Friday, December 31, 2010


To my lovely, amazing, wonderful readers:

I wish you a very HAPPY NEW YEAR!! Thank you so much for the support, encouragement, laughs, and wisdom you've shared with me over the past year. I never would've imagined when I started this blog how many truly awesome and amazing people I would "meet." I didn't anticipate the many friendships I'd form with people I've never actually met in person. This has been an amazing experience, thanks to you, and I struggle to find the words to adequately express both the appreciation and amazement I feel over the fact that many of you consistently come here to read what I have to say and to share your thoughts with me.

One of my goals for next year is to post at least a few times a week in order to maintain my contact with you all and to further grow the friendships that have formed. Of course, I did get a Kindle for Christmas, and classes start up againg January 10, so there's going to be even more competition for my time; but, blogging is a big priority for me.

I will be working on a post over the weekend to tell you all about the wonderful Christmas MusicMan and I had. I'm also working on a post to share my thoughts on the memorial bonfire we had for my sister. Please come back soon to see those!! For now, I leave you with a recap of 2010:

 January started out bumpy with a trip to the emergency room. Things didn't improve, because a few weeks later, I had car troubles. The end of the month started to show improvement when I bought a new car.

Feburary found me feeling nostalgic, receiving my first blogging awards, and celebrating a couple birthdays.

In March, I tried my hand at being an economistexamined the differences between my younger classmates and I, and was a little overwhelmed with how busy life had gotten.

The overwhelming busyness continued in April. I pondered life and death and was excited to receive more blog awards.

In May I shared some information about my family and the constant frustration they cause. I started my Wayback Wednesday sereis to tell you all about how MusicMan and I met, and I also celebrated my 32nd birthday.

The Summer of Hell started in June. In one of the few blog posts I had time for, I talked about choices people make.

I was quite busy in July, due to the Summer of Hell, and ended up feeling really burnt out.

In August, I shared the story of how MusicMan proposed in anticipation of celebrating our two year wedding anniversary.

I introduced you to mud volleyball in September, and opened my heart to tell you about a day I didn't think I'd ever get through. I rounded out the month by sharing an embarrassing secret.

I suffered from writer's block in October and only posted a quick update and shared my thoughts on the power of words.

In November, I risked alienating some readers by writing about some of my strongly held beliefs.

The power of forgiveness was on my mind in December. We also had an unwelcome visitor to contend with.

It's been an incredibly busy year, lovely reader, but I've also made a lot of progress towards completing my degree. I look forward to chatting with you again in the New Year. Whatever you decide to do to welcome in 2011, I hope you have fun and stay safe!!

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

R for Raaaaaaaagggggggeeeeeeee

I’m going to warn you right now, lovely reader, this post is anything but fun, humorous, or light-hearted. I am so filled with rage at the moment that I literally cannot focus on anything else. I decided the best thing to do, because I’m stuck at work right now and thus cannot bury my face in a pillow and let out a few hundred primal screams, was to blog it out. Viewer discrtion is advised. This post contains adult language not suitable for children or those with delicate sensibilities.

I have completely and totally run out of patience for my mother. Not just patience, but compassion, respect, and even love are out the window at the moment. I’ve had it!!! I’m so ready to just be done with her, and yet I can’t completely cut ties because I want access to my nephew. My mother is a vindictive bitch, and I truly believe she would withhold my nephew from me should I not keep up the illusion that we are a truly loving mother-daughter pair.

I’ll try to start from the beginning-ish (I don’t have the time to get into the history of me and my mother’s relationship right now, but I will at some point.)...

This is a terrible time of year for my family. If you’re a regular reader, you know why. If you’re new here and don’t know why, I’ll summarize it: my nineteen year old sister was murdered on December 19, 2007. You can read more about that here, if you’re so inclined. I wrote earlier this month about how I refused to let this time of year drag me down anymore. How, instead, I choose to celebrate my sister’s life and celebrate the holidays as she would, were she here with us.

My mother is making it nearly impossible for me to do that. It’s like, because she’s completely miserable this time of year because she chooses to wallow in grief and sadness, the rest of us should be as well. She called me yesterday and said, “I think we should all be together on Sunday (the anniversary of my sister’s death), so everyone is going to come over here.” Well, that’s great, but she doesn’t get to make those decisions for everyone anymore.

I’m a 32 year old married woman with my own family and agenda. I will decide where I need to be and what I need to do. I lost a sister—no, a daughter, because that’s what she basically was to me my whole life, especially after my mom and my stepdad divorced—too, and as such, I (and I alone) get to decide how I’ll spend the anniversary of her death. Besides, we will all be together on Saturday at the memorial bonfire meant to honor her.

Kristine has been gone for three years now. Time has healed the wounds for some of us; it's left behind jagged, ugly scars—sure—but the pain isn’t as raw anymore. While others, like my mother, choose to wallow instead of trying to heal. And that’s just fine, as long as they don’t try to force the rest of us into it. But it’s not her wallowing or insistence on focusing on the loss and death that gets to me so much. That I can get past. People grieve differently, and she has a right to her methods. What I cannot get over is her never-ending need for attention and the fact that she consistently tries to profit from my sister’s death.

That is where I draw the line. Right now, I’m nearly ready to vomit over how disgusted I am with her.

As I’ve mentioned before, my mom and her husband are not in a good place financially. They probably never will be either. Why? Because they make stupid, bad decisions and don’t have their priorities in order. At all.

For example, mom’s husband up and quit his job last spring. Why? Good question, lovely reader! Because he has a bad back and the hard work of sitting on his ass driving a school bus every day was just too much for him. He was off of work for three months, and it was only when the threats of eviction started that he realized he probably needed to get out and get a job. My mom’s meager school bus driver salary couldn’t support a family of four all on its own. Of course that put them even more behind than they already were, so now they’re playing a constant game of catch-up.

The new job that mom’s husband got doesn’t pay nearly as well as his old job. And, due to my mom’s illness, is the only income they have at this point. There is no doubt that they’re struggling. They depend on the food shelf, barely get by paycheck to paycheck, and are behind on all of their bills.

Musicman and I have offered to take custody of my nephew since the day after my sister’s death. And I consistently remind mom and her husband of our willingness to do so. Not just to remove some of their financial burden, but also to allow my mom to just be a grandma again. And, of course, to make sure that my nephew’s needs are consistently met and that he grows up in a home that’s loving, nurturing, and supportive.

A memorial fund was setup, a few days after my sister died, to help the family with funeral costs. I don’t know where that money ended up, but it’s gone now and my sister’s funeral was never paid off. Nor will it ever be now that mom and her husband declared bankruptcy. A few months later, there was a benefit for the family, because new financial concerns came about after my grandmother passed away and mom’s husband’s son had medical issues. Of course, at that time, people were reminded that this family had tragically lost a daughter to a senseless act of violence. (Gotta tug at the heartstrings; it gets people to open their pockets and wallets a little wider.) Thus began mom and her husband's addiction to public support and attention.

Musicman and I have helped them out faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar more than we should have. This year alone, we’ve given them well over $1,000 in financial assistance; to save them from eviction, to put food on the table, and to help out with my nephew. Or so I’m lead to believe. Until I read Facebook and find out that they had their internet turned back on (not a necessity), they’re eating takeout, and my mom’s husband is out standing in line (with his bad back) for the midnight release of a $60 video games. But, whatever. Shame on me for giving them the money and expecting them to honestly use it for what they said they needed.

We’ve given them money to help my nephew more than anything, because our offer to take custody of him also came with the offer to help when needed, and they’ve caught onto that and have started to use him as a pawn to try to get more out of us. When we found out that, due to my mom’s recent illness and lack of paycheck, they weren’t going to be able to buy even a single gift for my nephew for Christmas, Musicman and I offered to buy gifts on their behalf. Despite the fact that we’re already out over $1,000, we refuse to let my almost five-year-old nephew go without Christmas.

We decided we’d purchase one “big ticket” item (around $50) from them and a few smaller gifts and some clothes from Santa. I figured my mother would see this as our Christmas gift to her and her husband (even thought adults in my family don’t exchange gifts) and that we’d give them the gifts at the bonfire this weekend so that they can have them all wrapped up and under the tree—ready for Li’l D on Christmas morning. Of course, we will also purchase additional gifts for him from Auntie Elle and Uncle Musicman too.

Yet what do I see on Facebook yesterday? A second fundraiser has been setup for them. One fundraiser was setup weeks ago, but apparently that one hasn’t garnered enough interest or attention, so a second one was started. Of course my mother insists that she and her husband had nothing to do with this and that their friends and neighbors want so badly to help them out. Yet she’s the one spamming everyone’s walls with the link to the fundraiser.

This recent fundraiser says that the family tragically lost their daughter three years ago to a senseless act of violence, and since that time have cared for her son. That’s pretty much the only part that’s true. The description goes on to say that the family faces financial hardship because mom’s husband was forced to temporarily quit working due to a back injury and that they’ve been struggling financially since their resources were used up in their quest to make sure that the murderer was convicted. Oh, and that because of this financial hardship, they will not be able to provide a Christmas for my nephew.

*Queue eyeballs popping out and head exploding here* What. The. FUCK?!?!? First of all, mom’s husband was never forced to quit working. As I stated above, he chose to quit his job. Because that’s what you do when life gets hard, right?! You just quit and later on depend on other people to finance your life. And it wasn’t because of an injury he had recently sustained—it’s an old injury that, to my knowledge, he’s never really sought treatment for, choosing instead to complain and whine about it. If there's one thing he and  my mom excel at, it's playing the martyr.

Secondly, NONE of their money was used to convict my sister’s murderer. The state prosecuted him. The only out-of-pocket expense any of us had was getting time off of work (some of us unpaid) and paying for transportation and/or parking to attend his trial, and numerous pre-trial hearings, which of course wasn’t required of us. But, we all attended every day; each for our own individual reasons, but also for one we all had in common: to see justice served.

The part that really gets me though is where the fundraiser's description says my nephew isn’t going to have a Christmas. REALLY?!?! Why are my husband and I busting our asses, while watching our bank accounts dwindle, to purchase gifts for my nephew on behalf of my mother, her husband, and Santa?!! It’s like a slap in the face! No…A kick in the gut.

The slap in the face came after our generous offer when my mother texted me to see if we could bring nephew out shopping to buy gifts for her and her husband, because Lil’D has really been talking a lot about buying Christmas gifts for nana and pop-pop. Apparently our gift to them wasn't enough. No; I’m not joking. Within 24 hours of us offering to basically finance Christmas for them (not including all the food I’ll be preparing and bringing…just talking gifts here), she texts to see if we’ll also buy gifts for her and her husband on nephew’s behalf. SERIOUSLY?!?! Who does that?!? Selfish much?!?

I haven’t received a Christmas present in I don’t know how many years. Musicman and I agreed long ago not to do gifts (we go all out for each other’s birthdays instead), and no one in my family can afford to do an adult gift exchange, so no Christmas gifts for me. It goes without saying that, since most of the adults can’t afford a gift exchange, we also do not get auntie and uncle gifts from our nephews and niece. And that’s okay. Christmas shouldn't be all about presents. I think the focus of the holiday should be on the kids, and I pay out quite a bit of money each year buying my nephews and niece what I hope are the perfect gifts.

Needless to say, I told my mom I wouldn’t have the time or the money to take my nephew shopping and sent an email to my sister asking her to step up (for a change). I wrote to my sis that, if she was having her kids make gifts for grandma for Christmas, it would be nice if she could include our nephew in that. She responded that she was going to take all of the kids (her two and Li'l D) to see Santa and to shop for gifts for mom and her husband from the kids. Great. Finally a break for me. My mom’s response to me saying no to her request? “No worries. You’ve done enough already.”

Really?!?! You fucking think so?!?! I’d say mooooooooooooore than enough. Waaaaaaaay more than enough! And, apparently, it’s still not good enough, because now there is a fundraiser that outright lies to people in order to get them to finance your life. The pathetic thing is people fall for their sob story. Their chronic bad luck is just unimaginable and so undeserved. How could such a caring, kind, hard-working family deserve to endure so much hardship?

The sad thing is, no matter what, it’s never going to be enough. Nothing is. Because my mom and her husband apparently think that the world should pity them for the rest of their lives, and as such, should pay to support them. It won’t be good enough until they are millionaires, because neither of them should actually have to work for a living.

And, as though I don’t have enough to be upset and angry about already, I get an email this morning from my mother indicating that she had forwarded details of the bonfire to the news media. One local station responded that they will pitch this as a story idea for their Saturday evening news program. WHY?!? Why would she do that?! Because my mother needs attention. She is addicted to drama and attention. I seriously think she went off the deep end long, long ago.

God forbid the memorial bonfire be a private event for friends and family to remember and honor my sister. Nope. That’s not good enough for mom. She needs attention on her.

I’m telling you right now, if the news media shows up on Saturday, I’m leaving. Enough of  my private, personal thoughts, feelings, and emotions were on display for the public three years ago; when I was in too much shock, and my emtions too raw, to know that I could've (and should've) said no to the interviews and the prying. I will not stand there and watch my mother’s disgusting attempts to garner sympathy and pity by telling the world about how not only does she continue to struggle with recovering from the tragic loss of her daughter and the burden she carries raising her grandson, but also her bad luck never seems to change. Now she’s terribly ill and once again faced with struggles that no one should have to deal with. Poor her. Poor, poor her.

I’ve had it. I’m pissed off. I’m beyond pissed off. I’m so livid right now that I’m almost turning myself inside out with rage. I don’t want my nephew being raised to think that this is how life works; that because his mom was murdered, he’s entitled to do what he pleases and not worry about the consequences because the world owes him everything. That’s bullshit! I also don’t want it constantly thrown in his face that his mom was murdered and that he should be perpetually sad about that. Of course, he is probably the biggest victim in this awful, terrible, horrible tragedy, but that should not define him. He doesn't need to live his life as a victim; not when he can live as an inspiration, a survivor!

I honestly don’t know how my mom lives with herself. How do you sleep at night knowing that you’re lying to conning people to try to profit from your daughter’s death?!? I wonder how much time she spends each day anticipating what the award she deserves for stepping up and taking care of her grandson will look like, and the monetary value that will be attached to it, of course. Because, apparently, she deserves big things.

When, really, she let her daughter die. She sent my sister to the murderer’s house that day. Alone. Because she insisted that her grandson should see his father. Despite the fact that she, unlike many of the rest of us, knew that the murderer had been violent towards my sister in the past, she sent her daughter to the lion’s den. Of course, she will admit that to no one.

Instead, she gets to look like the poor, grieving mother whose heart was ripped out the day her daughter—her baby—was murdered. And, while there’s no doubt that’s tragic—trust me, I get that; I live through the loss of my sister every single day—the true tragedy lies in the fact that she chooses to capitalize on her daughter’s death instead of celebrating her daughter’s life and focusing on the wonderful little piece of her that's been left behind and helping him to grow into a better man than his daddy ever was (instead of using him as a pawn).

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A for Absolute Madness!

Let the madness begin!!!

This past weekend, MusicMan and I both got the obligatory Christmas plan emails from our moms. Even though both of them should know the routine by now, because MusicMan and I have been married for a little over two years and celebrating holidays together for about four years, our mothers like to be coy. We spend Christmas Eve with MusicMan’s family and Christmas Day with mine.

My crazy mother, who you’ll remember is sick and thus supposed to be taking it easy, decided that we’d do brunch on Christmas Day at around noon. And, just in case people stick around long enough to get hungry again, she’ll have lasagna ready to go in the oven later on in the day. The email she sent to my sister and me indicated that we should invite our in-laws. (Well, my sister isn’t technically married, and it’s hard to keep track of whether or not she and the doofus who fathered her children are together or not at any given moment, but whatever.) The more the merrier, right?!

WRONG! My MIL (Mother-In-Law), though I love her to pieces, and my mom are way too much alike, which means they don’t necessarily get along very well. This is understandable, because it’s hard enough to give one drama queen enough attention (Is there ever enough attention for an attention-whore?!), so you can imagine how hard it is to muster up enough attention for two. MIL most likely won’t join us; nor will my father-in-law, but there’s always a chance (however slight that chance may be).

How my mom thinks we’re going to cram four extra people into her tiny house that barely accommodates the “normal” crowd is completely beyond me. Also, she’s supposed to be taking it easy, but she won’t be if my and my sister’s in-laws join us, because then she’ll have to play the hostess with the mostest to prove just how incredible she really is; especially in the face of adversity. (She is still incredibly sick. We find out Thursday if they're going to hospitalize her for a bit or not, because she's retaining so much fluid that she can now no longer bend her legs and her skin is starting to show signs of being stretched to the max. There is also fluid in her lungs—likely because it has nowhere else to go.)

I, being the loving and helpful daughter that I am, asked my mother to let me know what I could bring to Christmas. I was really hoping the answer wasn’t going to be fruit salad. That’s the standard item usually assigned to me for all holidays. I’m assuming that’s because my family knows I’m not much for cooking. I am capable of more than fruit salad, and MusicMan is quite a good cook, but still I get stuck with the fruit salad.
Photo Courtesy (My family prefers it sans nuts. Doesn't that just look like a culinary delight?!)

I hate the fruit salad!! I don’t even eat it—practically no one does (except mom’s husband and his son)—yet I have to prepare it every holiday. It’s not particularly hard to do, which is why I get the task:

Take a large can of that gross, syrupy fruit cocktail, drain it, pour it in a large bowl
Add three or four sliced Bananas and a can of Mandarin Orange slices (drained) to bowl (I usually forget this part.)
Add one bag of those pastel colored fruity mini marshmallows to bowl
Add large container of Cool Whip to bowl
(Don’t use real whipping cream, because that will totally mess it up. The “salad” needs to taste as overly sweet as is humanly possible without it being actual candy. The irony of the healthy image projected by the name—fruit salad—is the secret ingredient to this not at all healthy “fruit salad.” So, it’s very important to use Cool Whip.)

That’s it. See? Not very hard at all. The hardest part about it is making sure most all of the syrup from the fruit cocktail is drained so that, once it’s mixed with the cool whip, it’s nice and smooth instead of a congealed mess. Oh, and remembering the bananas and oranges; I seem to always forget those for some reason, and the lack of bananas totally ruins my mom’s husband’s life. I think I’ve totally ruined his life like three times now. Also, trying not to slit my finger open on the jagged, sharp metal edge of the fruit cocktail can seems to be an ever-present challenge.

(Don’t want a repeat of the Thanksgiving of 2007 when half the fruit salad—i.e. all of the bananas and some of the marshmallows—ended up in the trash because they were covered in my blood. Maybe preparing fruit salad is harder than I thought.)

I learned too late to be careful what I wish for. My mom responded to my offer saying that she’d love for me to bring my French Toast Bake,* a “bunch” of cooked sausage and bacon that we can heat up in the oven, and maybe some fruit salad. (SERIOUSLY?!)

(*Which I introduced at Easter last year, just to show that I’m capable of more than fruit salad, and it would’ve been great with other brunch foods, but someone forgot to tell me that the menu had been switched from brunch to lunch, and French toast doesn’t go so well with ham, cheesy potatoes, mashed potatoes and gravy, various vegetables and other savory items, and then I vowed never to bring anything to a family holiday meal ever again. Ever! But, you can see how well that worked out. Sometimes, but very rarely, I might have just a tinge of my mom’s drama queen genes.)

I will, of course, obediently bring the foods I was assigned. Except the fruit salad! I am taking a stand. This will be a fruit salad-less Christmas, because I am going to conveniently forget to make it and bring it. Thus single-handedly destroying the holiday for my mom’s husband, I’m sure, but hopefully he’ll find a way to pull through and survive; he’s a fighter. (No, he's not.) Too bad. Important causes, like this one, sometimes have casualties.

Now, I’m just wondering how I’m going to get everything done. You see, my mom seems to have forgotten that I’ve already offered to make and bring five types of cookies, a few dozen cake balls, and some fudge. And, while she is off of work and can make one of each of her five types of cookies per day on the week leading up to Christmas and get done in plenty of time, I don’t have that luxury. I can’t even start baking until next weekend.

This coming weekend I have to study for my Algebra final. Next weekend is, of course, the memorial bonfire for my sister. The Friday night before, I have to prepare the food I plan to bring to the bonfire. This means I’m stuck baking five types of cookies (and hopefully cake balls and fudge), at least four dozen of each kind so there are plenty to go around, on the Saturday night after the bonfire and that Sunday. I work the following week, and that next weekend is Christmas already, so truly next weekend is the only time I’ll have!!

My mother also seems to have neglected the fact that I work on Christmas Eve day, because my company is apparently run by Ebenezer Scrooge and is too cheap to give us the day off. Granted we only have to work a half day, but still; it's inconvenient and kinda sucks. A lot. So, instead of unwinding for a bit between getting home from work and going to my in-laws’, I’ll have to prepare the French Toast Bake that needs to sit in the refrigerator overnight so that the bread can soak up all of the custardy goodness. (And I can hopefully prove to my family, once and for all, that I'm capable of culinary delights beyond fruit salad.)

Photo via

I’m tired just thinking of doing all of this, but I have to find the energy to actually do all of it now! And, I feel like I’m coming down with something, but I’m not even going to think about being sick because I just don’t have the time for it. Mind over matter!

If you don’t hear for me for a while, lovely reader, it’s likely because I’ve been overcome by cookie dough. You’ll probably find me, rocking back and forth in the fetal position, under a mound of Snickerdoodle, Peanut Butter, and Oatmeal cookie dough. Don’t approach too quickly; you don’t want to startle me and end up getting pelted with cake balls!!! :-)

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Friday, December 3, 2010

W for War is Brutal

MusicMan had a gig Saturday night, so it was just the puppies and I hangin’ out at home. It started out as a peaceful, quiet night. I practiced some Algebra problems, realized I was really tired and not in the mood to do anything but laze around, and decided to watch a movie instead. We’ve splurged on Showtime in order to be able to get our Dexter fix, so I decided to see what movies they were playing. “The Road” sounded interesting, so I settled down to watch.

Have you seen or heard about this movie? It’s based on the 2007 Pulitzer Prize winning novel of the same name. Just in case you haven’t, I won’t spoil it for you, but here's a brief summary:

The movie takes place within the few years following an unknown apocalyptic event, the details of which are never revealed. The world is constantly dark, covered with what seems to be ash, and plant and animal life have been wiped out. Few seem to have survived, except for the main characters—a man and a boy whose names we don’t know—and the few others they run into along their journey south. The man and boy battle to stay alive as they journey towards, what they hope, is a better and brighter future.

Perhaps I’m not as “cultured” as I’d like to think, but I really disliked this movie. I wanted to stop watching it several times, because it was really just depressing, but I just had to see if there was a happy ending. It didn’t help that, because the movie is set in a post-apocalyptic world, everything was always dark and gray—that really set the mood. But all of the struggles the man and boy face along the way just got to be too much. I found myself wondering when they’d catch a break! So, yeah, this movie just wasn’t for me. That shouldn’t prevent you from watching it, of course, if it sounds interesting to you.

When the movie was over, I went out to our attached garage to have a final cigarette before bed. (I know, I know, it’s a dirty, horrible, disgusting habit. I’m trying to get myself into the right mindset to quit once and for all.) As I was standing there, contemplating what I would do were I stuck in a post-apocalyptic world and forced to face some of the situations and decisions the man and the boy did, I noticed movement in the periphery. Turning my head more to the left, to get a good look, I noticed a little gray mouse peeking over the safety sensor for our automatic garage door.

W.T.F?! From about 10 feet away, I slowly and carefully walked over to the other side of the garage to see if there was a hole that Mr. Mouse had come through. I saw nothing, so I figured he must’ve scampered in when the garage door was open and now couldn’t figure out how to leave, or he’d gotten in under the gap between the garage door and the concrete. I opened the door to the house and called Dexter, our Pug, out to the garage in the hopes that he would scare Mr. Mouse away. It seemed to work, because when I looked again, Mr. Mouse was nowhere in sight.

Realizing that, if Dexter was to actually see Mr. Mouse, he might try to get Mr. Mouse, resulting in a much bigger problem for me, I let Dexter back into the house. A few minutes later, Mr. Mouse reappeared. I was starting to freak out. I didn’t know what do to.

After looking around the walls shared by both the garage and the house, and determining there was no way for Mr. Mouse to find his way into the house, because, ya know, I’m a damn expert on finding teeny, tiny little holes and mouse entryways, I decided MusicMan and I would just have to deal with the issue the followng morning. I consoled myself with the fact that Mr. Mouse probably wouldn’t try to enter the house, because the telltale scent of dog would ensure understanding that it was an inhospitable territory for a mouse, and instead would intelligently decide to find his way out of the garage. I shut off the garage lights, went in the house, and texted MusicMan to beware ‘cause there was a big, bad mouse in our garage. My main concern wasn’t so much the mouse getting into the house, but instead, the mouse crawling up into MusicMan’s nice warm car and wreaking havoc by chewing on wires or something.

After a brief lecture to Lulu and Dexter about how we were at war with Mr. Mouse and they must warn mommy if the enemy tried to infringe on our territory, I went to bed. Even though I was pretty sure neither dog understood me too well since they both just stared at me, occasionally tilting their heads as though they were trying to understand, or at the very least, pay attention, I felt comfortable enough (read: was too exhausted to care about the mouse's possible actions and motives) to go to sleep.

The next morning, I showed MusicMan where I’d seen Mr. Mouse, and MusicMan went out to purchase a couple mouse traps. We’d decided he would buy a couple live traps, if they weren’t too expensive, because we didn’t want to kill Mr. Mouse simply because he’d had the misfortune of stumbling into our garage and not being able to find a way out. The big box hardware store MusicMan went to didn’t have live traps, so he settled on these:
Photo via

The guy at the store told him that these traps likely wouldn’t kill the mouse unless it was trapped for so long that it starved to death. Even though the box had that kill guarantee on it, MusicMan reasoned that we’d check the traps often enough to avoid killing a mouse by starvation, so he purchased the two-pack and setup the traps as soon as he got home. He put one close to the sensor I’d seen Mr. Mouse standing on and the other on the opposite end of the garage, by our garbage can.

Two hours later, as he was leaving to run an errand, he saw that the trap by the garage door sensor had been sprung. Upon inspection, he found that the trap did, indeed, contain a mouse. Sadly, the mouse was dead.

MusicMan came into the house to tell me that we’d caught Mr. Mouse, he wasn’t as little as I’d thought he was, and the guy at the hardware store lied because Mr. Mouse was most definitely dead.

Well, what can I say? War is brutal. It isn’t easy, and it’s never pretty.

I realized, were this a post-apocalyptic world, we’d probably have saved Mr. Mouse's carcass instead of throwing him, trap and all, into the garbage (which would, thankfully, be taken away in a coule days). In a post-apocalyptic world, we’d have to rely on eating mice and bugs for sustenance, assuming they somehow survived the apocalypse too. That’s not a life I want to live. Having to fight, every single day, simply to survive is a scary proposition. I think that’s why I disliked “The Road” so much. It forced me to think about unpleasant, scary things that I didn’t want to think about.

Thankfully, for now at least, the war seems to be over. The other trap remains in position, unsprung, which is a very good sign that our enemies have gotten the mesage that this is our territory. But, a good warrior knows never to let her guard down; the enemy could strike again when it's least expected. And we remain at the ready.

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

P for Passages of Time

It is amazing how quickly time manages to fly by; isn’t it, lovely reader? Life has been hectic lately. Like don’t remember what day of the week, let alone what month, it is kind of hectic. Psychology class is over, and Algebra wraps up in a couple weeks, which means I’ll soon be on a lovely three week winter break! Wooohooo! I’m looking forward to having some downtime, catching up on my blog reading (I have a lot of catching up to do), and enjoying some time with friends and family. In addition to the busyness of school, work, and life in general, there has been some pretty major family drama too. I just don’t have the energy to get into it right now, so I’ll summarize as best I can…

My mother, who had weight loss surgery over three years ago, is incredibly ill. Like the possibility of dying exists kind of sick. While she insists that this illness has nothing to do with her surgery, it’s hard to deny that it makes recovery more difficult. It’s also hard to ignore that she’s been ill, in one way or another and to one degree or another, since she’s had the surgery. But, whatever.

She’s severely malnourished; her body does not retain any nutrients, or calories, or apparently anything from the food she eats. She’s gained 30 pounds of water weight alone. Apparently there's a possibility that she might have thyroid cancer, but the tests haven’t come back yet. She just started 24/7 IV nutrition therapy in the hopes that they can get her nutrition levels up enough to figure out what exactly is wrong with her, and then hopefully fix whatever it is. To top it off, she and her husband continue to barely scrape by financially. I have loaned given them more money than I care to think about or admit. And there’s no sign that any of that will get better anytime soon. It could, in fact, get worse, because there is a very real possibility that my mom will lose her medical insurance as a result of having to take 3-6 weeks of leave from work in order to try to get better.

It has become a very real possibility that MusicMan and I will need to take custody of my nephew, Li’l D, a lot earlier than we thought we would. We’re as ready as we can be for this, and of course, we want what’s best for Li’l D. Unfortunately, my mother remains stubbornly resistant to the idea. It’s getting to the point where I’m going to have to tell her that, if I’m going to financially support Li’l D any longer (because that’s really the only reason I have given her so much money), then he’s going to live with me. That’s not going to sit well at all. She might sever ties with me, and as a result sever our access to Li’l D. In which case, I will be forced to drag the whole thing into court, because I want what’s best for my nephew. But for now, we wait. And hope…

That things will get better. That my mom will heal and survive. That Li’l D living in such a stressful environment won’t affect him detrimentally for the rest of his life. That mom will come to her senses and do what’s best for Li’l D. That MusicMan and I will be able to handle suddenly becoming “parents” to an almost five-year-old basically overnight. That life will just quit being difficult for a while.

Speaking of difficult, I mentioned at this time last year that I hate this time of year. I gave a few reasons; the biggest of which, is that the anniversary of my youngest sister’s death is in December. It’s amazing the difference a year makes, lovely reader…

December 19 will mark three years that my sister has been gone. I’ve been so focused on finishing up the semester at school, getting ready for the holidays, and excitedly anticipating the bonfire we’ll have (on December 18) to celebrate her life that I momentarily forgot the significance of the date. My cousinfriend made a comment in a conversation we had recently about the date, December 19, being a hard day for my other sister and my twin brother (this is what my mother told my cousin, anyway). I seriously had to think for a few moments about why that would be. Imagine my shock and horror when I realized that the significance of the date is that it is the day, almost three years ago, that my sister was robbed of her life. Time flies.

This, of course, caused me to think about how far I’ve come in that time. I don’t cry nearly as much as I used to. I no longer fear the question, “How many siblings do you have?” and can talk about Kristine’s death without feeling anxious or having a panic attack set it. These are really good changes. Yes, I’ve come a long way since December 19, 2007.

When I first noticed that I hadn’t “lost it” in a good long while, I felt so guilty. How could I not be crying over my dead sister? What was wrong with me?! Then I realized that there was nothing to feel guilty over. Not crying regularly doesn’t in any way diminish the feelings I have for my sister or the profound sense of loss that will always exist as a result of her absence from my life. I love her beyond words. I am thankful that I got to spend the time with her that I did. And, I will never, ever, ever forget her.
I can't cry forever, and crying really truly doesn’t make me feel better about anything. Nor will it change anything. Don’t get me wrong, when those moments of extreme, gut-wrenching anguish hit, I give in to them. I cry my heart out until I just can’t cry anymore. But those moments don’t happen nearly as often anymore, and for that, I am incredibly thankful. The fact that I don’t cry as often anymore means that I’m not in pain as often, and that’s a good thing. It means I am moving forward.

I still think of Kristine every single day—at least once a day, but usually quite a bit more. I miss her more than words can even describe. Of course, I want her here. I want to hear her laugh, I want one of her amazing hugs, and I want to be enveloped in the light—the spirit—that was her. I want my nephew to have his mommy; to know what an amazing mother she was instead of having to hear about it as he grows older. These feelings never go away. My heart physically aches at times over all that she’s missed out on, and will miss out on, and over just how much I miss her and long for her to be here. But, I’ve realized that just isn’t possible. She’s not coming back. Ever. That is a cold, hard, unchanging fact of life.

The grief and healing process is a weird, horrible, confusing, multi-faceted, terrible, amazing thing. I’m proud of how far I’ve come, but at the same time, I know I will be healing for the rest of my life. A big part of that healing lies in forgiveness. I swore I would never, ever forgive Kristine’s murderer, Zachery, for as long as I lived. Like most people, I confused forgiveness with forgetting. Just as I will never forget my sister, I will never forget what Zachery did. I will always, always remember that he hit her so hard that he knocked her out, made a ligature out of a shoelace, and used all of the force he could muster to squeeze the life out of her for no less than two minutes.

But, I’ve forgiven Zachery. I really mean that. Those words—I forgive—come from deep down, the bottom of my heart.

I. Forgive. Him.

Of course, that forgiveness is more for me than it is for him. It means nothing to him; it would mean nothing to him even if he knew. It doesn’t mean that I’m in any way okay with what he did. It doesn’t mean that I don’t miss Kristine. It doesn’t mean that I love her any less. It certainly doesn’t diminish the tragedy of what happened. No.

What it does mean is: I’m done with him. Forever. He’s not worth the time or effort I was spending on hating him, being angry over him, or wondering why he did what he did. There’s just no room for that in my head or heart anymore. I’m taking back the power he, or at least what he did, had over me. He did what he did, and he’s being punished appropriately for it. Just as we have to deal with our loss for the rest of our lives, he has to deal with what he did for the rest of his, and that’s good enough for me. I’m done.

I think I needed to forgive him in order to move on with my life, and I really truly have. I feel lighter...cleaner...just plain better. My realization the other day—that I had sort of “forgotten” the significance of the date—makes me realize that I have chosen to honor my sister’s memory not by focusing on her death, but by celebrating her life.

I’m choosing the good memories over the bad. This was her most favorite time of year—the festive feel of the whole season and the buildup to one of her most favorite holidays. Since she can’t be here to enjoy it, I owe it to her to at least appreciate that I can be. This year I’ll do one better. I will joyously anticipate and celebrate Christmas like she would have. In her honor. Because I can’t think of a better way to honor her. Besides, she wouldn’t want me crying all the time. That was so not her style.
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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

N for No Thanks!

I received a letter from Community College last week. Since I wasn’t expecting anything from them, I immediately tore it open and my eyes quickly began to devour the words. As a result of my outstanding GPA and superior academic achievement, I was being offered the special opportunity to enroll in an upcoming honors level English course.

Since I don’t need another English class, at least not another research writing course, and the class is at a time that won’t work for me, I’m gonna pass. However, I finished reading the letter anyway. I was informed that I can ask any instructor of any class to give me honors level work. Apparently all that’s required is a special form from the registration office and the instructor’s permission. Interesting.

You might be thinking, as was I, why would I willingly ask instructors to give me more work? Except, of course, to pad my transcript with honors classes, which I assume are supposed to somehow look better. The thing is I’m only seven classes away from finishing my associate’s degree. Had they caught me a few semesters ago, I might have considered a few honors classes. But, now? Well. Now I’m just a little too smart to ask for more work and/or harder work just for the sake of making me look a tad bit better on paper. Apparently that is not the only reason one takes honors classes though…

The letter went on to say that taking honors level courses would provide me with more of a challenge. Oh, okay. I see it now. I’m apparently too smart for Community College, lovely reader. I wonder what tipped them off. Is it the fact that my GPA has been a solid 4.0 for over a year? It took them long enough to notice. And while I am a perfectionist, apparently I am not an overachiever, because I’m not buying into the “honor” bestowed on those who abuse challenge themselves with honors level courses. Perhaps in a bachelor’s or master’s degree setting, sure, but for an associate’s degree? Really? I don’t think so.

Community College doesn’t seem to understand that they are just a means to an end for me. I need to get my associate’s degree done efficiently (and cheaply) and they meet that need. Once I have what I want from them, I’m done. On to bigger and better things.

Community College has either seriously overestimated my motivation or underestimated my common sense. Why would I put my flawless GPA on the line just to have the words “honors level” appear a few times on my transcript? I can’t imagine that it would give me that much of an edge when applying for a bachelor’s program. I’d think a high cumulative GPA is good enough.

But, perhaps that’s the problem; I’m fine with just good enough. At least for right now, where my associate’s degree is concerned. I mean, really, is the college I transfer to going to look at a 3.6 GPA where the transcript notes some honors courses and think it’s that much better than my 4.0 GPA without honors courses? Is there that much of a difference? I really don’t think so.

As far as being challenged? I think I have been, and continue to be, challenged just enough. Thankyouverymuch! And, because I just recently registered for spring semester classes, I can say with confidence that next semester will be a challenge. Sure there have been some courses along the way that haven’t been very challenging, or riveting, or really felt worth my time at all, but I viewed them as a necessary evil. I don’t think taking them as honors level courses would’ve made them any better.

With only two regular courses—statistics and creative writing—left to take after spring semester, assuming all of the classes I’ve registered for work out this spring (more on that later), I won’t be asking for permission to take honors courses anytime soon. I guess that ship has sailed. I’ll have to be satisfied with the fact that Community College apparently thinks I’m too smart for them.

I know that sounds incredibly arrogant, but that’s really all I can take away from the letter. I mean; I’ve taken four semesters of classes, and they just now caught on to the fact that I could maybe use a challenge?! Seriously?! I can say with confidence that I’ve definitely felt challenged, even if the only challenge presented with certain classes was the shear amount of work assigned. And as I try to fit seven classes (well, five classes and two competencies) into the next two semesters in order to be finished with my associate’s degree on time to start the bachelor’s program in the fall, I have a feeling that there will be no lack of challenge or frustration.

Thanks, but no thanks, Community College. You can take your honors courses and shove them. I’ll keep my 4.0 GPA (or as close to it as I can manage)!

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Friday, November 5, 2010

I for I believe...

GAH! I am so frustrated lately, lovely reader. The recent election has me all in a tizzy. Now decency and politeness dictate that one should never discuss politics or religion if she wants to keep friends, but I’m going to throw caution to the wind today and focus on politics for a moment.

I seriously cannot believe the close-mindedness that exists in the world today. Republican/Democrat, Conservative/Liberal, I really don’t care. I can find viewpoints I understand and/or agree with from either party. I personally think we need to get away from the two-party system and back to “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Though, in the interest of full disclosure, I tend to fall more Democrat/Independent/Liberal. What I can’t stand, and what scares me the most, is the Tea Party. Some Conservatives/Republicans even say that the Tea Party is bat shit crazy! To me, that is definitely cause for concern.

So you can imagine my disgust and outright sadness over the fact that my state nominated a tea partier, Michele Bachman, to represent us in Congress. Yes. People actually went out and voted for a woman, who’s said out loud:

"Little children will be forced to learn that homosexuality is normal and natural and perhaps they should try it."
( Interview with Jan Markell, Olive Tree Ministries.)

“Normalization (of gayness) through desensitization. Very effective way to do this with a bunch of second graders, is to take a picture of ‘The Lion King’ for instance, and a teacher might say, ‘Do you know that the music for this movie was written by a gay man?’ The message is: I’m better at what I do because I’m gay.”
(Speaking at EdWatch National Education Conference, November 6, 2004.)

"That's why people need to continue to go to the town halls, continue to melt the phone lines of their liberal members of Congress, and let them know, under no certain circumstances will I give the government control over my body and my health care decisions."
(As a pro-lifer, she completely missed the irony of using the same slogan as the pro-choice movement in arguing against health care reform.)

She’s also said, “not all cultures are equal,” and, “Carbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful. But there isn't even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas." She urged her supporters to vote for her so that, together, they “can take back our freedom!” But, her definition of freedom is quite skewed. Freedom to Michele Bachman means freedom from government control (funny that she’d even want to be a part of the government she hates so much) and taxes, but it does not include the freedom to decide who you will marry. If you’re a woman, Michele Bachman’s version of freedom also doesn’t allow you to make decisions regarding your own body as she wants to ban abortion.

Women who voted for Michele Bachman, or any other tea partier for that matter, are an affront to all women. I realize that saying you’ve betrayed your gender is using strong language, and that it might sound a bit harsh, but that’s how strongly I feel about a woman’s right to choose. I am completely and totally appalled that another woman would even conceive of denying such an important right to other women, and I cannot believe that women would so willingly vote to give up that right. Whether or not you have or would have an abortion isn’t the issue, the issue is that it is an individual woman’s right to choose—not the government’s, not the religious right’s, not the fetus’—it is a woman’s right to choose. We must never allow that right to be taken away.

I fear for the future of our country if the tea party does in fact take it over. I am not at all joking when I say that I will leave this country if that happens. I realize that nowhere is perfect, and that I’ll likely have my fair share of complaints and problems in Germany, Australia, Canada, or any number of other places, but I refuse to live under the tea party’s fascist regime.

I don’t want to live in a country surrounded by heavily reinforced, tightly guarded walls simply because my country’s leaders believe we need to protect ourselves and our country from evil immigrants. We seem to forget that this country was founded on immigration. And let’s not forget that walls don’t only serve to keep people out; they also keep people in. I refuse to be trapped; forced to live under totalitarian rule, under the guise that it’s for my own protection. I don’t want to live in a country in which the government denies basic civil rights to certain citizens simply because they were born to love a person of the same sex as themselves. And I most certainly don’t want to live in a country in which governing law is based upon Christianity, which of course dictates that life is life, and as such, my uterus and its contents are subject to their “protection” instead of my choice.

Instead of railing on about how much I hate the tea party, and fear for my country’s future, perhaps it would just be easier if I tell you what I do believe.

I believe that this country was not founded on Christianity, and as such, should not be run based on Christian principles and values. Our forefathers came to America to escape religious persecution, and as such, our government isn’t, and should never be, based upon one singular religion. There is a reason that separation of church and state exists, and we need to keep it that way. I’m all for religious freedom. You practice whatever religion you want in whatever way you want to, but keep your religion out of my government and away from my body.

I believe that marriage, and all of the rights and protections it affords, is a basic civil right. Two consenting adults, of appropriate age and sound mind, should be allowed to unite in a legally binding marriage regardless of their sexual orientation. If you want to keep those marriages out of your church, that’s fine. You still cannot stop the government from denying basic civil rights to its citizens. Again, you are entitled to your beliefs, but you are not allowed to force them upon others. Don’t like or want gay marriage? Don’t have one!

I believe that we are all responsible for paying our fair share in taxes, and that it is the government’s responsibility to allocate those funds appropriately. I don’t particularly enjoy paying the portion of taxes that goes towards funding public schools. I don’t have children, nor do I plan to, so I don’t get my money’s worth out of those services. However, I realize that educating our children is important to our future, so I’m okay with some of my taxes going towards education.

I would like to know what services Republicans/Conservatives are willing to give up in order to lower our taxes. Should we give up the paving of roads? Police and emergency medical services? Fire departments? Oh, I know! We should cut social services, because that is the one thing that doesn’t personally impact you; am I right?

I believe that people are generally good, honest, and want to be contributing members of society. Contrary to the disgusting belief that poor people live off the government by choice, because they’re just worthless and lazy, I understand that some people need a little help now and then. Call me naïve, but I don’t think most people are content to just laze around, living off of others. Most people who utilize social services do so as a means of bettering themselves and their lives; they in no way intend it to be a permanent solution.

I’m okay with my taxes going towards providing food, shelter, and medical services to those who need it. I’m thankful that those services were available to my twenty-four-year old mother when she found herself unable to feed her three young children on her own because the little money she made at her retail job went towards daycare and rent. Many people seem to think that the government shouldn’t spend our tax money on social programs, because charities can meet the needs of the unfortunate. That simply isn’t true. My youngest sister contacted a few charities to try to get help feeding her and her toddler and paying for housing while she was temporarily jobless, and she was denied services because she didn’t fit the criteria; she apparently wasn’t poor/needy enough. If being a jobless single mom isn’t poor enough, I don’t care to know what is.

I believe that health care is a right, not a privilege. It is shameful that the richest country in the world doesn’t make sure that all of its citizens have access to basic medical care. It’s deplorable that the health care industry focuses more on the almighty dollar than on taking care of people. The system needs to change.

I believe that hate speech/crime, anti-bullying, and anti-discrimination legislation wouldn’t be necessary if people would accept that we’re all different, and that’s okay. No one is better than anyone else simply because their privilege afforded them the opportunity to be born white, or male, or middle class, or rich, or in the good old U S of A. People who had the “misfortune” of being born gay, or black, or female, or to low income or uneducated parents are not lesser people, and we shouldn’t treat them like second class citizens. We are all people regardless of race, class, gender, or sexual orientation, and as such, we deserve certain rights under the constitution. No one should have to suffer chronic discrimination or hatred or torture simply because they are deemed by someone else to be different.

I believe that rational and logical thought, scientific evidence and facts, and education are key to making informed decisions. Voters carry a big responsibility, and you do yourself and others a great disservice by voting purely based on emotions or on what your church or others tell you to believe. Knowledge is power! Educate yourself on the issues, and make informed decisions based on your principles and morals. Morality and God do not go hand-in-hand; nonbelievers know and understand right from wrong too, and most of us are generally good no matter where our morals and principles came from.  If your morals and principles happen to match your religion or church’s, well I guess that’s pretty convenient; however, your way is not the only way and your beliefs are no more right or valid than anyone else’s.

I believe that abortion is a woman’s health issue, and it is a woman’s right to choose what is best for her. A small amount of women making poor choices (i.e. using abortion as birth control) does not mean we should take the right to choose away from all women. Women get abortions regardless of whether or not it’s legal, regardless of the risk to their lives or health, regardless of the morality of abortion, and regardless of what the fetus may or may not be. When abortion wasn’t legal, women still found ways to end their pregnancies, and unfortunately some of those methods were dangerous and ended in women dying. That is not okay, and we can never go back to that.

The life of a fetus is a subjective matter. One must first get life—i.e. be born—to have a right to life. Fetuses are different from born human beings in prefunds ways; the most fundamental of which is that a fetus is totally dependent on a woman’s body to survive. She is the only one who can keep it alive; therefore, she is the one who gets to make the choice on whether or not to carry her pregnancy to term. A fetus doesn’t have the right to use the woman’s body against her will. Can we force people to donate organs to keep others alive? No; we can’t, because only living, breathing, viable human beings have rights.

Many times, the decision to abort isn’t made from the perspective of not wanting the child, but rather knowing that one cannot provide a decent life for that child. I know women who’ve had abortions and women who’ve given their children up for adoption, and the women in the latter group are far more psychologically troubled over their decision than women in the former group, because there is more finality and closure to abortion than there is for adoption. I am sadder for all of the unwanted children living in orphanages in this world, wishing to be adopted into families, than I am for the potential children that were lost to abortion.

That’s right; I said potential children. That’s what a fetus is: a potential human life. Just as a 16 year old boy can’t walk into a bar and legally be served alcohol simply because he’s a “potential 21 year old,” we don’t extend rights, including the right to life, to a fetus simply because the potential for life exists.

Yes, I understand that it is oftentimes partially the woman’s fault for becoming pregnant, but in cases of rape it is not. For those who believe that abortion is a viable alternative only in cases where the victim was raped, I’d ask why it’s only in those cases that the mother’s life and choice is more important than a fetus’.  What gives you the right to decide that abortion is only appropriate in certain situations? Again, I say that this very private choice belongs in the hands of women.

I’d also argue that keeping our women uneducated, by not allowing comprehensive sex education in schools, further decreases her fault in accidentally getting pregnant. If she didn’t know how to prevent it, she can hardly take all of the blame for it. It is a proven fact that comprehensive sex education decreases pregnancy—especially teenage pregnancy—and does not increase the likelihood that a teenager will have sex. If we want to decrease abortions, we could start with teaching comprehensive sex education in our schools, but we cannot completely remove abortion as an option. Once again, if your religion, principles, or morals dictate that abortion is wrong, don’t get one, but you cannot take that choice away from women who do not hold the same beliefs as you.

Annnnnnnnnnnnnd, I’m spent! If you’ve hung in there and read this whole post, you’re awesome and I thank you for indulging me. I am open to your thoughts and opinions, even if you don’t agree with me. As I said before, knowledge is power. I am open to hearing points of view that differ from my own, because you never know when you just might learn something. Don’t be afraid to start the dialogue by commenting below. I’m a big girl; I can take whatever it is you have to say to me. I hope you all have a fabulous weekend.

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

W for Words Are Powerful

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”

Or something like that. We’re all familiar with this quote, or some variation of it, but have you ever stopped to consider its meaning? It’s not true. Not at all. As a former victim of emotional abuse, which is a story for another day, I speak from experience when I say that sometimes words can hurt more than sticks and stones (or punches and kicks for that matter). Bumps and bruises eventually heal, but the power of hateful, hurtful words can leave a lasting impact that’s sometimes imperceptible to everyone but the person to whom the words were said.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to downplay physical abuse. Having lost a sister to domestic violence, I know all too well how damaging it can be. I think most people are aware of that, because it's harder to deny the hard evidence left behind by physical abuse. Fewer people seem to know and understand the damage and long term impacts of verbal/emotional abuse.

One need only look at recent news headlines to see how much words truly can hurt. There seems to be an epidemic of gay teens, and some straight teens accused of being gay, committing suicide. Words obviously hurt them. So badly, in fact, that they saw death as the only escape from their pain. They were bullied—no harassed—to death. Day in and day out, these victims suffered in silence as they were tormented by the words of others; others who’d singled them out simply because they were different. It’s disgusting and disturbing and it makes me physically ill—my stomach and heart ache as I write this.

What has the world come to? Where are the parents of these bullies? How is this being allowed to happen? How has being accused of being gay, even if you’re not, become such a horrible thing that one would end his/her life over it? I just don’t get it. Why do people care so much about the sexual preferences of others?! It shouldn’t matter! Live and let live, for crying out loud! I seriously don’t get how or why people fear and loathe homosexuals so much. I know religion plays a role, and I don’t even want to get started down that path at the risk of offending the six or so regular readers I have out there. We are all human beings. Why can’t we treat each other as such?

We, as a society, need to fix this. We can start by teaching our children that words do hurt and it’s not okay to insult, humiliate, taunt, or demean anyone. Ever. We can stand up and show support for victims, and should intervene when we witness such harassment. As adults, we need to model good behavior for children. We need to show them that it’s important to treat others with respect, to be kind, and to not fear what we don’t understand, but rather to seek out knowledge to gain better understanding.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, parents need to step up and parent. You need to know what’s going on with your kids! I don’t care whether your kid is the victim or the bully; you have a responsibility as a parent to step in. You must protect your child; you cannot rely on the school or anyone else to do it for you. If you find out your kid is a bully, it’s your responsibility to teach your child that this terrible behavior will not be tolerated and cannot continue. Sometimes you just have to step up and be the authority figure instead of the friend!

Lest anyone think I’m leaving anyone out, let me assure you that I understand that straight kids are bullied too. I get that. I’ve witnessed it, and I was a victim myself. But the reality is that gay kids and teens are more likely to commit suicide as a result of the constant harassment and torture over their sexuality, because unlike the straight kids, they cannot change the thing that makes them different.

Yep. I said it. Homosexuality is not a choice. Homosexuals are born, not made. And until people understand and accept that fact, I fear this horror will not end. How many more lives need to be cut tragically short before people get it? I don’t care what you think your bible says, and I don’t care what your political party tells its sheeple to believe. You mustn't give in to the fear mongering. People are dying. This has to stop.

I don’t know what the answer is. I wish I did, but I don’t. All I know is that life is hard enough as it is. There is no good reason that any one individual should need to try to make the lives of others any harder. I'd like to believe that we're all more evolved than that, but maybe I'm naïve and too idealistic. Let’s all try to honor the simplicity of the golden rule, shall we? Treat others as you’d like to be treated. I think it really can be that simple.
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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

U for Update

Hello, lovely reader. Since I haven’t posted in a while, I thought I give you all a quick update of what’s going on in Elle’s world:
School is going pretty well. Busy, as usual. I’m surprised at how quickly I’m catching on to a lot of the algebra concepts. I’ve somehow managed to maintain an “A” so far, but things get harder and harder every week, so we’ll see how it all plays out. This class is super accelerated, because it’s two classes—beginning algebra and intermediate algebra—jammed into one semester. We have lectures Monday and Wednesday evenings with the test(s) for the chapter(s) we’ve learned that week due Sunday at midnight (chapter tests are done online). It’s pretty intense.

The final for beginning algebra is next Wednesday, so I’ve got to find some time to study and practice problems from the first six chapters we’ve covered so far. Even though I’ve done really well on the weekly tests and the midterm, I still want to make sure that I’m comfortable enough with all of the material to do well on the final. In order to move on to intermediate algebra, one must get at least a “C” in beginning algebra, and judging by how far behind some of my classmates currently are, I think there are going to be very few of us (like maybe a dozen) moving on.

Psychology has been interesting so far, but I don’t like taking a Saturday class at all. Class meets from 1-4:30 Saturday afternoon, which seems entirely too long most of the time. The instructor spends the whole time lecturing on the chapter(s) we were assigned to read the previous week and possibly showing a video or two related to the material. Weekly homework is usually a chapter or two of reading, an online tutorial or two related to the material we’ve read (with a worksheet to fill out and hand in), and a video to watch and summarize (one typed paragraph). Overall, the class hasn’t been too tough.

I won’t take another Saturday class again unless I absolutely have to. I hate that half of my weekend is spent on homework and being in class. I typically spend Friday evening finishing up whatever assigned Psychology reading I haven’t finished yet and completing the online tutorials and video summaries. Then, I spend half of Saturday sitting in class listening to a lecture that’s just regurgitation of the material I’ve already read. It feels like a big waste of time.

MusicMan’s sister and her husband were visiting from Hawaii recently, so we went over to his mom’s house for an obligatory family dinner. I wish I could be closer with my sister-in-law (SIL), but it’s hard when she lives so far away and her husband is a giant douchebag. Just to put it in perspective for you, the last time I saw sister-in-law’s husband (Dbag) was a couple years ago. They spent the Christmas after my sister was murdered here in Minnesota. In fact, the night they flew into town and we all met at my mother-in-law’s for family dinner, to meet in person for the first time ever, was the night my sister was killed.

At first, this bonded us all together quite quickly. I was surprised at the support sister-in-law and her Dbag gave me and the sadness they showed over the loss of my sister, whom they’d never met. But, a few days after Christmas and less than a week after I’d lost my sister, we had SIL and Dbag come to our house for the evening to have some drinks and hang out so that we could all get to know each other a little better.

During their visit, SIL’s husband (we refuse to call him brother-in-law because he’s such a giant douche), Dbag, spent part of the evening lecturing me about how we all had a responsibility now to make sure that Li’l D grows up to be a better person than his father (obviously!) and his mother (WTF?!)! He’s lucky I was still exhausted and in shock, because the conversation wouldn’t have gone as calmly as it did had I not been. In fact, thinking of it now makes me want to throat punch him, followed by a swift kick to the groin, while explaining to him what a great person my sister was and telling him that, if her son grows up to even be the slightest bit like her, he’ll be an amazing person, unlike Dbag.

During this recent visit, Dbag barely even spoke to MusicMan or me; except to tell us that one of our dogs, Lucy, is “out of control.” His reasoning was that she “attacked” his dog. First of all, his dog isn’t socialized to other dogs; unlike Lucy, who has regular daycare visits and overnight stays, resulting in her being a well socialized dog. As a result, SIL’s dog doesn’t really know how to behave around other dogs. Second of all, Lucy didn’t attack his dog. She tried to play with his dog, his dog snapped at her, and she responded in kind. A little tussle ensued, which MusicMan and I have learned to just let go for a bit to see if the dogs will work it out because usually they work it out themselves and everything’s fine.

Apparently, Dbag was unaware that dogs should be allowed to work it out (as long as no one was being hurt, which no one was), and he picked Lucy up by her harness and tossed her off of his dog. I was appalled, but held my tongue, keeping Lucy with me the rest of the evening. A few days later, Lucy started to squeal if she was touched the wrong way and she refused to jump up onto the couch or the bed. We knew something was wrong, but we didn’t know what. A vet visit and $75 later, we found out that she had a pinched nerve in her shoulder, likely a result of someone picking her up by her harness as though it were a handle. Thankfully, after a week of rest and medication to reduce pain and swelling, she was back to her old self again.

Needless to say, I was livid. I wanted MusicMan to march over to his mother’s house with the vet bill and a few harsh words to Dbag or I was going to do it. Instead, we decided it best to inform his mom as to what had happened, and MusicMan left Lucy at home when we went to dinner a week later to say goodbye to his sister and Dbag (lucky for him, I had class that night and couldn’t attend dinner at mother-in-law’s). Mother-in-law, who excels at passive-aggression, made a few digs at Dbag here and there during dinner, according to MusicMan, but I’m still not happy that no one (including myself) said anything directly to him about the fact that he had injured our dog and he is a giant douchebag.

I don’t typically hold grudges, but I’m so done with Dbag. Though I love and respect my mother-in-law, I will no longer run to her house for obligatory family dinners simply because sister-in-law and Dbag are in town, granting us simpletons the honor of basking in the glow of their presence. No thanks. Despite what they seem to think, and how other family members seem to act about their visits, they are not special. Since they can’t even manage to thank us for switching our schedules around to take the time to visit with them while they’re here, nor can they seem to manage to even fake enjoyment over seeing us, I see no reason to make a big deal out of their visits. The limited free time I have can be spent on much, much better things and with much, much better people.

I’ve had a serious case of writer’s block lately, which is why I haven’t been posting as much. My carpal tunnel seems to be flaring up quite a bit lately too, which sends shooting pains up my right arm and the back of my hand and has my fingers constantly cramping and aching too. No good!

MusicMan has finally uploaded all of the Lake Tahoe photos, so I’m going to pick some of my favorites to post soon. I hope all is well in your world, lovely reader!

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Monday, September 27, 2010

B for BAD Neighbor

Okay, so after my last two posts, I’m going to completely shift gears today. It’s time to lighten things up around here. I got the idea for this post when my lovely bloggy friend, Shana, wrote a post about bad neighbors. I immediately felt bad for Shana, because I think we’ve all been there at one point or another. Then, I remembered the time that I had been a bad neighbor. A really, really, really, horribly, terribly bad neighbor. And, I decided to swallow my pride and tell you about it, because I’ve reached the point where I’m able to laugh about it. I hope you will too. Go ahead and laugh at my expense. It’s okay. I encourage it.

At the age of 25, I was living alone for the first time ever in my life. I’d gone from living in my mom’s house, to living in an apartment with my then fiancé, Alex, to buying a townhouse with Alex and living a very grown up life for someone in her early twenties. One day, I woke up and realized that I just couldn’t live that life anymore.

Alex and I had dated since I was 17 and he was 19. We had, in essence, grown up together. Or rather, I grew up. And he? Well, he didn’t. Not so much anyway. Not at the same rate as me, I guess. At any point, I didn’t love him anymore. At least not the way that you should love the man you’re planning to marry. I was sick of being his maid and his mommy and getting very little in return for that. It had started to feel more and more like we were roommates—not partners—and he wasn’t even a very good roommate at that.

So I did the most logical, yet hardest, thing I’d ever done: I packed up my things and left. I moved to a suburb about thirty minutes south of were Alex and I had been living. I’m not going to lie, lovely reader. I chose the suburb because a certain someone lived there.

Joe and I had reconnected months before. After having not spoken for years as a result of Joe crossing boundaries that never should’ve been crossed when you consider that I was the fiancé of his best friend, Joe emailed me and we started talking, which lead to us spending time together, which lead to me realizing how truly unhappy I was with my current situation. It should’ve been a bad sign to Alex that I was even talking to Joe at all, but he didn’t seem to care. And that’s what pushed me over the edge.

There had always been chemistry—a deep connection—between Joe and me. I know now, thanks to age, maturity, and hindsight, that it was just lust. But back then, it seemed like love. He encouraged me to move to the wonderful suburb he lived in. So, I did, and we started dating.

I found the greatest two-bedroom townhouse style apartment, which had a one car garage and its own entry (thus the “townhouse style”). I enjoyed my new found freedom and peace and quiet and took great pride in living on my own. Because Joe worked a second shift job, he’d often come over late on weeknights so that we could spend a little time together before I went to bed. Life seemed so great, and I was happier than I’d been in a long, long time.

One day, about six months after I’d moved into my apartment, I got home to find an envelope on my door. It was quite obvious that there was a very important message inside, because the envelope was fastened securely to the door with two large strips of silver duct tape. The envelope was addressed to Neighbor in Apartment 112, so it was definitely for me. I’ve included an artist's rendering below. (Note: I am the artist, and I’m not what you'd call very artistic, which I'm sure you'll notice.)

See? Whoever left this message really wanted me to get it. So, needless to say, I was eager to read it. Once inside my apartment, I tore open the envelope to find a one page handwritten letter:

Dear neighbor-

I wanted to make you aware of an issue that you might not be aware of, since I know you just moved in a few months ago. The walls and floors in these buildings are very thin, which means we can often hear much of what our neighbors do. (Editor’s Note: Seriously?! Someone’s gonna write a note to bitch about my TV being a little loud, or worse, me walking too loudly?) Many times this isn’t an issue, because we all tend to keep similar hours, but your boyfriend sometimes seems to visit kind of late at night. (Oh, Oh. Getting a little worried here.) I’m pretty sure he visited last night, which is what prompted me to finally write this letter. (Starting to wish this was just a complaint about how loud my TV is, but realizing it probably isn't.)

Last night, my young son woke me up at around 1 a.m. asking what was wrong with the lady in the other apartment. (My heart is in my throat.) He was quite upset because he thought that the lady was being hurt, because she kept screaming, “Oh, God! Oh, God!” I had to explain to him that the lady was fine and that she was probably just really excited about something. This isn’t the first time this has happened. (OHMYGOD! OHMYGOD! OHMYGOD! I have to move. NOW! Right this instant!)

What you do in your apartment is your own business, but I wanted to let you know that other people can hear you. I hope that we’re able to resolve this issue without getting the apartment management involved.

Thank you,
Concerned (and tired) Neighbor

By the time I finished reading the note, I was shaking and my face was a brilliant shade of red. For a few milliseconds, I was proud. But then, I was mortified. I knew (as I’m sure you do too) exactly what noises the neighbor was talking about. You see, many times when Joe came over late in the evening, we spent time in my bedroom doing what many normal twenty-somethings who are oh so in love do. And though I’d participated in such “adult activities” with my former fiancé, it had never been as much fun or as good. Joe liked to know how well he was “performing” and how much I was “enjoying myself,” so I, of course, obliged.

I could not believe this was happening to me. I felt like a teenager who'd just been caught by her parents. (Which, incidentally, never happend to me.) Once I realized that moving wasn’t an option, because running from my shame wasn’t worth the amount of money it would take to break the lease and pay a damage deposit and first month’s rent elsewhere, I began to wrack my brain over which neighbor left the note. I needed to know who I now had to avoid at all costs. I was so horrified that I contemplated never leaving my apartment ever again.

I didn’t take long for me to figure out that “Concerned (and tired) Neighbor” was the neighbor who lived in the apartment below mine, a single mom with a son who was probably around five years old. I only had one other neighbor, who was barely ever home and to my knowledge had no children. Also, since his apartment was to the right of my living room, which was on the opposite end of the apartment than my bedroom, it wasn’t too likely that he would’ve heard any goings on in the bedroom.

When my mortification subsided a bit, thanks to an instant messaging conversation with Joe in which we had determined that the neighbor was probably just jealous that I was “getting some” and she wasn’t, I was a little angry. While I appreciated my neighbor’s tact (Could you imagine her going to the apartment management to resolve this instead of first trying to deal with it directly first?! Mortification times a billion.), and the fact that she had written a note instead of trying to discuss the issue face-to-face, I was pissed that she had closed the note with what I perceived to be a bit of a threat.

Also, since this issue quite obviously disrupted her life, why had she waited six months to tell me about it?! What kind of sick person listens in on other’s “adult activities” like that?! I knew that she didn’t have her son on a regular basis, indicating that he perhaps was visiting his other parent quite a bit of the time, so I was sure that Little Miss Pervert only grew tired of the noise when it happened to occur on a night that her son was home. Would I have received a note had her son never heard? I doubted it. (What can I say? I was a stupid, embarrassed, paranoid twenty five year old.)

I resolved to avoid Concerned Neighbor at all costs, which would be a little tricky to do since we basically shared a driveway. However, I decided I could use the thin walls and floors to my advantage. Every time I got ready to go somewhere, before I actually left my apartment, I paused in front of the door; looking out the peephole and listening for signs that neighbor might also be leaving her apartment. This technique worked well for quite a while; until the day that I was unloading groceries from the trunk of my car and she pulled her car into her driveway right next to me. I quickly decided to pretend I didn’t notice her, hoping that she’d quickly exit her car and walk to her apartment.

But, as I turned to walk to my apartment, I noticed her standing not even three feet away from me. Oh no. Please don’t say anything. Please, please, please, please, please. I’d fixed the problem. Joe’s late night visits were limited to once per week, and I worked diligently to keep myself quiet on those visits. In fact, I was pretty sure I’d become the quietest neighbor in the world...I crept around my apartment as though the floor was filled with landmines and I barely ever turned the TV on, let alone turn the volume up.

I gave a quick smile and began walking to my apartment, willing her not to talk to me and not to follow me. Maybe, just maybe, she didn’t know that I was “Neighbor in Apartment 112.”

I heard a voice behind me, “Do you need any help?” I wanted to disappear.

I turned halfway towards her, careful not to meet her gaze, “Ummmm…no thanks. I’ve got it!” I smiled as I felt my face turning red; the embarrassment I’d felt weeks ago came flooding back.

“Are you sure? Looks like you’ve got your hands full. Let me at least get that garage door for you.” She reached her hand inside my garage stall and hit the button for the automatic door.

“No. Really. I’ve got it. Thanks for taking care of the garage door though!” followed by a huge smile. The garage door finished its descent, bringing the blaringly obvious 112 into full view. If she hadn’t known before who I was, she certainly knew now. I wished for a giant hole to open in the ground and swallow me up.

We began walking. As we got closer to the steps where she’d go down to go to her apartment and I’d go up to go to mine, I began sweating. Was she going to say anything? Should I say something? Just then, I dropped my keys. WHY does something like that always happen at the most inopportune times?

I turned to pick them up, but neighbor was quicker. “Sorry,” I said as she grabbed my keys off the sidewalk. As she handed them back to me, I looked her in the eyes, smiled warmly, and said, “Thank you so much.” I hoped she knew that the keys weren’t the only thing I was apologizing or thanking her for. I was so incredibly grateful that she was such a good neighbor.

I think she got the point, because from then on, we were always cordial. And, not only was I never confronted by management with any neighbor complaints, but in the year and half that I lived there after that, I never received another note.
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