ME TOO

There was a man at my church, who whenever he saw me would want to pick me up and carry me around. He'd ask me to kiss his cheek. I was maybe five or six. I remember being small and feeling his large hand tight around my upper thigh, just under the skirt of my church dress. The first time he did this, it made me laugh. Every little kid wants to be picked up and carried around. I was just at that age were I was too big to be carried around by my Dad. So being picked up was a treat. But then this man did this every time he saw me, picking me up and squeezing me tight. He was always begging for kisses even though I pushed away. I didn't want to be picked up. I didn't want to feel his hands on my body. I didn't want to kiss his cheek. But I played along because I didn't want to hurt his feelings and when I couldn't take another encounter with him, I started hiding, ducking behind a bookshelf or into a stairwell. 

I thought for a long time that this is just the way things are. A woman's body is never just her own. In everything I had seen on TV, covers of magazines and the romance novels that piled up next to my mother's bedside table, a woman was always being manhandled. We were told this was normal and that this is what we should want. We should want a man to touch our bodies. We should be flattered by it. We should even use it to our advantage. As a young girl and teen, those moments when a boy tried to touch me were so rare, that when it did happen, I almost felt grateful. I had zero confidence in my body or how I looked and those rare encounters made me believe for a moment that maybe I was attractive. Maybe I wasn't just a chubby pimply faced awkward girl. We were taught that our self worth was measured by how much a man wanted to touch your body, even if his touch makes you feel like throwing up. 

It wasn't until college when I found my voice. I'd hang out with my roommate in the guys dorms. She had a thing for one of the basketball players and we'd sit in his room while they smoked pot and listened to R Kelly. One of the other basketball players was always trying 'get with me'. Those where his words. He was never forceful, just persistent. His persistence made me feel uncomfortable, like there was something wrong with me for not wanting to be with this guy, for not wanting him to touch me. Maybe I was 'frigid'. I had yet to lose my virginity. Was it because I wouldn't just give in, even when I felt nothing for this guy other than annoyance? It seemed like punishment for having standards, for wanting a partner who was my equal. Punishment for wanting a partner who treated my body less like an object and more like a temple. One day, for no reason other than I had finally had enough, I told that guy "NO". I told him that his advances made me feel uncomfortable. It made me not want to be around him. So I wasn't. I walked away and stayed away. 

Then there was Chris, who was that equal partner. He treated my inexperience carefully and gently. He did not persist. He let me make my first skittish moves. He let my body be my own. This in itself made me feel more attractive than any of those previous encounters. Chris was a protective barrier to a point, but Chris's presence didn't stop other men from the occasional touch. There's always that guy who thinks it's just fine to pat you on the ass. After Chris, when I was alone, I found myself in more and more situations where a guy would find excuses to touch me. I would recoil, step back, jump away. Even though there were times I craved human touch, I did not welcome this encroachment on my personal space. I did not encourage it. I was never asking for it. A couple of years ago, I went to get a massage. It was at a spa I'd been to before, with a massage therapist I had been with once before. Near the end he asked me if he could massage my chest. I was just recovering from a chest cold and the muscles in the upper part of my chest were tight. I consented thinking that the massage therapist was going to work on that area, which he did. Then his hands were on my breasts. I remember thinking even then 'this is okay, there's muscles there too that need to be released', reassuring myself. Then his hands moved to my nipples and alarm bells rang in my head. This was not okay. But I laid there and let it happen, too ashamed to say a word. 

So many people wonder why it has taken so long for all of these women to come forward with their confessions of sexual harassment. Those people must be fortunate enough to never have experienced the shame and humiliation that comes from being sexually harassed. I have never told the story about the massage therapist to any one, until today. At the time it was happening, I was too shocked to believe it was really happening. Then, I was ashamed of myself and embarrassed. I had given him permission to massage my chest and when he crossed a line, I did nothing to stop it. I had asked for it, right? Except it does not make his actions right. What about that man from church? I never told him "no". I never asked him verbally to stop. I was six. Just because I didn't say no, does not make his actions right either. Admitting that you were vulnerable and trusted another human to not take advantage of your vulnerability is not an easy thing to do. 

It takes a lot of courage. 

Every woman who steps forward, even if it has been years since the incident, gives another woman courage to speak. It sends the message to every man that we will not stay silent and we will not let you behave this way. Fathers who thought this could never happen to their daughters or brothers who believed they could protect their little sisters from predators, are now aware that, yes this can happen. Because I am positive that there are fathers out there who truly believe that this is not going to happen to his little girl. My own brother is probably going to be completely surprised by my own stories of sexual harassment. For far too long we've let society put the blame on the victim and it has silenced us. It stops now. I'd like to believe that the Cabbage is never going to have to tell a story about being sexually harassed. Though, I am not that naive. I don't want her to feel ashamed. I don't want her to be scared to speak up, to scream "NO!". I want her to know that she owns her own body, and nobody else does. 

That's why I am telling my story. 

AMERICAN

The Huffington Post Bus that is currently touring the country collecting stories, was here on Tuesday. I thought about going, but got too busy with work to really sneak out for an hour. They were asking people what they think it means to be an American. I thought about this question all day. It rolled around like a marble in my head and every time it would land in one spot, I would think that I had an answer. Though, really, I don't know what it means to be an American any more. The Cabbage was reading one of her science readers on the way home from our camping trip. I looked over at it to see she was on a page illustrated with underwater pod systems for living under water. I said "Oh, is that how you think we're going to live when the sea levels rise." The Cabbage replied "I was just reading about rising sea levels on the page before this one!"

This is when I looked at her and said "I am so sorry." I went on to explain that I have done my best, but that I was sorry that it wasn't enough. We're leaving her with a mess of a planet. This conversation all took place before I had read about Pruitt's repeal of a major carbon emissions rule and more tweets from a president encouraging a nuclear war with North Korea. While he's distracting most with outrage over peaceful protests, this president is pushing a tax plan that will hurt the middle and lower class, pushing health care reform that will make it so that employers heath coverage will no longer cover birth control and poking nuclear weapons with a stick. He continues to fuel the fire that divides this country. 

The word 'American' conjures up some pretty unflattering and negative thoughts. This is a country of people who owned other people. This is a country that stole land and resources from native people. This is a country where we have suppressed the rights of others. At the same time the word 'American', for me, also conjures up feelings of perseverance. We are hard workers. We are innovators. We all come from or are immigrants who came to a country for a better life and in the process managed to help build a better nation. We've let ourselves forget about the amazing things we can do in this country when we work together. We salute a flag and say a pledge more out of habit than true devotion. The Pledge of Allegiance is something we learn early. We say it so many times, I wonder if over time the words have just lost value. You know how you can say a word over and over until it no longer sounds right? 'Hot in Topeka' suddenly becomes 'I'm a hot toe picker.' I think that's what's become of our pledge. We've forgotten the part about liberty and justice for all. 

Being an American means truly meaning that part about liberty and justice for ALL and doing what is needed to make that happen. It means having strength and not just sitting around, hoping for a better future for our children, but actually getting my hands dirty to make it a better future. It means calling my senators daily, being truly informed on ballot issues and voting. It means doing what I can to ease the burden we have put on this planet and it's resources. It means using my voice to speak out against injustice and racism. It means setting a good example as a smart and talented woman, showing little girls that they can do anything. ANYTHING! 

Being an American is hard. 

 

OMEN

Yesterday, I pulled up in the driveway on my scooter. The cat was sitting at the top of the drive and as I got closer, I realized he had a snake he was tormenting. The snake turned and headed right towards my foot and I hastily scooted forward out of his way. I am sure he was harmless. He had a square head of a harmless snake, but still. Snakes make me squeamish for some reason. I have been known to easily capture large bugs, lizards and frogs and hold these creatures in my hands, studying them before letting them go, but I have never been comfortable around snakes. They make my heart seize in my chest and my hands shaky. Even the harmless ones. There's something about the way a snake moves and smells that makes me mistrust them. It probably has to do with seeing one too many scary movies involving snake attacks. Some Native American cultures see snakes as symbols of fertility and rebirth. They are harbingers of creativity.

Later that evening, there was an owl in the back yard. We could hear him hooting and could just make out his silhouette as he perched on a branch high up in one of our trees. It is the tree that has me worried because it is the last to grow leaves and first to drop them. I stand at the kitchen window and try to predict how much house it's going to hit when it falls over. That's another story though. One about the pros and cons of home ownership. I sat on the back step, watching and listening to the owl until he finally flew off. I remember hearing some folklore once that seeing an owl in the daytime means that someone is going to die. After J died, I thought about this often. We had seen an owl in the middle of the day after saying goodbye to J and his unit as they were leaving for Iraq. If we hadn't seen that owl that day, J would still be alive. If only it were that simple. Owls are not harbingers of doom or death, but of great wisdom. 

If you are the type to believe in omens, then I have creativity and incite coming my way. If you are my type, you don't believe in omens. The snake just happened to be one of the many of Albus's victims. I am just happy it all was happening in the front yard where Josephine couldn't be involved. She steals Albus's victims for herself. I have walked out into the garage once to see what the animals were up to only to have Josephine look up at me, a small snake dangling from from her mouth like a long skinny mustache. At least this time the cat had some foresight to keep things where Josephine couldn't take it away from him. There have been owl sittings in the neighborhood for weeks now. One guy was even attacked by one while on his morning run through Brookside. I have heard the hoot hoot many time before. It was really not a surprise to finally see the source. My neighborhood is a good one for bird watchers. Just last week I saw the tiniest woodpecker with black and white stripes down his back.

It is just a coincidence they showed up on a day where I had a creative thought and a bit of incite. 

CAMPING

Michael and I hosted a camping get-away this weekend at Watkins Mill State park. It's a nice state park, tucked just far enough off into the country and woods to make you think you've gone off the grid, but it's really only an hour's drive from our house. You're like twenty minutes from the encroaching sprawl of Kansas City. We invited a couple (the Willards) that Michael has known forever who have two girls around the same age as the Cabbage. So the weekend was full of little girls running off to play, learning to ride bikes, glow sticks and hide and go seek. There was lots of Play-Doh and slime. Many many s'mores were consumed. 

This was a first time camping trip for the Willards. They had borrowed an eight man tent from another friend. Michael and I took turns with helping them figure out how to set the tent up while simultaneously trying to set our camper up. Michael would work on leveling and stabilizing while I showed them how to thread the poles in the tent. I pushed the beds out and popped them up on the camper while Michael helped assemble tent poles. Finally the tent was up and the camper was popped out and we were only left with the task of installing the door on our camper. The door on our camper is a two man job that usually takes us about twenty minutes of sweaty cursing to get in place, but this time we popped it into place right on the first try. No sweaty cursing required. 

It seems to me that there needs to be a proper initiation process for first time tent campers. It sort of makes or breaks you as a camper. It is the defining moment that determines whether or not camping is going to be something you do more than this one time. Mine involved a rabid raccoon attack. It was a terrifying experience that ruined our tent and almost a relationship, but we survived. A new tent was purchased and the relationship prevailed. We learned that we were made of strong camping stock. The Willards' initiation came in the form of a storm that included lightening and high winds and a torrential downpour. One corner of the tent collapsed but was easily set right. The rain fly, the whole tent really, flapped so hard in the wind that it seemed that the only thing keeping the tent on the ground was the weight of their bodies. Yet, they emerged the next morning with minimal damages and they were mostly dry. 

Despite the storm and being plagued by yellow jackets (I looked them up, they're Western Yellow Jackets, mostly harmless unless provoked; three out of seven of us managed to not provoke), the Willards declared this trip to be a success, so much so that they said things like "the next time we do this we'll...."

I'm glad that they enjoyed the experience.

 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

This week, I got tagged to do a Facebook challenge. Usually, my response to any kind of please forward or tag a friend and pass it on thing is to say "thank you for thinking of me, but no thank you." I don't like to send out chain letters in the mail either. I am not a participator. This challenge was a little different though. The challenge is to take a black and white photo of something representing your life with out people. It appealed to me because it is the kind of challenge that encourages creativity and mindfulness. So, I took up the challenge but then I got a little hesitant about tagging others to also do the challenge. I just had images of friends rolling their eyes at the sight of their name being attached to a Facebook challenge. I thought about why I had accepted the challenge and I thought why shouldn't I encourage others to be creative and mindful. 

This week I am thankful for this black and white photo challenge. I only have two days left of the challenge, but I have enjoyed every day of it. It has given me an opportunity to look at my days from a different perspective. Black and white is too simple of a description. Void of color. That is what such images say to so many. Yet there are so many levels of grays, whites and blacks represented in a photo. It makes you really notice where the light is coming from and how it bends to make interesting shadows. When I'd go out in the mornings on my short photo meditation walks, I would focus more on those things. What would happen if I pulled the color away? I discovered that nothing bad happens when I do. Thank you, Alice for including me. 

I hope that you were able to find some gratitude in this week. 

 

LET'S TALK ABOUT PANTS, BABY

Remember back in April when I went to my healthy women's exam and realized that I weighed 180 pounds? Remember how I went into panic mode about losing that weight? Well, I've lost ten pounds since then. Yay! I am now somewhere between what I weighed before Chris died and after Chris died. This should be good news. I should be totally happy about this and I am. I've stopped obsessing and I just work a bit harder at the gym and I'm more conscious of the protein source in my meals. And ten pounds! Wow! That's great work! Really. Well done, me.

Then I went to my closet looking for jeans. 

I own two pairs of wide-ish legged jeans that are that nice dark denim. They look great paired with heals or cute sneakers. I'm pretty sure I wore them at some point in my life or why else would they be in my closet. The tag on one pair of jeans says that they're a size 31. The tag on the other has them at a size 30. The same morning I pulled these jeans out of my closet, I had purchased a pair of skinny jeans on sale at Target. They are a size 30. I decided to try on the other jeans to see how they felt. I thought to myself as I started with the size 31 pair that this was going to be good. These jeans are going to be a little bit big now. I tugged them up to my hip and then looked down at the button fly gaping open over my belly. I grabbed the button with my right hand and the button hole side with my left and started wrestling the two closer together. There was no attempting to even pretend that those pants were going to button. This did not bode well for the size 30s, except I pulled those on and buttoned and zipped them up with out having to hold my breath. 

I have other pants hanging in my closet that are not jeans (also sized 30 or 10 or whatever the hell those numbers mean). I call them summer pants because they are either cotton or linen. They have a bit of flare to the leg and go well with slip on kind of shoes. These pants all come from the same store as where I bought the jeans. It is my favorite place in the world to shop because all of the clothes are so pretty. The place is expensive. Stupid expensive. So I only go in about twice a year when they have their 40% off all sale items special going on. I try every thing on that I am considering for purchase and I basically make a pros and cons list for each item. If I'm going to spend the money, it's going to be on something I am going to wear, not just wish I could wear. So I had to have tried those size 31 jeans on and at the time they fit or at least they fit well enough because I would not have purchased them. 

Cut to last weekend when I decided that I needed another pair of skinny jeans for Fall/Winter. I tried on size tens at Old Navy and they fit, but they weren't long enough. They had every other size in a long but the size tens. Then I went to Kolhs where I tried on everything size ten and finally went to a size twelve. The twelves didn't feel any different in fit then the tens, but they had them in long. So I bought the twelves and tried to ignore that even though I've lost ten pounds and wear a size ten, I had to buy a size up. I keep telling myself that it is not really a size up because the people who are in charge of sizing clothes are assholes. I am convinced they have conventions every year where they discuss the best ways to fuck with women's self esteem. Didn't make it into the workshop on how to make a girl feel self conscious about her butt? No worries. We've recorded the workshop and you can access it online. Don't forget to check out the tutorial on fitting room lighting and how to set the mood for the most unflattering fitting room setting. 

Remember at the end of the Color Purple when Celie opened that pants shop where one size fit all? I want those pants. I don't care that the legs are wide. I'm sure I could wrap them around my ankle and tuck them into a boot if need be. I could make it work. I'm ready to embrace that bohemian side of myself where I wear billowy pants with elastic waistbands. 

RACE CARD

Yesterday, a Facebook friend posted about watching the news while sitting at the car dealership, waiting for an oil change. She said that there were two other people in waiting area with her, a woman with her teenage daughter. In the middle of all the news coverage, the teenager looked at her mother and said "you know, if this were about 20,000 black men at a concert, no one would care." The woman who wrote the post went on to describe how she was outraged and angered by the teenager's comment and implied that her mother should teach her daughter to keep such comments to herself. The woman said that this (in regards to the Las Vegas Mass shooting) was a heart issue, not a race issue. The first responder to this comment whole heartedly agreed, stating that she was so tired of 'them playing the race card.' Another commenter asked if the teenager was white. The woman responded the teenager was 'mixed something' but she hadn't really looked at the young girl. 

I read through the whole thing and felt ill. I don't really know this woman. We knew each other in high school, but that's about it. I started to write a comment, but in the end I just hid the posting from my news feed.  I didn't see the point of trying to explain to her how her Facebook posting was an excellent example of white privilege. Sure, the Las Vegas shooting is not about race (necessarily) but that teenager brings up a really good point on how this society talks about violence and race and how these issues are portrayed in the media. Elizabeth Smart, a fourteen year old white girl, was abducted in 2002. Her story made national headlines. That same year, Alexis Patterson, a seven year old black girl from Milwaukee, was abducted while walking to school. Her story was a blip in the news. We've seen police video after police video aired on the nightly news of officers shooting unarmed black men, but in 2012 we all watched as James Holmes was taken alive after opening fire in a movie theater. There is a habit of referring to a white person who opens fire on other civilians as a mass shooter, while a person of darker skin would be called a terrorist. 

All this young person has ever seen and heard is the disparate way in which race is discussed in this country, where the president will not condemn neo-nazi's but will call peaceful protestors 'sons of bitches.' She sees a country who does not care about black people. We have showed her that this is a country that does not care about black people. Yes. I say 'we'. Because we all play a roll in this. Instead of being outraged that this young girl doesn't know how to keep her mouth shut (or keep her place, is also how I interpreted that comment), why not ask what would prompt her to say that? And then listen, really listen, to her answer. Or maybe instead of biting your tongue, you could have said "I would care. This is a horrific and senseless act of violence that no one should ever have to experience no matter what." This woman missed an opportunity show empathy and start an important conversation that could have led to understanding on both sides.

Instead she chose to 'bite her tongue' and spew her anger out on social media. And why shouldn't she? I mean, our (not mine) President of the United States engages in this behavior every day. He sets the example. It's just that some people haven't thought about how maybe this is not the example we want set. Maybe we're better than that. Maybe that's all I'm asking of that woman because I want to believe she's better than that. I want this country to be better than that. 

 

 

MEET ALFRED

My heart is sad for Las Vegas. I have so many crazy happy memories of that place. I was married there! I got my first tattoo in Vegas. Chris and I shared a 99 cent half pound hot dog. We drank a fishbowl sized alcoholic beverage that smoked with dry ice. We played bingo with a bunch of old ladies and had a wonderful time. I'm just sick about the mass shooting that took place there last night and like many of us, I'm shocked and saddened that this is now a common occurrence in this country. We've made zero headway in preventing mass shootings. Shame on us and this government. But that is all I'm going to say about any of it. Instead, I'll turn my focus and maybe your's to something lighter and joyful. Something to take our minds off of tragedy. 

Josephine's toys consists of stuffed animals that the Cabbage has won from a crane game, a female park ranger doll (also stolen from the Cabbage) and some small stuffed animals I got as swag from a science conference. She does have a fox and a little tube shaped dog that are actual pet store dog toys, but Josephine prefers the stuffed animals she's stolen from the Cabbage. I feel real bad for the park ranger doll. She's currently laying naked somewhere in the backyard. Josephine was real attached to a blob shaped stuffed creature that was supposed to represent an antibody. Antibody Annie was one of the swag items I brought home from ASCB last year. She had red troll doll like hair that Josephine would groom. Eventually Antibody Annie lost both of her arms and then last week I stepped out into the living room to see her bleeding stuffing out all over the living room floor. 

We had a small funeral for Antibody Annie. It was not the first stuffed animal funeral that we've had to have this year. Josephine's lost a few toys. One of those toys, we just blatantly took away from her. The little red tube dog has a squeaker and Josephine would sit just out of reach and just chew on the squeaker. Squeak squeak squeak. She really liked to do this while we were trying to watch something on TV. Michael tried to dismantle the squeaker, but it still squeaks. The odd thing is, she has other toys with squeakers, but that is the only one she does this with. It is not even her go-to toy. She would much rather have you throw her knobby ball that has unpredictable landings. That poor ball is barely hanging on. It got run over by the lawn mower and has a big crack down one side. I tried finding a replacement and the closest thing I found was a spiky ball. She will roll her eyes and go after it if you throw it, but it's not her favorite. This is unfortunate, because knobby ball is not going to last much longer. 

I was in Target on Saturday and I remembered Josephine's most recent loss. I thought that maybe it was time I bought her a new toy. Our target didn't have a large selection to choose from, but I did find this really cute alligator. The tag advertised that it squeaked at a level only dogs could hear and I was all "SOLD!" When I got home, I removed the tags and then handed it over to Josephine. She has a tendency to take all of her toys outside and then bring them back in once they've been rain soaked and crusty with dirt. So before I let go, I looked at her and said "let's keep this one inside." She went straight to her dog door with it. I then watched from the kitchen window as she took the alligator on a tour of the back yard. She shook him around just behind the house. Then she walked him over to the back corner where she sometimes watches the cat. Josephine introduced the alligator to the chickens and then she showed him the fire pit before bringing the alligator back inside.

We've named him Alfred and the two of them have been inseparable ever since. Actually, I've never seen her take to a toy as much as she has with Alfred. It's really very sweet. 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

There’s a sticky note on my desk where I’ve written “shooting with a mindful eye”. I jotted it down while watching an online tutorial on black and white street photography. It wasn’t a new tidbit of wisdom for me. It was just a reminder. I wrote it down on a sticky note and slapped it to my desk as a reminder to be vigilant to look through my camera lens with intention and mindfulness. I like to think I practice this kind of mindfulness whenever I head out on a photo walk. I did have someone tell me this week just how much they enjoy seeing my posted images and that I take really great pictures. I am grateful for that bit of praise. It’s nice to hear those kinds of things on occasion, particularly when you feel like for the most part you take mediocre pictures. 

Recently, I replaced the word “shooting” with “looking”. Look with a mindful eye. There are times when I can’t pause long enough to take a picture. Like, when we are driving down the road or Josephine’s taking me for a walk. I will notice something and instead of trying to get to my camera, I will simply hold my hands up and form a camera shaped box with my fingers. Then move my index finger as if to click a button and say “click”. It's my way of taking a mental photograph of something I want to remember, but it is also my way of remembering to notice my surroundings. When I walk outside, I remind myself to look up. There's so much more to see than the sidewalk under my feet. Some mornings, this means turning my face right into the sun and then immediately closing my eyes at the glaring rays. I want to look at the world as if I am going to photograph it, even if I am not. I am thankful for this mindfulness practice as well.

We all have that thing that keeps us sane. I know a woman who runs. She was still running on the treadmill as if bears were chasing her up to two weeks before giving birth. She did not run for physical health as much as she was running for her mental health. She would lose her mind if she couldn't run. Some of us knit. Some of us cook. Some of us shut off social media (something I should do more often). I suspect that many of us have a Mary Poppins sized bag filled with an arsenal of things that we keep for our sanity. Mine includes a yoga mat with all the yoga props, a hammock, a bowl of always hot potato soup and some cheese, good tunes and my cameras. I am thankful for all of those things but today I am particularly grateful for the mindfulness practice that I get from using my cameras. 

What's something in your Mary Poppins bag that you are grateful for this week?

This week, I am honoring my gratitude by donating to Puerto Rico's recovery. Talaura posted a very useful link on her Facebook timeline this week for the Empire State Relief and Recovery Effort for Puerto Rico. They have information on ways you can help. 

MORBID CURIOSITY

I opened my Fortune Cookie journal to the first blank page and the prompt for the day was "don't be grumpy! Be grateful!". I tapped the the table with my pen and scrunched my mouth to one side. Isn't this whole gratitude thing something I post about every week? On this day, with a head full of a snot and a cough that just won't go away, I was feeling more grumpy than grateful for sure. Also, I cringed at the sickeningly sweet Pollyanna tale that was going to come out onto the paper. I know myself. Always look on the bright side of life, even when it's a piece of shit. So I wrote a story about a woman named Mavis who started her morning all wrong, stubbing her toe, spilling coffee on her one clean blouse. You know, those kind of mornings that make think you should have just stayed in bed. By the time I had reached the bottom of the page, Mavis was late to work. Her train had been late. She was delayed getting to her stop. As she finally emerged from the station to the sidewalk up top...

I looked at the page and the first and most fitting thing I could think to write was "she looked up just in time to watch a plane fly into the building where she worked." Because sometimes, my thoughts get dark. I mean...it's still looking at the bright side of life. I'm just doing it while eating baker's chocolate. Side note: when I was a kid, we did not have candy in the house. Maybe, if you were super good and the stars where aligned in the shape of a candy cane, you could buy a Hershey bar, but you would have to share it with your sister. And maybe your mom, depending on her mood. I supplemented my candy needs with the occasional spoonful of sugar and baker's chocolate. Bitter sweet is really very palatable. 

Saturday evening we had some of Michael's old high school friends over for s'mores. When Michael told the Cabbage we were having friends over, the Cabbage said "Oh is that funny guy, Chris, coming over?" For a moment I got real nervous. The funny guy Chris that I know is dead. Is Chris haunting the Cabbage? My first thought was not that the Cabbage had gotten the name wrong, but that my dead husband was telling her jokes while she played in her room. I found the idea of Chris haunting the Cabbage to be equally hilarious and infuriating and I looked over at his can of ashes and said "what the fuck, Chris?!?" I was the only one to witness this because Michael and the Cabbage were in the other room. I quickly swept my dark haunting thoughts aside to make room for names of people the Cabbage might actually be talking about. She was talking about Terry. Michael described him to her and she decided that she really meant Terry instead of Chris. He described Terry just as I was getting up to grab a picture of Chris and ask "Are you talking about this guy?!?!?!" Which would have made the whole thing super weird because all the stuff about the haunting only took place in my brain. 

I have read that September tends to be a hard month for people with depression. I still keep telling myself that I am not a depression person. If I continue to deny it all, then it won't be true, but September has been mildly dark. If I'm honest, August wasn't the greatest either. We were driving around town, running errands that seemed meaningless and pointless and at one point I thought about opening the car door and just getting out of the car. In the middle of traffic. While the car was moving. The following Monday, I scheduled an appointment with a therapist because I recognized that it probably wasn't all too healthy to be fantasizing about jumping out of a moving vehicle on a busy street. The therapy helped and I felt like I was making progress in life. I cleaned the basement and threw away loads of garbage. I've deleted the contents on two old computers. I've been writing and working on little projects. Really....things are better. It's just being sick and confined to the couch for a week was a setback. I took a whole bunch of steps forward and then hopped back half way. 

It's been twenty minutes since the last time I coughed or had to blow my nose. I did my cardio at the gym and only had to blow my nose once. I got on my yoga mat for the first time in a week and only had to blow my nose twice. I haven't had to transfer money between accounts to cover bills. I tried a new clearing protocol for work stuff and it worked so well, I lost my samples because they disappeared (Science Magic!). These are forward moving steps. I'm going to buy the rest of the things I need to make my Halloween wreath this weekend and then I'm going to set up Suzanne in her new home out front. And I know those things are going to be huge steps forwards.

 

TIRED

I was sitting here today, looking through all the postings on Facebook about the NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem and disrespect and boycotts and ugly ugly words of hatefulness. I sat there shaking my head at all the ugliness and my shoulders slumped with exhaustion because I knew I would have to say something. I'm tired of blogging about this issue. Silence is acceptance, but constantly being vigilant is so tiring and there have been so many posts out there that say the right things far better than I could say them. Why bother? Then I think about how tired I am and imagine that it is nothing compared to how tired Sybrina Fulton must be of this fight or how tired Leslie McSpadden must be. 

"Average citizens feel like their kids are not going to make it home safely, because we've had so many incidents where somebody is shot and killed and nobody is being held accountable," she said. "You have to bury a loved one, and on top of you burying a loved one, nobody is going to trial. Nobody is being arrested. Nobody is going to jail. And so it like adds insult to injury.

"Where is the justice system for some of these families? Where was the justice system for us?"

-Sybrina Fulton, Treyvon Martin's mother

Do you know those names? Have you heard of these women? They are two women who make up an ever increasing list of mothers who have had to burry a child who has been shot by law enforcement or for just walking down the street. Not only are they dealing with the exhaustion of grief itself, but they are dealing with the every day fight for justice and the every day fight for change. So I shake off my minimal exhaustion because it is nothing compared to those who have to fight tooth and nail every day for equality because of their skin color. Those NFL players kneel because they are exhausted from years of standing for an anthem that does not include them.   

Silence is acceptance and I do not accept a white supremacist president. I do not accept a president who continuously goes out of his way to further divide this country. I will continue to speak out and I will never stop telling those people who agree with our president that they are wrong. I will never stop asking "how would you feel if you were treated that way?". I will never stop saying "treat others the way you would want to be treated." I will never stop expected those common decencies from my neighbors and I never stop expecting it from my government. 

 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

I have spent most of this week on the couch. Michael brought home some kind of virus from school and it has had me down for the count. I went to work on the third day and my supervisor sent me home. He sticks with that rule they use for kids now, something about fevers and twenty four hours. I used that time to delete hard drives of old MacBooks (yes, that's MacBooks plural) that I need to take in to be recycled. I started with Chris's computer and it really wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Most of all the pictures had already been uploaded to clouds or where ever we send our files to be stored these days. Now all that's left is to take them into the Mac store. I was also home when they came and picked up our Bagster. It was very satisfying to watch a big crane pick up our big bag of garbage. 

I am back at work today and on the mend. I have been fever free for twenty four hours, though my supervisor did say that he was going to count the number of times I coughed today. It may seem really difficult to find gratitude in a week such as this one, but I am surprised to find that is is not. I am very fortunate. I have good health insurance and a decent amount of sick leave. I have a supervisor who would rather have me at home than in the office spreading my yuck virus. This is not the norm for many Americans. And it should be. I have never understood how some companies just cannot see the benefit in keeping their employees healthy. I still do not understand a government who doesn't insist on keeping it's citizens healthy. Today, I called my senator to beg him to not vote for the latest health care reform bill. I did this because I am grateful for my health care and others should be able to same the same. 

Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God. Proverbs 14:31

Call your senators today. Here's a link with a whole list of senators from every state. Health Care should be a basic right for every American. No one should ever have to choose between putting food on the table for their family or seeking health care that will prevent serious health issues. The new reform bill will increase the cost of reproductive health care for women. Reproductive health is more than just having babies. Tests and exams, such as mammograms and pap smears, are vital for detecting cancer and are all related to reproductive health. In fact, reproductive health are two very simple words for a very complex part of female anatomy, as every woman knows. Ovarian cysts. Sexually transmitted diseases. Pre-natal and post-natal care. These things fall under the category for reproductive health. Ask your senator why reproductive health care costs are not being increased for men.

I am grateful for my health. I am grateful for a voice that I can raise up against injustice. I am grateful for those who believe that Universal Health Care is a basic human right. 

PICTURE PAGES

I started a project early this year that involved organizing my pictures into some kind of an album with notecards and descriptions. I did four pages and the set all of it in the roller cabinet under the TV. It's been sitting there ever since. Meanwhile, the pile of pictures that need to be organized just keeps growing. Sunday morning, I got up and went through my usual Sunday morning routine: breakfast, CBS Sunday Morning, laundry. Whenever I would settle into the couch with a mug a of coffee, I'd end up with animals laying on me. Not such a bad thing, but they made it difficult to want to move. It was raining and dreary outside and it was just easier to turn the couch into a raft and play a movie. So that's what I did, but I also pulled out the photo project and worked on it some while I watched the movie. 

I started with a stack of pictures I had found while cleaning out the attic of my childhood home. They had been in the bottom of a box lid that was inverted and holding old bits of notes and mostly trash. I started to just toss the whole lid into my garbage bag when I paused and decided to flip through the debris. I was surprised to find these particular pictures in with a pile of trash. There was an old picture of my Grandmother, Nellie with her sister and one of Pepaw in his Navy uniform. There were several old square black and white prints of my brother when he was a child and three photos from his wedding with Katrina. There was one of all of us sitting around the dining room table. My Dad's parents, Mom, Janell, Randy and Katrina. This was before J and it looked like Thanksgiving. I recognized the Pyrex dish of sweet potato pie and the tan Tupperware pitcher that I am sure was filled with sweet tea. The table was blanketed with the red calico tablecloth that always adorned that table. It is present in the picture of me blowing out candles on my third birthday cake, another picture from the stack of salvaged pictures.

Then I came across a picture of no people. There's nothing written on the back to hint at where or when the photo was taken. I took a photo of it for Instagram and my mother later commented on it saying that it looked like the lake Pontchairtrain Bridge. When she said it, I knew that she was right. I figured that someone had taken it the year we traveled to New Orleans for Randy's senior trip. I have no memories of that first trip to New Orleans. I was way too small to form lasting impressions. Not like Disney Land. I was small then too, but I still have hazy images in my head of the Dumbo ride and our odd encounter with Donald Duck. I only have memories of stories told to me of that family vacation. My mother tells a story of how she made me a harness with a leash so she could keep track of me. She said that some old man yelled at her and gave her grief about putting her baby on a leash. He followed her the length of the French Quarter Market before she turned around and yelled back at him to leave her alone. 

That's the only story I know from that trip. I remember coming across a picture of the my brother, sister and I posing next to a cannon. My brother is sitting in the photo, his long legs made longer by the bell bottom jeans he's wearing, and he has his arm wrapped around my middle. It is obvious he has been put in charge of holding the toddler still for the picture. I know this picture was taken in New Orleans only because at the time of finding the picture, my mother looked over my shoulder at it and said so. Yet the picture tells more of a story than that. I suppose that is why I am drawn to photographs. Each one tells more of a story than just "we were in New Orleans" or "that was the time we visited your great Aunt in California."

I suppose that is why I feel such a need to get my photographs and stories in order. 

 

GARBAGE

Saturday morning, I returned from grocery shopping and went straight to work in the basement. I organized the totes that had been pulled from the shelves and riffled through. Michael, when he's on the hunt for something, will open up totes and rummage through them and then just walk away. For ever. I put totes back together, organized old camp gear into one spot, took loads and loads of just plain garbage and placed them in my Bagster bag. When I'd done as much as I could in the basement, I moved to the garage, systematically moving from shelf to shelf and tossing things into a garbage bag. I organized gardening stuff like seeds and bags of potting mix. The animals at one time had nocked over a bag of grass seed and a bag of pebbles. I swept all of this up. Michael showed up just in time to help me haul out the garage garbage pile I had built near the door and to clean off a shelf containing random tools. 

There were two contractor bags full of stuff from our last basement clean out. One of them had stayed down there for so long because it was too heavy for our trash dumpster. It sat there for over a year. Every time I walked down to the basement, my eyes landed right on that bag. It was hard to miss since it was right at the bottom of the stairs. That was the first thing I hauled up the stairs. When I say 'hauled', I really mean hauled because that bag was HEAVY. There was a lot of me talking out loud to myself, counting steps, grunting and sweating, but I got that bag out of the basement and into the dumpster bag. After that, the rest was easy. Suddenly, getting rid of trash, didn't seem so overwhelming. It didn't take long for me to fill up my Bagster bag. The garage is now neatly organized and things are easier to get to without stepping on the wrong end of a shovel or falling into a pile of chicken feed bags. I also have a legitimate laundry space in the basement, where I can walk through with a basket of clothes without bumping into a stack of boxes and trash. The basement floor is clean, so when I drop an article of clothing while moving it from the washer to the dryer, I don't have to re-wash it or throw it away or burn it. The basement floor does not have a five second rule for anything. Now, at least in the area where the washer and dryer are, the floor is clean.

There's still things I need to get rid of, but they are all things that I don't want to throw away. They are things that need to be sold or donated or gifted away. My goal for the weekend was to get rid of the garbage and that is exactly what I did. My goal for the rest of this year and the following year is to remove unwanted and unused things from the house, clean out catch all drawers and never let any of those things make it to the basement. Because if it ends up in the basement, it will be there for the rest of my life. Someday, someone's going to have to come clean out my house when I die or get too old to live there on my own. I want to make things easy for that person. I think of the stuff that accumulated in just the attic of my childhood home. Boxes of papers from our school days, old clothing patterns, wrapping paper, things that had sat up there for so many years that it was now warped from heat and unrecognizable. So much of it was unsalvageable. At the very least I'd like to leave behind a good estate sale and not boxes of useless old mail with mouse chewed edges or carpenter bags of garbage.

At the end of the day, all that will be left to be dealt with will be the furniture, a small closet of clothes, small kitchen appliances, some art work and some nicknacks. All of this makes it sound like I'm planning for my death. I guess, in a way, I am, but really I'm planning for living. I am always thinking about the dirty garage or the gross basement. These things take up brain space whenever I am out doing fun things or sitting still on the couch. I am always thinking "I really should do something about the trash in the basement." Then I let myself get overwhelmed by the amount of work that is going to be involved and I do nothing. So now the filth and grossness has just become a guilt loop that plays always in the back of my mind. Instead of fully just being present in something, I am eighty something percent present and the rest percent thinking about the mess and being overwhelmed by the mess. 

I am stronger than that! I am a doer! When did I forget that? I do not shy from hard work. I tackle. Cleaning out the garbage is just one step towards reclaiming bits of myself that I've hidden away for some reason. It's like I've been in hiding and I don't even know why. Now I'm thinking about the next project that I've been putting off because it seems overwhelming and I'm totally ready to take it on. Look out hedges and over grown vegetation. I'm coming for you next. 

THANKFUL FRIDAY

Last weekend, I did three things that I haven't done in long time. The first thing was to take the nail polish off my toenails and leave my toenails bare. I know I've posted here before about how neglectful I can be to my toes. I still have a scar on my wrist from that time in yoga class when I sliced my wrist open with my big toe while hopping forward to forward fold (my mat has seen it all; blood, sweat and tears). Last Friday night, because I know how to p-har-tay, I gave myself a pedicure and when I had finished the trimming and filing, I opted to not repaint my toenails. It seems a little odd to see my toes without a bright shade of blue or purple attached to them, yet totally normal and natural. I like it. 

The second thing I did that I haven't done in many weeks was to write in my Fortune Cookie Journal. It seems that I only write in that journal on Saturday mornings when I go to Heirloom and sit alone at the counter. We've had other obligations recently that has kept me from that morning routine. Saturday morning, I sat down in my usual spot and opened my journal to the first free Fortune Cookie prompt. I tapped my pen on the counter, took a sip of coffee and then looked off at nothing in particular while thinking about how to even start the first sentence. My biscuit sandwich arrived just as I was really getting going and very soon the words wrapped around and around the page, filling all of the white spaces of the page. I can't tell you how often I am surprised that I run out of space or I have that much to write for one sentence. I can't tell you how often I get frustrated when I run out of space and sit there stammering to myself "but, but, but..." I can't tell you how good this makes me feel.

The third thing I did that I haven't done in really long time was to buy a bouquet of fresh flowers. This is something I haven't done in ages. I stopped buying flowers after the first time we thought we might buy a house as way to sort of cut back on spending. It was $4 a week that was unnecessary, and is still $4 a week that I should not be spending. Michael has a new pay schedule and budgeting around that is eating my lunch. I thought I had cracked the code of the new budget with his last paycheck. Turns out, I would make a terrible decoder. Last Saturday morning I walked into Trader Joes and the first thing I saw was the flower display. I had started turning towards the sunflowers when the Gerber's caught my eye. I reached for the bouquet and said to myself "you deserve this." Then I decided that flowers were a necessity because of joy. This made me happy.  

Today, I am thankful for bare toenails, Fortune Cookie tales, and $4 flower bouquets. I am thankful for doing some things that I haven't done in a while. I am thankful for the simple things that have brought me joy this week, like the arrival of our giant Wast Management bag. I'm going to throw so much crap away this weekend. It makes me giddy. 

I am thankful for you.

 

I'VE GOT BOOBS AND AN IPHONE

Michael and I left to the concert only to get to our car who's battery was dead. You see, when Michael parked the car, he put it in park and then just got out. I sat there for a minute wondering if he was going to figure out that he'd left the car running, but he was busy marking our parking spot on the map for later. So, I reached over and killed the ignition and retrieved the keys. Turns out that when this is done after the driver side door has been shut, the car lights decide to not shut off on their own. They stay on and drain the battery. We got into the car and nothing happened. 

Right at that moment, a guy on a golf cart drove by and we flagged him down. Michael asked him about getting a jumpstart from someone. The young guy looked at us and said "uhhh...yeah...uhhh..let me go check on that." Then he left and we never saw him again. We stood there for five minutes or so trying to figure out what to do next. Occasionally someone would walk by and we'd ask if they had jumper cables. No one had jumper cables or they were parked "way over that away". Michael looked at me and said "I'm going for help" and he walked off in the direction of the stadium. Meanwhile, I stayed with the car and continued to ask people as they walked by if they could help. 

Two men walked by and I stepped up and asked them if they had jumper cables. The guy who answered said "We're parked way over at the Taco Bell. I got tacos! But Hey, You've got boobs and an iPhone, so you should be okay." I don't even know if I managed to get any words out. Now that I think about I might have said "thank you" and if that's true, then I'm punching myself in the face. But I'm pretty sure that I mumbled a thank you as I stood there by my car with the hood up and an awkward half smile on my face. A few minutes later my phone started ringing. It was Michael and he'd found real help from an actual tow-truck service provided by stadium parking. When he got back to the car, I told him about what had happened. He said that it was probably a good thing he hadn't been there. The tow truck guy arrived and we got to work on getting the car started and then headed home.

On our way home, Michael asked me how I felt about the whole thing with the taco guy. I told him that at the time of it happening, I was too stunned to really think about anything, but now I'm super pissed that I wasn't quick enough to come up with a witty and cutting reply for the jerk. Michael wanted to know how big the guy was and if he could have beaten the jerk up. This must be a Y chromosome thing. I appreciate the sentiment, but I could have beaten the guy up and had in fact been wearing the proper shoes to do so. When I posted the exchange on Facebook, I had one commenter suggest that I really did have an upper hand because of my boobs and phone, while the jerk only had tacos. I've had a really hard time letting this comment go. Again, I'm sure he means well but it is an ignorant, naive and stereotypical response. 

First of all, having boobs has nothing to do with my ability to properly apply jumper cables to my own car battery. Implying that I need to 'use' my body parts to get some other person to do this for me, is insulting. Secondly, I know that this commenter has daughters, which leads me to wonder what he's teaching them. I have an image of his lesson forming in my brain where he says "Now girls, when you get a flat tire, here's what you need to do. Reach your hands inside your bra and plump up your bosoms. You might even lean forward to reposition them in your bra. Then tug your t-shirt down low. When a guy stops and asks you if you need any help, lean into him slightly, leading with your breasts. After he's done changing the tire for you, he may decide to cop a feel. This is understandable considering you did use your boobs as leverage for his services. I say, go ahead and let him. It's the least you can do for him changing your tire." 

Men, I want you to imagine teaching your own daughters that lesson. Yeah...just go ahead and teach them how to show a little cleavage instead of how to actually change the tire on their car or how to hook up jumper cables. Look into your perfect little angle's eyes and tell her that it is perfectly acceptable for men to objectify her body. Because that is what you are doing every time you say objectifying words to another woman. 

But, I mean, hey! If you've got boobs and an iPhone, baby you can do anything. 

WE ARE ALL WELCOME HERE

Last night, Michael and I went to see U2's Joshua Tree Tour with Beck. I had scored some free tickets with seats way way way at the top of the stadium. I didn't care. I had never seen Beck perform live and I had already heard how amazing the Joshua Tree Tour was. It didn't matter that they all looked like ants. That's the thing about concerts, particularly those of this size and magnitude. They always manage to pull every soul in to praise. And it was beautiful. There was one moment when all the lights were turned off and the stadium became a sea of cell phone lights. From our vantage point, we could see it all and I started laughing and crying at the same time. Before Beck left the stage, he warned us that when U2 came out and started singing those first seven songs we would have feelings. He said chills will crawl up our arms and we would be filled with all of the feelings. 

Beck was not wrong. 

"We are all welcome here" Bono told us this last night. His words stick in my brain today, particularly after reading this morning's headlines. This country is starting to look more and more less welcoming. We have a President who condones white supremacy; in fact owes his presidency to white supremacists. He has issued a ban on Muslims, a ban on Transgendered in the military and an end to DACA, the program that protected immigrants brought here as children. Those immigrants are now at risk of being forcibly removed from the only home they have ever know. The Secretary of Education has rolled back Title IX which would withhold federal dollars to Universities who did not combat sexual harassment because Title IX was too harsh for the accuser. Trump has hired Eric Dreiband to lead the Justice's Civil Rights Division, a man notorious for fighting efforts to support Civil Rights. 

I have seen so many posts of outrage recently over the football players who take a knee during the National Anthem. Some of you get really really angry about this. I mean, my own mother made the comment about how "they should go back to where they came from" if they refuse to stand for the National Anthem. Except the 'they' whom she is referring to are Americans. They are young men who have taken to sitting down or taking a knee during the National Anthem as their peaceful protest against a government that does not support civil liberties for ALL Americans, a government that supports white supremacy and a country that does not value their lives.

But it causes you so much anger because they won't stand for a song. 

We are not all welcome here. 

SEVEN

The Cabbage turned seven on Friday. I made her stand against the wall to mark her height and then we ate pizza and watched the Cosmos. Her birthday party was on Saturday at a gymnastics place. I was pretty put out with the 'No Adults Past This Line' rug separating the waiting room with the gymnastics equipment. I wanted to jump on some trampolines. There was cake and presents and then we left the Cabbage with her mom so she could spend time with grandparents who had driven in from Iowa to see her. The Cabbage and her Mom met us the next day at the body piercing place. Our gift to her this year was ear piercings.

Michael and I rode our scooters to meet them. We had a few minutes of waiting for the shop to open and the four of us were just standing around talking. The Cabbage walked up to my scooter and hopped on. Erin, her mom, started to tell the Cabbage to get down, but I stopped her said it's okay. Then I looked at the Cabbage and told her not wiggle around too much. We were all kind of looking at her sitting there on my scooter and noticing how her feet almost touched the floor board. Suddenly Michael beckoned the Cabbage over to his scooter and made her climb on. He pulled out the passenger foot rests and asked her if her feet touched. They did! We all did a happy dance (except maybe Erin, because it makes her nervous, she is the mom). The Cabbage is tall enough to ride on the back of Michael's scooter. 

The Cabbage is tall. I think the most fascinating part is that I swear, just three weeks ago, the Cabbage was asking to be measured on the wall. She stood up tall and Michael put his fingers on the wall to mark it. When he looked, he said "Nope...not marking it. It's barely changed since the last time we measured you." The Cabbage pouted. When I marked her height on Friday, Michael and I stood there looking at all her growth and how so much of it seemed to happen in just three weeks. She's grown almost a foot in one year. We are having a problem buying pants that fit her length wise without falling off width wise. She has complained about gymnastics and how she doesn't want to do it anymore. She says the stretching hurts. Part of that is because her leotard isn't long enough for her torso and it ends up in an uncomfortable wedgie up her butt. I went to buy her a new one, but buying a size up wasn't fixing the problem. 

I ended up getting her a two piece set with shorts and a tank. The Cabbage wasn't happy about it, but we had a long talk about how the one piece wasn't going to work well for her body. When she whined about really wanting the one piece, Michael chimed in with "I'm sorry honey, but you're just too tall for the one piece." I immediately corrected him by saying "It's not that you're too tall, Cabbage. You're perfectly tall. These leotards just aren't the ones for you." Michael nodded his head in agreement. "Yes! Cindy's right. You're perfectly tall." I'm being very careful about not attaching negative words to anything about her body and I am increasingly annoyed at an industry that insists that we, even children, are one size number. I am annoyed with an industry that says this particular number and cut of cloth is the average size for all women. This industry is out of touch and ignorant of what average really is. It's hard enough being a woman and trying to figure out pant sizes. Now they have to make it suck for the kids too. 

Or at least for the adults who are purchasing the clothes for the kids.

As a result of all of this, I've taken to only purchasing cool t-shirts that I come across. She has plenty of t-shirts, though she prefers wearing dresses. That has also made things easier because leggings tend to me more forgiving in sizes. She wears a lot of unintentional capris. I leave the shoe shopping up to her parents because I don't understand children shoe sizes. At all. I mean, seriously. Matching a child with a proper shoe size is a MENSA test. Any way.. the Cabbage is growing up and doing big girl stuff like getting her ears pierced and talking about getting rid of her Barbis.

Change happens real fast. 

TRAJECTORY

I opened my daily news email and right at the top is read "Today is the 16th Anniversary of 9/11." I was struck by this sentence, like falling into an icy river. Was that really today? I remember Chris and Todd picking me up before lunch at work. We went to Galileo's and sat with a beer, unable to stop staring at the TV. Chris and I looked at each other at one point and we both said "Talaura" at the same time. He went to his phone then and sent her a message. She was fine. The country went into shock. We went through all the stages of grief. We went to war. 

Chris and I would later joke about how politicians would use the phrase "9-11 changed everything" as a scare tactic for votes. We shifted into a country easily ruled by fear. Too easily. The date 9-11 became the Boogie Man. You said the words with a hushed tone while looking over your shoulder as if someone might hear you. And then what? Something bad would happen. Might happen. You never know. The date became cursed. The reality was that the changing of everything would end up being a delayed reaction for me. It would take four, no..actually three years for that wave to hit. J would go to war. We would spend Saturdays building care packages. We'd send him our Girl Scout cookies. I'd buy an extra box of tampons so I could send them in his care package. You know...for bullet wounds. Chris would spend late nights on his computer and occasionally he would be able to catch J online for chats. Chris would come wake me up and say "J's online now. You want to talk to him?" I'd crawl out of bed and sit at Chris's computer and chat about nothing with J. The last time we talked, I told him about Dad's haircut. We laughed. Later on, I would find out that out private messages where all being recorded and read by my government and I would be filled with rage over the injustice of it. 

When the tsunami wave of 9-11 finally did hit, it destroyed everything in it's path. Dad stopped sleeping. Mom grew hateful and bitter. Katrina went a little crazy, but can you blame her? Randy pulled further inside his personal shell. It was all sad all the time, but eventually we started to rebuild. We found a way to absorb it all, some of us better than others. That's how it works. Shit gets destroyed, you clean up the mess and rebuild. Prepare for the next disaster. Today though, I started playing the What If game. What if J hadn't died? What if he'd come home to us all? Would Dad not have gotten Alzheimer's? Would Chris still be alive? The What If game never goes well. Michael and I watch a show called "You're the Worst" and most of the characters on the show really are the worst. One guy though is really sweet. He's an Iraq Veteran and he suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). We watched an episode recently where he was really struggling. He was struggling to keep it together. Struggling for help. Struggling to stay alive. What if J had come back to us in one piece? Would he be struggling with PTSD? It's naive to think he wouldn't come back from that changed in some way. Would we know how to help him? I mean...we didn't know how to help ourselves for a while there. 

Sometimes I am still amazed at the chain reactions. Life is just one giant Rube Goldberg device. Some of it resulting in disaster and heartache, but some of it also resulting in great joy. I hate that 9-11 changed everything.