July 29, 2010

disjointed thoughts about privilege and poor behavior in hotels.

I just returned from a family trip to the funny, sunny Pocono Mountains where some animals were encountered, amusement park rides were ridden, I was able to visit family I haven't visited in far too many years.** But mostly there was a lot of time travel. I time traveled for about a week, and I'm still not sure what year I've returned to. But whichever year it is I must say it is amazing! The televisions have more than 13 channels! And I haven't seen a single piece of overly flowered wall paper circa 1982! I'm so glad to be here; quantum physics/time leaping can be so frightening when not used appropriately.

It was a 14 hour drive. My stepfather drove, and we proved my mother wrong: you CAN pack their minivan with 3,000 pounds of luggage. (Please note: only 300 of these pounds belonged to us, thus further reinforcing my claim my mother is a victim of severe over-dramatics.) Each way, we divided our trip in half and spent the night at a lovely Holiday Inn Express in Salem, Virginia before finishing the ride to and from.

I had one WOW! experience at this Holiday Inn Express and one REALLY? REALLY?? experience.

They are as follows:

Part 1, WOW!. Traveling to Pennsylvania, on the morning we checked out.

A very tanned lady, 45-ish, dressed in full Elly May Clampett costume complete with a brunette version of Elly May's braided hair (with plaid hair bows). Ran around the lobby giving loud orders to the girls' soccer team she was supervising (all looked half asleep) and then, when no one returned to the front desk to answer a ringing phone? She reached over and answered it herself. She proceeded to have an overly loud conversation with someone who appeared to be a hotel guest that went like this:

"I don't know. I'll write a note and leave it with the front desk person. No, I don't work here. I can't tell you who I am. I just answered the phone because no one was here. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know! Look, I just answered this phone to help out. No, I don't work here.  Because no one is here right now. I'm just a guest at the hotel. They're not paying me. I don't know. I can't tell you that. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know! No, I only answered because no one was behind the desk. I'll write your number down and leave them a note. I don't know. I don't know! I'm not telling you my name. Because it doesn't matter. I'm just trying to help. Do you want me to write a note or not? I don't know! Oh, wait! Here comes someone. Talk to her."

Meanwhile, her soccer team girls were running around eating all the bacon and eggs provided in the lobby, complaining about how tired they were, and they kept taking their shoes and socks on and off and I was kind of sad C wasn't around to witness that. C has issues with bare feet. (Did you know?)

Part 2, REALLY? REALLY??. Returning home.

Melissa, C, my mother and stepfather, and I were all enjoying eggs and bacon and cinnamon buns in the lobby/breakfast nook Sunday morning. A family of four sat nearby our table--a mom, a dad, an 8 year old, and her older sister. They kept looking our way. Finally, Melissa and I got up to throw away our plates, and the 8 year old yells: "But one of them is white."

At first I wasn't sure who the 8 year old was talking about. Because, really, the entire lobby/breakfast nook was filled with only white people at that point, except for C and half of Melissa. And then the 8 year old yelled it again, with more loud emphasis on the color word this time: "But one of them is WHITE!!" And I realized my daughter and I were being looked at and talked about and analyzed like animals. In a zoo.

The most upsetting thing about this to me wasn't what came out of the mouth of an 8 year old with no social filter; what upset me the most was the fact there were two adults at that table and not one of them said anything like: "Hey, kid. You're being rude." or "Please speak more softly." or "That's none of your business." or "So?"  They sat and stared at us, mouths open, thinking--I'm presuming--the same thing their kid was voicing.

I really wanted to punch that kid in the head. But is it really her fault she's growing up in a bubble of white/social privilege and clearly isn't being taught a single thing about appropriate situations to verbalize one's arrogant bigotry vs. inappropriate situations to show one's enormous ignorance? Which means I eventually decided to spend the rest of the ride home fantasizing me punching her parents in their heads.

For those who are unaware, let me illustrate with a handful of examples what white/social privilege is:

-when you walk into a roomful of any color of people, you never have to feel like you'll have to speak more eloquently, be more polite, work harder at being friendly so anyone who may have preconceived ideas and notions about people from your cultural or skin color background will (a) have those preconceived ideas and notions proven wrong at least this one time, and (b) feel more at ease with you.

-you can do well in a challenging situation and no one ever tells you or insinuates to you that you're a credit to your race.

-no one ever really focuses on your race, including you.

-you can easily buy books, cards, toys, and magazines featuring people of your ethnicity and cultural background. You never really have to search very hard for these items, and nobody has felt the need to invent a company exclusively catering these items to people of your ethnicity and cultural background due to the fact these items are never hard for people like you to find.

-you can take a job with an affirmative action employer, and nobody's going to get disgruntled about your presence, assuming you got the job based solely on your race or gender.

-you can think over and choose from many life options: political, social, educational, professional, creative and otherwise, without having to worry: would a person of my skin color or gender or sexual identity or linguistic or ethnic background be accepted at this?

-if you're in a position of leadership and find out you're incredibly bad at it, it's very unlikely someone will gossip about you behind your back, insinuating to others of like mind that you're failing because of your ethnic heritage, cultural or socioeconomic background, or your skin color.

 But mostly: privilege means never having to think about where you're at, who you're with, if a certain city will be safe or comfortable for you and your family to visit. Privilege is never having to wonder if someone is staring at you because they think your shirt is cute or are they secretly annoyed/grossed out/angry that interracial relationships are now legal? Privilege is kind of just knowing you have options and the system will eventually work in your favor, even if affirmative action still exists to piss you off. Privilege is getting to eat microwaved omelets in a hotel lobby without some snotty 8 year old and her family judging you and your family for something that isn't even remotely affecting their lives one single iota.

I'm writing all of this here because it's what I deeply wish I'd had the courage to say that kid and her family. If nothing else, I regret not walking over to them and saying what I say to a few of of the 6 year olds I work with who--at the beginning of each school year--inevitably want to know why I married Mr. C when his skin is brown and mine is white: "Because I loved Mr. C and Mr. C loved me. So we got married. And now we have a little girl, and she is both brown and white. Is it okay for people with different skin colors to live together and be a family?"

(For the record: I've never, ever had a child answer "No." They always (always) either have seen how silly their question was or recognized by the tone of my voice that their question was really inappropriate.)

Instead, I took Melissa back to the table and began my predictable process of passive aggression: pointing to the 8 year old and her family, saying something like, "You'd think in the year 2010 people would at least teach their children to filter the bigotry in public spaces." Shaking mad.

I don't know if anybody at the other table heard me. They were too astonished at the other interracial family that just walked into the lobby. And one of them was WHITE.

**Much lighter and far more amusing photoblog/documentary to follow.

July 15, 2010

thursday: a thought.

For true love is inexhaustible; the more you give, the more you have. And if you go to draw at the true fountainhead, the more water you draw, the more abundant is its flow.
~Antoine de Saint-Exupery
 Taking a brief blog break--back in 1 week.

July 13, 2010

broken people on sidewalks.

Ever since C and I moved out of Atlanta's Toco Hills area and into the suburbs, I've been lamenting the lack of verifiable crazy people to gawk at. You just can't find them out here like you can in town, unless you think Yankee yuppie transplants wearing 3 strands of pearls and stilettos to do their grocery shopping at Whole Foods is crazy.

To give you an idea of what I've been missing for the last 7 or so years: when I first started dating C, he was living off Ponce de Leon in Midtown, right across from Murder Kroger. Murder Kroger is exactly 500 feet from the East Ponce police station, which is exactly 1.5 blocks from the crackhead transvestite prostitute corner. I don't know that the people milling around this corner are actually crackheads and/or transvestites and/or prostitutes, I just know they mill around this corner at all hours of the day and night (heavy stress on night) and it's best to keep your doors locked and your car moving even if the traffic light is officially red. I'm going to let the name Murder Kroger speak for itself.

What was so odd about this setup is that C lived in some really, really nice apartments. And these nice apartments were across the street from some really, really nice older homes some people with big dreams in their hearts had turned into ridiculously overpriced real estate that I'm sure put fat wallets in their pockets. And all of this was located down the street from a stupendously nice neighborhood filled with houses offering nothing but many, many feet of great curb appeal.

It's one of the things that makes Atlanta such a great place for a curious people watcher to just hang out for awhile: take a walk around town one way and you'd swear you stepped through a time wormhole and somehow landed on LA's Rodeo Drive, circa 1950. One wrong left turn up the next block, and you're dodging drive by bullets and side stepping drunks urinating on the sidewalks.

Which is why I had both a giddy "man! You NEVER see THIS in THESE parts!!" kind of feeling and a sad "should I be concerned?" feeling all at once this morning when C and I went to meet the tow truck at the grocery store parking lot where my car sat all last night.

My car has issues. It's been having issues since April. First the emergency brake light kept popping on and off while driving. Then the key fob needed a new battery. Then the brake fluid needed replacing. And it stalled on me a month ago and needed to be jumped, but it wasn't a battery issue. Finally, yesterday, right after I ran into a store to get some macaroni & cheese, tampons, olive oil, dishwasher liquid, and challah bread it just died. Done. And I was so frustrated because (a) I don't want to know why or how a car goes, I just want it to go, consistently, and (b) now I was going to have to get on the phone and talk to Kevin, the person I'd taken my sick car to a month ago, and tell him (1) the brake light had never stopped popping on and off even though he'd told me it was doing that because of low brake fluid and (2) the car didn't die a month ago because the key fob needed a battery, the car died a month ago because Kevin and his mechanic friends didn't actually take a really good look at it like they swore up and down to me they had. And having to do THIS meant Kevin was going to be kind of snotty to me, much more so than he was a month ago when I took the car to him the first time and he kind of talked down to me after I told him I didn't think the car had brake fluid or key fob problems, I thought the car had much deeper issues. Kevin talked to me like I didn't know a thing about cars like he did. It was the kind of snotty that male car mechanics are with women who aren't Danika Patrick. Or, I don't know, maybe snotty male car mechanics are even snottier to women named Danika Patrick. Either way, I don't know what to say to them to convince them I have super psychic car powers they'll never ever possess and if they'd just shut up and listen to me, we can all be out of each other's hair in mere hours, never to meet ever again.

Anyway. The car is fine now--there was short in a fuse, and C ended up doing most of the talking to Kevin and Kevin wasn't snotty with him at all. Win-win.

The thing that gave me the giddy/sad feeling was what happened moments before and after we met the tow truck at the grocery store. Before heading over there, we stopped at a nearby Starbucks for coffee. C parked in a spot right in front of the door and waited for me to get the coffees. When I came out, he was gone. Gone! I was about to throw his frickin' decaf into a trash can, because I've done this joke before--when I was 15, with a learner's permit, and my mom left me unsupervised behind the wheel while she ran into the house to get something.

I backed the car out of the driveway and hid a few feet down the street, but not so far down I couldn't see the look of bewilderment, then fear, then terror, then rage on her face, mere nanoseconds between each look. The memory of it is making me giggle right now; she was deeply unamused for, like, a whole week, which is how long I was grounded. Which is why I was not amused when I couldn't find C in the Starbucks parking lot this morning; this joke is ONLY funny if you're the driver.

Then I saw him several feet away and he slowly crawled his car over to me.

"What the heck are you doing? Why did you move?" I'd gotten in the car, but the door wasn't officially closed yet; his coffee could have still hit the pavement if the answer was less than satisfactory.

"I had to. So I could see the fight!"

C pointed to a man, late 50's or 60's, salt and pepper hair, moustache, wearing all black, holding a jacket. He was wandering around the edge of the parking lot like he was lost.

"That dude right there just had a screaming fight with some other dude, " said C. See the jacket he's holding? The other dude was screaming something about suicide and then ripped that jacket and his shirt off. I thought he was going to pull a knife out but then he just turned around and took off running. Wait! Look! See? There he is! See him running?"

And sure enough, there was a very young skinny man, black hair, completely shirtless, sprinting across the parking lot on the other side of the street. My brain started concocting all kinds of crazy answers to all the Why's in my head: maybe the salt and pepper haired man had tried to kidnap him; maybe the boy was trying to get a coffee at Starbucks and the moustache man propositioned him; maybe that was a father and son meeting for the first time after many long years of estrangement. All kinds of stories were up there; C invalidated them all: "No way, man. That kid is hopped up on crack or something."

We drove by the boy on our way to the grocery store. At that point, he'd stopped running, and was sitting cross-legged on the sidewalk, arms on his knees, head on his arms, sobbing.

"C," I said, "We need to stop and ask if he needs help."

"What?!" said C, "Why??"

"Because. He's obviously in trouble and he needs help."

"And you want to help a crackhead by...how again?"

"Okay, fine. Then let's call the police."

"It's the police's job to help suicidal crackheads?"

"Uh, hello, yes. The police are here to protect and serve, even if you're a suicidal crackhead."

C wouldn't let me call the police. This is the last time I listen to C about things of this nature; next time I'm not even saying a word, just grabbing my phone and dialing 911 and here's why:

When we drove home about half an hour later, there was a police car, lights flashing, stopped on the road by the sidewalk the boy was on. The boy was up, his shirt was back on, and he had a friend with him--another young man who appeared to be clean and sober. The upset boy was gesturing wildly to police officer, he was sweaty, and he was incredibly distressed about something. But clearly, someone not named C had called the cops, who had come to help this troubled human being, even if he was hopped up on crack. Because, I told C later, that's what cops are supposed to do--protect people, and that includes from themselves. And then we got into a discussion, fueled by THE VIEW'S hot topics discussion about Mel Gibson's recent craziness that ended in an agreement about how police don't always protect some people as much as they protect others. But that's another blog post for another day.

Anyway. C wouldn't stop as we drove home so I could be nosy and ask the cop, the boy, and his friend what had happened. And was everybody okay? And the man with the salt and pepper hair/moustache was nowhere to be seen. Where did he go, and why?

And the reason I feel all giddy and sad at the same time is because I've spent so many years lamenting the lack of that kind of bizarre, random sighting while living in the suburbs...but this particular bizarre, random sighting took place right between Melissa's school and the one I teach in. It really put all those sad, what-the-heck-was-THAT-all-about-at-my-house-last-night stories I sometimes hear each year from wide-eyed, filter-less six year olds into perspective.

Because I feel pretty wide-eyed, what-the-heck-was-THAT-all-about right now myself. More sad, less giddy. I joke about my love of "people combing", looking for the craziest of the craziest while out and about, but I think there's a big difference between crazy that's crazy for the attention and seeing a troubled human being who needs help. Like, it's one thing to sit in the Hartsfield-Jackson airport, watching some stranger with an orange spray tan scoop up melted cheese with a taco and then lift his shirt to lick off dribblings and taco sauce while wondering almost out loud: "How did you get from the birth canal to THIS?" But it's a totally different thing to see another human being--crackhead or sober--in tremendous distress, and not know what to do for them or how best to help them. (I suppose this is the part where codependency rears its ugly head and C's role is to remind me I'm not here to save the world and don't want that kind of responsibility anyway.)

...Is it bad if I still hope the boy is okay right now, and not suicidal anymore? And that I'm hopeful the salt and pepper haired man was just trying to help and not part of the problem? And that if he was part of the problem it was sorted out or the cop went and got him and put him in jail? And that when school starts in a few weeks I don't see any of these people at Open House?

July 11, 2010

scooching and bogging and dairy addictions.

While pregnant, I craved all things dairy. Like, if I could have just bought a dairy cow, tethered her to one of my backyard trees, and drank straight from a teet hourly like a newborn calf, let me tell you: I'd have been too, too happy.

Sadly, I had no access to dairy cows but I did have access to an HOA that would have been knocking on my door the very nanosecond they heard the first "Moo!" or caught the first whiff of manure. They'd have all stood in front of me, arms crossed, feet tapping, holding copies of the neighborhood covenants in my face, and the part that goes NO FARM ANIMALS ALLOWED would have been highlighted in red. And Mr. M down the street would have sent out a mass email campaign through the neighborhood to have me evicted and I probably would have ended up on the 5 o'clock news.

So I was left to swigging hourly from gallons (please know: I was not kidding when I typed gallonS. That's gallon, with an S.) of full-fat, whole milk. I once stood in front of Kroger's dairy section debating whether or not to buy my regular full-fat, whole milk or just submit to the monster and start chugging the heavy cream. These dairy cravings also pushed me toward places like Dairy Queen and Bruster's Ice Cream, and one summer afternoon I will be completely honest and admit to anyone reading: I tweaked on an entire gallon of Edy's Rocky Road ice cream. While pregnant, I was totally eligible to be featured on A&E's Intervention and I was crying out for a trip to dairy rehab; I'm still a little perturbed no one in my family saw this.

Before I got pregnant, I would have reaped many health benefits and maybe even been able to shop in JC Penney's juniors section once again by losing 30 lbs. After Melissa was born, the dairy addiction went away on its own and I lost about 30 lbs of dairy addiction/baby weight/normal pregnancy weight gain with no effort. Here's the problem, though: I'm left with 50 lbs that weren't there to begin with. Or 30 that were there plus 20 dairy addiction pounds. Whichever. The point is: my body was simply not itself for an entire year after this pregnancy and I wasn't physically or mentally (heavy emphasis on the mentally) able to exercise or consume vegetables the way Dr. Oz suggests. Also I've been scouring the yellow pages looking for tummy tuck surgeons who take Mastercard. I don't think there's an abdominal crunch in the world that's going to fix what Melissa and rampant pregnancy dairy consumption did to that area.

So I joined Spark People the other day. On the account of I like looking at organized online progress trackers and it's free. Did I mention it's free? Here's how it's gone so far:

**I've joined teams, and said hello. My teams are: Spark Bookworms, 30-something moms, Runners/Walkers, and I Need Sleep!. I'm most active in I Need Sleep!. Please note the irony.

**I joined last Monday. I set up my profile on Tuesday. On Wednesday, I logged what I ate. I ate 400 calories more than I was supposed to, and apparently my potassium levels are atrociously not being addressed in my diet (my calcium levels are great, if you were wondering).

**On Thursday, I only ate 22 calories more than I should have. My potassium levels were still atrocious but seriously, spark people. Unless potassium levels are going to reverse the condition of my abdominal area, you can just shove your potassium level information.

**On Friday, I logged what I ate for breakfast. And then I went out to lunch at Joe's Crab Shack. I was all set to order a Cobb Salad with crab meat, but for some ungodly reason the words "Fish and Chips" came out of my mouth when it was my turn. And then C and I went and had ice cream at a really cute not-chain coffee shop downtown. I hope everyone is aware by now of my inability to say no to not-chain coffee shops. And ice cream.

**After fish and chips and ice cream, I didn't want to know what Spark People would have to say about my caloric intake on Friday. Or my poor sodium performance. Or my carb overload. I already knew what they'd say about Friday's potassium performance.

Also, for dinner, we had pizza.

**I haven't visited Spark People at all today. I think they're looking for me but I've been undercover all day at the Weight Watchers message boards.

To be fair to myself, I worked out--hard--Tuesday through Friday last week. I'm a good worker outer; it's just forcing my body to do what my brain says which is "Put on work out clothes and drive to the gym. Then, when you're in the gym, get on a machine. Begin moving. Stop playing with the gadgetry on the machine and move. Move faster, stop pretending like you're in pain. Go. Go! GO!!"

Once I get through all that, I'm great.

I'll begin again on Monday. My 1st favorite author Anne Lamott says progress is a scooch-scooch-bog process: you scooch forward, then you hang out and bog for awhile. Then maybe you scooch backward and bog. After that, you scooch forward five scooches. Then maybe back two. And then you bog. There's no abracadabra to life, but eventually you make it where you want to be.

Monday through Thursday last week I was scooching. Friday I scooched back one space. Now I'm bogging. I'll be okay.

July 8, 2010

universal teachers

Pop Pop died. I briefly referred to him in last Saturday's meme, in the rambling part about why I'm about to torture my 20 month old girl with the delights of a 14 hour car ride (she's currently only ever had success being strapped into a car for 2 hours or less). This trip was my brother's idea; he wanted his children to meet their great-grandfather before he died. My mother was too, too happy when he told her his Big Road Trip Idea (that he and his whole family, me and my whole family, our mother and our stepfather take a Partridge Family-style road trip to see Pop Pop before his time on earth ended, but without the singing and--blessedly--minus Danny Bonaduce). He and my mom jumped up and down together with much excitement after the details were finalized. Everyone else looked on nervously.

Pop Pop died on Tuesday, July 5. His funeral is this Friday. I can't go. It's a long story, but the important thing is that I'd love to be there to say good-bye and support my mother and her two sisters but it's not possible right now, this year. Also, in less than 2 weeks, I'd have to turn right back around and make the drive again. Did I mention Melissa--who's only ever been successful in 2 hours or less drives--would have to make the drive twice as well? Actually, 4 times--north to south, north to south. The portable DVD player and Ni Hao Kai Lan dvd's aren't in our posession yet either. And not having a car-viable DVD player plus Ni Hao Kai Lan dvd's makes 14 hour car trips with 20 month olds my idea of sheer, living hell. I mean, yeah. There are crayons and coloring books and lots and lots of Cheerios. But those are only interesting for 5 minutes, tops, and there are only so many times you can mentally deal with hearing Yo Gabba Gabba's There's a Party in My Tummy.

I wasn't close to Pop Pop. He was a lifelong DamnYankee and I was a daughter of Carpet Baggers. But I do have lots of positive memories of him from childhood. I think I named my favorite stuffed animal I've had since I was 3 years old (a large dog named Luff Pup Pup, currently retired and living in my attic) after him. There are certain smells and old people style of furniture and house decorating I'll always associate with him. My most vivid, oldest memory of him is being about 4 years old, sitting on his lap, and slapping at the cigarettes in his shirt pocket, while he slapped my hand away. That sounds very abusive--slapping and cigarettes. What can I say? It was the 70's. I think Hawaii 5-0 was on in the background during these cigarette slapping games, too.

Before I write about Pop Pop's death, let me preface it all with the following:

1. I don't know exactly what happens to us when we die. And I'm not afraid of death myself--just the process of how I'll get there. For example, I don't want my process to be scary. I'd rather die peacefully asleep, having a nice dream wherein Gerard Butler brings me flowers and brushes hair from my eyes. Or even Alzheimer's would be good, because basically my mind would be gone and I'd have no idea what was going on. Dying in a fire-y airplane crash is not ideal. Neither is being tortured and axed by a serial killer. Being eaten alive by a great white shark is not one of my preferences. I've spoken at great length about this with the Universe.

2. I do know we're energy, and when we die that energy is gone. If you've ever been in a room with a deceased person you'll understand what I mean: when my mother and I found my father dead in bed from a heart attack, his energy was gone. There was activity and noise in the room--the overhead ceiling fan was on, the History channel was very loud. But the room was much, much too still. When I walked into the room, before I even realized he was not alive, I deeply knew something was missing.

3. I believe in a universal something, which I like to call God. But I don't have an exact definition for it, because I think many paths can lead you to it. But it's very good, and it's very loving, and it will intervene if you ask politely. And I thank it a lot. And during really bad periods, I have a prayer I say out loud to it that goes like this: "Help." And it always, always does.

4. I've felt presences before. Mostly just of people--and one pet--I've known...I'm not Sylvia Brown over here. Once, several months after Mom Mom (Pop Pop's wife) died, I was at a friend's house. We were all sitting on her couch after dinner, watching a baseball game and for no reason whatsoever, I became intensely aware that my grandmother was very near me. And I suddenly just knew: Mom Mom was visiting to make sure I was okay. And then she was gone, and I've never felt her presence again.

5. I still occasionally feel my father's presence. We talk whenever this happens. Which is nice, because when he was on this side of things, we weren't able to do that. Actually, my father was a great talker; and now the tables are turned and he's having to silently listen to my ramblings. That's a fine example of Karma at work, I like to think.

Pop Pop's death was not a good death. It was filled with sadness and I'm told he was deeply afraid of death. I don't know what demons were haunting him to give him this fear. I probably don't want to.

When he and Mom Mom moved into their oldest daughter's house about 9 years ago, I think he did it because he thought he'd die before my grandmother and wanted to make sure she was taken care of when he was gone. Pop Pop was utterly devoted to her, and this was a very deep, very codependent, life-long devotion. To the point he told his 3 little daughters they were in the way as they grew up, and he resented them and the time they were taking from him with his wife. Pop Pop wanted to be with Mom Mom aaaall the time. But alone. Once they were finally alone, he was incredibly sweet to her but in a "get up, old woman! get up!" kind of way. Like, after her strokes left her partially paralzyed, every day he'd tie her shoes for her but he'd complain the whole time about having to tie an old woman's shoes. It was cute. In a bizarre way.

And yet, when Mom Mom was hours from her own death, lying in a hospital, Pop Pop refused to visit her, he refused to stay by her side and comfort her, to say good-bye. It was a confusing choice. I'd have given anything to say good-bye to my own father. To this day I'm haunted I didn't get to...I can't imagine actually having the chance to say good-bye and choosing not to.

Pop Pop became terribly abusive the last several years of life. So angry, so bitter. He sat in his room upstairs a lot, refusing to be social. He spent great amounts of time suffering from paranoia, thinking people were talking about him behind his back. He said mean things to and about people, and when they stopped visiting or inviting him places, he couldn't understand why, and he became deeply indignant and incredibly resentful.

After Pop Pop died, my aunt found a letter he'd written a few years ago. It was labeled along the lines of "Do Not Open Until After I Die." Everyone assumed it was a letter of apology for his poor behavior lately, or a maybe a thank you for taking care of him and Mom Mom in their last years of life. It was not. It was a letter of hate, full of resentment and anger, and blame. My heart broke for my aunt and my grandfather when I heard about this letter; it's been really difficult to wrap my mind around.

Because my memories of Pop Pop are the memories of a little girl--he was a really, really good grandpa if you were a little girl.

I've been praying a lot for Pop Pop. When I was in Savannah, I lit a candle for him. I always light candles in Catholic churches. Now I wish I'd lit more for him. I don't know where he is; I hope he's okay though. When my father died, there was only love. People he'd worked with for less than a year came to his viewing, crying. And my father was not a piece of cake that washed down easily with some milk; he could be a bully. He had troubling problems with alcohol and rage. And he lectured, a lot. But there was a deep goodness about him that people sensed; I miss him deeply, to this day. I haven't seen Pop Pop in over a decade; and so I don't know where the goodness from my little girl memories went, who that man who wrote that vicious letter was. Surely, the good grandpa was still in there somewhere. Maybe buried beneath the paranoia and the rigid need to dominate and control? Right?

My mother visited him a week before he died and they had a conversation that went like this:

"When I closed my eyes just now," said Pop Pop, "I think I saw a man reaching out to me. I tried to reach out to him but I was afraid to."

"Pop, that might have been an angel. Go ahead and reach out to him if you see him again, don't be afraid."

"That was no angel. No angel would come for me," said Pop Pop.

"What's that supposed to mean?" said my mom.

"Please don't make me explain it to you," he said, closing his eyes again.

And then, she said, Pop Pop cried.

Which really broke my heart, particularly after I found out about the letter. I don't think Pop Pop cried at my mom's visit because of the angry letter; the letter was written years ago and he probably didn't remember writing it. My heart broke because I don't know who the man who died was; I only remember playing the cigarette slapping game with Pop Pop, being grossed out by his dentures in the water glass, how silly he could be, and my ratty old stuffed dog in the hot attic that will always have his name. And my heart broke for my aunt, because she really put up with a lot of Pop Pop's poop over the last 9 years, not to mention throughout her childhood when my mother claims he was often particularly unkind and very detrimental to a small child's burgeoning self-esteem and sense of place in the world. And now she will have to find a way to forgive a parent who was able to write such a letter to a child.

And so I've been praying to my father and my grandmother's spirits to find him and help him, and I've been meditating, asking the Universe to direct me to the Why and How and What of it all. Why would someone write a letter like that to their child? How could such a nice grandpa who was a good jokester become so hurtfully bitter? What can someone do to avoid ending one's time here in such a manner? Because our time here is so very, very short which makes it so very, very precious.

I guess you just watch, and you learn, and you decide who you want to be and how you want to live. Maybe the Universe sent Pop Pop to us all to be one of our lives' greatest teachers, to help those of us whose lives were touched by his to decide who we want to be, and how we want to live.

I know I've kissed Melissa's smushy cheeks a lot more than I ever have since Tuesday. And I tell her I love her a lot more, and make sure she knows she's my life's greatest blessing. And ditto for my husband. And my cat. And my family. And my friends.

Life is crazy and short, we don't have a lot of time to waste. Live and love freely, and remember who you are, a child of God with great things to do here even if they're very small. My prayer is, wherever Pop Pop is, he knows that now.

July 7, 2010

(mostly) wordless wednesday.

Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists.
Herein lies the peace of God.

~ A Course in Miracles ~

I'm your biggest fan, I'll follow you until you love me, Papa-paparazzi.

~Lady Gaga~

July 6, 2010

on the fourth of july

   A long time ago, I had a neighbor who almost killed me with fireworks. She insisted the box said DIRECT TOWARD YOU. And so she lit it, the entire frickin' box, directing that huge (illegal  from Tennessee) box of fireworks at me and another friend, sitting on her driveway as we innocently enjoyed our nice 4th of July beverages.

The next thing I knew, screaming flames of fire were headed straight for us and I jumped up and ran like an Olympic sprinter from Kenya to get out of those screaming fireworks flames' way. They headed into my neighbor's garage, and kept landing there for one whole minute. After it ended, our neighborhood street looked just like Baghdad after a wave of shock and awe: smoke filled the streets, an eerie silence hung in the air, and the 80 year old lady across the street was fearfully peeking out of her door in her housecoat and curlers.

I could hear my husband calling: "Amy? Amy! Does anyone know where my wife is? Where is my wife! Amy? Amy!" (Inside, hiding behind the sofa.) It took us 5 minutes to find the dog, who'd hidden under a bush behind the house, and her "husband" (they weren't technically married) was calling her cuss word after cuss word for trying to burn down their house. He was wearing overalls (no shirt) and a fishing hat, right off the set of Deliverance, running around like a psychotic, waving a garden hose. Several months later at an HOA meeting, the whole HOA ganged up on him and went down a long list of things he was in violation of in the neighborhood adding, pointedly looking at him as they reached the end of their list and going, and I quote: "Oh. And NO fireworks."

The neighbors broke up a few years ago; he went mental and she (technically) married someone much more emotionally healthy who took away her access to huge boxes of fireworks. I have no idea what happened to the girl who was sitting next to me on the neighbor's driveway. I do know we stayed alive, though, and our 4th of July beverages were saved. And now? I have a really cute, "watch this, y'all!" 4th of July story to tell.

(I meant to post this yesterday, but we had some family issues, which I will write about tomorrow. In the meantime, I hope everyone had a happy 4th of July with nice beverages, and no one was almost killed by wayward boxes of fireworks.)

July 3, 2010

Saturday 9

Memes are fabulous things when you don't have a real blog post to put up you're making a heroic effort to update your blog less sporadically. And so I found a blog that has memes, just for Saturdays, called Saturday 9. Because who the heck doesn't like writing or reading a meme on a Saturday? Cartoons, schmartoons! Newspaper and coffee, Schmoospaper and schmoffee! Reading other people's riveting memes are what you really need to relax with.

Here, I'll start:

  1. Do you feel that you need to keep repeating yourself when talking to a particular person? Yes. Twenty month old people are notoriously bad listeners. I say everything at least 3 times, and once I said something 8 times which really made me feel crazy . And one time, I caught myself going: "I hate sounding like a broken record!" And that's something my mom used to say. Which is disturbing because (a) I hate saying things my mom used to say, (b) I actually do sound like a broken record, (c) it's sad that I even know what a broken record sounds like, because (d) nobody under 30 even knows what a record is unless it involves their name and a police force.

2. It's July. Do you have anything special planned? We are off to a barbeque at a friend's house today. There will be small children for Melissa to potentially bite if she perceives they're taking something that belongs to her (and everything that exists in the world belongs to her if it makes its way into her hand).

I don't know if there will be fireworks. But I do know somebody's roasting a pig. I don't know if they're roasting a whole pig, or half a pig, or 1/3 of a pig. But I do know there will be a pig. In a big, pig barbeque pit. Roasting. I bet PETA's going to be SO frowny about this.

Later this month, my side of the family: husband, daughter, brother, sister-in-law, niece, nephew, my mom, my stepfather, me--that side of my WHOLE family will be taking a road trip to the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.

We're staying in a place that looks like it hasn't been updated since the mid-80's. There is little to do in the Pcoconos besides shoot deer (apologies again, PETA) and July isn't even close to deer season. It takes 14 hours by car to reach this land; we'll be traveling for 14 hours by car with a 20 month old who likes to RUN, mama! RUN! not sit still for extended periods. We haven't even loaded the mini-van yet and my mother is already complaining about how much extra stuff we're bringing and there's no room for it in her mini-van.

Why are we subjecting ourselves to this torture? So our small children can meet Pop Pop, their dying great-grandfather (please don't say anything crazy, Pop Pop) (Pop Pop has been a really grumpy old man for the last decade and a half, and now on top of dying--and being grumpy about it--he's got dementia).

What can I say? You make the sacrifices now so when your children are older, you have a groundwork of handy guilt trips.

3. Who is your big celebrity crush?
Who's NOT my big celebrity crush? I'm pretty sure my husband is supposed to give me a pass if Gerard Butler wants to take me to Fiji. Clive Owen would be okay, too, if his spouse is agreeable like mine is. And Javier Bardem, if Penelope Cruz won't beat me up.

4. Tell us about a local restaurant you are sure we'd love.
I think you should visit Sun in my Belly. It's like eating on your grandpappy's porch in Appalachia, except you're in downtown Atlanta. And everyone has most of their teeth. And they play jazz music; not a banjo in sight. And the food can be slightly pricey if you don't watch it. And I don't think you would find your Appalachian memaw cookin' up stuff like Challah French Toast Stuffed with Honeyed Ricotta and served with Brown Sugar Glazed Berries + Maple Syrup or Rose Pistolla: Hot Pressed Ham Sandwich with Pepper Jack + Chipolte Mayo + Roasted Red Peppers + Dijon served on Brioche.

They will, however, serve y'all up water in mason jars. Just lak at dem dare Crayckur Burrel.

5. Tell us about the shyest person that you deal with regularly.
That would be myself. And Miss Melissa, who I'm convinced is not actually shy, just messing with new people she meets by immediately covering her eyes with both her hands so we all just think she's shy. How do I know she's doing this just to mess with us? Because when she uncovers her eyes, she lifts her shirt up over her head and flashes the whole world. And shy people don't do that. We stay totally covered up.

6. What is your vision of heaven and hell? Heaven: the moment right after Melissa falls asleep on me and right before she starts to get sweaty and I feel like I'm lugging a large sack of potatoes around. Sunny days. Long vacations. Road trips with good friends. Summer nights when those bugs outside my window are croaking or whatever that sound they're making is. Not having to think about other people's problems and issues, just focusing on re-organizing my pantry.

Hell: being locked in a room any of these people: Rush Limbaugh; that crazy preacher from the Westboro Baptist Church; a really arrogant knowitall; a white supremacist; someone who sounds like Rush Limbaugh and talks like the WBC preacher in a really arrogant knowitall way about the superiority of one kind of people over another and you have a hard time focusing on what they're saying because they have such bad body odor....or anyone who thinks any of the aforementioned are cool people to look up to.

I'm sure all of these types of people have lessons the Universe would like us all to learn. I think that lesson is: use your brain, and take a shower.

But I could be wrong.

   7. What is your neighborhood like?
It's very small, we only have about 50 homes. You can't get lost; the whole thing is one big circle. It's 5 years old. We have an empty lot nobody's doing anything with, so once a year the Home Owners Association throws up some portable picnic tables and has Italian catered in; somebody usually brings a battery-operated CD player with a lot of big band CDs loaded into it.

We're billed as "a village," which means the builder hoodwinked the people in the much older, more established neighborhood behind ours into letting us attach their neighborhood's name at the end of our "village." The older, more established neighborhood behind us agreed to let the builder do that because they thought the builder was going to tell all of us to join their HOA on top of the one we already had. So they're pretty peeved with us, because it turned out nobody in our very small village really wanted anything to do with them.

Here's the moral of the story about builders the neighborhood behind us learned the hard way: they build. And then they leave. And the people who buy the builder's houses may have their own ideas about what's cool. And maybe they think your older, established neighborhood pool is incredibly overpriced to join, because we can get a membership at the gym down the street for about $5000 less each year and go swim there. And stop paying cops to hide behind the bush near that one stop sign that's in that really ridiculous location just so he can write tickets for people going to and from work. That's really a poopy thing to do to your neighbors. Also, one of your houses looks like a haunted bordello. Who wants to pay $5000 a year to be a part of that?

We're one of the youngest families in our village/neighborhood. Because the builder marketed it toward active adults, which means people who are retired or almost retired but they're still able bodied and fully cognizant enough to pay their bills on time. Most of our neighbors are over 65 but not old codgers. They're highly friendly, and they all seem to have poodles for pets, and they walk these poodles in a big group around 5 o' clock every evening when it's warm. Maybe they have a poodle walking association they're not telling anyone about. I like the one lady who looks like Nancy Reagan: she always waves when I drive by her and her little brown poodle.

I'd finish this overly long response by saying my retired neighbors over 70 spend a lot of time taking notes about who's following the Home Owner's Association rules properly and who's not, but I live with the Co-president of the HOA board. And he practically drives around the village every afternoon checking for offenders, grumbling about people who've left their trash cans out too long. And he's not even close to 70.

8. What's your favorite cook-out food?
If it's been cooked on a grill? I'm rarely picky.

9. When was the last time that you saw fireworks? July 4, 2009. We went to a friend's house. Melissa was 8 months old and not scared at all. The toddler boys were all hiding in the basement, though. I'm not saying little toddler boys scared of fireworks won't toughen up. I'm saying little toddler boys scared of fireworks aren't as tough as little 8 month old baby girls. Is all.

July 2, 2010

one whole day, wasted.

Today, I...

**spent 7 hours on wordpress.com creating a new blog for this blog to relocate to. I switched themes there about 100 times. I spent 4 hours readjusting colors and graphics. I spent at least 2 hours re-scaling my new graphic image for my blog to fit their themes. I was unsatisfied with all results.

**Then I spent about 2 hours attempting to figure out how to delete the 3 blogs I'd created on wordpress, two of which were created in an effort to delete the first one I was unsatisfied with but then I couldn't figure out how to delete those extra 2 blogs. Really, after hour 3, I think it all just turned into one big cluster&%$K.

**In between, I read Huffingtonpost.com. I read Kate Gosselin's thoughts about plastic surgery in the Entertainment Section. I learned 5 healthy eating tips from ancient Chinese medicine in the Living Section. And then I went to the Politics section (which I generally try to avoid on Huffingtonpost.com, because that's where all the trolls hang out, and I find trolls extremely disastrous to my general mental health). But against my better judgment, I went there. And I read about how John Linder (who does a really crappy job representing me and my interests), Rand Paul, and this crazy whippersnapper who's all the rage with the far right over in Nevada, Sharron Angle, think people who are unemployed/laid off/etc., just really asked for it and are being encouraged to stay unemployed by collecting unemployment.

**Then I shared a personal family story about my own family's experiences with unemployment/lay offs, and why Rand Paul, John Linder, Sharron Angle, and their friends are actually showing how out of touch and cruel they are, and somebody calling himself "Native Son" told me I was out of touch, and that my family and our story are good examples of what's wrong with America today.

**So I called "Native Son" an a-hole. And then I remembered I'm a child of God and so is Native Son, and really, what is Native Son besides a child of God who's also a coward hiding behind an online persona that's not even a tiny bit original spewing his own negative emotional garbage into the ethos? And so I apologized to Native Son for calling him an a-hole, and told him that I'd take his silence or whatever immature response he offered me as his apology to me for being callous and rude to my family.

**And then I went back to wordpress.com and spent another 45 minutes trying to figure out how to delete their stupid blogs.

**At 45.6 minutes, I figured it out and all traces of my foray into wordpress has been erased.

**After all that, I came back here and just decided to stay at blogger.com. So I re-designed my blog. And I'm still not happy with the color choice, but I figure I've got all day Monday to waste again.

**After I post this, I'm going to pick up Melissa, who probably got to sing some songs and read some books and dance around, and maybe even bit somebody's arm again and pointed her finger indignantly at a teacher or three. SO much more productive.

To summarize: I need fresh air.
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