WARNING

WARNING: This post will contain ridiculous amounts of profanity. I apologize in advance if I offend. I try to avoid it, but sometimes the Hillbilly Redneck falls right out my mouth.


Yesterday, my husband told me my friend from the past tried to contact him on Facebook. Can I just say, “Leave me and my family the FUCK alone. Please.”

What?? I said please.

A little history:

I grew up with a girl from my hometown. She was popular, funny and so very sweet. She had a natural charisma and sharp sense of humor. Everyone liked B. She was welcoming, nice, open. I met B on the bus in Kindergarten. I fell in friendship love from the first morning on the first day. I’ve known B since the age of 5. Our birthdays were only 1 month and some odd days apart. I didn’t know it at the time, but we were going to be closer than sisters. Any sister I ever knew.

B had a strange, rare ability to make fun of herself, laugh at her mistakes and put herself in such a vulnerable position that just about everyone could not resist the B Show. Lunch buddy status with B was highly coveted. Sleepovers were even more exclusive. B was the shit.

During the middle of 5th grade, B left. She moved to the next town and I was heartbroken. I was lost. I was so sad. But we vowed to keep in touch. Several girls did. But I may have been the only one to actually write fanatically.

People asked me about B. How is she? What’s she doing? I seemed to be the only one staying in touch. I had a friendship leg up with B. We were destined to be friends, but I didn’t understand it, this attraction to specifically her, or even expect it. But I truly hoped for it. To be and remain her best friend.

B and I had a few sleepovers after she moved, but then she moved, not just a town away, but an entire state. We kept in touch, wrote consistently and one day, I got the good news. B’s coming back!

Expecting B’s arrival and to see her again was the most exciting anticipation I had experienced to that point. The waiting seemed to go on. She said she would let me know when they had settled and I was welcome. It really was like having a boyfriend. A long-lost lover. She was only ever my friend, but I cared about her more than any other human being except my mother. When you’re a girl, before sex, your best friend is your soulmate.


What’s better than a soulmate?
Someone to talk about your soulmate with. 🙂


She finally wrote to let me know the date. As soon as she got her phone number, she let me know her digits. I still remember the number. 816-(555)-4356. I remember the prefix, but I replaced with those fake Hollywood numbers so as NOT to disturb the current phone owners of 4356. 🙂 I remember it because I blew that number up. Daily. For years. It was my suicide hotline, my Phone-a-friend. My whole, stinking life was on the other end of that ring.

I hung out at their house so often to escape my own that I seriously irritated their mother. B’s mom was sometimes fussy and sometimes cruel. She had a hot temper at times, sometimes was physically violent, but her husband was away so much on business and the girls constantly had friends over.

I would beg to come over just to be a part of their dynamic. Good food, lots of laughs and a beautifully comfortable home. The mother being grumpy or even irate at times was just a small price to pay to be near B. I was used to it. My own house was even more chaotic. Just being at B’s house was fun. We didn’t have to do much to have a good time.

We played and sang in the yard. We made up games. We rode bikes, laid in the cool of the basement, primped in the bathroom. Drank soda. Unintentionally spit-laughed said soda through our noses on bed sheets. We were entranced by MTV and Atari. Entranced by waving, summer-breeze curtains and tired, old bed quilts. We swam in the neighbor’s pool. Swung on the back porch. We told the worst jokes. AND I witnessed the most heinous bathroom toilet adventures ever produced by two girls.

We went to college together. We went to bars together. I went to all of her theatre and music shows every weekend she was starring, singing, or just appearing. We did stupid, stupid stuff together. And then she did the stupidest thing of all. She got married.

It was like losing her all over again. Just like 5th grade. Keep in touch! We’ll hang out.

Except. It was never the same. Hanging out always included New Husband or talking about New Husband. Makes sense. But during that time, I turned to S. Her sister.

We were both still single. Both irritated with her husband choice. Both overweight. And we shared the same history. Wanting to be with B and being left by her. We were the jilted standbys who turned to each other for comfort. AND we didn’t have to learn a new friendship. I was already part of their family. We knew all the dirt, all the names, all the connections, all the jokes. And S was so like B that it was basically the same. A comforting substitute for Best Friend as my BFF made a new relationship.

As we all grew, we matured in different ways. I was always more intellectual than the sisters. Even by their own admission. I liked nerdy things. Books. Philosophy. School. Poetry. High-minded thinking. Art. We shared a love of theatre, music and crude humor. But the small differences started to grow when I got older: needed a job, was unsatisfied with small town life, wanted something more than just the next Tom-Dick-Harry for a partner. I was lost.

In some ways, one’s friends are okay with a person being lost because that’s who they fell in like with. Plus, any friend’s failure is a reassuring reminder of our own success. We can feel sympathy and relief all in the same emotional experience. A reassurance that we won’t be left behind. Left in the dust. Or surpassed.

One thinks of a friend as Savior. Finder of lost souls. But at some point I realized–the sisters are just junk collectors of broken people.

There’s nothing wrong with that. Except. Junk don’t work right. And junk has no value.

I had no value.

I was doing really screwed-up things to myself because I didn’t have value. I didn’t even assign value to myself. If I did, it was very little.

Why do I matter, what does anything matter, if I have no value?

I eventually broke from my toxic relationship with Little Sister. She was competitive, jealous and manipulative. She would say the same about me. WE were a toxic cocktail. Both of us. Our relationship, in part, was founded on neediness. Not a good start.

She was an attention whore. She was a liar. Thief. Cheater. She fucked around with a guy I liked and was jealous when I did the same. We broke up. Later, we gentled up to each other again after a 9-month break. She talked shit about another friend who engaged in the very same behavior that broke us up. I glossed over her hypocrisy at the time because we were trying to mend fences. She had toxic relationships all over the place. I was just one of them.

She monopolized my time and resources. She made big promises, but always let me down emotionally. I devoted my life to these sisters and they rarely showed up for me in the important things. After I married and had a child of my own, I just did not have the same energy to devote to this needy relationship. She gossiped constantly and talked trash about everyone. Everyone. I eventually realized, “If she’s talking trash about her family and every single friend to me, what does she say about my life to everyone else??”

Sobering thought.

But the final straw was almost 3 years ago. I had drifted in and out of the sisters lives. We had taken breaks before. But as of late, we were right back to besties. All of us. Sisters, new women, me. The sisters brought us all together. A hodgepodge of ladies from all walks. It was a great sisterhood of several women. Or so I thought.

I was in a play. I invited my friends to come see me in the show. It was important to me. It was a highly dramatic show and I had a really good part. It was some of the best acting I’ve done as an adult. It meant so much to me. I told them so. I had recently had cancer, thyroid surgery, just got my voice back and wanted to celebrate this moment with these women. Not one person came.

These aren’t my friends.

After all the BULLSHIT that I showed up for?? And you can’t come to the one thing I ask you to?? FUCK YOU!

YOU ARE NOT MY FRIEND!

And even as I write that, I still care. I care so much that when I found out Little Sister was sick and her husband lost his job/insurance, I gave to her medical fund. I gave anonymously online and wrote a small note of explanation to B, her sister, (fund manager) in private. I care. I don’t wish ill will. I actually want the best for her. I want her life to change. I want her to be honest. Stand up. Get better. Get physically well. Stop manipulating others. Stop talking shit about everyone because you feel horrible inside. But.

Just leave me alone. I can’t help you, Friend. I really tried.

I’m the best thing that will have ever happened to you if you don’t get better.

I have value. I value myself enough to know I can’t fix broken. I have to help myself. Good luck to you. You can’t have any more of my short time on this planet. Sorry. I truly wish you well, wellness, wealth. Without me.


She contacted my husband to tell me after 1 year thank you for the money and that a friend of a friend (someone I met and talked to only a handful of times, perhaps a total of an hour or more) that his son died. Also sorry. But I’m so far gone from Hometown USA that it truly doesn’t matter to me at all. I moved a town, a state, a whole world away this time. I wish it mattered to me. I really do.

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Charity Begins at Home (and with Demi)

I asked a WordPress friend to speak about charity. Here are her thoughts and answers.


Demi, known as The Lupie Momma on WordPress, is turning 27 this year. She is not disappointed about getting older, she’s planning a huge 30th birthday celebration. (Get it, girl!) But she is a little sentimental about her daughter growing up so fast. Demi has a sweet, little girl who is almost 4. Demi is a wife and mother by day, working gal by night.

She’s dabbled at blogging for a few years on a few sites, but recently she decided to finish her novel. While struggling with Lupus (autoimmune disorder), she’s been working hard on this memoir. Demi is right and brave when she says “…life is too short not to go after everything.”
What do you do to volunteer or donate?
I’ve always given my clothes that are in good shape, that I’ve outgrown, to people I think can use them. Now that I have a fast growing toddler, I have started giving her old clothes and toys to other families. We have been fortunate enough to be able to afford these things, but we realize that some people aren’t as lucky.


Demi told me more about her personal giving.
They have a friend, Brandon (name changed for privacy). He’s a single dad of triplets. The mother is not involved on a regular basis. Brandon has to provide for 3 children. On his own. Demi knows how expensive one growing child can be. So. She started helping in any way she could. Brandon’s children are just 6 months younger than Demi’s girl. 2 of the triplets are girls. So Brandon is fixed for “hand-me-downs”. Brandon is truly grateful for the regular supply of girl’s clothing that Demi gives every change of the season.
Right before Christmas, Demi was preparing for the incoming onslaught of new toys for baby girl. They found an unused toddler bed and chair. She messaged Brandon right away. A few days later, Brandon posted about bills and presents; how hard it would be to provide this year. Demi had thought about buying a few small gifts, but after the post, Demi’s husband went full-on Santa. Gender-neutral toys that all the kids would enjoy. Delivered to Brandon’s house just in time for Christmas Eve. They didn’t say a word, leave a note or want any attention for doing so. They did unto others as they would want for themselves. Unfortunately, Amazon shipping included the husband’s email and Brandon figured it out. Needless to say, he was very thankful.


Why do you volunteer or donate?

We donate to help those in need because we would hope someone would help us if the shoe was on the other foot. Whether it’s to Brandon and his kids or hurricane relief somewhere else. (The state of Florida thanks you, Demi!!)
How do you feel when you give?
It’s a good feeling. Sometimes I feel guilty that I couldn’t do more, but my husband reminds me that its better I do a little than nothing at all. (I agree with your husband! If we all do some, we can do it all. <—Has someone already said that? If not, it’s so true!)

If we all do some, we can do it all!


Are you Christian or other religious affiliation? Do you give for a specific reason?

We’re Christians, but not the “we think we’re holier than others” type. We aren’t going to spit out scriptures at you or chaste you for not going to church.
No specific reason we do–except for the Lupus Foundation as that is a close charity that I personally benefit from.
I don’t know if I was necessarily taught to donate or volunteer, I just think my mother instilled in us from a young age to help others when we can. I remember being out to eat as a kid and my mom giving me a few dollars to give to the homeless man sitting a few tables away. Since then, I’ve just always kind of done it. Giving money to a random homeless man, or buying them a meal, giving my clothes to someone who could benefit from them. And now that I’m a mother myself, I want to instill that in my daughter. That not everyone is as fortunate as we are, and that it’s good to help others when you can.
How do your kids feel about your helping?
I’m not really sure she fully grasps the concept yet. She’s only three. Occasionally when we’re packing up stuff she hasn’t played with for months, we get the “That’s my toy!” but we explain that you know you haven’t played with it in a while, and there is someone else who would enjoy it. After a few pouts, she usually just drops the subject, goes and plays with something else. Explaining the Santa to Seniors, and why we were getting gifts for “old people who weren’t grandma or grandpa” was a bit tricky. But she picked out the names of the women we got, ‘all E’s because her name starts with E’ and picked out the bags to put their stuff in, she even threw in some hot chocolate packets for them. I hope that as she gets older, she’ll admire us for it. And continue to do it as she grows up.


While Demi regularly donates old clothes and toys, she was moved to go above and beyond this holiday season. She said, “…it felt nice buying gifts for other people that probably actually deserve the gifts.” Every year, people feel burdened in buying gifts for extended family members as an act of obligation. Holiday gift exchange can feel like a pressure cooker of negativity and resentment, boiling over by Christmas. And at the end of it all you may, like Demi, wish you had helped someone who actually needed (not wanted) something.
Demi left me with this thought from John Bunyan:

You have not lived today
until you have done something for someone
who can never repay you.


Let us know how the book is coming, Demi. I can post a link in an update. Thanks for sharing!

Please consider donating to the Lupus Foundation or to Demi’s personal fundraising goal.

Magical

Our anniversary was yesterday! Best anniversary so far, here on the beautiful Gulf. Here’s a repost of a previous article.


Here’s our wedding video! No one has seen this before except for my mom. I think. Plus, a journal entry that I wrote a coupla years ago about our marriage.

WATCH!WATCH!WATCH! Wedding of Guy C. Maggio and Martha C. King

January 1, 1999. I am sitting on a bench outside Bally Casino’s Celebration Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas, NV. We just rode the monorail over to Bally’s from MGM Grand (where we’re staying) and proceeded to pump $120 into a slot machine to be rewarded by $100 payout of quarters. $20 for an hour’s worth of fun. That is Vegas; bright lights and manufactured fun, where paying a slot machine for your brief entertainment is completely logical and intentional. I don’t mind because the excitement and experience is welcome. This time is about fun. Or at least the appearance of fun. I’m 25 and have left the state of Missouri only a handful of times.
Guy and I are dressed in our wedding clothes and patiently waiting to be married. The entrance to the chapel looks like any storefront at any mall. We could just as well be
at a Gap. And I love that. What appear to be teenagers walk by and point and smile.
Are they getting married?
Aw.
That’s so cool.
Guy and I look at each other and laugh. We ARE getting married. We must be eager because we arrived at the chapel over an hour early. We didn’t want to be late. We flew from KC, stayed up most of the night and primped for hours to be ready for this special moment.
We are alone. No relatives, no photographers, no wedding planners, just us two. We both accept that our lives will be dedicated to each other, not to 200 onlookers and well-wishers. Our marriage will be the two of us relying on each other, so our ceremony should reflect that. Also, my mother was not getting on a plane and we couldn’t afford to fly our friends to Vegas.
Vegas was a grand adventure as we hoped our marriage would be. They are ready for us. I think we have a short rehearsal and explanation of the ceremony, but I honestly
don’t remember. I am whisked away to a small room with a large mirror. It could be the backstage lighted mirrored make-up table in any theatre. And I love that.
I was given my bouquet and briefed on my entrance. I sat for a few moments trying to focus on the reason for all the preparation, but my efforts to center myself were elusive. I want to cry, I’m overwhelmed by emotion, but I do not want to mess up my makeup! At best, I can simply enjoy what is happening to me and remember, I love this man.
They come for me, tell me everything is ready and I follow their directions. I am walking down the aisle. They are taking pictures. They are filming. I am smiling. I am following my Guy. If I could run gracefully, I would, right down to the alter and spike the bouquet! I take my place and brace for the fun.
Our minister surprises me. He is well-spoken, gentle, meaningful, but quick. He talks about values and ideals of marriage and reminds me of the commitment I am making. He speaks generically about love and commitment, but even 15 years later the words ring true and his voice renews our vows as I hear it again on tape. God knew what we needed to hear and knew what we were promising to each other, even if we didn’t fully understand ourselves. Guy sweetly and eloquently makes his vow and I sniffle and whimper mine to him. I mean, seriously, I shoulda brought a hankie. What was I thinking.
We pray together. For the first time. Then it’s over. So fast. Kisses. Pictures. Exit stage left.
I am happy, but I am completely terrified. We ride the blinding-white monorail back to MGM and we are quiet. I have a fistful of flowers and I’m dressed in a smart-white suit. I try not to make eye contact with other passengers. I don’t want the attention of inquisitive ride-sharers. We should have taken a taxi perhaps.
We make it back to MGM without many questions and we race up to our suite. This is the time of my life and I hope that I have made it through the tragic parts of my childhood. I hope that this is my magical ending. But it’s only the beginning.
15 ( 19 now! 😀 ) years of marriage to the only person I have ever loved. It has not been magical, it has been rough. Mainly because I am a demanding neurotic with deep vulnerability coupled with a terribly wounded pride and ego and the fragility of a snowflake. I have just been recently diagnosed with PTSD. I’ve been sick the last 10 years. I should say it has been magical though.
I was anticipating a romp through the magical forest of love on fat horses with flowery braided tails. But what I am given, what I so undeservedly receive, is the magic of love to bind my wounds, heal past hurts and strengthen my weaknesses. To love through the worst and hope for the best. Real, mature love that lasts for a lifetime. Love on an epic scale. Love that conquers all, including my insurmountable pride. Love that wipes the sweaty brow of insecurity and illness and makes everything all right.
And I love that!

Kathryn, Rachel, Irma & Torrence

This will be the fourth in a series of 5 short articles.
Irma blew through on September 10, 2017, the eye-30 miles east of our location.
We met Torrence just 1 day before Irma.

Previous articles:
Kathryn
Rachel
Irma

Torrence-#4


Torrence is tall. Intimidating. Large build. Emotionless face. Stone-cold stoic. Big guy. His face is like a smooth rock with dark gems shining from behind his modern frames. He is Navajo.

His voice, though. His voice. Soothing. Simple. Soft. Un-panicked. Unhurried. Reassuring. Masculine and strong, but sweet as a baby’s breath on your cheek. Ten thousand harps plucked at once. I’m sure Torrence has been trained to speak this way, but if you’re an angel, it probably comes naturally. Torrence was our voluntary angel.

We met Torrence during Irma. Sitting on a tile floor in a school cafeteria, staring up at towering Torrence. I felt like a scared, little kid. Looking for hope. Terrified that my apartment (just a town away) and all the tiny scraps of my life were about to blow away. Or drown. Or even worse, my life and the lives of my husband and daughter were in immediate danger from the impending storm. No one knew how bad Irma would be, but the weathermen all guessed (for days) it would be the worst storm in this century.

Torrence, however, gave us peace, information and cookies. 🙂 Cookies do help make a person feel normal somehow. Thank you, Cookies. But really, thank you, Torrence.

Torrence wore his Red Cross vest, cargo pants, sturdy boots and an invisible pair of wings. He took care of everyone around him. Without sleep. Without comforts.

While we all lounged around on the floor, trying not to complain about school lunch, hard surfaces or sharing bathrooms with 2,000 people, Torrence attended his flock. He would make his rounds with pertinent information, handing out treats and tranquility.

Torrence spoke so frequently with our family that I began to feel bad. Unworthy of such care. Our cafeteria floor neighbor even remarked at his attention.

“Do you know that guy?” she asked.

“No. We just met him. He’s Red Cross. He’s just nice.”

Torrence embodied Christ. All of my childhood and adult education about Jesus and his intention were summed up in Torrence’s actions. Christians all talk about being more Christ-like, but Torrence is doing it.

He’s calm. He’s caring. He puts others first. He had a pregnant wife at home and he’s 1,000 miles away helping strangers in a dangerous situation. When other people are leaving the state entirely, Torrence is rushing toward the storm. Thank you, Torrence. Thank you for your time, your dedication, your sacrifice and your skills. But most of all, thank you for your gracious care and protection. You were there in case things got crazy. I’m sure we didn’t see the full potential of your capability, but I’m so thankful to have met you.

When you meet someone who acts the way you want people to act, how you aspire to be? It’s a good feeling. It’s meaningful. It’s important.


From the first moment I met Torrence, I couldn’t shake the feeling that he looked exactly like my German grandmother, Kathryn. I mentioned it to my husband. He just looked at me like, “Huh?”

They look nothing alike. He’s a tall dude. She was a short white lady with blue eyes. He’s nice. She was a hard-edged crone. But I had this ethereal, wispy connection to her spirit through his rugged features. I don’t know why. I just don’t. But she was there in his face. Strange how we connect the dots.

And as I thought more about his face, he reminded me of my friend Rachel from high school. But in my mind, she’s a petite African-American teenager. Torrence is in no way feminine. But these two women from my life are there in his face.

All completely different. All there together. What does it mean?

Kathryn, Rachel, Irma & Torrence

This will be the second in a series of 5 short articles.
Rachel was one of my closest friends in high school.
When we were seniors, she was probably my best friend.

Here’s the first article, if you missed it. Kathryn

Rachel-#2


Rachel is short. Really short. I’m very tall for a girl. We are friends. We are oddballs. In every possible way. I’m overweight. She wears glasses. I have a two-tone mullet (okay, maybe I was the oddestball). But we both like Duran Duran in a small town where Country is king.

Rachel has an athletic build and powerful legs. Small face and, impossibly, the same metallic eyes as my grandmother. It might be the glasses, it might be the hardened edge against a chaotic life. It might be the soulful stare of a mind that’s lived ten thousand lives before this moment. It might be she’s a guardian angel or ancient shaman and no one, not even her, knows it.

It is worth noting that Rachel is the only African-American girl in a Midwest farm town. Not because she’s different, but because it’s the late 80s and the middle of the country. We are only 30 miles east of Kansas City, but we might as well be in the Ozarks. We grow up with red necks and racists. Bigots and brutes. Ignorant sons of bitches who say mean things, do mean things. Inherited thoughts from an even more unenlightened generation of drunks and dullards. Alcoholics give birth to alcoholics. Idiots give birth to idiots. Mean people give birth to mean people. Ignorance begets hatred. Not always, but a lot. Not everyone in this small town is a bigot. But a lot.

I remember meeting Rachel’s mom. She was so funny. One of the nicest moms I ever met. She started telling me about the bias they encountered. Over and over. Walking into the local bingo parlor and every white face whipped to see who just opened the door. (They probably would have done the same to any outsider, honestly. The bingo crowd was a small enclave of smoker gamblers. Hell, I was shot some looks in the bingo parlor for talking over the number call. But I’m sure it didn’t help that they were black.)

“Do I have chocolate pie all over my face??” she quipped. I died laughing. So did Rachel. No one had ever been so open and direct with me. That’s the kind of mom I want to be. Drop-dead honest and funny.

Rachel was smart. Whip smart. Just like her mother. She was clever, full of jokes and laughter, and worldly. She knew and cared about the things that I loved. Or the things I didn’t know I loved until I met those things.

She let me borrow her Rich Hall Sniglets compilation and I almost lost the book in study hall when I burst out laughing at one of the entries. The Sniglet in which Hall (et al) describes someone sharpening their pencil. Specifically, the movement and perfect synchronization of the Sharpener’s butt to their hand as they crank the tiny handle. (Can’t find the actual entry, so I forget the word. 😦 Ack! Please comment if you remember!)

I believe I spit all over myself and almost peed my pants in a totally silent room. I nearly lost all bodily fluids and control. I shook violently at the stifling. My face contorted. Flushed with blood. Anyone who couldn’t see what I was holding might have thought I was having a seizure. I was definitely shot a look from the study hall teacher attendant, much like those bingo hall side-eyes. Although, this look had also a small touch of concern for my well-being. I was embarrassed and hysterical all at the same moment.

Rachel always knew about the coolest thing. She was the coolest person I knew. She changed my idea of people. She stood everything I knew on its head. She taught me to be confident in the face of fear. She taught me to be fierce. Loyal. Brave. Nice to those who weren’t. Assertive to those who required it. And honest. Even when it’s difficult or embarrassing. Not by lecturing me, but by example.

She taught me I could be myself without having to apologize for it. She accepted me. I accepted her. For whatever we were.

I don’t know how I made it out of that one-song town. I don’t know how I had a black friend.

My dad was an alcoholic, a racist. Not always bright and definitely crazy. He would come home and complain about the n****** at work. He said he even stabbed a black man at work one day with a screwdriver. I don’t know if that’s true? He said a lot of crazy things.

He said the man attacked him first. He had a stab wound in his leg to prove it. (That could have been from anything! By his own hand even.) I was personally ill and deeply concerned by the description, but you just didn’t question the man. It is humiliating to even hear this story, relay this story or be related to someone capable of this act. To know someone who is willing to hurt another human being physically. It’s disgusting to me. It is humbling and worrisome to be powerless in changing your life, the life of your loved ones or the world. You would think my father would lose his job if that actually happened. But in this culture? I don’t know now.  I do know this: my dad was completely capable of stabbing anyone and the meanest human I personally knew.

And Rachel was the nicest. I’m glad I had Rachel. She changed me. She taught me something my dad couldn’t. Or wouldn’t. Embracing something or someone different than what I grew up to know wasn’t difficult. If all you know is pain? The first person or opportunity that looks like something other than pain is welcome. Appreciated. Loved.

We understood each other. I was understood for the first time by a smart person. For the first time I loved someone different. If I did nothing else for anyone ever? I at least did not carry forward the burning torch of racism for myself or my daughter. And I’ll never forget Rachel’s eyes.

Kathryn, Rachel, Irma & Torrence

This will be the first in a series of 5 short articles.
Kathryn is my grandmother.
Above–her home in the 40s. She kept chickens out back.

Kathryn-#1


She washes people’s clothes for money. She is a woman who works hard and seldom rests. She does not tolerate humor or fuss. About kidding around, “There’s a little bit of truth in every joke.” Meaning: jokes are hurtful. Barbed jabs meant to demean and humiliate. Laughter is a luxury. Feelings are downright obscene.

She is a force of will.

Grandma’s hair is yellowish white, faded from stress, time and negativity. She keeps it tight in a bun and hairnet. Her face is just as faded. Her beauty quickly spent on marriage, children and hard times.

She always wears a dress. Not a fancy frock, but a well-worn print. The only days she didn’t wear a dress were those spent in a factory during WW2.

She wears sensible shoes. Always. Black leather with a low heel. The kind that deform feet into fleshy, pink lobster claws.

She has a large, round nose and large, droopy Buddha-like lobes. Those ears have heard ten thousand centuries. Those earlobes were made for clip earrings. She has ten thousand clip earrings. Never wears them.

Hard, metallic eyes that saw her father’s mistreatment of her mother. Those dark beads saw his fortune taken away as well. She saw her comfortable childhood home revoked and replaced by a dirt-floor shed.

There’s a picture of her when she was 5. Small. Golden. Tiny, pursed lips. Serious. Head cocked. Like a dog listening to a child practice the clarinet. Droopy earlobe kissing the receiver of an old-fashioned candlestick phone. Impossible. I only knew her as a crinkled crank in her 80s.

A very handsome young girl. She marries in her teens. Only to quickly lose her husband’s farm to the tax collector. She rears 3 children through the Depression, Dust Bowl and war. She raises and kills chickens with her hands. She milks the cow (the one they could keep from the lost farm). She sews. She cleans (not well). She cooks.

She hardens; she resolves. She is determined to forbid fate from having its destructive way.

She works hard because she doesn’t know anything else. She works hard because she learned that you can’t rely on anyone except God and yourself.  She works hard because that is her pathway to happiness.

She works hard because everyone is counting on her.

If I stop moving, I’ll die.

These are her lonely, driven thoughts. She is an ever-swimming, scarred-up shark who’s tired of the feeding frenzy and bloodbath.

She dies from heart failure.

Christmas is Temporary

From 2014:

Christmas is fleeting. All year long, we wait in anticipation of the holidays and then we complain the whole time. It’s too crowded, cold, busy, expensive, gluttonous, hurried. I didn’t get what I wanted. I gave everyone a present and now I’m broke and alone.

The spirit. The spirit of the holidays. The joy of Christmas. What is it? Is it lights? Is it cocoa? Is it candy, presents, cookies? Is it the promise and hope of magic? But it never comes. We wait all year and it never comes. And then the lights fade and the tinsel is taken down.

Christmas is temporary.

But it’s not. What is it we are waiting for? What is it that we miss every year and chase after time and again? It’s Christ. That’s what we are really looking for and we’re looking in the wrong places. Is it in this tin of cookies? Is it in this neatly-wrapped box? Is it at the bottom of my second cup of cocoa? Is it at my 2nd, 3rd, 7th Christmas karaoke party?

An entire season is dedicated to what started out as a celebration of giving and hope. Hundreds of years have come and gone, each renewing the tradition of Christmas. But each year some family grows further apart. Each year some person grows more jaded, cynical, greedy and Scrooge-like. Each year our eyes grow more narrow and short-sighted. Each year we try to chase our pleasure, fulfillment and that indescribable magic that only caught us as children because we were bright-eyed and open.

Years ago, at the Blue Ridge Mall, they had a display. I don’t remember now if it was all the time or just at Christmas, but I remember it at Christmas. We were in line for Santa and the line snaked by a huge oil fall. It’s a waterfall except they used oil on strings. It’s like a waterfall in slow motion. It was magical, beautiful and a wondrous summation of the holiday experience for me. I lost myself in the endless strings dripping with glowing, hypnotic oil. I felt warm, silly and excited. I drank in the luxury of it all as I waited for Santa. I don’t remember Santa exactly, but I remember the strings. I wanted to reach out and grab them. But instead I swallowed my fingers and excitement over and over again at simply being near them. At that point, it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I remember Mom and Dad close by. I remember my siblings there too. I remember the sounds of cheerful shoppers as they shuffled by and their muffled packages swaying back and forth in their clasped hands. I remember the soft mall lighting and the quiet aromas of furniture, leather shoes, popcorn, clothing, carpet and mall food. I remember feeling safe, happy, joyful. The mood was love. And everyone felt it.

Now, I’ve begun a tradition with my family. We try to see Longview Lake Lights. We’ve been coming off and on for a few years now. And the best part. They have a field full of trees made from lights. Those are my favorite. They remind me of the oil fall. Delicate pearls of light suspended in the darkness, soft purple and blue, hanging on invisible strings melting into the night. For the last couple of years, it’s the most peaceful and the most child-like capture of innocence and wonder I’ve known. I’m five again. I’m eight again. I’m me before all the bad. I’m in Christmas up to my neck and in love with the world.

I wish I could take that with me. I wish I could visit the lights every night. But I can’t. The lights are even closer now that we live here, but even so, I can’t see them every night. But I can look for Christ. I can look for him every day and celebrate his birth. I don’t have to wait for “the day”. And I can try to capture his joy, his love, his intention, his gift every single moment, all year long. I can look for it as I drive, shop, eat and talk. I don’t have to wait all year and miss it. I can look and find it. I just have to be bright-eyed and open. His love is hanging right in front of our faces on an invisible string of light, dripping down and mesmerizing us with the delicate, graceful fall and we just have to reach out and grab it.

Merry Xmas! Happy Holidays! May you find many joys and love.

Find the Fun

The week of Christmas.

Every year, on the Sunday before Christmas, we gather at my grandmother’s house and celebrate. Celebrate=eating and lazing about.

The house is cold and has funny smells. It’s an old, large house so the smells could be many things: the renters upstairs—smoking cigarettes and cooking on hot plates; the occupants downstairs—natural gas, human gas, perfume, stale cookies in the cookie jar, turkey, deviled eggs, homemade stuffing, unbathed elderly people, dirty children, unwashed crocheted afghans, well-worn rugs, mothballs, fake logs, fake trees, fake food. Even fake has a smell. “Guess the Smell” could have been a fun, family tradition. But it seems that fun was not the focus of these feasts. Kids, though, steal fun whenever they can.

My sister, my nephew (only a few months younger than me) and I ran from room to room, trying to find the fun. If any was to be had. Sometimes, our same-age cousins were there to horse around and magnify any fun-having. We normally played outside, played games, told jokes, made jokes or snooped around the tree room, looking for the presents with our names. I think it’s socks again. Tube socks.

I am sitting across from Cousin Julie. I was asked to sit. Otherwise, I would be swiping food or fun. I don’t know what to say. People think I’m shy, but I just really don’t know what to say. I feel uncomfortable to look at Julie. Not because she is repulsive to me, but because I am scared that I will stare and ask questions.

Julie has spina bifida. That means her spine is open. She was born that way. She has a wheelchair, which is cool. I would like to ride around in it. That seems like it would be fun, but you can’t do that when someone needs it. I want to ask, but I’m not supposed to ask those questions.

“How are you doing?” Julie asks. Julie is beautiful. No one else thinks so, but I do. She has soft, light brown hair, large eyes, large red lips and a sweet, smiling face. I’m not sure if Julie combs her own hair. I don’t know if she is capable of combing her own hair. Her shoulder-length bob is curled and shiny, but looks slightly bygone. Her mother must comb it.

She is so kind. She has on a cozy holiday sweater and plain, stiff skirt. She is slightly overweight, but so am I. She’s so different from my own family. My sister would never ask how I was. But in my mind, I can’t accept Julie. She’s different.

My family does not engage weakness, illness or difference. Julie was rolled into the family room and locked into place. The people who happened by are the only contact she has. There are older people sitting with her, talking to her, but she is not capable of finding the fun. The moments she steals are connection and kindness.
Why is Julie so happy? I am sad for her. Sad that she can’t run, play, hide, snoop. Sad that she only has old people talking at her. I am sad for Julie because I see that people treat her with sympathy. They approach her wheelchair as a casket. I do too because that is what I see. That is what I learn.

I want to play with her. These are my goals. But she doesn’t play. She can’t play. I want to know Julie, but I can’t ask any questions. But Julie is happy. I see it in her smile. She makes me feel cute. I silently squirm, answering questions when asked, until I am released to find the fun again. I want to understand how to discover Julie, but the desire fades as soon as I am freed.

I never know Julie. I never seek her out. She is gone before I graduate high school and her memories and ideas are lost. We lose her to ovarian cancer and her experiences are not shared with me. I love Julie. I am thankful for her tenderness and brief kindness. I understand now why Julie is happy. She is happy to be alive. She was taught to be nice.

Girl

when i was 14 or 15. i can’t remember exactly. but i was with my friend. Girl (i will call her). she was cool. she accepted me for whatever i was and i think she just appreciated me for being nice and understanding. most people looked at her as poor, white trash. or a slut. she was friendly, outgoing and immediately liked by boys. she had a slim figure and a pleasant smile. she knew how to flirt, but probably because she had been sexually abused. she had a boyfriend, and as far as i knew, was never unfaithful to him. he protected her. and she loved him for that.

my sister, my own sister…told me to stay away from Girl. “Why???” I asked. there was only a shoulder shrug and another head shake of no, telling me to stay away from her. funny, i would rather hang out with Girl than my own sister, that’s for sure. and i wasn’t going to take any advice from my sister who had her own questionable relationships with people of ill repute. whatever! can you say whatever and repute together? that sounds stupid, huh?

whatever.

so, Girl and i hung out. those were fun times.

i never knew though. i never knew in all the time that we hung out that she was being abused. i was being abused too. physically. verbally. but i didn’t tell anyone. i guess she was the same.

when i tried to kill myself, she was there for me. she comforted me as much as another teen can. and when she had problems, i tried to be there for her. at least to listen. but there were things that she didn’t tell me. those were the real things that mattered. and she didn’t share them. there was too much shame in what she had to tell me. i might have seen her in a different light. that’s what she feared. but i wouldn’t have. i really wouldn’t have. i would have fiercely protected her, as her boyfriend did. and i would have gotten her the hell out. Boyfriend must have known. and he loved her anyway. something in him loved her brokenness. he had probably seen it before in his own family.

but we did get her the hell out. eventually.

a day like any other day that i got to hang out with Girl, we went to the mall. i think. i can’t remember now. we went somewhere to hang out. mall, movies, something. and then we came home. we went with Boyfriend. someone other than our parents took us because when we came back, we stayed at Boyfriend’s house. hung out, ate snacks, smoked cigarettes (not me), and drank pop. Boyfriend’s mom was not home and that was the holy grail of hangouts. no parents! there was another boy there. someone from school who would never speak to me at school, but was willing to be kind in this environment. it was a fun time. just talking and being cool teenagers. but then things went bad really quickly.

as the evening came and darkness rose, Girl started talking about leaving. leaving and running away from home. i had heard this before from other friends, so i figured it was because her mother did not approve of Boyfriend. i didn’t realize it was to escape the abuse. she knew all day that today would be the day that she ran away, but she didn’t let on til now. she started talking about how her stepdad had sexually abused her. she said these things in front of the other boy.

my mind was exploding in anger, shock and repulsion. this is a man that i sat at a breakfast table with, that i was polite to, a man that i respected because he was the head of the house. had i known, i would have told someone, hounded someone, punched this worthless human being in the nose. i was bigger than him at 15 and 5’9″. and he was a puny, little pervert. or i could have just hit him over the head with a frying pan in his sleep. a girl can dream.

or i could have simply stood up for my friend when her mother wouldn’t stop contacting him. i could have NOT encouraged Girl to see and reconcile with her stepdad after he had to leave the house because he was abusing the other girls too. i actually encouraged her to see him. being a Xian and knowing the power of forgiveness, i told her to see her stepdad when he tried to make amends. she really didn’t want to. but i didn’t know about the abuse. NOW i understand! i thought she was just being stubborn. if i had known what he was doing, i would never have told her to see him, speak to him, ever have contact with him.

but i didn’t say a word in Boyfriend’s living room when she told me about the abuse. and when she asked me, “you knew didn’t you?” i just nodded my head yes. i couldn’t speak. why??? why didn’t i scream, “NO! you never told me! how could i know??!” but i nodded yes. that must have broken her heart. because now she thought i was another person who knew and didn’t do anything. but i was too afraid to make her say any more about the abuse. i could tell that she wanted to stop talking about this subject that she brought up. she was simply trying to justify to us and the other boy why she was leaving and why we should help her. no justification needed.

we stopped talking altogether. we started preparing for her to leave. our good time came to a close. we started helping her get things together, we all understood, there was no going back. we were all in. the other boy left.

finally, after talking about a plan and believable lies, we were downstairs and ready to leave. then. there was a knock at the door. Girl panicked. she thought it might be her stepdad looking for her. she was right.

Boyfriend went to the door. to make up another lie about Girl and where she might be. Girl and i hid downstairs in the garage behind a car. she was that scared. she knew if she was discovered, that would mean going back to this hell of a life and not making it out. we hid in silence and i prayed that this horrible man would believe the lie and go away without further incident. i prayed for a lie. that feels weird to type. but he did go away. without further incident.

Girl and Boyfriend got in his truck, i said my goodbyes and they drove away. then i walked down to her house, just 2 houses away. the plan was to tell Stepdad and Mom, Girl ran away. that Girl and another person that wasn’t Boyfriend had dropped me off. that i walked home by myself. that they didn’t tell me where they were going and that i didn’t see where they headed other than out of the neighborhood. half truth, half lie. i lied. to protect her. and they believed me.

i was in tears when i said these words. so the tears made it seem like truth. but i was crying for the whole mess. being in the presence of this monster. looking at him and pretending that i didn’t know what he did. how he touched all the girls. crying because i lied to my mother. she was there when i told Girl’s parents the lie.

Girl and I had been missing for hours and my mother was very worried. i told her the truth later that night, after we left Girl’s house. she didn’t rat us out.

i cried for not knowing. for not protecting my friend. for living a day of lies. i never saw that house again. or those people.

i never saw Girl again. she never came back to school. she made it out. i hope.

Halloween

I know it’s over 2 months away, but I found this old picture from film photography class.

halloween.JPG

And I just love it. Love the contrast and blurry flower urn background.

Here’s a spooky collage for all you costume-wearing, scary-loving weirdos!

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Here’s a weird dream to boot.

I have a recurring dream–(no, not the “I’m in a store and I’m naked and I need clothes, but I don’t have any money” dream)

The house I’m living in is sinking. The foundation is giving way. Everything is all crooked. I’m usually in the kitchen.

The key to fixing the problem, which is usually a floor that is so slanted you cannot stand or walk, is to find a secret room that is desperately in need of repair. (No, I get it. Believe me.)

We tear down the secret room and find out we have all this extra space. (No, really. I get it.)

Don’t think you have to be a therapist to figure this one out. The secret room is in my brain and if I just tear down all the junky old stuff? I can make room for new relationships and new materials and new, safe, secure building blocks for a solid life.

It’s not a nightmare, just gives me this really uneasy feeling, unsettled, anxious, like I have to fix the problem immediately. Having a house where the foundation is crumbling leaves me feeling very nervous, worried.

But I’m tired of living with everything off kilter. :/


Plus. Here’s a ghost story. Spooky! Footsteps on the Stairs

What are you wearing for Halloween?? Got any juicy ghost stories you want to share on my blog? I’ll host your ghost post on my site!