Say, What’s That Shovel Doing There?

Okay, I’m telling you this story. I’m telling you this story because how many real life people can I tell this story to? Not that many, because they’ll all freak out. And you guys will too, kind of, but still, I’m telling you this story.

So I come home from work last night, it’s a touch after 11pm, I drive down the alley and I pull into my parking pad. As I get ready to get out of the car, I notice something leaning against the wall of my parking pad that I’ve never seen before. I’m kind of looking at it puzzledly (is that a word? I’m making it a word) for a minute, and then my next-door neighbor, Tyreese, opens his back door and holds up a hand and tells me to wait a minute. He’s making wide eyes at me. “Just wait. Just wait.”

Clearly something’s up. So I wait.

A minute later he comes back out and tells me that there were two guys behind my house just a few minutes before this. His girlfriend saw them, yelled at him, he jumped off the couch, put some clothes on, grabbed his gun and looked out the door. When he looked, they ran. He says they looked like teenagers. As he told me this I realized that the thing I saw propped against the wall of the parking pad is a shovel – one of those heavy iron ones – and there are footprints all over my metal cellar door. I had left the damned kitchen window blinds open by accident. That window is right above the cellar doors. The damned punks were going to break into, or at the very least were casing, my house. Tyreese had told me to wait when I first pulled up so he could look around a little, make sure no one was watching from anywhere. He was worried someone had been watching me come and go, waiting for me.

How awesome is Tyreese, by the way?

I knew when I bought this house that I was taking a chance. I mean, it’s the city, I’m a woman, I live alone, yadda yadda yadda. Frankly, living alone in a house as a woman is always a risk, no matter where you live, but you can’t be afraid your whole life. Still, though… two and a half months and some punks are breaking into my house? Come on. It’s not a bad neighborhood. Plus I’m so freaking careful it’s ridiculous. I bought my TV and had it shipped to the UPS facility so I could go pick it up instead of having it delivered here. I never put the box for it outside. I kept it in the basement. My dad took it to Pennsylvania to throw it out. Swear to God. That’s how careful I am.

So, I call the cops. The officer gets here pretty quick and I tell him the deal, and he says all the exact things one should not say to me at this stage in my life, post-predator/prey episode involving the court system and at least three detention facilities. Things such as: Yeah, they probably know your schedule, they know you’re coming and going, they target women who live alone.

Hey. Buddy. Can we not? With the stalker talk?

That’s not what he meant, of course; he meant that they do that so they know who the easy targets are for robberies. And I get that. Again, this was a risk I knew I was taking. But now I feel like some weak and defenseless damsel in distress all over again, and dammit, this was not supposed to happen. I have faith in this city and I have faith in this street where there has not been a crime report in months. Also, in that typically liberal, feminist, made-for-TV-movie way, I refuse to be a “victim in quotation marks.” But I noticed about 30 minutes after the cop left that the screen to my window was gone. I called him and he changed the report to an attempted breaking & entering. Definitely tried to break in. Tyreese probably stopped them just in time.

Tyreese and his girlfriend are getting some home-cookin’ for this, at the very least.

Also? The cop asked if I was okay, and I totally started crying. Never ask me if I’m okay. The longer he stood there staring at me and not believing I was okay because for some reason a woman ugly-crying in front of him indicates some level of not-okayness, the harder I cried. Poor guy felt bad.

Needless to say, the alarm company is coming tomorrow morning, bright and early, to install sensors on all three doors and all the ground floor windows, plus a motion detector inside and a remote access thingy so I can– well, frankly, so I can probably set off the alarm myself a gazillion times by accident. But mostly so I can get in and out the back door without setting the alarm off, since the keypad will be in the front.

Oh, and I was mid-text conversation with Rick when all this went down, so he got roped into the we’ve-had-exactly-three-dates-what-is-the-protocol-for-this situation. I was trying to keep him from feeling obligated and wound up feeling like an asshole drama queen for even telling him about it. The guy must think I’m a total spazz. First the stalker, which is the oh-so-romantic reason we met, and now this. But he informed me that he has dealt with drama queens before and I am so not that.

Phew.

I suppose I shouldn’t tell him about the creepy state trooper just yet, though.

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Keep Your Arms and Legs Inside the Car At All Times

Well, right on cue, I’m getting neurotic.

I always wonder: am I the only one who gets like this? Or who gets like this beyond the age of 22? It makes me feel immature and destined to fail, like my nerves become a self-fulfilling prophesy as all the doubts flood my head and tell me, one way or another, “He’s going to ditch you. In a month, or two, at most, he’ll be gone.”

What evidence do I have for this? I hadn’t heard from Rick Tuesday, except for one response to a message I sent. That’s all. And I know. I know that’s stupid. I know it’s needy  of me. I knew he was at work, and very possibly in meetings all day long. The last three days he was off and had all the freedom in the world to talk with me, and he did. We’ve seen each other twice, there has been an official First Kiss, and he has said he can’t wait to see me again (when we can hopefully try the Next Kiss in an environment warmer than a parking lot at 2am in January). We’ve exchanged grin-inducing messages that made my face hurt for an hour.

He has told me I’m very pretty, and that I shouldn’t thank him for saying it because it’s just a fact.

Ohhhh, but I could fall hard for this one.

Enter the voices. He just got out of a relationship. Do you really want to be the rebound? 

(To which, quite honestly, the answer is, “Um, have you seen him? Yes. Yes, in fact, I do.”)

He’s still paying the rent on their place. Why is he paying it? Will he get his own place? Are they going to get back together? Why did they break up? Did he cheat? Will he wind up keeping me a secret for months because he thinks it looks bad that we went out so soon after his breakup? Or for some other reason? Does he even want a relationship right now or am I just salve for his pain? He worked for a politician and ran for office, himself… is he just a smooth operator? Is this chivalry of opened doors and pulled-out chairs just an act? Can I even believe him when he says such nice things to me? Will he just disappear, stop calling?

I have been kept a secret. I have been smooth-talked. I have been cheated on. I have been lied to. I have been disappeared on. These things don’t make me exceptional; most of them happen to everyone. I’m 35, so it’s happened to me much more than perhaps those who were married ten years younger and stayed that way. It’s a numbers game; the odds are stacked against me. And almost all relationships end. You really only hope for one Forever, and if you’re wise, you know that one won’t be perfect.

The problem is that when it ends those ways that many times, you start to think it’s because of you. And then every time it happens after that, your fears are only confirmed. And pretty soon you’re pretty sure it will happen again this time, no matter what, or who, this time is.

Today is Jack’s birthday. He was in a dream I had two nights ago, taking me to the doctor because I was badly ill. And that has happened in real life. But Rick was in a dream I had the night before that. Nothing too substantial, but he was there. Like real life. Jack will, I’m sure, be hovering on the edge of my consciousness today. This will be the first January 23rd in 10 years that I will not call and sing “Happy Birthday” to him, that I will not celebrate his existence. He doesn’t like fuss on this day, but I wonder if he will miss it.  And I’m sure that, in some way, Jack’s birthday is part of why I got neurotic about Rick.

Who, by the way, did end up in meetings all day, and we chatted through the night after he left work via those wondrous things with which I have a love-hate relationship: text messages.

Of course, once I heard from him, the neurosis cleared up. And we made a date for Friday.

It’s exhausting, being in my head. And my heart.

Guess I’d better buckle up.

In Order To Form A More Perfect Union

Listening to the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir sing Battle Hymn, could not help but well up. It is an indescribable emotion: some parts pride, some parts humility, some parts inspiration, some parts trepidation… all the things that, after all, established this country in 1776.

This is not a day about American dominance. It is not a day about might making right. This is a day on which Americans remember with reverence and soul-stirring honor that we have so many more blessings than so many others, and that we had a hand in their benediction. That it is our privilege, our birthright, our hallmark and our obligation to carry forth those blessings to the generations who come after us in this land, and that we spread their promise to those who have not yet lived them.

So many thoughts flooded my mind… my grandparents – the first Americans of my family, who not long after their birth into citizenry joined the worldwide fight to preserve all of humanity from tyranny. My great-grandparents, who believed in the promise of the country enough to come here from their homelands and never go back. Of those who fought not because they liked war but because they loved peace, and who killed not because they held up death but because they believed so fervently in life.

I miss my grandparents today.

What I felt when I looked at that expansive sea of people who had gathered in the nation’s capital to witness a quadrennial history overcame me. In this nation where there is so much anger and spite, there were hundreds of thousands united not in violence and uproar, but in peace and hope. We are a people who remember always the strength of a union that so many presidents and citizens who came before us refused to allow to founder. It is not the hubris of living in the best of lands that fills me with such raw emotion. As tears rolled down my cheeks I knew, it is the blessing of having been born in a place that allows me to believe in something better because we have so many times seen something better dawn.

I was not raised to shout my patriotism from rooftops, though there is no one in my family who is not a patriot. I came from a long line of military servicemen and I have cousins who serve today, but we are not boisterous or staunch in military oaths. I believe there is danger in not only resting on, but shouting about the laurels of being an American, that we must ever be mindful of the need for striving toward a more perfect union. I do not know from where comes the feelings that swell within me today. I only know that I hope it never, ever fades.

In an age when we seem continually inspired more by horror than by hope, when fear seems to push us toward action more than understanding, today is a day when we are reminded that there is nothing so powerful as the promise of a free life in a free land, and that our task is not yet done, that our efforts are perpetual, that our delcaration was made in order to form a more perfect union, that those words invoke the unending walk with  steady hands on the plow.That as much as we honor those forefathers who established this country and struggled privately to keep it, those years and that union was, by definition, by the compulsion set forth on parchment, less perfect than now. That the truest way to honor them is not as omiscient gods but as great beginners.

That, with malice toward none and charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, we must strive together to finish the work we are in.

That that work is never finished.

That our truth is marching on.

I Had A Date.

I had texted my friend Sam, whose interest in my love life rivals my own, a photo of what I was planning to wear for my date with Rick Friday night.

“Are you going to church?” was his reply. “Really cool looking bathroom, though,” he added.

Ugh. “The shirt is see-through, asshole. But fine. Suggestions?” And then I sent him a picture of the bathroom.

“The problem is that you have something underneath the see-thru shirt.”

“Yeah, kinda have to.”

A pause.

“Anything to offer the occasional cleavage glimpse?” he wanted to know.

I changed the damned shirt. Put on a tight, black v-neck. Sent the picture.

“Giddyup” came back.

I wondered. “Do accessories matter in the slightest?”

Ding. “A necklace might be nice. Whaddaya got?”

I took two photos. Two different necklaces.

“#2. Something to give an excuse to glance at when I’m not looking at your boobs.” He really does have my best interests at heart, but Sam has never been shy about talking up my assets. God bless him.

“I see you’re planning to come along,” I told him.

“If this dude loves your body as much as I do, you’ll thank me.”

Sam, Sam, Sam… have you forgotten the delicate situation that led us here?  “This dude met me because I had a stalker. Can’t go too hot or I’ll look like I deserved it.”

And so I prepared for dating in the digital age. Yes, I have had a date or two since the dawning of that age… hell, my age bracket invented social media and the text message… but it’s been a while, and frankly, I’m kind of no good at dating. And I really do have to think a little bit about how to date the guy I met because he was chief of staff for a state senator who wrote a bill increasing victim information, inspired by my story of stalking. He was always very respectful and careful about it while we were working on the bill. And apparently, he had thought about how to ask me out, too, because, over dinner, he told me that he hadn’t been quite sure how to approach it.

I find that rather gallant.

I hadn’t known for certain whether this was a date, this meeting for drinks to talk about my ideas for legislation that no longer had any bearing on his life since he no longer works for the state senator. I knew that was a guise, but I didn’t know how much of a guise. Thus the outfit debate. Obviously I needed something that looked effortlessly sexy but not too hot, age appropriate but not boring, appealing enough to suit a date but average enough not to presume one. For women, this translates to “thought-out for hours and put on immediately after the pre-meet-up shower, but appearing to have only just been thrown on somewhere in the course of the day.”

Were we really only having drinks? Might we have dinner? Would it be presumptuous to put a name in for a table when I got there before him? How should we greet each other? I’ve actually only met him in person once, despite two years of phone calls, emails and, most recently, Facebook messages.

There is, like, no precedent for this when you’re in your mid-30s. You feel like a teenager who just arrived from a third-world country. You’re past the part of your life where you feel like appearances are everything and you have to play it cool, but you still don’t want to demonstrate the very high likelihood that you’d just about kill for a relationship that works out.

Fit that into 140 characters. With the appropriate emoticons.

But when he threw open the door and ushered in a gust of frigid wind, made late by a traffic jam, he didn’t hesitate to come right up and give me a big (but not too lingering) hug. “How long’s the wait?” he asked. I hadn’t inquired, but had been just about to. It turned out we had just enough time to order a bottle of wine at the bar before the hostess came and found us as the bartender popped the cork.

Honestly, though? We were totally comfortable from the beginning. I guess that’s because we have communicated for nearly two years – albeit for somewhat professionally-driven purposes on his end and lobbying purposes on mine. But we stayed in touch when that effort had ended, talked job hunting, traded the occasional inconsequential tag-up, like a base runner making sure to tap the bag before taking off.

Rick recently broke up with someone, and I’m moving past Jack, so we’re both dealing with a little trepidation mixed with excitement at the prospect of something – and someone – new. His circumstances are trickier: he moved out of the place they were sharing and is now staying – horrors – with his parents. Sleeping in his old room.

Which has been converted to his nephew’s room for sleepovers.

Which means a 34-year-old man is sleeping in a bed made to look like a pirate ship.

I found his telling me this, hanging his head in mock shame and full awareness of the difficulty this could pose on a possible new relationship, endearing.

But we had a really nice night. We spent five hours talking and eating, drained the bottle of wine but paced ourselves. There were pink-faced confessions that, indeed, this had always been meant as a date, that indeed there was mutual attraction from the first time we met. There was wonder at the circumstances that had brought us to this table. And we laughed. We laughed a good bit. (Happily, I didn’t spit out my food even once.) Neither of us wanted dinner to end, and he asked where else we could go; in the cold, we only bore walking half a block before we spotted a dive pizza joint and ducked in to down hot chocolate before they turned the lights off on us. Standing outside my car, we hugged goodbye and agreed to get together again soon.

I drove home grinning like a fool. He texted me a thank you and reminded me to let him know when I was free next. I grinned more.

And now I’m back to being the third-world teenager, navigating a day of text messages infused with flirtation and possible days for the next meeting.

Smiley face.

 

All I Need Are Some Horses and Some Man-Tights

You know, this whole Jack Is Out of My Life thing would be way easier if I didn’t dream about him so freaking much.

It doesn’t take a lot for him to pop up in some nocturnal brain movie. I think Friday night’s appearance was because my mother on Friday, sitting in my living room for a visit, asked me if he’d seen the house yet. This is the second time she’s asked that question. I thought I’d quashed her curiosity the first time, but no. So I repeated that Jack and I haven’t talked in a long time.

“End of friendship?” she asked.

“Yes.” One word, terse, with my eyes directed at the slippers I was putting my feet into. Mom really knows nothing about my actual relationship with Jack. She knows we used to see each other a lot. That’s all. And I don’t care to tell her more. I don’t care to tell very many people more.

Except everyone in the blogosphere, of course.

It was either that sixteen-word exchange or a mutual friend’s photo of Jack posted on Facebook, but sure enough, he floated handsomely across the silver screen of my sleeping psyche that night. Not for the first time, and not for the last. I dwell on him far less now. I have cut all ties. I have defriended him on the social network, nixed his email addresses from my contact list, deleted him from my cell phone. Of course, I know his phone number and his email addresses, and there are still the places and scents that remind me of him (stupid washing machine repair guy’s Ralph Lauren Blue cologne), but for all intents and purposes, the plug has been pulled.

Still, he lives.

As I mentioned in a previous post, another man from the past has stepped forward a bit recently. Rick is the former chief of staff for the state senator I worked with on a victims’ rights bill last year. Now he works in governmental affairs for a university – the same university where I may or may not be up for a job (call me already – you said you would! I get enough of this from men… I need it from potential employers, too?). And recently, he’s been… well, I think he’s flirting a little. Just a little. Not too much. But there have been near-daily Facebook private messages about his new job and my potential interview, and his efforts to get his old boss’s new staff up and running on a couple more ideas I have that I’d like to get legislated. He even called me Thursday for a chat about it. Which he definitely did not have to do.

Pretty sure Rick wants to be my hero. In a Sorkinesque way that I totally dig.

The other thing I previously mentioned is that Rick and his possibly un-girlfriend have decided to spend some time apart. I don’t know if, at this point, they’re officially broken up or not. He has mentioned that the new job is keeping his mind occupied and therefore distracting him from that area of his life. And I totally get that.

Hmmm… so you say you need a distraction, eh?

I know, I know. I have a terrible tendency to go in for emotionally unavailable men. Even Ali Velshi should know that. Yet he doesn’t seem to be warning me away. Probably because he knows I need a distraction, too. Or because his billing peeps are charging I mean ridiculous rates because they’re delusional.

“Distraction” may now be associated with a cunningly raised eyebrow.

I haven’t had any dreams about Rick. You know how they say that when you start dreaming in another language, you know you’re truly learning and internalizing it? I guess I haven’t internalized Rick. Probably just as well. But it would be pretty awesome if Rick showed up in a dream and fought Jack for my affections.

Wait – Jack isn’t looking for my affections. Even in my dreams.

Wait – that would make it even more awesome. Jack suddenly realizes how stupid he’s been, vies for my love, but no! Rick enters, trusty steed’s nostrils flaring, steam surrounding them for no reason at all except this is a dream. Rick dismounts, approaches Jack. Jack backs away, looking at me, wondering if I might possibly have found new love so soon. His heart breaks. I know it, because this is a dream, and you know stuff like that in dreams. Rick advances, a gentleman, but firm. “She now gives her love to me,” he says.

Oh, hang on, I just threw up in my mouth. I just remembered that I’ve had “movie moments” in real life, and they’ve all sucked. And nobody ever has a steed. I mean not even once.

Great. Now I’ll dream I’m in love with a horse.

Mental Health Care Is Making Me Insane

It’s hilarious, really. I mean it must be some kind of cosmic joke. Something on the order of irony, or a social statement on the need for serious consideration of mental health care. Only one of these things could explain the absolutely epic billing shenanigans going on here.

Right, so I told you about shrinkapy. The therapy sessions are required, in this health system, in order to allow for better living through pharmaceuticals, also known as a tiny little dose of Lexapro per diem, which keeps my endocrine system from squirting panic chemicals through me for reasons passing understanding at any occasion. My therapist, an LCSW I call Ali Velshi, is very cool, and we are simpatico, so that makes things much easier. We laugh, I cry… it’s better than Cats.

I laughed and cried when I got the billing statements, too.

See, thanks to my stupid union, I get medical care through no fewer than five insurance providers: one for vision, one for dental (oh, cleanings only), one for major medical, one for prescriptions, and one for mental/behavioral.  That one’s called ValueOptions. I think of it as Acme-Brand mental health care. ValueOptions is merely the insurance provider. The front money comes from my union’s health plan, which also does the billing.

It recently came to my attention that my union’s health care plan had not received the authorization had received from ValueOptions in order to have ten visits. Beyond that, my shrinkapist had to submit a form explaining the need for further treatment, which would then be approved or denied, all or in part, somewhat arbitrarily, by ValueOptions, and record thereof forwarded on to my union health plan, so they knew what to pay and what not to pay.

What could possibly go wrong?

So I got a bill in December from the hospital system with which the shrinkapist is associated. The bill was for nearly $1,300. It lists one date for service. That date was in October. This is the first bill I’ve gotten, and treatment began in June.

So I called the hospital, asking for an itemized bill, which I have yet to receive. I called ValueOptions, who told me to call my union health plan, who told me they had no record of certification from ValueOptions or communication from the hospital system. But I have right in front of me the paperwork from ValueOptions, certifying 2 initial visits with the psychiatrist and 10 therapy sessions with Ali Velshi, plus 5 joint appointments. And Ali Velshi told me that he talked to billing and they told him that they had record of at least 20 communications with the insurer.

I flipped back through all my medical records from the union. I found a couple of statements dating from July through September, which I had apparently previously completely blocked out of my head, because they list the charges for each therapy session at somewhere around $700.

Each.

People, I like Ali Velshi. But he is not worth $700 per hour. I don’t even think the most expensive lawyer in the state charges that. He’s an LSCW. He’s not even a doctor. And he is not the ghost of Sigmund fucking Freud. And these were the visits that I have record would be covered. Fo’ sho’.

So who’s crazy now, bitches?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: insurance companies, doctors and hospitals basically take turns making it so incredibly difficult, confusing and bankrupting to seek and receive proper medical care that it is no wonder that we have massive health crises of the physical and mental varieties in the United States. Absolutely no wonder at all. The billing alone is enough to make someone with a relatively minor mental health issue go stark raving mad.

Or maybe this is all just a decimal point mishap. That could be it, right? I really only owe $6.83 per visit. That must be it.

 

 

Beer and Police Work

My parents came to visit on my days off. And by “visit” I mean it’s very likely that Dad wanted to do some touching-up with the paint from the job we did when I moved in. When he was done for the day, losing the light, he wanted a beer. I hadn’t bought any. Which was sort of deliberate, because I tend to think my father drinks a little more than he should. I offered him a martini instead – his preferred brand of vodka (counter-intuitive, I know), but he didn’t want that.  He wanted to know where he could go buy beer.

Well, I don’t drink beer, my wine gets shipped to me, and I buy my vodka at the store across the street from work. So I have no idea whether any of the little corner shops in my neighborhood sell beer. And the places that do sell it are not places I’d like to go, if you know what I mean. They’re a little beyond the borders of where I’d be comfortable wandering. My father is 6’4″, 230 lbs, and, though aging, not necessarily someone you want to poke. I’m a girl.

See what I’m saying?

Point is, Dad insisted on going out to see if he could find beer. 

Literally wandering the streets looking for beer. 

Shortly after he’d  left (blessedly not wearing pajamas, although we may not be far from that), I noticed that my neighbor, Pedro, was outside. I went out and asked if he knew donde esta el cerveza.

He asked his friend, in Spanish, and translated for me. I knew the place he spoke of. It was not a place I wanted to go.

But my father was out wandering the streets. Unfamiliar streets. In search of beer.

So I went. Got stared at. Got sweet-talked. Got six bottles of Coors Light, cold, in a bag. Note: not a six-pack – that comes in its own box. This is just six loose, cold beers in a black plastic bag. Then I went home. I was a little concerned I might have to go driving around looking for my father, but he returned two minutes after me.

With beer.

He had found the place I should have known about. The place where I probably wouldn’t have gotten sweet-talked. I’ll remember that for next time.

After dinner (where Dad had his fifth beer, and a glass of wine), we settled on watching the rerun of the first episode of Downton Abbey, season 3. I like the show a lot, and my mother loves it, but Dad grumbled about it being so… British. Still, they were immersed in its story when the police chopper started circling a couple of blocks over.

Fantastic.

This was what I had worried about: after two months of quiet, we would have some sort of epic crime battle unfolding on the first night my parents came to stay. I think my mother noticed the sound of the helicopter, but she didn’t say anything. 

They went to bed at 10pm and I stayed up to watch a movie. “The Sessions,” starring Helen Hunt and William H. Macy. It’s about a sexual surrogate working with a man long-stricken with polio and essentially completely paralyzed except for one key part of his body. It’s actually a very sweet film, very poignant, and based on a true story.

At around 11pm, the chopper was back.

Oh, come on.

Circling… circling… cirrrrclliiiiiiinnnnnng…

Maybe Mom & Dad’s dueling C-PAP machines will drown out the sound. Of the chopper. And the movie. About the sexual surrogate and the client, who talks to the priest all the time about trying to have sex.

I don’t know which thing I’d least like my parents to hear.

Forty-five minutes later, the chopper was still chopping around. I was rolling my eyes. Catch him already! For crying out loud!

An hour.

Oh for fuck’s sake.

An hour and fifteen minutes. Movie’s over. Sex has been had. Helen Hunt has been naked a lot. Full frontal. Full dorsal. No cellulite.

I hate her.

Chopper’s still circling. 

Gah. You guys suck at catching bad people.

An hour and a half. I’m in bed. It seems like other choppers have joined in, but that’s probably really just the medical units flying back and forth to the two major trauma centers nearby.

On and on this search went. I wondered what this guy had done. 

I wondered why the cops were apparently so bad at finding him.

I wondered when they’d finally give up so I could stop worrying. Not about some bad guy breaking into my house, no. About my parents hearing it and figuring out what was going on and, from then on, worrying that I’d bought a house in a terrible neighborhood. 

Which I didn’t. It just ain’t the pastoral suburbs.

The birds finally peeled off about two hours after the search began. I have no idea whether they actually caught the guy. I have no idea what he did. You’d think I’d be worried.

Meh. I’m used to the city. Mine is not a bad neighborhood, but it’s not a far distance from one. You’ll hear sirens, because there’s a main thoroughfare just above my house, and because of the trauma centers nearby. But it’s a city.

This morning, I asked my parents how they slept.

“Great!” 

“Really?” I said carefully. “You didn’t wake up at all?”

“Well, I always wake up to roll over, but otherwise, no.”

Huh. No sign they had any awareness of the manhunt the night before. Only the marks from the straps of their C-PAP machines lingered on their faces. Completely unaware that a criminal had been on the loose nearby in the midnight hour.

Apparently, the dangers of alcohol and apnea put you at risk of not only dying in your sleep, but also of being murdered in your bed.

Turns Out I Don’t Like Most People

Every so often, I get salty about stupid people. Or selfish people. Or ignorant people. And I know that I can sometimes be one or two or all of those things as well. But when I see it on prominent display, it frosts my cookies.

Stupid
Sunday:
A girl of indistinguishable age walks across a gas station – a gas station, I say – with a lit cigarette in her hand. When she arrives at the door to the convenience store, she stops and thinks twice about taking the cigarette inside. Then she puts it down on the sidewalk, carefully. When she comes out a moment later, she picks it back up and puts it back in her mouth.

That’s like five kinds of stupid right there.

Selfish
Congress. There. I’m done.

Ignorant
Beware this most of all, said the Ghost of Christmas Future. I have actually found lately that ignorance is often combined with selfishness. It’s a handy formula for maintaining one’s willfully narrow-minded way of thinking. Today’s mental rant was touched off by a guy on Facebook saying that there are too many people claiming they have emotional and mental illness, and they should just realize that: 1. they’re not in danger unless they’re in grave danger and 2. that worrying doesn’t help anything. (Yes, he numbered them.)

Well, asshole, let’s explore the ways that comment is insensitive and clueless.

Yet when some people tried to do that, he refused to budge. He even said his statement was merely an observation, not a judgment. I think that’s part of the problem. We know Americans are not so good with the English. Grammar, spelling, and definitions are often lost. Maybe it’s a problem of just not understanding definitions.

I choose my battles. I argued with my mother when she insisted that most of the people on welfare are black, because it’s flatly false, and she asked if I declared it false because I say so. “No, Mom, it’s wrong because the US Census Bureau and Department of Labor say it’s wrong.” She didn’t believe me, because she didn’t want to. It was inconvenient to her narrative. It was also amazingly ironic that “most of the people on welfare are black” because she says so.

That’s the kind of stuff that’s really been bugging me lately: people who refuse to hear all the facts because doing so would ruin their personal narrative on how things are. They’d rather justify their ignorance than be informed, justify their hatred than be open. They think other people are foolish for buying into the “myth” that the “media” espouse. They’ll take one singular fact and just hang on tight, while ignoring all the other facts that put theirs in context.

So I’ve decided to forcibly maintain some ignorance of my own.

I will insist that the invention of fire was a)  not an invention, but more of a discovery, and 2) not that big a deal.

I will deface any vehicle with one of those fish-with-feet decals on it because it so blatantly disrespects Jesus.

If I see someone walk into a door, I will blame the door manufacturers because they were union workers and therefore were probably lazy and didn’t do their jobs right and caused the incident.

I will unflinchingly believe that John Grisham is the best legal thriller writer out there.

I will refuse any assertion that there’s even one single doctor who’s not trying to make a buck from the pharmaceutical companies, and I will therefore refuse all medication until I’m on my death bed, at which point I’ll blame the doctors for not diagnosing me properly.

I will make no exception to my general rule that a dog is better than a cat at all times. Even though I have a cat, but not a dog.

I will swear Attila the Hun was railroaded.

It’s gonna be great. I can’t wait to spout off stupid, inane, thoughtless drivel that I can vehemently defend with arguments such as, “F— you.”

******

I strike.

Or rather, my blog does.

At some people, at least.

Fransi at weinstein365 has very graciously called my blog worthy of the Very Inspiring Blogger Award and gifted me with a logo I will display, as required, on my blog, as soon as I figure out how the hell to do it. I would like to note that my blog is not merely inspiring. It is, as Fransi has declared, very inspiring. Are you inspired? You totally should be inspired. Can I get some fanfare music over here?

One of the rules of the award is to state seven things about myself. So, little by little, my blog reading friends, you are learning more and more about me. The next seven things I release unto you are as follows:

1. When I was six years old, I was nearly kidnapped, but my friend Lori and I ran away from the guy in the truck who had been reported to be following children in the area after he slowed down and said something to us.*

2. I have a disturbing weakness for Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies despite my avowed loyalty to Tastykake products.

3. I find the ocean to be the most accurate metaphor for the human soul – turbulent, dark, powerful, placid, soothing, raging, dancing, warm, cold, life-sustaining, life-ending, drawing forward and then pulling back, rocking and lulling and easily moved by forces beyond its own control.

4. I used to have a recurring nightmare that I was in my kitchen and all the cabinet doors stood open, and the knobs on the stove all turned by themselves. I would close the cabinets and turn off the stove burners and they would all fly open and turn on again. It was terrifying.

5. I have been to two psychics in my life. One of them was freakishly right about everything he said and has increased his fee by 800% since I saw him. The other one was either way off or I’m in big trouble.

6. I am so boring that I have been struggling to come up with seven interesting things about myself for like 20 minutes.

7. Since my previous Seven Things, in which I said I wanted a black or chocolate lab or a Rhodesian Ridgeback, I have expanded my selection of dogs to include boxers. And I  like the name Oscar for a dog, but if it’s a boxer that might be a little too obvious. Especially since a hoya is a dog and Oscar de la Hoya is a boxer. In which case I might have to go with an American Staffordshire Terrier. Imaginary dog owning is hard.

*Totally possible that I dreamed this.

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas

My sister had sent me a picture of a child’s drawing. It was a little disturbing. This is what it was:

Yowza.

Yowza.

She told me she and my mother had discovered it in a pile of drawings my grandmother had kept since all her grandkids were little. It was in with all the other stuff my sisters and I had drawn, colored or made. This was in the 1984 section. But this was the only thing that didn’t have a name or a date on it. I know that the fiery stick on the left is either a cigarette or a match. I’m fairly sure the red-glowing stick on the right is a cigar, meant for my grandfather. I have no idea what the thing at the top is. A car cigargette lighter on a tripod? A bull’s eye?

And what had they won?

My grandparents were smokers. Actually, to say my grandmother was a smoker is an understatement. My grandmother was basically a human cigarette. A chain-smoker so serious about her nicotine fix that it had to be constant. She smoked four packs a day. That she got emphysema was no surprise. That she never got cancer is astounding.

Sister 1 is fairly convinced that I must have been the one who made this painting. I would have been seven in 1984. But I’m not at all sure it was me. First, I’m certain that I knew there was no H in “want.” Secondly, I’ve never made my Gs that way. Third, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have double-punctuated.

Even at seven, I was a bit of a grammarian.

I think one of my cousins was behind this, and it somehow got mixed in with my sisters’ and my stuff.

The bittersweet irony of this discovery is that my grandmother, in addition to emphysema, also had Alzheimer’s. By the time she was in her early 70s (when I was in my mid- to late-teens), she wouldn’t have even known she had stashed drawings away. She would have looked at them as though she’d never seen them before. She would have stared at her handwriting on the backs, with names and dates carefully kept, and had no idea the handwriting was hers.

Those precious (and discomfiting) memories she’d saved had all been lost, despite her care. Left for her adult grandchildren to find more than a decade after her death. Left for us to try to interpret. Memories have become mysteries.

This is the final post in my Twelve Days of Christmas series. As those who read it last year may recall, I used it to be mindful of the gifts I received every day. I have done the same this time.

The First Day: Memories

The Second Day: Comfort

The Third Day: Grace

The Fourth Day: Patience

The Fifth Day: Books

The Sixth Day: Hope

The Seventh Day: Perspective

The Eighth Day: Aspiration

The Ninth Day: Bounty

The Tenth Day: Simple Pleasure

The Eleventh Day: Inventiveness

The Twelfth Day: Mystery

These series have given me a gift of their own: the ability to look back and find a gift in something that seemed mundane or even irritating at the time.

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the Ephipany: the day the Three Kings brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus, following the star to his manger.

May 2013 provide you all with a star to follow, so you may find your gifts, and give them to those who are worthy.

On the Tenth & Eleventh Days of Christmas

I did exactly what I said I would. Well, almost exactly. I went to my Happy Place grocery store. I made the French onion soup. I spent hours in my kitchen creating a mess and yummy food at the same time. I did dishes and dishes and dishes. I did laundry. I was disgustingly domestic. Liberated Professional Me hated me.

But I didn’t make the lasagna until the Eleventh Day. It was a new recipe, supplied by Tyler Florence via the internet. I had first made my college professor-cum-friend’s pecan shortbread bars, taking care to heed warnings about bubble-over and the dangers of burning sugar smells. I managed to get the bars done with neither of the offenses happening… not even a drip of sugary goodness anywhere. Then it was time for the lasagna.

That bubbled over. At first it was just a few drips on the bottom of the oven. Then there was some smoking. Huh. Okay. Happens. I turned on the vent and opened a window. Then I shoved a sheet of aluminum foil onto the bottom of the oven– more to save myself the trouble of having to scrub out blackened beef and sausage and cheese juice than anything else.

But seemingly within moments, I looked up and the house was full of the haze of lasagna smoke.

Say, who was it who decided that every room in a house has to have a smoke detector?

Three dwellings ago, I learned a great trick: when your kitchen capers seem to go slightly awry (or your oven revolts), dampen a washcloth and put it over the smoke detector. Use a rubber band if it’s mounted on the ceiling.

I cannot tell you how often that little trick has come in handy.

I scurried around the house, climbing various chairs/stools/ladders, covering the smoke detectors with damp washcloths secured by rubber bands. I turned on ceiling fans. I opened every blasted window despite the January air. I even opened the back door, risking the possibility that an alley rat would smell dinner and come to check it out. Which sounds like a Disney movie, but is definitely not.

Meanwhile, let me be clear: nothing was burning. The lasagna was fine. My cooking was not in question. (I would be insulted if it were. I never burn things. I am very proud of that. For some really, really stupid reason.) It was just the drippings on the bottom of the oven that were smoking up the joint. Seriously smoking up the joint. Like, it was pouring out the oven. Next thing I knew, I was pacing around with a wet towel, flapping it in the air, trying to clear the air. Anybody walking by outside would have seen it.

I heard sirens.

Oh, God. Ohhhh, please don’t be coming to my house because some neighbor thought I might be burning the place down. This will be the third time in as many dwellings that the fire department will have shown up.

In my defense, the first time was because my downstairs neighbor had “fallen asleep with a pizza box in the oven,” and I was the one who had called the fire department. It was the night I moved in. I personally think he was smoking more than a pizza box. Who puts the box in the oven?! Jackass.

The second time was because my carbon monoxide detector went off at 3am. Odorless, colorless. Clueless. I had to call.

Fortunately, the sirens passed me by. I live near two hospitals and several main roads, so sirens aren’t unusual. These guys definitely sounded like they’d been coming for me, but happily, no.

I wound up having to turn the oven off 15 minutes before the lasagna was supposed to be done. I settled for letting it sit in there with the door closed but without the recurring flame of gas fueling the mess. Forty-five minutes later, I was halfway inside the thing, trying to scrub it out, because I had remembered that my brother-in-law’s cousin and her boyfriend were coming for brunch the next morning and I had a frittata to bake, and I didn’t want to smoke them out of the house.

I literally had my head in the oven.

Which accomplished exactly nothing. There was still a thin layer of blackened lasagna juice covering much of the bottom of it.

Everything in the house smelled like smoke. Even the cat smelled like smoke. I googled “how to clean a gas oven without chemicals,” more because I didn’t have any chemicals handy than because I was concerned about my brain and lung function. I found  a trick using baking soda, salt and water. I’m supposed to leave that paste covering the insides of the oven overnight and then scrape it all up, along with the blackened lasagna juice, in the morning.

I wonder what smoked frittata is like.