My charitable uterus

They took my uterus and accompanying accessory parts. They weighed 11.4 ounces in total. That was 5 weeks ago and I still can’t sleep on my side. Why did I think I was Superman and would recover in 2 weeks? I was warned. This has been no picnic but I’m #cancerfree so there is that!

I bled for 6 months and joked about applying for a hardship grant to cover the cost of my feminine hygiene products. Then I really thought that through. Then I started the first chapter in my state of The Homeless Period Project. When we think about giving to those less fortunate we think about food and clothing. Those are necessities. I argue that personal health and hygiene are necessities too. What do homeless women do when they have their period? If you are down to your last $5 do you buy food or maxi pads? Why do you have to make this choice? These project are always needed and rarely donated. How about we give food, clothing AND some dignity?

There are chapters of the Homeless Period Project in many states. I encourage you to find them and give. Give products or money to buy products or your time and energy to host a product drive or your commitment to start a chapter in your area.



Musings & Personal

How Procrastination Made Me a Liar and a Gambler

Graduate school was a two year blur of working my courses into a very busy social life. I also worked on campus about 30 hours a week and that significantly dented my leisure time. Of course I’m a procrastinator. I always have been. That’s the way I roll. How could I possibly get excited about tasks unless there is some immediacy, some direness to the situation? I’m deadline driven and that’s exciting. Sometimes I have to play tricks on myself and impose artificial deadlines to get the work done. Yeah, I’m not foolin’ anyone. I blow through artificial deadlines because they are artificial. It’s a wonder I get anything done.

So I found myself in a dire situation one day, in a young and sheltered first-world problem kind of dire. I had a paper due Monday for my Alcohol and Chemical Dependency class. I remember it was a Sunday night and I was driving back to campus after visiting home. The ride was just over an hour and I remember it was daylight because the bumper sticker haphazardly stuck to the tollbooth next to the plastic change basket was clear as day. It read: 1-800-GAMBLER

The paper I needed to write wasn’t one of those where I could just sit down and pound it out while flipping through a pile of library books, text books and notes at 3 o’clock in the morning as I was known to do. Cell phones and the internet for commoners hadn’t been invented by then which must have made all of life so much more challenging but we didn’t know it yet. As part of my coursework I had to visit two “anonymous” meetings– you know the twelve step stuff– and write papers about the experiences. I had already gone to a very large “open” AA meeting at a men’s shelter with several of my other classmates in tow (or maybe I was the one in tow) and written that paper weeks earlier. For the second meeting, it could not be an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. It had to be some other kind of “anonymous”– a different addiction. Oh man. I hadn’t given this much thought. As I drove home that Sunday night I knew I was going to have to come face-to-face with my professor and own my bullshit and ask for an extension on the paper. I had not made it to a meeting.

I thought about that tollbooth sticker the rest of my ride home and I made that call as soon as I walked through the door of my apartment. I don’t know what made me call on a Sunday night and why I didn’t just throw in the towel knowing I would not get this paper done on time. I had already practiced my excuses speech and the phrasing of my begging for that extension. What a delightful surprise that someone at 1-800-GAMBLER answers the phone on Sundays! I don’t know why I was surprised. It is a hotline after all. An even more delightful surprise was that there was a meeting that night less than a 20 minute drive away! What? Awesome! “But it is a closed meeting, ma’am so you can only attend if you are the individual with the gambling problem. This is not for family and friends.” No problem (lie #1). Please give me the address.

There had to be 40 people at that meeting seated around a hollow square of tables in some church basement. I was so nervous. Of course I was immediately spotted as the new person. The presider of the meeting gave me a trifold brochure and told me there would be a point in the meeting where he will address me (in front of all these people!!!) and ask me some questions to see if I really belonged there. OMG. What have I gotten myself into? I took a seat among the men. The crowd was mostly men. Older men. To this day I can’t be sure that I didn’t see my Philosophy professor from two years previous, seated six or seven seats down along my side of the table. I couldn’t see past the other 5 or 6 heads in the row and I didn’t want to be too obvious trying to look. I also may have imagined that he was ducking behind some of those heads whenever I tried to sneak a peak.

It was supposed to be an anonymous meeting and I was there under false pretenses. My stomach was in knots and all I could do was stare at my hands in my lap until my moment of truth arrived. I made up a name (lie #2). I usually choose the made up name of Jennifer because my parents once told me that they pulled my name out of a hat when I was born. There were only two names in the hat and the other one, the one that is not my name, was Jennifer. Sometimes at restaurants or Starbucks I pick something more exotic like Jasmine or Penelope or Gertrude, so my common name doesn’t get missed when my drink or table are ready. In this case though, Jennifer felt safe– maybe more “anonymous”.

There was a list of 34 or 35 questions that the presider of the meeting would ask me out loud. If I answered yes to at least 17 of those questions I would be deemed a gambler (I’m paraphrasing here) and I would be welcomed into their fold. I would be able to stay for the rest of the meeting and invited back to future meetings.

So along we went with lies number three through twenty. I should say probably through twenty-one because I didn’t want to just come close. I wanted to nail it with two extra yeses. As I was answering questions asking if gambling has affected my relationships, living situation, ability to feed and clothe myself, I had my hands under the table counting off each time I said yes. It was so nerve-wracking but ultimately I was labeled a Gambler. I even let some tears well up in my eyes at some of the more sensitive questions, just to really sell my sincerity and maybe release some of that pent up nervousness by way of salty eyes.

I learned a lot about gambling from that meeting and I got an A on my paper which I turned in on time. I didn’t realize that things like scratch off lottery tickets and bowling leagues that win cash prizes are harmful/painful/dangerous for gamblers. Bingo games seemed innocent to me until I learned how poisonous they are to the problem gambler. People lose their cars, homes, retirement accounts, and spouses to gambling. As a student of counseling I found this assignment worthwhile, lies and tears included.

There weren’t any donuts or coffee like at the AA meeting. There was no delay in my attempt to get out of the door as fast as humanly possible but without seeming rude. I WAS just accepted into their fold. I had to affirm to three people on my way out that I would be back next week (lie #22, lie #23 and lie #24, although it could all be considered the same lie told to three different people but I’m on a roll here).

I thought I had finally escaped when I was stopped in the parking lot by a man with suede elbow patches on his jacket, despite looking younger than the other gamblers. My heart was beating so fast. I really did want to get the hell out of there before anyone asked me to elaborate on any of the twenty four lies I had told. This kind man made his best attempt at small talk and offered to be my sponsor. Really? That’s so nice. It was a little too soon to have a sponsor. Maybe we should discuss the pros and cons of having a sponsor right away over a cup of coffee, like right now if you want. No thank you.

I was single and it was tempting. I could have told one more lie and gotten a date out of it. I knew deep down I could not lie 25 times in one day. I mean, I had to draw the line somewhere. That seemed like a good hard line to draw. Plus, I had to get home and write a paper.

Musings & Personal

Confession: My Mommy is a Drug Addict

My mother is a drug addict. There I said it. You don’t know me so this couldn’t come as a shock. There are tons of people out there who are addicts, right? I’ve met many. I have a Masters degree in Counseling. I’ve taken courses on addiction. I’ve been to AA, NA and GA meetings, all in the name of research. GA means Gamblers Anonymous- that’s an interesting story for another day.

My earliest memory of drugs was of a time I didn’t know what they were, the mind altering effects, or that some consider them wrong (and mostly illegal). I was a kid and not yet in school when Mommy used to ask me to get “Mommy’s green pouch” (leather zippered thing) from behind the row of cookbooks on the first shelf. The shelf was incidentally at shoulder height for me. I suspect my stepfather wouldn’t think to go looking there but it didn’t matter because Mommy only smoked her weed in the middle of the day when he was at work.

Fast forward to my own drug use. I moved out of my Mommy’s house at age 8 and saw Mommy once a week, then once a month, then once a year until age 16 when we became estranged. I had the vague knowledge that my brother had smoke pot once or twice in high school but I was in a different crowd in high school or maybe I was just ignorant of who was doing drugs and when and where. In college I smoke my first joint at a party, by candlelight. A sizeable crew gathered after the club at someone’s apartment but the residents hadn’t paid their electric bill so there was a cooler full of ice, beer and a stick of butter, and a candle in the bathroom. My best friend and I didn’t want to seem uncool so when they passed the joint around I took a hit and another later and however many more for however long it made it around the circle. I did not get high. I got slightly dizzy. I was completely lucid, in my right mind and seemingly unaltered. Bummer.

This happened a handful of times- testing the waters with some pot. I always had the same result- dizzy but not high, except for that peanut butter cookie once. Could it be that I was immune to the effects of smoking it? Surely my mother must have smoked while she was pregnant with me. A quick internet search years ago confirmed my suspicion that someone had researched this phenomenon and found some percentage of boys whose fathers were pot smokers seemed to be immune to the effects. They didn’t research girls and moms but I’ll just assume. Once at a music festival I chewed on a mushroom and sucked some nitrous out of a balloon. THAT got me high for like 16 hours. I saw Jesus with a blue beard in the middle of the mosh pit. He helped me up when I fell down trying to retrieve my lost black Converse All-Star sneaker. I was definitely high.

I mention my own drug use because it’s no big deal, right? It is not my place to condemn others. I experimented with the more serious stuff just that once and didn’t make a habit out of it. And now legal in many states and touted for it’s medicinal purposes and recognized as a natural drug since it is a gift from Mother Nature, marijuana is no big deal. But my mother’s use troubles me. I have several friends who smoke everyday but I see them as old hippies. These are people with jobs- even good jobs, government jobs, professional jobs, jobs you would think would drug test but don’t. These other folks are full functioning adults who are contributing to society. So they get mellow once in a while? Mommy’s different.

We were estranged for a number of years then one day I was visiting my Grandmother and was surprised that my mom extended her stay so she could plot for us to have a teary reunion in a bus station. We spent a few days getting to know each other again- as adults. I was in my 20s. Yeah she busted out a joint on that trip but only once in front of me. We were in another country and she answered my quizzical look with the explanation that she had smuggled her dope into the country in a Tupperware container in her purse. After the reunion I vowed to visit her at home and kept my promise a year later. What I learned blew me away.

My car broke down on the way to my mom’s place, which was in a sketchy apartment complex someplace in upstate New York. I didn’t know it was sketchy because of my mom though. After a half dozen visitors came and went in and out of my mom’s bedroom she admitted that she dealt cocaine to the whole neighborhood out of her sock drawer. I should have suspected more was going on than her weed smoking because when I walked in after the car incident (I must have looked like a wreck) the first words out of her mouth were to offer me a Lithium. Sitting at that dining room table, in the middle of her rolling a joint and offering me one, came the statement “the only thing is though, I lace mine with cocaine.” Trying to be calm and collected I declined the joint and casually asked “how many of those things do you smoke a day?”, to which she replied, “I don’t know–six or seven.” WTF?

More staggering news came when in her mellow fogginess she admitted to me that the reason she moved upstate was because it was part of a plea bargain from when she got caught dealing cocaine. to an undercover agent. in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office. No shit. I Googled it the minute I got out of that house and found out she was not telling tales. She was the office dealer to all the attorneys and whoever else and when the new DA took over he said he was going to clean up the streets of Brooklyn and start with his own office. She was arrested in front of TV cameras on the steps of the building as a media stunt. In exchange she had to move outside of the borders of the City of New York.

I thought her shenanigans were over when a few years later my stepfather figured out what she was up to and moved the family to a remote house several towns away. I was wrong because one day my half sister called me up from Florida and said, “If mom calls, DON’T send her money.” She never called but I heard that my half-brother was in the hospital and quarantined for his Diverticulitis/IBS because swine flu was all the rage at the moment and they weren’t convinced his symptoms weren’t the flu. Well, it turns out he was a drug dealer too. In addition to delivering pizza and wings, he delivered drugs and carried a gun. While he was in the hospital my mother snorted his entire coke inventory which must have been on consignment because the kingpin (if I’m using that word correctly) threatened to break all my brothers bones if they didn’t get the money. When my half-sister called me, mom was in the process of hocking all of her jewelry and anything else she could, to get the money together and save her son’s life. I’m glad she didn’t call me for money. I wouldn’t know what to do.

I heard more interesting stories as I developed a relationship with my half-sister who is eleven years my junior. There was the time our mom had a part time job and stole money from the safe in the office. She was also fired for stealing a prescription pad from a doctor she worked for and forging her own prescriptions for pain pills at multiple pharmacies in multiple towns. I remember when I was in high school and she shoplifted while we were together– in a store where two of my high school friends were working at that moment. I wonder what my face looked like when I had that realization standing there at the register with a clear view inside the tote bag on her shoulder, sheltering her stolen goods.

I’ve seen my mother a few times since our reunion over twenty years ago. Her husband moved the family once again to a more remote location, this time in a different state. She is raising my half-brother’s daughter who is almost in high school. My half-brother never comes around anymore. I have to wonder how she is scoring her pot now. Back at the apartment years earlier I said “where do you go to get this stuff?” and she said, “Oh honey, I have it delivered.” The last time I saw her was two years ago. All her teeth had rotted out of her mouth except for maybe 6 of them and she reeked of pot. I saw a photo of her online (I stalk my niece’s FB page) a few weeks ago and she was in a wheelchair (maybe that was temporary- they were doing a tourist thing). She’s only 19 years older than me but I guess the drugs take their toll. I don’t know that I’ve fully processed all the information I’ve shared here but I can say with certainly for the first time out loud that my mother is a drug addict. There, I said it. No big deal, right?

Musings & Personal

There will always be homes messier than mine and there will always be homes cleaner than mine

I have a love-hate relationship with my home. On the most basic level I know it is shelter and nothing more. On the other hand, I see glossy magazine photos of stunning surroundings and I get a.) jealous and b.) depressed. I remember when I had my first apartment and it was such a thrill to choose furniture and décor on my own. I recall creating a scrapbook/ style book of photos snipped from magazines- furniture, accessories, color schemes, etc. I think they call it Pinterest these days (a truly genius idea) but back then it was my black and white hard covered composition notebook. I know for a fact I still own the Encyclopedia of Window Decorations. My first house was a mash up of items carried over from previous apartments and the joy of buying curtains. But that is where it stopped.

I understand that some people actually redecorate their homes, choosing new accessories or paint colors or furniture for the sake of redecorating. Maybe I’m just too pragmatic for that. I only replace items that “need” to be replaced. When the unserviceable saggy sofa, in all its blue and white striped glory had to go (shortly after my husband did), the orange replacement sofa (a joint purchase with my new boyfriend) prompted a new area rug and curtains in shades of brown. There was also that time the white walls were dingy and needed a paint job so 3 walls of one room got painted. I’ve been in my home for 14 years and these are the only cosmetic changes I have made since my original move-in decorating. I’m also very slow to make necessary repairs but that is driven mostly by finances.

Now, I’ve seen polar opposites when it comes to people’s homes. My ex’s family are hoarders. I do believe there is an irrational attachment to inanimate objects and the steps to becoming overwhelmed in their own homes took place over many years. The older generation references a Great Depression attitude that prevails as the reason for the condition of their home. To me that seems to admit their denial of rational thought. They were in essence saying “we know this attitude is not rational but this is what we subscribe to”. I considered their home a polar end point. There was 40 year old stained carpet on the floor, wallpaper peeling off the walls in long strips, a new television sitting atop an old (maybe broken?) television, closets with doors you couldn’t close, kitchen counters you couldn’t see, kitchen cabinets you couldn’t get close enough to reach into, and a single path from the front door to the living room that was only as wide as necessary for the plumpest relative to navigate. The house smelled of the many cats that lived there and when the stove couldn’t be reached at meal time, there was a microwave in the dining room and a barbecue grill in the back yard sandwiched between the caved in, overgrown weed garden previously known as an above-ground pool, and a pile of who knows what that included at least one discarded hood of a car. Once, I walked into the house to see the dining room table piled with stuff that was then covered with a large white sheet. I wondered why it was necessary to cover this mess I’ve seen many times before. Did they think it didn’t exist if it was covered? I wondered this as I sat eating from a paper plate on my lap, perched atop whatever was on the sofa at that moment (newspapers? a sock? a skein of yarn?).

On the polar opposite might be the homes you see in those magazines. For me it’s what I’ve seen in person at my parents’ new home. Every bit of everything is in its place. There is not a smudge on a window, a mark on a wall or a scuff on the floor. Where did they stow yesterday’s mail? Surely there must be hidden compartments everywhere. It is the place where you can literally eat off the floors. All the furniture matches the rugs which match the throw pillows which match the accent paint on the inside of the bookcase which matches the flowers on the vase on the top shelf…you get the picture. I remember visiting their old house for a week but spending one night away. When I returned, I received a lecture on how I left too much hair on the bathroom floor and did I think my mother was my maid. I remember while growing up that things weren’t so sterile and I have to wonder as my parents moved into their second and now third house together, did things have to be a little more perfect each time? What are they working towards?

My own home is somewhere in the middle. There will always be homes messier than mine and there will always be homes cleaner than mine. I want so much to say that I don’t care but a small part of me does. Why else do I own books on Feng Shui and decluttering? Why do I own books on decorating rich on a budget or how to clean your home from A to Z? I cannot rationalize why I surround myself with clutter and hate to do housework. I love the moments after the carpet is freshly vacuumed or the toilet seat hasn’t been touched since it was cleaned. I love when the stainless steel sink gleams and the dirty laundry baskets sit empty. After rare attempts to clear the clutter from the coffee table or the countertop under the microwave, the temporary clean spots almost always evoke joy. Why then do I not choose to spend my time cleaning and straightening when I like the results? I have the time which is currently assigned to TV watching. Surely I can rearrange my priorities?

I can’t answer this. I can just explore it. I’m trying to convince myself that clutter equals psychic clutter and remind myself of the phrase “you can’t take it with you”. I know advice is doled out about when you don’t use something for a year (or even six months?) it was time to regift or recycle or upcycle or donate or throw away– somehow remove it from your life. Why is this so difficult though? I obviously acquired an item because I thought I would need it. Maybe I used it and might use it again. Maybe it was replaced by an upgraded version of the item but I can’t get rid of the original because it would serve as a great “backup”. Maybe I spent money on it so I think it’s value shall not be discarded. It could be anything– a sleeping bag (when will I camp again? probably never), a spatula (do I need 3 kitchen flippers?), scrapbooking supplies (will I get back to the hobby I last enjoyed 10 years ago?), oven mitts (I only have two hands), painful shoes bought for that special dress (which I will find more comfortable shoes for if I ever need to wear the dress again), more photo frames than photos actually printed out to put in them or space to display them, etc. The list can go on forever. I’ve been “collecting” all my life.

I noticed when people move they decrease the amount of their possessions, sometimes even if they are moving to a larger place. Maybe I need to move- that might help my problem. Have you ever thrown away something just to need it at a later date? Then you have that moment where you remember owning it, don’t remember getting rid of it but then rationalizing that you must have because you can’t find it in the place where it has always been? Then you have vague memories of the rationalization you went through in your mind that prompted you to get rid of the item so you must have gotten rid of it? Yeah, that happens to me. After those instances, I feel smug about the idea of holding onto stuff in case you need it. THAT is a hoarders perspective- I KNOW it.

So why is it that I care but don’t care? I would like to have fewer possessions weighing me down (self-help book perspective) but I am hesitant to get rid of stuff. I like the feeling of a clean house but I have no desire to clean it (maybe it’s just too cluttered to clean? That’s a thing, right?). I’ve never felt the need to have a showplace home but I’m too embarrassed by the condition to have people over (broken front steps and a front planting bed full of weeds for starters). I treat my home like a functional space with disregard for appearances. It’s a love-hate relationship. I love that I have my own space– a roof over my head and incidentally a place to keep my stuff. I also hate the burden of it– being torn between knowing I should some how be better at it but thinking it’s my own space and I get to say how much I care about it or don’t care. If nobody comes over there is nobody to judge me, right? I want to get one of those “welcome” mats that says “Go Away”!

I think I’m going to need to read some books and articles to explore why I should have fewer things and keep a cleaner home. Or maybe I’ll find a book on why I shouldn’t care- that would be liberating!

Musings & Personal

Why can’t I remember anything with a plot?

I’ve recently started reading novels again. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with reading. I know that sounds crazy. When I was a kid, I read because I had to for school and I suppose it was recommended at home and maybe because I would get beaten if I didn’t read. Then when I was a pre-teen and teenager, I routinely went to the library and checked out books. The library was just 3 or 4 blocks from our house and my brother and I would walk down there together and kill some serious time. I remember the park across the street. I remember the high ceilings and the young adult section off to the right with dark green walls and maybe a mural- with a tree. I remember the dark wood check out counter. It was an old building and part of the New York City Public Library system. In retrospect it was fairly grand architecture to my child’s mind. On the corner across from the library, there was a lamppost and a fire call box side-by-side. If you touched a bolt on the side of the fire call box with one hand and touched the lamppost with the other, an electrical shock would go through your body. I don’t know how we learned this but I know we shocked ourselves on purpose every time we went to the library.

In high school I read only what I had to and maybe one or two philosophical books because my boyfriend at the time was a philosopher in his own mind. I thought I could understand him if I read them too. In college I didn’t read any novels because I had textbooks to read and since I never kept up on my textbook reading, I couldn’t possibly make time to read anything more. Plus, I’m a social creature and I would never have been able to tear myself away from whatever excitement of the moment was captivating me, to have quiet time and read. Ditto for grad school.

The summer after grad school I had my first real job in a strange town and I really didn’t know many people just yet. I recall being proud to read 11 books that summer. That number stuck in my head but I only recall maybe 3 titles on that list. Since then there have been one or two authors that I would pick up a series to read. Mostly it included popular books like the vampire stuff or the boy with the lightening bolt on his forehead stuff. Sure I wouldn’t pass up a chance to shop at the library book sale. I have plenty of books I have all intention of reading some day lining the shelves at home. Now, reference books are a different story. I love reference books, coffee table books, picture books.

I just realized today how the tide has turned. Six years ago I started commuting by train. I spend at least 45 minutes each direction reading on my e-reader. At first I would read the paper on the way to work and a book on the way home. I think the biggest increase in my reading pace came from two things. First I got access to free library books to download and second I started this new job 3 months ago where I read on the train in both directions and I can also read the newspaper and books at work since I have nothing to do. I realized this today because I got onto the goodreads website and I can see that I have read 20 books so far this year, which outpaces all of last year. I was surprised to see I had read so many books. My e-reader removes borrowed titles so between amazon prime books and library books, they would normally have been forgotten if it wasn’t for me tracking on goodreads.

Unless I look at the list, I can’t really name many of the books or authors I seriously JUST READ. WTF? There is a finite amount of time I will remember the plots. That time is calculated in weeks not years. I know I am a slow reader and I read every word. Why can’t I remember them? Am I learning disabled? This does not stop at books. I can’t recall plots of plays I have seen either. And don’t get me started on movies! I can watch a movie and get halfway through before I realize that I had seen it before or might have seen it before, and quite possibly within the last year. I know it’s not a memory problem because I can hear a song twice and memorize 90% of the lyrics- no joke. I can recall conversations verbatim. I rarely lose objects because I really do remember where I put everything. I can remember things I’ve seen and done but why can’t I remember a plot?

I only have one theory and it’s not even a good one. I hope that one day someone will study this phenomenon if it is in fact a phenomenon and not just my surely diminished brain. My theory is that I am so caught up in the moment, so involved in the story and every part of it, that I am living it as it happens and processing it as it happens so that I can only store it in my short-term memory bank. I think I’m feeling the story- it’s an emotional happening and an emotional memory instead of an intelligent one. That’s all I’ve got. I would love to know if anyone else has this trouble or what theories are out there.

Character Study

Character Study: the most interesting woman in the world

Okay, the title should say The most interesting woman in MY world, but THE world sounded catchier. Years ago I met an very interesting woman. I want to use the word girl because she was a baby-faced 19 year old, but to be fair I will say woman. She was so interesting that even though I only “knew” her, spent time with her, communicated with her, kept up on her whereabouts for a couple of years, I still think of her often and tell her tales to others.

There is no big backstory of her life, just an ordinary upbringing, but there must have been a spark or an outright fire living inside of her that propelled her towards adventure and success. At sixteen she danced for the Richmond ballet. She was so tiny they called her little butterfly and she was often “lifted” by the other dancers. One bad drop and her dancing was over but that’s okay because there was college to get to.

In college she wanted to study Anthropology but the affordable not very prestigious college she went to lacked substance in that department. That wouldn’t stop her from finding a program that allowed her to take a year abroad through another university and transfer the credits. She wanted to study in Africa so off she went. She designed her own course for one year with four distinct segments. Among her activities were a study on condom use and prostitution in Nairobi, and domesticating a lemur in Madagascar. The lemur paper earned her an invitation to present at a prestigious research conference- at the age of 19. Of course she came back to the US with worms and malaria but she was smart enough to stop in France on the way home and pick up malaria medication since it was only a dollar per pill there and outrageously priced in the US. Her worms were on an 18 month incubation so that was a gift that kept on giving for awhile.

In Kenya she was mugged by a machete-wielding thief but by far her scariest story was when she was “invited” but really coerced to join a gentleman of power and influence for dinner. She knew well enough not to put on the berka that his entourage presented her to wear, as she assumed it an act of possession or even so far as a commitment to marry. Scared the whole time she waited until after dark, snuck into the powerful man’s adjoining hotel room, stole some money out of his wallet on the nightstand and slipped out of the window into the night.

She wasn’t just accomplished on the international scene. Even in her stateside college experiences she excelled. Her grades were top notch and her inquisitive mind was cherished by her professors. She had many friends and held leadership positions in her afterschool activities. She was smart and witty and funny and thoughtful. She was creative and a whiz at computers and graphic design long before computers were so commonplace. She was incredibly wise beyond her years.

As I’ve recently been thinking of her, I decided to do an internet search for her very common name. I learned she went to an ivy league school for her PhD and was a professor at a prestigious school on the opposite coast from where she grew up. She even published a book that I found on Amazon. I uncovered an email and phone number and thought I would make contact, but something made me click one more link and I discovered she died. She couldn’t have been older than 38 or 39.

I was so sad to learn this but what haunts me is the day she told me all those years ago, about the premonition she had that she would die young, “like in my 30s” she said. That IS most interesting, isn’t it?

Character Study

Character Study- the Fugitive’s daughter and best friend

Oh I have a most fascinating new friend who has fascinating stories. I don’t know her very well to pick apart personality traits in a traditional kind of character study but I need to include her in this blog series because I love her stories. Here are two of her best in abbreviated forms.


Her father had a son from a previous relationship. He abandoned said son but whenever he got drunk he talked about going to try to find him. One day he loaded his kids in the car and drove a few hours from the country to a slightly dangerous city. It took all day of visiting the old neighborhood to find said son who turned out to be a thug. Some time soon after said son’s mother sent the 19 year old to live in the country with his father and the new family.

One day the thug son and another party robbed a bank, which my friend as a child was suspicious of only because she and her cousin went to the basement when nobody else was home and found paper currency with red dye stains hung to dry along yards and yards of clothesline suspended from the ceiling. They ran back upstairs and kept quiet. Fast forward a few days when my friend’s mom told her not to answer the door but she did. The nice lady (detective) asked her if that was her daddy’s car in the open garage. Yes it was so the nice lady talked into her own shoulder and federal agents busted into the house and searched it top to bottom looking for her father or some evidence. Late that night after the agents left, her father showed up in her bedroom, woke her up and told her he had to go away and she wouldn’t see him again. She cried and went back to sleep. Thirty years went by before she saw her father again.

You see, what had happened was her father’s thug son was new in town and looked just like his father. The thug had taken his laundered bills to the local bowling alley and stuffed them into the change machine to get rid of them in exchange for piles of quarters. The machine had just been emptied of bills and restocked so when it needed more change so quickly and the bills inside were red, they rolled back the videotape to easily identify my friend’s father even though it was the son nobody knew about. Even more damning was the thug’s use of his father’s car.

So my friend’s dad went on the run- a fugitive on a wanted list. He traveled all over and sent occasional cryptic postcards from different far away cities. His thug son went back to the slightly dangerous city and a few years later was shot doing something he wasn’t supposed to be doing. My friend’s mom lost her government job because of her husband’s status and later married the taxi cab driver that drove her home from her last day at the office. Crazy, right?


So my friend also had a high school ex-boyfriend who was a drug dealer. One day a dozen or more months after their breakup he came to her door to ask if she would store a duffel bag in her closet. She resisted but he begged and she gave in. He had been out with a friend doing something he shouldn’t have been doing in a dangerous part of town and his friend was shot to death. Ex-boyfriend drug dealer needed to get out of town and lay low so he went several states away for several dozen months. The duffel bag was huge and heavy and sat in the back of her closet. It had a lock on it and she was instructed never to try to open it. Upon his return, he came back for the bag, heaved it onto her bed and opened it. He took out the gun that was laying on top and dug out four giant stacks of currency. These four stacks contained twenty thousand dollars that represented a tiny fraction of the duffel’s contents. He placed the stacks on her bed and told her it was payment for having been so loyal. He told her he knew she wouldn’t open the bag and he knew he could trust her. This was over 25 years ago and in this day and age with his thug life behind him and a new life of a successful business and philanthropic activities, the secret still binds them together as friends.


So this fascinating friend is the daughter of a former fugitive and the friend of another. I can’t wait to hear more stories and perhaps even share them!

Character Study

Character Study: the Adult Picky Eater

I had a co-worker who has control issues. That’s my unofficial diagnosis. Picture this typical meal plan:

Breakfast: 5 mini powdered donuts OR a Little Debbie’s brownie

Lunch: 1 can of Barq’s root beer and 10-15 saltine crackers OR 1 can of Barq’s root beer and a stack of Better Cheddars

Dinner: a potato, sliced and fried in a pan at home OR a potato baked in the oven OR McDonald’s French fries OR a bowl of cereal with milk

Snacks: as much Hershey’s chocolate (candy bars or Kisses) or peanut butter M&M’s she could stuff in her face in any given day.

Once I saw her eat an apple. On very special occasions when dining at a restaurant she will order a plain hamburger Medium-well– no bun, no lettuce or tomato, no pickles, no cheese- just plain, with fries. On a very, very rare special occasion replace the hamburger with a steak, but don’t forget the fries. Just once the steak came with a baked potato and cooked carrots, which I think she had a couple of. Yay carrots- an almost vegetable only slightly better than the almost vegetable of potato. She does not eat pasta or bread but will eat pepperoni pizza. This I do not understand.

You wonder how one survives like this- essentially no vegetables, or at least no green vegetables. She is an average sized person. She claims she gains weight when she visits her parents because she eats her mom’s cooking. Her mother must buy potatoes by the truckload for such occasions. What gives?

My (Unprofessional) Opinion

She has control issues. She is an only child and her parents doted on her- still do. Her father travels for work so all her life she spoke to him on the phone every day to make up for the fact that he wasn’t around much. Now that she is 35 years old, she still talks to each of her very healthy active parents every single day. I guess there is a section of the population that does this, especially I would guess only children. [I get to pass judgment because apparently I’m a shitty daughter and never call home] The level of parental involvement in this fully grown adult’s life seems too much to me. Her father tells her which funds to put her retirement money into; picks out her cars and tells her when to trade them in and when to get oil changes; and tells her which relatives to call and check on or send cards to or visit. She is on his cell phone plan even though he lives half a country away. Her parents know exactly how much time it takes her to get home from work and they call her at that time. If they cannot get ahold of her they panic. Her father buys her diamonds and other expensive jewelry for every occasion until she “has a husband” to buy them for her. She only gets new clothes when her mother is shopping with her or if her father buys them for Christmas or her birthday. I don’t think she feels free to live her own life. She is a virgin and has never had a romantic relationship. She claims she doesn’t want to date or meet people because she would have to explain her eating habits and couldn’t go to restaurants on a date. She only has maybe 5 friends. In her free time she reads and watches TV. She goes to the movies alone. She has no other hobbies. I think food is the only thing she can control.

What happens when you have poor nutrition? I don’t know how things directly relate because I’m not a doctor but these are her crosses to bear. She has pasty white skin. She has to go to bed early because it takes hours to fall asleep and she often wakes in the night and can’t get back to sleep. She has debilitating migraines and is on several medications for them. She is terribly weak- like has difficulty lifting items that average 12 year olds could lift. She is always cold- like uses a space heater in the summer at the office. She had to wear braces for the second time in her life and still wears retainers because her teeth shift easily. She has had to have periodontal surgery on all four quadrants of her mouth. She has to go to a physical therapist to work out all the tension in her neck and shoulders.

What happens when you don’t have close relationships or family nearby? Every single little thing that happens is monumental and shared at work. She spilled a can of root beer once and told the very long, excited story of how and why she tripped and the detailed consequences for a week straight to anyone who would listen twice. Her co-workers also lost a week of their lives to her water cooler story of buying milk at Target that expired before the expiration date (100% true story) and how she felt about it. Things most of my friends would never mention as “funny” or “interesting” stories are the norm.

I find this Adult Picky Eater just fascinating. We no longer work together but she keeps in touch regularly, to talk about books and people we used to know. She is nice enough to be friends with- or I’m too nice to cut off our “friendship”. I think I feel bad for her that she is trapped in her own life and has no one around (her other friends live out of town). My final assessment:

Behavior motivated by: approval from parents balanced with need to have control

Fantasy world contains: A giant library and all the time in the world to read

Character Study

Character Study: A new blog series

I decided I know some seriously interesting people. At least I believe they are interesting. I’ve always been interested in people- what motivates them, their personality traits, their stories, their actions. Some people are extraordinarily fascinating to me and I thought others who find people interesting might find the people I know interesting too. Since my blog is meant to be anonymous, I only invited 2 people to follow it and only one of them is actually a follower so I feel like I’m safe to put people I know on display since you don’t know who I am or who they are. Safe. I will title these entries Character Studies. And of course I will use code names and change identifying information…well, not information about their identity in an abstract sense, but information that you the reader would use to identify them. You get it.

Enjoy the series that debuts right now.

Musings & Personal

too much TV and the time the car hit our house

I watch too much television. I know others keep this deep dark secret too but from what I see on Facebook, some are letting the light in. It didn’t used to be this way. TV wasn’t such a big thing for me as a kid, maybe because there were so few channels or maybe it’s because I had better things to do. When I was a kid, we had a “family room”. Since then, I have never seen a family room in any other house I’ve ever been in that was so small. There was a tall cabinet with the TV, a small sofa (which we called a love seat- is that still a common term?), and maybe a “desk” which was two short file cabinets with a Formica top laid across them. I don’t even think were was a chair for the desk or a proper coffee table. I can’t recall all the exact details, mostly just the feel of the room. I spent some very memorable moments in that room, but TV wasn’t a part of them. I remember smooching a boy in that room with the door closed during a party that my parents were throwing. We literally fogged up the windows. I also remember sitting on the loveseat talking on the phone to my boyfriend at some ungodly hour (a landline of course on a phone with a cord. The phone was shaped like Mickey Mouse and my parents still have that phone) at the exact moment that a car hit our house.

That’s right. A car hit our house. Let’s say our house is on North Street, facing North. Looking out of the front door, the street on the left, or West side of us is 1st Street and the street on the right, or East side is 2nd Street, hypothetically. There were 5 houses on our side of the street and we were the 2nd house from 1st Street. A two car collision on the corner of North Street and 2nd Street subsequently crashed into a parked car at the corner of North and 2nd (but on the opposite side of the street from our house). The unoccupied vehicle careened diagonally down the street, past the distance of 3 houses, across our neighbor’s driveway, diagonally across our front lawn, and into the corner of our house. Sixteen more inches to the right and the car would have gone past our house and our neighbor’s (which was set further back) and ended up on 1st Street! Holy shit, right? I had to hang up that Mickey Mouse phone FAST and sneak back upstairs to my room so I wouldn’t get in trouble for being on the phone so late at night, even though it was clearly the least of my parents’ problems at that moment.

So time spent watching television in the family room was restricted to maybe some Benny Hill before dinner and some Pee Wee’s Playhouse on Saturday mornings. I loved that show so much that I kept at least a whole season’s worth of “Word of the Day” entries jotted down somewhere. So here is why I didn’t watch much TV- the room was occupied. The loveseat didn’t fit more than my parents on it. If the kids wanted to watch TV they had to sit on the floor. Each night after dinner, the kids did the dishes and the parents went off to the family room to watch whatever shows parents watched. I was only vaguely aware that JR was shot because I heard some girls in school talking about it. What did I do instead of watch TV? No internet–imagine that. I read magazines, did homework, wrote letters to my 25 pen pals, talked on the phone, listened to my cassettes on my Walkman, cut up old clothes to hand sew into new clothes, write in my journal, look up my latest dream in the dream dictionary, organize my doo-dads. Whatever.

So off I went to college. I think my roommate had a TV to watch soap operas but I didn’t spend much time in my room. I don’t recall anyone having a VCR- we may have still had a Betamax at home. The funny thing is, I didn’t miss TV. We were in college and I don’t think anyone missed TV. We were too busy figuring out how much Scrunchy Bear punch mix from ShopRite was a good combo with our cheap plastic bottled vodka. We were too busy with homework and papers and all-nighters trying to study for exams. We were too busy with extracurricular activities like all the entertainment coming to campus- concerts, comedy shows, performing arts. We were too busy “hanging out”, being social, making new friends, wandering around looking for parties. That is why I cried like a baby when my parents showed up on campus for my (21st?) birthday and brought me a wonderful gift that I’m sure my dad spent too much time combing through issues of Consumer Reports to find: a television. WHAT? I’m sure I half-heartedly thanked them in the moment. I didn’t actually cry until they left. What in the world would I do with this thing? My parents didn’t know a thing about me. That’s what made me cry. I think I logged about four hours on that TV during an election or the Olympics or something I had to see.

Well guess what? I’m making up for lost time. I’m ashamed to say I watch TV every night and then record the shows I can’t watch live. I get sucked in to it all! Sometimes on weekends we binge watch a series on Netflix. I decided years ago never to have a TV in the bedroom- thank goodness! But it just means I delay bedtime because it is so damn hard to pull myself away from the idiot box and the couch. My significant other is just as addicted- maybe more so which is why I don’t know if I can quit. Sure we still get out and have social time or get away for a weekend but then we get stressed when the DVR is 90% full–how would we ever get caught up?

I’m embarrassed about how much TV I watch but here’s the thing– maybe I don’t have to quit. Who says? Society? Maybe it makes me more fun at parties when I can discuss current ‘wow’ moments on current shows. Maybe I’m learning a little extra something when I watch news shows like Vice or talk shows like Bill Maher’s show or that show about how things are made or some History Channel stuff. Maybe I will find more people admit to their TV obsession too, so many that we don’t call it an obsession anymore. Maybe, just maybe.