through, class began. With (at least one) aging stripper to my left and a state crime scene tech to my right, I was definitely among the more vanilla members of the group. But what I lacked in flavor, I think I made up for with sheer hilarity. Picture, if you will, Benny Hill in long, satin gloves and high heeled shoes....dancing. Sort of. (OK, that might be a little more brutal than necessary, but you get the idea.)  That first night wasn't pretty. I won't bore you with the details. If you know me, you can probably imagine...and I'm sorry for that vision.

The class ended, I tucked all my accessories neatly into my Toy R Us (!) eco-bag and slunk home to lick my wounds. I knew that I would have to go back. (I'm nothing, if not persistent.) But I really wished I could just send a clone.

The next week rolled around and my sense of commitment prevailed. I swallowed my pride (and about $15 in gasoline) and hauled my butt over to the class once again. I was more nervous this time because I knew what I was in for. But somehow, someway, my body remembered that it had a purpose and some experience with coordination- based activites  and it didn't completely fail me. Even my trick hip was a touch less tricky. This time it was actually really fun (and I was a lot less funny).

It's been a few weeks now and I'm finally learning to channel my inner Mata a supremely vanilla way, but that's ok because things didn't end that well for her anyway.

So what, might you ask, is the moral of the wordy tale? An excellent question. Overall, I think it is try not to let you dignity get in the way of your dignity.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Mid-Life Crisis Decision Trees

Since (ahem) 40 is (ahem) just around the corner. I believe it is a natural place for a mid-life crisis. After a lot of thought and reflection, I think I will have one. So grab a drink, sit back, relax, and enjoy the accident that is about to happen before your eyes. I'm hoping an approprite audience might inject my experience with a little extra vigor.

After consulting with various experts in the field, I have found that the whole issue is really quite complicated. So many decisions! In fact, I thought a mid-life crisis was pretty much a decision-free experience. A lot of consequences, perhaps, but overall a joyride that makes it totally worth it.

Come to find out I'm wrong (again). I have to decide were my priorities lie. For example, do I want a tattoo or plastic surgery? If a tattoo, where and what? If plastic surgery, what and how big? Not only that, but if I opt for a tattoo (which is the direction I'm leaning in today), then I have to go in to it with the understanding that plastic surgery may be a natural consequence. See what I mean? Decisions. Decisions.

My advisers categorize mid-life escapades in the following ways: appearance, material objects, relationships, professional, social, and risk taking. Choosing one type of crisis may lead to another type of crisis and so on. Crisis interact with each other in a variety of ways, not all of them pleasant. For example, one could have a material objects and appearance crisis which could land you with a hefty car payment and bigger boobs. A secondary outcome of this type of crisis could be social and relationship crises. So you see, one has to think very carefully about the type of crisis one is willing to have. One false step and it could be a completely uncomfortable and unsatisfactory experience.

Under the auspices of doing it right, I'm going to break down my options and consider which path would work best for me.


Frankly, this is a good possibility. A little stomach stapling here. Some lipo there. Perhaps some total body lifting here and there and there as well. Not only that, but I've had a fantasy in which I get a really cool tattoo in a really cool place for about ten years now. I just can't figure out what and where.

Doing this right, though, might boost the chances of a good social crisis. The potential is nearly limitless. Costly though. That is something to consider.

Material Objects

My car is eight years old. I could use a new one. I already know which one I would like to get, but it doesn't really qualify me for a "material objects" crisis. Eh. Don't really want a car payment. I think I would rather travel (by means other than by car, that is.) I also don't think I have the energy to keep up with the Joneses of a car-based mid-life crisis. Too much cleaning and such (and, if you read my last blog, we all know how much I love cleaning! I'm good at it, too. Ha!).

I could start an expensive collection of vintage Levis, garden gnomes, obstetrical equipment, porcelin shoes, or silver left-handed egg beaters. I'm not a good collector though. I get distracted. And, as much as I love a nice piece of art deco jewelry, I don't really care enough about any one thing to get all excited about my next blog post about my most recent acquisition. The conventions alone would probably kill me and this is intended to be a mid-life crisis, not an end-of-life crisis.


This one is so dreary. I'm not really up for all the work involved in a relationship crisis. My life is already jam packed with drama....this just doesn't interest me at all. In fact, just thinking about a relationship crisis makes me want to give up on the whole mid-life crisis idea all together.


I'm in full swing on this one already. Gone back to school more times that I can count. I'm nearly qualified in equally as many fields, but still haven't really found the dream job. I do have my eye on a book deal, so I might be able to work on this crisis without too much collateral damage.

I would also like to pick-up a nice career in something exclusively lucrative that requires very little work. I hate to be inconvenienced by professional responsibilities. It really cuts in to my personal time. That is no good. Unless a professional crisis can make me famous or help my social crisis (see below), it's probably not something to focus on right now.


With two kids, two dogs, and a husband, I'm just too tired to do much about my social life, but it could use some tweaking. Perhaps this could be a secondary crisis to an appearance crisis. That might be fun. Facebook is a nice social perk, but it doesn't completely stand in for face-to-face bonding. Need to give this one some serious thought. Perhaps I could take a class or join a club or....blach! Boring myself already!

Risk Taking

This is actually an area in which I could gain a lot of personal growth. I have a rebellious mind, but a compliant spirit. A little hell fire would do me some good. Perhaps this would make a nice secondary crisis. Start with something safer (choosing a nice garden gnome) and build up to something more...spirited (naked fly-fishing perhaps).

And the winner is...

When all is said and done, it looks like I'm orienting myself on an appearance crisis with professional undertones and dual secondary crises of a social and risk taking nature. Having said that, I'm game for pretty much anything, so please feel free to send me your suggestions. Stand by for the fun to begin!

Monday, February 25, 2013

A New Journey

At the urging of my husband (whom I believe is seeking the vicarious notoriety he had from my last blog) and my friend, Anna (who never fails to inspire me with her own unique spin on crazy), I have decided to dedicate myself to the possibility of a new blog with a new-to-you topic: me! (Plus, my kids are now the age at which they would likely kill me for writing about them so I have to find a new topic.)

So, in an effort to cope with becoming uncomfortably close to 40, I decided I was going to take a trip back to my roots. To "find myself". Or, perhaps, just a reintroduction. Call it a low-budget mid-life crisis, if you feel you have to, but as I began to reflect upon life between parenting (my last blog) and nearly (but not yet!) 40, it occurred to me that I am burned out and I need to start fresh.

In the spirit of allowing others to learn from the mistakes of others, I've decided that I'm about as fair game as I can get. Having said that, as committed as I am to this little project, I don't expect it to last long so get it while you can. Perhaps I will rediscover my sense of humor in the process. And, remember, it's ok to laugh at my expense. I do.