Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Nov 30: Has it been a month already?

Today is the last day of NaBloPoMo. For those of you who don't know, those letters stand for National Blog Posting Month. The challenge is write and post a blog post every day during the month of November. It started out as a spoof of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), but a lot of bloggers really dug it, so now it's a real thing run by Blogher. The folks at Blogher gave away lots of prizes--I didn't win a fucking thing--gave daily writing prompts (I didn't use them), and gave us lots of support and encouragement.

And I did it! In spite of working on two overlapping shows at a local community theater, grading stacks of research papers, cuddling a new granddaughter, Thanksgiving, and that awful day when Google decided to shut down my blog for several hours with no explanation whatsoever, I posted every single day in November. Yay!

One thing I've re-learned from doing this is that I can be obsessive about writing if I write a lot. If I had six more hours in every day, I would write them away. I spend a lot of time thinking about what I'm going to write about when I get to the computer or have a chance to sit down with a paper and pen. I put off doing things like laundry and emptying the dishwasher so I can write. I stay up way too late because I want to keep working on a post. I've written a lot this month that I haven't even posted. I take notes when I'm out with friends and threaten promise to write about them on my blog. Some people stop in mid-sentence around me these days because they're afraid I'll embarrass them here make them a celebrity.

The most surprising thing I learned is that people will read here every day. I was anxious about writing so often because I thought readers would start skipping posts and then more and more and more .... and then pretty soon the only people coming would be the ones who googled unusual dildos or naked mommies or riding a Sybian to church.*

I'm always shocked when somebody mentions in real life something I wrote on my blog, and then I'm like a little kid. "You read my blog? Really? You really read my blog? Like every word or do you just skim? What are your favorite posts? Do you think I talk about vaginas too much? Do you know where I can get a cookie? Will you give me a cookie.......?" Yeah, I've turned into a cookie blog monster.

Several people have asked if I will continue to do this at least through December. I'd like to, but I'm not sure I can keep it up. I have lots of ideas I want to write about, but some of those posts will take a while to crank out. It's harder to get to the meatier posts when I have to meet a deadline every day. On the other hand, if I have to write one out every day, I can't put off writing about the things that are important to me. I can't get lazy.

And yet I have other work I need to do here in this space. I need to do a big redesign and maybe even transport my blog to another home. That takes time, and I'm struggling deciding on a design. I am thinking about this guy for my mascot though. He's juicy and he looks like he can dance. I don't know about you, but I'm imagining a hula skirt down there, and I'm sure he's wearing it regimental. Not a kilt, but it will do.

My melons can't compete.

When I started writing here regularly last summer, I was writing through some losses, trying to fill a void. I'd been writing for other reasons, to someone else, and I lost that audience. This blog became my refuge, a place where I could deal with some of the briar patches in my life, a place where I could hide among the words. In some ways I'm still hiding here, but it's a healthy place to hide for now. I'm making valuable connections here.
So, will I continue to write every day? I'm going to try. That's the best I can promise right now.

Thanks for reading this month. I really do appreciate every comment and email I get. See you in December!

* Oh, yes, it is time for another keyword post. I had no idea what a huge problem men have with where to put their junk in the bike shorts. No idea.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Nov 29: Intimacy... and what is that in your penis?

I meant to write tonight about intimacy and security and being a good friend, about getting what we need versus taking care of other people vs being simply an item on a menu. I thought I knew what I was going to say, but this topic is coming at me from several directions--even in one day, from several directions. A good friend is waiting in my living room to continue the talk we started a couple of hours ago, and as we talk, what I want to say changes. So I can't write about it yet. I thought I could, but I don't have all the information yet. But I will say that Miss Serendipity and my unintentional muse, Dolores, have together ganged up on me, and obviously this topic will not rest until I write about it. Miss Serendipity keeps throwing people in front of me, and Dolores won't let me sleep for thinking about what I need to say, how I need to integrate these stories.

You don't want this in your penis.
The danger for me is that I wrote about this topic once, and it knocked me into a brick wall didn't end so well. The same thing could happen this time, so I'm stepping into the pool very carefully this time. I don't want to lose anybody over what I want need to say about intimacy and what we do to find it, to get it, to keep it. And about security, and what we'll give up to keep it. And also about being a good friend or even a good partner, and letting go.

For tonight, while I wrestle with these issues and try to come up with something at least cogent, but maybe even profound vaguely meaningful, I will simply leave you with this article,  about a man who will probably never take an eel bath again.*

* I'm simply searching for balance. The nipple on the foot story made many of my women readers squirm. Guys, it's your turn to squirm.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Nov 28: You've got a nipple where?

I'm cutting it very close to the deadline with the blog posts this week. Next year I'll know to have a few in reserve. The response to yesterday's tarot post has been greater than I expected, so I've spent a good part of today scheduling readings and even doing one this evening after theater rehearsal. I'm not only flattered--because I did, after all, admit that I'm a charlatan and I don't believe in this shit--that people are willing to put their faith in me and my 78 cards for a half hour or an hour, I'm also happy for my vagina.

Yes, this will help to pay for my surgery. As you know, because I wrote about it here, my poor, rusted-out vagina is up on blocks in my front yard. It needs rejuvenating and it needs it now. Everything I make from my tarot reading will go not to my children's and my grandchild's Christmas, but to the reparation of my lady parts. Think how really fucking charitable you would feel if you could put your donations toward such a good cause. (Subliminal suggestion: click the Paypal donate button.....)

But speaking of repairs, did you know nipples can grow in places other than chests? I did not. First the vaginas, now the nipples. I leave you tonight with this story about a young woman who has a nipple on her foot. On her foot!

It makes the mind reel, doesn't it? What would that feel like? Does it link straight to the lady parts like a chest nipple does? In other words, if someone plays with it, does she get horny? Does it get hard in the cold? Is it legal for this young woman to go barefoot? If her shoe falls off would we call it a wardrobe malfunction and censor her foot on TV? Don't you want to play with it? I do. Well, really. Who can resist a nipple?

If you had a nipple on your foot would you have it removed?

Coda: If any of my readers has a foot fetish, can you tell us if the addition of a nipple to a foot is a turn-on? Thank you.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Nov 27: What's in your cards?

A few weeks ago my friend the Hot Italian and I rented a booth at a church bazaar and did tarot readings: 10 minutes for $10. We do readings for each other once in a blue moon, but neither of us had read for other people in a while. We each did five readings, which paid for our booth and for printing business cards and gift certificates. Not a financial success, but we surprised a few people with our razor-sharp insights and uncanny ability to tell the future just by analyzing pictures on cards .... I lied. We can't really tell the future. The future changes depending on what you do. But people are always surprised at what we can tell them about themselves from the cards.

It was interesting watching people's responses as they stopped by our table. Some said, "I'm already pretty sure I know what my future will be. I don't need that." One of us would say, "We don't predict the future." And then we'd get the condescending smile and nod. Some people admitted the cards made them a little nervous. Maybe that's not ridiculous. They're afraid of what we'll know about them from reading the cards. They're afraid we'll throw out the dreaded Death card, not realizing that death is just the end of one thing and the beginning of another.

But the ones who did stop and pay their $10 got their money's worth, I think. All of them left feeling more grounded, with better understanding of whatever situation they were asking about, or with the knowledge of certain choices to be made. One probably didn't get as much out of it as he could, because he wanted to do all the talking and tell the cards what he wanted them to say. That's OK. It was his reading. I gave him the message, which he may or may not ever hear.

If you're as cynical about things like tarot cards as I am, I'm surprised you've read this far. I really don't believe in such things, and yet there's something about what happens when I read for someone that I can't explain. It's like when I have dreams sometimes that come true. I don't want to believe it happens, because it freaks me out, and yet I can't deny it does. Some things defy explanation. Miss Serendipity certainly defies explanation, and yet she is my constant companion.

I once read an article in Reader's Digest, which I consider a pretty conservative magazine, about a freelance writer who wanted to debunk the tarot. So she learned to read, and found that she could see things in the cards that she couldn't have known. So she went further. She started giving readings over the phone, and again, she told people things she couldn't have known. Much as she wanted to prove that tarot readers were charlatans, she couldn't do it. She ended up on the dark side, much as I did.

Shortly after I read that article, somebody gifted me with a deck of tarot cards. Soon after that, one of my good friends called and asked if I wanted to take a tarot class with her at a local pagan store. I said I might as well. Miss Serendipity was going to keep hounding me if I didn't. So we signed up for the 4-class session.

I found out I was pretty good at it. In our reading swaps with other students, I saw things in the cards I couldn't have known about them. Things about their families, situations they were struggling with. I see a lot anyway--it makes some people uncomfortable--but the cards somehow focused my attention on the details.

8 of cups
A couple of memorable things happened in that class. One night as the teacher, Vickie, was going through the traditional meanings of the cards, she told us about the 8 of cups. She gave the textbook meaning: movement away from some emotional issue, disappointment in love, a man who has lost something he loved .... Then, because tarot is more intuitive than learned, she asked if any of had ideas about what the card might mean. A few people said a few things.

She was just about to move on when I said, "It doesn't look like a man to me. I think it's a woman named Mary and she thought you loved her enough to call her back when she turned away. She's moving slowly because she's waiting for you to make the next move."
Vickie looked shocked. "How did you know that?" she asked.
I didn't know how I knew it. It seemed like a smart-ass remark, and I wasn't sure why I said it.  "I don't know," I said. "You asked what the card said and that's what it said to me."
"You couldn't have known about my friend Mary though," she said. "We had a fight and I've been waiting for her to call me to make up."
"Maybe you'd better call her," I said.
Vickie seemed a little shaken. "Yes, I hadn't thought of that, but you're right," she said.

Eh, I don't know. Could be coincidence. Our last class was September 11, 2001. LtColEx was stranded in Albuquerque. I'd been home with the kids all day feeling the slow boil of suppressed panic. My friend and I decided we'd go to the class anyway. I did several readings that night. In every one, the Tower came up. It didn't matter how well I shuffled. It didn't matter if someone else shuffled. The Tower came up every time. Again, could be coincidence. There are only 78 cards.

That same night, Vickie brought her friend, the Psychic. Vickie believed in a lot of metaphysical stuff. She didn't seem very discerning to me. As for her friend's psychic abilities, like I said, shit happens that I don't understand so maybe she's got something going on. But I'm always wary of people who claim big abilities--I suppose much as I am telling you about my abilities now. Whatever. I'm a fucking hypocrite.

Anyway, Vickie wanted her impressive psychic friend to see me read. So I read, like a trained pony. And the psychic friend watched intently. I read her cards and she didn't say anything as I did it. Disconcerting, but the whole day was a nightmare. Some hokey fucking psychic couldn't throw me after the mayhem I'd watched on TV that morning.

After I finished reading--Tower card and all--she said, "You don't need the cards to do that, do you?" Now I had no idea what she meant by "do that," but I said no, I didn't. Because I've always been empathic and intuitive to a fault. I see things people don't want me to see. I see their entire stories, and sometimes when I tell them back .... Well, some people don't like the way their stories look out in the open, all in hard black and white words. So I see things, but I don't necessarily think there's anything metaphysical ..... just shit I can't explain.
"You see a lot more than you tell people, right?" she asked.
"Sure," I said.
"You let me know when you're ready to develop your powers. I'll guide you," she said, and she gave me her card.
I laughed. Powers, my ass. And then I said, "Thanks, but I don't really believe in that shit."
She smiled. I never called her, of course.

Because I really don't believe in this shit--except that when I read for people something really does happen, and I can't explain it.

A few months after I took that class, a friend who lives on the eastern seaboard emailed me and asked if I'd read for her over the phone. I said I'd give it a try. She was going through a rough time and wanted to see if the cards gave any advice. And she'd been in an abusive marriage, trapped in fundamentalism, for a number of years before I  knew her. She wanted to take back those things she'd been interested in before that time, and tarot was one of them.

Without going into the details, because that wouldn't be ethical, once again I told her things I didn't know. I saw things that made sense, given what I already knew, but one card showed something hidden. When I asked her about it, described what it was telling me, she admitted there was a large part of her life she had been hiding. It was there on the card. She was so impressed by her reading, she eventually started reading professionally and she writes one of my favorite tarot blogs. She's never done a reading for me, but I have no doubt she far surpasses my skills.

And yet I'm not sure if it's a skill or something else. It's more than learning meanings of cards from a book. That might help, but each card means something different depending on way the cards are laid out, where it's placed, its relationship to other cards, the situation the reading is about. So it's a skill, but it's more than that. It's also the shit I don't believe in.

So I'm careful. I observe my own set of ethics. I don't read other people's cards unless they ask me to. And even if someone has asked me to read, I don't read unless the person is involved. There are a few people who have asked me to read their cards, but for some reason won't or can't follow up. Even though I'd still like to see how their readings would turn out, I wouldn't read with the intention of seeing anything about them.

I also don't tell the future. I can say what might happen if things continue along this path. I can say what might happen if these actions are taken. I can even say one action would be wiser than another. But the future changes and can be changed. A warning taken can change outcome.

Last winter the Hot Italian and I read for each other in her office one Saturday. I told her she was going to find out a secret about someone. Recently she did, and it was a big one--possibly life-changing.

She told me something about a relationship that would develop, but it involved the knight of cups. He's a romantic, fun, outgoing, passionate kind of guy .... except when he's not. Except when he's emotionally fractured, whiny, deceitful, and self-centered. As she read him, he wasn't going to turn out to be a guy I could depend on. I didn't want to see that. I saw him in relation to other cards in the reading, and I said I thought he had potential; it could go either way with him. The funny thing is, we weren't even talking about a real man at the time ... but it turned out that knight came in and out of my life over the next few months.

She stopped by with some homemade bread Thanksgiving Day and reminded me of those readings. She said that knight of cups turned out just like she suspected he would. I said I still saw the things I wanted to see in him. I guess the point is, the only way to know if the cards work is in retrospect.

Got any cookies in that cup?
I would love to still believe in that knight of cups, but I believe in him about as much as I believe in tarot cards and dreams. Still, if I've ever promised you a reading, I'm in business. Email me. If I haven't promised you a reading, I'll still do it. Email me. I've also done workshops for women's groups that are fun--or so I'm told. It makes for a great party. Even if you don't believe in that shit, what have you got to lose?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Nov 26: Yes, Virginia, you can be a virgin again...and again...and again....

My vagina used to look like this.

Knowing a good deal makes me hot, a lowdown, dirty rotten spammer one of my thoughtful readers sent me a coupon she thought I might be interested in. Or so she said. I, being a creature of low self-esteem and poor body image, saw beyond the superficial message she sent, which went something like, "here, just thought I'd pass this on because I got two and I can't use them both," to the real reason she sent it. She's really saying, "Honey, my vagina is already tight as a your mama's Spanx because I send it to the clinic on a regular schedule, so I don't need this. But when I saw it, you're the first person I thought of because everybody knows it and nobody wants to tell you: your vagina needs to be rejuvenated. You're always the last person to know these things and it's time somebody told you. You need  vaginal rejuvenation." She's right. I didn't know. They've never covered this one on Desperate Housewives. But now I wonder: Has Bre had vaginal rejuvenation?

I should have suspected something, I suppose. Lots of my friends get massages, sit in salt rooms, go to yoga retreats and gardening conferences and blogging conventions. These things are important for maintaining physical and mental health. But I didn't know a woman also needed to get her vagina rejuvenated. I feel like a freak now. How many people have noticed and not wanted to tell me? Would men in kilts people stand in line to bake me batches of cookies if I'd just maintained my vagina's health better? Would I be having a cookie right now if I had reinvigorated my vagina like other women do?

It's not the first time I let an issue go because I didn't realize I needed to hire a man to perform periodic maintenance. For example, I didn't realize I needed to have my transmission fluid changed every 30,000 miles. So a couple of months ago when I needed to have it changed for reasons I won't go into, the Goodyear shop refused to change it, because I'd driven 135,000 miles without doing it. I didn't rejuvenate my transmission fluid soon enough so the Goodyear men refused to do it at all. Not even for $185!

So if that can happen, is it possible it's too late to have my vagina rejuvenated? With my transmission I now notice a little slippage when I change gears, usually between 2nd and 3rd. Same with my vagina? Is it possible my vagina has relaxed into complacency, probably because I didn't know I needed to have my g-spot amplified? My hymen has been in tatters for decades, that I do know. I feel so stupid. Other women obviously sport designer labias while I'm still walking around with the same tired, rundown, gynormous labias I've always had. I'm not sure what else is missing under my hood in my panties because the page for other cosmetic procedures is under construction. Just like my vagina should be!

I need to go from this.....

And to think a couple of months ago I was worried about pubic hair.

OK, people, I need to fix this problem fast. Sure Dr. Jason is reported to be a "kind, caring and understanding" semi-celebrity of a pussy rejuvenator. He even says things like, "As a sexual biological organism, women are superior to men." Thank you, Dr. Jason. Please help me stay sexually superior because that's really working for me. I bet you've never left a woman wanting a cookie. But at what point would Dr. Jason--like the Goodyear guys--say, "Sorry. There's nothing I can do for you. You've driven your vagina into the ground. If only you'd come to me sooner ..... "?

I need to do something now! My vagina, and probably my other lady parts too, need immediate rejuvenation. This isn't something I can do alone, so I hope I can depend on you, my reticulated blog community, for assistance, because this shit is expensive and I'll need to go on a trip to New York as soon as possible.*

And thus from the wreckage of my ravaged vagina is born the Rejuvenate Reticula's Vagina Foundation. (Say that last sentence three times fast and then follow the directions below.)

Here's what you can do to help my vagina. Call this toll-free number:
1-myn-ewv-agina to donate with a credit card. Elvira and I Operators will be standing by. Or you can click on the Paypal button on the right sidebar over there to donate safely through Paypal. Or when you see me out some night, just slip me some cash, whatever you've got on you. Everything helps. Thank you.

Still not persuaded? Listen, this will be a life-changing procedure. Far more profound than learning to work a pole or vocalizing an orgasm on stage or even killing a turkey. You will want to read about this! You will want photos! You will want me to enjoy my new rejuvenated cookie-maker! You will want photos.

Your kids will forgive you if they have to miss one tiny Christmas. Look how happy the Cratchits were in spite of their meager existence. Aren't you always saying Christmas is too commercial? Haven't you threatened again and again to make all your gifts by hand or re-gift all those ugly sweaters your Aunt Lois knitted? This is your chance to finally do some good on Christmas. And unlike gifts to Heifer International, you will see immediate cookies! results when you send your donations to the Rejuvenate Reticula's Vagina Foundation. No waiting for the calf or the chick to grow up. Dr. Jason and I guarantee results in just weeks.

Please donate generously. My vagina needs you. My labia needs you. My g-spot needs you. We can't bake cookies without you. Thank you.

... to this.

* While I'm in New York, it would be crazy not to catch a couple of Broadway shows, so please keep that in mind when you give with your heart.

Disclaimer: I am not mocking women who really need the procedures done at this clinic for health reasons. I'm sure many of the surgeries Dr. Jason performs really do change women's lives for the better. This post is for entertainment purposes only.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Nov 25: Thor Stories

Only the bones left

I'm so bummed I forgot to take a photo of my bird after she came out of the roaster yesterday. Too much going on at that time of the dinner prep. By the time the bird is resting, I'm mashing potatoes, scooping out stuffing, overseeing the queens as they make the gravy,* directing the other hot food to the table ..... I just forgot to take photos for my blog. Here's what it looks like now, after we ate the meat and then I boiled the carcass to make soup. Just bones and skin. She was a good bird.

And I'm cutting it late again tonight with the blogging. Drake and Dakota are in town and staying here. They'll probably be back soon to try to drag me to the club for blacklight night. Elvira, Coraline and I walked around downtown this evening for the tree illumination at courthouse square with thousands of other people. I love carrying Coraline in the sling. Brings back lots of good memories of carrying her mommy in the sling 20 years ago. So I've been busy with my kids today, and I can't apologize for that.

But I did promise stories in last night's blog post, sometime after we finished off a box of wine. I'm not sure they will be as funny here as they were last night, and as I look at my notes, I realize I might as well call these the Thor stories. (They made me stop taking notes, but I couldn't read my handwriting after a while anyway.)

1. Thor: I don't think it's fair that women can have cookies one right after another, but men have to wait.
Me: I can't believe you're complaining about cookies. You're a man. You always get your cookie. Do you want to know how long it's been since I had a cookie?
Thor: No. I'm just saying it's not fair I can't have another one right away. I have to wait a while, maybe make a sandwich and eat it, watch a little TV....
Me: I don't want to hear it. You're a man. You always get your cookie.
Thor: No, I don't. I don't always. Really I don't.
Me:  I don't believe you. Men always get their cookies. It's women who are cookie deprived.
Thor: No, I don't. Sometimes I'd rather make batches of cookies than get any for myself at all.
Me: (Silence. Where do I find a man who makes cookies in batches?)  Sigh.

2. Thor: You need to drink some moonshine. That will give you a buzz.
Me: I don't drink moonshine. I drank that stuff in high school sometimes. It's wicked.
Thor: That's the whole point. You need to drink some.
Me: Nobody should drink that shit. It can make you go blind.
Thor: That's why you shouldn't pour it in your eyes.
Me: (Silence.) .... (No, really I laughed.)

3. Drake was retelling one of my bad-mommy stories. Yeah, I have a couple. In this story, when Drake was about 12, he came in the house and told me he'd hurt his wrist really bad. I suspected he was malingering because he didn't want to weed the flower bed like I'd told him to. Later that evening his wrist had swelled up so he showed it to LtColEx, who said he'd take him to the emergency room. I said no, I would take him to the emergency room. Turned out it was broken. Bad mommy. Let the mocking begin.

Me: Hey, I threw a bag of frozen peas at him before I went out to weed the flowers myself.
Thor: Frozen peas? You threw frozen peas at Drake for a broken wrist?
Me: Yes, what's wrong with putting frozen peas on something to reduce swelling? (Thor is a firefighter/EMT. I expected some kind of medical lecture about how to treat a broken bone. Which, in my defense, I didn't know about when I threw the peas at him.)
Thor: I put frozen peas on my vasectomy. My vasectomy.
Me (Silence. Because, OK, Thor, that's fine that you put frozen peas on your wee ouchie, but it's not like the bag of peas come with a warning label: For human consumption or treatment of ball sack swelling only! Do not apply to sore wrists or other body parts other than the swollen scrotum or serious injury may occur.) 

It's possible you had to be there.

* A Thanksgiving tradition: the gravy must be made by at least one gay man, or better yet, two. Three and the process tends to get a little dramatic.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Nov 24: Post Thanksgiving Brief

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving day. I would write a long, introspective, profound even post, but I'm still enjoying the post-Thanksgiving party here at my house. So I'll just offer this teaser of tomorrow's post, which will include something about moonshine, frozen peas, vasectomies, and cookies. Cookies!

I hope you all had a day to be grateful for. I did. Friends and family. Yummy food. Love and laughter. Maybe some karaoke or Guitar Hero to come.

Give thanks for this one precious life.

Thanksgiving baking!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Nov 23: Pies!

Jack in the pie

Not sure what to serve for dessert tomorrow? Need something to take to somebody else's dinner? No, I'm not suggesting a bottle of Jack (at least take Maker's Mark), but here are the recipes for the two pies I'm making for Thanksgiving dinner. I'll serve both with fresh whipped cream. (I don't allow Cool Whip in my house, not even to put on cookies.) I'm also making a gluten-free dark chocolate brownie, but I haven't tried the recipe before, so I can't recommend it yet.

Both of these pie recipes are super-duper easy. I'll post photos later tonight.

Fresh Pumpkin Pie

Preheat oven to 425

1 ¾ cup fresh pumpkin, pureed or mashed (or a 16-oz can if you're a cheater)
12 oz can evaporated milk
¾ cup sugar (can use Splenda or honey)
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 tsp cinnamon
½-1 tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
2 ½ tbsp pumpkin pie spice
1 unbaked 9” pie shell

Combine all ingredients except shell. Stir until mixed. Place cookie sheet on oven rack, then empty pie shell on sheet. Carefully add filling.

Bake in preheated 425 degree oven for 15 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking 50-60 minutes or until pie is set in center.

And this one, which is deliciously decadent. Don't blame me if your fillings fall out. Thanksgiving is not the day to stick to your low-carb diet anyway, is it? Nah, I didn't think so.

Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie

3 oz bourbon (I’m using Jack this year. I’ve used brandy or spiced rum before)
1 ½  cup chopped pecans
3 eggs
1 c light Karo corn syrup
¾  c semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use dark.)
1 c sugar
1 stick butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt
1 unbaked 9” pie shell

Soak pecans in bourbon for at least 4 hours. Mix all ingredients together and pour into unbaked shell. Bake at 350 degrees about 1 hour.

Wish you were here!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Nov 22: A Pumpkin Gave Its Life for this Post

I'm really behind this year. Of course, I say that every year the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. It's my favorite holiday because I can cook an obscene amount of food and invite as many people as my house will hold, and we can indulge in friendship and good food all day and into the night. Of course we turn around and do it again a few weeks later for Christmas, but there's such a big difference between a day of gratitude and a day of gluttitude.*

This year our dinner feels even more special than usual. I butchered turkeys this year for the first time, and I know my bird had an ideal life on the farm before she gave her life for our dinner (and leftovers and carcass soup). I'll be using eggs from the farm, and raw milk from my herd share, and pumpkins from a pumpkin farm stand run by one of Elvira's friends from high school.

I always make my pumpkin pies from scratch, with fresh pumpkins. I remember the first year I wanted to do it. LtColEx and I had been married maybe a year or two, so I was 19 or 20. I asked my grandma to show me how to make the pumpkin puree for fresh pies. And to my surprise, she refused. "No," she said. "I will not cook a pumpkin with you."

What? This is my grandmother who taught me how to knit, crochet, garden, pluck chickens, make pie crust and cinnamon rolls, and fresh whipped cream. This is the grandmother who flew all the way to Sacramento from Iowa holding a paper bag full of fresh dill from her garden so she could teach me how to make dill pickles while she visited. She got a lot of funny looks when she got off the plane holding a paper bag with green herbs flopping out of the top. She knew how to do everything herself, and I wanted to know too.

"Why not? Don't you know how?"
"Of course I know how. I did it for years. And then they started selling it cans and I swore I'd never do it again. I don't want to mess with stringy, slimy pumpkin when I can buy it in a can."
"You're serious? You won't even tell me how to do it?"
"No, buy it in a can and be happy with it." And that was that.

Except that I went to the library and found a book that showed me how to do it. And I've done it every year since, because once you've eaten a fresh pumpkin pie, canned pumpkin is no longer palatable. And a pie from the grocery store is simply a plastic substitution.

It's really not that hard. My grandma didn't have a food processor, and she probably only had access to field pumpkins, the kind you make jack-o-lanterns with. Although I've used both, I try to buy sugar pumpkins that aren't as wet and stringy.

So if you want to make your own real pumpkin pies, here's how you do it. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Then prepare the pumpkin. First cut it in half and slip the seeds out of the pulp. You can just drag them out with your fingers into a colander. Wash and then put them aside.

Scrape out the pulp and cut the pumpkin into slices and then pieces. Put the pieces into a big pot, cover with water and boil them until they're soft through. They'll look like this.

Dump the pieces into a colander and let them drain and cool for 20 minutes or so.

In the meantime, pour some olive oil on a baking sheet. Add the pumpkin seeds and spread them around so they're mostly in one layer. Bake the seeds for 10 minutes or so. Check them. If they're getting brown, stir them around and cook another couple of minutes. If they're already too brown, take them out. Give them a stir, and then season them with whatever you like. I just use salt, but you can sprinkle on garlic salt, rosemary, cayenne, whatever flavor you want. If you're going to put them in a covered container, let them cool completely.

Now back to the pumpkin puree. When the chunks are cool enough to handle, scrape the meat off each one with a tablespoon into a bowl. If your pumpkin is soft enough, you can just mush it up and use it that way. If you used a stringier pumpkin or didn't cook it as long, run it through the food processor to puree the lumps out of it. A few lumps don't hurt though and actually give better flavor.

That's it! Store the puree in the refrigerator in a sealed bowl if you're going to use it within a week. If not, freeze it in baggies in whatever size your recipe calls for.

Try it! I'll bet you won't eat canned pumpkin again. I'll take some photos of the pies tomorrow or Thursday, but it's the taste that makes the difference.

Tonight I'm straining a last batch of milk licker. I probably won't make any more of that. All my grocery shopping is done, so I don't have to brave another store tomorrow. I bought what I could at the commissary yesterday; Elvira and I finished up today at a local chain store.

I thought I might buy a Honey-Baked ham like I have in years past. I even had a $5.00 coupon. But when I asked the girl there how much an 8-pound ham was, and she told me $58.76, I decided I could do better. As I was looking through the spiral-cut hams at the store today, I saw one that was marked $4.51. I looked again. I had Elvira check it. Yep, in a case of hams that cost $1.79/pound, $15-18 apiece, I'd found one that must have been marked wrong. I fully expected to be charged the right price when I checked out, but nope. Our big ham only cost $4.51. I really love a bargain.

So it's almost midnight and I have cleaning to do yet. I'm starting to get excited .... OK, I'm already excited. I can't wait to say those magic words: Let's eat!

Go make your own pumpkin puree. Do it now.

* We keep it a secret, but all English teachers make up words sometimes. That's really how words are added to the English language.

Nov 21: In Which Google Strips Me

Reticulated Writer

Note: This is a post I wrote earlier tonight. Blogher was down for maintenance tonight while Google was fucking with me, so I opened a new, temporary blog and posted in time to make the NaBloPoMo deadline here: .
I’d love to write a post on my blog today, but late this afternoon, without any warning, Google shut me down. My blog is gone, and anyone who goes there gets a message that it’s been deleted. My Picassa account is closed and the message says my photos have been deleted. Same with my gmail account and my Google reader. All gone, just like that.

Do you back up your posts? Because I hadn’t. I just happily posted away on my blog and thought, Someday I ought to copy these into individual Word files. If you haven’t done that, what the hell are you waiting for? Do it! I was lucky. For some reason I could still get into my Google reader long enough to copy and paste all of my posts from there to a Word document …. except for ones I’d truncated and the photos that were linked to Picassa. Those are gone.

I’ve emailed Google from the page I’m redirected to any time I try to get into any of my Google goodies, but as I expected I haven’t received a response. I feel like Dorothy when she tried to get into the Emerald City. The door is closed and locked and I don’t have the power to get back inside.

No, worse than that, I feel violated. My words, my stories, they’re a part of me. They’re unique to my life and my voice. My words make a connection with my readers, with real people. They make people cry and laugh and think about things they’ve never thought about before. Like steampunk dildos and vagina cupcakes and sociopaths and what constitutes child abuse. They create connections between my life and the lives of other people, both friends and strangers. Sometimes I know because readers leave comments or send me emails or even tell me in person that they were touched or shocked or laughed until coffee came out of their noses. But they also connect me with people I don’t know. My words, my stories, aren’t on a leash that I hold in my hand. They’re out in the world living their own lives.

For example, someone who is a new friend, someone I hope to get to know better, sent me a message the other day and said her mother was coming into town from North Carolina, and would I come to breakfast with them, her treat. She said she’s been sharing my blog posts with her mom, and her mom wants to meet me because what I wrote connected with her experiences. That was about the highest compliment a writer can get! Hellz yeah, I’ll go eat breakfast.

Well, now that’s gone, that link between me and those readers. My blog, is gone. One of my readers emailed me and said she feels like she’s watching a book-burning, and there’s nothing she can do about it. Yes, I feel that way too. Words aren’t tangible, I know, but I feel like something has been stripped from me. I’m confused and angry and bereft. And I don’t believe for one minute a giant like Google is going to give one shit about a little blogger like me, a little reticulated writer, and make any effort to give me back my stories.

This is not the post I expected to write today. But it’s the one Google gave me in return for my words, my stories, my connection to readers I know and readers I haven't met yet. I’ve been stripped. Just waiting now for the cavity search.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Nov 20: All you need is a screw and....

I spent the day with my good friend Colorado yesterday while her husband did some much-needed repairs on my van. It was definitely worth driving 70 miles for both the company and the new engine mounts, transmission fluid and oil change, and even a new windshield wiper.

We were enjoying a lovely day--lunch, shopping, gossiping, drinking  homemade lattes--until we decided to start dinner. The first thing we needed to do was open a bottle of wine. I'm sure I don't have to even say that--first the wine, then the cooking. Colorado set the wine on the counter along with two coffee cups, opened a drawer and said, "I don't think we have a corkscrew."

The day screeched to a halt. How can any rational human being not have a corkscrew? We searched the kitchen, the dining room cabinets, even the office for a corkscrew. I looked through my purse. She found her multi-tool, but it was multi-worthless. Not one fucking corkscrew in the house.

Me: Do you know your neighbors? I'll go knock on doors until I find one.
Colorado: Don't know them. They're all really old.
Me: Even Jesus drank wine and think how old he'd be! (I'm not sure I really said that. I might have just thought of it now. But if I didn't, I should have.)
Colorado: We can't ask the neighbors.
Me: We can push the cork down into the bottle. I seem to remember something about hammering a nail into it first though.
Colorado: Probably to release the air pressure.
Me: Yeah. Or maybe I tried opening a bottle with a hammer and nail once and just ended up pushing the cork into the bottle because the cork broke.
Colorado: Not helping.
Me: Let's google it. Surely somebody else has run into this serious dilemma.

We googled. The first likely idea we found was a video of a guy using a wooden spoon handle to push the cork in. He wrapped a towel around the bottle, gave a little push on the cork with the end of the spoon, and the cork splashed in with very little spillage.

Colorado: Let's try that!
Me: Hellz yeah. He didn't even need a hammer and nail, and he made it look really easy. (We head into the kitchen. Colorado grabs a towel and looks around....)
Colorado: Fuck. I don't have a wooden spoon.
Me: Seriously? First a corkscrew and now this? Who doesn't have a wooden spoon? What do you use when hubby's been naughty. Surely not this wire whisk. (Again, I might not have really said that last part, but I should have.)
Colorado: All of these utensils have fat handles. They won't work.
Me: (Searching for anything that looks like a wooden spoon handle....) Here's a Sharpie! It's about the same size.

We examined the bottle. The cork was a long one and there was only about 1/4" gap between it and the wine.

Colorado: That bottle is really full.
Me: (I put the bottle into the sink, wrap the towel around the top .... decide, fuck it, the bottle's in the sink, and I need to see what I'm doing. I push.GRUUUUNNNNT. (I make that sound. Nothing happens.) It's not working. There's no place to push it.
Colorado: Push harder.
Me: (I push harder. The Sharpie makes a dent in the cork, but the cork doesn't budge.) Fuck that. Let's google again.

We headed back into the office and opened an article on five ways to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew. The first video showed a guy putting the bottom of the bottle into a shoe, then hitting the shoe against a wall until the cork popped out. Less wine spilled than you might imagine when the cork shot out. And yet it was still too much.  At the end of the video, they let us in on the secret. Almost five minutes had elapsed.

Me: That's going to take too long. I want to drink today. Find another one.

The third time we hit gold. We found the process I'm going to describe to you complete with photos, just in case you're ever stranded in the wilds of a major US city with a lovely bottle of wine to drink and no fucking corkscrew at a friend's house and she doesn't have a corkscrew.

1. Collect your tools. You'll need a screw don't we all?! at least long enough to go most of the way through the length of the cork, a screwdriver, and a claw hammer. (I knew we'd need a hammer. Didn't I say we'd need a hammer? Can't touch this!)
2. Pull the protective foil cover off the top of the bottle.
3. Using the screwdriver, screw the screw into the cork, leaving about 1/2 inch sticking up. (Did I really just write screw the screw? What a cool phrase! Screw the screw. Obviously I don't screw often enough if I'm so easily amused.)

Screw the screw. Hee.

4a. Using the claw end of the hammer, pry the cork out of the bottle.

It's hammer time.
4b.This last step, I will admit was a little tricky. The hammer doesn't pry the cork straight up. Because our cork was so long, part of it came up out of the bottle neck, but then the the hammer no longer had the lip of the bottle to torque against so it pulled the screw sideways. We had to improvise.

Colorado: Why don't I hold it and you pull straight up on the hammer.
Me: I thought of that, but I'm afraid the cork will come out suddenly, and I'll hit myself in the forehead with the hammer. In fact, I'm certain that's what I'd do. I don't want to bleed into the wine.
Colorado: Do you want to hold it while I pull? 
Me: Suuuuurrre.....Just make sure you don't hit me in the head. If somebody gets hit in the head with a hammer, I'm know it will be me.
Colorado: Here, just hold the bottle on the floor. I won't hit your head.

I got down on the floor and held my head as far from the action as I could. Colorado got a good grip on the hammer head and pulled straight up. The cork popped out softly. (What? You were hoping that whole thing was leading up to a trip to the emergency room? For shame!)

Did you get your cookie, bottle of wine?

And that is how you open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew. This lesson won't help you if you don't have a screw, screwdriver and hammer, but you can always put the bottle of wine in a shoe and beat it against something like a wall or a tree run to the nearest store and buy a corkscrew. I know I'm going to carry one in my purse from now on. Much lighter than a hammer.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Nov 19: Following Up

Now that I've finished the saga of my guilt trip to Iowa, I want to say thank you to everybody who has commented, here and on Facebook, for the emails of support and the ones telling your stories, for the hugs in real life. It is risky to write about things that hurt or confuse or even piss me off, things that make me feel terribly vulnerable when I see them on paper or on the screen. Some of you have told me difficult stories this past week too. I appreciate that you've shared them with me.

Every time I write a naked-me post like the last three, I hesitate for a long time before I hit the publish button. One reason Plato didn't like the written word is because written words are so final. As soon as they are published, something changes and so, according to him, truth changes constantly. In other words, he thought we couldn't really write truth. Or at least that's the way I understand him.* So when I write, I write what's true for me, at that time, and that's the best I can do. But I always have to live with the fact that what seems like truth to me, might not really be truth--whatever the fuck that is.

If the stars are lined up perfectly though, some people--or maybe only one person--will read what I wrote and resonate with what I've said. What I've said with words somehow gives light to what's inside of them--to their feelings, experiences, desires, disappointments, failures, funnybones. That's the greatest gift a writer can receive, the giving back of that connection with readers. It's also the thing I can't control. I can control the words, the turn of the phrase, but I can't control the response of any one reader.

That's why I'm always afraid to hit publish on the posts that dig the deepest, the stories that still have blood drying on them. I'm afraid maybe readers will misunderstand; afraid I've misrepresented something vital; afraid I'll tell too much; afraid I'll come across as someone I'm not--stupid, foolish, really crazy, a gynormous bitch. But most of all I'm afraid someone will get mad at me, because my stories--our stories--never happen in the vacuum of my own being. They happen because of those connections with other people and become their stories too.

It has happened that someone didn't like what I wrote in a post, one of those in which I put my heart out here and scratched the story right on it with a rusty nail, and the consequences for me were quite painful.** At least I think that's what happened. There's always the possibility of a faulty cause argument fallacy when someone leaves you guessing. I didn't mean to, but I fucked up ... maybe. The funny thing is, although that post was only up on my blog for two days before I deleted it, more people contacted me about that one than any other before or since to tell me they'd sat and cried because I put into words their experiences too, and they hadn't ever been able to put it in words. Even though I didn't know their particular stories, they felt like I'd heard them. Words have power. Stories have power and fuck Plato, they tell the truth too. All writers should approach their words with caution though. It would be so much easier to only write about bacon lube, vagina cupcakes, and pole-dancing.

And yet one reason I continue to do this is because of the readers who write back to me or tell me in person that they've cried or laughed (both is best), that they've shared something I wrote with someone else, opened up to a loved one and talked about things that were hidden in their hearts and bones, waiting to come to light. It's a miraculous gift, because sitting here at my keyboard is sometimes a lonely business. When I hit publish, there's nobody here but me and Dolores and the sound of trains in the night. And Dolores has usually fallen asleep while I looked for typos. So when I publish, it's just me, and sometimes I feel quite naked.

This is for those of you who feel a connection with what I write here, and with me and with each other: I just want to say thank you. Thank you for reading and thank you for giving me a reason to write. I love your comments and your emails. Your words matter to me too.

* And of course there's a whole paradox about my having read what Plato said, or what somebody wrote that he said, so how could it be true, but I won't get into that.
** Nobody else was hurt in the making of that post, as far as I know. In fact, I think the outcome was positive for everyone except me, and that's definitely my problem.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Nov 18: Dreaming the Truth

This is the final installment of my Iowa posts. If you haven't read this one, what I'm about to say won't make much sense.

When I got back from Iowa, I hit life running straight into the second week of school, Drake and Montana's move, a busy social life. When I wasn't otherwise distracted, I thought sometimes about that unconscious toddler who was once me; it would hit me in the shower or as I was falling asleep. I thought maybe I finally needed to find a therapist and sort out how my behavior has been affected by the abuse and how I could finally fix myself. Fix myself. I've been trying to be perfect my entire life. The truth is, it just made me feel tired to think about trying to fix myself. What a huge job. Mostly I stayed very busy, which is how I always handle blows to the heart.

The Sunday two weeks to the day after I drove back home, I spent a restless night. I kept half-way waking up, hearing an angry woman shouting at someone. She was swearing and saying things like, "Shut the fuck up, you cunt!" And, "You're going to be sorry, you fucking bitch, if you don't just shut up and do what I told you." Now, there have been a few instances of people fighting out in the street in my neighborhood. Rare, but it's happened. It could have been a real person outside yelling, but probably not all night.

Toward morning, the yelling got louder--"I said shut up, you fucking cunt, or you're going to be really sorry"-- and finally woke me up ... in a dream. I was upstairs in the house I grew up in, and I realized the shouting I'd been hearing all night was coming from downstairs, and I knew I needed to take care of something. As I ran down the stairs to see what was going on, I realized it was my mom shouting.

I found her in my parents' bedroom. She was lying on the bed on her side facing the door. A baby girl  about 3 months old was lying on her back in the middle of the bed, not crying. Both of them still. But I knew what had been going on all night. I picked up the baby and checked her to make sure she was OK. She was content in my arms.

Then I said to my mom, "This stops now. It's finished. It won't happen again."

She tried to make excuses, but I don't remember them now. I said, "No, you aren't listening. I said this ends now. You won't hurt her again. I'm taking her with me. It ends."

She tried again to explain, but I cut her off. "I'm leaving now. Just know it won't happen again. That's all you need to know." And I walked out with the baby. In the dream, I felt nothing but calm and resolve.

I woke up as soon as the dream ended though, and I didn't feel calm. Or at least I didn't think I should feel calm. I thought it had been a nightmare ....... But for some reason, I not only didn't feel any dream trauma, I felt .... I guess strong is the only word that will describe it. And I felt like something had ended. I felt like I had taken back something that was mine all along, something powerful and elemental.

And that is the end of my story. It ended with a dream, which is such a Newhart way to end a story, I can hardly stand it. But I can't write life; I just write about life. And this story ended with a dream.

Coda: I want to make clear that I get along fine with my mom. She's my mom, and I love her. We aren't especially close, but we also aren't estranged in any way. We talk on the phone every four or five weeks, and we never fight. She doesn't tell me how to live my life, not since I left home at 17. We have fun when we're together every couple of years when I go to Iowa. So I don't mean this story to be an indictment of her. It's simply a telling of my story.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Nov 17: Going Home

The morning after the wedding , Sunday, I was up early to get back on the road less than 48 hours since I'd arrived. It takes a few hours to drive 675 miles, and I was going to lose an hour crossing time zones. And it was past time for me to leave.

Yes, you read it right, and, no, it's not Photoshopped. Free cookies with a fill-up.

I drove into town one last time for some corn gas. Usually I wash the gravel dust off my van at the car wash up the street from the liquor store, but not this time. I was running again this time, and I had a long drive ahead. I just wanted I-80 east under my wheels with my speedometer at at least 80. I didn't even scoop the loop one last time.

Now that the grocery store, dime stores, florist, hardware store, and bars are gone, uptown is a ghost town anyway. The chain grocery and discount stores that were built out on the highway where the high school was have taken most of the traffic from the square. Kids can't afford to drive around for hours like we used to, and they aren't allowed to park and socialize on the square, I've been told.

So even scooping the loop has lost its appeal. Although there are still some stores uptown, they don't draw a lot of business. The courthouse mostly keeps watch over an empty square, except when people gather for ice cream socials or the Fourth of July parade or the spill-over from the swap meet. But why should I care if the town's center is dying? Everything changes--even hometowns.

The courthouse sits in the middle of the square.

The drive home was long, but not endless. Suzy called to check in. She knew I was upset from the night before, and she's still afraid I won't ever come back. I've made that threat before, but I always make a guilt trip eventually, even if my visits are years apart and never very long. As I wrote in my last post, Elvira called and we talked a long time while she nursed and rocked Coraline. She cried with me over the past, even though it's not her past. Having a baby creates a sharp, harsh change in a woman's perspective about childhood stories and trauma. They become so personal.

From the time I left the wedding the night before, I'd felt a strong urge -- a need -- to go home. It's not the first time that's happened. I have this schizo multiple personality feeling of both belonging when I'm in Iowa and of being a foreigner who was never meant to live there. I grew up with that feeling. So I've always been attracted to going there, seeing my family --and I do love them very much; mess with one of them and see what happens-- maybe running into people I grew up with, but yet knowing I don't really fit in and they don't really know me any more. It's only home in the historical sense, and my real home is ..... I'm not sure. In the past, it was wherever I lived at the time, wherever the Air Force had deposited us.

This time, when I imagined the home I was running back to, I kept picturing my old house, the big rambling green tri-level with the purple door in the suburbs that I sold last summer, only two weeks after the realtor's sign went up. The one I lived in for 17 years, where I raised my family ... where my family broke up. The home of the past.

This isn't home any more.
I had to keep jarring myself back to the present, but it takes longer than a year for a new house to become a home. At least it does for me, and I have plenty of experience with moving. The house I live in now is 110 years old and it's lovely. I live here with great gratitude. But my intention has never been to stay here permanently. This house transitioned me out of the suburbs and into the city; it's part of my re-visioning and reworking of myself .... yet when I felt like running home, I wanted to run home. I just had to do a mental adjustment and remember that here is home now, and this is my choice.

I pulled into the city early in the evening. I made good time. I called and let people know I was safe. I got up Monday and went to school and taught. Elvira and Coraline came over that evening, and we spent the night all snuggled up on the couch, watching Supernatural. (Mmmmm. Dean.) But as I drove through my neighborhood each day, I still felt fragmented, not at home. I can fit in almost anyplace, but moving into the city has been an adjustment. It can be depressing: the poverty, the hopelessness, the rough, bumpy streets, the gates every two blocks that prevented high-speed chases and drive-by shootings in the 90's--and maybe still do. It's an adventure living here, but it's not home yet.

So when I needed to go to the bank and get groceries and wash the thick layer of gravel dust off my van, I found myself on the highway back to the suburb where I lived for 20 years. I went to my old car wash, and as the robot sprayed the rainbow of soapy water over my van, and I watched it run in filthy rivers over the windows, I felt like I was being washed too. I drove through my old bank, near my old house, and the teller called me by name as if she remembered me. She didn't, but it felt normal. I felt like me.

Then I went to the grocery store where I bought food I couldn't find in the Fairway in my hometown or at the smaller, meaner grocery store with iron bars in the windows nearer to where I live. No, I went to the big, new, deluxe suburban grocery store that even sells furniture.  It's clean and nice and kind of Stepford-like, but it's what I needed. I bought sliced rare roast beef, bourbon-glazed ham, baby Swiss, roasted tomatoes and red peppers, and enormous blue cheese-stuffed olives at the deli; fresh salmon fillet and swordfish loin (did you know swordfish is not endangered?) at the meat case; tiny pepino melons, organic carrots with fresh green tops, blueberry lavender salad dressing for some organic field greens, Dove raspberry and dark chocolate swirls and coconut M&Ms and a big box of Junior Mints; the Martha Stewart Halloween magazine and two others with pages just as glossy. As I walked down the aisles I was tempted to stop and shout, "I'm back! Did you miss me?" But that would be ridiculous. I felt like myself for the first time in .... I'm not sure how long, but at least five days. No, I'm not that suburban housewife any more, but she's still there in my backbone.

That grocery store wasn't home either though. Nor was the car wash or the bank. Hell, I never felt like an old hippie like me fit into that suburban life. But they represented a part of me that I needed to remember because sometimes I don't recognize myself, and going "home" this time changed who I thought I was. I needed to get in touch with the homeschool mom, the officer's wife, the Girl Scout leader, the church lady, the magazine writer ... the woman I was when I knew who I was. People I meet for the first time now will never know that part of me, no matter how well they get to know me, but I'm still that person inside. Transitioning is good and fun and I'm enjoying the adventure, but just for an afternoon, I needed to find my foundation again. I needed to remember who brought me to my current party. There was security and structure in being that suburban mother and wife. I came home needing to find security anywhere I could find it.

Yes, I promised an end to yesterday's story of the past, a resolution of sorts. And I have that. First I had to get home and remember who I became after I left Iowa all those years ago. I needed so much to get home and find something close to normal -- even though I know I can't really run away; it's all too complicated--family, love, mistakes, hurt. betrayal. But a story has an arc, a necessary course of action, a pace of its own. One last post tomorrow and then I'll get back to writing about sex and humor .... and sex.

Dean, I hope you like cookies.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Nov 16: In Which I'm a Victim of My Hair Color

Even then I carried around a pencil and pad of paper.
A few weeks ago I wrote about my trip to Iowa where I officiated at my sister's wedding. Something happened while I was there that I've struggled to write about, and yet I do want to write about it. I want to tell the story. I need to find my way into it though, so bear with me.

Recently I watched a video of a Texas judge beating his 16-year-old daughter with a belt. The video is over seven minutes long, and I watched every second of it. I'm not going to post it here; it's far more disturbing than killing turkeys and most people can't watch the whole thing. I was crying about a minute into it, but I kept watching because, even though that girl is now in her 20's, I needed to give witness to what happened to her. It's so rare that abuse is witnessed. It usually happens inside homes, where strangers can't see. Or it happens and nobody wants to see; they refuse to see. I watched the video because that girl needed for people to see what happened to her. I can give witness. I can take watching it.

And I also need to tell my story, because I need to see it here, in the open. I just need to tell it. It's long and it's not funny. I've given this warning before: if you came for funny and sexy, skip this one. I'll post something funny soon enough. Here goes.

We had some time to kill after my sister's wedding, before she and her groom arrived at the country club. They stopped at a bar for a drink or two, so we had lots of time to kill. After I helped set out the food, I was talking with relatives I grew up with but have rarely seen once I grew up and left home. My mom's side of the family was sitting together at one long table: my cousins and some of their kids; my mom's middle brother and my aunt, my mom and her husband. I was standing there talking to them when the following conversation came up. The characters are my cousin L, who is my age, her sister D, who is two years older, and another cousin K, who is 9 years older than L and me. L, D, and I were close growing up, although they lived in another town 20 miles away. We haven't kept in touch much as adults though, until Facebook. (My thoughts and explanations are in italics.)

Me: Remember that time you guys went into that old man's house to see his new TV? I was so scared for you.
D: Yes, I remember. You got us into so much trouble.
Me: Me? I got you into trouble? We were only allowed to walk up the block. Nobody said anything about going into some pervert's house to see his new TV.
L:  Oh, I don't think he was a pervert. He didn't do anything to us.
Me: No, that's because I ran back to Grandma's house screaming, "He took them in his house! He took them in his house!" and got your mom and Grandma to come and save you. (My aunt suffers from dementia now. She just sat and smiled through the entire conversation. I wish I knew what she would have said...)
D: You just wanted to get us into trouble, and you did. A lot of trouble.
Me: No, I didn't. I would never want to get you guys in trouble. I was terrified he was going to hurt you. I waited and you didn't come out. That's when I panicked and ran down the hill. I saved you guys!
D: Saved us! Saved us from what? An old man with a new TV?
Me: Why would an adult man who didn't even know us ask three little girls into his house to see his TV? What were we? Seven and nine? We weren't friend material!
D:  You got us into so much trouble. I was so mad at you!
Me: I saved you! How do you know what he would have done? Why did you go in there?
L: I was probably thinking how exciting it was to see a new TV. It was probably color. I wouldn't have thought he'd hurt us.
D: That's because he wouldn't have hurt us. That's ridiculous. Nobody was going to get hurt, but we got in a lot of trouble because of you.
Me: No, I saved you. I was terrified he was going to do something to you guys. And don't you think that was pretty weird? Really? Grown men don't invite little girls into their houses. I would still be suspicious.
D: I don't know what you're talking about. We were never in danger. You just wanted to tattle.
Me: (It must be nice to live in a world where strange men don't hurt little girls. Obviously I was never that naive. And I'm certainly not as an adult.) I never tattled. That was the only time, and I thought I was saving you. For all you know, I did.
D: We were never in danger. That's ridiculous. And we all know how you were.
Me: What do you mean, how I was? (This made no sense to me. In my world, getting in trouble meant you got hit, more than once. I never tried to get anybody in trouble. I've always known how to keep a secret.)
D: How you were. We all knew what you were like.

What I was like at age one

And now our other cousin, K, the daughter of my mom's oldest brother, chimed in.

K: Yes, we did know how you were. You were awful. Always holding your breath until you passed out so you could get your own way. You'd cry and then you'd hold your breath until you passed out. You did it to all of us.
Me: I've heard those stories, but you have to know now that babies don't do things like that on purpose.
K: (laughing) Oh, yes, you did. You did it because you always had to get your own way.
Me: No, I didn't. Babies don't do that.... (This isn't funny any more.)
K: You did. I would be allowed to walk you up the block, to the corner across the street from the park. And then when I'd say we had to turn around and go home, you'd start crying and then you'd hold your breath until you passed out.
Me: (Wait a minute. You walked me up to where the fucking park was just across the street, let me see it and then said we couldn't go there? How old was I? I had to be younger than two because Mom and Dad got married just after I turned two, and Mom and I moved out of Grandma's house...)  You walked me up to the park and then we turned around?
K: Yes, and then you would cry and have a fit and hold your breath until you passed out. You did that to me every time.
Me: (No shit! I'd cry now if somebody walked me up to a fun place and then said we had to turn around.) I couldn't have been doing it to you. Babies don't....
K: Oh, yes, you were doing it on purpose. And I tried everything to make you stop. I shook you and shook you and shook you. And I threw cold water in your face...
Me: You what?
K: I shook you and shook you as hard as I could. And threw cold water in your face. Over and over. Nothing worked. You still did it. You wouldn't quit.
Me: Wait! I was a toddler and you shook me....shook me as hard as you could?
K: Of course. You needed to be taught a lesson. We all did it. (laughing) You had such a temper. You always thought you had to have your own way.
Me: I was a toddler! (And you walked me to where I could see the park and then turned around, for fuck's sake. And that was the same corner where the man took L and D into his house. Maybe it's no wonder I was scared something would happen to them.) I wasn't doing it to....
K: Yes, you were. You always thought you had to have your own way. You had that red hair...
Me: What does red hair have to do with....?
K: You had that red hair and the temper to go with it. If you didn't get your own way, you had a fit. You were so stubborn, nothing we did made you stop.
Me: (So maybe I wasn't doing it on purpose if hurting me in various ways didn't make me stop!) So you shook me as hard as you could? You threw cold water in my face? You did that to me?
(It's hard to explain how I felt as this conversation progressed. The idea of somebody shaking a baby, a toddler, and throwing cold water in her face...any kind of abuse makes me feel like I've turned into hard, cold, sharp steel. A person who hurts children is less than a turkey to me. I could cut a bitch. And I have a degree in social work. I would take a child out of a home where this was happening. No question. But this time I was the baby who'd been abused, and at least one of my abusers was sitting there laughing about it and telling me it was all my fault. And my impression is that everybody else was laughing too. L, whose 2-month-old grandson was just feet away from her. I know she would never do that to him, but my impression was that they were enjoying hearing about how it happened to me.)

K: Of course we did. You couldn't be allowed to do that to us. We did what we had to do to make you stop.
Me: (Looking down at my mom beside me.) Is that true? Did you shake me and throw cold water in my face?

My mom laughed and told a story I'd already heard before. She said when she asked our family doctor about it, he said I was just trying to get attention and she should let me fall and hit my head. He said I'd stop doing it if I hit my head often enough and it hurt bad enough.

Mom: So I let you fall and hit your head a few times, but it raised up such a big lump on your head I thought that wasn't a good idea. Then I started catching you, laying you down and leaving so nobody would be there when you came to.
Me: Did it work? Did I stop?
Mom: Nope, you just kept doing it to me. Eventually I guess you outgrew it. We never did figure out why you did that to us.
Me: Mom, I didn't do it to you. I was a baby.

(I didn't outgrow it. I learned to control it. My throat still closes up completely when I cry sometimes. I just have enough control now to relax and breath. I didn't tell them that. They were all laughing.... I felt like I was in one of those movie nightmare sequences where the people's heads are getting bigger and smaller, and they look like fun-house mirror reflections. I expected an insane clown to run through the room with a bloody knife. It was surreal that they were talking about that level of abuse and they were laughing....and laughing that they'd done it to me. And that it was my fault.That they'd done it to any baby would have shocked me, but that they'd done it to me.... In my mind, I had an image of my granddaughter Coraline, born just six weeks before and the baby I was being just like her--only with that awful red hair....I wanted to protect that child--that little red-headed bastard child--they were talking about, and yet she was me and it wasn't happening now....But the laughing was and the saying I deserved it, that it was my fault, was happening now. But of course I do take the blame for anything that happens, so maybe .... I needed to escape...)

Can't trust a redhead. We're all crazy from birth.

K: See what I mean? Always have to have your way. We. know. how. you. are. 

Me: (No, you don't. You don't fucking know me at all and none of you ever did. And I don't know you either.) I did some research once and did you know when babies pass out when they cry it can be a symptom of iron-deficiency anemia.....? 

(I would have said something about how they started feeding me mashed potatoes and gravy from the table when I was 2 weeks old, and how they only put whole milk and dark Karo corn syrup in my bottles instead of formula because I wasn't sleeping through the night by the time I was 2 weeks old.... All of them seemed to be laughing harder and harder and looking at each other as if they knew something I didn't. And for years, they did. They did know I was a bastard, and I didn't. Now they knew "how I was." And there was my aunt, looking at me and smiling so sweetly. I don't think she understood what was going on, but I can't imagine she would have laughed.)
K:  You. weren't. sick. Nobody said anything about anemia. Even the doctor said it. You just had to get your own way. You always had to get your own way. You and that red hair of yours.
Me: (I stood there with my red hair, in my little black dress and my sister's borrowed shoes, and I felt....broken. They all knew how I was. They'd always known. But I tried to defend that child who had been me once more.) Babies don't do that! Babies don't pass out to get their own way. I didn't choose that.

I felt trapped in the nightmare, so I finally just turned my back on all of them. My sister Suzy was sitting at the next table behind me, so she was to my right when I turned. I put my hand on her shoulder to make sure she was real.

"Looks like you need another drink," I said. I couldn't tell if her plastic cup was empty or full. It didn't matter.
"I'm about ready for one, but I can go down and get it."
"No, I need to go down anyway. I'll get it for you," I said.
"Wait. Let me give you some money...." She reached for her purse. It would take too long.
"No! I'll get it. Just let me get it." And I ran downstairs to the bar.
Nobody else was down there, just the two bartenders. "I need a Smirnoff and tonic. Take your time making it."

I've been a bartender. I wouldn't have asked questions and neither did they. The older guy just poured the cocktail, set it in front of me and took my money.

I sat on the bar stool and looked out at the golf course where my best friend and I once road double across the greens on the back of a guy's motorcycle, holding lit sparklers out on each side. I tried to figure out how I could sneak out, go back out to Mom's, load my van and hit the road--without hurting my baby sister's feelings and causing a scene at her wedding. I needed to run ..... but I couldn't. I was both the minister and the big sister who drove 675 miles and hadn't been home for over two years. I had to stay and act like nothing had happened--now or then. Piece of wedding cake. I'm a pro at hiding behind a smiling face. And I did. I laughed and danced and partied for hours after that. Hours.

I picked up Suzy's drink, tried a smile on the bartenders, and turned toward the stairs in time to see a pair familiar long legs coming down the stairs. My first best friend, Steve, all 6'4" of him. I screamed and ran to him and he picked me way up in his arms, about four feet off the ground. Finally I said, "Better put me down. I think my panties are showing."

I already wrote about that, so I won't again. But I've rarely been so glad to see anybody in my life. He'll never know it, but when he lifted me off the floor and hugged me, I could feel myself again and I knew I could make it until the next morning when I could leave. 

There's a lot more I could write about this and maybe I will as I sort it out. About how another family member did cause a scene late in the evening, and by the end of it screamed (among other things) "Get the fuck out of here. Just leave like you always do," in front of my baby sister's children. I'm still not sure what that was about, but I don't care. I also consider that kind of behavior in front of children to be abusive, and I'm not about looking the other way and pretending it's OK.

And I could say more about how I couldn't hold it together any longer as Suzy and I drove back to Mom's house after the party. I told her about the conversation earlier and she, I think, cried with me. She said, "I never understood why you called yourself the red-headed bastard stepchild. We all just thought of you as our big sister, no different from us. I get it now. I get it." And how she was afraid when I left I would never come back.

About how Elvira called my cell while I was still on I-80, cruise control set on 80 mph. She had talked to Suzy already and knew something had happened so I told her. And then I wished I hadn't, because she was 600 miles away holding Coraline and crying too. And how both of us couldn't imagine .... Let's just say nobody better ever hurt that baby girl.

And eventually I may say more about how suddenly so many puzzle pieces that explain my relationships fell into place. About how I've let people lead me to the corner across the street from the park, and then blamed myself when I was disappointed and unhappy that I didn't get to go play. About how I always manage to blame myself for other people's fucked up behavior. It helps to know where that came from.

Something else happened two weeks later. Something amazing. I'm going to write about that tomorrow though. What I have to say about the effects of my family's attempts to fix me could fill a book. And this is a blog, not a book.

But I have one more thing to say about what I learned that night. I can't blame my 10-year-old cousin for doing what she did back then. She was fairly well neglected herself, and I know stories about that too. She didn't have good parenting models. And apparently it was a free-for-all when it came disciplining baby me. I've pretty much dealt with my mom, and her parenting practices, over the years by doing the opposite. Hard as it was to listen to what they did to me, I could forgive them in that time and place. (And I don't really even know how my other cousins, L and D, or my uncle reacted to it. My impression of everybody laughing could be entirely wrong.)

What I can't forgive is that they still laughed about it in the year 2011. That they still thought it was a baby's fault and that their methods were a reasonable response to a child who loses consciousness when she cries. The emotional damage aside, they could have done severe physical damage or even killed me. It's not OK to shake a baby or throw cold water in her face or abandon her when she's unconscious. It's wrong. I live almost exclusively in the gray areas of life, but this time it's all black and white. It was really fucking wrong.

And that's what I can't forgive yet.

Me with my grandma. I don't remember her ever hitting me.