Friday, October 28, 2016

How to Avoid Wrinkles

When I look at my bedside table now and compare it to a year ago I realize just how much has changed.  I used to have a beat up copy of Pride and Prejudice laying there along with various other books I was rotating through.  Now I have a stack of board books, notably One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish and Mommy Hugs, and a copy of What to Expect: The First Year.  My inbox used to read about sales, politics, the occasional email from a friend, and updates from my favorite blogs.  These days my email asks me if I know how to interpret my baby’s poop, should I teach her French or Spanish, ASL, or all three, and how to determine if she is autistic earlier than ever before.  Signs I am missing critical early learning opportunities, stunting her independent drive, ruining her life before she can walk…. you know the nightmare inducing panicky stuff that seems to hit you as soon as you lay eyes on that tiny little bundle of perfection. 

Suddenly I’m doing everything wrong in my life and subsequently hers and at the same time everything right, depending on who I talk to or read.  It is honestly like watching a tennis match in my brain somedays.  I’ve read Dr. Sears, my father constantly tells me I’m spoiling Baby Girl because I go to her when she cries, my mother says I fret too much about her physical state (her weight, her temperature, her whatever), I question if I put her down for too many naps, or not enough…. Am I overfeeding her, is it possible to overfeed a baby? Is she comfortable? Is the sign language I am trying to teach her catching on? Is that really the sign for milk or is she just opening and closing her little hand? Do I try to keep the house quieter while she sleeps or be as noisy as possible?  At what point do you stop co-sleeping or should you never co-sleep? Swaddling is great, they taught me how in the hospital…. No wait it can kill the baby! Want to sleep ever again? Well…. SIDS, ha ha ha ha ha never again will you shut both eyes.

Honestly navigating the last six months has been so stress inducing I’ve seen my first wrinkle.  It’s right where I knew it would always be, but still I feel too young for that.  I started drinking coffee because I get so little sleep now, and it is not because she does not sleep well.  Baby girl is a champion sleeper most nights; it is me getting up to check on her. Although she has been a little fussier as I have started her on solid foods.  (Did I do that too soon? Or not soon enough? Am I waiting long enough on one food before moving to the next, to be sure of allergies or too long? Is making her food really that much better if I can get her organic jarred food? Am I really horrible for laughing when she gags on zucchini? How bad is it that the dog cleaned her face that one time? How soon should I give her peanuts or ever? Can you give her proteins during the introduction stages?)  I figure she is waking again as we adjust to caloric intake during the day and figuring out what is a serving for her and what is too much or too little.  Turns out if it is mangoes she will eat gobs of it anything else she will be a little more discretionary.  Put mangoes on anything and she will eat it.  Seriously I put mangoes with the chicken and she ate it like she may never see it again but wanted nothing to do with the plain chicken.  Really I cannot blame her it was nasty looking, but do babies eat with their eyes?  Not that I would, but you could put mangoes on a cat poo and she would probably eat it.  I’ve never met anyone quite so serious about mangoes.  Poor kid, tropical as all get out, as fair skinned as her mother… the beach will not be kind to you my child.  Not at all. Sigh.

I digress.  What I can say I have learned over the last six months is none of this really matters. At all.  Does anyone really know or want to know how to interpret poop beyond the obvious is she constipated or not? You can read every book available from cover to cover, listen to all the advice thrown at you, even that crazy looking lady at the Target who told you to give her a tablespoon of castor oil every day (why do people think that because you have a baby you want to hear their advice?), and you can drive yourself absolutely insane trying to live up to it all. All that crazy leads to wrinkles and gray or stark white hairs.  

The best thing I can decipher, and the irony of me dispensing a measure of advice here is not lost on me, is to follow your gut.  Your instincts will guide you.  Listen to you.  Want to let your kid cry it out? Go for it.  Do you want to pick up your munchkin at every snivel? DO IT! Whatever you do commit to it, be consistent but flexible…. I have Crohn’s disease, there are moments of my life that I cannot stop what is happening and rush to Baby Girl’s cries; believe me I have tried and it is impossible. I’ve had to learn that sometimes she just cries, like me.   You do not have to defend yourself to anyone, walk away if you have to, do not open the emails or the books if they are going to make you feel guilty.  Parenting magazines and books, in my opinion, can make you feel like you are missing things and layer on the guilt if you let them.  Basically you are in charge now, it’s your circus and your monkey, enjoy it and do what is right for you.  I’m blogging while she sits in the bouncy seat next to me staring at whatever it is she stares at.  In a little while I will plop her down in front of a screen with some brightly colored Disney film showing so that for at least ten minutes I might get to vacuum something without her wanting my attention.  I know, I know…. Screen time is evil.  I’m doing the best I can and that’s all you can ask of yourself.  Follow your gut, your rhythm, walk away from haters, and commit to doing the best you can and you will be just fine.

I think. 

Saturday, October 15, 2016


The thud sound will forever be etched in my memory.  I don’t know if I will ever be able to erase it from mind, the look on her tiny little face as she lay there perplexed at what had just happened. Frozen in stunned silence we both just sat there for a second, then a tiny wail came up from the floor.  It had happened, everyone told me it would; I had told myself I would never let it happen.  I had, technically, dropped my infant.  It was really more of a roll off the ottoman where I had laid her to change her diaper.  In my mind though it felt as if I had thrown her off a cliff.  She was fine of course, but for the most agonizing of moments I thought she might not be.

So began the worst post-partum day I have had.  It was the first time I really came to realize that it was just me and my baby girl.  I do not have a spouse or a S.O. to pass her off to.  Yes, I am quite blessed in that I have my mother, but 90% of the time it is just the baby and I.  Even as I type this she is tucked into the swing behind me, cooing away, and singing her sweet songs.  So much reality hit me that day, with that small thud.  I cried for the rest of the day.  She was fine and I was fine but something in me broke, things that I had not allowed to the surface during my entire pregnancy.  When I was carrying her I worked very hard at preventing negativity and sad feelings because I did not want her to feel them.  I feel I was fairly successful at that, but she’s no longer attached to me physically and the floodgates broke.  Everything just came pouring out, I could not contain it anymore.

The full weight of being a single mother fell on me as she toppled to the floor.  She did not have even a mark on her, but I felt like I had been gutted.  I never want her to
I have a terrible cry face... 
doubt my love for her because it is so real it overwhelms me at times.  It would be my wish for her that she never has to face the realities I do.  I have serious worries now that I never thought twice about before…. really serious stuff…. Like how I will ever manage to teach her to whistle, when I myself cannot whistle.  Seriously I cried over that once early in my pregnancy, it was one of those weird preggo freak outs.   I worry I won’t be able to provide for her, or send her to college.  I worry that I will have to work three jobs just to make ends meet, because I cannot count on any spouse to help support us. What will become of my social life? How will I provide her with all the wonderful things a father does?

My identity doesn’t seem to fit anymore and it crushed me.  I am slowly working to rebuild the structure of who I am and how I see myself. Hopefully I will come out of this better on the other side of this transitional period.  I just wish someone had
prepared me for the blow.  It was my thought that having a baby would be all joy and light, but there are some serious adjustments that have to be made not just in your life but emotionally as well.  Things you never think of until something like that moment happens and it lands in your heart like a little rock, with a thud. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Ain't Got No Time for That

This time last year I was deep in the throes of hyperemesis gravidarum. I will openly admit I was not a happy camper.  There were days I could not even keep down the water that my mother was busily providing me, on doctor’s orders.  I was pregnant, it was not planned, and I was so far no good at being pregnant.
Not 100%
You could tell from about five minutes after conception that I was pregnant.  I told myself I was just a bit bloated, after all I had been on the pill for years, used two back up methods, and my boyfriend at the time swore on a stack of Bibles he had, had a vasectomy.  Turns out that God should have smote him right there because he did not ever so much as even think of having a vasectomy, but that’s not the tale for today. The point is that three reliable forms of birth control all failed and all at once. I am suddenly the cautionary tale that all sex education teachers tell you, at least down here in the American South where abstinence only sex ed is still the norm. I am a walking, talking, breathing, and eating, example that birth control can and will fail you sometimes…. And sometimes you have to just roll with it. It turns out to be the greatest thing to ever happen to you. Mind you I was 35 and pregnant, not 15 and pregnant, but I was still had no business being pregnant in the first place.

Might need medication. 
My boyfriend at the time and I had known each other for many years.  Dating was at first easy and fun. Then it started to change…. He started telling me he was the President of a Motorcycle Club.  Being the trusting soul that I am, at first I thought he meant a group of middle aged guys who ride around on Sunday afternoons together.  I shrugged it off.  I would tease him, and ask him if he was a “T-Bird” and if so did that make me a “Pink Lady”. He never found my jokes, I’ve got so many, very funny. Slowly he started filling me in on little details about this club of his, it was all so counter to the person I knew him to be, but I let him tell me what he wanted to and above all I just tried to listen to him. His stories kept getting more and more extreme, violent even.  I truly began to wonder what I had gotten myself into. The adventures he described became scary to me, but here I was pregnant with nowhere to go and desperately wanting to make it work because I was having his baby.  This just was not how I had always pictured having a family.

Jack, as I will call him here short of Jack Shit for Brains, was not the guy I grew up with anymore.  In fact, I had come to notice he was a heavy drinker, highly impulsive, lazy, selfish, and very dishonest. When he finally came right out and said to me that his “MC” was known as the Outlaws, (a VERY real club, just not for Jack) and not at all what I had envisioned originally.  This was a biker gang, for lack of a better term… How in the hell did I find myself dating the president of a biker gang?! Especially since I had never even seen him on a damn bike? He wouldn’t show me this patch that he always talked about, said something about it being only for those involved and since I did not want to be his “Old Lady” I had no business looking at it.  After one particularly exhausting week and the latest saga I recall just looking at him and saying “…but your grandfather is a deacon in the church!”  How much more Southern can I be? My disbelief in his being able to participate with this was measured against the fact that his grandfather was a church elder.  Stars and garters I must have been losing it. 

can you say wannabe?
As it turned out his entire tale and all of the drama was a lie.  Every. Single. Word. I will tell more details on that at another time, but suffice it to say Jack was acting out/playing pretend/delusional.  He did not limit these stories to just me or just him, every person in his life was somehow included in ways that kept him the center of everything. Literally every person he knew or I met was somehow connected to this club, which is real it just is not real for him.  Every sleepless night I endured because he said we were on “lock down”, the pain and weight of carrying his drama, the isolation of feeling too afraid to share it with my family were all so he could live life vicariously through his favorite television show, Sons of Anarchy.  I had never seen the show, and he fed me the plot line of the show as though it was his real life and he was the lead character.  I’ve since seen the show and I cannot understand why anyone would want to even pretend that was their life!

I was put on bed rest for preeclampsia at about 30 weeks or so.  He was quick to anger to begin with but being put on bed rest and not being allowed to leave the house sent him right over the edge.  Jack was livid that I would not be able to come over and stay with him for the time being.  During the whole pregnancy he had been talking about me moving in with Baby Girl, and we could all be a family with his other two kids. Around Valentine’s Day I got one last phone call from him.  He refused to come to my house because I am living with my parents and he did not want them around, “like we are children.”  Clearly my family knows that their pregnant daughter is no longer a little girl… but whatever.  At the time I had no idea I would not ever hear from him again, but my gut told me for quite some time that we were not alone in this twosome.  That this was more than a two-person relationship, and I do not mean the baby.  That last night he told me he loved me, he loved BG, and he would come see me the next day or perhaps the following day.  I never heard from him again. 

Jack has yet to even call to see if Baby Girl has arrived or if I need so much as a box of wipes or diapers. As I write this she is five months old.  He has never laid physical eyes on my daughter, though the rumor mill suggests he has seen a few pictures. One day she will ask about him and I hope I’m able to tell her nicer things about her “donor” but as it stands now I have nothing really good to tell her.  More than anything I wish I had provided a better father for her than I did.  That’s my failing…. But one day he will wake up, likely at the bottom of some bottle and realize he has missed out on the most amazing things.  Her first giggle was just as clear and light and magical as you might imagine.  BG’s first smile was the best thing I’d seen since they held her up for me to see.  She is the most beautiful little girl and making strides and changes every day.  These are moments he will never get back, moments that are
not my kid. 
as fluid as a stream and once passed they do not come back by.  His threats no longer keep me awake at night.

He will have his second baby of 2016 in November (you can do the math), this time a boy, with a girl that by marriage is his cousin.  They are not blood related so I hear they are pretty insistent they are not cousins, but everyone says they grew up knowing each other as cousins… I guess he is living some other show now? I do not know and I do not want to.  I am far too busy taking care of the most adorable baby.  

Friday, January 23, 2015

Stand Where I Stood: Sixteen

His friends weren’t at the apartment when we got there; they had gone for a beer run. He pulled me into the bathroom just inside the entry and told me he had his gift for me and we needed some privacy. I was confused, privacy for a gift? There was not anyone home… He kissed me, hard, like he was taking custody of my soul. I told myself to lean into it; this was “passion” right? This is what passion looked like on television. I wondered if I was really this naïve; that I wouldn’t know if this was passion or not. The door was as close to my back that it could have only fused with my flesh to be closer; it started to hurt and so I said something. The dark stare; then the crazy smile, something was about to happen.  You could feel the crackle move in the air.

Be small, be quiet, no sudden moves.

A step backward was all it took for him to force me to the ground, my head dragged down door… like cheese against a grater. The bathroom was small and my long legs really had nowhere to go. In a movement that most men would love to master he had my jeans down and I was bare from the waist down to where my jeans wrapped around my boots. On the floor, in an all-male apartment bathroom and my head was crushed up against the door. Roughly my shirt, which tied in the front, was jerked open and my bra pushed up. On his knees he pulled me to him and I felt the full force of his thrust, as my head crashed into the door. With every movement my back would bend, and my head would slam into the door.

Be small, be quiet, no sudden moves.

I heard the key turn in the lock of the front door not even ten feet from where my head was. All of his friends were home and we were all going to celebrate my birthday. Twisted into the bathroom I began to really feel sick about what that might actually mean.

The dark stare, looked down on me and asked if I wasn’t enjoying my fun little birthday surprise… kinky right? He told me I wasn’t making any noise; it hit me, he wanted his friends to hear me so that he would impress them and I would just be shamed. Pressing his hand down hard on the space between my hips, the hollow of the pelvis he pushed harder and my head slammed into the door and I was in a near back bend. This time I made noise, I cried out in pain. Several more of those and I could hear his friends cheering him on. One of them exclaimed loudly that he might put my head through the damned door! Another yelled

“That’s what the fucking deposit is for!”

They were laughing and I could hear the beer bottles clinking. Not one of them, even the one I was trapped with interpreted my “noises” as pleas to stop, cries of agony from the position the forcefulness of this assault, the complete lack of any foreplay… once more I found I was not ready for this onslaught. Another ten minutes went by, I know because his friends were cheering on his stamina. By this point my head had turned and it was now the side of my head and my neck crushed against the door. He was standing above me, holding my hips to him. There was no gift here, the dark stare felt as though it went through me, and to some other place… there was no love in this act.

He did give me a sort of gift that night. My sixteenth birthday was when I learned how to leave myself, if I focused hard enough I could leave my body. I could be anywhere else I wanted to be. That night I was riding a horse with herd of wild mustangs somewhere in the southwest. I threw my hands out wide and pretended to fly away.

Coming back and watching almost from above, I realized he was about to finish and I was expected to act all excited about it. I didn’t master it that night but I learned how to stay completely out, act the way he wanted and expected, but be somewhere else and feel none of the pain. The bellow he made as he came was like some wild creature; his boys cheering him on again… the look to me and I yelled out, the exact opposite of what my body was saying.


I was rewarded with a wink, and he unceremoniously dropped my body. I slammed into the floor. He zipped his jeans up and threw a towel at me, pushing me aside and stepping over me to leave, I was encouraged to clean up and come out and celebrate being 16 with the guys! My head and neck were still pounding like when you stand in the waves of the ocean for a while and you can still feel the motion of the waves after you leave the water. I found myself once again in a bathroom, degraded, humiliated; despite the state of the young adult male bathroom I found myself huddled into a corner quietly sobbing again. How could I walk out the mere feet into the living room and face four guys who had just heard “my sweet sixteen” and the loss of any dignity I would ever hold in their eyes again.

Muffling my face into the towel, I just let myself cry. Crying was not a luxury I had much of; it leads to questions… expected answers, and then judgment. There is a bang on the door,

“Damn sugar tits, what’s taking so long? Other people need in, get your boney ass out here.”

I stood over the sink and stared at my scarlet face in the mirror. My normal bisque, Scot-Irish coloring was mimicking shades of the double decker buses I had seen in pictures of London. Staring back I found my blue eyes, nearly clear looking against the disgrace cherry color. I straightened the tangle of my long auburn hair, on the back of my head as best I could; I splashed water on my face and adjusted my clothing appropriately. The instruction that I would not show my abs, and button my shirt an extra button had already been ordered. He wanted his boys to know I was a great lay but not want me. The first time I heard him say it, I was shocked; looking back I shouldn’t have been, all men say it

“You’re mine, and if I can’t I fucking have you, they sure as fucking hell won’t. No one will.”

The only way out of this with any sort of dignity was to laugh it off and pretend I was performing on stage, that’s what he wants anyway right? This sweet sixteen, bitter in my mouth with the stale beer, was not at all about me. No, this was his production. After all, isn’t all the world a stage, and us little people merely players? A boisterous and overly enthusiastic round of applause and bows greeted me when I emerged from the diminutive bathroom. Biting my tongue until it bled I hoped that I was not blushing, despite the heat I could feel rising. As any good performer, I executed a deep well practiced ballet curtsy and smiled as genuinely and broadly as I could manage.

Stumbling out of the kitchen with at least his third beer, he staggered straight for me. Grabbing my ass he roughly pulled me to him, triggering a cacophony of more jeers, hoots, and cat calls.

“Sugar bush, I love you so much. You’re great fun.”

If my sense of smell was not failing me, he had some hard liquor and copious amounts of marijuana whilst I composed myself in the bathroom. Pressing his lips to mine once more, came the kiss the one that felt as though he was pulling life from my very core, rancid in taste, co-mingling with his pot and Camels, the rum, and the beer it was all I could to do not to pull away. In my mind I told myself that if the great Vivien Leigh could loathe the infamous breath of Clark Gable and still pull off a convincing Scarlett, then I could deal with the bad breath of someone I felt carried a piece of my soul. His hands were groping, grasping, pulling and squeezing places I felt should be more special than this particular moment. It seemed to go on forever, I liked kissing but this was more than that; this was a declaration not just to me, but to any witness… at this point he truly believed he owned me. This was possession, the stake of the flag and the mark of his territory. My epiphany rang out in my mind and was deafening.

Where had the soft doe brown eyes and gentle lips gone? The soft touch to my face, and hair; who was this new person? The boy that I fallen for, who was so completely consuming, was kind and thoughtful; he was generous and calm. He had openly discussed his feelings for me for months before we really started dating. The mother of a mutual friend told me that he would frequently come to her crying and lamenting that I seemed indifferent.  She told him to be patient, that I had been badly hurt when things ended with the elusive first real boyfriend.  Knowing that the break up had really wounded me; the boy I now loved was kind and listened.

Together we would walk the woods around my house and tell each other our hurts, and our triumphs; over time we each discovered that scars crisscrossed both our hearts. A bond followed that built a deep trust with this person who seemed to have such an easy soul.

We each struggled to understand the darker parts of ourselves and with that I could open up to those velvet eyes and I felt safe. The physical part of the relationship just flowed and seemed in the moment and it was special. It all came so naturally, like the turn of seasons this deepening of my connection to what I felt was his inner spirit was as normal and almost as expected and ordinary as a walk to the mailbox. I still look back and struggle to remember if it was really a haircut that changed everything or if it was something else. Had I done something to flip the switch? When did Dr. Jekyll, morph into Mr. Hyde? Surely he was just lost in the damaged corners of the mind and needed someone to help him find the path again. After all he had stood with me, wiped my tears, wrapped his strong arms around me and made me feel secure.  How selfish is it to not be there in return?

The culmination of my sweet sixteen birthday was watching a group of guys pass out, as I dipped my toes into the pool and felt the first cracks appear in my mind and leak any innocence into the cool waters. I prayed like hell he woke up to get me home in time for curfew. There was no way I wanted to rouse the monster.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Stand Where I Stood: Bittersweet

“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you…”

The first lines of the familiar song roused me awake. I was asleep, it was my birthday, and this was really not what I had in mind for my Sweet Sixteen. It was nineteen minutes after nine on that day in the middle of July. Exactly sixteen years prior was the moment I took my first breath. The symbolism of the moment was not lost at all on my mother and once the fog of sleep had cleared not on me either. She and my baby brother stood next to my bed, mom sat down and presented me with a card from both her and my brother. Proclaiming that in honor of my sixteenth birthday I would have one present every hour for sixteen hours! The blowout of all birthdays had been the summer before when she threw a surprise party for me and invited both my closest girlfriends and my puppy love boyfriend (that I had for a hot minute) AND the guys he was friends who were also my friends! My first co-ed party and the girls were going to stay the night… but the boys lingered a bit too long and we ended up in a huge water fight between the girls and mom versus the boys. It was amazing and I still have friends that reference that party. Looking back now I am glad I had one last party where I oblivious to the dark things that existed and could haunt you in the night and it was the best party ever.

This was my sweet sixteen and I would be lying if I said I was not a bit disappointed that some elaborate plan had not been hatched for this particular rite of passage. That summer was different than the one before, something lost on me at the time; I was not really speaking to any of my friends. He dominated all of my time and did not like any of my friends; especially my best friend Hana* she was the worst of them all as far as he was concerned. The only friend on the approved list was Alena* who he liked because she liked him, a lot more than I realized at the time, and she would smoke pot with him; something I refused to do. He had slowly and surgically cut me off from the life blood of a teenager, friends, so deliberately that I had not really noticed. Alena was always there so I was not really lonely and he was always there; the summer seemed to be flying by so I did not have a real sense of missing anyone.

My mother’s enthusiasm was contagious, she was rarely this excited as a medical professional it took a lot breach the calm of her well-practiced professional exterior. She seemed almost giddy and that made me smile. I got up, locked myself in the bathroom, and splashed cold water on my face. I checked a greenish yellow bruise under my arm; thankfully low enough I could still wear sleeveless shirts. Gently touching I winced in pain I applied a layer of Arnica gel. I was lucky I had long been a ballet dancer so the smell of different salves on my skin did not create any suspicion because I was always repairing some blister or raw spot on my toes from dancing in pointe shoes, or sore muscles from pushing myself a bit harder. Just a drop of White Flower Balm, barely a drop, to give it a bit of heat and help it relax a little because it hurt to take deep breaths. The bruise on my hip down and around to my back side was fading now and looked more like a shadow than a bruise.

These bruise checks had become a necessary evil, if my parents saw one the stories to explain a weird bruise were limited. I did bruise easily though and it was that fact that I told myself when a new mark would appear; that it hadn’t been a blow or grasp too hard I was just an easy bruiser, really it wasn’t so bad as all that. (Always telling myself not to be a drama queen)  Looking back at all the justifications I made for it all and everything to come I can’t help but wonder if anyone who happens upon this might think I am crazy. That which is so clear now should have been obvious then; obvious to anyone, but life is rarely obvious at the time and people see what they want to. No one wanted to see this happening, I didn’t even want to see it, and so no one did.

My mother’s voice rang out from the other room, she was growing impatient. I flushed the toilet and the White Flower Balm cotton ball down with it. Pulled my sloppy pajamas back on and sleepy but alert walked out and into our open plan living room. She and my brother, who was also excited, sat there with the first gift. I hadn’t opened it yet! All this build up I couldn’t help but laugh when it was a package of socks I had said I needed a couple weeks before. We ate some breakfast, I recall cheese grits because they are one of my favorite sinful foods. I got up to get in the shower; he was coming over, as was Alena. Standing in the shower I let the water wash over me warming sore muscles and cried. I was greatly disappointed my father had taken a trip to see my family members, including my dearest grandmother in Texas. I could not understand missing your daughter’s “Sweet Sixteen” and I was hurt by it. In the midst of my own private and secret hell and I was pissed off about my dad missing a silly birthday. Clearly teenage priorities were at work here.

I was almost ready when Alena arrived. She sat on the couch in the den and I came out she had a balloon and some present and card we giggled about but I do not remember now. Unfortunately she could not stay so she made her exit. I had just finished my hair and makeup when I heard the sound of his beater of a truck pull up on the curb. Hurriedly I finished. He did not like waiting on me, especially if it meant my parents would try to make small talk. Sliding into place in front of the door as my mother opened it I had just made it. I was wearing a new white, jean, mid-drift vest that I had buttoned up like a shirt (it was the 90’s), my Wrangler jeans, and my boots. Hair in place, outfit appropriate, flawless makeup, all the boxes ticked. My performance smile plastered on my face, he stood there looking at the ground; with his right arm extending to the door frame and propping himself up. Without moving his head he looked up over his sunglasses and I saw him scan me, a smile coming to his lips. Not the Jekyll and Hyde smile but one he gave when nothing had gone wrong… yet. This was the okay smile.

Relived I ushered him in, he was wearing dirty jeans, a shirt that the sleeves had been so deeply cut out of that the side of his body showed, printed on the shirt was something about “Peckers” and some double entendre about the chickens that starred on the shirt and the slang usage of the word pecker. Crestfallen, and struggling to hide it, it was time for my next gift. It was a puffed heart necklace that made a tinkling sound of tiny bells inside it when you shook it; it was quite the in thing at the time and I was thrilled. As I leaned over across the love seat to show him, I smelled that heady scent of pot, mingling with his Camel cigarettes and a fresh coat of Drakkar (he must have applied in the truck) I knew immediately he was higher than the Space Needle downtown. Working quite hard to not react at all to his complete and utter indifference to my new necklace I pulled myself back across the couch.

If my mother recognized the smell on him, she was lady enough to not mention it to me or to my knowledge to him. Thankfully she also did not bat an eyelash at his choice of attire. I on the other hand was embarrassed but knew by this point not to show it and definitely not to mention it. My mother looked over expectantly at him, this was clearly her segue to his gift presentation. When I glanced in her direction she was staring at him intently and she moved her head forward slightly and raised her eyebrows. Cutting my eyes back to him he was staring back at my mother and he raised one eyebrow.

“Maybe at the restaurant then?” she asked cheerfully.

Nothing was said in return.

My baby brother wanted me to ride in the car with him. Like an insane person I thought we might all ride in one vehicle… looking to him I got a look back that said not gonna happen. Letting my brother down entirely I went and climbed into the truck. We were all going out to eat at my favorite restaurant and I was looking forward to it. He fell into traffic behind my mother and had turned on some Alice in Chains. My mantra reverberating in my head, be small, be quiet, no sudden moves, he was high and that made him unpredictable. The truck fell silent as he turned off the radio and looked at me. He said that he had an idea of something special I could do for my birthday… for him. I furrowed my brow and glanced at him; he pointed to his lap and said something about always wanting to have me do that while he drove around. I must have looked appalled because he started laughing and said he was totally joking. Breathing a sigh of relief as we were now directly behind my mother and then to my horror he lit his pipe up right there at a stop light, still behind my mother. I rolled down my window and leaned against the door frame.

Pulling into the restaurant parking lot I hopped out of the truck; he took another long toke on his pipe and my audible sigh received an unwelcoming look. It was my birthday but you wouldn’t think there was anything special about it from the way he was dressed, or acting, or treating me. I don’t know what I expected but this was not a “Sweet Sixteen”. Treading the line, and I knew it, I shot him a look that questioned the wisdom of his smoking pot, in public, with my mother and brother just a few hundred feet away. The look I got back could have wilted flowers; clearly he did not care what I thought.
This getting high to be around my parents, thing was kind of new. We had all gone to see Independence Day (the movie) on the 3rd of July, so did most of the world it seemed that day. Finding a seat where my family and the two of us could all sit together was difficult. We managed to find a place, but it was less than ideal. He sat in the last seat against the wall. He got up a few times throughout the movie and each time he came back smelling like cigarettes and pot and somewhere in the middle of the movie he put in a dip and proceeding to spit into his empty coke cup. At some point I had stopped reaching for his hand when he would come back; he reached over and grabbed it and squeezed hard. Whispering against my neck that he loved me he just couldn’t stand my family

“They’re boring, you know?”

I simply sighed; I wasn’t going to start a fight in defense of my family right there in the middle of a movie. He leaned against the wall and fell asleep. It was a great day.

Inside the restaurant there was another gift following giving our orders.  It was a beautiful chain necklace. Mom again looked at him, smiling, he just stared at her. So she prompted

“Now would be a good time to do presents don’t you think?”

Oh God, she just assumed he would get me something. I held my breath not knowing what was about to happen. Knowing he wouldn’t expose himself entirely to my family I still worried what he might say later. He finally broke the silence and said

“Um… I had planned on giving it to her a little later; when we go out tonight.”

It was summer but where were we going on a Monday? I looked at him funny and he said something about taking me out to dinner later. Mom was satisfied with the answer and moved on. She would occasionally try to engage him in conversation but he was so wasted there really wasn’t any talking to him. Mostly we chattered to each other about whatever was going on at the time. Until she mentioned Hana’s name and he kicked me under the table, I did not even know he was listening. She asked me how she was doing and if I had talked to her. The answer of course was no, I hadn’t seen anyone but Alena and him and his friends. I muttered something about her being really busy with her boyfriend.

“Y’all should do a double date! Do kids do that anymore? Or am I totally uncool for suggesting it?”

I could literally feel the heat of his skin rising when I interrupted mom

“Yeah no that’s not really a thing people do anymore.”


To be continued…

*Names have been changed in order to keep identifying and concerned parties private.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Stand Where I Stood: Evolution

The following steps fell into place and created the evolution from wannabe skater kid to the girl I was in high school when my journey began. Some of these were thoroughly planned others just happened organically but I just went ahead and added them to the evolution that I thought would ultimately end up with me being a wife and then mommy by the time I was 24. The original thought was I was really going to marry the “elusive first real boyfriend”; yes I was that naïve.

We start where I left on the prior post, it is 1993-1994 and I was going to make myself Betty Bad Ass:

o Wear Black, a lot.

o Never take fashion advice or makeup counsel from mother. No matter how stupid you know you actually look.

o If Kate Moss can have thin arched eyebrows, so can you. Tweeze freely.

o Acquire pre-requisite baggy jeans. Preferably more than one pair… but since you saved all your lunch money for three weeks to buy the one pair you have and your mother tried to destroy four times and has now gone on mommy strike from buying you jeans, the one pair will have to do.

o Wear any and all available crappy looking flannel or plaid. If not crappy, make crappy looking. *must search parent’s closet for old stuff, because… grunge.

o Two words: Chain Wallet! YEAH!

o Maintain sweet and kind image and nature with friends; allow raging hormonal bitch faced teenager to explode nightly at home.

o If someone makes up a story about you that seems like it would be cool to have actually happened… go with it. Legends are made not born. Enjoy the spotlight.

o Should someone spread evil rumors about you that are not awesome (seriously teenage girls could give Satan notes at times) cry to your more assertive and aggressive friends and allow them to handle it for you. You want to be a legend that stays invisible, in the center of attention, whilst keeping your head down. Yeah sit and ponder that for a minute.

o Constantly worry someone will notice you do not actually belong in this group, wonder quietly to self how you pulled this off.

o Fail at least two or three of your eight classes. Bonus points are awarded for giving teachers extra strife for trying desperately to help you succeed.

o Keep this revelation under wraps and away from parents for as LONG as humanly possible, lest they step in and stop you or do something totally logical to keep you from destroying your now secret college ambitions. Getting progress reports before never was a problem because I didn’t need them, but oh honey if they weren’t flying in fast and furious now. Speed Round points for: Somehow managing to maintain “smart kid” tag…

o Curse a lot. I mean a lot, on average way more than wearing black. *Super extra points awarded for using curse words correctly.* Rude gestures can also be considered in this category. (Just don’t do it in front of adults; let’s not get all crazy.)

o Break rules. As many as you can, at once if possible; do not however break laws… allow other people to think you might have. If at all possible have this conversation: “I did not steal anything. This is my wallet good sir, and yes how astute you are it is an Altoid's tin. Look at how it holds my ill-gotten cigarettes, which I don’t technically smoke, without squishing them…” Look at me, I am Betty Bad Ass.

o Acquire as large a volume of CDs or tapes as you can no matter what your parents think. Play them. If one song is more special than the others rewind and replay 400 times or set CD player to replay.

o Learn to sit in front of speakers with maximum volume on and play music that is obnoxious to any and all adults in a sound radius. Cool points maybe added or subtracted based on inspiration of terror upon small children.

o Sit in front of massive speakers at dances with your friends and preform the ill-advised maneuver of “head banging” to every alternative song played. Somehow convince self that you look cool doing so and not like a group having a mass seizure. Also boys like girls who can do this because… I never really resolved why in my mind I just convinced myself of it.

o Begin having massive headaches due to probable brain trauma because of “head banging”. Extra consideration given if massive cluster migraines cause you to lose two weeks solid of school, prompting rumors of your death. Points given for number of spinal taps to check for meningitis. Decide (long before it became a thing) that band aid stuck on lower back because of spinal tap would be a super awesome place to get a tattoo; scare wits out of mother by announcing intention to do so. Never actually do so.

o Allow people to think you are willing to be assertive, but don’t assert at all, ever. Remember you did not get here by being assertive or even aggressive, you just got here. Wherever here is. (which by summer time was summer school for that algebra class and with some luck you moved on to 10th grade by the skin of your teeth)

o Tabasco Red, Converse One Stars, just like Kurt Cobain… or the hunter green, low top Converse All Stars your mother “went out of her way to buy you, she has no idea the reason because your feet look like boats!” Remind self that we decided not to take fashion advice from mother. Still wear those shoes 20 years later for added points, seriously best sneakers I have ever owned, they last forever.

o Do not let mother see you sigh exasperated due to her complete lack of cool or the mega eye roll because she threatened to burn the damn shoes. Seriously major bonus points making everyone think these were the ones you actually wanted…

o Eventually you have to actually kiss a guy. Not just say you did. That actually turned out to be kind of cool… until he called and broke up with you hours afterwards.

o Figure out how to skip school and run from security without looking like you’ve never done that sort of thing before.

o Lie, lie, and lie, your little tookis off to get out of said school skipping punishment. (This actually worked on more than one occasion, which likely contributed to the reasons I kept doing it.)

o Be willing to share one beer five ways after spilling most of it trying to open with no “church key” and still think you are Betty Bad Ass. Style points for co-ed sharing.

o Come across guys that used to bark at you, at the local park. Allow them to try and talk to you and your friends, before revealing who you are and why you’re now walking away with your friends. Make sure to have handy old picture of self. Additional points for having three pictures of self; showing your totally amazing transformation and it was rather an awesome moment. Smile like you just killed off the last of your worst enemies. Laugh because you did not have to do a damn thing other than wait.

o See that high school is fast approaching and a major style and friend category merger or clique transition is likely necessary. Or else you parent’s will finish hiring that hit man. Also you’ve done this version of yourself long enough with still no major boyfriend developments. You did get dumped approximately five to six hours following first real kiss. Adios Betty Bad Ass.

o Confuse and confound parents colossally by having braces removed and, with little to no explanation, switching to tight jeans, boots, and country music. Friends now all agree this is more “you”. Even though you do not even know who you are, anymore.

o Meet high school guys at library wearing new outfit; confirm this is staying around awhile. (one of the guys actually ended up being the elusive first real boyfriend, though I gave the other guy my number at the time and did not really ever speak to elusive first real boyfriend until 10th grade began)

o Mommy Strike and ban on all jean purchases lifted. Swimming in Wrangler denim, with patch, extra-long. Mom so thrilled she is practically buying you a new pair with every paycheck. Who knew?

o Midriff shirts. At all times. Better enjoy that fabulous abdomen whilst you have it.

o Long hair, your hair has always been long but up to this point you kept it in a knot most of the time.

o Gain elusive first real boyfriend. Now with must have car/truck and a licensed ability to drive it.

o Line Dancing. Lots and lots of Line Dancing.

o Belt Buckle.

o First Formal Dance. Lose mind when pictures developed and mom mentions she looked at them with her co-workers before you and has now seen picture of you kissing elusive first real boyfriend. This is apparently the end of everything and the world for several weeks. No speaking to her until she promises to allow you to see and approve any and all pictures developed with her money in future.

o Fake nails. Long ones. Painted with any color that shimmered. NO flat colors.

o Throw caution to wind along with virginity. Who needs that burden anyway?

o Go on to kind of regret that choice. A lot at times because as an adult you understand the actual ramifications of that little decision, made in a split second, and all its meanings and symbolism. Remind self, not to be too hard on self, because you did actually believe it was love, forever. Chump.

o Get dumped, hard, by elusive first real boyfriend. I was wrong about the pictures being the end of the world and everything… this was the absolute end of the world and everything. Especially since it seemed like everyone knew it was coming and you were the last one to know.

o Drag self around for a few weeks, convinced elusive first real boyfriend will remember that it was supposed to be love and come apologize for this mess. That never happened, but I was 15, so I had no idea how any of this worked. Any and all previous boyfriends were people I saw mostly at school or spoke to on the phone… but never really touched or saw each other in private.

o Get introduced to a new guy; hesitate to even speak to him. Finally decide he is your only option for a ride home other than the bus.

o New guy asks you out. You tell him you do not date guys with long hair. Bonus points awarded for letting the guy down easy, well easy-ish, and smugly thinking he would never cut off that bedraggled mop on top of his head he loves it too much.

o Eat crow, when he comes to see you at school the next morning with all his hair cut off and calls you on that date. Style points for remaining calm and not showing that you were wondering if this was not the weirdest, creepiest thing a guy could do or was it really romantic.

o Receive first rose on Valentine’s Day. Spend majority of day assuming it was from the elusive first real boyfriend and that at some point he will come and sweep you into his arms. Points for not looking completely shocked or dismayed when it was in fact a rose from him and that first real boyfriend was really and truly not coming back.

o Finally agree to go out with him; afterschool on Valentine’s Day 1996.

This list is supposed to humorous, slowly moving to the more serious nature of growing up and the pains that come with it. Growing up in the rapidly changing world of the nineties was hard enough; I cannot even imagine doing this now. Part of me looks at this list and wonders if I had just not checked off a few of these things would everything have gone differently? If I had been taught that it was okay to trust my gut instinct over being polite would things be the same? Would it have been altered if I felt more secure in myself or not felt a need to repress any aspect of myself I deemed un-cool or un-lovable? Did my felt need to protect my family from strife and pain ultimately alter my life for the next decade and in many ways forever? Is life fated or do our choices and actions influence the path we are on? I have no answer to these questions and I don’t believe anyone does.

Stand Where I Stood: Special Ed.

At this point, after pausing, in my posts and watching very carefully the reaction to the subject matter; I think I need to speak to a couple of things that you might not understand if you haven’t ever been in my situation. For a few posts I will attempt to give you a sense of how you get a place where you accept this behavior, or at least at the point I did. So background information is a necessary evil. I apologize now. Please also remember I am no psychologist or doctor; I am only telling my story. I have no real medical knowledge other than what has been explained to me over the years and my writings are marginally acceptable at best.

Growing up I was always the awkward kid, the kid with no real athletic prowess, buck teeth, all limbs, and by the end of second grade thick glasses. My second grade teachers, I had a team of two teachers that year, thought very much inside the box. I was the kid who doodled on work, daydreamed, and could not add or subtract to save my life. My teachers, trying to be old school disciplinarians as in “dunce hat” old school, would stand me in front of the black board and tell me I was dumb or stupid or silly or whatever fit the moment. All of my failings were highlighted this way… I don’t remember if they did it to other kids and frankly other than feeling awful for them too, that doesn’t matter. Testing into the top 95% range with my IQ and tons of other tests of smarts and abilities meant I had to be placed in the gifted program at my school; my teachers and parents fought about these test results the whole year, which sort of drew the attention off of me. Never telling my parents about being chastised in front of 28 kids, they were very busy with a sick baby, a very sick baby, I endured. I kept telling myself this was for my brother; I only had to go so much more with these two old bats before I could move on. He was so sick and on more than one occasion death seemed inevitable. At some point in this process my father told me I had to be a big girl. He meant help out with some things like sorting laundry and helping out with dishes. Seven year old me, interpreted it as I had to be grown up, that meant putting myself second and protecting my family above all else. It was not until my parents had removed me from the public district and moved me into private schooling did they learn of the “teaching style” to which I had been exposed. Hell, all 28 of those poor kids put up with those nut jobs; at the very least I am sure someone got sick of hearing about me! (Pretty sure on that since I got teased a lot) My third grade teacher picked up on something I said and asked the right combination of questions; she discovered what happened and spoke to my parents.

Clearly, as any parent would be, they were upset. Whatever damage had been done was over. For me, the only thing that mattered was I had to protect my family, and my brother. Who hasn’t heard their parent tell the oldest to watch out for the youngest? Fast forward through all the weird pre-teen growing up and the socially inept me struggling to just fit in… and we arrive at another pivotal moment. In the sixth grade I was in Middle School in Alabama, my dad got a job in Seattle. So for Christmas that year we got to move to what felt like another planet! Our first year there was miserable. It did mean the demise of my poodle bangs; there might have been a good tradeoff there… jury’s still out on that. Not only did I think my parents had moved me to the furthest corners of hell (I was so wrong!) but I had to go back to elementary school. I found myself taking recess again and to make everything else extra awesome I got braces!

In case this isn’t making any sense let me clear up the picture. Gangly, coke bottle glassed four eyed, braces on teeth while buck toothed, southern accent, and goofy big haired little girl with horrible posture moved to the big city and like the Beverly Hillbillies culture shock is putting it mildly. My mother insisted I have an IEP and a bunch of other stuff that in my opinion, just meant I was a bigger dork with more paperwork. Special classes were organized so that I could “catch up” on my math skills; drawing further attention to me, as I had to get up and go to another place in the school for SPECIAL ED. All I really wanted to do was fade into a wall. I talked funny, I dressed funny, I looked funny (really I did the early 90’s were terrible for everyone) and now I did not know anybody. It didn’t take very long for kids around me to figure out that when I was in the room I was the one to sit next to; I had found a kind of niche: the smart kid.

Seventh grade, more awkward, and now I had a gap between my slightly less bucked teeth but still no self-esteem. I was always outside playing; my brother and I were team. We were survivors, together we always had someone to play with and talk to. If any other kid said one word about me I would take it, absorb it and save it for later. If any other kid said one word about or even looked wrong at, my brother I would come out of my frame. It may not seem like it but I have a pretty fiery temper; I just hold it all in because as a “southern lady” that’s how you do. Right?

At times I was pretty rabid about protecting my baby brother. He was so small and beautiful; navy blue eyes that sometimes looked black as jet sparkling in his little eyes and curly golden hair. He was getting stronger and the climate seemed to work for him. The boys called me Chewbacca because of my temper over my brother, bucked teeth and frizzy wild mess of hair. It took me a little while to figure out Seattle and hair. I digress… They would frequently follow me around the little community we first lived in, barking at me. Somewhere during this time we moved from the little townhome my parents had rented into a house, next a lake, and with a neighborhood where there were not so many older boys, thank God.

The school lines had changed and this meant another new school, if you are counting that’s four schools and four different sets of kids in three years. Each time my mother would cheerfully explain that it was a new start, a new beginning, she would say. This time it really was going to be different; my teeth now had no gap, just plain old braces, and the best thing in the world happened: I got my first contact lenses. This was the game changer as far as I was concerned. (I guess somewhere I forgot I was still dressing like my mother picked out my clothes… she actually really was since she was buying them, but that is getting technical.) I can remember prancing into my new junior high school that day convinced, absolutely, that I would have a boyfriend by the end of the week. By God, I was 13 now; a real teenager and I didn’t have those damned goggles anymore. Mind you I was wearing hard lenses, “gas permeable” they were called. Utterly no idea why they were called that because they did not breathe and I would soon learn that their only positive, besides the obvious lack of glasses, was that if I needed to go to the bathroom I only need pop one out and the teacher did not have any choice but to let me loose on the school. Worked like a charm; however at this point in my illustrious career I was not also scheming.

Looking back I am pretty sure that first day I was wearing a shirt with a salmon on it and lipstick… yeah lipstick in a “mauve” category. I learned a few things that year besides the general things taught in 8th grade. The first was that mauve was a category of color and lipstick best left for your mother. Lipstick is not your friend. Dressing like your mother picks your clothes out, does not make you an instant hit popularity wise. Some people wear forks and aluminum foil in their hair. I can’t recall her name but the she was the first person I saw at this new school. She was hovering near my locker with the forks and foil twisted in her raven hair. I was confused and unsure of the statement was being made, but she was confident, really confident, and she was standing between me and the door to my first class. My hesitation would have made you think she was threatening me with a knife or one of her forks. She wasn’t. I was just terrified that if she saw me in my now idiotic salmon shirt I would not be worthy of this girl who clearly had the cool grunge thing down pat. I did foster a deep and what I would have told you at the time was spiritual connection with Nirvana and Pearl Jam amongst others. The most painful lesson was that in order to cross the road from what I now considered mediocrity to the popular side of the fence (or so I thought) was to forsake all the kids who had been nice to me when I first arrived in Seattle for the kids that did not know that version of me.

By the end of 8th grade, I was letting people copy my homework; I had gotten my mother to stop buying me BONGO jeans and body suits, and even mixed some flannel and plaid into my sartorial catalog. I had long since tossed the purple lipstick and learned to use black eyeliner to my mother’s great dismay. New friends were all around me and even a few of the ones I had thrown to the wolves were still speaking to me. The trouble when you jump the fence like that is you don’t really belong on the other side of the fence. All of sudden I was in with a crowd, that moved fast and talked tough. Appeasement was my entry into the crowd; I first picked a girl who terrified me and made it my mission to make her my friend. She sat next to me in one class, sheer chance there, when we all had to group up to do group work I went out of my way to be sweet and meek and as pliable as possible. It worked, but at what cost?

Ninth grade and age 14 was the year my parents nearly had me killed. A seasoned veteran now, I hit school that first day in the dress my father called the “evening gown” it was long and black, mostly long. My first class Algebra, with Mrs. Johnson and Shara*, a good friend of mine to this day, became my first moronic mistake as I heard the words “you have two days after your homework has been done to correct it based on class discussions and then turn in for credit” which in my newly rebellious mind meant I had two extra days to do my freaking homework. NICE. I never did my homework. Not even once for that class. I had come so far from those Special Ed days and now I was trying to screw it up, in order to look like I didn’t care and mostly that I was not the smart kid everyone thought. Smart kids did not, intentionally or otherwise, fail classes. Smart kids, “nerds” or “dorks” or “geeks” were my people and I had made a calculated, ill-advised but thought out, not well, I was 14, move to separate myself from them. (Strategy is not, nor ever was my strong point)

*Names have been changed in order to keep identifying and concerned parties private.