Tuesday, May 27, 2014

People are Stupid: Strange Things Were Afoot at the 7-11

As many of you know, I am a Coke addict (Coca-cola, that is).  There is nary a Coke to be seen in my house, so I scrounged up some changed and walked to the 7-11 to get a fix.

I'm trying to walk more often as sort of thought therapy, but this ended up being quite a lesson in human nature.

So I walk to the 7-11, and I had that weird awkward do-si-do when you're trying to get in and someone else is trying to get out.  The guy had a good sense of humor about it.  It was especially funny because I'm 5'2" and he was well over 6', so it must have looked hilarious.

"Well," I thought to myself, "that must have been the adventure for this trip."

I should know better than to ever say that to myself ...

I got my Coke, salivating all the way, and stood in line as the guy in front of me ordered two "big hot dogs".  The cashier went and put on the gloves and put two hot dogs into buns then into the little cardboard container; I watched this, and they weren't even my hot dogs.

At about this point, this guy wearing suspenders and a smug look stood between the counter and the door, waving a five dollar bill around.  I should also mention that the line had grown exponentially as the cashier got the hot dogs.

Back to the guy with the hot dogs, who apparently wanted little big hot dogs (???? his English wasn't great), but he was a good sport and seemed willing to pay and walk away.

At this point, however, my attention was diverted when a second cashier joined the first behind the counter.  I was next in line (and it was a pretty long line by then), so I stepped forward with my beautiful Coke.

The guy in the suspenders said, "Uh, excuse me, I just need five dollars in gas on pump three."

Before I could say, "And, uh, I've been waiting since you got into the store and I just have one item and I REALLY want a Coke right now", the cashier lit into him and basically said if he'd just gotten in line in the first place instead of trying to push hi way ahead of people, he'd have had his turn.

The guy got all red, muttered that he'd take his business elsewhere, and stormed out.

I have two questions ...

1.  Who the hell did he think he was?  I mean, yeah, it's a pain in the ass to wait in line, especially if you're just getting something small (*cough*Coke*cough*), but what made this guy think that he was so special that he should get pushed to the front of the line when everyone else was waiting patiently?

2.  How far does $5 in gas get you, anyway?

Anyway, I started to have a little bit of anxiety because confrontation and bullies and yelling and unfairness get me all freaked out, but I just took a deep breath and laughed.

Because sometimes, that's the only thing you can do ;-)

Stillbirths: What Nobody Wants to Talk About

When I read John Irving's The Cider House Rules, one of the lines that always stuck with me was when Wilbur Larch says, when arguing with his protege Homer Wells over the sanctity of life, "I give them what they want, an orphan or an abortion."

And really, it seems like there are three options when a child is conceived:
a) The child is born and raised by a loving family
b) The child is given up for adoption
c) The child is aborted (and I choose to add that this is almost always because the mother feels this is in the        best interest of the child)
d) The child is miscarried in early pregnancy

There is a silent e), though, that no one wants to think about, talk about, or otherwise mention. Those are the babies that are stillborn, that are either born just a little too early to survive or who have some sort of problem (I don't want to use the word deformity) that keeps the pregnancy from being viable.

With scenario a), which is obviously the best option, there is a child born, and children make most people happy.  The child is healthy and wanted and read to and tucked in at night, and it's a win/win for everybody involved.

Scenario b) is a bit stickier, as giving up a baby after carrying it for nine months would, I imagine, be tough.  I also know a couple of people very closely who were adopted as babies or young children, and it definitely plays a role in defining who you are.  With that being said, though, in most cases the child is healthy and wanted and read to and tucked in at night, and it's a win/win for everybody involved.

I will say that, when I had an accidental and unplanned pregnancy when I was seventeen, I considered giving my daughter up for adoption.  Once she started moving, though, I started to know her.  Now, I could never imagine life without having been bettered through being Emily's mother.  She is a treasure (she's the one playing the piano for her sisters here).

Scenario c) is stickier yet.  I think the idea of people running amok having abortions is frightening and disturbing.  That being said, there are times (rape and incest come to mind, or situations where a pregnant woman knows that she will be unable to care for the baby from the start) when I can see where abortions under, say, 8 weeks might be the best thing for both mother and baby.  I pontificate on this issue more here, but let me just say that it is sometimes best for both a fetus and its mother to not be born.  That sounds harsh, but I've seen enough abused kids whose parents blame their existence for all of their problems (and the damaging cloud those kids have been raised under, destroying every shred of self-esteem), enough women destroyed by family estrangement due to pregnancy, and so on.  I am not pro-abortion, I am pro-what's-best-for-everybody.

Scenario d) is quite sad, in large part because some women are prone to miscarriage, so they experience this over and over again.  I have a friend who tried for years to have a child, and she had miscarriage after miscarriage before finally carrying a baby long enough for her to survive.  I have had a miscarriage, and it is distressing, but it usually happens early enough that you haven't made big plans or bought clothes or had a baby shower or even told anybody.

Stillbirth, though, is the worst of all scenarios, in my opinion.

One day, I got a text from "Joanie", someone I am very close to.  It was very clearly an ultrasound picture, and I started jumping up and down with surprised joy.  Joanie already had a precious (and precocious) son, and while I'd speculated that she'd one day have another, this was a treat.

Joanie texted and called regularly as her pregnancy progressed, joyful tales of heartbeats on Doppler and plans for the baby, which Joanie and her husband learned was a girl.

And then one day, I got the news that the latest ultrasound showed a deformation in the baby girl's nuchal cord.  Poor Joanie, who is in the medical field, knew what that meant.  We all hoped and prayed that the next ultrasound would show better news, but instead, it was worse.  The pregnancy was not viable, and the baby would not live to term.

Joanie asked me to come be with her while she figured out if she should induce the birth or let it happen spontaneously.  I knew how serious this was because I do not fly.  My parents decided that it was easier to schlep three kids to Disney World in a station wagon than try to get me on a plane (the one time we did fly to Disney World, I evidently caused such a scene that we drove every time after).

Needless to say, I got on a plane.

When Joanie picked me up at the airport, I noticed that her hand was on her stomach.  It was caressing her stomach.  And as the weekend went on, her hand rarely left the gentle bump of her stomach.  She loved that baby, loved her dearly, and the fact that she knew the baby would  never reach viability was just terrible.  As I write this, I'm thinking about the gentle touch of a mother's hand on her baby, the being living within her, and I am crying like you cannot imagine.

Anyway, Joanie's baby was stillborn, and it was just as traumatic as you would expect.  She texted me a picture, and the baby was tiny and gray (she had died in utero before Joanie ever reached the hospital), but she was beautiful, absolutely beautiful.  In typical Joanie fashion, she noted that she had the same nose as her son.

The thing is, though, if you are visibly pregnant, you generally have a baby to show for it.  If you have an abortion, it's rare that you would show as anything more than a little fatter around the waistline, so no one would have to know.

A stillbirth, though ...

Everyone knows you are pregnant ... but then suddenly you aren't.  A lot of people, including Joanie and her husband, had bought stuff for their baby girl.  The baby's grandmothers had already gone nuts with shopping sprees.  I myself had bought at least two items (which, and this could be seen as either morbid or an honor, Gabrielle has worn.

I don't know how Joanie managed to survive the questions as her baby bump dissipated.  I know she cried a lot, that she was very sad and angry, but I do not know how she handled the issue with her colleagues (she was far enough along to have told her co-workers and superiors). I don't know what the neighbors thought, or her friends that lived close by.

I do know that I am closer to Joanie than almost anyone, and I had no idea how to handle it.  I mean, do you say, "I am so sorry!", or "What can I do to make this better?", or even "Wow, you look great, you've obviously lost some weight"?

There is no etiquette for stillbirths.  Instead the women who arguably need the most support are left with the greatest void.  I mean, sure, there's counseling, but the idea of paying someone to listen (and what are you going  to say, anyway ... "My baby died inside my womb and I'm freaking sad?") is kind of...I don't know, sterile, I guess.

I know that I talked to Joanie a lot, but I did not talk about the baby, who they named H.J., unless she broached the subject.  For a long time, this did not happen.

Then one day, Joanie had another baby.  Her son was born a couple of months before Gabrielle, and I spent some time in the hospital with her before her husband got there, and she was talking about the difference between her pregnancies with her older son and with H.J.  It hit me hard, that she had gotten to the point where she could talk about it as just any other event. I was very proud of her.

By some strange fluke that involves chlamydia (not either of us having it, but we sort of have an inside joke about it now), Joanie happened to be there when I was in labor with Gabrielle.  She was talking, again very comfortably, about the difference in the births of both of her sons and with H.J.  I should also note, in case you haven't read Gabrielle's birth story, that Joanie was the rock I leaned on when things got bad. Her strength is amazing.

The thing is, why do we avoid talking about stillbirths?  I think Joanie is an exception in that she is able to talk about H.J. in casual conversation without going to pieces.  People talk about abortions they've had, children they've given up for adoption, even early miscarriages without batting an eye; they just take this as a matter of course.

I guess I am curious about one thing.  How many people have had stillbirths that I am not aware of?  I mean, I'm sort of in Joanie's inner circle, so I know the whole story, but I wonder sometimes how many stillbirths I've been woefully unaware of?

What do you think?  Why is it that it's easier to talk about early miscarriages, children given up for adoption, children that have died young, and even abortions than stillbirths?

I would love to get your thoughts on this as I can't seem to wrap my head around it.

**This post is dedicated to H.J., a baby I love dearly and deeply and will never forget** 

The Button

I am embarrassed to mention this, but if you look to the right of this page, you'll see a "Donate" button. I have no expectation that this will work, but given my situation (on medical leave through the end of the school year, a medical leave that has both physical components as I deal with recovering from the past so I can look toward the future and a diagnosis of Primary Biliary Cirrhosis), I figured that if any multi-millionaires read this blog and can spare a dime I had to at least ask.

Please know that asking in and of itself is humiliating. Because I am "employed", (I'm a teacher, so I'll be going back to work in late August), I'm not eligible for any sort of short-term benefits.

I'll probably be up to working third shift at the 7-11 down the road in a month or so, but things are beyond ugly financially right now, and I'd rather write than ask, "Do you want fries with that?"

I hope you don't find this tacky, and know that I cannot wait until August, when I can take the "Donate" button down and go back to my lovely middle class life.

Thank you :-)

Monday, May 26, 2014

Repercussions of Rape (Part II)

It is truly amazing to me the response I have gotten from people based on my post Repercussions of Rape (Part I).  So many people have spoken of how courageous I am and how much help it is for people who have experienced sexual assault to read it and know they're not alone.

I am truly humbled by that. Please know that I appreciate the kind notes, Facebook messages, texts, love, and support.

The truth of the matter is, I honestly thought I was over the rape.  I really did.  Like, I didn't think about it, didn't talk about it, only occasionally had nightmares about it.  I even got told by a counselor (originally he was a marriage counselor, but the third time my ex-husband showed up late to the appointment, we realized that marriage counseling was a waste of time but he would happily continue to see me as I felt I had some unresolved issues beyond being emotionally, mentally, and physically tortured by my ex) after spilling the whole rape story that I had great coping mechanisms and there was no real need for me to go back.  He was happy to have me come back if I needed it, insurance would cover it, but there was no real need.

I had no idea that it was consuming my life.

My rape was characterized by someone overpowering me, speaking down to me, telling me I was  nothing, and the guilt associated with my best friend thinking I was sleeping with some other guy in his house when he and I'd had awkward, random, drunken casual sex a few weeks before.

When I encountered a bully, and there are many adult bullies that prey on people they scent weakness in, I would get sweaty, nauseous, clumsy, and my heart would start racing.  I never knew why I had such a visceral response to assholes.

It certainly couldn't be about the rape, right?  A therapist had told me I had great coping mechanisms and a solid support system, that I was just fine.

I do not want to get into specifics here, but just imagine that a person is in a position of power over you in your professional life.  Imagine even further that this person is a bully, a cruel person known for talking about his colleagues (bosses, lateral equals, and peons like me) behind their backs, of laughing at the misfortunes of others, of speaking down to people until they couldn't stand up any longer, telling people they were wrong when this person had no idea what h/she was talking about, and pouring on the guilt by emphasizing how your shortcomings (the ones that s/he had given you) explained why you did a crappy job.

If you had survived my situation, one would think that being bullied by some pathetic loser who epitomizes the Peter Principle would be nothing ... but it wasn't.

So I messed up.  A lot.  It took me forever to do anything at work because I was so anxious, and then it reached a point where it was coming home.

Being beaten down at work every day turned me from a fairly confident woman with many and varied passions (reading, writing, the beach, traveling, spending time with friends) to one who internalized everything.  The dog knocked something off the table?  My fault.  My daughter broke her leg and had to be in a cast because she was screwing around at Hannaford?  My fault.  The washing machine broke? Yup, my fault.

At first these were just feelings, and I tried to keep them from my husband and kids.  After Gabrielle was born, though, it came out in words.  This hypothetical a-hole boss honed the keen blade of self-loathing that went back to 1998, and with the stress of Gabrielle's bloody birth, which was sort of a nightmare, I came to a point where the rape, and its repercussions, nearly killed me.

After the rape, when I washed my hands, there was blood in the sink.  I saw blood in the sink when I washed my hands a month or so ago (and, I mean, I'm an English teacher ... I felt like freaking Lady MacBeth).  I am afraid to take showers, because the shower I took following the rape was when I started to come back to myself, and I was alone and so damn scared.  I will wake up screaming, or I'll jerk awake.  According to my husband, I say the things I said to my rapist when I am asleep, sometimes in a mumble but sometimes nearly yelling.

I am not healed now.  I am in counseling, and I suspect I will be for a long time.  My husband is extremely supportive (except when he's in a bad mood, which is almost never).  I've found some online support groups and even some groups that meet face to face, but the humiliation of someone knowing about the rape makes that medium hard for me.

I guess that makes me posting about it ironic, but the thing is that I am a teacher.  I have had more than one student tell me they were sexually assaulted.  I have heard stories that make my own experience seem very small.

I guess the bottom line is, sexual assault, molestation, rape, whatever word you want to use, they are more common than you might think.  If you are reading this and you feel alone, please know that you are not.

If you are reading this and you are one of my many wonderful friends whom I've blown off, I suspect I've put enough info here for you to figure out why.    

There is a picture that circulates around Facebook from time to time, and I guess that's what I want to end with.

Recognizing Sacrifice or Eating Cheeseburgers?

Today is Memorial Day, and when I woke up I was happy that Jeff and Ari are home with me today.

Jeff and I had a conversation about a pervasive lack of understanding about Memorial Day and Veterans Day (he explained the difference quite succinctly for him) and I'll be honest, the two days have always sort of blended together for me.

It is disconcerting that Memorial Day is known more for cookouts and barbecues, for a day off from work, for it being okay to wear white (according to my mother, anyway ... I never really got that one), for attending parades, and for going to the cemetery to put flowers on headstones because you only think to do it on Veterans Day and Memorial Day.

My maternal grandfather was one of the first people on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day (he carried equipment) and my paternal grandfather was a member of the Navy stationed in the South Pacific.  Both my father and step-father were in the Army.  Emily's father is in the U.S. Army and has spent a great deal of time in Afghanistan.  Jeff's father was in Vietnam.

My family is historically a military family, yet I didn't really know the difference between the holidays honoring the those who've served in very different ways.

My husband suggested that I write a post about sacrifice, so I am; I'm writing about why it is so hard for most people to appreciate, or even understand, sacrifice directly.

I mean, if people truly understood the sacrifice inherent in Memorial Day, would they be pounding cheeseburgers in white attire chatting with others about what a treat it is to have an extra day off from work or school?

My conclusion is the sacrifice makes people uncomfortable. It's either that or the conclusion that people don't care about fallen military personnel, so I'm going with the discomfort.

I never considered joining the military because I was "college-bound".  The same is true for my brother and, I assume, for Jeff as well.  The Marines actually wanted  my sister for their band (she plays the oboe) and, almost ten years later, wanted Emily for the same reason (she plays the bassoon).  So, yeah, kind of ironic that the two members of my immediate family that have come closest to joining the military had to do with the fact that they play rather obscure musical instruments.

Think about this question: what is the last sacrifice you made?

I'm having a hard time thinking of mine, but I'm pretty sure it had something to do with not eating the last Oreo in the package even though I REALLY wanted it because I know Oreos are Ari's favorite.

That's kind of small in the great scheme of things.

I think the concept of sacrifice makes people uncomfortable. We look at people making sacrifices, military personnel or anyone, and it makes us feel kind of small.

I always loved teaching John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men because I could actually get kids thinking about sacrifice and whether it was **spoiler ahead** right or wrong that George shot Lennie before the angry mob could reach him, whether George's action was done out of love for Lennie or to just get himself freed of an albatross around his neck that he couldn't escape.  George made Lennie comfortable and talked to him about their dream farm before shooting him quietly and humanely; if Curley and his mob had gotten to Lennie first, there would have been torture and ugliness.  It doesn't change the fact that George took a human life, and I suspect that George thought about that sacrifice every day for the rest of his life (if he was real and not a character in a work of fiction, of course).

Why do you think sacrifice makes so many people uncomfortable? (Or am I totally off base here?)

NOTE: I actually wrote about the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day back in 2009.  It's a pretty decent piece, so if you want to read it, it's right here.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Why I Believe My Hubs is "The One"

I believe in love.  I think there are people that you connect with on a visceral level, people that understand you, people that finish your sentences and understand your eccentricities and even your bad points...and love you just the same.

I have been in love, had that connection, with three people throughout my life.

My husband, Jeff, is last and best.  He is like wallowing in a sunset on the beach when you're exhausted, just looking at the beautiful sights and sounds and laughing at silly things.

Yup, we do a lot of laughing ...

He is the perfect cup of Irish coffee after a long, wild ride. I love Jeff deeply and completely, but we have both noted on separate occasions that we would never have been compatible had we tried dating before we did.

Here are ten reasons that Jeffrey is the end of my road, why he is remarkable in so many ways, and why I love him.

1.  Jeff is handy.  If things are falling apart around the house (or at my mom's house), he has both the knowledge and the willingness to fix them.  He thinks things through from all directions and doesn't rush.  To wit, we were trying to figure out how to get Ari's bike in the back of the SUV along with Gabrielle's stroller and without folding down the seats because Howard was coming with us.  It took quite a bit of work, but he did it.

2.  Jeff has a fantastic sense of humor ... and a laugh that is either infectious or annoying, depending on your mood.  Either way, it's memorable.

3. He might be the only man on the planet to actually read directions, although he does give it the old college try before going for the directions.  I admire this about him because so many men (not to generalize, but ...) think they are above using directions.  Jeff doesn't.

4.  He is the best father in the world--Ari and Gabrielle are blessed beyond belief to have the privilege of calling him Daddy, and Emily is fortunate to have such a wonderful stepfather.

5. Jeff understands me.  He knows when I need it to be quiet, he knows how to make me laugh when that'll work, and he picks up the pieces for and with me when I am overwhelmed.

6.  Jeff is incredibly smart.  This is, in general, a good thing.  The only problem is, he will sometimes branch off on four hundred tangents because he knows so much.
ME: Did you know there's no fat in Coke?
JEFF: Well, there's lots of sugar.
ME: I know...no fat, though.
JEFF: Well, you know, it's not fat alone that makes you fat, right?
ME: Of course I know that.
JEFF: .............amino acid...........protein...............sort of like photosynthesis with plants................I've never gotten you flowers, have I?
ME: Um, nope.
JEFF: Do you mind? I could buy flowers.  What kind of flowers would you want.
ME: I like lilacs.  They smell yummy.
JEFF: ..........Harvard........springtime..............steal from a lilac bush down the road.............purple?

7. When Ari wanted a puppy for Christmas, Jeff agreed.  He might not have agreed quite so quickly had he known that the dog would quickly become his shadow...a shadow that thinks going outside to pee at four in the morning is perfectly acceptable. We even tease Jeff about having "Daddy issues".
8. Jeff is open-minded.  His political views, passions, and humor coincide neatly with mine.  There are certain people he hates, for example, but if they make a good point or do a nice thing, he will be the first to acknowledge it.

9. Jeff is willing to change his prior prejudices.  For example, he used to refuse to drink at Starbucks because it was "too hipster".  I've got the man drinking lattes ;-)

10. Jeff loves me.  It's in his eyes, his voice, pretty much his every action.  He loves me, and that is more valuable than gold.  Sometimes I wonder why he puts up with me, yet I still see only love in his eyes.  He is the best.

Thank you, Jeffie ... always <3 p="">

Mean Adults Suck

I believe that every child, no matter how good, goes through at least one "mean" phase.  To wit, my middle daughter, who is normally a ray of sunshine with a sparkly smile and a fantastic sense of humor, occasionally has these moments:

This is a more typical look for her:
But she is ten, and when she comes home with stories of classmates being mean to each other, I can help her process, can tell her that fourth grade is a hard time and that, as much as she gets annoyed by us, she is lucky to have a family that loves her, doesn't hit her or scream at her, and is in general exceedingly fair to her.

And then I tell her it will get better when she grows up, which is a lie.  I kind of have to say it, though.

I am one of those stupid people that believe the best in everybody, and consequently get hurt over and over again.  You'd think I'd have learned by now.

You know, the guy I'm seeing has two other girlfriends.  People at work make the little clique on Mean Girls look friendly.  The guy at the grocery store that slammed my car with his fist and screamed at me when he was clearly going the wrong way on a one-way street area in a parking lot. The speaker at my college graduation said that Santa Claus was fake (and surely Emily wasn't the only child young enough to believe in the audience).

Yeah, I pull in bad luck the way honey attracts bees.

But I am not mean.

It's funny, we have a running joke in my family that I am cursed.  My mother used to yell at me when I said it and say that it was because I have a bad attitude, but now she just smiles and shakes her head, because really, what else do you have to do when the truth is self-evident?

I am not mean, but a lot of people are.

I keep my mouth shut a lot, whether my family and close friends believe it or not, about all the meanness I see every day.  People lying to feather their own nests.

Like, a few days before Gabrielle was born, we went to Babies R Us and people that were not overtly pregnant had parked in the "for expectant moms only" parking spot.  Now, it's not that I doubt they were pregnant, but we'd gone to Babies R Us dozens of times and parked far away because I didn't think it was fair to steal a spot from someone who obviously needed it.

Like, people being appointed to committees to promote kindness when they are the meanest people of all.

Like, people that talk smack about people all the time because they have nothing better to do.  I mean, does it make you feel better to criticize other people?  Do you sleep better at night knowing that you're making fun of someone that could use the support of a friend instead of being made a joke of?

I'm speaking in generalities, obviously, but the truth is that I could get very specific because mean people are everywhere.

So, why are people mean?  Are they jealous?  Is their own self-esteem that bad?  Are they willing to lie and put on a fake face for the people that make decisions? Is it really that hard to live a life of kindness, to treat people the way you want to be treated?  If you see someone struggling, isn't it easier to lend a helping hand or a listening ear than to talk trash about them?

What do you think? 

Sunday Stealing: Random XV

Sunday Stealing is a weekly event that I've taken part in on and off in my life as a blogger.  It's a lot of fun.  If you are reading this via Facebook, think of it as a note meme or something.  If you're reading this on FB and you do it, please tag me so I can read it.  I'm insufferably nosy.

1. How old is the oldest pair of shoes in your closet?
The newest pair of shoes I have were purchased in September.  You probably don't want to know about the oldest.  Howard the Wonder Dog has thinned them down a bit ... it's funny, he doesn't touch anyone else's shoes, but he chews on mine every chance he gets.

2. Did you buy Girl Scout cookies this year? If so, what variety?
This is a sensitive issue in my house. For one thing, it's the first year Ari hasn't been a Girl Scout, so we had to actually look around.  One of Jeff's students had a little sister who was selling them, so Jeff texted me to ask what to get.  I replied, "Tagalongs, Thin Mints, and Samoas", because, really, those are the best.  He came home with two boxes of Thin Mints and said the kid messed up the order.  I have murkier suspicions...

3. Do you know how to ballroom dance?
No way.  I can barely do the Macarena.  I am scared to death of dancing and look like a clumsy elephant when I try.

4. Were you a responsible child/teenager?
When it came to babysitting or any sort of trust incurred on me by anyone but my parents, yes.  Otherwise, not particularly.  I wasn't irresponsible, just typical, I think.

5. How many of this year's Oscar-nominated movies did you see?
 I'm going to go with none here.  I haven't seen a movie in ages.  It's one of those things I used to love, but I've sort of lost the sparkle for it.  I'm working hard to get the sparkle back.  Incidentally, I haven't read a book since January.  The good news is, I was having trouble writing, too, and here we are :-)

6. If you're going to have a medical procedure done, such as having blood drawn, is it easier for you to watch someone else having the procedure done or have it done yourself?
It doesn't really bother me overmuch either way.

7. What is your favorite day of the week and why?
 I don't really have a preference at the moment; days sort of blend together when you're medically unable to work.

8. What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received??
Well, the most memorable one came when I was getting my senior pictures done. The guy kept taking pictures and was obviously getting frustrated.  He kept looking at his watch, because we were clearly well over my allotted time.  He finally said to me, "You are beautiful, absolutely gorgeous, and I can't capture it on film.  I am so frustrated."  It was very awkward.  In the guy's defense, though, I do think I look better than I photograph.  It's kind of weird.

9. Do hospitals make you queasy?
Nah.  Funny story, though.  I had to have a procedure last year, nothing huge but it required anesthesia, so I had to have someone drive me home.  I asked every family member and friend I could think of, and then out of desperation asked my mother's best friend.  My mother was furious with me, and I didn't know why.  It was only after it was over that she told me that Pat is petrified of hospitals and the last time she walked into one, she passed out.  I felt awful!  Pat was a trooper, though ;-)

10. At which store would you like to max-out your credit card?
Probably Target.  I'm getting practical in my old age.

11. Are you true to the brand names of products/items?
It depends.  Like, mayonnaise from Market Basket (which I think is a New England chain, so if you've never heard of it, I apologize) is better than Hellmans or Cains.  In general, I go generic, though, because I'm poor.  I have some standards, though.  I would never buy meat or produce at Wal-Mart ;-p
12. Which is more difficult: looking into someone’s eyes when you are telling someone how you feel, or looking into someone’s eyes when he/she is telling you how he/she feels?
 Doesn't it ultimately amount to the same thing?

13. What’s one thing you’re deeply proud of — but would never put on your résumé?
 I can tie a cherry stem in a knot with my tongue.

14. What’s the most out-of-character choice you’ve ever made?
I'm  honestly not sure.

15. What’s your personal anthem or theme song?
Something by Alanis Morissette from Jagged Little Pill.  I am still an angsty teenager inside ;-)

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Playing on the Kindness of Strangers?

It seems that times are always bad, that there is always a call from the March of Dimes or the American Cancer Society, jars out at Mom and Pop markets collecting money for local residents in crisis, and the bi-annual trip to donate clothes to the Salvation Army.

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the internet has pervaded this field.

My friend Denise, who is quite possibly my first writing fan and most definitely one of my BFFs, will at times suggest ideas for me to write about.  In fact, she even wrote a post as a guest blogger for me about science and stuff because she's a smart lady.

I got this from her via Facebook a few days ago:
Man, I wish I could write like you (EDITOR'S NOTE: SHE REALLY DID START WITH THIS).  I think your writing every day and my reading every day is making me think about things and ask questions (always was that way but I had learned to kind of shut it off- unless they were scientific what do you do with them).  So anyways- I joined an online support group for my lung problems- long story short someone posted a link to one of those personal sites requesting money- which I felt was kind of inappropriate.  I kind of wondered after this if that was uncharitable of me.  She did have a sad story- but most of the people on that site have it just as bad if not worse.  That being said- As a general rule I only donate money to what I consider legitimate sources but I give tons every year in new clothes, coats, hats, mittens, baby supplies, christmas gifts, food drives, etc.  I wondered if this was really not right.  I wonder what your readers would think?

Personally, I am rock solid in the area of giving (time, energy, Emily's entire Abercrombie and Fitch wardrobe when she decided to stop being a Material Girl), but like Denise I am uneasy about money, especially where the internet is involved.

I have given money twice via the internet.  I do not regret either donation, and I should note that they are very small.

One was for a former schoolmate who had a baby at 25 weeks pregnant.  I had given birth to Gabrielle shortly before this little peanut was born, and I know this girl has worked incredibly hard and had to overcome some really rough times, and she couldn't even go to visit her baby every day because of both transportation and several other kids at home.  I gave a small monetary donation (very small), but the more I think of it, she probably would have been better off if I'd volunteered to babysit or something.

The other was a page made for the man who was like a third father to me, Kenneth P. Carroll.  I also eulogized him, so to speak, on this site.  Again, the monetary donation was a small one, but I felt it was worthwhile. After all, burial costs are huge, and nobody wants to think about things like cremation and coffins and steel to keep the worms out as long as possible, but they are real problems.  Ken deserves dignity in death, a place where those of us that love him could go visit with him for a bit, throw back a few red labels, and probably cry with the loss of a man so great.

Denise made a really interesting point, though.  Everyone has some sort of sob story, most of them completely legitimate.

Speaking for myself, I am out of work on maternity leave/extended medical leave due to complications, so my last paycheck was over three months ago.  A tire on my car needs to either be repaired or replace (which of course means two tires).  Ari is likely to be advanced in gymnastics, which is awesome but more money.  We're behind on the mortgage. Even though I'm out of work, we have to send Gabby to daycare two days a week to hold her full-time spot in the fall.  We're living creatively and eating a lot of pasta. Oh, and after wearing a size 8 for over three years, Ari decided to grow all of a sudden, so now we have to worry about getting her new clothes.  I'll just say thank God my ex-husband started paying child support during this time.  

Could I start one of those "Go Fund Me" pages? I bet I could. I am not choosing to be out of work, I am just not medically able to return.  I've got a pretty good sob story that is absolutely true if I chose to use it.  I am, by the way, kind of uncomfortable writing about this because a good friend of ours gathered from our Facebook posts that money was tight right around Christmas and sent a check, several of my former students made extremely generous offers, and so on.  I am not asking you to think about me in those terms.  We'll be fine in August when I can go back to work. La vita e bella.

Anyway, I think that there are many, many people in need, particularly the working middle class, which Jeff and I fall squarely into (when I'm working ... living on his paycheck with the number of dependents we have does, I believe, put us below the poverty line).  You can all probably think of many people that need a little financial boost.

But is asking for it on Facebook, other than in truly extreme situations (and use your own definition of that ... the fact that I donated money to Kori David's life and to Ken's headstone means they were extreme situations and worthwhile for me), a little tacky?

Yeah, probably.  It's not something I would ever do personally, though.

Because I'm with Denise on this.  Time, work, sewing, reading or playing the piano at a nursing home, casseroles to a family where the mom is in the hospital (or jail), that is all good, solid, and honest.  There is a need, you know what the need is, and you do what you can to fulfill it.  Asking for money over the internet, other than in extreme situations, is crass.

When I was going to college full-time as a single mother working three jobs, my parents would drive up with boxes full of food.  Ham and Coke and fresh fruit and vegetables and cheese and peanut butter and frozen soup and pasta sauce homemade by my mom and packages of chicken and hamburger and so on.  They figured out pretty quickly, you see, that I was not good with money.  Emily never went without, but there were days I didn't eat, and I'll tell you, Hamburger Helper without the meat is pretty crappy.

My parents were very wise.  If they gave me money, I might spend it on something other than food (not intentionally, of course, but out of mismanagement).  They donated food instead of money because they knew that it would be used for the intended purpose.

I think that's the bottom line, the nobleness of the intended purpose.

And I want to note that, while many sites claiming to be "collecting money for Cancer/Lupus/ Autism/Cerebral Palsy/name an ailment" are very shady.  As little as 5% might be going toward actual research, and a much higher percent is going to the CEO's bank account. Do research before you donate.

So yeah, I guess that's where I stand.  

What are your thoughts on donations?  

**And also, I am trying to build up a following for this blog.  If you like what you read here, please go to Facebook and give it a like.  I am working on getting money for my writing while I'm on medical leave, so popularizing this page could be your way of giving me a simple and easy donation ... unless, of course, you think what I write is crap.  Just figured I'd ask ;-)

Friday, May 23, 2014

Repercussions of Rape (Part I)

One night in early January of 1998, I got very drunk and had sex with my best friend.  I, of course, wanted to talk about it, even asked, "So that happened because we were so drunk, right?" because then of course we could laugh it off and move on and so on.  He said, "Being drunk had nothing to do with it."

Our friendship was a bit awkward after that, to say the least.

A couple of weeks later, we were out with a couple of his friends.  I was on my second drink at the bar (and that was when I could hold my liquor pretty well for a college girl), and suddenly I was cuckoo, like falling over my feet wasted.  It got worse instead of better, and I vaguely remember walking back to my best friend's condo.  He went upstairs with one of the other guys, and I went out to the balcony to smoke a cigarette with this guy, Tom.  I went to the bathroom, and when I came back, he gave me another beer.

**Note: I am putting in some details.  If this will bother you, please don't read it**
The next thing I remember, I was being sodomized on the pullout couch.  Words cannot express how painful it was.  When I went to cry out, I realized that my mouth felt like it had been propped open for hours.

"Stop!"I tried to yell, but it came out a whisper.  He did stop what he was doing, though.

"You shut up, bitch, or I'll kill you.  You and your little loverboy upstairs."

"He's not my--" I began, and he interrupted me by ... well, by filling up my mouth again.  I quickly realized why my mouth was so sore.

I was crying so hard, but I did it silently.

He said, "You're getting snot on my dick.  You'd better stop or I'll make you lick it off."

I guess he had an aversion to mucous, because he got on top of me and started raping me vaginally.  He had obviously spent some time doing this already.  The sheets of the pull-out couch were white, and I'd slept platonically on them with my best friend many, many times.  They were spotted with blood, I realized, and then I looked around and it occurred to me that "spotted" was a weak word.  This had clearly been going on a long time.

I begged him to stop over and over and he said, "You're really boring."

Finally, I said, "I want you to come.  I want to make you feel good."

He stopped what he was doing (briefly), got in my face, and said, "You don't have the stuff to make me come, little girl. You just don't have it."

Then I kind of blacked out again, which I'm glad about, and the next thing I know, someone is coming down the stairs.  It was, of course, my best friend, the one which I'd had drunken casual sex with just a couple weeks before.

I was so sore and doped up and naked and bloody and ashamed that I just said, "I'm going to go home, I think."

He didn't say anything.

I grabbed my clothes and ran for the bathroom.  I couldn't pee, even though I had to go terribly.  I sat there trying to make pee come out, but no luck.  When I stood to get dressed, I cried with pain and got very scared when I saw all the blood in the toilet bowl.

I flushed and went to the sink.  My hands were spotted with blood like a henna tattoo, and I used soap for what felt like forever, but even after that I don't know if the blood was gone or not.  I was still seeing it.

I walked out the door without saying goodbye and went home.  I locked the door and took a bath and looked at the bruises and felt the blood still seeping out of every orifice.  My jaw ached terribly and popped every time I went to open my mouth.  He had bitten off a piece of my nipple, and that hit me hard. I had fed my daughter with that nipple.

I laid in the bathtub until the water got cold, then I reran another tubful.  My vagina and anus were still bleeding, and I was afraid to look.  I fell asleep in the bathtub, and when I woke up I felt alive and myself, at least.

I got dressed in sweats and a t-shirt and made a grilled cheese sandwich.  I cleaned my apartment, even though it hurt terribly.  My best friend stopped by later, and I was going to tell him until I saw his face.  He had a bag with him, and he wouldn't look at me, just handed me the bag.

"The sheets," he said.  "There's blood all over them.  You ruined the sheets, but it's your blood, so maybe you won't mind how dirty they are" or something like that, and then he left.

"I had my period," I yelled after him.  "I just had my period, that's what the blood is."

He didn't listen.  He knew damn well I was lying.  He just didn't know why.

And life went on.  I put on a huge amount of weight and cut my hair short because I didn't want anyone to think of me as pretty.  I became sexually promiscuous with some pretty shady characters.  I basically gave Emily to my parents for awhile because I was such a mess.  I flunked out of college.
The woman is this picture (circa 2009) thinks the rape is behind her.  She has no idea that, even though her life is "together" on the surface, that ugliness is still inside ... and might always be there.

My parents knew that something had happened, but they didn't know what, and I certainly couldn't tell them.   They made a deal where they would pay for me to take a summer course at UNH and, if I did well, they would pay for me to go part-time in the fall, and, if that was successful, return to being a full-time student in the spring.

I had some successes in college, and that built up a bit of the confidence.  I met and married my ex-husband.  I became a teacher.  Life went on.

Until I bumped into my best friend at Wal-Mart one day in 2009 and asked if we could get a drink, that I had some things I needed to talk to him about.  That whole saga is recorded here, if you're interested in reading it.

I figured that my best friend knowing the truth would be an absolution of some sort, because I knew I had hurt him badly, and it was.

I truly believed that the rape was in the past, that I had healed, that I was over it.

This is all I can write for right now.  I'm starting to get upset and anxious, but I'll write "Repercussions of Rape Part II" in the next few days.

I will say this, to anyone who has ever been raped or molested or anything like that ... please, please, please know that it's not your fault, and know that there are people who will listen.  Sometimes it just takes awhile to be able to say the words ...

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Facebook Steroids

I am a self-admitted Facebook addict.  I'm not proud of it, but there you go.  It's kind of hard not to be when you're a writer, as it's a prime opportunity for a poke into the human psyche.  After all, what people choose to post speaks volumes.  

The biggest setback, for me me anyway, is that I struggle with short posts.  I even struggle with short responses.  Therefore, often I say nothing at all.

Today, I am going to write extensive responses to things that come up in my Facebook newsfeed.  I'm thinking that might be some great fodder for conversation ;-)

From my Facebook Newsfeed (sic)
* "Unbelievable.  In this day and age, I was just told I could NOT use special characters in a password.  Fortunately, I don't think there's anything financial on this site."
My personal theory is that some special characters are not readily available on all sites and in all countries (I just found out from Emily that France has a different keyboard than we in the U.S. do.  I guess that makes sense, but it never would have occurred to me on my own until she was complaining about getting used to the American keyboard again.  Anyway, maybe people are doubling up on special character combos (I suppose it's possible that 400 people might put C===3 as a password ;-)) Anyway, good luck.  My passwords are centered around kids, pets, and the number 69.  I am weird.

* Decided this morning I would get serious about losing 10 pounds.  Got to work and was told it was Outdoor Living Safety Day (lots of free, grilled food).  Went outside and got two breakfast burritos consisting almost entirely of delicious, grilled meats.  Off to a great start!
Oh, you know what they say about Murphy's Law, about spitting in the devil's face, and blah blah blah.  First, you are very lucky that you only have ten pounds to get serious about.  I have about 50 more than that, if it gives you any perspective.  It's one day, so hopefully you enjoyed your meaty breakfast burritos (which sound delicious, by the way) and can move forward from here.  I'm more interested in Outdoor Living Safety Day ... I've never heard of it.  Is it just about grilling?  Can you make dandelion wine?  Is the impending rain going to move it indoors (LOL)? Good luck with your ten pounds, and don't beat yourself up too much ... I recommend the MapMyWalk app, by the way; you could conceivably exercise off the calories you took in with your burritos, if you really wanted to.  I wouldn't, though; at this point, I'd just eat a Twinkie and start again tomorrow ;-)

* I want to go back to bed so I don't have to think.
Going back to bed is the worst thing you can do.  It is, however, only a temporary solution (take it from someone who spent a lot of time hiding in bed). I would recommend a walk.  I discovered the joys of walking about a month ago, when I was at something of a rock botttom.  It really clears your mind, and if you walk in different places (nature trails, main roads, the mall), you'll never get bored.  Just don't walk on highways as I'm pretty sure that's illegal.  Beyond that, call or text a friend.  Find a place to watch a movie (I'd recommend a tears-inducing chick flick or a comedy) and eat a bunch of popcorn and talk when you can.  I know you have people in your life that have more to offer than your bed, even if it's just to keep you from thinking.  The person writing this is even one of them :-)

*WHEN are people going to stop sharing Facebook posts that are based on nothing but somebody's desire to rile up all of America's dumbest citizens?  Learn to fact check.
Do you really need me to tell you that the answer is "NEVER"?  Powerful people love the ignorant, largely because they are such a good, loud voice. I know a lot of really good people that have been misinformed about things by people in positions of power and trust.  I don't argue with them, but I shake my head at their ignorance.  Oh, and recently I wrote a blog post about it where I state that homosexuality is neither evil nor a choice, that abortion should be a choice (but not to be used as birth control), and that vaccines do not cause autism, all of which are well-supported stances.  Put another way, I was once married to a statistician.  He told me that, if you ask enough color-blind people, you can statistically prove that the color red does not exist.  So, yes, learn to fact check.  You didn't need my rambling, you got your point across very well <3 br="">

* Stomach is still killing, follow-up with doctor tomorrow.  They said it's stomach flu but from all this stomach pain to the point of can't walk it has to be something else.
The lion's share of my medical issues have been gastrointestinal in nature.  I am currently being worked up for something called Primary Biliary Cirrhosis, which is scary as hell, in addition to my other gastro issues.  They tell me that, my new gastro confesses that my records from Maine Medical Center showed some pretty hard core stuff, and then I go to schedule this test where they are running dye through my bile ducts ... and the soonest they can do it is mid-June.  What the hell, right?  My advice for you is to go to the ER.  They will draw labs then and there and can give you IV pain meds.  Doctors, particularly gastros, are very careful about giving out pain meds for obvious reasons.  I was actually pissed that  my new gastro didn't give me some narcotics at our initial meeting, but my sister and mother helped me understand why that was.  If I was in unspeakable agony right now and walked into the ER, I know that they would a) do blood tests b) see that one of my liver enzymes is elevated off the chart c) give me pain meds and d) direct me to set up an appointment with my gastro.  Hmmmm, now that I think about it, maybe that way I could get that specialized test done before mid-freaking-June.  I hope you feel better soon <3 div="" nbsp="">

Response to my Facebook post about this post collected as I'm writing (above, which reads, "Today I'm going to write extensive responses to things that come up in my Facebook newsfeed for my blog.  I'm thinking they might be some great fodder for conversation.") (sic)

* "Well, I'm glad you're productive, I just read the same paragraph three times in my 'essentials for nursing research' (yawn) book ..... ugh
I'm really not productive at all.  One of my personal goals is to write every day, and I couldn't think of a darn thing to write about, so I'm stealing ideas from other people.  I wish that I had the skill set to become a nurse, but I can imagine that your reading is pretty dry ... Let's face it, any book that starts with 'essentials for' anything just sort of screams, "I'll solve your insomnia problem!"  Good luck!  Take a nap and walk around the block ... that might help you wake up a bit.  It won't make the book any more interesting, though.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Unspeakable Trauma I'm Trying to Work Through: To Post or Not to Post

I was raped in the winter of 1998.

I hadn't thought of the rape in a long time, since getting a fragile peace in April of 2009 from my good friend that was mixed up in the whole mess. Making sure he knew the whole story was important to me in 2009 (click here to see why).

In 2014, I have been talking more about the fact that I was raped.  I do not want to talk about the rape.  I do not want to talk about it with my therapist. I do not want to talk about it with my husband.  I do not want to talk about it with anybody.

But since I mentioned it, I have had three separate people contact me and tell me that they also had been raped, sexually abused, or otherwise tortured. I had no idea how prevalent it was, how many unspoken stories there are.

And I wonder if it is time for me to talk about it.

I have no idea how many people read this blog, and I'm under no illusion that it's a staggering number.  I don't want to write a piece about rape that nobody will read, but by the same token I don't want to write about this traumatic event and have people read it just because it's got a buzzword.

I will tell you one thing about my rape.  I had to have part of my body surgically repaired.  Remember that hemorrhoid surgery?  Yeah, not a bad cover story...my mother didn't even know. So it's a bit gory.

In therapy, they are trying to make me do a play-by-play.  I don't want to talk about it.  I want to forget about it.

But that's not possible.

Writing has always been a better medium for me.

My story is a lesson in stupidity (don't ever put your drink down, even for a second), but it's also a lesson in pain and the long lasting effects of such a trauma.

One thing I've learned in the past few months is that I am still impacted by that event.  It has, in many ways, shaped my adult life.

But is it worth sharing?

I'm not sure ...

How You Get Your News: Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

I get my news from a Facebook page called Manchvegas Alerts.  It's a nice little play by play of the police scanners, with commentary, sometimes videos of people fighting in the streets of the grim ghetto of the lovely city, in addition to your basic news stuff.  

Yes, I'm serious. It is freaking epic.
                                    Manchester, NH (affectionately referred to as "ManchVegas"

And yes, by the way, little old New Hampshire does in fact have a news channel, the milquetoast WMUR.  They are scooped by Manchvegas Alerts all the time.  It's really kind of awesome.

I'll get an alert from WMUR that I already read on Manchvegas Alerts, sometimes hours before.  

And the staff is extremely funny.

It got me thinking, though ... I used to teach Journalism, and I always started with the concept of communication.  How does one person convey a message to their audience?  Then we play charades for a bit, then we get into cave drawings, and things go upward from there up to the modern day newspaper.

My family got the local newspaper, Foster's Daily Democrat, delivered every day, and I read it cover to cover.  I didn't always understand it, but it certainly generated some conversation.  One day, when I found one of my neighbors on the DUI license revocation list, my parents talked about trying to keep me away from the newspaper.  

As Scout Finch said in To Kill a Mockingbird, "Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read.  One does not love breathing."  

So I guess I should be grateful that my parents considered that, because, while they never followed through, I had learned the lesson that the news--the newspaper or the nightly news and probably even some books, although not the ones I read at the time--was accessible.  

I was also inexcusably nosy.  I still am.

And I still love to get my news.  In fact, I love it more now than ever.  I don't have to read an entire newspaper cover-to-cover, I can scan through headlines on sites of interest.  I do have the app for WMUR, to be fair, and I also read CNN, MSNBC, and Fox (because I actually try to be fair and balance) for national news.  I love People and TMZ because I have an obsession with celebrities.  

And that's just what's reaching out to me ...

If I decided I want to find my ex-husband on the aforementioned DUI license revocation list, for example, Google does it (and I can giggle with glee).  If I want to know about the new medical condition they think I have, I can go to PubMed.

For Pete's sake, Facebook suggests friends based on your friends and sites or pages based on your interest ... the whole Big Brother thing is pretty overwhelming.

I cannot fathom technology and accessing the news any simpler than on my iPhone.  The newspaper as an institution is long dead, and even news sites are losing steam because of pages like Manchvegas Alerts (seriously it's a laugh riot, but it's the news).

What do you think the future holds for journalism?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Sharing Your Greatest Accomplishment and Bucket List: I'll Show You Mine and Hope You Show Me Yours

My post on Saturday was focused on my sister-in-law earning her Bachelor's Degree at the age of gettingprettyclosetoforty.  It got me thinking a lot about the concept of accomplishments ... and, strangely, of bucket lists (things you want to do before you die).

I asked that anyone reading the post share his or her greatest accomplishments and the top five bucket list items.

Only one person actually did this, and that was on Facebook.  I was kind of daunted for a moment until I went to do it myself and realized that it was a hard task I had set forward ... in fact, I wasn't sure I'd be able to do it myself.


Well, because there was the easy route on my greatest accomplishments ... and it would not have been a cop-out, because I truly believe that these three bright, beautiful ladies are my greatest accomplishment.
And the more I thought about it, the more discouraged I got since I didn't seem to have any tangible accomplishments other than my children.

I thought about focusing on how I survived being married to a man who changed into a violent and abusive alcoholic, but that doesn't seem like an accomplishment, per se.

Then I figured that surviving a rape (and the repercussions, which I sometimes think were worse than the rape itself) was kind of a big accomplishment.  However, I realized that I still have a lot of work left to do before I can say "I survived" because I am still reliving that event regularly, so that certainly makes it less of an accomplishment on my part and more sheer luck.

A common theme seemed to be developing, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized that my greatest accomplishment is surviving.  I don't really feel compelled to elaborate on that, and I definitely have to think more about it before I write, but I think that is probably my big accomplishment (other than my girls).

That really is kind of sad ...

I mean, I've written a book (not published yet, and I've accepted that it probably won't be), I've taught hundreds of students, I cook a mean meatloaf, I won some award for excellence my last semester at UNH, but none of those things feel like me ... which doesn't make much sense, does it?

So, yeah, I'm stating my ability to survive tragedies, travesties, and everyday life as my greatest (non-daughter) accomplishment.  And I'm not even sure how good I am at that ... Blaaaaaaaaah.

Onto the bucket list ...

Here are five things I'd like to do before I die:

1.  Write and have published a book about my experiences.  I'm still not sure if I should try to pass it off as fiction or if I should just state for the record that it's a memoir.

2.  Drive across the country, hitting every state along the way, by myself.  I think it would be an educational and esoteric experience, so I would want to be alone to soak it all up.

3. Meet Stephen King and explain to him (in a non-creepy way) the impact that his books, particularly the seven plus Dark Tower books, have had on my life.

4.  Complete a genealogy of all aspects of my family.  I think there might be some very interesting things there, and I'd be curious to see if patterns go back as far as I think they could.

5.    Swim with sharks.

So if you are more articulate than I am, please share your biggest accomplishment and your bucket list in the comments.  I'm very curious to see what everyone wants to do.

Looking forward to reading them!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Studying Abroad: A Parent's Dream ... A Parent's Nightmare

My brilliant and beautiful daughter, Emily, decided to spend the second semester of her sophomore year studying abroad in France.  She is currently on her way home (most recent text was "Wow Heathrow sucks"), and I cannot wait to see her.

Yeah, she's kind of amazing ...

One of her majors (yeah, she's one of those) requires a semester abroad, and since her other major is French, it was only logical for her to go to France.  She has been in Aix-en-Provence since the end of January.

She has also traveled extensively while there, from Krakow to Dublin, from Prague to Paris, and many other places as well.  She has gained an education through the culture and historical sites that I'm sure mattered far more to her than her university classes (Jeff was psyched when she posted a pic of Camus' headstone since it meant she knew who Camus was).

She went to Auschwitz, and it hit her very hard.  I mean, you can read about the Holocaust, but to actually see where these terrible and evil things took place ... shiver.

She's had some of your standard adventures.

For example, she got sick and didn't know how to handle it (she has pretty significant asthma).  I told her there must be doctors in France, but she was just overwhelmed about the process. She figured it out eventually, though.  She sent me this pic and said, "One is an antibiotic and one is an inhaler, but that's ALL I know."

There was some drama with the prepaid credit card her father sent.  And/or her bank card working.  She was having card issues, and it's very hard to help when you're so far away.

Then there's the stuff that you don't really want to know.

The text that says, "So I just swam topless in the Mediterranean."  A disturbing lack of specifics regarding the handsome young man that is in many of her Facebook pics.  The fact that she stayed in a hostel and had bizarre encounters there with a middle-aged man named Peaches.

The fact that alcohol unquestionably fueled much of her time ...

When she sent pics like this, I missed her so much that I cried (evidently peanut butter is a rare commodity in France)

So the bottom line is that Emily had an experience that she will remember for the rest of her life.  I do not know many details, although I cannot wait to spend time Monday hearing stories, looking at pictures, and hugging her a lot.

I am aware, very well aware, that there are some stories I will not hear.  I'm okay with that.  You don't go to a different country as a beautiful 19-year-old and not have some stories.

You know the funny thing?  I think Em and I have gotten closer while she was so far away (and we were pretty close to begin with).

She had a few rough moments that necessitated hourlong text sessions that happened in the middle of the night here, when I was awake nursing Gabby. We would both text if we saw something of interest to each other. We got to FaceTime a bit (but I hate FaceTime because I hate my face, so it was minimal).

Bottom line? This was an amazing experience for Emily, and a humbling one for me as I realize that my little baby girl is really and truly grown up.  She can navigate foreign countries ... does that mean that I can nag her for leaving half-empty cups all over the house?

If you are reading this, Cookie (and I know you usually do), please don't tell me the things I don't need to know (I'm pretty sure they can't be worse than what my imagination has created), but please know that I am so looking forward to hearing about your adventures.

Oh, and it's true that absence makes the heart grow fonder.  

Sunday Stealing: Random Twenty

I've missed Sunday Stealing :-)  It's a lot of fun to know that there's a weekly random meme in your future, so feel free to join in.  You answer the questions for yourself, then you link your post so others can see.  Great way to connect with people, and quite entertaining.

1. Last time you had butterflies in your stomach? 
Thursday.  I got some pretty frightening news from the doctor.
2. What was your last alcoholic beverage? 
I had a couple of Leinenkugel's Summer Shandys (Shandies?  What the hell is the plural of a Shandy) last week.  Based on the aforementioned frightening news from the doctor, I suspect that will be the last time I'll sip a shandy.
3. Who can you trust?
Truthfully, I don't trust anybody.  My sister comes closest.
4. Where was your first kiss with your current significant other? 
The parking lot at The Holy Grail, this fantastic restaurant that used to be a church.  You sit in converted pews and throw back Guinness.  It's pretty epic.
5. Favorite Band?
Simon and Garfunkel.
6. What is something you've learned about yourself recently? 
I've learned that a lot of people care about me.  That's a pretty cool realization to have :-)
7. Do you like anyone?
Do I LIKE anyone?  I like a lot of people.  In terms of the middle school vernacular  of "liking someone", I like Jeff.  And Ben Affleck.
8. Do you know anyone who is engaged? 
Yup, several people.  
9. What's your favorite number?

8. No clue why, I just like it.
10. Who was the last person to make you cry?
Myself (to wit, my liver)
11. Did you ever go to camp as a kid? 
I went to day camp, which was Camp Sun and Fun in the city I grew up in.  I actually have some really great memories.  
12. When was the last time you cried? 
Yesterday.  I really hate my liver.

13. What is one thing you miss about your past? 
I miss my stepdad terribly, and my grandfather as well.  I guess I miss the innocence I used to have.  Until fairly recently, I thought that people in general cared about others and would try to help if they could.  I've discovered, to my distress, that just because I feel this way doesn't mean it's common.  
14. What is one thing you've learned about life? 
If you don't have a sense of humor, you might as well just throw in the towel.
15. Are you jealous of anyone? 
Not really.  I'm jealous of the situations a lot of people are in, but not any one person.
16. Is anyone jealous of you?
If they are, they should go to the ER as soon as possible to be evaluated.  
17. Has a friend ever used you?
I'm sure.

18. Has anyone recently told you that they like you more than as a friend?
Believe it or not, yes.  Someone I know through my husband, no less ...  I have an odd life.
19. Who was the last person you drove with? 
Ari and The Gabs.
20. What are you looking forward to?
I'm looking forward to seeing my dad later today, I'm looking forward to eating a Milky Way candy bar at some point today, I'm looking forward to Ari coming home (she slept at a friend's house last night), I'm looking forward to Dunkin' Donuts having pumpkin coffee again ... hmmm, guess that's about it for now.

Are Minorities Discouraged from Taking Upper-Level Classes?: The Elephant in the Room

As a public school teacher for sixteen years, I sometimes feel like I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen Standards come and go (and despite the brou...