Not Crazy. Much.

Feelings are a very weird thing.  I’ve wondered multiple times in the past if people processed things like I did, as in “do they feel sadness the way I do”.  As we all cry the base emotion must be similar, but people are so wildly different from one another maybe the feeling itself is changed from one person to the next.  I ask the same question about happiness; some people are overly bubbly and exuberant and express happiness by juggling or standing on their heads naked.  Some are stoic and express happiness with a muted smile and a sip of beer.  My question is – does the bubbly person feel happiness the same way as the stoic person?  If you could make it into a solid thing and remove it from person A and person B, would their happiness look exactly the same?  Are the differences not in the emotion itself, but how we express it?

DEEP THOUGHTS MAKE HEEREE SAD

First off, I have no idea if other people think about stuff like this.  This could just be Hillary being overly pensive and thinking she’s a great fucking philosopher after a Xanax and enough Diet Coke to drown a whale.  There’s a point here, though, I swear, and it’s somewhere around the Xanax part of the last sentence.  I, dear readers, am burdened by a case of The Crazy.  No, not the “bury your pets in the backyard and sniff your garbage” crazy, but more like I am diagnosed as depressed and anxious.  For these conditions, I am medicated.

I’ll be honest, when I was first told I needed to be medicated, I balked.  A lot.  I didn’t want to be one of those stereotype women who lived in the suburbs and needed Prozac to make brownies.  I felt – and actually still feel – that our society is far too medicated for its own good.  I think sometimes kids aren’t all ADD, they’re just spoiled and want to play video games instead of doing schoolwork.  I think some parents want to be able to point at something like ADD and say “IT’S NOT MY FAULT HE’S NOT DOING HIS WORK, IT’S THIS CONDITION” and are far too willing to latch onto an excuse and a pill instead of doing their god damned job and telling the kid to shape up.  If that means throwing his XBox 360 out the fucking window to get the point across that school comes first, so be it.

((Side note before I go any further:  yes there are kids out there with the actual condition of ADD or ADHD, and yes those kids need proper treatment.  I don’t for one second believe it’s every other kid in America though.  Screw that noise.))

Anyway, the point being I had a very strong, almost visceral reaction to being told that I could use a little chemical assistance in getting back on my feet.  A little background for those readers not familiar with this author’s history:  I was very close to my grandmother.  She was in a lot of ways a second mother to me.  She died unexpectedly in March of ’08.  I had what would clinically be called An Utter Shitfit after that.

My Crazy May Or May Not Have Involved Tinfoil Hat Cats

My stomach rotted out, I sobbed a lot, and I found I couldn’t cope with anything.  No really, anything, including my job.  I liked what I did at Comcast before I had my meltdown, but after I lost my grandmother, I couldn’t stomach angry customers yelling at me anymore.  I’d freak out, shake, sweat, and go the ladies room fifty times a day to try and fix myself.  It was awful, and it was a totally new, terrifying thing.  Mind you, I’ve always been something of a sensitive basket case and took far too many things to heart, but this was a whole new ballgame.  I’d gone from “over reactive” to a ticking time bomb.

When all of this happened, a friend (some of you know him as Bricu, others know him as That Pretentious Bastard) would talk to me about some of my grief issues, and he’d give me some great pointers on how to cope.  Not too long in he recommended I go talk to a therapist.  It stuck in my craw a little, but I knew he was right.  Looking back I’m note quite sure why I was so against seeing a specialist.  I think it had to do with pride, like “I’m a big girl, I can handle my own shit.”  I had a very definitive idea in my head of A) what therapy would entail and B)  what needing a therapist said about me.  Let’s get it out there now, I was wrong on both accounts.

When I thought about a therapist, the first thing I pictured was a middle aged man in a cardigan sitting back in a business chair with a notebook opened in his lap.  He’d have glasses perched on his nose, and an expensive pen.  Maybe he’d have a manila folder with my name printed along the edge.  He’d have a big dark office with painted pictures of craggy old men on the wall.  There’d be a lot of leather bound books with gilt letters on the side.  And then, of course, there’d be the standard leather couch or divan I’d be expected to sprawl in.  In my imaginary therapist world, he’d ask me questions about my formative years, ignoring the problems at hand, and eventually convince me that the reason I was coping so badly with EVERYTHING EVER was that someone stole my peanut butter and jelly sandwich at lunch when I was six and all of my problems stemmed from a shitty childhood.

No shit, this is what I thought. Why?  Probably because I’ve watched too many movies.

Imagine my surprise when my therapist’s office had plain white walls, a comfortable chair in the corner, a vase of flowers, and a really pretty thirty something year old woman waiting for me.  She had crayon pictures everywhere – some from her own kids, some from her kid clients – and there was a set of the “Five stages of grief” done on paper plates with Cheerios.  Instead of diving into my childhood and telling me that some uncle I forgot existed touched my no-no parts and I’m a repressed molestation case, she talked to me about Stuff.  Random stuff, anything, bullshit stuff.   What I liked to do, why I was there, what I hoped to accomplish not only with therapy, but with my life.  Any anxiety I had about going into that office was gone after one session, because she talked to me like I was having a conversation at dinner with a friend and not like a therapist to a patient.  She got to know me.

When she told me a few sessions in that she thought I should consider medication, I told her why I didn’t want to do it.  I even think I brought up the aforementioned pride bit, like “I shouldn’t NEED this, I’m stronger than this, this is a crutch.”  She patiently explained to me that medication is not something that people should consider a lifelong commitment.  In some cases that’s necessary, but a great deal of therapy patients do this to help them get back onto their feet until they can establish good behavioral coping mechanisms outside of the pills.  It wasn’t so much a crutch, she said, as something to help me get by while I go about addressing my stress and depression triggers.  Phrased like that, the pills didn’t seem like such an evil entity to me anymore.  Was I thrilled about them?  No, of course not.  But I knew I was in a bad place, I knew I needed help, and so I relented.

That was a little over a year ago now.  When I started my journey with this whole “mental patient stint”, I threw up constantly because of panic attacks, I cried, I stayed in dark rooms and didn’t let myself go outside, I swung between insomnia and sleeping eighteen hours a day with no happy medium.  Now, though, I no longer throw up.  I don’t sleep all day, or not sleep at night.  I’m on half the dosage of Prozac I was on before, and I only take Xanax on an as-need basis.  I’m looking at going back to work on a regular basis, and I hope to be able to nix the pills entirely by the end of the year.  Do I have all of my coping mechanisms figured out?  Fuck no, but I’m getting there.  Surprise, surprise, writing helps me deal with things.  So does /getting out of the house/ despite the fact that the prospect of leaving my Safe Zone is scary as hell.

I’m not cured, but I’m better, I’m leagues better.  It’s all I could have asked for.

Now back to the original paragraph, and to the point I’m trying to make here.  I know that how people handle things is different.  I know that my stress triggers will not be the stress triggers of everyone else around me.  I even know that some things that make me look like this:

AH MA GAWD

Would be blown off by most other people.  Does that make me or anyone else seeing a therapist for anxiety and depression “broken”?  Nah.  It just means we’re at a point in our lives that we need to Figure Shit Out and have gone to the professionals for help.   It’s no different than seeing a podiatrist for a foot problem, really.

I think the reason I wrote this in the first place is I hope someone can look at my own personal experiences and learn from my pitfalls.  I hope if you feel like you need help you don’t go through a shame cycle about it like I did, and I certainly hope you don’t think meds are THE ANTI-OKAY.  No, they’re not for everyone, but taking them is not necessarily a sign of weakness or ineptitude as a human being.  This post wasn’t meant to make anyone uncomfortable (yes, I understand it’s of a personal nature) but as someone who sees the written word as a powerful medium, if one person takes something positive away from this, it was worth sharing the experience.

And if you are a person dealing with any of these issues?  Take it from someone who knows:  it gets better if you do the diligence.  Hang in there.  It’s worth it.

The High School Ho-Hums.

I think my brain works funny.  Anyone turning on a TV, radio, or computer knows the media is having a field day with the BULLYING IN HIGH SCHOOL cause.  It’s everywhere, with stories of kids who’ve been bullied until they committed suicide, or tales of the underdog student speaking out against his tormentors.  On one hand, I’m thrilled to see people taking note of what I see as a very real problem in our schools today.  On the other hand I have to ask where the HELL were you when I was in school, Media.

Now, let me state up front I do not consider myself a bullied kid.  I was made fun of for a bevy of reasons, some of which I will relate later, but not really bullied.  I honestly can’t say why I escaped most of it.  It may have been that I had enough “Cool Kid Friends”,  it may have been that most of it was done behind my back and I just didn’t have to deal with it (my guess), it may have been because somewhere along the line I said something funny or clever and it got me excused from the “To Torture” list.  Whatever the case, I’m thankful it didn’t go any further than it did, because to this day?  I still look back at high school and cringe.  It wasn’t a fun place to be.

From where I sit (and sat), those who say high school is/was the best time of their lives are/were a combination of the following personality traits:

  • Good looking & Thin
  • Athletic
  • The “friend” of an A-lister
  • The funny guy
  • The booze/dope hookup guy
  • Smart
  • Super talented (musician, for example)

Sometimes one of those traits (ex good looking) would be enough to get you a pass on the bullying all together, but usually you had to have a combination of things, especially if you happened to be in the weak position of “friend of an A-lister”.  I sort of pitied that particular subsect, because they didn’t really have anything remarkable going on for them beyond  the ear of someone popular.  Their entire social circle depended upon nurturing that relationship so they didn’t find themselves on the outs.

Of course there’s the opposite list of the first, too, and that’s the “things you didn’t want happening to you/traits you didn’t want to have because it’d get you nailed by your peers” list.  That includes:

  • Fat
  • Unattractive
  • Nonathletic
  • Unremarkable
  • Stupid
  • Smart
  • Being different

You’ll note smart is on both lists, and that’s done quite on purpose.  I don’t know if it was just WB that had this particular dynamic, but big brains could either be a boon or a curse depending on who you were.  We were the “Nerd Herd”, yes, but if you could overcome your hyper-intelligence with other traits . . . well, then all of a sudden your smarts were a good thing.  If you didn’t have anything ELSE going for you, heh.  All bets were off and the large pile of quivering gray matter in your skull wasn’t so fuckin’ keen.

I look at both of those lists and I kind of scratch my head, wondering where I fit into the mix.  Probably somewhere smack dab in the middle of “popular” and “unpopular” – just like most high school students.  I wasn’t a fat kid, funny enough, but I’ve always had a huge frame.  Even Ethiopian thin I’m a size ten thanks to big bones like bull, so I wore a 14 in high school and was “average”.   I didn’t get outright chubby til probably senior year when I was sporting a 16/18 but even then I wasn’t huge enough to launch into orbit because I carried the weight well.  That didn’t mean I avoided the fat insults, though.  Being a big girl got me slammed because I looked different – I wasn’t a size six and I never will be.  I remember early on, maybe fifth or sixth grade, someone photocopied a hippopotamus and wrote “To Hillary, a portrait” and had all of the popular kids sign it.  It was the Valentine’s Day card from hell.  I was devastated and took it home to my mother, crying all the while that I was a disgusting fat cow and wished I’d die.  Mom went into the principal’s office and raised hell about it.  I think if she’d gotten her hands on the kids responsible, she’d have killed them.

I’m sure the parents of those kids chalked that event up to kids being kids, and my reaction as “dramatic” . . . but the fact is, it was cruel.  If I remember that particular thing what, twenty-something years later?  It was a trauma.  I’m sure some of the kids that signed that paper went on to become wonderful adults, but you have to wonder what went through their young, formative brains to think this was a good idea in the first place.  I suppose some of them signed it because their friends had, and herd mentality is fucking terrifying.  One of them probably thought they were clever for coming up with the idea, and someone else snickered, and . . . bam.  Cruelty was born.

Strangely, to this day I remember most of the names that signed that stupid hippopotamus card.  I can’t remember where my car keys are, but I remember that.  Shit like that sticks with a person.

Note:  most of the kids signing that paper were in the honors group.  Academic smarts does not equate to social awareness.

I also remember one girl in particular having a field day “whispering” behind my back in English class, but I could hear the whispers every time she spoke, and I’m pretty sure that’s what she wanted.  I’m half REALLY WHITE (Welsh, Irish, English, Swedish) and half NOT AS WHITE (Portuguese, Spanish, Italian).  This means I’m pale, so any amount of hair on me at all?  Shows up.  I apparently had peach fuzz on my lower back or something, and she decided she’d point it out to her friends/boyfriend in class and snicker about how hairy I was.

Note:  she became our valedictorian.  Again, academic smarts does not equate to social awareness.

Another doozy of an incident was at a pool party I went to.  I’d gotten a new bathing suit that was white, and yeah – shoooould have done the “is this transparent” test before getting into the pool, but I was young and stupid.  One of the girls there wouldn’t hand me my towel to spare me the embarrassment of having to get out of the pool.  She wanted me to humiliate myself by climbing out with a see-through bathing suit in front of my peers.  I was saved by another girl at the party I’d never met before, because no one I knew would help me despite my blatant panic.

Note:  last I heard, the girl that wouldn’t hand me my towel was working as a bigwig at a charitable organization.

I’m not going to be naive and claim that I was completely innocent of being a high school douchebag, but having been on the receiving end of shittery meant I kept most cruelty close to the chest.  It was hard not fitting in with everyone all the time, but thanks to a great group of friends (some of which I still talk to occasionally fifteen years later), I survived it mostly intact.  I know some folks would say that my less-than-pretty glimpse back at high school comes from jealousy that I wasn’t an A-lister, and if they’d like to look at it that way, sure, go nuts.  But the truth is I certainly don’t feel very jealous.  I feel like a kid that muttled her way through the grades, hoping beyond hope that it gets better when you get out.  It does, mostly because there is nothing more fucked in the head than a kid between the ages of 12 and 18 save for serial killers and people who lick toads.

The point I’m trying to make in this long-winded retrospective is that everyone has a horror story or twelve from high school, and hopefully public awareness of bullying and grade-level cruelty will make parents take up the cause to prevent other kids from experiencing the anguish of being picked on.  Maybe they’ll sit their little spawnlings down and relate why it’s bad to be mean to others who aren’t like them.  Cause really, you never know who they might be one day:  a president, an actor, a CEO.

A writer who can forever immortalize them as a cockburger in print.

Just saying.

Musings From A Fruitless Womb.

Decision time:  Team Edward or Team Jacob?  Okay, Team Edward fangbangers head to the left, Team Jacob furry freaks to the right.  See that line in the sand?  That line separates you.  You can talk about what you once had in common with the other side – a love of all things sparkly and emo, DUH – but there’s a divide between you now, and unless one of you wants to cross that divide by becoming like the other, I’m sorry to say this is how it has to be from here on out.

This, sadly, is my example of what happens to those who spawn nublets versus those who do not.  The Team Edward faction – let’s call them the fruit bearing folks – head over to their corner and do their thing which inevitably includes Crayola, lots of glitter, poopy murals, and Playskool.  The Team Jacob childless crew go to their corner and have a beer, stay up too late, watch a soft core porn on Skinemax, and actually have time to write a blogpost wondering where the crap all of their friends from ten years ago went.

Oh right, they had children.

What are YOU looking at?

Before I get started on the challenges of being a shriveled up pair of ovaries in a sea of breeders, I want to say to those who have children “I salute you”.  Because I do.  I get WHY you guys go away, and how busy kids are, how much of your time they take, and how it’s way easier to befriend Tommy’s mom because you go to Tumblebugs together and for the twelve minutes you’re allowed adult conversation for the day, it might as well be with another beleaguered, overworked parent who can understand your gripes.  If you talk to me about little Samantha swallowing a penny, I might say COOL!  I SAW THAT ON HOUSE LAST WEEK.  That’s probably not the answer you’re looking for.  At least another parent would understand why it’s a bad thing and react appropriately.  Another parent, too, might not spend a half hour straight saying the word “leper” to your two year old in hopes of expanding the child’s vocabulary early.

True story, I did that.  And yes, she said leper.  I’d apologize to Melissa, but I don’t mean it.

So I get why folks with gut goblins go form their own gut goblin brigade.  Children are time consuming, and it’s probably pretty goddamned hard to muster up a lot of enthusiasm for a bar crawl with someone who can’t relate to your kid stories beyond a chuckle and a sympathetic pat on the shoulder.   When you tell me your offspring laid on the floor and talked to the ceiling fan for a half hour, you probably want me to say your baby is brilliant and funny.  I’m secretly thinking “he’ll make a good drunk”.  At least I’m smart enough not to vocalize that.  Unless I’ve had two or three drinks, then all bets are off.

The easiest way for me to express my Team Jacob perspective on how I lost my friends to their children would probably be to follow the chronological progression of events, so let’s rewind about five years ago or so.

Phase One:  Congratulations, your friendship at this juncture survived its first major hurdle already – someone got married before someone else, and yet here you are!  Conversing together!  One of you might not even be married, but at least you’re dating someone and that’s LIKE marriage, so you can talk about who left the toilet seat up, the crazy furniture breaking sex you had in the dining room, and how you should do more couple things together (ALL THE THINGS) like go to dinner and a movie, and maybe travel.  And who cares if your friend’s husband has nothing in common with your boyfriend.  Boys don’t have feelings.  They’ll just bond over the fact that they both have jangs and deal with it, cause your BEEEEEST Female Friend married that other guy and thaaaaaat makes him awwwwwwesome, and if your boyfriend ever wants to get laid again, he better figure it out faaaaaast.

Phase Two:  You’ve done lots of cool things with your friend and her husband, and made your boyfriend play nice under controlled conditions with the other male in the mix.  They didn’t even fight to the death like cocks in a hen pen.  Your double dating has become a wonderful staple of life!  And then there’s the announcement:  Friendzilla who was once Bridezilla is now going to be Momzilla, and isn’t that great!  At this juncture, you don’t quite understand how everything is going to change, so you express glee and give hugs and order a Diet Coke to show your support of your friend’s alcohol free ways, though secretly you’d like nothing better than to celebrate by opening a bottle of Pinot.

Phase Three:  This is where you start to figure out something might be off.  It’s not SO bad yet, but the things that made you friends in the first place – certain personality quirks, conversation pieces, hobbies – none of those things are discussed anymore because everything is about what your friend’s baby is going to be like, look like, and what it’s like to puke non-stop for days at a time because morning sickness is SHITTY.  You’re still in the early stages of denial about your friendship, though, so you nod and say “that sucks” and try to be supportive, even though you can’t relate to a dream of parenting an astronaut, and really, you miss ordering wine at lunch but doing that would make you a dick, so . . . more Diet Coke.  Yay?

Phase Four:  She’s big pregnant now, like having trouble navigating around furniture pregnant.  You’ve stopped trying to talk about what life with her was like before because this is very, very hard for her.  You can see that she’s uncomfortable, and talking about that time both of you were ass up and puking in shrubs in Tahiti is probably sort of disrespectful of her condition.

Phase Five:  It’s BABY SHOWER TIME.  This is a breaker for some people, largely because you go to this party with little booty party favors, and everyone around you is talking about babies, birth, labor, toddlers, teenagers, and sometimes if you’re really unlucky, placenta and vaginas.  You have nothing to contribute here beyond “I saw a baby once!”  You’d actually take the vagina conversation over what comes next, though, because it seems like every eye in the room turns to stare at you as your hugely pregnant friend asks “SO WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO GIVE MY BUTTERCUP A LITTLE FRIEND?”  The pressure is on.  If your mother hasn’t asked you that question already, she’s psychically bombarded you with it, and now this gaggle of strangers is expecting you to commit to spawning more overlords.

If you’re me, you say something creepy like “I’d devour my own young, so for now it’s best I wait” and eat a cocktail shrimp, maybe pointing out “hey look if you turn it this way it looks like an embryo.”  If you’re someone else you make a feeble excuse about a full bladder and lock yourself in the bathroom until the baby shower is over.  You weren’t going to muster much enthusiasm for a diaper caddy, anyway.

Phase Six:  The baby has arrived, you brought your friend flowers and a big, ugly stuffed toy for the astronaut-to be.  She decides to share with you the experience of thrusting this wriggling watermelon from her loins, and you learn things about your friend’s body you never wanted to know.  Even if you drunkenly made out with her at one point, there’s limits to the “hot factor” of her anatomy lesson.  It doesn’t help that she’s sitting on the couch with a tit hanging out.  It’s not like breastfeeding isn’t natural, it’s just . . . not something you ever wanted to get this close to.

If the baby shower didn’t freak you out, this experience will, as you figure out that you have a major decision to make regarding this kid:

A)  You can choose to become one hundred percent entrenched in this child’s life and become Auntie _______.   You’ll change diapers, offer to babysit, share birthday cakes and get vomited on.  You’ll be invited to family parties.

B) Back the fuck off and pretend the baby changes nothing, though this path will lead to disappointment.

There’s two challenges with option A.  The first?  Is if your friend wasn’t that close to you in the first place, trying to BE Auntie ________ is just plain awkward and probably not welcome.  The kid’s probably got real aunts, after all.

The second challenge is that you weren’t ready to dive headlong into having your own baby, so how the hell are you emotionally mature enough to commit to being a positive role model to someone else’s?  What if you decide that the drunken Tahiti parties are more your style, but you’ve already been playing at the whole Auntie _______ thing and failing spectacularly?  The answer is you’ve potentially fucked your friend’s kid up.  Well done, Asshole.

Not that it matters.  Most people will unconsciously decide that B is the better choice anyway.  Your friend will eventually be comfortable getting a babysitter and having drinks, right?

Phase Seven:  If we were talking about the stages of grief, this would be the acceptance phase.  The baby’s been around for a year or so and your friend still isn’t keen on babysitters, which means your delusion of martinis on Friday nights and talking about the good old times has dissolved into a pile of smoldering ash.  The few hours your friend CAN give you during the month is likely mid-day, when Grandma’s got junior, and all your friend talks about is how tired she is and what junior did that was spectacular that week, like grow a tooth.  You cheer for the tooth, and then announce that you did something awesome yourself – like beat Assassins Creed:  Brotherhood.  Your friend says something like “when are you going to grow up” and you realize that somewhere along the journey, your friend joined Team Edward.

This will sound fatalist, but the cruel reality is, the real life meet ups will probably dwindle from there on out, maybe until Astronaut is in first grade some years later.  Friend-Mom will take stock around then, see that she now has the time she didn’t have before to rekindle her friendships (and man, she could really use that martini now).  She’ll make a friendly overture, usually by a digital medium as it eliminates that whole pesky “having to have inflection in your voice” thing.  The fleeting promises on facebook to “get together soon!” begin, but soon roughly translates to “never”.  Inevitably even the cursory digital messages will one day end with your friend asking “so ARE you ever going to join Team Edward?” and despite it being years after the baby shower, you’re still hoisting a cocktail shrimp and comparing it to an embryo, hoping this will buy you enough time to change the subject.

I understand that my experiences being the “fruitless womb” are not everyone else’s, and I don’t try to speak for the non-breeder crew everywhere, but I can say that the scenario I’ve outlined above?  Has happened to me more than once.  And I suppose I could be less of a dick and actually go through with the promised Facebook meet ups, but having done that, it’s like you’re visiting a bizarro version of your old friendship.   You’re both different people than you were, and reliving drunken shrub puke stories five to ten years after they’ve happened is pathetic, sort of on par with the 50 year old guy that can’t stop talking about all the tang he got in high school.  It doesn’t work anymore, and as much as you can feign joy for a glowing report card or sports prowess story?  You’re so far removed from your friend’s kid’s life that it’s hard to react with anything remotely earnest, and that makes you feel like a shitty person.

Do I resent my friends going off and having their lives and letting their children become the all-consuming things they are?  NO.  No because that means they’re doing the parenting thing right, and I am all for loving the snot out of your gut goblins.  We want those kids to become productive members of society, and if we’re shooting his ass up to the moon in thirty or so years (ahem, if we have the /funding/) I want to know that kid is as mentally and emotionally stable as (s)he can be.  On the other hand, do I miss the drunken Tahiti makeouts and the martinis?

Hell yes.   You bet.

Nostalgia Under The Plastic Stars.

I spent Wednesday night into Thursday at my mother’s house so I could help assemble the Thanksgiving day meal.  I wasn’t so much a cook as a cook’s helper; I peeled a shitload of apples and potatoes, washed some counters, cut up some vegetables, stuffed some celery, and did all of the other time consuming grunt work that would have bogged my mum down from making what will inevitably be my death row meal request:  her New England style sausage stuffing.

(Does threatening to commit a death row scale crime in jest constitute announcing intent?  If so everyone reading this has just become an accessory, SUCKERS. ).

Later that night, after wrestling with the dogs to take a fucking chill pill and sleep despite our strange surroundings, I was really surprised when I shut the guest room light out to see the ceiling start to glow with little plastic stars.  I have to admit I had a zen moment staring up at them:

I’d put those stars up when I lived at home, and more than ten years later (going on fifteen, I think?) they’re still there.  I told my parents I was glad to see them, and my stepfather said he liked them there, that it was a nostalgia thing having them on the ceiling.  His son had them, I think his daughter had them, and I had them.  It’s a small reminder of what we were like when we were little people as opposed to the quasi-but-barely-functioning adults we’ve become.

Of course, the nostalgia bit prompted my mom to share a doozy of  Hillary story that I figure I’ll blab about for your entertainment.  As a miniature, I had a Cabbage Patch doll named Lyle Bailey.  I mentioned him before in the Creepy Doll post, though he was not THE creepy doll.  He was just your standard, run of the mill Cabbage Patch with a big bald dome and a blue onesie pajama.

At Least He Didn't Look Like This

Now, keep in mind this was the early 80’s, so Cabbage Patch Kids were the “stand in line for hours and kill your neighbors if they cut in front of you” toy.  To get one, you had to know someone in the industry (Child World employees were all the rage in ’82), threaten others with severed horse heads, or trade your prison cigarettes and first born male child.  Possibly all of the above.  Every kid in the universe wanted a Crappage Patch doll from Santa, and some parents had to take offers they simply couldn’t refuse to provide for their needy spawnlings.  My parents were no different.

The good news was, their mafioso level antics of procuring me a Cabbage Patch kid paid off.  I loved the damn thing.  When Laren wasn’t being dragged around, Lyle Bailey was, and to this day I remember the weird baby powder perfume smell they chemically infused his head with.  It was too sweet and slightly plasticky, and I’d sniff him almost like I was huffing paint.

Fast forward a little to a grocery store adventure with mom, me, and Lyle Bailey. I  was four, and thus old enough to not have to ride in the carriage if I didn’t want to.  How foolish I was, opting out of that awesome little shopping cart seat.  I wish they had adult sized ones now.  I’d make Dave push me around.  AHEM.  ANYWAY.  So yeah, mom was pushing the carriage and doing the aisle sweeps thing people do when they’re grocery shopping, and I was tottering behind her actually quiet for once.  That was when she noticed the people walking the opposite way from her, as in those who could see past her to the small Hillary behind, smiling and laughing.

Slow motion spin, the knots forming in the pit of her stomach, because she just knew I was doing something awful.  And oh was I!  I’d tugged my shirt down to my navel and had shoved Lyle Bailey up to my four-year-old booblet.  My mother’s eyes bugged out and she shriek-asked what I was doing, and in a very loud, very proud voice, I announced to all of Shaws Supermarket that I WAS BREASTFEEDING LYLE BAILEY.

I had an aunt who’d recently had a baby, and I’d seen the breastfeeding bit, and . . . yeah.  I think I had the luckiest Cabbage Patch Kid in the world.  I took real good care of him, yes I did.  The studio audience at Shaws was wildly entertained, and I don’t know if Mom laughed or was utterly mortified, but I was told very firmly that that was not an appropriate thing to do with my doll in public.  I don’t really remember how I took that news, but I was sort of a shithead as a kid so I probably Hulked out and screamed or something.

I think Mom still has the Lyle Bailey doll upstairs in the den closet.  At least, I think I spied him when I was in a search for a laptop cord sometime last year.  I leave him with her, because I’d hate for one of my dogs to accidentally maul a 30 year old doll, and by all accounts, Lyle Bailey went through a lot under my ministrations.  He deserves a peaceful, quiet retirement.  At least I can confidently say now that I’d never ever breastfeed a Cabbage Patch Kid in public.

At home?  Well.  I can make no promises.  And that’s why Lyle Bailey has to stay away.

Somethin’s stirrin’.

If you ask any of my friends, I avoid political discussions. I have this absolute hatred of two party politics because I don’t feel that anything in this life is black OR white – most things are varying shades of gray. Labeling a set group of beliefs Republican and another set group of beliefs Democrat has a tendency to make people sign on the line for a party, not actually think about issues. I truly believe that. “Well, I’m pro-choice so I must be a liberal. I guess that means I don’t have to really worry about decision X, Y, Z because the party will pick a stance for me.”

Is this everyone? Clearly not, but America is nothing if not lazy. I do not like all encompassing umbrellas that stifle an individual’s thought process.

However.

I’m willing to talk politics for a moment simply because I feel something on the air I haven’t felt in a long time: energy. There’s this vibe in a room when people are watching DNC coverage, CNN, the local news. People actually give a shit – this election matters. Some would argue that every election matters, but I didn’t get the sense of urgency for change when Dole was running, or even Gore. Everyone was pissed off about Bush’s first election because of the Florida bit, but until that point I didn’t get a glimmer of the political pulse I’m feeling now.

I think it’s wonderful.

In years past if I didn’t like either candidate, I wouldn’t vote simply because it didn’t seem worth it to me. I mean, honestly, I live in a liberal state that continues to elect Republican governor’s (WTF) and Massachusetts typically ends left on presidential elections in great part thanks to Kennedy. It has always seemed like my electoral college vote was pre-determined before I even went to the polls. Shitty attitude, I know, but probably a lot more predominant than anyone would like to admit. As I mature, I’m realizing how disasterous that approach IS to the country, and I’m hoping other people are realizing it too. I want this energy to wake people up so they can understand that we are responsible for what happens going forward, not a party, not even a candidate really. Us. Little ol’ us.

If anything good came out of the Obama/Hillary flabber-fest, I’m thinking its that Hillary lit a fire under the asses of people who didn’t feel the urgency to vote before: women. Statistics (yes I know statistics are only as good as the person reporting them makes them, but you know) say that females are failing hardcore at going to polls. I think seeing that a woman COULD get into office, a woman could be positioned as the leader of one of the strongest countries in the world did something. I think it sparked this energy. Seeing a bunch of mini-van driving moms sitting around a television in the break room at Comcast, glued to the DNC like kittens suckling at a teat? It’s frankly bizarre, but also a really good feeling. I don’t know how many of those ladies went to the polls before, but I’m betting a bunch of them were like me – apathetic to the point of not participating in our most important American right.

I’m sure there are a lot more things to this energy than just the Hillary Clinton factor, but it’s the most obvious one. For all that Im not keen on the lady in question, I’m REAL keen on the political awareness surrounding me. I like seeing people’s wheels turning. I hope every election is this charged going forward. I sense good things are a’comin’.

Nearly six months.

September third will mark the six month anniversary of my grandmother’s death. I thought about that today, while I was putting my groceries away, and I wasn’t quite sure how to feel. It doesn’t SEEM like she’s been gone that long, which is a good thing.

The last time I saw her she made me a ham sandwich because I hadn’t eaten after work. I remember telling her that no matter how many times I made a ham sandwich, mine would never taste like hers. She said my Uncle Michael always said the same thing to her. Her explanation for it? Hers tasted better because they were made with love.

The other thing I remember about our last face to face meeting, besides the fact that I gave her an obnoxiously loud kiss and told her how much I loved her (which I am so very glad for) – was watching her move around her kitchen. She was a little hunched over and her movements weren’t that great. It bothered me at the time because my grandmother, though in her 80’s, never SEEMED old, but there she was, tottering around in her kitchen, her arthritic hand steadying her on her countertop. When she breathed, every once in a while she’d make a strange little noise. It’s very hard to describe, but it was like she was short of breath and almost sounded like a muted ‘heh’.

Honestly, I didn’t say anything about the breathing or her unsteadiness on her feet because of her monsterous pride. Insinuating she looked weak would have insulted her. This is the woman who SHOULD have had a cane, but refused to walk with one. Abso-fucking-lutely refused. Instead, she just walked as little as possible (which probably wasn’t healthy) to avoid her family’s nagging, so me mentioning her looking unwell? Yeaaaah. Wouldn’t have gone over big. Fart in a spacesuit bad, I’m sure.

It goes without saying I think about her every day, and I really wish she were still around. She used to remind me that she was “The best friend I ever had” because she was the only one in my life who defended me no matter what. I understood when she said it she was making sure I wouldn’t forget her, ever, or what she did for me. I never would have. She didn’t need to keep saying that to me. I hope I never gave her the impression that I wasn’t thankful for what she’d done. I hope I never gave her the impression that she wasn’t the brightest light in my dim little world, because she was. She was my best friend.

I really really miss her.