Wednesday, March 21, 2012

You want me to pee where?

I recently ran across this report from WKRC in Cincinnati about a 14-year-old girl who claims a San Diego high school art teacher refused to let her go to the bathroom. The journalist who wrote the article gave the impression the girl was forced to pee in a bucket in front of her classmates, some of them boys, and then dump her urine into an unused sink in the classroom. Ick.

I don't like to take one person's word for anything. Turns out the Cincinnati station twisted the facts just a bit by implication. I hate that. Another article from the LA Times adds that the girl was sent into another room to pee and dump. Alrighty then. That makes a lot more sense.

You knew I was being facetious, right? You have to be thinking the same thing I am: What the fuck is wrong with teenagers these days? I can't imagine this ever happening in my high school. It's ridiculous on so many levels.

First, unless this girl has a medical problem, what 14-year-old can't hold it for 20 minutes? I never went to the bathroom during class unless I was having a nicotine fit. There's no reason to leave class to go to the bathroom unless it's to smoke. Smart teachers fucking know this. If the girl had a medical problem, then the teacher should already know about it and then, of course, she could go to the bathroom. But OK, let's assume she really really had to go.

Second, has this girl had her balls cut off? If I had to pee bad enough to ask during class to go to the bathroom .... meaning everybody in class would know what I was going to do there, which was either number one or number two, which would be really fucking embarrassing ... and a teacher had told me to pee in a bucket, I would have told her to go fuck herself while I went to the office and called my mom. Who would then call my dad. And they both would be really pissed. (No pun intended.) And then I would toss a coin to predict whether they were going to be pissed at the teacher or at me. Either way, I would stop at the bathroom, pee and smoke a cigarette on my way to the office. If my parents were mad at the teacher, I'd have a free pass to smoke a cigarette every day that semester because she wouldn't be able to tell me I couldn't go. If they were mad at me, what else is new?

But I would never ever have peed in a bucket, not in the classroom or in the next unoccupied room. I would have peed on the floor, on her desk, or on her fucking shoes if I really had to go that bad. My tiny little bladder would burst before I would hang my ass over a bucket and do it when there was a perfectly good toilet within walking distance. I just wouldn't have done it. Not fucking happening.

Third, I can't imagine my classmates putting up with that shit either. If we'd ever had a teacher who treated another classmate that way, every hand in the class would go up and we'd all ask to go to the bathroom. We would have walked out with her. We would have staged a pee-in and all of us would have peed on the floor. Hell, we would have just distracted the teacher so the girl could slip out. I don't know. I just know most of us would not have stayed quiet and watched someone being abused like that.

Fourth, was the fucking teacher insane? Did she just want a vacation? Was she protesting some crazy system-wide ban on students leaving the classroom to go to the bathroom? Because otherwise who gives a shit if a kid goes to the bathroom? It's a fucking art class. The girl's life won't be ruined if she misses five minutes of art class because she has to pee. It took just as long for her to pee in the fucking bucket and dump it down the sink. Something doesn't make sense here.

And finally, what the fuck are her parents thinking? They're saying she was humiliated at school because other kids knew about it. So suing the school made it all better? The whole fucking world knows about it now! That's going to build her crumbled self esteem? I hope it's been worth it for the three years of private school tuition and the $25,000 her lawyers they hope to win in this case. Because that girl will forever be known as the girl who peed in a bucket in art class. Forever. Just imagine what it will say under her yearbook photo.

Why didn't they just teach their daughter that she should never pee in a bucket in class? Wouldn't that have been so much simpler? What am I missing here?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Brunch is served

When the "MC" standing in the pulpit started calling random table numbers, I apologized to the other three people I was sitting with at a table that could seat ten. I confessed my table is always last to go to the food line at our annual Thanksgiving dinner. This pledge brunch was new, but I expected my luck would hold. It did.

I'd gone to church without breakfast because one of the members of the finance committee promised me the service would be shorter than usual. It wasn't. In fact, it was half an hour longer than usual. By the time 12:30 rolled around and the MC started pulling numbers, I was so fucking hungry I would have signed any number on my pledge card they asked me to. I just wanted to eat.

Long tables were loaded with food: bacon, link sausage, patty sausage, toasted English muffins, potato casseroles, scrambled eggs and cheese, fresh fruit, piles of muffins and bagels. We tried to wait patiently as all the other tables were called to fill their plates, but it got harder and harder to watch everybody else sit down to their full plates of food. Finally the MC called table #8, the last table. We hurried to stand in a long line.

As we inched closer to the food, I noticed most of the serving pans were empty. No more bacon or sausage, a few burnt English muffin halves. People were scraping the bottoms of the egg pans. Do not fucking kid me, I thought. I didn't sit through yet another pledge service just to leave with an empty stomach.

The last dozen people or so in line tried to stretch the remaining food. The potato casserole was holding out so I took some of it, even though I rarely eat potatoes. The eggs were almost gone, so I took only about a tablespoon of those and then scooped out a small bowl of fresh fruit. I don't eat muffins or bagels, so I passed on those. I could hear the disappointed voices behind me as the last of the line scraped the bottom of the egg pan.

One of my besties came up and said their family was just going to leave because all the food was gone. She'd been in the back teaching Sunday school, and her husband had been running sound for the service. They hadn't even made it to the last table. I noticed other people looking at the empty pans and deciding to leave too. I felt guilty for the little that was on my plate.

As I walked through the sanctuary to our table at the front, I tried not to notice how much food other people had taken. It didn't matter. But when I arrived at my seat, I saw that two more people had joined our table, and evidently they hadn't waited for our number to be called. On the table at two of the previously empty place settings were plates and bowls of food that were spilling over onto the table they were so full. On just one of them -- not that I counted -- I saw several English muffin halves, strips of bacon, both kinds of sausage, a huge pile of eggs and potatoes, and several muffins balancing on top. Next to it was a full bowl of fresh fruit with several more muffins and coffee cake clinging on top. The plate next to it was almost as full. I felt a little nugget of resentment start to burn in my empty stomach.

I tried to find a photo of a plate of breakfast to represent, but none of them were as piled up as what I described. Imagine this one, only way more.

As the original four of us settled in, I noticed their plates were scanty, similar to mine. The guy who was sitting on my left offered me some of his muffin, but I didn't want the empty calories. The two men who had brought the loaded plates were standing at other tables, laughing and talking. We started eating, and eventually they came over, said hi, and plowed into their big plates of breakfast. I tried not to watch with envy. I will confess I failed.

As I ate, the words "one percent" kept floating up in my mind. Something about the amount of food two people at our table had on their plates compared to what the rest of us had seemed so familiar, but in a much larger context. I tried to push that thought away. I pushed away the thought that we'd all eat well if we took those six plates of food and split them up equally among us. Not the American way, is it? I tried not to think I'd like to Occupy Brunch. I tried to just accept and let go. Because I'm so fucking good at that, right?

The purpose of the pledge dinner has always been to remind people what a treasure we have in  our church and to encourage them to sign those pledge cards. And, we hope, to increase their pledges from last year so we can pay the mortgage, electric bills and staff. No matter how uncomfortable it makes people to be reminded, all churches need money to run. Not just butts in the chair. Money. This brunch had one purpose: to raise money. If the loading of plates with eggs and bacon would raise that money, then that's the greater good. That's what I told myself.

It didn't take me long to clean my plate, but as I finished I looked out at the food tables and noticed the cooks -- who probably hadn't eaten anything yet -- putting out more eggs. I went out to get more. The woman in charge of the breakfast said, "You were at the last table, right? Here, these fresh eggs are for you guys." I let her put a spoonful on my plate. Another of the cooks came out with sausage links, so I took one of those too, and then headed back to the table.

Before long the sausage cook brought her pan to our table and said, "You guys were last and didn't get much food. Who wants a sausage?" The other three I'd sat with took a couple. I already had one so I declined.

What happened next would have made me lose my appetite if I hadn't been so hungry. The two men sitting to my right, the two with  the already loaded plates who hadn't been able to put a dent in the food they'd already taken, laughed at their good fortune and each held their plates up for more sausage. One of them said something like, "Good thing we went last." Har har har. She gave them each a couple more sausages to go with the ones still on their plates.

Now I'll let you imagine a couple of minutes of stunned silence. I didn't dare look at anybody at the table. I was feeling ..... the truth is I was feeling small, mean and angry. Ugly. I didn't want to feel that way. I had food on my fucking plate, damn it. I wasn't going to leave hungry. I just put my head down and forked that food into my mouth. But I could see the friend who was sitting on my left glancing up at me. I looked sideways at him and he shook his head and rolled his eyes. Good. It wasn't just me.

I've thought a lot about that meal, about how some people took as much as they could pile on their plates and then took more. I've been to dozens of those dinners, so I also can guess how much food was thrown away because people took more than they could eat. Probably they were a small number -- not the majority. But they wasted food that could have fed other people.

To be fair, I didn't leave hungry. I didn't fill up, but I ate enough. And a few hours later, when I was hungry, I ate again at home. I know I am blessed to live in this country at this time in history.

But I can't help thinking how a small experience like this can shine a light on how much bigger national and world problems emerge and grow. The people who went first and second and third didn't get their privileged place in line because of their hard work or skill or talents or even, in spite of the fact that this was a pledge dinner, monetary contributions. It was random good fortune.

Those of us who were at the last table didn't eat far less because we lacked time or skills or talent or even money. The four of us who went last have given, or still give, of all of those things more than most people in the church. And those who left hungry .... some of them give as much or more. They didn't eat because they were still busy doing the work of the church.

Random. Not deserved. Random. And yet even in this small microcosm of people who claim to care for each other, some people took way more than they needed while others went hungry. And it wasn't fucking necessary.

Were the resources limited? Yes and no. The people in charge of the brunch brought in limited food, but it was a shitload of food. It was enough to feed everyone in the church so they left satisfied. Limited resources don't mean somebody has to go hungry.

That seems to be the thing a lot of people in this country have forgotten. Limited resources don't mean somebody has to go hungry. It might mean though that some people can't take lots more than they need, way more than they even deserve except by the random chance that they become a CEO of an oil company or a bank instead of a fucking teacher or construction worker or stay-at-home mom.

I sound judgmental as hell, so let me backpedal and say I do it too. We all do it -- take more than we need. In so many ways, our plates are piled high -- you should come to my house for Thanksgiving. No, really. No matter how many read this far, I can feed you. And yet others are going hungry. Maybe it's human nature to grab as much as possible in times of plenty.

But I think we're smarter than that. I think we can do better than that ..... Or I'd like to think so. What I saw at the pledge brunch didn't fill me with either hope or eggs.

Oh, one more thing. All of the original four of us turned in our pledge cards to our table captain. I didn't see either of the men with full plates even take an envelope with a card. Doesn't mean it didn't or won't happen. I just didn't see it before I left. Not my business. It's not a tax, after all.

I'm trying not to judge. Yet as I write this, I think maybe I sound like a whiny bitch who needs to go serve really hungry people in Africa.

Tell me what you think. I can take it. Am I just a whiny bitch who didn't get her bacon? Or do we have a problem that permeates both our small and large social systems? Have you seen examples in your own life?

And am I the only one who feels, during this crazy, long, excruciating election season, that maybe we're just really fucking hopeless?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Story Slam: The Unspeakable Revisited

The view from my front porch today

This past week marked an anniversary of sorts. One that reminds me how much in my life and my family's lives has changed in the past three years. It's astonishing, really. So much so that some people who know me now, probably wouldn't recognize me then. But I'm not writing about those changes tonight. I promised a friend and reader, AutoD, that I'd write about the story slam I competed in tonight.

The topic was March [Fucking] Madness: True Stories of Anger. Anybody who's read here knows I have some stories about anger, just like any card-carrying ginger does. So I'd like to brag that I won this one, but I didn't. A guy who told a funny story about buying outdated coffee won.

I have excuses. 1) I've been sick since that bike ride I wrote about last Tuesday, and I've been half-assing my way through all of my social engagements for almost a week now. I've done close to everything I normally do -- another bike ride Wednesday (on the river path this time), a couple of nights of karaoke (didn't sing), a couple of great parties, and a few late-night hours of hot sexting (don't try to fucking tell me you've never done it) -- but all of it happened at quarter speed -- at least for me. Today I finally ran out of fuel and didn't even make it to church to sing. I didn't have much to give to my 10 minutes at the story slam either.

2) It was a different audience tonight. The audience last month would have loved some teary pathos. This crowd was younger and wanted to laugh. My story made several people cry, but I didn't have comedy in me, even if the story could have supported it. And it couldn't.

And 3) I probably won't win every time. Damn it.

In spite of my lackluster delivery and misjudgment of the audience, it's a worthwhile story about going to the funeral of one of Elvira's friends who had committed suicide. But I won't repeat it, because I already told it here three years ago. You can read the first part, "Musings on the Unspeakable," and the followup, "And Now a Rant After the Unspeakable," by clicking the hot links. I hope you'll read them in memory of a girl who made a permanent decision about a temporary problem.

Even though I didn't win, I was glad Elvira and Coraline were there in the audience. They reminded me that in spite of the many changes we've celebrated and endured over the past three years, we're still sharing our lives together and that's what counts. Hug your kids today.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


I don't put much faith in dreams, although I dream every night and usually remember at least one or two. The most logical explanation for them seems to be that they're the unpredictable firing of brain cells while the owner of the brain is unconscious. Often I can tell some movie I watched has shown up mixed up with some other events that happened. More often they don't make sense at all, like they're just experimental stories or mind masturbation. I certainly don't believe in symbolism in dreams. But then there are those times when I have no choice but to believe ..... something--very much like I don't believe in Tarot except when I have no choice. When I dream and within days or weeks the dream turns out to be prophetic, and I can't deny that there's some weird thing that happens with dreams that I can neither predict nor understand.

Tonight I don't want to write about all the times that's happened. Unless I'm really interested in the person, I don't find their dreams all that interesting, so I'll assume the same of you. (Although I'm sure you'd find my dreams fascinating.) I seem to be in a phase of dream predictions the past week or so though, and I have to admit I'm both curious to see what will happen next and, as usual, a little freaked out about what might happen next.

Last week I wrote about a dream. Often I dream about people and they pop up unexpectedly the next day. I've gotten used to that, even if I haven't heard from the person in years. You all do that too, right?

Last night though, I dreamed I was driving on a highway near my hometown. Without warning, the highway ended, and in front of me was nothing but grassy prairie and stands of trees. I wasn't sure why, but it reminded me of a post-apocalyptic movie--only without the apocalypse. In the dream, I continued on foot to where I was going.

After several hours of doing dream stuff in that place, I found myself driving a car, trying to find my way to what was home in the dream. I took a different paved road that eventually and unexpectedly turned into a dirt road. When I looked behind me and couldn't see an alternative, I continued on the back roads. I was obviously lost, and although I kept trying to tell from the sun which direction I should go, I came to a place where I wasn't sure which way to turn. At the corner was an old farm house so I rode my bike--yep, that's how dreams work--up into the yard. There were a bunch of people there but they only stared at me. They knew I was lost, but they didn't want to help. I rode through the yard, past the people, until I came to a head lying on the ground. I was trying to figure out where the rest of his body was -- if maybe it was buried and just his head was sticking out -- when a woman came out on the porch and said, "Don't ask him. He ain't gonna tell you the truth anyway." So I chose a direction and rode away, still lost. The end.

I was telling my son Drake about the dream this afternoon and he had some ideas about relationships that have changed, how it might be about that. I said maybe so, but it felt like one of those prophetic dreams -- which, of course, it couldn't be because we weren't really expecting a fucking apocalypse.

After we talked, I got out my bike and headed off to the post office. I wasn't going to miss taking at least a short ride on a 70-degree, sunny day in March. After I left the post office, I decided to ride down to a nearby neighborhood and look at a house that was for sale there. I wanted to see what the ride was like, how near it was to downtown. I found the street and the house, and then decided to keep riding. City neighborhoods are tricky. A street with huge, lovely old houses, like the one I was on, can butt right up to streets with burned out or boarded up crack houses lined up in a row.

I rode past some nice, old houses and eventually a mix of nice and not-so-nice. So I headed back the way I'd come .... or so I thought. As I rode I realized I was on streets I hadn't been on before, but some of the names seemed familiar so I figured they had to lead back to the main road. I kept riding and turning down streets and sometimes finding the same street but still not finding my way out.

Eventually I was in one of those neighborhoods with the boarded up, burned out houses and the apartments with bars on the windows. Rough, pitted out streets with lots of speed bumps to slow down high-speed chases with cops and broken glass on the sidewalks. And the few people who were out just looked at me without expression, without saying hi as I road by in my sexy, stretchy cycling clothes on my expensive bike ... not saying hi like people do in my neighborhood (which also has boarded up houses, but not like this).

I saw a sign beside an apartment building and realized I was in a really bad part of the city -- a part I would only want to go through in my van with my doors locked. Only I was on my bicycle and I was lost. It was a neighborhood I'd read about just last week, in an article about how the police have failed to control the gang violence there.

I kept riding. I knew I could stop and call a friend to look up a map and give me directions to get out, but I didn't feel safe; I didn't want to stop and I didn't want to look lost. I knew I could call and a friend would fucking leave work and come pick me up. But I also knew I wouldn't feel safe waiting for him to get to me. I felt too vulnerable, too exposed, too obviously out of place. So I kept riding. And riding. As fast as I could given the condition of the streets and the pitch of some of the hills. I rode on streets I'd already been on. On streets I'd never seen before. I tried to think where the main road might be by where the sun was in the sky, but knowing where west was didn't help me because I didn't know where I was. And I also hadn't told anyone else where I was going.

It was ridiculous really. Stupid. I've been lost in cities all over the country. I sometimes take a wrong turn on purpose and get lost -- on fucking purpose -- just in case I find an adventure out there in the unknown. Getting lost doesn't fucking scare me. I always find my way home just fine. My city doesn't scare me. I ride my bike downtown late at night by myself, and I live in a neighborhood where they put in gates in the 90's to stop the high-speed chases. I'm not fucking scared ..... Except today there were times I was really scared and I can't even explain why.

Finally I came to a 4-way stop sign that was pretty busy. I had to stop, so I waited and noted most of the cars were going one direction. I decided to follow them. So I turned and rode with the traffic. Finally I could see a busier street up ahead and sure enough: it was the 4-lane street I needed to take home. As I turned onto the sidewalk, I realized I was a couple of miles north of where I'd turned off, and I was at the top of a huge hill. I didn't care now that I knew where the hell I was -- and some people would consider where I was hell.

I had ridden about half a block when I saw a young man walking toward me on the sidewalk. He was wearing gang colors. He looked up and saw me ... and then he squatted down in the middle of the sidewalk to tie his shoe. Fuck me, I thought. I finally find my way out of the jungle and now I run into a gang banger. Why is he tying his shoe? Nothing to do but keep riding. The traffic was heavy and whizzing by so I couldn't cross the street, and I sure as fuck couldn't turn back. I couldn't ride too fast because he was on the sidewalk. I eased up to him and edged by. He didn't even look up, but I took the brakes off and let the hill take me faster as soon as I was past.

When I could, I crossed to my own side of the road and eventually into my own neighborhood. As I turned down my own street, I was even relieved to see the drug dealer who lives three doors down sitting on his front steps. It all seemed pretty anticlimactic by the time I lifted my bike up my own front steps, but my lungs were burning because I've sat on my lazy, fat ass most of the winter and gotten out of shape and my legs were shakier than a ride of that length warranted.

It wasn't until I'd eaten lunch and was in the shower that I remembered the dream I had last night. The dream about getting lost and trying to find my way by the sun. It's just how these dreams go. The setting isn't the same, but the story is close. I don't really believe in dreams though. They're just the random firing of brain cells. Nothing a logical woman like me would believe in .... except when I have no choice.

Some people think prophetic dreams are a gift. I'm not too sure about that. Mostly it freaks me out because it doesn't make sense, and yet I can't deny that it happens. And I have no fucking control even when I know something is going to happen.

What about you? Do you believe in the prophecy of dreams? Have you ever had a sleeping dream come true in the waking world? If so, doesn't it just scare the ever-lovin' shit out of you?

Coda: Five and a half hours after I published this, I got up and read the following message from TUT in my email:

"Always trust your dreams, [reticula]. They've chosen you, as much as you've chosen them.

    The Universe...

And it really ticked-off all the other dreams, too, [reticula]." 

Monday, March 12, 2012

New Friends

I went to an unusual party Friday night. Some relatively new friends, Steamy Cynthia and Grogalingus, invited me to what they called a "new friends party." They also invited five other people they didn't know well and who didn't know each other. OK, a threesome came together and a twosome came together; and one of the guests is a colleague of mine, but we don't really know each other. As it turned out, I was the only one who didn't know anybody there well, but I can handle that. As my mom has always said, I don't know a stranger.

Mixing a group of relative strangers seemed a courageous gambit into the diminishing art of face-to-face socializing that could fall flat on its fucking face, or, as it was intended, make new friends of people who might not otherwise have met. I was delighted to be invited and met.

We started the evening with a little social lubricant. Grogalingus mixed up a tasty cocktail of amaretto, Southern Comfort, sweet/sour mix, and pineapple juice called Leah's piece of ass.* I recommend drinking it by the pitcher.

And there was food: cheese and crackers, hummus, and fresh fruit! One of the guests brought a yummy apple crumb pie. And because Steamy Cynthia reads this here blog, she baked chocolate chocolate chip and lemon cookies just for me--but of course I shared with the other guests.

Really, what more do you need at a party besides a piece of ass and cookies? I was perfectly satisfied. But besides the food, here are a few observations from the night.

1. I'm going to have to break down and watch Dr. Who. Probably I should also make a cheat sheet just for parties or get relevant details tattooed on the inside of my arm. Evidently just nodding like I know what the fuck people are talking about is not enough for the Whoish crowd. I need to know the characters. And I suspect I could at least appear smarter than a brain-damaged turkey if I knew why this outhouse is so important.

I'm the only one on the planet who doesn't know, aren't I?

2. Going to a party where you don't know anybody well means every story will be a new one. That's some cool shit right there.

 3. I can't go one single night without talking about boobs and how much I love them. I haven't written about that here yet, but I will soon. Not that it's a secret, but don't worry. I didn't lead with boobs at the new friends party. We'd all had at least 2 drinks before the topic came up. And before we listened to this song.

4. I will probably be writing about some steampunk adventures here in the near future. As of this writing, I know very little other than that it started as a literary movement and within the past few years has morphed into a costume movement as well. And there should be goggles.

For the past few months Grogalingus and Steamy Cynthia have been encouraging me to ride on their airship to some steampunk functions, but so far I've encountered scheduling conflicts. Three of the guests Friday are instigators of steampunk in a nearby city, so having made more new steampunk friends, I think I'd better don a costume and see what it's all about.

I realized as I was looking at costumes online that I already have a dress I can trick out with some accessories. I've always said I won't wear a corset in public because it's one item  of clothing I'd rather save for a special someone to see in private. Or maybe it's a matter of class that I wouldn't wear one out to a club, for example. But as I looked at photos of some of the local events, I noticed lots of the women's costumes are topped by corsets, so .... maybe as a costume? I'm still not persuaded yet. Although I think I could handle this costume in black, without the weapon. I already have the jacket.

This costume needs a redhead.

5. People who read my blog know me better than I realize they do. Everybody seems to be rooting for me to get more cookies.

I think I rambled away from the party. It was fun. One of my intentions for the new year is to get out of my comfort zone ..... OK, I do that anyway. Find new ways to get out of my comfort zone. I'm grateful that Steamy Cynthia and Grogalingus opened their home to an experimental party. It was a great idea and a generous risk. Or at least I thought it was risky.

Would you consider it risky to either go to a party where all the other guests were strangers or even intentionally throw a party like that yourself?

I leave you with another Tim Minchin offering that one of the party guests posted on my Facebook wall after we became friends yesterday. Listen through, because you'll probably be surprised by the word he's ..... nevermind. I'm not going to give away the surprise. (Thanks, Charlie.)

*The recipe is delicious as is, but I would add a spritz of black cherry fizzy water to the mix to lighten it a bit and give a touch of effervescence. That's just my preference though.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


I know. I haven't posted the past two nights. I'm not doing NaBloPoMo this month, and end-of-the-quarter grading vision loss has set in, so I slacked off a couple of nights. I'm humbled by those of you who wrote or told me in person that you missed reading here. Thank you. I write here at night like that late-night DJ who spins his tunes in the lonely dark while everyone else is sleeping. Thank you for reading.

I was reminded tonight of something I need to think more about and it's this: When we set out to intentionally hurt one person, we will inevitably hurt others too. Maybe the collateral damage is worth it, but maybe we don't notice or care that we've let off emotional tear gas in the building as we're leaving. Maybe we should notice. (Or maybe hurting people on purpose sucks big green donkey balls, but some people seem compelled. That's 'nother post.)

Just to keep this real .... look, I'm easy to hurt. I lead with my heart. I make no secret of my vulnerability, and I take most blows head on because I don't live life behind a shield. But a direct strike at me can hurt others who don't even know to duck. I watched it happen tonight.

I can't do anything about other people's behavior. The lesson for me is that the next time I feel like striking out at someone -- and that's a rare occurrence except on the highway -- I'm going to think a little harder about who else I might be hurting at the same time.

I'm not an expert on Jesus, and I don't play an expert on TV. As far as I can tell, he was a cool, liberal young rabbi of his time, and I don't claim to know his heart or even his words. But I believe he said something like whatever you do to the least of these, you also do to me. Don't worry. Jesus wasn't hurt tonight, but I understood what he meant. When you hurt someone, you don't just hurt one person. There are innocents all around. 

Have you ever hurt someone out of anger or meanness or fear of losing something, and then realized you unintentionally hurt someone else, caught someone in the cross-fire? Is it possible you've done it without knowing it?

I'm going to consider this question myself. I may write more about it.
I had a dream last night, and in it I guess I received a message. I don't believe in dreams, but sometimes it happens. In the dream somebody stood beside me and said, "It never could have worked. He's not allowed to talk. He's not allowed to touch her. He's not allowed to be himself. You have to know that's more compelling than anything you have to offer." In the dream I walked out of the room ... and then I woke up. I woke up months ago.

I rarely strike out, because more often than not, I understand. Even without dreams, I understand.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Facebook snippet: My boss can stay out of my vagina too.

I found myself dragged into a conversation on Facebook tonight with someone who obviously took a master course in logical or argument fallacies. I got out fairly early, but it still left me with a bad taste in my mouth. My FB friend, who is not the guy in this snip, posted that Rush Limbaugh had apologized for calling Sandra Fluke a slut. After I flippantly remarked that Rush Limbaugh is a whore, the conversation with one of his friends went something like this, :

Photoshopped. Duh.

Here, in case you haven't actually listened to Sandra Fluke's testimony, is the video I posted above. I don't get "slut" from this, but I didn't expect to agree with a fat, loud, attention-whore junkie like Limbaugh.

I was satisfied ending the conversation there, and I did post the video on my wall. Back to the real issue of keeping my employer out of my vagina.

Ooops. I was wrong. There was a little bit more to come.

Still Photoshopped.

And I am fucking speechless. All these many years after women fought for the right to vote and burned their bras and pounded their heads against the fucking glass ceiling --oh, wait. We've never stopped doing that -- men are still telling us we are either sluts or children when we want to control our own bodies .... no, our own vaginas and ovaries and uteruses? What the fucking fuck?

I stopped. I did. I said I was out of the conversation and I didn't take the bait. No more stinky fish or slippery slopes or ad hominem attacks for me. Nope, not worth it. He wouldn't pass my freshman composition class. But I do have a response to make here.
**Disclaimer: This isn't really for this one guy. It's really for the guys who started this rhetoric and made it stick with some people like this guy. It's for the people who purposefully spread ignorance. It's for Rush Limbaugh.

Dear Random Guy on a FB thread: First, go ahead and make the health insurance companies pay for your porn if you can't get off any other way. How fucking pathetic is that? About as pathetic as that faulty analogy you just farted. Wanking to porn is not the same as taking prescription birth control pills. You don't need a prescription to whack off to porn, which is free anyway.

But since you're going down that lubed-up slope, let's talk about orgasmic equality. Orgasms cause all kinds of lovely, muscle-building contractions in a woman's lady parts too. Yep. Cookies are good for all of us. Problem is, porn doesn't really do it for lots of us women. We need connection, foreplay, skin against our skin ....  If you get your porn, I want my health insurance plan to pay for a man who will give me healthy, beneficial cookies. And if I can't have a man, I want a Sybian. And no, you don't get a prostitute to jerk you off because you already offered to do it yourself with porn. Want to keep sliding down that slope? No? Good.

Now that the orgasms are under control, maybe just a few words about the Constitutional errors you committed in your tiny rant. You seriously think the Constitution guarantees you the right to religion? What the fuck does that even mean? The Constitution says the following: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Your "right to religion" stops where my vagina begins, buddy, and don't you forget it.

Look, it doesn't matter what religion my employer practices, he doesn't have the right to make medical decisions for me. Period. It's between my doctor and me. Period. It doesn't have to be spelled out in the Constitution for it to be a right.

And finally, you said Ms. Fluke "never got any negative press for saying what she did." I'm stuck for words. She was called a slut. Weren't you listening? Rush Limbaugh, supposedly a representative of the media, called her a slut. Surely you don't think he meant it as a compliment?

Sorry I had to leave the conversation so abruptly. I'm a little tense about having to vote next to people who want to control the medical choices I make with my doctor because of their religion or because they think they're protecting somebody's right to religion. I'm scared that people say the things you did and believe them. And I could also really use a few of those prescription cookies I was talking about up there. You understand, right? About the cookies?


I told my son Drake the guys who drafted the Constitution would throw themselves off buildings if they could hear this nonsense. He sent me a funny, appropriate video. So let's end this post with a laugh, because shit is getting strange out there. We really are further down that slippery slope than I ever thought we'd go.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Night Owls

I'm a night owl. Readers on the west coast aren't surprised to hear that. Most readers who share my time zone don't see new posts until they get up in the morning. I'm not sure if everybody is born with a particular clock for sleeping and waking, but I was, and it hasn't changed since I was born no matter how hard people tried to change me.

My mom and my grandma tried to feed it out of me. When I was two weeks old they started spooning mashed potatoes and gravy into my mouth and pouring whole milk and dark Karo syrup in my bottles so I would sleep at night. I didn't. Typically babies don't sleep all night at two weeks anyway, but no matter what they tried, I didn't go to sleep when they wanted me to. They thought I was being stubborn. My mom said I was afraid I was going to miss something, but that wasn't it.

Later my parents tried to beat it out of me. That didn't work. They would put me to bed at a "reasonable" hour--9:00 or so. I would lie awake for hours, daydreaming about sex, singing under my breath, trying to be as quiet as I could so nobody would know I was still awake while the entire house slept--except for the mice in the walls. When I was 8, I got a little white transistor radio. I would turn it all the way down and put it against my ear. I could barely hear it, but it was enough to keep me company. Sometimes I could even pick up a station in Kansas City, my favorite, and I would listen to it for hours. I thought someday I would be that sultry late night voice on the radio, awake and playing music while most people slept. Eventually about 2:00, I would give up and fall asleep. It didn't matter what time I had to get up for school, I couldn't go to sleep until long after everybody else had.

When I got married, I still couldn't go to sleep until 2:00 or later. That was fine as long as I was tending bar and supporting us. But once I was in college and LtColEx was working, my sleep schedule became a problem. He tried guilt: "I have to work to support us and you can get up whenever you want. I can't go to sleep if you're not here sleeping, so you have to go to bed at a reasonable hour." I would read a book until he couldn't take it any longer, and then I would lie awake for hours, listening to him breathe, waiting for him to twitch (restless leg syndrome), daydreaming.....

When Drake and Elvira were babies getting up with them in the night was no problem at all. I loved being up with them in the middle of the quiet, milky night, when everything was still and the windows were dark. It was mornings I had to drag my ass through. But babies take naps in the morning. So did I.

For the most part now, I'm able to arrange my schedule so I go to bed about 4 hours later than most people and sleep 2-3 hours later. I can force myself to get up early, but I can't force myself to go to sleep before 2:00 am. Most of my colleagues would rather teach morning classes, so I'm happy to take the afternoon shift. I'm often grading papers into the early hours of the morning, before I go to bed.

If I do have to attend a morning function for some reason, people who think they know me are surprised that I'm not the same person at 8:00 or 9:00 am as I am at 11:30 or later. I'm a zombie. I can't focus, and I can't engage. I'm no longer an E on the Meyers Briggs. I'm no letter at all. I don't function.

I think sometimes about getting a day job, a normal job which would require me to work from 9-5 and then leave my work at the office. I've done it before when I had to, for a few months at a time. I just can't take the leap though.

It sounds lazy, but I do the same amount of work as everyone else. I just don't do it at the same time. Something about morning feels harsh and abrasive to me. My brain feels stuffed with pillows. But at night, I feel energized, ready, charged. I have to be careful not to start cleaning house after midnight or I'm up for hours having fun. There are other activities I could do all night too.....

I'm always the last one standing after a party or a night out, and I can't understand why people want to go to sleep when it's dark and cozy and there are stars shining (not just that one we call the sun) and there's a hummmm coming from the earth that I can't hear during the day. Are you still up? Do you hear it?

Do you remember when your clock was set? Were you born with it, or did you learn to adapt so you could get along?

Maybe I'm normal though, in a way. Maybe some of us are born to keep watch through the night. Somebody has to witness the dark, right?

I don't understand why would anybody want to sleep during this?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Would Anonymous please stand up?

I've been wresting with decisions about anonymity, both my own and yours. On the one hand, anonymity provides a certain amount of protection, gives a little more freedom  to write whatever the fuck I want. On the other, it's  kind of chickenshit to write without claiming the words, putting one's name on the byline. It dilutes the power of the words somehow when a name isn't attached.

One decision I make every once in a while is whether to allow Anonymous to comment here. With a click I can take that option off the comment page and force anyone who comments to own up with at least an alias. One advantage would be that each comment would have a different name. A couple of times posts have received an unusual number of comments -- like 10 -- and it's hard to tell if the anonymous ones are one person or several. And I suppose having to "sign" a comment might inspire some otherwise anonymous commenters to consider their words and punctuation more carefully, but it might also discourage them from commenting.

Eh, but I don't get that many comments here on the blog. I tend to get more on Facebook, where they can't be anonymous anyway, and most of those are on my personal page, not the blog page (which you should like if you haven't by clicking over there to the right). Drive-by anonymous posts aren't really a problem, and I have the option of deleting any that annoy or offend me. So far, none of them have, not even the fat troll who stopped by and left a calling card to her secret blog one night.

For now, I'm going to allow anonymous comments here. It's so much easier to mock someone who disagrees with me if I can't put a name with the comment.

I'll go that way.

The other question is one of my own anonymity. I'm working on a new design, and I'd like to make this interface more visually personal. I've been thinking about having some photos of myself taken -- even though I'm the most unphotogenic human living or dead. Professional photographers hate me. The only person who consistently takes a photo of me with my eyes open is The Diplomat, and he's had lots of practice. In fact, it's so embarrassing how unphotogenic I am, I'm a little phobic now, which is why I haven't pursued it yet. But I have a couple of other purposes for the photos: one is that some directors want head shots at auditions and the other is none of your business. So I thought if I were going break down and have some photos taken, I might as well try to get one that I could use here.

My quandary is that I've maintained a certain level of anonymity and posting a photo would blow some of that away. Yes, many readers know my real identity, and some even party at the bat cave. I've been posting links to my Facebook page for months, so it's no secret to my Facebook friends who Reticula is. Even my kids read and comment here.

Facebook friends aren't the readers I worry about though. Because I write about things like vaginas and dildos and even --giddyup! -- Sybians, I'd rather any particular current crop of students not find and read my blog. I sometimes read something I've written here aloud as an example, because they like to know I can write better than they can, but I don't direct my students to my blog. I also don't accept Facebook friend requests from students while they're enrolled in my class, and only a special few have become friends after. I'm flattered when one of those reads here, but they are rare students.

So students are one reason I'm careful about linking my realness to my blog. The other reason is less compelling. A friend brought up the possibility that a future, potential employer might find my blog and be offended by my posts about vaginas or by my language. I said I hoped any potential employer would be hiring me because I'm a writer, and my blog shows one genre of writing I can do. I'm not sure I'd like working for anyone who couldn't handle what I write here. That would be a pretty tight stick up the ass, and I predict we would clash in other ways too.

I've met this quandary before. A few years ago I sold a story to Bust magazine, a "one-handed read" story. After I signed the contract, the editor must have done some research on me, because she emailed and asked if I was sure I wanted to use my real name for the byline. At the time I was working for another magazine as an editor and columnist, and it was possible some of those readers might not appreciate my porn erotica.I thought about it for a few hours, and then I emailed her back and told her to use my real name. I wasn't ashamed of the story and I saw no reason to use a pseudonym as if I were.

So my past stance has been that anything I write in public I should be proud to own. I edit myself heavily so I don't cross certain self-imposed lines. For example, I try never to embarrass my kids or write anything that would hurt someone I love and respect. I'm not perfect, but that's my intention, but I've learned that I can neither predict nor control my audience. Sometimes people I never would have imagined read here, so I have to consider that unknown audience when I write. Being entirely anonymous would be freeing, like never having to wear a bra or panties, but all writers are accountable to their audience.

Granted, a photo isn't the same as using my name. But it's one step closer to outing myself publicly in a way that's irreversible. And I've learned the hard way a couple of times that the internet can be a cold companion when it comes to taking something I've written back. Some people don't forgive.

As I write it out here though, it doesn't seem like a big deal. This isn't my secret sex blog, after all. Maybe I'm just trying to avoid those photos ..... I know I'm trying to avoid the photos.

Do any of you have any thoughts on the subject of anonymity? If you're a blogger, do you use your real name? Am I just making life too damn difficult again?

My mother always said I think too much.