Friday, December 17, 2010


                My son calls me Mama or Mum. He calls my Mom Mamama. His Uncle Douglas is Dougie- sometimes. His Grandfather is Dada. I read someplace that every child, regardless of whether their father is in their life or not, goes through a phase where they ask for “Dada.” Intellectually, it makes perfect sense that he would call my Dad Dada because all he ever hears him referred to is “Dad.” Emotionally, however, it kills me just a little bit. I want my son to have positive male role models in his life- that’s one big reason why we moved here. I just don’t want his to refer to that role model as “Dad.” But it’s not like I could ever tell him that his biological father is a deadbeat, that he was cast aside for some childish pipedream.

I discussed with my mother what I would tell Elijah when he is old enough to realize that other children go home to two parents but he only goes home to one, or some of his friends may see a parent on the weekends but his Dad might come around every couple of years (don’t hold your breath for even that sort of regularity). How can you be truthful without speaking poorly of the other person or making a child feel bad? You can’t tell a six year old “Your Dad was asked to choose between you and music and he chose music” or “Well, he was given the chance to see you ever week but he decided against it because he needed time to himself.” I settled on, “Your Dad loves you very much but he can’t be a Dad so we came to family that also loves you very much.”

I never had any illusions about the difficulties of being a single Mom. It’s a tough thing to do on your own. If it weren’t, we’d not revere the “Mommy + Daddy + Child = Family” equation so much. I don’t want people to feel sorry for me or my son, either, because the divorce was the absolute best thing that could have happened to Elijah and me. Nonetheless, I find myself wondering how I’m going to manage the two of us living on our own, going to school, working full time, and being the best Mom I can be. It would be so much easier to have someone share in the responsibilities of raising my son. But this isn’t about what is easy; it’s about what’s right. It’s always been about what’s right and what’s best and that has lead to some horribly difficult decisions. So, I made the choices, prayed for the best, and live with the results.

Because of that, I get to watch my son grow up in this loving environment. I get to watch his interact with people who, a year ago, were never sure when they would see him again. Of course this was done at the expense of others’ abilities to see Elijah regularly but, unless I somehow figured out how to move everyone to the same region, something was going to give and I had the ability to choose what it would be.

That, I think, is why it is so frustrating to hear the self pitying caterwauling of Elijah’s father. “Oh, I miss my boy so much!” “Oh, I wish I could hug him!” “Oh, I feel like such a bad Dad because I can’t do anything for my boy!” Well, he could start by making the attempt. It’s so far above and beyond the child support he doesn’t pay. It’s about sending a letter or a picture on occasion so Elijah will have something to look back on later on. It’s about doing little things to have a positive effect on Elijah’s life. But if he doesn’t send letters or pictures or child support or inquire about his son’s well being unless it’s saddled onto some other conversation, he really don’t have a right to say he wishes he could do more. I honestly wish that he would either step up and show the interest he says he has or just drop off the face of the planet so we can move on. This “I’m a deadbeat dad in every sense of the word but feel sorry for me” bullshit has got to stop.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Second Nature

                Today, one of my favorite cupcakes tipped over. When I tried to pick it up, the cupcake broke in two. So, instead of wasting it, I declared it my free cupcake of the day and set it on a shelf next to the plastic baggies, aprons, and whatnot. I’d munch on it occasionally throughout the day since I have this habit of not stopping for a bathroom break, much less an actual lunch break. I didn’t think much of it until the guy that drops off the towels stopped by and, for some reason or another, one of my coworkers felt she needed to be with this guy as he dropped off the towels and picked up the week’s laundry. She went into the area where my cupcake was and starts going on about this cupcake. I’m not really sure why she even thought it was worth a comment but, nonetheless, there she was prattling on about a cupcake “next to the cleaning supplies.” Well, I certainly don’t think food I’m consuming ought to be next to food I’m preparing and, technically, my cupcake was above the cleaning supplies so this line of comments is completely beyond me and, frankly, a waste of my time. So, I playfully told her to shut up- no anger or annoyance or venom. Just a playful little “shut up.” I guess, in retrospect, I could I have told her to politely refrain from her harping or just ignored her going on and on once again on how she thinks the place ought to be run. But, no, I chose a slightly self-depreciating tone and said “shut up” more akin to what you’d say if you were caught by one of your friends doing something you knew was stupid.

She threatened to hit me.

Can I get a “What the fuck??” from the audience????

 I can’t remember the exact term whether it was punching or knocking me out but it was something to the effect that if I told her to shut up again, she would kick my ass. Okay. Let’s pause for a second here, people, and take a look at this:

Saying shut up is not the most polite thing in the world, I’ll admit, but the tone goes a long way towards how it needs to be taken. If I barked “shut up” at a judge, I’d expect a night in jail. If I yelled it at a drunken biker chick, I’d expect a bar fight. But I jokingly said it to a person who doesn’t tend to listen to anything unless it comes with a deal of groveling and ass-kiss. I didn’t mean it as a sign of disrespect; it was more of “okay, I’ve heard enough.”

So I called her on it. I asked her if she really thought it was appropriate to respond to a joke with a threat of physical violence, because, you know, to me that’s a much greater transgression, especially while on the clock. Oh, that’s just part of her nature. Well, “shut up” is just part of my speech pattern.
She went up front to help the laundry guy with something and when she came back she was friendly but I’m still pissed. Really, I should have told the boss. I should have spat a profanity-laced spray of all the bile and venom that rose inside me when she threatened me while clobbering her with the rolling pin to show her exactly why we don’t threaten people but, honestly, I need the job. Instead, I’ll just imagine getting all cave girl on her ass, take a deep breath, and move on.

Inhale. Pause. Exhale. And moving on…

In much happier news, I got the official, notarized copies of the parenting plan and custody orders from the county clerk the other day. Thankfully, everything is in order exactly as I left it. I thought I’d blogged about getting the divorce papers that had the box that said we didn’t have children checked but it seems I didn’t so here’s a little background:

My divorce hearing was on November 19th. In an act of foolishness, I didn’t ask anyone to go on my behalf so I spent the week leading up to it wringing my hands and wondering exactly how I could swing going back just for the hearing. I have a voucher for $300 on Delta but I’m saving that for my birthday trip to Chicago and I wasn’t too keen on cancelling that. As it was, the ex reported that the deed was done and nothing happened to give me any worry. He would immediately get the papers in the mail to save me from having to get copies from the clerk. Two weeks after the fact, I finally get the papers in the mail and the box that says we don’t have kids is marked. So, obviously, I freak out. What does this mean? Is this a typo? Did Paul do something stupid and foolish? Where do I go from here?

I figured I should call the county clerk to see what they say. The first thing I need to do is get copies of the case paperwork to try to figure out what’s happened. They told me how to look up my case online. Of course, their website isn’t compatible with Google Chrome so every time I punch in my number, I get an error message. My tension is running pretty high at this point so my Dad, bless him, offers to take over. After an hour of going back and forth between the pages I pulled up on Google and the ones he pulled up on Explorer, Dad was able to order notarized copies of the important parts of the case file. Like I said, they arrived this week and everything is in order which leads to my next project: collecting the overdue child support. I think I’ll wait until after the holidays for that one. It just seems rude to start that now.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A Change of Pace

I just got done ranting about stupid people but I decided to keep that little gem for myself. Instead, I decided that I'd post some of my favorite pictures. I'm getting back into photography (it comes and goes in waves) so I thought I'd share some pictures. If you've been to my Facebook or Deviant Art pages, these aren't new. If you've not been to my Deviant Art page, here's a link:

I absolutely adore photography. Everyone else in my immediate family either draws or paints but my preferred tool is the camera. I took a distance learning course once but it's not the same as learning with an instructor and other students. At some point, I'd like to take an actual class or two. In the meantime, here are some of the pictures that I love the most:

This is a portrait of one of the many artists my husband played with. He's in front of The Manium- a downtown Olympia club owned by a Satanic dentist (I kid you not) that never opened because it failed to meet so many codes.

I don't generally shoot weddings. In fact, I pretty much hate shooting them. Nevertheless, I always bring my camera and fire away. Not having the pressure of being a hired gun always makes it so much more enjoyable. This is one I caught at my friend Brian's wedding. He used to come to work pining over this girl named Autumn. Long story short, his persistence paid off.

I met my friend Robyn at a mutual friend's house one day. In addition to being so much more, she was also an amateur model. I've shot her three times and this is one of my favorites.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tell Me How I Feel

                It has come to my attention that nothing will send me into a blind fury faster than attempting to blow sunshine up my ass and/or saying “I know what you’re going through” when you don’t know enough about me to even remotely assume that.
                If you have gone through a divorce, moved across the country to a place you despise from a place you love, felt completely alone even in your own family’s house, worried incessantly about the safety of your child, drowned in debt, lost a job you love and had to pick up a job that only paid 66% of your former pay and didn’t teach you nearly what you hoped it would, spent weekends normally reserved for polite conversation with friends attempting some sort of fragile truce with your father (who has just dealt with prostate cancer) that has you biting your tongue and feeling like shit because of some of the things he does and says, and had to deal with recurrent feelings of failure all at the same time while still trying to come across as a sweet person and loving mother when all you want to do is hop on the next plane West and disappear, then maybe we can talk. Maybe, I’ll open up to you and we can have a good old fashion therapy session. In the meantime, shut the fuck up, realize I’m doing the best I can, and know that I’m already savagely beating myself up over the mistakes I’ve made and I don’t need you adding to it.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Work At Last

                For the first time all week, Elijah woke up crying this morning at about 2:15. Of course, since I have to be up at 5, I can’t get back to sleep. I guess I’ll tell you about life, instead.
                Our store is finally open. Yay! After more delays than I know I liked, we opened up our doors this past Thursday with our grand opening yesterday. I’ve been working since Tuesday. The first two days were just getting everything for the store and organizing it which involved a lot of driving around and spending copious amounts of my boss’s money. We have almost everything we need and have been cranking out tons of cupcakes. We had a lot more people in the store on Thursday rather than Friday because we were giving away free cupcakes. In retrospect, maybe it would have been better to give away the free cupcakes during the grand opening. That’s something I’ll file away for later use.
                So far, I like the crew. They are a good bunch of women that are very eager to learn. Within a week or so, I think we’ll have everything really down pat. I think it’s funny how many of them have culinary training from prestigious schools. At first it was a little daunting but I’m beginning to realize how pointless that degree can be. These people are thousands of dollars in debt in hopes of having careers in the food industry and here I am with no formal training and right along beside them- except without the debt and the stories of working in other places that were too high stress. I’m sure there are tons of people out there that have landed higher on the ladder than us but I’m not looking to open a fancy five-star restaurant at any point in the future so maybe I’ll just get my business schooling out of the way and call it good. And then I’ll take over the world.
                There is one person that’s grated my nerves this week. I’m not sure exactly why she acts the way she does- maybe nerves, maybe insecurities, or maybe she’s just a damn bitch. Whatever the reason, there have been a few times I would have liked to make some pissy retort to the crap that comes out of her mouth but that wouldn’t get me anywhere. I need to focus on doing my job; not the extreme desire to bitch slap her when she thinks that her shit doesn’t stink (because, oh my god, it does). Oh well. I’m sure not everyone likes me. The best I can do is try to maintain a friendly, professional(ish) work environment and realize that some people like to play nice and others just need to be found face down in a pool of their own bitchiness.
                On the home front, it’s been tough to leave Elijah but I’m thankful for the break and happy to finally be earning money again. He seems to be doing just fine hanging out here with my folks and, luckily, I get home in time for us to have a few hours together before we go to sleep. I’m fairly certain that he doesn’t ever stop talking unless he’s sleeping or eating anymore. We’re getting more words and a lot of babble that follows the flow of our speech patterns if not necessarily the words just yet. And, of course, he’s really into mimicking right now. Whether it’s Mom leaning against the kitchen counter or Dad raising his hands over his head and growling like a monster, Elijah likes to copy us.
                I got the divorce papers yesterday and I can’t tell if they’ve been tampered with or it’s a typo but the box that says we don’t have kids was checked so I have certified copies coming straight from the county clerk’s office to straighten all of this out. Dad’s fairly certain that if the certified copies show the same mistake, we should be able to fix it fairly quickly. I knew there was a reason I should have gone to the court hearing. It’s a shame it was 3000 miles away.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Baby Fat

                My Dad is beginning to harp about my son’s weight. Mind you, my son is sixteen months old and, according to his growth chart, height-weight proportionate. He also leads a typically active toddler life.  He gets up at about nine-thirty. We change into his day clothes, have breakfast, go outside for about an hour or two depending on the weather and Elijah’s mood. During that time, he is running, exploring, and basically just moving. Then he comes in for lunch, takes a nap, and goes back outside. Sometimes he’ll take a second nap. Then, it’s time for dinner and playtime in the living room. At about eight he takes a bath and goes to bed. That’s pretty damn active if you ask me.
                As far as what he eats, he gets either a scrambled egg with cheese melted in or about half a cup of oatmeal with applesauce mixed in, and half a banana for breakfast. He usually doesn’t finish either the egg or oatmeal but sometimes he’ll eat a whole banana. Lunch is usually half a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a dozen goldfish crackers, and maybe a tablespoon of yogurt-covered raisins, one of those toddler ravioli meals, or some soup. It’s rare that he finishes all of it unless we’ve been running all over. Dinner is whatever we’re having- usually a lean protein, vegetables, and some sort of grain. He has water bottles all over the house to keep his fluid intake up and usually has about twelve ounces of whole milk a day. Juice is a special treat. If we have a dessert or crackers, he’ll have a few bites of mine. He is never forced to eat anything nor clean his plate. I’d love to have a little veggie platter out for him during the day but the dog would eat more of it than Elijah would.
                So, what is there to complain about with a boy of proportionate size getting all the exercise he wants and being offered (but never forced) a fairly balanced diet? Yeah, he’s stocky, husky, or whatever the Hell you want to call it. Have you seen his family? Not a single one of us is “dainty.”
                What gets me the most, though, is that this is how it started with me, and I’ll be damned if I’ll let my son grow up feeling as bad about his weight as I did about mine. I remember my Mom commenting to my friend’s Mom, “I don’t know why she’s so big. She eats apples and drinks milk when her brothers go for candy and Kool-Aid” and her correcting me when I said kids at school were picking on me for being fat but I knew I was just big boned. She said “No, you’re fat.” Once when I wanted to go outside and play with my friends my Dad made me stay inside and do sit ups. How counter intuitive is that? My nickname in school was “Heifer” and some former in-laws seemed more content focusing on my waist size than anything I ever said. And guess what, people? I’m still fat! It seems to me that long before I ever gave a damn about my weight, other people were doing plenty of worrying for me.
                Elijah can’t go through life like that. I’m going to try to raise him to love the outdoors and sports. He’ll have a wide variety of foods to eat, most of which will be healthy. But I’m not going to force broccoli down his throat or demand twenty push-ups before he can play outside. Hopefully, he’ll be happy and healthy. A big part of that is teaching him to love himself. That’s going to be a hard thing to learn if his grandfather- a man he obviously loves very much- is going to start this weight nonsense.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Stocking

So much of my stuff is still in Washington; books, kitchen supplies, my bike, my son’s toys, his crib, and our winter clothes are all packed in boxes in my friend’s garage. At least a few times a day I lament that a cookbook is collecting dust instead of inspiring a meal, that Elijah has never played with any of his birthday presents, or that winter will, in theory, one day show up here in the south and my sweaters will be 3000 miles away. I hadn’t planned for it to be this way, but my job fell through so, instead of getting everything here with my first paycheck, I’ve had to let it sit. My new job only pays two-thirds what my other one did so I’ll have to pull our things piece by piece as money allows it.
One of the boxes in the stack is our holiday decorations. Because we don’t have a place to put it up, it’s not a high priority. It will probably be one of the last to come this way. Inside that box, however, is the stocking that my former father-in-law made for Elijah last year. It’s shaped like a train with a snowman as the conductor and is covered in sequins, each one meticulously attached by hand. Because the box won’t get here by Christmas, I bought Elijah a cheap $2 stocking at Target today. I say that I bought it because the box won’t arrive in time but the truth of the matter is that I can’t stand to think of that stocking hanging up just yet.
Chuck, my father-in-law, was a lot like a second father to me in many ways and is definitely the family member I miss the most. I just don’t think I’m ready to stare at that symbol of his love for my son just yet. Maybe next year when we are settled in our own place and this self-imposed period of reflection has passed, I’ll be able to hang it up. In the meantime, it’s going to sit and collect dust and a cheap little felt stocking is going to hang in its place. Thankfully Elijah doesn’t know any difference just yet.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

D-Day and the Muslims, Creatively Speaking

                What a week, what a week, what a… yeah, yeah, yeah. You get the idea. Once again, I got pulled away from the blog but this time it was for creative reasons. I wrote a story! Yeah! Me! I wrote a whole short story and even sent it to my best friend to read! HUGE progress there; not only did I finish something but I shared it. It’s still very much a rough draft but it will get ironed out in time. That’s totally not the point anyway. Considering that up until this past year it was very rare that I ever let anyone read anything I’ve written, it’s a step forward. I think it helped that this was purely a fantasy piece. I tend to write more non-fiction (such as this blog and my on going cookbook) or stories that relate to either something I’ve gone through or my dreams. Naturally then, it would take a little more to share those.
                In other news, I am officially a single woman plus child. Our hearing was on Friday and despite my fears, it looks as if the courts agreed to the plans Paul and I agreed on. I had some fear about this because my ex’s family talks a lot about seeking revenge against people that have slighted them and I was afraid that since no one was there to represent me they might use this opportunity to screw with me for the perceived slights of only paying rent for the time I was in our apartment, moving my son to a healthier environment, or whatever else I’ve done that, knowingly or not, hasn’t settled well with them. But it looks as if my fears are unfounded for now. Yay!
                What I thought was bizarre was that all of Thursday and Friday I was really down. I was sad because of the divorce but not because I was divorcing Paul. My only regret really with Paul is having put up with his crap for so long. Okay, that and pretending we loved each other when it was obvious that we didn’t and letting him stay in the apartment when it’s obvious that I should have. And all that other crap, too, that doesn’t need to be brought up.  But divorce is such an ugly word. It brings up this idea of broken vows and damaged goods. Am I damaged goods now that I’ve sloughed off part of what contributed to the negative parts of my life? No, of course not. Are others going to view me that way? Am I going to have a figurative scarlet “D” sewn onto all my blouses now? I feel like it a little bit which makes me happy that I’m not actively seeking a romantic partner. I need to settle into this idea of being single again. I need to move out and find out exactly who I am before I start looking for other men.
                At some point, I’m going to want to share my life again. I love the idea of getting married again. I love the idea of Elijah growing up with a strong, positive father figure that will, hopefully, grow to give him the love he would not have gotten from Paul. (I know some of you are going to argue that idea. Sure, I don’t doubt that Paul loves his son. But Paul loves himself considerably more and no matter what he says, his actions are going to speak louder). In the meantime, however, that’s not where I need to be. When the time is right, I’ll find someone and, hopefully, successfully navigate the minefield that is dating with children in tow.
                Meanwhile, Elijah and I went to the flea market yesterday with my Mom. I found a pair of green milk glass salt and pepper shakers but held off since I’ve never used salt and pepper shakers. I also found a mid-1800s Braille Book of Psalms that was in good condition and would have been an excellent start to a collection of religious books that I’d like to start someday. I passed on that, too, because I didn’t have $425 on hand and stealing massive tomes just isn’t my style. In addition to those finds, there was a guy selling musical equipment out of the back of his van that all looked stolen and a really nice lady selling knock off jeans and purses. Believe it or not, I passed on them, too.
                Right as we were leaving, I noticed a group of people standing around a booth that had free information on the Islamic faith. I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know a lot about Muslims. Unless they said they worshipped gummy bears, I’d probably believe them. So, I listened for a couple of minutes to the debate going on. On one side of the card table were three young men. They were speaking respectfully about God and Allah and suggesting that maybe the bible was only part of the story. On the other side of the table were three older people: two men and a woman. One man was pretty quiet, one man was upset that the bible had been called “incomplete,” and the woman kept saying “My one, true God…” I could tell that the guys behind the table were getting a little tired. So, instead of saying something like “Can’t we all just get along?” or running a few stalls down and buying all the “co-exist” bumper stickers and handing them out, I thankfully accepted an English translation of the Qur’an that even has a section on how the teachings ought to relate to modern society.
                Now, I’m not trying to bash the Christians here, but it really just irked me that these guys were trying to educate the public about something so many of us know so little about and these people seemed more interested getting all frothy about their faith. Maybe before I got there one of the Muslims said something that could be taken poorly. I don’t know but I was really hoping as I walked up to the table to hear more about the core beliefs of moderate Islamic faith and less about how God doesn’t make mistakes and everything you need can be found in the bible.
                I’ve not read more than bits and pieces of the Qur’an thus far but, fair warning, it didn’t take too long to find several passages about respecting other people, feeding the poor, and worshiping Allah and nothing so far about killing the infidels.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Music to My Ears

                I’ve been on a music kick of late. Back in Washington, I listened to a lot of classical music and singer-songwriter stuff. I don’t know if you’ve ever known a musician but all the ones I’ve met over the years seem to have at least one thing in common. No matter the style, the talent, or what they do when they aren’t playing music, they all think that because they play music, they have the right to judge music. We all have our likes and dislikes, granted, but they take it a step farther. It’s not “Oh, I don’t really like X. They just aren’t my deal.” It’s “X is the stupidest band in the world full of know nothing hacks not fit to touch a guitar. How on Earth are they loved by millions around the world while I’m/we’re playing that one crappy bar with shit sound once again? Sell outs!” I’ve known other artists- painters, photographers, and writers, mostly, and most of the time we tend to say things more along the lines of “Q isn’t really my style but he has talent (or potential if the talent is lacking).” See the difference? There is an acknowledgement of skill regardless of person taste. But not musicians, oh no! You either do something that the musicians I know adore or you suck. Poppycock!  So I listened to “pre-approved” singer-songer writer stuff because that’s what the Ex liked and classical because, honestly, how does someone that learned guitar from a stoner in a musty shack make fun of Mozart or Dvorak?
                So, now that I no longer have to censor my musical choices (one of the great things about people being unsure of you is that you can do whatever you want), I’ve been exploring the horizons a little more. I’ve gotten more into swing and Frank Sinatra-style standards as well as Nina Simone. Right now, though, I’m listening to the choral station on Pandora. My father-in-law used to drive me to work on Sunday nights and we’d listen to the choral music concerts that a church in New York broadcast. I love so many things about choral music. First off, the singing is amazing. These people have stunning voices and are so emotionally charged. Secondly, I’m a sucker for religious art. Yes, I’m Pagan, but I adore all of it. Nothing will move me to tears more quickly than an artistic display of faith. I love the Jewish art at the North Carolina Museum of art (and was very happy to see they still have it) and always made a point to visit the Christian art section at the Seattle Art Museum. Of course, when the Louvre loaned SAM their Roman art display, I was floored by the stunning sculptures of the Gods. I roamed that exhibit slowly with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. And the Muslim calls to worship? Gorgeous. So, of course choral music would be something I’d really enjoy listening to. Plus, it’s exceedingly royal and has survived the ages. The piece I just listened to was almost 500 years old. Prince Charles ought to be crowned King in my office, there is so much choral music being played. Or I should at least have a golden throne in my apartment so I can lounge around in it like Cate Blanchett on the “Elizabeth” movie poster and declare war on various countries at will.
                In other music news, I think, I hope, I might be able to finally see Carolina Chocolate Drops in concert. My friend Wendy “liked” them on Facebook several months ago and I followed the link to discover a really fun bluegrass band. They are local to Raleigh and will be playing a show on December 11th. Carolina Chocolate Drops are the only bluegrass band I currently like but I’m hoping that I’ll discover more through them… and Pandora.
                Elijah has been exploring his musical tastes as well. He perks up for most music but especially anything with a danceable beat. Lady Gaga still rules his heart but we got in some old school Madonna the other day. “Holiday” I think it was. He also just about flipped out of his car seat for “We Will Rock You.” I’m not a huge Queen fan but he really enjoyed it so we clapped our hands and did the best dance we could while being strapped into a car. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Night Stalker

                My cat has taken to sleeping with me now that Elijah has moved into his own room. Just as the dog calls my folks to bed, Socks has started getting impatient if I’m not in bed, if not asleep then at least reading a book and scratching him behind his ears by 10:30. It’s now almost eleven and he is sulking between the office and the bedroom. Unfortunately, I had a cup of coffee not too long ago and despite the heavy spike of Irish cream, coffee winds me more tightly these days than it did back West. When the quality of coffee was much higher, I’d knock back several more cups a day. Now, I limit myself to one cup, if that (Christmas hint: If you want to send me a gift, Covabrelli Coffee’s Papua New Guinea coffee beans would be greatly appreciated- Lou can mail it). My tea intake has increased substantially thanks to a large supply of delicious teas from Upton Tea in the house and the fact that whether I ask for it or not, there’s a cup waiting for me and, because I take it black, it’s almost always exactly how I like it. As the mercury begins its slow decline, I’m thankful for this act of kindness but tea doesn’t have the effect on me that coffee does. Hence, one cup of coffee two hours ago has me staring at a computer screen instead of the inside of my eyelids.
                In addition to the coffee, I’m actually working on a piece of fiction right now. I’ve found that short stories work best for me and can happily report that this is my second piece in the past month. Maybe at some point, I’ll post them here for those that are interested to read. This story is about a woman called to her Uncle’s death deathbed so that he can ask her forgiveness for the abuse he committed against her as a child. Shortly before leaving Washington, I was informed that a much older man I’d had a relationship as a teenager was in jail for possession of child pornography. Although not surprising, the news shook me quite a bit. He always tried to be good to me, I think, but I want nothing to do with him any longer because of his crime and the fact that I simply cannot have anyone with that record around for the sake and safety of my son. I’ve been putting off writing him a goodbye note (because I think he deserves that) for lack of something to say so I think this story is a way for me to work through my emotions first.
                In other news from the Western frontier, my ex has been evicted from our apartment. I’m not surprised in the least. Since leaving, he has lost his job, dropped out of school, and couldn’t find a roommate in late summer/early fall in a town with a community college, state college, and private university.  An eviction seemed like the natural next step. Unfortunately, because he could not find a suitable roommate, my name was still on the lease. I’m hoping that because our divorce paperwork said that we separated on August 5th and that he was going to remain in the apartment, the eviction won’t look too bad on my rental history. Heads will surely roll if I can’t afford a decent, safe apartment for my son because of Paul’s continued irresponsibility. Monday I’m going to try to get a hold of some of the renters’ rights groups in Washington to see what they suggest. I figure worst case scenario, I might have to take him to small claims court if his anger caused him to wreck the apartment on his way out because I’ll be damned if I have to pay for that. Hey, at least I’d get to see my beloved Washington again. Of course it isn’t lost on me that I could have afforded the apartment on my own. I’ve spent the past couple of days asking myself, in light of how I feel here and what’s going on there, why I didn’t even think of finding someone willing to share my apartment free of charge in exchange for watching Elijah at night. I mean, honestly, how hard would it have been to put Elijah in daycare so I could sleep during the day and find someone to basically live with us rent free as long as they were home from 9:00pm to 7:00am five nights a week? Of course finding that person would be a bit difficult and at least this way I’m in a position to, hopefully, get out of the rut I’ve been in for the past several years.
                And speaking of apartments, I’ve a few requests for my upcoming nest. Care to follow me through “Ideal Home” land? Number one, my apartment must be safe for my son. This means no lead paint or pipes, no crackhead neighbors, and no gunfire in the neighborhood. Secondly, it has to be bright. I’m not talking about bright colors. I want large windows that let in lots of sun. Third- I’d love hardwood floors. Carpets are a pain in the butt. I can get a few rugs here and there but all over carpeting drives me nuts. Fourth, I want two bedrooms. If there is a one bedroom plus a den or some sort of alcove for my bed, I might consider it but these past three months have told me that Elijah and I do not share a room well. If I’m in the room, he will wake up at least once or twice a night. If we’re separated, we both sleep through the night and I sleep more soundly even with a cat crawling all over me and purring in my ear. Fifth, please, please, please let me have a deck or at least some huge south facing windows. I desperately miss my plants. Do you know what it’s like to have a kitchen without fresh herbs? In Washington, not only did I have a selection of fresh herbs, I had, at one time or another, figs, raspberries, broccoli, tea, and lemons. Here, if you want a fresh herb, you have to go to the grocery store. My place needs to have space for my plants. Sixth, a washer and dryer would be nice. If need be, I’ll take a coin operated one but, honestly people, I have a toddler boy that I expect to get dirty every day. A dishwasher, fireplace, and track lighting would be nice but are not necessary. A yard would be ideal but I’ll take walking distance to a community playground- especially if there’s a friendly single guy that regularly takes his kids there about the same time Elijah and I hit it up. Oh, and lots of counter space and pet friendly, please. I didn’t bring my cat 3000 miles to dump him at my folks’ place. Oh, and I need to be able to afford it. I’m not asking too much, am I?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sins of the Father

                A wise man once warned me to not put so much faith into my father. He said that one day the man would fall short of my expectations and the impact would be infinitely more damaging to my psyche than it would be to my Dad’s. Being young, stupid, and mind numbingly homesick, I blew this man off and scoffed at the thought. In retrospect, I see a great deal of wisdom in this warning. After all, the man had known me for a few years at that point and had often been a great source of comfort after arguments with my Dad. When Dad’s harsh words cut, it was often to this man I went to lick my wounds. Obviously he knew a little about what he spoke.
                This return home has knocked my father squarely from the pedestal I so carefully placed him upon. Of course, it was bound to happen. Before returning home, we spoke to each other for about ten minutes a week. It’s easy to fill in all those other minutes with thoughts, ideas, and hopes of who the other person is. Living together, however, casts a harsh light of reality into the picture. This man that had, over the years, become thoughtful, caring, and always there with a bit of advice, is also still loud, rough, and angry with little time or thought given to how his choice of words may affect another person. Whereas every phone call ended with “I love you. Take care,” I can count on one hand how many times he has said it personally (twice and not once without me saying it first). And, of course, apologies are nonexistent. Instead of viewing it as acting or speaking impulsively, the mindset seems to be “I went with what I had at the time.” Little, if any, thought is given to what else of the story may have been uncovered if he had waited a moment longer or asked a question rather than start mouthing off. My own impulsiveness has taught me nothing if not to check the depth of the pool before diving in. I don’t always remember the lesson but it still scratches through on occasion.
                One of the things that I find most annoying is that he still seems to think I’m the teenager that left so many years ago. Yes, parts of that girl are still evident in me. I still love rock music. I rely on my heart more than my head at times. I can be self centered, impulsive, cantankerous, and occasionally have complete disregard for authority figures if I disagree with the situation. I even still prefer a pair of comfortable boots, jeans, and a t-shirt to a twin set most days- and we’ve already covered the tattoos.  But why does it have to come as a surprise that eleven years after leaving home I’ve returned with a love of classical music and theater? Why is it a shock that instead of diving into the latest vampire romance that I’d have loved as a teenager, I picked up “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair? It’s insulting that my parents are impressed that I display genuine concern for the feelings of my brother. And it’s downright comical to have my mother confessing using my perfume while I was in Nashville. In so many ways, I feel like I have grown up and yet, I somehow seem to have all my childish impulses amplified since I’ve been here. Whereas I’d have done so many of these things on my own out West, I feel like a child playing dress up here.
                I could deal with all that, though, if it weren’t for my father’s regularly alluding to my being a failure. Have I made bad choices? Of course I have. My move out West was impulsive and irrational. I married too young to a person I know was wrong for me. While I will never regret my son, I regret his father and the timing. And, wow, let me tell you: nothing damages the pride like asking your parents for shelter again. But my Dad brings up sins of the distant past. He claimed that I was a screw up since I was a little girl- a little girl! He said he never spoke to me when I was a child because you shouldn’t say such harsh things to children! I was an honor roll kid that played with Breyer horses, begged to be in Girl Scouts, and started work at twelve years old to afford riding lessons! Most importantly, I was a child desperate to feel loved and accepted that would rather have died than live outside that love.
Why did he say this? Because his dog attacked me when I tried to shoo it off the couch, causing nerve damage in my hand that has not healed two months after the fact, and I calmly told him that I would report the dog should it ever attack my son. Let that thought rattle around in your head for a moment: a father called his daughter an eternal fuck up because his dog attacked her and she told him that she feared for her toddler son’s welfare. A grandfather defended his dog rather than realize the possible threat to his fourteen month old grandson that bares his name. I sit on the floor now because my Dad values the dog’s rights to any seat in the house more than his daughter. What is the correct response there? What am I supposed to feel besides scared for my son and worthless in my father’s eyes? Rest assured I watch that dog like a hawk when he is around my son and I’ll report it in a heartbeat if it ever hurts my son regardless of what that does to my relationship with my family.
                And, of course there was the Great Tattoo Debacle that resulted in my Dad’s shock that I enjoy wearing flattering dresses and heels when the occasion calls for it. Seriously, Dad, would you like me to chase my son around the house while looking like June Cleaver? Do you honestly think a baker and new mom has the time, money, or inclination to slip into a new dress and pile on the make up to change a diaper?
                Or today I was yelled at twice. The first time my son and I ate breakfast, got changed, and went to play on the deck before my folks or the dog emerged from their bedroom- yes, the dog sleeps in their room with them. When the dog came ripping out of the room and barked like mad because I was sweeping the leaves on the deck into a pile for my son to play in, I was yelled at for not putting the dog in the pen before putting my kid on the deck. Does anyone want to take a guess as to what would have happened had I disturbed my parents to put the dog out? Does it matter that most people that don’t like the sound of their dog barking up a storm would actually take the time to train their dog not to bark at silly things like family members on the deck? The second time my son’s sippy cup had fallen on the floor and unscrewed slightly, unbeknownst to me because I was making one of my Dad’s favorite cookies: gingersnaps. It caused a puddle that, again, I was unaware of.  As soon as my Dad saw it, he was raving mad about this “huge” puddle that was going to ruin the floors which raises even more questions. A) Do you honestly think someone keenly aware that people slip easily in puddles would allow a puddle to remain in a house with an infant, a father fresh from surgery, a mother with bad knees, and a brother that complains about the most minor of wounds as if they all lead to eminent death? B) Who the Hell puts down flooring in a kitchen and dining room that can’t get wet? Your bad planning is not my fault!
                When this is brought up, however, I screw that up, too. If I attempt to explain that being called a sloppy sub-dog purposefully out to ruin everyone’s ears and floors is hurtful politely, I’m condescending. If I yell at him, I’m a child. If I bottle it up inside until I’m slumped over on my bed sobbing and my own son is concerned for me, it’s all okay.
                I’m sorry but that’s not all okay. That’s, in fact, very wrong. I am not a “great” person. I have no desire to be. I just want to raise my child correctly in a loving, safe environment. I want a comfortable life, good friends, and a table big enough to hold said friends and the dinners I’ll make for them. I certainly don’t want to be asking why I am not loved. So, in the meantime, I’ll just keep chugging along with my eyes on the future. Before I know it, Elijah and I will be on our own and our contact with my Dad will be on my terms which will remain steady and true: call me when you can conduct yourself appropriately or not at all.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


                I get a lot of flack from some people for accepting that I will, at some point, get cancer. When you have the sort of family history I do, I think it’s better to accept these sorts of things. I don’t fret about it. I don’t treat my body particularly one way or the other for it, either.  Mind you, I won’t be happy when it happens but I imagine that I’ll accept it as some pest that must be exterminated rather than the end of the world. Obviously, I hope that, when I get cancer, it is treatable and that it happens once my son is grown and on his own. One of my biggest fears is that I die before my son grows up. Please, Gods, let me see him through the trials and tribulations of childhood and adolescence before I pass on. Please let me see him graduate college, watch him get married if he chooses, and meet my grandchildren. However, I know I have no say in the final design so I’m not going to stay up late wondering what will come. My will is written. My dying wishes are known. My desires for Elijah’s guardianship have been made known to those that it affects the most. What more can I do but try to lead a good, healthy life and enjoy what I have of it?
                I bring this up today because my Dad is under the knife once again as I write this. He is having his cancerous prostate removed. Hopefully, this surgery is all he will need, but if not he’ll have radiation. Just a few weeks ago he had some cancerous skin cells removed and his lymphoma is a constant cloud over our heads.
                My Dad has had some form or another of cancer for the past ten years, it seems. When I lived in Washington, it was easier after the first time to remain a little aloof about it. Yes, I worried. Sometimes I cried. But Dad remained strong through it all. The only way one can tell he is upset or pensive about the whole ordeal is the way he replies “Well, that’s life.” It’s not easy to hear over the phone but it’s plain to see in person the toll it has taken on him. Although still commanding and robust, it doesn’t take much to see how tired he has become.
                Mom seems to take it worst of all. She wondered aloud the other day what would happen should the treatment not work one day. My parents are pieces of a whole. It’s hard to think that one day one of them might be without the other. It’s equally difficult to imagine that one day my brothers and I will be without them. I can’t help but imagine we will be adult orphans at some point. One of our sources of love and support will be gone. It seems only fitting to say whatever needs to be said as the words come about. We certainly are not the first people to suffer the loss of our parents and we won’t be the last but that won’t make it much easier.
                Cancer certainly isn’t a death sentence these days. My Dad is proof of that. So is my Mom. In fact, it was the knowledge of their cancers that made it easier to deal with my ex-husband’s when he was diagnosed. When we finally got an answer for all his ails, it was a double relief for me. Not only was I thankful for the answer but I was also grateful to be familiar with, if not that particular kind, at least the general idea of it.
                Every cancer is different, though. Every patient is different. What worked for others in the past may not work for my Dad, or my ex should his come out of remission, or mine when my number comes up. Maybe all it will take is an overnight stay in the hospital and we’ll all have some semblance of health again. Or maybe we’ll have to sit across from our perspective doctors some day and ask that wretched question “What next?” And maybe we’ll have to carry that knowledge home and tell our loved ones.
                As I write this, I’m listening to my son in the other room. He’s woken from his nap and is playing with his toys. He is oblivious to what the adults are thinking about. I’m not going to be able to protect him from the “C” word forever. Just as scrapes and bruises are a part of his life, so is cancer. I wonder how it will affect him. Will it skip him? Will he be vaccinated against certain kinds? Or will he be unfortunate and be diagnosed one day? I can’t answer these questions any better than I can tell you how my Dad’s surgery is going in this very moment. But I can tell you I’m hopeful- and scared- and thankful for every minute we are given.

Nashville, Ya'll

                I know it’s bad blog form to start a blog and then suddenly drop it to fester for two-plus weeks. Honestly, I didn’t mean to. I got job (woo-hoo!) that required a two- week training course in Nashville, TN. It must be a big, fancy, highfalutin job, right? With perks, benefits, a company car, and a salary to finally buy those sweet Coach booties I’ve been drooling at since spying them in the Nashville Macy’s, right? Not so much. Hold on. I’ve got to put on some music for this:
                Okay, U2 is on. One can never go wrong with 80s/early 90s U2. Anyway, back to this job.
                It’s cupcakes. Yep, after pulling my son away from his father this summer, I left him for two weeks to learn about cupcakes. Now, in my defense, I was under the impression that this two week period was going to be full emersion in this company, learning all about how to open up a bakery from the owner of this twenty-plus store franchise. I mean, why else would I leave my son for two weeks unless I was confident that this would help us both down the road, right?
                Apparently, it was to stay in a sub-par hotel, get sick as a dog, and throw chocolate jimmies on cupcakes while my “trainers” stood around complaining about the fruit flies in their home kitchens. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start from the beginning:
                I was offered a job at this cupcake bakery that required the stay in Nashville. Deciding to go was no easy task. It meant, as we’ve discussed, leaving my son for the time, as well as missing out on my cousin’s reception in Cincinnati, and flying a few hundred miles away with some random guy I’d met only twice before- once at the interview and once to grab some paperwork. If I ended up wandering the Appalachian foothills raped and battered no one was going to be particularly surprised. And those were just my concerns. My Mom, Oh She of Finite Support, didn’t want to watch Elijah for two weeks. My Dad was not at all impressed with the ideas (me wandering the foothills or him watching Elijah), either.  It wasn’t like people were banging down my door to hire me, though. This cupcake joint was the only solid offer I had. So, without their full endorsement but a grudging promise to keep my son from relative harm, I accepted.
                Then there was the issue of what to do with Elijah while my folks went to Cincinnati for the reception. My idea was to leave Elijah with my brother Douglas who was staying home anyway. I’d be home either late Friday evening or early Saturday morning. I’d grab an Airporter from RDU, head home, and with any luck, sleep in my folks’ bed while they were gone so I could stretch out and not have to share a room with my son for a couple nights. My parents didn’t like the idea. In their defense, Douglas has the aforementioned issues so we aren’t really sure how he would handle an emergency. But we’re talking seven hours alone with Elijah- not the whole weekend. Since, at that point, Dad had not reserved a hotel room and had alluded to possibly being okay not going should I end up in Nashville, I assumed, well, that they would just not go and I’d come home as soon as training was done.
                Dad decided, however, that a better plan would be to take Elijah to Cincinnati and I could catch a flight from Nashville to Cincinnati. They’d drive to the airport, pick me up, and we would then check into the hotel together. Because Southwest doesn’t fly to Cincinnati, my soon-to-be boss offered to pay for a ticket on a different airline up to the cost of flying back to Raleigh. The cheapest one we found was $300. Yep, $300 from Nashville to Cincinnati. Ouch! But I agreed. Then, Dad said that Elijah and I should have a room to ourselves for the weekend. Tack on an additional $300 for that. Are you following this here? My idea is to grab an Airporter home. What’s that run? $75 or so? My Dad’s idea is a $600 trip to Cincinnati on my non-existent dime. Guess which idea we go with?
                Don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of going to Cincinnati to see our family. I desperately want to introduce my son to all his aunts, uncles, cousins, and definitely his great-grandmother. I just don’t want to be $600 in debt to my folks when I still have a huge amount of stuff in Washington to ship, new glasses to buy, and other bills to pay including more money to my folks for food, etc. Plus, did I mention that there is $5 in my savings account? And, as mentioned before, it’s not like Elijah’s getting any support from his father.
                We decide I’ll go to Cincinnati. Instead of focusing on not getting my winter clothes or Elijah’s toys from Washington, or glasses so I can finally get a license and not be stuck in Podunk, NC, I focus on seeing my family in Cincinnati. We make the arrangements and I head off to the airport.
                Now, I’m not sure about you but I wasn’t under a rock on 9/11 and, more importantly, I’ve flown several times since then. So, when I get to the airport and one of the first things that happens is a guy dropping off his luggage in front of me and then literally running out of the lobby, the hair on the back of my neck tends to raise a little. So, what do I do? Same as everyone else. I look at the bag, look around at other people, and decide that it’s not worth losing my place in line or looking like a fool to inform security of a possible bomb. We collectively inch as far away from the bag as we can like cows in a pen avoiding eye contact with the flailing, seized up heifer in the corner.  Besides, if I get to the front of the line quick enough I can get a cheap business upgrade. I’ll risk being blown up for that extra drink voucher.
                Our flight is rather nondescript. Having missed the upgrade, I was sandwiched between “Joe Dockers” and the sort of guy that makes little old ladies clutch their purses to their chest even in the produce aisle. Looking over, though, I saw that he was listening to an NPR podcast and felt doubly reassured that there would be no shanking in my row. By the fifth time our pilot announced we were going to Nashville, though, I really wanted to jump from my seat and scream “Nashville? I need KNOXVILLE!!!” My boss might have frowned upon me, though, so I remained silent and pondered the Hindu cow illustrations in the safety manual. Thank you, Fight Club, for making all my flights just that much more enjoyable.
                Upon arriving it was straight to work. Our first day was mostly making sure our paperwork was in order, getting a tour of the bakery, and hearing for the nth time that the company was started by a failed country musician who loves small dogs and Jesus. We called it a short day and went to check into our hotel rooms.
                My room was okay. It was rather non descript with a painting so generic that I found myself looking at it quite often just to remind myself what it was of. But, for the most part, it was tidy and relatively clean. Plus, it had a kitchen so I wouldn’t have to eat every meal out- a huge bonus in my book. My boss, however, had a room where the air conditioning did not work and my coworker had a funky smell and ants in her bed. She was upgraded to a better, larger suite but still claimed dreams of ants crawling across her for the first couple of nights. I don’t blame her. Ants- yuck!
It became swiftly apparent that the training program was set up for the lowest common denominator bakery-experience wise. My boss and my coworker both graduated from prestigious culinary programs and my coworker was a pastry chef at an exclusive resort outside of Asheville, NC. My seven years baking professionally looks like dog poo compared to these two and I was dying of boredom. I can only imagine what they were experiencing. We decided within the first few days that our biggest problem was learning to get the “signature swirl” just right. Weight-wise, this company puts as much icing on their cupcakes as there is cupcake. Getting all that to stay “just so” is a little bit of a feat- especially if there is any filling seeping from the cake that would make getting the icing to stick that much more difficult. So, my coworker would bake all day long simple recipes for the cupcakes and I would put whatever decorations on the cupcakes that they called for. I didn’t even get to ice any cupcakes until the last day because you had to be “certified” by the owner of the company before you could do that and between her running around to all the other stores in the area and my being sick for two days, it didn’t happen until our second-to-last day.
Speaking of getting sick, it all started on the Friday after we go there. I woke with a scratchy throat. A little tea knocked it right out, though, so I gave it no mind. Saturday my nose got a bit stuffy as well. I grabbed some medicine and powered on. It got progressively worse until Monday morning found me lying in bed unable to talk or walk farther than the bathroom (thank goodness for small blessings). A trip to Urgent Care diagnosed me with a “contagious virus.” My doctor was really cool, though. He decorated cakes on the side to ease the stress of his job so I smiled weakly as he explained how he recreated a beach scene on his. last cake. It honestly sounded adorable and had I been able to croak out the words, I’d have told him so. Oh, and his med student shadow “Nathanial” was yummy enough to eat with a spoon- if it didn’t hurt to swallow. Visions of hot med students in my mind and prescriptions in hand, I shuffled to the pharmacy and then back to my room where I quarantined myself until Wednesday morning.
Meanwhile, in North Carolina, my Dad was dealing with an illness of his own. He came home Monday afternoon incredibly sick and unable to keep anything down. I called for my daily check-in with Elijah and Dad sounded atrocious. A few hours later Mom called to say Dad was in the hospital with an obstruction in his small intestine. The next day the surgeon thought that it might just be incredibly bad stomach flu but it turns out the original diagnosis was true. With a surgery already scheduled for this week, it was advised that Dad not go to Cincinnati so, when he got home, he cancelled our hotel reservations and booked me on a Southwest flight back to Raleigh after work on Friday. Of course, I’d have to pay for that flight as well.
Thursday night, my coworker and I treated ourselves to a fantastic meal at Wild Ginger- an Asian fusion restaurant across the street from our hotel  (they obviously catered to the Hyatt-W crowd and less the Homestead Extended Stay group but, hey, no one was checking our room keys at the door). It was our last night in town and we’d saved up for this event with the money give to us to cover food while in Nashville. Both my coworker and I are huge foodies so pulling away from the fast food and casual dining experiences of the past two weeks was exactly what we needed. We started our meal with a fantastic lobster-crab bisque that was both creamy and spicy. Then, it was on to steak fried rice for her that was miles above anything you’d get at an average Asian restaurant. I had their “Crazy Cow” sushi which was a piece of lobster sandwiched between pineapple and rice that was then topped with filet mignon and jalapeno and served with a spicy mango sauce. On the side, I had octopus nigiri and got my coworker to try octopus for the first time. We split a Saigon- Cinnamon dusted bombe and I had a mango-ginger martini. If we’d stayed at the W and eaten at Wild Ginger every night, I’d have suffered through any amount of repetitive cupcake topping.
On Friday we all packed into the car, said goodbye to Nashville, and boarded our flight home. As it turned out, I ended up with the exact same flight as my boss and coworkers. Since my quarantine granted me some extra spending cash, I was able to take advantage of the Business Select upgrade this time. I offered to save seats for my coworker and boss and let me tell you, nothing will earn you more snide comments or dirty looks than saving a window seat on a flight with open seating. By the time they finally got to me, I was about to go off on the next person that asked for my row. Thank goodness for the drink voucher.
My folks met me at the airport with Elijah in tow. I don’t think I greeted either one of them but I held onto my son and cried for a good ten minutes. He hugged me tight, alternating between resting his head on my shoulder and looking into my eyes and smiling. We held hands all the way home.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Road Trippin'

                There are two types of road trippers in this world- those that get there and those that get it. See, for me, a road trip isn’t just about getting from A to Z and zooming past all the other letters in a blur. It’s more like A to Z, stopping at the letters in between that look interesting along the way. Unless there is a real need to get to Z by a certain time, why not stop at that fruit stand selling those fresh picked peaches, the scenic outlook, or sitting down at a local favorite diner instead of whizzing through some fast food joint? Road trips ought to be enjoyed every step of the way and if you can’t do that, pick another weekend.
                A few years back, my then husband and I visited my folks in North Carolina. My youngest brother was stationed at Camp David and he got us passes to see it. We flew to North Carolina on a Thursday. From Washington, it’s about an 8 hour trip. Then you factor in the time that we left our house to the time we arrived at my folks and it was swiftly approaching eleven hours. The very next day, we piled into a Jeep Liberty and began the long trip to Maryland. It was my folks in the front and my husband, middle brother and me in the back seat. Now, as mentioned before, I’m a plus sized girl. My ex isn’t heavy but he’s not a slight man either. And then there is my brother. He’s about 6’4” with long grasshopper legs and a beefy frame. Oh yeah. It was cozy in the back of that Jeep. All eight hours were just peachy- if peaches were best served bruised beyond all recognition.
                We stopped twice on the way up- once for gas and once to eat at a Hardees. Don’t you think it would have been nice to pull over once or twice more so we could all resume our natural shapes every so often? We didn’t. We arrived in Maryland and my folks dropped us off at my younger brother’s place to get reacquainted (we played drinking games). On Saturday we toured Antietam and Camp David. That night we ate cake to celebrate my upcoming birthday. We drank again. On Sunday we drove home. The way back was almost as bad save for the fact that Dad did let us stop for fifteen minutes at an antique mall my Mom had been pleading with him to stop at for the previous year. We made up for the lost time by scarfing down our fast food combo creations fifteen minutes quicker down the road. The next day, the ex and I flew home.
                Let’s recap- fly in, drive, drink, tour a deluxe Boy Scout camp while hung over, get lost at a civil war battlefield while still hung over(saving that story for later), argue with the father figure, drink some more, drive, fly out.
                We had a strict “No Road Trip” rule after that attached to our North Carolina visits after that. Of course my parents constitute anything past going to Target, work, or church as a road trip so the visits thereafter were much more boring. It saved us money, though; we visited less.
                Shortly after that we went on a road trip from Olympia, WA to Podunk, Idaho to see the in-laws’ extended family. We drove with my ex’s folks and the trip started off with my father-in-law inviting me to shout out whenever I saw anything worth stopping at. I’m fairly certain this was the trip we spent an hour and a half at a waterfall. The whole town was coated in a fog that reeked of a paper mill and had bed bugs been a problem at that point, I’m fairly certain they’d have infested every inch of our motel. Plus, we got to spend an afternoon with a grandma so far gone I found myself looking for her marionette strings.
                All in all, neither of these trips will ever go down as The Best Road Trip Ever® but, hey, with the trip to Idaho, I remember a gorgeous waterfall. The North Carolina one was so bad that I shutter involuntarily whenever I see a Jeep. So, stop often and thank me later.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Damage Control

                My ex husband and I have an interesting relationship- interesting in that “How long before I fly out there and smack him upside his head” sort of way. If you’re taking bets, the answer is “never.” I spent almost ten years trying to get him to see the light. I’m fairly certain that all the options have been exhausted by this point. But who knows? Maybe answering the door to a surprise ass kicking from your ex who is supposed to be on the other side of the country might be just the ticket to get him to wake up….
                Not likely. I bring this unfortunate thing up because even though we aren’t “friends” on social networks any longer, whether I want to or not, I still know more about what he’s posting than I ever thought I would.
                It usually goes something like this:
                Step One: I’ll send him a text message about something important. For example, this latest bit was reminding him of his court ordered responsibility as a father to send his son child support because, otherwise, I know he would have “forgotten” and to inquire as to why his crack head of a roommate hasn’t turned in her application to be on the lease (Honestly, does she even really exist?) so I can get off of it since he’s held up this process for almost six weeks at this point.
                Step Two: I’ll get a text message back that is usually fishing for sympathy.
                Step Three: I acknowledge that his life is hectic and then remind him that these are requests to make his son’s life less difficult, not to badger or harass him, and make it known in a polite but firm way that I’m not a person he can unload on any longer.
                Step Four: This is when it all comes out that I fucked up his life. I took his son away. I took him off my health insurance. All I want is money.
                Step Five: I point out that A) He had the option of seeing his son twice a week but he said that he needed time to himself and two days was too much so I decided to give my son an environment, hopefully, Elijah would not have to deal with those sorts of arguments, B) when I left Panera we ALL lost health insurance, not just him. It wasn’t a plan to screw him over, and C) if he can’t send his son a letter or a card or even so much as call, if not me than at least call my folks, to see how Elijah is doing then he ought to at least keep to the agreement that we reached and he was given plenty of opportunity to back out of. It’s not like he was forced into any of it. His paranoid father who is convinced that the world is out to screw the clan even went over the numbers and said it was okay (according to Paul, at least).
                Step Six: Paul doesn’t respond. Instead, I get a phone call the next day from any one of the approximately 40 “mutual friends” that wants an opinion on whatever his latest status update is. It’s usually followed by a bit of laughter, some frustration, and a lot of head shaking.
                Step Seven: We continue talking about more interesting things than the ex like the weather, cookies, play dates, cars, jobs, health, etc.
                Step Eight: I think about this pathetic little dance that’s done over and over again. I get angry. I want to shout out that this is really how it’s happening. Look, I’m not stupid. I’m biased. I feel like I’m in the right. I think I did the best thing I could for my son. I think that at some point you have to stop thinking about how the ex feels and you need to focus on what is going to have to happen to give the child (you know? The one with no say but so much to lose in all of this?) the life he deserves.
                In an ideal world, Paul would inquire about his son. He would make an effort to be a part of his son’s life. We could remain civil. He would have found a roommate that could actually be able to fill out a lease. In this world, if he can’t do that he will be asked to at least pay child support. If he doesn’t show even an effort to do that or work out some sort of plan, I’ll just keep records and report him.
                See, it’s not as if Paul was forced into fatherhood. It’s not like I went behind his back. We decided we weren’t going to have kids. I wanted a child but I respected his wishes. One day I was moping about this and he asked what was wrong. I told him I wanted a child and he agreed. There was no argument. He wasn’t forced. I was shocked and then elated that he agreed. A few weeks later we got pregnant. This is his son, too, damn it. If he loves his son as much as he says he does he would try to be a good father. But I guess that’s a lot harder than being a complete deadbeat and then spinning lies…

The Gentlest Giant

I have three brothers. David is the oldest and lives in Ohio. My youngest is in Mississippi. His name is Andrew and we, through the years, have been closer than the others. Then, there is my brother Douglas. Douglas is learning disabled. If you sift through what he says, you’ll find a keen mind that sucks in information like a Hoover Shop Vac. It’s getting it to come out again that gets him into trouble. He’s also emotionally about thirteen which makes any sort of relationship with him like walking a tight rope. If you lean too far one way, you’ve given him too much slack and he runs off with his new found freedom, laughing and waving it right into the street. The other way finds him shut down and sulking upstairs.
I don’t envy anyone who cares for the disabled. It’s a job I couldn’t do so those people have my complete admiration. My parents are in that category. I guess if Douglas were more disabled it would be easier in some ways. They could say he has autism or whatever and people would understand. But sometimes it’s easy to forget that Douglas’s brain works differently.
The funny thing is, though, that I think a lot of this house would fall apart if it weren’t for Douglas. He moans and groans about doing a job the way any thirteen year old but if you need the gutters cleaned out, a sump pump put into place, painting done, or any of the other little maintenance things taken care of, Douglas is the one that does it. Mom’s not climbing a ladder any time soon and Dad is way too tired for most of it. Enter Douglas. He’s also the go-to guy for dishes and cleaning the floors. Hell, even this morning I was reading the paper and he set down a cup of perfectly brewed coffee by my hand.
Douglas is also the house’s town crier. If it rained last night, you’ll know about it. Did one of the cats get after the dog? Ask Douglas. If I’m in the room next to our bedroom and Elijah wakes up, Douglas will come from across the house to let me know.
I think part of it is because he’s able to. I also think he just wants you to love him. Everyone needs to feel needed and a part of something bigger. It’s hard to do that out here in the middle of nowhere. It’s a three mile trek on narrow roads with crazy ass drivers and no sidewalks to the nearest bus stop. His biggest trip out of the house is to the grocery store and when we had to push back a trip to the mall a day, the look on his face was as if Mom had just told him a basket of kittens had just drown.
That brings me to the other thing about Douglas. He is devoted to cats. He knows every outdoor cat in the area and reports to us on the comings and goings of them, too. Last week a cat got stuck in a tree on our property and he pulled out a rickety ladder to rescue the poor thing. Even with me steadying the ladder, I was sure he was about to fall to the ground and dislocate something. But no, he rescued the cat and was repaid with claw marks across his forearm. He knows the next door neighbors cats by name, meow, age, and temperament and was proud to introduce me. He found out where the strays live a couple miles down the road and watches for them should we ever drive by. And my cat Socks has not once had less than an over flowing bowl of food since we’ve been here.
Douglas is a true gentle giant. He easily fills up a doorframe but I wouldn’t trust anyone more with Socks and it’s amazing how wonderful he is with Elijah.  Sometimes we have a precarious dance being siblings but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Oh, he just dropped off a plate of bacon wrapped scallops. It must be time for lunch.  Gotta go!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Tattooed Lady...

                When I first moved to North Carolina, I was eager to get back to work at my old job. I’d been assured of a position and was told to call when I was ready and that all the details would be worked out then. I had only been treated with the utmost respect at work in Washington and adored not only what I did but my family of co-workers as well. Long story short, the woman out here wasn’t completely honest with me and I found myself choosing between working nights again which would mean very little if any sleep during the days or looking for a new job. Because I’ve never been a huge fan of joining the zombie race and was in the position to have a choice, I chose to look for a new job. I had never had a difficult time finding work and had, in fact, aced all but one interview since I was twelve (it was then that I entered the work force as a paper carrier). Of course, it had been seven years since I looked for a job out of necessity. Unless you’re Rip Van Winkle, you know our economy is currently crap.
                My first interview was for a bakery recently purchased by a very nice guy named Abraham. I wore my black wrap dress, mother-of-pearl earrings and professional but not dowdy black heels. We spoke for about fifteen minutes and I was hired. The next day I came in to train and started learning all the dirty secrets. The place was filthy, management inexperienced, and you were paid under the table at the owner’s discretion. Sorry but that’s not going to fly. I did not go back.
                A few days later, I interviewed for a second job and chose a pair of sleek brown slacks and cream colored top that hit about mid-bicep. The look was understated and professional save for the fact that you could see a good portion of my half-sleeve tattoo and all of the one below it. I was not hired immediately and did not receive a call back.
                The next morning my mom sat me at the table and, I swear to you, confessed to being kept up at night about my tattoos and how I would never, ever, ever get a job with my tattoos on display. Oh my God. My tattoos are not of fiery death, serpents, or even the Pilsbury Dough Boy nailing Little Debbie on top of a Hostess cupcake- someone else has that honor. No, my half sleeve is an Alphonse Mucha piece depicting a mother and son feeding  a flock of birds. It is, obviously, to commemorate the birth of my son. The piece below it is script that says “Solitudine non è essere soli, è amare gli altri inutilmente” which is Italian for “Loneliness is not being alone; it is loving others unnecessarily.”  It was graffitied around Venice by the poet Mario Stefani before he tragically went home and hung himself. His story was made popular by the book “The City of Falling Angels” by John Berendt. The phrase spoke to me and, having suffered many long, dark bouts of depression, I felt a kinship not only to the poet but also to my maternal grandmother who had taken her life before I was born. This tattoo was a way to acknowledge the pain of depression and the strength I worked very hard some days to muster. Like my other more easily concealed tattoos, these tattoos mean something to me and are very much a part of who I am. Who is my mother to tell me that these markings are unfit?
                But she was very gentle and I could tell this was something that was bothering her so I listened to her concerns. She even offered a solution: Mom would buy a new long sleeved top for me to cover my tattoos. I agreed and we agreed to go in search of the perfect cover the next day.
                However, when I next came to the dinner table, I found an article about dressing professionally that my dad had printed up and set on my placemat. There was no gentle talk, no “I love you and I want to help.” It was just these two fucking pieces of paper that screamed “Why do you look like that?” What the Hell people? I have tattoos- not a set of devil horns implanted on my forehead. I mustered my best “Thanks but no thanks” and put real effort into being civil. Unfortunately, my Dad isn’t used to being told “no, what you’re doing is not how I should be dealt with” so he yelled at me. I yelled back. Then I cried. Then I felt like I was sixteen again and went into my bedroom because, well, that’s the sixteen year old thing to do.
The next day we went shopping. Now mind you, this is North Carolina, at the tail end of the hottest summer in history. If I go into an interview at four o’clock in the afternoon in a sweater with the sleeves pushed down, there is going to be a question or two like “What the Hell is wrong with you?? It’s 90 degrees out!”
So we scoured Target and I found a lovely cardigan and lacey shirt that made me look like a pink Labyrinth-era David Bowie. I giggled, briefly considered singing “Magic Dance,” and gave the set back to the clerk.
In Kohls, I felt like I’d taken a swan-dive into Republican-ville and turned my nose up at their vast collection of boxy sweaters and ill fitted pants designed to make every plus-sized girl look like my third grade teacher. Come on, I’ve considered getting branding. Mrs. Rodgers isn’t really my style.
At this point I was fairly put out and feeling rather dejected about being told my physical appearance kept my mom awake at night (can’t imagine why). So, in a slump, I gave in for the day and sulked home, simmering about being stuck in Podunk, North Carolina, rather than enjoying the liberal Northwest and seething that this was happening because my parents found me ugly.
At my Whole Foods interview a week later, I opted for my wrap dress again and almost screamed for joy when I saw that one of my prospective coworkers had dreadlocks that scraped her ass and several of the bakers had full and/or half sleeves of gorgeous, colorful tattoos. I’d fit right in. The interview went well and I received an email about a week later saying that they would like for me to come in and do a demo for them. I just needed to let them know if I was interested. Of course I was. I replied in the positive and waited…. And waited…. And am still waiting, in fact.
I scored two more interviews, both at local cupcake places. One was very “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and the other’s website almost made me worried that we’d start every day with a prayer session. But I was desperate so I went back to my Mom and asked her if she would be willing to brave the stores once again.
JcPenny was my first target and we swam in a sea of polyester and corduroy. Oh, the joy! I found a lovely satin eggplant colored top that tied at the waist and dipped low enough in the front that I didn’t feel too terribly conservative but also hid the girls well enough. Alas, even with the belted waist and ruffles, I still looked like a linebacker. 42, 13, YIKES!!
Our next stop was Lane Bryant who was, thankfully, having a sale. Now, I consider Lane Bryant good for some things- bras, panties, camisoles, etc- but as a whole I’m not too impressed generally. So, when I couldn’t find anything that really pulled on my heartstrings, I wasn’t too surprised. And then I saw it- a simple black shift dress that belted at the waist. It had clean lines, was elegant, and I could wear my strappy maroon heels with it and go out when I was done putting on the shiny-happy with prospective bosses. It was also sleeveless and over budget. Damn it!

We bought the dress. I tried it on for my Dad when I got home and I think he was genuinely happy to see his daughter in something other than jeans and t shirts. I sort of wanted to kick his ass. Instead I slipped on a cardigan and called it good. My brother said I looked like a whore (WTF?) so either A) I wasn’t playing it too safe or B) my brother had no clue what he was talking about. It was B.
I wore my dress and cardigan to the next interview and was offered the job a couple days later. This weekend we leave for two weeks of cupcake boot camp in Nashville. I cannot wait to look down my arm and see my tattoos creeping out of the shirt sleeve.