What is ‘Merica?

I referenced ‘Merica in a Facebook comment last weekend, and was accused of using it in a derogatory way. Okay – I did sorta kinda use it in a derogatory way – I referenced stupid lower-middle class ‘Merica as being responsible for the rise of a certain Presidential candidate. That’s kind of a rude and unfair generalization. What I really should have said is that people aren’t making educated decisions about the implications and consequences of electing this individual. Full disclosure: my actual comment: The stupid dumbass Americans from lower middle class ‘Merica. The ones who follow the crowd and don’t really “think.” It’s scaring the hell out of me.
 
It might not have been my finest comment. Needless to say, a “friend” reposted my comment on her wall in a very unflattering post, which was followed by a shockingly more vile comment from her husband which I won’t dare repeat. To be fair, she never mentioned me. But clearly it was meant for me. And then she unfriended me. In a couple of PMs, I reached out to apologize for anything I said that offended her, that I believed she took it out of context, and told her I just wished she’d told me directly that my comment upset her. I was sincere. Her response? ‘Merica is used alot by Veterans (close friends of ours) and I don’t stand for it to be thrown in their faces and calling them or anyone else that used it low-middle class. I’m tired of people in this country disrespecting vets, stepping on the flag, etc. just because it’s their “right” to do so and calling it liberalism. It’s just better at this point for me to unfriend those that are making statements like this, I don’t want to see it.
 
I was so confused by this that I shared it with Todd, to be sure I understood what it meant. Was I being accused of calling veterans low-middle class? Was I disrespecting veterans by using the term ‘Merica? I never mentioned veterans in my offensive comment, but is that implied if I’m using it? How did veterans become a part of this conversation anyway? Do I symbolically step on the flag by saying ‘Merica? Am I a liberal if I use the term, or am I a Republican? I’m still confused.
Since I’m so obviously ignorant, I googled ‘Merica this morning. According to Urban Dictionary:
The top definition – America. It’s considered a slang term for The United States of America. There are also other ways of spelling it – such as ‘Murica, ‘Murika, and Amurica.
#2 – “A whole new way of saying America. …Merica is the whole experience of America summed up in a stereotypical way. Eating anything deep-fried, shooting shotguns….. People often say it when they see Americans doing things only Americans can do, such as: trimming a hedge with a chainsaw…. and driving tractors in the middle of a freeway. It is often expressed in a proud and commonly exaggerated manor.” Another definition calls it the redneck/hicks version of America. (Urban Dictionary misspelled “manner” by the way. Which really annoys me.)
It also hails from George W.’s “country” accent (their words, not mine. I’d have chosen Texan, myself. Unless Texan is somehow not PC and then I guess I should’ve just said, Texas accent), wherein the A comes across as silent and thus we hear only, merica. Which – by the way – I found very endearing about him.
Finally, still another definition is “a term used by the ignorant masses who have no self-respect, or respect for our founding fathers.” This definition is kind of confusing too, in the context of my comment and the subsequent backlash. Does this mean I’m“the ignorant masses” for using the term? Or was this definition incorrectly written and they meant to say, “used for the ignorant masses”? By either definition, it’s kind of insulting. In the context of my friend’s statement, would that then mean that veterans are the ignorant masses? Because that’s just all kinds of wrong.
I’m still confused. Doesn’t everyone use chainsaws to cut their hedges? I thought they did that in Disney. Are Disney landscapers rednecks? And what’s wrong with riding a tractor on the highway? That would be pretty badass, not to mention fun, pissing off all the speeders. And I love deep fried food. Does that make me a redneck? I better Google Jeff Foxworthy and brush up on my definitions.
I am genuinely sorry for making an ignorant statement. I’m like that meme that says I don’t think about what I’m going to say because I like to be just as surprised as everyone else. Except that I’m not shameless. It’s no excuse, but I often blurt out stupid and/or inappropriate things and then mutter to myself – kind of like when Baby told Johnny she carried the watermelon.
Still – for the public record – I don’t think lower-middle class people are stupid. There are plenty of stupid people out there representing all classes. I do not dislike rednecks, nor was I implying that rednecks are stupid. Again, see above. I would never use “liberalism” as my excuse to say or do something inherently wrong. My often foolish ineptitude and undisciplined tongue are to blame. I have never, or would ever, stomp on the American flag. There’s a little 3 x 5 flag on a broken wooden stick in my drawer because I just can’t throw it in the trash can. I don’t know what to do with it, but I just can’t throw it away – kind of like your kid’s dried up umbilical cord.
I did not – nor would I ever – say anything derogatory about veterans. I have friends and beloved family who are or were veterans. I bow down to them for doing something I’d never have the courage to do. I also don’t feel the need to defend myself at length about this. However, if you knew that I’m immersed in grant work right now and the group I’m currently working for – you’d know just how ridiculous this whole conversation is.


An Open Letter to My Friends

I have many friends who all come from many parts of my life: childhood friends, school friends, friends whose friendship I hadn’t earned in high school but whom I learned to cherish in recent years, friends from my first college and my “sisters,” friends from my second college, friends from my life after college, friends from my “mommy” life, friends from my after-first-marriage life, friends through diabetes, friends who come from Todd, friends I’ve made since I’ve remarried, restaurant friends, and friends who are family (hopefully I haven’t left anyone out).
I cherish the many friendships I have found and kept. What is wonderful about all of my friends is the diversity I have among them… white, black, biracial, gay, lesbian, Asian, Indian, interracial couples, unconventional relationships, liberals, conservatives, Catholics, Christians, Jews, psychics, big families, small families, obnoxious loudmouths, quiet lurkers ….. these I cherish because through our differences we learn so much from each other. I value all of your opinions, and … being the Gemini I am… I see two sides to every coin (usually more – which sounds a bit mentally unstable, but you get the point).
I accept that we all have our own views of the world, our own views of what’s right – and what’s wrong. I accept that our opinions may differ. I see your public statements that affirm where you stand on moral and political issues. I accept them. I may not agree with them, but I accept that those are your opinions and you are entitled to them.
I have always believed that I was entitled to my own – and that I could voice them as I chose to and you, my friends, would either accept them or you wouldn’t. Some of you have challenged me. And that’s okay too. I’ve posted things and then saw that “so-and-so” commented and I thought, oh God, here we go. But I know it’s a fair exchange of conversation, and in the end we’ll still be friends. Because our differing opinions may divide us, but they will not conquer.
One of my very best friends, whom I would walk across fire for – she’s on the opposite end of the political fence… and guess what? She’s still one of my most cherished friends. Another friend has been married for nearly 20 years to a man who belongs to the <<gasp>> other party. My in-laws didn’t vote for my candidate last time. So WHAT?
I have seen posts that offend me. I have seen posts I don’t agree with. But – I have never once called anyone out on them.  (There’s this new thing – it’s called scrolling.) I never once considered “unfriending” anyone – based on a post or the simple fact that I disagreed with a position. I never invited people to unfriend me if they had a different opinion. That’s kinda harsh, in my humble opinion.
This is what makes friendships RICH. And GREAT.  How boring our lives would be if we were all the same. Something along the way made us friends. And something as stupid as an opinion, even – and I’m going out on a fragile limb here – something as silly as politics – shouldn’t change our friendship. The banter that arises from it – the lessons – are supposed to teach us tolerance and understanding and with an open mind we might just see things differently than we expected. This is what I teach my children. Tolerance.
I don’t expect us all to agree. I don’t want us all to agree. But – for the love of shit – can’t we all just agree to disagree? Without insulting one another?
I’m really disappointed today. I was in a position of being attacked and morally dissected by a complete stranger a few months ago, and it put me in a guarded place. I have had friend requests from people I didn’t know and had to really think about before allowing into even my online life. I spent part of a morning deleting new friends in the diabetes community in a move of self-preservation. Over the past week, I’ve had a series of bad news. I thought about logging out of Facebook, to avoid any more blows, because emotionally I’m spent. But – like an addict – I can’t turn it off. But it is getting ever so easy to consider, given the present temperature of politics.
Dear friends, I am friends with you because of who you are – not because of who you vote for. I don’t care if you vote for Donald, or Ted, Hillary, or Bernie, or fucking Mickey Mouse. And guess what? Before I start singing happy campfire songs – I don’t care if you voted for Obama or not – it doesn’t matter if I did or not – I still think it’s pretty shitty to call our sitting president an asshole. And even shittier to call a friend as much for making a casual statement you disagree with. It makes me question how much you value me.

 

On the Island of F*d Up Dreams

Another night of interrupted sleep, and the dreams take me to places familiar and strange. Last night I made Coq au Vin for dinner, and it turned out so good that apparently my inflamed mind decided it was ripe for a dreamland dinner party. Only it didn’t start out as a dinner party.

I cooked up this dish and placed all four pieces of chicken on a single dinner plate with barely a cup of white rice – for Veruca, O, Todd, and me. And my brother. But then my mom was there. And then two more friends were suddenly there and I was like, I didn’t know you were staying for dinner. No matter, surely we can divide that plate up amongst us. In the kitchen, the table was set for a dozen people and I turned around and there they were. And I’m like, MOM – you could have told me you invited more people. There’s not enough food.

I started prepping to make more Coq au Vin, thinking I’d just begin serving the older gentleman – who was a peculiar (and rather quiet) combination of Bernie Sanders and my lawyer – with what was already made. I turned back to the counter and found two more friends eating directly from this small plate of chicken and rice, and now there’s none left! And I was furious. 

I stormed off to the basement to gather more food from the backup refrigerator and got lost in this dank forest of dusty old things… until Todd came looking for me. I crawled out from behind a pile of stuff with dirty, torn Christmas stockings on my hands and started ranting at him about all the people who have come to dinner and nothing’s prepared. I was saved by the alarm for a 2 a.m. blood sugar check, and thankfully didn’t have to make Coq au Vin for what became more like 30 people.

Back to bed and back to school. I have these recurring dreams about being back at NYU, where I don’t ever go to classes and suddenly realize halfway through the semester that I’m going to fail out if I don’t start going. But this is compounded by the revelation that I don’t even know WHAT classes I’m registered for, let alone WHERE they are.

Thankfully, I didn’t have this dream last night. Instead, I was in O’s high school – there to pick him up but apparently he’d gotten on the bus to go home. I walked out of the building and saw my neighbor, who apparently is now the principal and head of the zoology department, and handed him a foil-wrapped package of leftover meat (from a different dinner, I suppose) to feed the lion. He reminds me that he cannot accept food from outside the school, for liability reasons. I toss the package in the trash can and I cross the street with Veruca to enter the “mall.”

I tell her we must hurry in order to beat O home, but first I consider stopping in this shop to buy him a shirt. We hurry past the store and into a department store, where the aisles are crowded with people, and I’m just trying to get to the door. Once outside, I bend over to tie my shoe laces and somebody kicks me hard in the calf. We don’t get the chance to see who did it, and the pain in my leg slows us down. We never find the car… because I wake up again.

I told Todd I think it’s my medication that weaves these Alice-in-Wonderland-like dreams, and while it helps anxiety during waking hours – it’s allowing it to run wild in my sleep. He suggested that this is a problem.

*There is no political endorsement between the lines.*

It’s Valentine’s Day – Time to Shave and Cut Those Toenails

Valentine’s Day! The most anticipated celebration of love for those with high expectations and the most dreaded holiday for those whose expectations fell into a loveless abyss decades ago. For those anticipating – stay tuned. For those dreading, in the words of Jeff Probst – Go back to camp, I’ve got nothin’ for ya.

Whether you’ve been married for 100 years, or just started dating, Valentine’s Day is a day to acknowledge your love for all its worth – by spending half a week’s pay in a fancy, expensive restaurant, buying sappy cards and edible underwear, teddy bears, heart-shaped boxes of chocolate, lingerie, and priceless jewelry she’ll be afraid to wear out of the house.

Or maybe you prefer a low-key home-cooked meal, a beer, and a movie on the couch. Nevertheless, there are a few key things that are very important on this – the most important romantic holiday of the year.

Brush your teeth. This may seem like a no-brainer, but there is nothing worse than tongue wrestling with someone whose teeth feel like fuzzy little socks, or whose breath smells like your 10th grade history teacher’s noxious combination of coffee and hoagie.

Wear something nice. Nothing says I love you more than fresh, clean underwear. If you don’t own a single pair without holes or skid marks, there’s still time to get yourself to Walmart! Romance may be asleep, but it’s not dead!

Cut Your Toenails. Really – we all know the pedicure falls into that it’s-winter-who-gives-a-shit file – but Valentine’s Day should be Opening Day. Unless you’re a Hobbit, no one wants feet that look like they’ve been traversing mountains and brimstone, or gardening with 10 little garden hoes. Cut those nails! Sofa hockey is not meant to draw blood, people!

Shave. This goes for both men and women. Guys – if you have any hopes of making out with your lady, shave that 5 o’clock shadow of microdermabrasion. Nobody wants a date to end with raw skin. Or, maybe they do – but for the sake of time, let’s just say they don’t. And ladies – if you’ve taken the winter off, today is the day you start shaving again. It can be very confusing otherwise to a man who thinks he’s dining out with his beautiful girl, only to find Sasquatch in the bedroom.

And speaking of Sasquatch, there’s this alarming new trend in grooming down there. Ladies, there’s nothing wrong with a bikini wax or some minor, shall we say – trimming. Bald? Too each her own. However – do not, DO NOT try bald for the first time on Valentine’s Day. Just trust us on this.

Men – we appreciate manscaping. It’s a labor of love and we know it. Just take care with the scissors! You definitely DO NOT want to have to forfeit the nookie because of one small slip of the hand. There’s only so much creativity one can come up with.

Remember – somebody loves you and, while they may overlook those personal flaws most every day, a little effort goes a loooooong way to igniting the spark that brought you together. Long Live Romance!

Gloria

I recently visited Mom mom in “the home,” and we got to compare some notes on aging. Gloria is 90 years old and, holding steadfast to her earlier vanity, she’s the only one in her retirement building with brown hair. She is fit as a fiddle, all things considered. She stands tall and regal as a queen, and she is royally hard of hearing.

I arrived at her apartment door and knocked. LOUD. No answer. I stood in the vestibule she shares with another resident, staring at the giant stuffed teddy bear resting by the window, and contemplated pounding on the door and how that might be received by her neighbor (assuming shecan hear). The door was locked. I called my mom and asked her to please call her mother and tell her to open the door. A second later the phone rang, I heard Mom mom exclaim “Oh my God!” and moments later the door opened.

Mom mom is an amazing specimen for her age. She will be 91 in May, and while she walks much slower these days and with a “cart” (a fancy walker with a cup holder and pockets for stuff – like cigarettes) in case she loses her balance, she is – contrary to anything she might tell you – healthy as a horse. She’s had a heart attack, cervical cancer, she loves her beer, she’s smoked all her life, and she now takes insulin injections for her Type 2 diabetes. She doesn’t check her blood sugars, and when I chastised her she scoffed at me. And – as I said – she can’t hear a damn thing and I have to shout at her, which makes me really self-conscious in public but I guess I can’t really stand out too much in a retirement home where 85% of the community is nearly deaf anyway.

She told me my cousin bought her a hearing aid, which I already knew, and said it doesn’t work as she picked it up off the coffee table to show me.  I shouted at her that it might work better if she put it in her ear. She laughed at me.

She is blunt as all get-out…one of the things I love most about her. She gossips to me about the residents… this one is nice but not “all-there,” that one’s a “dumb shit,” this one is “just a smoking buddy” and they’re “just friends.”  She doesn’t hold back when she’s got something to say. She tells me how much she loves her former son-in-law and what a good man he is, and how my mom should’ve stayed married to him. Yep – my dad is that special – over forty years later. She tells me what a “looker” my husband is. She has a way of gushing that makes a grown man blush with embarrassment.

She got out of jury duty by telling them – in so many words – that she’s racist (which, of course, she’s not). I told her she could’ve just told them she had bladder control issues and couldn’t be sitting for long periods of time. She just clicked her tongue and dismissed that with a wave of her hand. I guess vanity won out again.

She once lifted a hanging plant from the front of the grocery store and carried it right to her car and she told me about it! I suggested that I would refuse to visit her in jail, and she said they wouldn’t arrest an old lady – they’d just think she was senile and didn’t know what she was doing. YET, she got into a CAR and drove away.

She embarrassed me when I was about 11, while we were out for dinner with the entire family. I was sitting at the bar between her and my mom sipping on my Shirley Temple and during a lull in their conversation Mom mom looked down at me and exclaimed, “Tara! You have breasts!” But embarrassment doesn’t end like that with Gloria… she copped a feel to confirm her proclamation. Unfortunately, death doesn’t come easily to the mortified 11-year-old.

I’ve forgiven her. No matter what MY mom says, she knows not what she does. I could tell her anything. Always. She may tell everyone else, but she’s not easily shocked. She has given up on the usual conventions of civility for the most part – a product of her age and just not giving a shit – something I find alternately admirable and hilariously funny. She does care about her appearance. She was dressed like she was going out when I got there. She wears nice clothes and puts on a bit of makeup, and makes sure her “hair look nice” (because hair in her world is plural).

We compared aches and pains and she dismissed mine. We compared beauty products and I told her that the smell of hand cream always reminds me of her. She has always used Jergens, and I know that smell as well as I remember the smell of Play-Doh. She gushed over my skin that looks like “porcelain,” and I reminded her I’m wearing makeup designed to do that. She said I got good genes, and I agreed. She doesn’t look like she’s 90.

The beauty of my relationship with her is that it’s separate from those with her children. It was not a Norman Rockwell childhood, for them or for her. I know who she was, but I also know who she is today. She doesn’t lay guilt on me, because I won’t feel it the same way. And she’s really good at it. She cries as easily as she laughs, and every goodbye is always accompanied by tears. I get it. She doesn’t see everyone as much anymore, but of course – she also never wants to go anywhere either. And that’s her prerogative.

My mom surprised her with a 90th birthday party last year – with a huge cake for all the residents and live music. Gloria sat in her chair and received her subjects like a queen bee. She’d never had a birthday party. Ever. Everyone wished her well and here’s to next year! To which she muttered under her breath, but loud enough for me to hear, oh God – I hope not! She wished not to have one more year in “this place.” But I’m glad He’s not ready for Gloria yet. I’m still learning from her.

How Squirrels Kept Me Awake Last Night




I was up this morning between 4 and 5 checking Veruca’s blood sugar and, after a 403, decided a set change was imperative. Then – back to bed where I laid WIDE AWAKE – thinking about safe diabetes management in schools and what I could do about this nationally – and about legislation that needs to happen over big pharma control over prescription drugs and the ridiculous rising costs of life-saving medications. And then I thought maybe I should just get up and go write about all this until I get sleepy again.


But my eyes were tired and they wanted to be closed. Unfortunately, my brain and body didn’t get the memo. Then I remembered The Bloggess and her method of writing notes in her phone in the middle of the night when she can’t sleep, which led to me wondering how I could do that with the bright light in my tired eyes, and then thinking I could use voice-to-text but then I’d wake Todd up – who actually was up anyway because when I left to check Veruca I only snoozed the alarm and obviously I was gone longer than 5 minutes – but anyway I didn’t want to further compromise his sleep by entertaining my brain. He’s usually indulgent with me, but man has his limits.

So, thinking about The Bloggess got me thinking about the weird stuff she thinks of in the middle of hernights, and then I remembered how she thought there were squirrels in her closet and I wasn’t sure she wasn’t just joking about hallucinating that there were squirrels in her closet… and then I thought, that’s just not very funny. I mean, it IS funny, in a way… but not funny to anyone who’s actually had squirrels inside their house. Squirrels that were not invited.

Years ago I lived in this two-floor apartment in an old historic house in my town. The owner of the building was a dentist whose office was on the first floor. Essentially the building was divided in half – my apartment on the second and third floors, and our friends had the two-story apartment on the other side. I once heard a lot of scratching noises coming from the cubbies on the third floor, and decided it best never to open them. My friends told me there were squirrels nesting in them.

I happen to adore squirrels. They’re adorable. They have these cute little faces and they sit up on their hind legs and nibble on acorns clutched in their cute little hands…. What’s not to love? I didn’t really care that they were in the cubbies, so long as they didn’t claw their way inside the apartment. I bet you know where this is going.

One afternoon I was walking down the long hall from the bathroom to the living room, and I heard a disturbing noise overhead. The hallway had a drop ceiling, with a couple of light panels. I looked up and saw little squirrel feet in the light panel. I about shit my pants.  I’ve seen The Breakfast Club, and we all know how those panels can drop. The squirrel was running up and down the hallway on top of the dropped ceiling and now all I could think of was Clark Griswald … and what I’d do if this thing ended up inside my apartment.

Anyway, long story short, I ran downstairs and into the dentist’s office and very calmly informed the receptionist that I had a small problem upstairs that required immediate attention. He came up shortly, with a broom. What is it with people wielding brooms at unwelcome critters? My first year at NYU, we had a mouse in our dorm room kitchen and we called maintenance and the guy came up with a broomand a bucket. And proceeded to locate said mouse and literally beat it to death. Thatwas a traumatic experience that led me to forever espouse humane methods of delivering mice from homes. That and that time I found a mouse stuck to that sticky pad exterminators use, and the poor thing was frantically trying to chew its own foot off to get away. That made me cry. I made my friend get rid of it and I told the landlord that was the most inhumane way to “get rid of” mice.

So after reminiscing the good old days of squirrels in my apartment, I moved onto memories of the squirrels eating all the seed from the birdfeeder my ex hung on one of those iron plant hangers by the fish pond, so we could watch the birds feed from our kitchen window. But the squirrels were very adept at climbing this iron pole, and refilling this feeder every day was a hilarious constant frustration for him. I came up with a solution.

I decided to coat the pole with Vaseline. Then I stood by the window, and waited. I didn’t have to wait long as one squirrel sprinted from the oak tree on the side of our house and took a long, flying leap at the pole. His front paws made contact first, followed by his back legs and a second later… he slid all the way down the pole in slow motion. He made a soft landing and shook himself off incredulously, looked up at the feeder in confusion, and made to reach for the slippery pole again. It was one of the most hilarious things I’ve never videoed.

Meanwhile, back in my wired brain… thoughts shifted back to more pressing present items, like looking into a tent rental for the anniversary party, getting the save-the-date cards sent out, and how to plan out a fun surprise for a friend who could really use the “uplift.” And what to bring to tomorrow’s sports banquet, and what I have to do to gather our tax stuff together, and I have a week to finish reviewing the draft of the diabetes guidelines, and OMG! – Veruca needs her blood tests done, and I have to renew those prescriptions, and ….