Tough and Tender

My new coworkers are lovely people. Truly. So lovely that they plan baby showers for grandmothers-to-be and second-time fathers-to-be. Isn’t that nice?

No. That is ridiculous.

Here’s the thing. I’m kind of old school about showers. You get one baby shower. One. It is when you have your first baby, and you get it when you’re the mother-to-be. (The father-to-be gets the gifts too, so he’s not being slighted.) You do not get a “sprinkle” when you have each additional kid. You do not get a grandparent-to-be shower (what the HELL?)  And I do not come to your shower, nor do I contribute to a gift, unless you are the mother-to-be and it’s your first kid.

Or not even then. As it turns out.

Because today, there was a surprise shower for my coworker and I had completely forgotten about it, which means I neither contributed to the group gift nor got her a separate gift. So while she opened everything and then read aloud the names of all the people who contributed to the group gift, I was essentially outed.

Who has two thumbs, hates baby showers and is an asshole? This girl!

Top of that, I had already eaten and was full, therefore keeping me from being able to graciously indulge in the sinful goodies my other coworker had prepared for the occasion.

Also, I really didn’t want to be there. Everyone else was taking pictures of our friend while she opened all the cute gifts, and you know what I took a picture of? The guys who felt obligated to come, who were sitting in the farthest back corner of the room possible. I wanted to sit back there too. On the way back to my officle, I stopped in one of theirs and mouthed, “I hate baby showers.”

Sometimes I’m not at all convinced that I’m a normal woman. Then I consult with another one and find out I totally am, because it’s possible that we all hate baby showers.

******

But then it turns out I’m something altogether different.

Tonight I had a meeting with my local state delegate (also a prosecutor)  and the executive director of an anti-sexual assault organization, who is also a lawyer and experienced lobbyist, about our new potential efforts at gaining more ground for crime victims. I learned very early in the meeting that the first part of my hopes had already been secured; someone else I’d spoken with had already accomplished the goal of getting information printed on peace and protective orders that will let complainants know when their respondent has been served with the order—commonly the most dangerous time in the process for the complainant. My push had actually been for something similar: giving them access to the information I fortunately had with my stalker, so that they will know when an incarcerated perpetrator is released, transferred or up for a probation/parole status change. Happily, I’m told they think they can get that done.

The other effort is to strengthen the home detention criteria so that people who are served with peace/protective orders are subject to reincarceration and/or no longer eligible for the home detention option. This is a trickier hope for a lot of reasons particular to both my state and general laws, and it might not happen. I understand that, but I want us to make the right argument. And though this is the trickier hope, my delegate and his colleague puzzled out several scenarios, hypothesized about how it might work, talked about ways they could answer legal challenges and ways they might have to regroup to work around them, and did it all while both educating me more about how the system works and treating me as an equal, even though I never went to law school.

Those of you who have read about my stalker and the effort Rick and I — along with several other committed victims’ rights advocates — made real will know how much this means to me. I found myself a bit choked up as I thanked them for their time tonight. During our meeting, they had told me how rare a stalking conviction is. Between them, they’ve only seen a handful. It’s a difficult statute to prove; the fact that the police caught my stalker in the act made a  huge difference. Hearing that made me feel two very different things: gratified about the severity of my case after wondering whether I was “worthy” of a stalker, and terrified for all the people who don’t get the justice they need. Every time I think through my experience, I remember how exhausting and necessary it all was. The fact that so many people deal with the unending fear of the circumstance without ever having the benefit I got from the bone-wearying process after the arrest is a crime in itself, and an inexcusable one.  When I got home from the meeting, I felt so grateful for the work others have done on my behalf that I cried.

******

Then I read a Facebook posting about a former coworker who adopted a seven-year-old girl from Ethiopia. He and his wife have been raising her for a couple of years now, dealing with all the triumphs, challenges, laughs and fears that come with suddenly having a desperately wanted daughter who has to catch up to educational requirements in a language she has to learn all at once, while also dealing with some physical disabilities. One of his new coworkers just heard the story of how my friend and his wife brought their daughter home and was moved enough to ask if he could feature the story on his website. My friend said yes. But then as he dropped his head and shuffled his feet, he asked if there might be a way to help raise the funds he and his wife need, because they know a boy in Ethiopia who needs them now, but they don’t have the money yet.

I hadn’t known my friend was ready to adopt again, but the second I read the words, I burst into tears. I checked the fundraising site and found that they’d already far exceeded the goal. I thought about it for two seconds and then said, “Fuck it, I’m posting this anyway,” and put it on my FB page.

This afternoon I felt like a callous, dysfunctional jerk. Tonight I feel like an exposed underbelly. The generosity of others has laid me bare. There’s a strange mix of emotions I can’t pinpoint.  It’s like the expansion of the universe – inexplicable and beautiful and terrifying and out of my control, full of darkness and light and an energy I want to protect and evade.

Today I am completely human.

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I’m not dead. I just had a tetanus shot.

So I keep forgetting to write things.

It’s not because I don’t have anything to write about. It’s just that I get all caught up in other things and forget to write a blog post.

Does this happen to you guys?

Alright, so I’m writing this with my left arm hanging semi-limply at my side because grad school made it hurt. Apparently you can work on a college campus all fine and dandy, but if you want to set foot in a classroom (for more than seven class periods), you have to go to the health center to prove that which you’ve known since 1978 (I’m immune to measles, mumps and rubella – but since my pediatrician has been dead for lo, these many years because he was 102 when I was four and I’m now 36, and since he didn’t sign my immunization record, I have to have blood drawn to make sure) and also to  get the “Adult TDaP,” which was previously known as the DPT and which I also had plenty of when I was little. T, as you might guess, stands for tetanus and also Time To Lose the Use of Your Arm Because OW.

My second tetanus shot in eight freaking months. I’d rather have actual tetanus.

At least this time I remembered I had to have it in my left arm. I can’t sleep on my left side thanks to my jacked up cervical spine, and back in February, when I tried to hack my finger off with a steak knife, I let them give me the tetanus shot in my right arm, like a dumbass. After I got it again yesterday, a lot of things got kind of hurty, like my very bottom rear right side rib, my eyeballs, my neck, my head and something in my chestal region.

Some of that might have been a hangover from a pretty epic weekend. But mostly I think it was the shot.

In case some of you are wondering: I’ve had to draw a line with The Colombian. You might recall that, a month ago, he tried to beso me and then we had a conversation about how he “technically” still had a girlfriend and that probably wasn’t a good thing for her or me. Yesterday he invited himself over for Monday Night Football again, and as he was getting ready to leave, I asked him about the situation.

“Suuuuu…” he started.

“No,” I said. “Do you have a girlfriend or not?”

“We haffen’ talked aboud it,” he said. “We jes don’t see each ahther mush now. I habben’ seen her in…” (he thinks) “…nine dayce.”

“So you still have a girlfriend. You haven’t broken up.”

“Well…”

“So why are you here?” I asked gently, with a smile.

“Because I want to be here,” he smiled a bit shamefully.

 

“Javier,” I said with a sweet smile to belie my Bullshit Meter’s reading. “You can’t ask me to hang out one-on-one if you haven’t ended it with her.”

“Okay,” he said, standing up, seeming embarrassed.

“it’s not fair,” I smiled up at him, head tilted, hair tumbling over my shoulder. “Right?”

“Okay,” he said.

“I don’t know what to do with it,” I said as he hugged me goodbye.

“Okay.”

Okay.

Trying to apply lessons learned. It sucks. But I know I’m right. I’m totally right. No me gusta, but fish or cut bait, amigo.

 

 

Guapo? Grappa? No se.

In what is apparently a twice-a-week tradition these days, there was another neighborhood association fundraiser Thursday night. My neighborhood association isn’t the type that forces you to decorate your house solely in white lights at Christmas or enforces some sort of weird lawn-watering rule—indeed, we mostly don’t have lawns—but we have these awesome events a few times a year and we have to fund them somehow, so… wine.

Javier had asked if I would be there, and since the day at work had been kind of ridiculous and I needed a drink, of course I would be there. On an empty stomach, and not planning to eat.

You see where this is going.

I walk in grumpy and rushed, 30 minutes before the designated end of the fundraiser, perturbed at having had to drive all the way to my house and then walk here instead of finding a spot nearby. I head straight back to descend the stairs to the bathroom in an urgent but understated way, sucking in whatever I can suck in to maximize the flattery of the dress I’m wearing while I debate whether I should have left the spanx on underneath or not. (Leave them on and a hand on the back reveals something that feels like granny panties… take them off and you have trunk-junk jiggle. The only opportunity to change, since I was running late, was the brief moment when I opened my back door to fling my purse and shoulder bag into the kitchen. I had left the spanx on.) I check out the room as I make my way through it, scanning the place that can seat maybe 65 people between the bar, the house floor and the loft space. No Javi. In fact, no one I recognize. I’m not often awkward if I’m alone in a bar, but when I expect to find people I know, I get a little oodgy when they’re absent. I feel conspicuously let down.

But, downstairs, the phone buzzes in my hand, and up pops a message from Javi telling me he’s doing a wine tasting. (Alright, the message says “Doing a testing,” prompting me to reply “?” before I realize it’s a misspelling. This contributes to my likely patronizing belief that his inability to write English precisely is adorable.) When I once again ascend, I catch sight of him on the loft level holding a tiny wine glass. He sees me, raises a hand in greeting and smiles.

Ay, querido. There is nothing quite like the sight of an attractive man in a suit with his jacket slung over his shoulder. I’ve always liked this about Javi, this tendency to be dressed up more often than not. I think the reason I like it is because it doesn’t come off as arrogance or extravagance. He just likes to look nice. But now I like it more, because it carries an electric anticipation.

No bueno para me. ¿Por qué espero?

I play things cool. He’s talking to another neighbor and I say hi to her first. Our casual hug hello appears an afterthought. I head for the wine tasting table at his urging and am quickly but gently accosted by the vintner’s rep, an earnest, salt-and-pepper haired, black corduroy- jacketed Italian who shows me images and descriptions of the wines on his iPad while I drink them.

I drink them quickly, but ask questions.

Javi disappears.

After ten or twelve generous mouth-feels, which sounds dirty but is not, I’m finished with my tasting and I’m buying a bottle of a velvety sangiovese from the Italian and his distribution partner, who seems to be from somewhere innocuous like Northern Virginia. Armed with this bottle of red, I turn to chat with Gil, who lives across the street from me. A few minutes later, Ward, who owns the restaurant, brusquely inquires who owns the sunglasses and phone sitting on the table because he must clear it for “paying customers.” I look down at the door. There is no line.

I claim my belongings because he’s practically throwing them at me without looking at me, while bristling a bit at the impertinence, considering how often I’m here. I know Ward is personally acquainted with a lot of his clientele. He hasn’t yet met me, but I’ve been supporting his establishment for nearly a year.

Still slightly grumpy from work, not yet buzzed enough but waiting for it, and now anxious about Javier’s disappearance, and trying to hide all of it, I exchange eyerolls with Gil over Ward’s bent back and Gil introduces me to two more folks from the neighborhood. We chat pleasantly for what I hope is an acceptable period of time. It’s during this exchange that I look down from the loft and see Javi craning his neck at me. He grins. Here I am.

There you are!” I mouth.

I try to finish my conversation with the couple unhurriedly and take their high sign to the server as my cue to rejoin Javi. He’s got a full glass of pinot grigio, which I take from his hand and sip. I signal the bartender that I’d like what he’s having as I tell him the story about how Ward had cleared me out.

Several minutes later, Javi quietly introduces me to Ward.

“Are you a friend of Javier’s?” Ward asks me now.

“Yes, and a lot of others,” I reply with a smile. “I live in the neighborhood.”

I had forgotten until this moment that Javier is part-owner of the building. Majority part-owner. Now that Ward knows I’m connected to his landlord, he might not clear me away from a table for the “paying customers” not yet lined up to take it. I know this is the reason Javier has made the introduction. I am charmed.

“Sorry if I was grumpy when you called earlier,” I say to him when Ward leaves and he takes up a spot standing next to my high-seated chair at the bar. His brow creases a bit before he assures me I didn’t sound that way. “Okay, good. Work got kind of crazy in the afternoon and I was kind of in a bad mood.”

“Me too,” he says, holding out his stemware. “Cheers.”

“To the end of the day!” I clink his glass, take a sip, and ask what happened at the office. He rolls his eyes with a humble smile and tells me, then asks me about my day. He notices the bottle of wine I’d bought, which I’d put on the bar.

“Yeah,” I say. “I didn’t think about how weird it’s going to be, walking home with a bottle of wine in my hand.” I mimic the anticipated sight.

“I tink ih sounds nice,” he smiles at me. “A pretty woman walking down de street with a bottle of wine.”

I mentally chide myself for swooning and suddenly become aware that we’re in public and might be too focused on each other. Turning, I see that Gil is seated to my right.  He laughs when I look surprised and claims to have been sitting there for ten minutes before assuring me he’s just sat down. Javi changes sides, coming around to stand between Gil and myself as we all talk.

The wine finally kicks in, spreading warmly through my veins.

Peligro. He is too close, and I find myself “accidentally” touching him once or five times. I scratch my back with my thumb, fingers extended to brush his arm as he stands behind me. Listening to Gil, I look up at Javi and wink. Minutes later, he does the same to me. That kind of thing.

“Well, you guys,” he says at a lull in the conversation, looking a bit chagrined, “I haff to go. I am sahppose to be meeting some oddur friends.”

I debate… should I stay or go? I don’t really want to stay. I’m not going to eat or drink anything more. But leaving now, mid-conversation with Gil and an older gentleman I’ve never met but whom everyone seems to know, would be obvious. I make no move. Javi shakes hands with Gil and the other man, then leans between them to give me a hug and dry peck on the cheek. I don’t watch him leave.

Electric anticipation.

Congress. I Don’t Even.

It’s been a while since I posted anything about politics. You can thank Congress for this one.

It’s kind of stupid that I even feel the need to write this, isn’t it? I mean, not that I feel the need, but that I am compelled to feel the need. It’s stupid that parts of the federal government are shut down because someone is throwing a temper tantrum on Capitol Hill.

In case you’ve (perhaps understandably) willfully ignored what’s been going on but are kind enough not to willfully ignore this post, here’s the deal: parts of the government are shut down right now because a faction of Republicans in the House wanted to force through a bill that would fund the government with riders attached that would require changes to the Affordable Care Act. Or, as people trying to malign it started calling it a while back, Obamacare.

Because Obama is obviously synonymous with everything terrible in the world, in their rhetoric. And maybe you agree. And you have that right.

See, I’m not saying the Affordable Care Act is perfect. I’m not even saying you have to like it in order to read this post. Rather, what I’m saying is… how the FUCK do we get to a point in government where one faction of one part of Congress can hold up FUNDING THE GOVERNMENT because they don’t like ONE law?

Here’s what: The Affordable Care Act was passed by a majority vote in both the House and the Senate in 2010. A lot of people didn’t like how that went down, and I get that. But it went down nonetheless. Majority vote. Bicameral legislature. Passed. Then signed into law by the President of the United States. (Not President Of People Who Like Him But Not People Who Don’t. We don’t have that office.) When there was shouting about constitutionality, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the law, by a 5-4 vote, with the deciding vote cast by typically conservative Chief Justice John Roberts.

In other words: done deal by democratic due process celebrated by Americans since 1776.

Since its passage, Republicans (probably not all of them, I know) have tried literally 42 times to defund the Affordable Care Act. And last night, they tried for the 43rd time, by attaching caveats on the ACA to the bill that would determine federal funding of the government.

That’s not representative democracy. That’s hostage-taking for ransom.

And then today I see Michele Bachmann, who didn’t make much sense in 2011/12 and still doesn’t, hugging on a veteran who was just trying to visit the World War II Memorial in DC (which was technically closed, but fortunately some people decided not to be ass-hats and let these men in), and claiming that she and her colleagues were “just trying to protect the lives and health care of these wonderful (smooch on the cheek) men.”

I don’t know why, but I draw a line at condescending to an entire nation while literally hanging on an elderly man who helped save the entire fucking planet from tyrannical government, and then 70 years later managed to get himself together for a flight from his home to DC to visit a memorial that honors the service members who fell alongside him, only to find that the asshole government has said, “Sorry, park’s closed,” and then suffer the bullshit camera-mugging nonsensical antics of a politician who couldn’t be moved to say, “I’m so sorry that my wing of my party is standing in your way.”

My grandfathers fought in that war. Every time I see that memorial, or the stories of the men visiting it, I miss them. There’s  no way in hell I’d let Michele Bachmann or any other self-serving politician of any party anywhere near them at that sacred place.

Alright, I’m done with the Michele Bachmann part of this.

The larger point, you probably have figured out, is that I can’t believe we’re willing to allow a faction of our government to shut down the operation because they don’t like a law they already passed. There are procedures in place for repealing laws, or parts of laws. Attaching riders to critical unrelated bills are not part of those procedures.

And before you tell me we aren’t willing to allow it, tell me whether you’re willing to find out who voted to shut down the government and what their motives were, and whether you’re willing to vote them out next November.

Those service members who visit the WWII Memorial arrive on what are called Honor Flights, by the way. Maybe Congress should take a few.