Bad Boy Musings

giphy

Oh my God. I need to never, not ever, drink a 20-oz bottle of Dr. Pepper seven hours before bedtime. Lying in bed for going on three hours, listening to my heart beating in my chest, the weighted blanket worthless, and trying not to keep checking the time. The corner of my bedsheet and the mattress pad have pulled off, again, and I tried to ignore that too, but it was bunching up under my pillow and so I laid there thinking about how to fix that without waking Todd.

Instead, I pulled out my iPad and returned to my latest obsession on Netflix. Ha. Excellent and perhaps not-so-accidental choice of words for You. Veruca suggested it a few nights ago and we started watching it together, in spite of the mature rating, and later abandoned it because there was just waaaay too much material of a suggestive nature (that’s putting it mildly). However, momma returned to it on her day off whilst attending to household duties and now I can’t stop.

It’s riveting and soapy, the writing is sharp and yet there are times when it’s just ridiculous how the story plays out. I think Penn Badgley, the lead, is outstanding. The style of the storytelling, without giving too much away, is mostly in present tense – but there are flashbacks for the main character and then there are his voiceover monologues. It’s those inside thoughts that really drive the story in so many ways.

I think Penn Badgley outdoes himself. He fully encompasses his character’s persona – his voice, his facial expressions, the sounds of a man in the throes of orgasm (see? Waaaay too much for a 14-year-0ld) – in such a way that it’s easy to forget he’s an actor playing a part.

V told me her friend has watched nearly all of it, and my first reaction is – she’s too young, she doesn’t know what she’s seeing, how does she feel about this character?? WHY??? But see, I already know the answer.

Penn Badgely, in an interview I read somewhere and quickly forgot, was stated as admonishing fans on Twitter for lusting after this psycho-sociopath. His – and his character’s – good looks are completely overshadowing the Big Red Flags of a man with serious boundary issues and a casual disregard for human life. The female viewership is not discouraged.

What does this say about women – about people – today? And it makes me wonder what a 14-year-old girl is thinking when she’s watching the shit show that is Joe/Will. Does she find him “pretty,” as she once referred to a boy IRL? Does she fantasize about meeting him, dating him, having him love her like that?

And that’s where it gets scary. When did we learn to glorify bad boys? How do we teach our girls how to identify “bad”?

The boy with the leather motorcycle jacket, the pierced ear, the long hair, quiet and seething below the surface… is he sexy or someone to be careful of? Why do you like him? What is so tantalizing about him, the idea of him – what does bad mean?

How do you not end in up in love with guys who ignore you until they want you, punch holes in walls near your head, cigarettes in one hand and a coke straw in the other? Guys with wandering eyes and other girls too, guys who need your money, or never call back.

At some point in your young life, you decided that “bad boys” were desirable. Which movie was that? That the troubled, volatile, no-rules boy was IT. How many of them were there?

Was the boy in leather who drives a fast car really as bad you made him to be? Or did you just want him to be bad? What did it take to make him bad? How far did he have to go to qualify?

How many good guys did you burn on the road to badness? How much badness did you really see? Did you find out that the bad boy wasn’t all that bad, or that he was, in fact, worse than you ever imagined? How many bruises did you inflict, or did he inflict on you – your body, your psyche, your soul?

How many decades will it take to undo the damage you opened the door for and invited in, all because bad boys are soooo good? Once you open that door, it’s not so easy to close. The weight of the room inside is full and the door no longer closes.

When you met him, did he give you all of his attention or did he make you feel like he could be somewhere, anywhere, else? Hello! Over here! Did he stand a little too close to you? Did you like that – the discomfort in his proximity to you – while his eyes bore holes through you? Did it make your stomach dip like a free fall?

Did you relish the moment you made him jealous of someone else? Did you do it because you wanted the reaction? Did you want to see him angry? Angry with you? Did you want to fight with him, because the fire it sparks is exhilarating, makes you feel alive, because you believe that you need the turbulence?

Is it your own desire to be bad that drives your desire to capture it in someone else? Why is being bad so damn good? What are the rewards? What are the consequences?

To Veruca, On Love

*Update: After posting, I realized there was something else to say. See at end of post.*

It took me a very long time to see love without rose-colored glasses. Don’t get me wrong – love is, as Shakespeare said, a many-splendored thing. I was enamored with love long before it was returned.

I liked a LOT of boys. I ended up “going with” (what we called it in middle school) two that I previously had zero awareness of before I heard they liked me. Lesson in caution: when a boy you’ve hardly noticed turns up in pursuit of you – proceed with caution. Not that you can’t fall in love with him, but it can be fairly intoxicating to be adored by someone.

To that end, beware the boy who pursues you when you’re already involved with someone else. It is one thing to love someone from afar, respecting the relationship you have with another, and it is quite another to make plain to everyone who will listen that he wants to be with you. Further, strategically placing himself where he is most likely to see you, and you him, fermenting a possible triangle which I assure you will not end well (see aforementioned “intoxication” above). If he doesn’t respect your relationship with another, how will he respect any he might have with you?

Leaving one boy for another is quite common and, even if you disguise it with a need to exit a “bad situation,” you have barely enough time to breathe and/or heal the wounds of the previous while you’re embarking on the next. Also guaranteed not to end well.

If you’re just leaving because boy #2 looks way better than boy #1, STILL. Give yourself time. You can’t recognize true love if you keep jumping from one pond to another without time to reflect.

Relationships that are always full of drama are not “real love.” If “we’re always fighting” is part of your relationship, it’s not a healthy relationship. And it doesn’t matter who is bringing the drama. If it’s him, it’s not good. If it’s you, you need to stop and take a good hard look at why. You will benefit and grow from an introspective look at yourself.

Your first real love may very well be the love that will define your expectations for every love that follows, good or bad. Or not. Not everyone’s first love is life-altering. But many first loves will lay the groundwork for every relationship you ever have, and you may subconsciously measure every subsequent relationship against that first, intense love. You may chase every relationship you have, unknowingly trying to recapture the same feelings, emotions, and physical reactions. No matter what, no matter how tempting, be aware – not to mold every relationship into the one that was your foundation. You will fail.

Instead, learn from that first love. Learn how it feels to be loved. Learn how you felt to give love. Learn how it felt to be treated by this person. Did you feel good, or did you feel uneasy? What characteristics did he have that you valued? Which would you choose to avoid? Learn how it felt when that love ended. Were you amicable? Was it ugly? How did you conduct yourself? Did you give yourself enough time to reflect and heal? (These are all relevant questions in every relationship.)

Beware the Rebound. The “rebound” is a relationship you find yourself in soon after a breakup. This person makes you feel good when you’ve been really sad and down. That’s great. Except, it’s not love. (See the aforementioned “intoxication.”) Which also means, you’ve had no time to heal.

Beware of the exotic. Exotic, as defined in the dictionary, is “of foreign origin or character; not native.” Accents are sexy. What is foreign is sometimes intoxicatingly attractive. What I want you to know is, don’t get stoopid over some guy with a foreign accent. It’s not romantic. He’s not different. He will treat you the same as any other guy you meet, maybe better, or maybe not as well. Just keep perspective and have self-respect. If you don’t, you will drown in that gorgeous Italian accent. Or Latino. Or English. Or Afrikaans. Or some form of  Asian.

Never, Ever, pursue a friend of an ex. If he’s good guy, he won’t go out with you. He may like you, but there’s a guy code (as there is a girl code) and that will preclude any attraction you may have to each other. As it should be. If he doesn’t care that you’re his best friend’s ex, you best be prepared to wonder why and what kind of friend he really is. Either way, if scoring you outranks his friendship with [your ex], that’s a serious character flaw.

Next: Long distance relationships are tough. That’s not to say they can’t work out, but be realistic about this distance and the amount of time apart. And more importantly, what are the boundaries of a long-distance relationship, and what are the guidelines? Be realistic in your expectations, and see how they line up with his.

Don’t give yourself up to someone who won’t commit to you. This can look like not calling you like he said he would to excusing an ex-girlfriend showing up, to blowing off your date, to openly flirting with other girls in front of you. He’s “just not that into you.” And don’t you DARE take that shit personal – it’s his flaw, not yours.

“Bad boys” can be intoxicating themselves – but be prepared to lose your heart and soul to this guy. It’s not going to end well for you if he’s drinking and doing drugs regularly. And – this should go without saying – ANY boy who lays a hand on you is abusive and you need to walk, no – RUN, away fast. “I’m sorry” is a lie you will regret believing. And, while we’re on the subject, verbal abuse IS abuse and no less of a crime.

Now for the icky part and I’ll make it quick: Sex is something you will consider sooner or later. I hope you would come talk to me about it, but you might not and that’s okay. Don’t let anyone, even a long-time boyfriend, pressure you into something you don’t want/aren’t ready for. But know that for you, sharing that will change you forever in ways you won’t understand until you’re much older.

To wrap this up before you’ve had enough – guys with girlfriends are OFF LIMITS. Have respect for yourself (and your fellow woman). And older guys are usually no different than boys your age. They aren’t always wiser or more sophisticated and, let’s face it, if he’s 10 years older that’s just gross.*

Finally, you deserve to be loved and treated with respect and reverence. Expect it and you will get it from those who deserve you, and the rest will fade away. Never, Ever settle for less. Never, ever, settle.

Update: I would be remiss to tell you that when you find someone worthy, love with your whole heart. Do not be afraid to love, or to lose love. Sometimes love doesn’t always end the way you want it to, but that is no reason not to try, when it feels right. You will most definitely not get through life unscathed by love, but to quote another famous writer – Alfred Lord Tennyson –  ” tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.” It’s all part of the journey, my love, and I will see you through it all.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

                        ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

 

 

 

*This is actually directly from a comment she once made about older guys. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with a 10-year age difference. I’m not against it. I do, however, believe that this difference is felt more acutely and may be harder to overcome, the younger two people are.

 

Destination: Washington, DC

20180410_125257

Photo Copyright Taraka & The Tara Chronicles, 2018

Yesterday was the long-awaited seventh grade field trip to Washington, DC, to visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Veruca was very excited, at least insofar as one can be excited to spend a day away from the classroom and visit a different city. I would be lying if I said I was looking forward to this trip. And not just because of the solemn nature of the lesson.

We had to arrive at school at 6:30 a.m., and would not be returning for… twelve hours. I was a chaperone and so again responsible for other children not my own. That alone induces anxiety, though I have to admit it’s far better with 12- and 13-year-olds than it is with 8-year-olds. We were going to Washington, DC, a place my apocalyptic mind is certain is North Korea’s prime target. (Nevermind that if this were to truly happen, we don’t live far enough away from DC to survive anyway.)

So we arrive at 6:35 and board one of four buses. I get the last adult seat next to a very nice, but large, man. We introduce ourselves. And then he buckles up his seatbelt (they have these on tour buses!) while remarking he doesn’t want “another Tracy Morgan situation.” Great. What the hell do you say to that?

I texted my mom friend, Ashley, who was on another bus. Our bus didn’t have enough seats, as it soon turned out when three more people tried to board, and one of the two teachers riding with us was outside on the sidewalk losing her shit. And I can hear the bus driver saying all the buses have 58 seats, they’ve always had 58 seats, blah blah blah. All this, before 7 o’clock in the morning. I sipped my coffee and watched them through the window with fascination.

Disaster was eventually diverted when some seats were discovered on the other buses and we were soon on our way. Spazzy loaded the Night at the Museum movie and, later, the second one. After the longest bus ride ever, we finally pulled up next to the United States Memorial Holocaust Museum.

Our ticket time was 11:30 and we had an hour and a half to kill. Ashley announced that she needed Starbucks NOW and so she plugged it into her GPS and we were off. The six of us loaded up on beverages (my girls went with “The Pink Drink” – seriously) and I went with a White Chocolate Mocha Tall. I was so proud of myself for not screwing up how to order at Starbucks.

There are A LOT of black SUVs with tinted windows in DC. It’s creepy, the way they’re parked, engines running, along the streets. Something about them gave me anxiety. Or, maybe it was the caffeine. Either way, I was grateful to get away from them.

It’s a very serious matter, entering museums today – like going through airport security – bags are put through x-ray machines and we walk through metal detectors. V cannot go through – because her insulin pump cannot go through x-ray machines – so at every entrance we have to announce this and she goes around the machine and is personally inspected. Oh, did she love that.

After, we’re handed “Identification Cards” we aren’t supposed to open until sometime later (though no one ever tells us when and we end up cheating, I suppose, because we look). Each card holds the name and photograph of a real person who lived during the Holocaust.

Our group was lined up on a staircase, four across on each step – or, were supposed to be – but it’s kind of hard to squish that many people together especially when many are full-sized adults. One of the chaperones or teachers (not sure who she was) ordered my three girls and me to step down, because every step had to have 4 people on it. I said, there’s no room to step down. (There was a dad directly in front of me who was easily 6 feet tall, twice my size and clearly need TWO steps – picture this scenario). She said, you have to… every step has to be filled. I’m not pressing my body against a stranger, I snapped. (Yeah, I know. Not good form in front of the kids.) For the record, I’m usually very agreeable. I don’t know what got into me.

And before you think I’m a total asshole, I GET IT. I know there was a point to that exercise as we waited for our whole group to get through security. The mom on the opposite end of that step in front of me sniggled. The dad behind me, equally as large, announced a few minutes into our wait that, I hope I don’t get lightheaded and fall down like that last time. And I burst out laughing. I told him at least he’d have a soft landing.

We were soon led to a more open area and three elevators designed to look like something industrial and that’s all I’m going to say about that because I was having the most uneasy feelings here and I couldn’t shake it. (Yeah, yeah, I GET IT.)

The guide asked our group some questions, including – How many people did Hitler kill?                  Do YOU know?

Anyway, the museum was very crowded. But quiet. People spoke in whispers. There was at least one other school there and we spent so much time reading the exhibits that I looked around at one point and didn’t recognize anyone. To say that there wasn’t enough time to spend here is the understatement of the year.

We were never taught much about the Holocaust in school. I didn’t read anything related to it until I was in college. I didn’t know who Elie Wiesel was until my Junior year. I don’t think I knew that some 25,000 books that were decidedly “un-German” were burned on this very day in 1933. I didn’t know that books were published and taught to German schoolchildren, intended to indoctrinate them to Nazism and prejudice against Jews. I don’t think I knew that the Nazis also exterminated people who were “incurably ill.” Veruca said, I would’ve been killed.

We left the museum roughly 2 hours later. We were all hungry and also wanted to visit another museum while there was still time. At least one of us wanted to shop.

 

Details….

Raizel Kisielnicki was a 44-year-old mother of three who lived near Warsaw. She and her husband owned a grocery, gas station, and restaurant. On September 25, 1942 she and more than 3000 other Jews in their town of Kaluszyn were deported to an extermination camp, where she died.

Attack on Intellectual Freedom. The 1933 Book Burnings were carried out by German students from universities around Germany. “Any book which acts subversively on our future or strikes at the root of German thought, the German home, and the driving forces of our people” and/or written by authors considered enemies of National Socialism. These included Einstein, Mann, Freud, Kafka, Marx, H.G. Wells, Upton Sinclair, Helen Keller, and Margaret Sanger.

Indoctrination of schoolchildren. The Nazi regime removed Jewish teachers and others who were considered “politically unreliable.” Hitler’s portrait hung in every classroom. New textbooks that taught obedience to state authority, racism, militarism, and antisemitism, and love for Hitler were utilized in classrooms. Der Giftpilz (The Poisonous Mushroom) was an anti-Semitic children’s picture book metaphorically explaining how to recognize a Jew, in the form of “good” mushrooms vs. “bad” mushrooms.

Who. Hitler only singled out Jews, who he saw as an inferior race, for complete annihilation. Germans were among the first to be persecuted for their political activities, for being mentally or physically handicapped, or homosexuals, criminals, or nonconformists. Hundreds of thousands of Roma and Sinti (“Gypsies”) were also killed. The people of Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia were also considered inferior races.

How many? The question was, how many did Hitler kill? The answer is ONE. HE killed one person. Himself. Yet he was able to commandeer an army of Nazis to exterminate an estimated SIX MILLION Jews, and others…And an entire population of people was complicit in these killings.

Think about that.

 

 

 

Of Blogging, and First Dates

giphy-downsized (9)

I wasn’t going to write today. I don’t typically write every day. I had a few thoughts rolling around my brain of what I wanted to write about next; they’re an eclectic and somewhat schizophrenic collection of ideas that have little to do with one another.

Todd and I worked on one of them together, several arctic nights ago. It began by the fire and ended in bed. We slid our bodies between silken sheets and soft blankets, he picked up his toy and I picked up mine and….

He continued his Angry Birds game and I pulled up the Notes icon on my own mobile device.

I took down notes on my phone about one of my creative thoughts (coming soon), because if I got up again the animals of the house would have expectations.

So yesterday I posted about blogging vs. reality and I didn’t expect the reactions I received. Hell – I didn’t expect any at all. The most I ever see is a “like” here and there; otherwise the readers are really just ghosts that come and go, silently.

So. Now I’m wondering if this will affect my output and content. To be relevant, and not just a “whatever” poster. I guess. Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe I just say thank you and keep moving forward.

I really want Todd to guest post. He seems reluctant. And while he shares my ridiculous and often bizarre sense of humor, he has a preference for privacy that rivals my salacious Gemini nature of the shock factor. He is amused by my naughty jokes amongst friends, my improper remarks about our sex life to him in intentional earshot of others; however, to write about what really goes on behind our bedroom door, or when the kids are away and the cat is sleeping at the foot of the bed … is that-which-shall-remain-sacred.

I once made a remark to a gay friend that had everything to do with my mom’s shop vac – I said, Todd’s is much bigger. It truly wasn’t spoken out of turn, but when I saw his reaction, I winked. Todd, however, laughed it off and really – who in their right mind would be angry with that implication? Besides, on the heels of yesterday’s post and in the interest of honesty, Todd really does have a big… shop vac.

Anyway. As we careen toward another shiny object… on a different arctic night (we’ve had several here in our region of the world)… Todd remembered! At least we think he remembered, and since I’ve rendered what facts he presented to support this memory as highly likely… I think he uncovered the mystery of When Our First Date was.

A number of times I had admitted to not remembering our first date, and Todd was equally perplexed though perhaps it was irrelevant anyway because, today. I said before that while I don’t remember our first date, I do remember spending New Year’s Eve together.

Well, the mystery has been solved. I think. Through a series of what should have been the most obvious deductions… Wait! Back up.

Todd and I met in the fall of 1984. But, as my mom taught me that girls don’t call boys (or wear black, whatever the hell that meant in the 80s) and I was shy anyway and would never have flat out told a boy I was interested (which really deserves a separate post), and therefore he had no idea that I was because he’s also oblivious – and yes, that’s in the present tense because he IS and shamelessly admits to it – we never went out.

There was an awful lot of “let’s insert myself near this person so they can’t miss me” behavior, but it wasn’t until the fall of 1985 that we danced around each other again. And it wasn’t until another young man named Tom told Todd he’d better ask me out before someone else did, though I have no idea what insight he could possibly have had since I never spoke two words to him. Sometime thereafter, the timeline of which remains a mystery, Todd did ask me out.

However, the following deductions have led to the conclusion that the actual real First Date was, in fact New Year’s Eve. (Which would also explain why we can’t remember another first date – because there wasn’t one.)

#1 – Todd’s birthday is in mid-December, and we didn’t spend that day together, nor was it acknowledged.

#2 – Wrestling was ongoing, so there were meets and tournaments going on on Saturdays, which meant we likely wouldn’t have gone out then either. Except for maybe a rendezvous or two in our cars, though I can assure you I was Not That Kind of Girl. Yet.

#3 – We both had jobs. He worked for KFC after school and weekends, and I worked in my family’s restaurant which was over 45 minutes away.

#4 – We didn’t exchange gifts or acknowledge Christmas.

Therefore, my Murdoch man determined that New Year’s Eve had to be the night. Not that night. Just the first date night.

I’m so excited by this revelation, if only because I’m sick of forgetting and/or not remembering shit. It’s embarrassing. And annoying.

And to think these memories were triggered by someone else’s first date. Yes, there was a first date around here recently. And that’s all I’m going to say about that, because, privacy.

New Year’s Eve 1985/86 was spent on the floor in my bedroom, two floors away from my parents who I am still shocked allowed this first boy into my bedroom on our first date and trusted us. I had a stereo system on which we played my collection of Prince vinyl and talked for hours about lord knows what. I’m certain that his lips found mine somewhere during that long conversation. I’m certain that I melted in the glow of this intensity I’d only written about in journals before.

I had no idea where that night would end. Living in the moment and flying by the seat of my pants is an earmark of Gemini existence. I’m sure I’m a young soul, still learning the lessons old souls like Todd have known for centuries. It still thrills me to kiss him and smell the very same smell of his 17-year-old skin. It stirs something in me I’m afraid I’d need another blog to specialize in. Nevertheless, I remain blown away that that night was over 30 years, and several relationships and a marriage ago, and that we ended up here anyway in spite of it all.

2017 – The Year in Review

giphy-9

April was by far the busiest and most eventful month of the year. I started working at CHOP, Veruca started her softball career, Opac had oral surgery, my maternal grandfather passed away, a week later my uncle unexpectedly followed, a high school friend lost his battle with cancer, and Todd and I attended the college’s posh annual gala.

Work

I got a new job, and Todd stepped into the Pathways Coordinator position, in addition to teaching and serving on multiple committees. I had a one-day orientation in Philadelphia spent a week training on the EPIC platform in early May, and learned my way around the city I’ve never loved. It’s been a great experience so far – I love the people I work with and the opportunity to be a part of this organization. I’ve given up my weekends at the restaurant, and I think they’re doing fine without me.

The Kids

Veruca quit cheer for good and took on softball. Her first season – her team won the division with an impressive, nearly undefeated record, and she has another trophy on her shelf. Girlfriend can knock a ball out of the park and it turns out she’s a great catcher.

Opac moved up to varsity football this year and spent most of the season pacing the sidelines, with only quick bursts of time on the field. I don’t know how but the team was the second worst team in the league and the head coach resigned. A new coach is coming in to kick some ass and we’re all excited to see what he’s going to do to turn this team upside down.

Furry Kids

Oliver and Sabra are healthy and happy. One is overweight, and one is underweight. Guess which is which?

Moses, my mom’s dog, has spent several days with us over the past year while mom was away on vacations and hospitalizations. He nominated me as interim mom, and I’ve never had a furbaby happier to see me come home from work than him. Makes me wonder what the other two are for.

We adopted a black kitten we named Shadow back in March, who cost me $1200 and 6 emotional hours at the emergency vet. After only 3 weeks with him, I got to be the one who had to decide to let him go. It was horrible and turned me off from ever wanting to adopt another pet.

Adventures and Travel

We attended two weddings, one in May and one in November. Both were wonderful events and we were so blessed to be a part of their special days. We also attended the Lymphoma and Leukemia Man & Woman of the Year gala in Baltimore, for which I rented my first Rent the Runway gown. A floor-length black and gold Marchesa Notte that made me feel like royalty, and I highly recommend RTR. It’s the perfect way to wear a gorgeous dress that costs more than your last paycheck; it’s affordable; and you’ll always have something different to wear. (You’re welcome, RTR, for the free publicity to my 3 followers.)

Todd and I went to San Francisco for a conference that was cut short thanks to the Nor’easter back home. It was a nice respite, even though I missed out on Alcatraz. We also returned to Ocean City, Maryland over the summer.

This year’s State Bowling Tournament was held locally, so we didn’t have any traveling to do.

Cars

We got 3 new vehicles this year and no, we’re still not rich. We replaced my out-of-warranty Explorer with a brand new Edge – if you don’t already know, we do so much driving to and from PA that a car with 4-wheel drive under warranty is an absolute necessity. Todd acquired a beater truck: a 1990 F-150 for less than the cost of my RTR gown. I’m not sure I’m allowed to officially mention car #3; so let’s just all agree to keep it on the down low and I’ll tell you the coveted 2017 GT California Special was acquired around the same time as the Edge for a deal that couldn’t be turned down.

The new Edge just might be a lemon – it spent 3 weeks on hiatus at the Ford dealership while I learned exactly why I don’t want an Expedition. Ever. And not just because V fell out of it. Twice.

Extended family news

Neph has been on the move and working a lot, but he calls his auntie occasionally, which I really appreciate. Nephtoo graduated high school and started college 3 hours away, and posts beautiful photos of the water there. I have yet to send a care package. I’m not a very good auntie.

Gloria, my illustrious maternal grandmother to whom I credit my tough-as-shit attitude, turned 92 and not only interrupted the pastor several times during my uncle’s memorial because “WHAT’s he saying?” and claimed not to remember his ex-wife,  is still kicking it like a rockstar. I delivered her a bottle of J&B for NYE, after she called my mom to cry about her forgetting to bring it to her. Almost as much fun as the Teddy Bear delivery of 2012.

Health

My mom had laparoscopic surgery over the summer that turned into major abdominal surgery, and we were both blessed to have a dear friend present during the procedure to hold my hand. Todd also had surgery later the same month, and was equally as hilarious coming out of anesthesia as my mother. They’re both lucky I am too thoughtful to consider video-recording.

I’m proud to report I passed my very first drug test and received my first flu shot. I also had two doses of tetanus (I’m still pissed about this), and received an MMR booster because my titer said I needed one.

I ordered Veruca a new pump through Animas – our pump provider – only to learn the day after it arrived that Animas was closing down operations. SO, we will be transitioning God-knows-when to a new pump from Medtronic (who partnered with Animas) – whenever Animas decides they’re done producing supplies too.

Opac had his wisdom teeth out and I got a root canal and crown.

I stopped drinking for just over 3 months and lost 11 pounds. I guess it’s a good thing when your friend tells you that “there’s less of you” when he sees you at the holiday party.

Celebrations

V had her first birthday party sleepover last spring and everybody seemed to have a great time. Well, except for the one girl who’s apparently allergic to cats.

Opac turned 17, exactly eight months after he obtained his learner’s permit. He still has a long way to go before he gets his license.

We ended our 2016 with parties for both Todd’s birthday and my father-in-law’s…one impromptu night at the restaurant Christmas Eve and a planned work night on New Year’s Eve.

I can’t wait to see what 2018 will bring.

Just An Echo

The pronouncement was made and there was much anger and yelling and screaming, but strangely, no tears. There were no tears. Seldom were there any tears. The dish rack in the kitchen was wiped from the counter, shattering to the floor. Always, something had to be broken.

Hearts were pounding, all of them. One for loss, one for freedom. Two more for the uncomfortable familiarity.

It was not much different than any of the other times. She managed the distance between them, not fearful, but vigilant. This time there would be no backing down. This time, when the words came out, she would not take them back.

If he lunged at her, if he closed the space between them, spitting familiar words in her face, she would not back away. She would not look away. She would meet his eyes.

No more. No more name calling. No more criticisms. No more destroying personal property, space, private journals. No more threats. No more physical threats. No more empty apologies. No more gaslighting. No more.

***

In a tumultuous life and the changes it brought, accusations flew. False accusations. A pot, calling the kettle black. Misdeeds and affairs of the past denied, but known. Promises to change, promises to commit to things promised long before and long ignored. Threats to destroy. Demands to end friendships.

Soon after, she refocused her efforts on the time ahead. What must be done. How to accomplish it.

Interference from an outside, and separately invested source, compelled her to withdraw from much needed support. And what followed next – a song. A song, shared on Facebook, meant to express disappointment, sorrow, frustration – cut her to the core. Fade to Black.

An inconceivable ache in the soul, opened an old wound long ago healed. The tears flowed freely. Another kind of loss flooded back to her, one healed but never forgotten. A loss not wanting to be felt again.

So much to be done. No easy way out, but a way out – the only way now.

Four Years in Maryland

It’s officially four years since I reluctantly excitedly nervously optimistically went kicking and screaming moved to Maryland. Four years!

Opac is now a high school Junior, and learning to drive. Veruca is in her second year of middle school. Todd has gotten a promotion and is simultaneously launching another business. I got a new job. We lost Pi, and we loved – and lost – our adopted kitten, Shadow, in one short month. The ex got remarried. I like her more than I like him. Is that wrong? We’re all getting along. We got a new car. Or two. And the coveted beater truck for all that hauling Todd plans to do. (He chastised me for calling this “nice truck” a beater, but I call it like I see it.)

Four years later… home renovations continue. We gutted the apartment and a friend subsequently moved in and broke the smoking ban. We painted. We repainted. We bought new rugs which the dog has managed to shit on already. We renovated the rec room, got a pool table. Still need to build a bar. We got the fireplace working. We acquired a hot tub friends were giving away.

We built a home gym, acquired a used treadmill – because Facebook marketplace rocks – for $75. We cleaned up our stationary bike, which spent several winters outside while we were away living in PA. We added a weight bench for Opac last Christmas.

We had parties and poker nights. We took short trips to several places I’d never been. We finally took a real vacation together. We both gained weight. We tuned up our bikes and started riding. We’re both losing weight.

We attended some galas and felt rich for a night. We attended a couple of weddings and embraced the love we felt. We attended more than a handful of funerals and remembered how fleeting life can be, and how blessed we are.

We celebrated 50 years of enduring love with my in-laws’ anniversary party in our backyard with seventy guests.

We made new friends, and watched others fade away.

We continue to slowly claw our way back from a mountain of debt that has plagued us since the beginning. All that money I sent my lawyer every month is still a mystery to me. I’d like to know where it came from and where it’s going now.

Six years ago, Todd wanted us to move here. Six years ago, I told him there was no fucking way. Well, I said it nicer than that, and left out the f-word. Six years ago I spent many overnights in this house, escaping – but not really – the debilitating pain of divorce and child custody, rediscovering faith, myself, and the supernatural power of first love. There is some existential healing power in this house I cannot explain, but everyone who needs it, feels it when they enter.

Four years ago I felt like a stranger in a strange land, and desperately wanted to not regret coming here. But my children made friends quickly, and Opac’s declaration that this place was so much better than where he’d come from made it all worth it. I didn’t see the limbo they lived in, in our former place, until we moved here and everything clicked together like the missing pieces of a puzzle.

I trusted Todd that this was going to be good, because I couldn’t trust myself. Today, I can’t imagine being anywhere else. This is home. More home than anywhere I’ve ever wanted to be.

 

 

It Starts Again

After a long summer that didn’t feel like it went all that fast, we’re back to real-life rush hour. The first day of summer always feels like I want to slit my wrists when Veruca is demanding an activity schedule worthy of an organized, intinerized trip. Yeah, I totally just made that word up.

The kids had their vacation with their dad and Todd and I had ours. We spent time together, we spent time apart. Summer slogged along. Then football started the second week of August, and suddenly time jumped on the A train and took off like a bullet.

This is the first year I wasn’t counting the days until the first day of school. Instead, I’ve been checking the tears at every door we pass through. Seriously, two weeks ago I totally used my burning eyes from a long day staring at insurance verifications to cover the tears that kept welling up as I watched Opac begin his 3rd year in football.

To say I’ve been emotional lately would be an understatement. I sat there in the bleachers, watching him across the field, and acutely felt the loss of the little child I held in my arms with his head snuggled into my shoulder.

He’s a Junior this year. He has two years of high school left, before he leaves the nest to go be a college kid and create his own life. Two Years. Two years is a blink in the world of parenting. And I’m not ready. I’m not ready to let him go. Of course, he still doesn’t have his driver’s license, so I suppose he can’t go too far. Yet.

I have several friends who drove their firstborns to college this year and that, itself, has nailed home the reality. Nephtoo began college this year. Which reminds me, he still hasn’t sent me his address so I can send him stuff. And why? Because he’s off living his own life and adulting, and has temporarily forgotten his family.

I hear dumb music and I start to cry. I think about his soft baby hair and his little hand resting on my chest, and the long lashes that curled over his big brown eyes – because I would sit on the couch and hold him while he slept. He never learned to sleep in a crib.

Every moment he walked out my door, he took a part of my heart with him. Every moment I think about the inevitable bearing down on us, my heart feels like it’s being squeezed in a vice. I know it’s hard to believe, but I’m terribly emotional about him.

This is the first year I’ve felt the weight of the second child growing up. V started 7th grade this year. I remember my middle school years, probably better than I should. I don’t remember clinging to my mom quite like she does, or smothering her with my love and attention. My mom keeps reminding me that V loves me so much, and that I should enjoy it. I’m not good at being smothered though, which is where I struggle with her. Smothering me was the kiss of death for many a boy, once upon a time.

This year, however, while I’ve been working on setting those personal space boundaries with her – which, ironically, is a topic that figures into my next post – I’ve also begun to embrace the moments she’s close to me that way because it’s inevitable that she may change her M.O. as she enters the teen years. And if my teen years with my mom are any predictor of the future, or at the very least Karma – it’s gonna get ugly.

In any case, I’m experiencing some occasional sadness. It’s not every minute, or every day, but it comes with the suddenness of a drive-by shooting. I’m feeling sadness over my kids growing up, over growing older, watching my parents age and what that means, what life will look like in 20 years.

And these are the times I’m most vulnerable, and then the door to the attic of my soul cracks open and I start to feel everything. Including the things I’ve tried to heal, and locked away. I think of the child I lost, and it opens a Pandora’s box of whys and why nots. And suddenly I’m feeling that loss again, not nearly as acutely as that day, but a dull ache in the pit of my stomach. And I have my reasons for that too, but there are some things I prefer to keep to myself, even as I choke on them.

So it starts again. School is three days underway and we’re back to a bumpy groove, as O has practice daily after school and games every Friday, and V has softball practice at night and games every Saturday. Even Todd has the schedule from hell this week. The four of us have not had dinner together in almost 2 weeks. I’m behind on personal appointments, and I’m picking up extra hours at work. All of those things on my summer to-do list have now been transferred to my Fall to-do list.

I had big plans for the first week of school, but like all plans, even the best laid plans don’t always get laid.

Not Always How It Looks

I’ve had a plethora of thoughts about my next post, one of which was planned last week on a topic that has long bothered me about the business I’ve grown up in. I didn’t get it written before the weekend, and damn if it didn’t happen again and it not only pissed me off that it happened again, but that if I wrote about it NOW, someone would assume it was because of THEM. So, I’m putting that post off for a few days while I process some other stuff. Yes, I’m cryptic sometimes. Deal with it.

I went to bed last night exhausted, but my brain wouldn’t shut off and I was turning over some thoughts about Life. Profound thoughts, some with sadness, some with gratitude, and some with just more questions. I fell asleep then and, as always happens, those great thoughts got sucked into the black hole of my dreams and it may take me a few days to conjure them up again. Am I being cryptic again? Okay – I’ll be direct – just this once.

Exhausted – because one of my BFFs came for two days and we didn’t get much sleep. Profound thoughts – because a friend from high school just lost his battle with cancer two days ago.

But before all of that, I was putzing around this closed group I joined under the probably somewhat misguided notion that we were all there because we were fans of a certain blog. Which is mostly true, but many of the posts mentioned troubled lives, inability to get out of bed and/or leave the house, insecurities, and so on. One girl posted how her life was so messed up while everyone else on Facebook is living the dream and have families and kids and great jobs… you know the story.

We all know the story. Who hasn’t been on Facebook and seen how great some people’s lives are? And maybe felt like, wow – I wish my life was like that/better.

Well, here’s a newsflash: NOBODY’s life is perfect. And I told her so. I also told her that social media is a place where one can be whoever they want the world to see. People do it every day.

A friend gushes on and on about how smart her kids are, how they made distinguished honors again, and what great athletes they are. Another calls her husband the best husband ever because he did something nice for her – maybe he brought flowers home, or made dinner and took care of the kids one night. Another travels all the time to wonderful places.

About seven years ago I reconnected with a friend who – in a nutshell – was living her dream. Great job, great husband, beautiful house, beautiful kids, lots of great friends. I felt a pang of jealousy, mingled with joy for her at having those things that she so deserved after years of struggle. It was another card stacked against the deck I was living in back then. I couldn’t ignore the feeling of, why can’t I have all of that too?

Appearances are deceiving. Some people gush to cover up their own shortcomings, insecurities, or fears that they don’t measure up to “the dream.” Some of those people will experience divorce, illness, job loss, money and stability, loss of a parent or loved one, or – heaven forbid – the loss of a child. The mother who gushes over her children? She has lived the last 18 years without her mother. The friend who has money and is always traveling? Lives a lonely single life and is struggling to find love.

I write a lot about my own life. People who know me personally, know who I really am. I write tough sometimes. Sometimes funny. Sometimes I write about my weaknesses. I try to be honest. I live in a nice home, drive a nice car, have beautiful kids, wonderful friends and neighbors, and the love of my life. Gushing?

No. I count my blessings. Because 7 years ago my life looked very VERY different… and I was the one wishing it could look more like hers, or his. And I am not so naïve to believe that anything can change in an instant. And that – my friends – is a truth I will share today. Inside myself lives a terrible fear of losing those who are most precious to me. I don’t focus on it, and I push it down, but it is the demon who occasionally whispers my darkest fears.

I have this God-awful anxiety that I cannot explain, that came to roost in the cobwebs of my sanity and steals my inner peace with wordless whispers. Not every minute of every day. But it’s there. My life is far from perfect. It may look like it is, to outsiders. I struggle with bills, I don’t work enough or earn enough of my own money. I have debt. A lot of it. It’s not Todd’s burden, but mine.

I don’t get enough quality time with my kids. I don’t get enough quality time with Todd. I wish I could travel more. I wish I had money saved for college. I wish I hadn’t given away 13 years of my life to abuse and unhappiness. I wish I didn’t still hear his critical voice in my head. I wish I didn’t have to work weekends. I wish my knees didn’t hurt, and that I could run again. I wish I was more this, and less of that. I wish, I wish, I wish.

And all any of that does, to repurpose a meme – is steal today’s joy. Which is my long-winded way of saying:

  1. The grass is NOT always greener on the other side and
  2. Don’t believe everything you hear/read.
  3. Don’t kick yourself for what you haven’t done. Do what you wish you could.
  4. Nobody’s life is “perfect.” The only world that’s perfect is heaven.
  5. Count the blessings you DO have. (In religion-speak, that means you praise God for what He has done for you. You reap what you sow.)

 

I’ll just leave this here…

I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

~ Walden, Henry David Thoreau

Call Me Honey

I don’t know how it happened. Somewhere along the way after I moved south, I became Honey. Everywhere I go, somebody calls me honey. Every time I’d enter the elementary school, which was often thanks to a T1 kid, the girls behind the desk would call me honey. Hi honey. What can I do for you, honey? Bye hon.

At first I was a bit offended, if only because – though I may not always look my age – I am at least as old as they are. After the third or fourth time, I realized it wasn’t that big a deal and felt familiar in a way I could appreciate. Like becoming part of a tribe.

But the tribe spread to other places. The doctor’s office. The pharmacy. The liquor store. (Not that I go there that often to be recognized as a regular or anything.) And then – the Asian-owned nail salon – hi honey, when I walk in the door. Honey, pick your color. Even the men who work there call me honey. Which, under any other circumstances, might be considered weird and/or offensive in our currently heated feminist world.

No biggie. I find it amusing. They don’t even know my name, I’m SURE of it. But I thought it was kinda nice and familiar, welcoming. Until I realized that everyone is Honey and, well, I kinda felt a little less special. Which might indict any of the above people for laziness since by calling everyone honey, they never have to remember any names. Brilliant!

Even Todd calls me Honey. Shocking, I know. But I’ve never been a big fan of such an old-fashioned endearment between married folks. Not wanting to crush his affectionate gestures, I just let it flow. And now, much to my dismay, I find myself calling him Honey.

And what’s worse? I caught myself calling my co-workers Honey and thought, Good God how did this happen to Me?? But we are a tribe at the restaurant. A motley mismatched tribe, but a tribe, nonetheless.

There’s something in that old-fashioned endearment. I shied away from it because it felt unnatural to use it. Perhaps I didn’t consider myself old enough to use it without it sounding false and condescending. I don’t consider myself old, like the original Honey who graced my life for only a short time.

The summer of 1989, I took a job as an ancillary aide at a nursing home. Among the many colorful characters who graced those halls (which could comprise a whole other post), was a woman in her 80s we called Honey. We all called her Honey, because it’s what she called all of us. Constantly. I didn’t know then that she was in the early stages of dementia, though it should’ve been obvious after she told me one afternoon that she was a having a baby. Honey was having a baby!

So, now I’m in my late 40s, thinking about how I was Tara, and somebody’s babe, baby girl (I’d kill to hear that again), Miss Tara, and then Mommy, which evolved to Mom, to Todd’s Honey, and now to the public at large – just, Honey. No one calls me Mrs. anything. Most likely because hardly anyone can pronounce it correctly anyway. There are also a handful of nicknames that I won’t mention here. Even Veruca calls me Honey, which is incredibly annoying and sort of unintentionally condescending.

I briefly considered renaming the blog The Honey Chronicles. But that seems to imply a different genre of blogging, and would leave a trail of disappointed visitors in its wake. Nothing wrong with that genre, but it’s not where this Honey’s blog is going.