Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Blahs...

I am normally one of those super annoying people at Christmastime who is too excited about everything.  (at Christmastime? Okay...all the time, but we will focus on Christmas for this blog) This Christmas, however, it  never happened.  I tried a few times to jump start that excited feeling, but it was just out of reach the whole season.  Now, don't get me wrong, the day itself was lovely. The boys and I opened presents and ate wonderful food and hung out together and it was great. My presents this year we outstanding. I accused Brent of going over budget and was informed that technically this year we didn't set one so he was in the clear. So it was a good day, it was a fun day, it was an amazing gift day, but it just never reached that WOO HOO!  It's Christmas Day!

I spent a good part of December trying to figure out what was going on and I think that I have it narrowed down to three things. First off the weather. Now being from New Mexico I don't expect snow for Christmas. It was rare to have snow in December at all and snow on Christmas truly was a miracle. But there was always the chance...and the chance is dreaming and dreaming is part of Christmas. The same sort of thing happens here in Portland.  December is rainy.  Every so often there is snow.  One year there was a LOT of snow. But mostly it's rain with that wishful thought in the back of you head that it might, might snow.  But this year it was dry. Driest December on record until this week when the rain came storming back.  So cold and dry, no shot of snow and not the normal weather for December. Don't get me wrong, dry and sunny was nice, it really was. But it wasn't Christmas weather.

Second guess is the medication I was on. It messed with my hormones and thus my moods a lot. Brent and I both noticed that I was flat about things I was normally up about and reacted to other things much more intensely than I normally would. And the thought of going out and doing anything for Christmas that might involve crowds just didn't appeal to me at all. I am readjusting back to normal now, so I might hit Christmas excitement in time for Valentine's Day. So if you see me wearing my Santa hat in February now you will know why!

The last guess is the sad one. I spent all day yesterday chasing the blues. You know that Tuesday was my anniversary. Well yesterday would have been my parent's. They would have been married 59 years. Going through all of the firsts is hard. Even when we wouldn't normally have spent Thanksgiving or Christmas with my family, knowing that my mother was facing them without Dad for the first time in 6 decades made them hard. Talking to my mother a few weeks ago she asked (as she often does) how my mother-in-law was doing. I told her that she was finally getting back to what we would consider normal for her. Something we hadn't seen since my father-in-law died. Four years ago. She then asked about a friend of mine's mother. She knew he had lost his dad earlier in the year and was checking in there as well. I said as far as I knew she was doing well, traveling with a friend and seemed to be adjusting fine. My mother couldn't wrap her brain around that. At the time we were talking she had just told me she didn't want to leave the house at all.  I told her that his father had been a different type of man than dad and that for the past few years his health had been so bad that she was more of a full time caretaker than a wife. The situation was different and she didn't need to compare her grief to someone else.

I know that my siblings and my niece and nephews had all had a hard time with December as well. Christmas shopping was difficult. You consider what to get for Dad before remembering that you won't be getting him anything. We always send gift cards to Mom and Dad for Christmas so they can go out to dinner for their anniversary. So what do we do now? I didn't want to send her something that I normally would have that would have seemed to emphasize that Dad was gone, but then what do you do? I ended up sending flowers. I considered for a little bit going home for Christmas, but decided that wasn't really the right call. We haven't done a Christmas in New Mexico in years. We have our own family traditions now and it would have put pressure on my niece to come down when she is starting to develop her own family traditions. So I decided to treat it as normally as possible.

Calling Mom Christmas morning I wasn't sure what to expect. She sounded good. The flowers we sent were very pretty and were holding up well. They were busy packing up food and gifts to take to my brother and sister's house.  He had to work so they were doing everything earlier than normal. Things were busy as they always are during the holidays but she was doing well. Neither one of us mentioned Dad, or my anniversary or hers, but did tell each other we loved each other very much before hanging up. I didn't call her yesterday. I thought about it. But then I thought about what I would want if it were me. And I would want to mark the day on my own. So right or wrong I left her alone for that.

We are six months in and through the worst of the firsts. New Year, Valentine's Day, Easter, his birthday and the anniversary of his death left to go. Then we start all over again. And as hard as it is to see from here I know from going through it before it does get easier after that. And every year after it, it is easier still. You don't get to the point where you don't miss them, don't wish there were there, don't feel sad, but you do get to the point where it doesn't stop you in your tracks. We will get there. And next year I will be wearing my Santa hat and skipping through the stores to hear the jingle bells on my socks've been warned...

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Prefrontal Cortex what?

So today is my and Brent's twenty-fifth anniversary. And the first thing you ask is..."What are you going to do?"  Well...Brent went to work, I took the cat to the vet, then C to an eye appointment, I'm doing some laundry and writing this blog, in a little bit I will pick Brent up and the three of us will grab some dinner.  I know, right?  All year long people have been asking us what we were going to do for our "big anniversary" and all year long we have said some sort of "I don't know" answer. We don't generally celebrate anniversaries. We tell each other happy anniversary and we go to dinner, and for the past 19 years we have gone to dinner as a family.

The next thing people ask is, " young! How are you still married?" I try not to take that one personally... anyone who knew us when we got married has every reason to ask. And anyone who can do the math, and anyone who has seen marriage after marriage fail. So I guess this blog is going to be a little bit on how we did it. Keep in mind one of the best pieces of marital advice we got was not to take advice because no matter how helpful Fred and Wilma are trying to be they aren't Brent and Denise and nobody has ever been Brent and Denise so what works for us is unique. So this isn't a "this is how we did it, you can too!" blog, this is just worked for us, blog.

Okay, on to the trying not to take it personally when people are shocked that we have been married as long as we have. First off, even our own son said a few years ago that there was "no good reason that your marriage should have worked."  And he was right.  At the time of his insight he was the age Brent and I were when we got engaged. Seventeen. Let that one sink in for a second.  We decided to get married at 17 in February of 86, after dating for 2 1/2 months, we "officially" got engaged (i.e. I started wearing a ring) a few months after that. We graduated high school in June, got married in December and Brent left for boot camp in January of 87 I joined him in March and C was born in October...of 1992.  I figured I would toss that one in there since probably half of the people at our wedding assumed I was pregnant at the time. I mean, why else would two kids get married that young right?

Oh and incidentally, you just read how Brent proposed to me as well.  He told me, "I am joining the Navy.  I will leave for boot camp in January, we can get married before I go and you can join me when I start my first school." Romantic right? And did I mention it was over the phone? I gave him such a hard time about it that a few weeks later he got down on one knee and asked me again. In the parking lot of the Frontier Restaurant. Which I took to mean he was promising to keep me in baked goods and sweets for as long as we both shall live. And considering he took me out for bagels this morning for our anniversary breakfast I would say he is keeping up his end of the bargain. What Brent will point out, is that even if I gave him a hard time about the how, I still said yes.

Our first year was hard. Most marriages have a rough time of it that first year. You are both figuring out what exactly it means to be married. And that can be very different things for both of you. We were also dealing with him being in the Navy and me working full time and there still being a lot of month left at the end of our money. And we were thousands of miles away from home. Which was hard. And probably the best thing that ever happened to us. If we had a fight, or things weren't going well, or we were out of money, or food, or just bored we didn't have anywhere else to go but home. There was no calling up a friend and hanging out at their place, no going to the parent's house for a time out, we just had each other and our little apartment. So we learned how to depend on each other. And we got in the habit of doing almost everything together. Which we still do. Both the depending on each other and the doing everything together parts.

My mother gave me two pieces of advice before I got married. At the time they seemed in conflict but after a few years of marriage they made more sense. First make sure you like the person you are marrying because this passionate love you feel will fade and second make sure you love the person you are marrying because there will be days you don't like them much. Make sure you like them so when you don't love them you will still love them when you don't like them? After a few years being married this makes total sense. The first year of our marriage I found a greeting card that read on the outside, "I love you more today than yesterday" (open) "Because yesterday you really made me mad." And that first year of marriage we really put both of those things to the test. There were plenty of days where it was good we liked each other (we might have only dated for a few months before getting engaged but we had been friends for years) because we weren't being very lovable. And there were times it was good we loved each other because we weren't very likable.  Make sure you like the person you marry because there will be times when they aren't very lovable.  Make sure you love the person you marry because at times you won't like them very much.  That's from Mom.

I had a horrible temper when we first got married and a lot of built up anger, Brent did a very good job those first few years weathering the storms that would come. And really that's where the best advice I have comes from. I have not been the perfect wife. Far from it in fact. So far from it that I don't know what a perfect wife would be. There were times when I was selfish instead of selfless. Times I acted from a position of fear instead of calm. Times where I have spoken up and should have been quiet and times I was quiet that I should have spoken up. Times when I was bold when I should have been thoughtful, times when I was thoughtful when I should have been bold. Times where I made rash decisions and instantly regretted them. Times where I made thoughtful long term plans and still messed it up. I have said and done things that were hurtful to Brent and to our marriage. Basically I have been human all throughout our time together and we still made it through. Incidentally, Brent would say the same things about himself and less about me.  Learn to see the best in your spouse so you can reflect it back on them when they can't see the best in themselves. That's from me.

Brent gives the advice to newlyweds, "Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?  Because sometimes you can't be both." Sometimes you just need to put aside what you think, what you KNOW is right and understand that if you keep pushing your point you are going to make your partner very unhappy, and that in turn is going to make you very unhappy.  Learn to let it go. That's from Brent.

When choosing a spouse the real key is to find someone whose brand of crazy doesn't make you nuts.  Brent and I both say this one.  Everyone is crazy.  Each of us in our own ways.  And there are so many varieties of crazy. I am a little excitable and Brent is pretty calm.  Think about the couple from Up! When Ellie and Carl first meet in the movie and she talks his ear off then tells him, "You don't talk much, I like you." C leaned over to me and said, "They are you and Dad." Of course, that movie makes me cry every time I watch it because I see it too.  I say that I show Brent the lighter side of life and he keeps me grounded. We are both nuts in our own ways but we don't make each other nuts.  Find someone whose brand of crazy doesn't make you nuts.  That's from both of us.

Now for the title of this blog.  The prefrontal cortex.  What is that you say?

"This brain region gives an individual the capacity to exercise “good judgment” when presented with difficult life situations. Brain research indicating that brain development is not complete until near the age of 25, refers specifically to the development of the prefrontal cortex." Maturation of the Prefrontal Cortex

Basically what this means is that you really shouldn't try to make the big life decisions before you are 25. (There is a whole other blog on the problems with this and our education system) You know...decisions like who to marry (17) joining the military (18) getting married (18) moving away from home (18) deciding to have kids (23) having a kid (24) because there really is no reason why they should work out.  We did all of the big decisions before we had the capacity to reason and show good judgement.  And yet, here we are.  Twenty five years later, still together, still plugging along.  I wish I had a magic formula to pass along to say, "This is how we did it!" but truth be told, I have no idea how we did it.  I am not even sure how it's possible that it's been 25 years. Because let's face it, we look way too young for it to be 25 years...

My Uncle Denny used to say that when he and Carol got married he only signed on for 50 years.  Well, we are halfway there.  It will be interesting to see how the next 25 go.  I can guarantee I will make some mistakes and forgive some as well. And I will be sitting at 50 years wondering where the time went, and how we made it work.  Or at least that is my wish for an anniversary gift.  Finally I've got an answer for everyone.  "What are you going to do for your anniversary?" We are going to keep going.  Baked goods and sweets for everyone!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Follow ups...

So you all know I blogged about my skin and my wedding fascination earlier this year, little did I know they might tie together in a nice little wrap up blog! Beware...lots of girl stuff and woman stuff ahead....

So I wrote about the fact that the dermatologist thought the skin issues were hormonal and that I was now on medication.  I even talked about how I hate medicating for issues as a general rule. And I think you all could tell from the post that I was making the exception to this because I wanted it so much. Well right away the side-effects started.  I am getting closer to menopause than I would like to admit and I have had my issues with my cycles and my hormonal shifts, they call it perimenopause. Like the peri makes it cute or something instead of saying..MENOPAUSE IS COMING!  PREPARE YOURSELF! but even through the random shifts I have been pretty regular with my cycle. I am a 28-30 day girl and you can count on it. So imagine my surprise a week into taking my new wonder drugs to find my period, a week and half early. While I was on the pills the first two months I had 3 periods.  My doctor hadn't warned me of this side-effect because it's not "super common". Or at least that's what I was told when I called the office to see if my pills and period issues were related.

And this now begins the part where I say, "I know better. I should have handled it differently, I know better." Part of being on the drug was regular blood testing and a specific diet. These are two giant warning signs you should always heed. If you are on a medication that is affecting your blood and your body so much that you have to eat differently and have to go in for regular testing, this means you are on a heavy duty drug.  Probably not one that you should be taking for vanity issues. But again, I wanted this so badly that when the people who know me best said to me, "Why are you taking this again?" I would rationalize it.  I would discount the symptoms and say, "Oh they told me that it would all level out and I would go back to normal."  This is not like me. Like I said before, I don't medicate. And here I was taking a pill that was causing some serious changes. And I was trusting a doctor to make the choice for me instead of trusting my own body and myself. Not even my regular doctor, who when I saw her this year was a little shocked that I was taking the medication. She asked me if I was aware of the side effects and I told her I was experiencing them, and she was again shocked that I was on the medication. But she let it go.

Not only did my cycle get messed up but my boobs grew. And grew. And grew. They got to the point where I am not sure how I didn't face plant when I walked. Describing them to a girl friend the only word I could find was ridiculous. Now, don't get me wrong, the first few weeks I thought, this is a side-effect I could live with! Well, except for the fact that they were so painful I couldn't even sleep on my stomach.  But then the weight gain started to spread. Not acceptable. I worked really hard to lose my weight and I don't want to have it all undone.

The final straw came when C came home on Thanksgiving break. We both had follow up appointments that week and his skin is doing fabulously. I am so happy for him and his results. It's clearing up and even the scarring is starting to fade. And mine? Not so much. I was still having issues, things still weren't clear and now I had the side effects. The same amount of time has passed for both of us so I would expect to see similar positive changes in both of us. So she increased the dosage on my medication. Yep, increased it.  And I said, "okay." I think I have mentioned how badly I wanted this right? So I upped the dose, scheduled my next blood test and went on my merry way. Only to have my next period start 3 days later. At day 14 in my cycle. So I am at the point where I am strapping my chest into outfits so I can wear my own clothes, I am starting to gain weight in other places, I am having my period every TWO WEEKS and...well that was it. Off to the internet I went to figure out just exactly what it was I had been taking. Yes, had been. I told Brent I was done, I just needed to figure out if I was going to have to taper off or if I could just stop, but either way I was done. He said, "I cannot believe it took you this long to make that decision."

My research was eye opening, enlightening, frightening and made me feel so stupid. Because I know better. I never take anything without knowing what it is. And I had been taking an androgen blocker, which is a really effective treatment in women with poly-cystic ovary symptoms or in women who test higher for testosterone. Which I don't have either one. So I had been taking a pill that was blocking the testosterone levels in my body and letting the estrogen run wild. And wild it ran. A week off of the pills and I lost 4 pounds without making any sort of change to my diet. I could get dressed without biting my lip at how sore my chest was. And my skin...well nothing changed. It's better than it was in July when I went in to the doctor's office. The creams I am on are doing wonders. But the pills? They didn't seem to make any sort of difference in my skin.

Now you are wondering how this ties in to the wedding shows right? Well interesting thing...the week I quit the pills I didn't watch any of the shows I had been watching. I sort of thought that was interesting, once I noticed, but figured I must have been busy during lunch time when I had been watching. Then the next week while I was wrapping Christmas gifts I put on Say Yes to the Dress in the background. I looked up maybe twice to see what they were buying, but I found I didn't really care. This morning I saw that Four Weddings had been a TiVo suggestion and realized that I haven't watched that one since Thanksgiving so I would see what I thought now. I played Angry Birds during it. I can tell you right now about one of the four weddings. And only because she had a peacock color theme and it made me think of a friend who did the same, but better. Now it could be a coincidence. I could have just gotten bored with the concept of these shows, but the timing for me is a little too spot on to believe that. When you take away my testosterone and flood me with estrogen I turn into a girly girl. Indecisive, frilly, wedding obsessed.

Oh my god.

All things considered I guess I would rather have imperfect skin. I'm not giving up on my skin, but I know that this path isn't the right one.

Though I really wanted this.

Which is always an important lesson.  Sometimes just really wanting something isn't enough. There are so many things in life that we might want that aren't good for us, aren't possible for us, aren't right for us. But we want them so badly we force our way to them. Square peg it. And if we aren't careful we might find ourselves watching wedding shows while considering buying a dress you know...just to have....

Saturday, December 17, 2011

I HEARD you....

You know I believe that the Universe talks to you and you just have to be still and listen. People of science will say it's your subconscious mind speaking, people of different religions call it the voice of God. Though lately between the Presidential candidates and the Survivor contestants claiming God told them what to do I think God might just be messing with people...anyway...I really do believe that if you are trying to figure out the answers to big questions you will get them if you just listen.You all also know that at different times in my life even though the Universe was shouting at me to do something different I ignored that and was miserable as a result. So this blog is basically my petulant teenager blog.  Universe, I KNOW...I hear you!  Just back off for a little bit while I finish thinking! Sheesh..

It all started a few months ago. I was having coffee with a friend of mine who was facing her own crossroads. As we talked about choices and what she wanted to do and how to approach things the bells in my head started clanging..."PAY ATTENTION!  YOU ARE TALKING TO YOURSELF HERE!" The bells in my head are not subtle...As I heard myself saying to her, "I'm starting to get uncomfortable not doing anything.  If the uncomfortable starts to outweigh the complacent then I will make a change." I thought well isn't that interesting. See, I had never really verbalized that before, that I was starting to get antsy.  To feel the need to do more. Yes, I have dabbled here and there with things the past few years and that has been enough. But this was the first start of thinking, I need to do more.

Then again last week I had lunch with a girlfriend who is also a recruiter.  As we were talking about her work and my skill set she said, "With your skills and experience you could get a flexible job back in HR someplace I bet.  It might take awhile to find it, but I bet you could do it." And I thought...well, that's interesting.  I hadn't really considered going back into the HR side of things.  I haven't handled that side of the house in over ten years, but it was interesting work.  The flexible part is attractive to me.  See, I like having my own hours and my own schedule. Even when I was last working full time I worked in an industry and for a company that was very flexible.  Probably too flexible, but that doesn't matter now. Okay, do I want to go into HR for a company again? I don't think so...but it was interesting to think about.

Fast forward again to this week. I am having coffee with two more friends. We all went to massage school together. Stacy is now pre-med and Mari is working towards her PT licensing and I am...well...I am. We talked about school and studying, they are both just finished with finals for this term and relieved to be on break. Mari had taken a continuing ed class that I had been interested in but couldn't make work due to some traveling I was doing at the time. I am signing up for a class by the same group and we talked about taking it together. School. Ah, yes, I love learning. Maybe this is what I need to go back and do.  I had already mentioned to Brent that I was thinking about picking up a few classes next term, I just needed to figure out in what. Maybe this is what I need to be doing right now. Stretching my brain a little more.

And then the last pieces, Thursday night Brent and I had dinner with a group of his colleagues. The woman next to me asked if worked for Intel as well, it's pretty common for both people in a couple to work for Intel or Nike or a split of the two. I said I didn't. That I didn't do anything. So last night walking in to dinner Brent told me he had been surprised to hear me say that I don't do anything. I said,"But I don't. Not really."  He said, "You have a massage practice, you write..".and I cut him off and said, "I am working on two people right now and I write but I don't publish so it seems odd to mention it."  He said, "You do those things by your choice though. You are good at so much I am afraid you are selling yourself short when you say that you don't do anything. You do a lot."

Now add that to a conversation I had online with another girlfriend, she was lamenting the fact that she had gone to school with so many overachievers that it wasn't normal. I told her that's why she was friends with a slacker like me, it balanced it out. She replied with this..."I could never put you in such a category. You are far too interesting and have experimented with life in so many fun ways" So now you are seeing a pattern, first off I have surrounded myself with some very incredible people. Secondly, it's time to start doing something. I just don't know what yet.

But I am working towards figuring that out. I will be taking that continuing ed class, I am going to put back out the feelers on getting in to voice over work, I am going to pick up a course catalog for the local community college, I am reconsidering my stance on publishing some of my writing,  I will figure this out. Soon.  But seriously, Universe, it's Christmas and I want to take the next two weeks to think about nothing but that, so hush. I heard you.  I promise. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

It's the most religiously intolerant time of the year...

You know when you are a writer, or one who writes at least, you sometimes read someone else's stuff and think..."damn! I wish I had written that!" And it especially stings if it's on a topic that you were going to write about and now you are pretty sure you couldn't top it so why bother...*sigh*

So I bring you today's blog after debating with myself about writing it for a long time. See this blog did it so well that I pretty much put my own blog back on the shelf in my mind and was going to leave it there. But as it usually happens, once I start writing a blog in my head I have to get it out before I can make room for more.

Every year I get more and more disgusted with the War on Christmas. You know why? Because there is no war.  Not really. People being insulted about how they are wished Christmas is probably as old as the holiday itself. I can remember a song on a Christmas album when I was a child whose lyrics were..."Don't wish me Merry Xmas or Happy Holidays..." I'm 43 years old and that song was an old one when I was a kid so it's been an issue for a long long time. I think it was titled take the X out of Xmas or something like that. Of course the funny part being that X stands for Christ in the Greek abbreviation so if you are telling me to take the X out of Xmas you are basically telling me to take Christ out.

And this is where the arguments tend to lead. You have someone make a stink about Christmas and religion and then the counter argument is that the early church picked the date for Christmas not based on any sort of knowledge of the date of Christ's birth but in an effort to co-opt celebrations already happening and convert more people to Christianity. Sort of..."See? We throw parties too! Come be with us! We will have fun!" Then people get madder and madder and start tossing insults back and forth and it ends up with a lot of anger and general cranky pantsness. I am going to summarize an argument I read online earlier this month that pretty much sealed for me that I would have to write about this topic.

Original Post: I don't care how you wish me well this season, just have a good one.
Poster 1: Well I will say Merry Christmas.
Poster 2: Well I will say Happy Holidays
OP: Thank you both!  And same to you!
Poster 3:  Hey!  OP I know you celebrate Christmas so why do you let people wish you HH instead of MC??
OP: Because I respect the differences...
(and then it gets nuts)
P3:  That's stupid, it's Christmas, it has always been Christmas.
P4: Actually, it hasn't always been Christmas it was...(quotes and links and such things)
P3: Used to be.  Eons ago.  Doesn't matter now, it is Christmas and this is what it represents now.
P4: But not for everyone
P3: YES! FOR EVERYONE!  If you don't like it don't celebrate at all!

And then it got worse.... general name calling and sending people to hell.

And you see this all the time. All.The.Time. Though I have to admit this year has been the first that I have seen the abundance of "if you aren't a Christian don't celebrate Christmas" posts. Which is where I scratch my head. You cannot (in my mind) say that it doesn't matter what the origins are for the holiday on one hand and bemoan the fact that it continues to evolve on the other. And if the early church adopted the date to try and convert more people why are you now saying it's MY holiday you can't share instead's our holiday, come enjoy!

You all know I was raised in the church. I also went to a private Baptist school so we had Christmas programs, and Christmas break and Christmas Cantatas. And on and on. Christmas was a big deal. As one of our ministers explained it one time Christmas is the easy sell holiday. It's about a baby and family and gifts and stars and there are a lot of pretty songs and fun plays. Easter is the harder sell holiday. It's about death and sin and betrayal and forgiveness and resurrection. But Christmas, Christmas is light and fluffy, caroling in the neighborhoods, free concerts at the church, the living Nativity's a recruiting tool basically. So to hear or read people say, "If you aren't Christian you shouldn't celebrate it at all!" makes me shake my head. And of course makes me want to post, "Then if you are Christian you shouldn't celebrate it in any sort of secular way. Only by Biblical rules, which are...oh wait...there are none!" See, the Bible doesn't say to remember the day of Christ's birth and celebrate it every year. The Church came up with that one all on their own. And this is where the traditions you have and hold were taken from other religions and practices.

And the whole, "Kids can't say Merry Christmas in school!" is bullshit and you and I both know it. C went to an Arts School in Portland, Oregon which is like saying he went to the pinnacle of liberal liberalness. The kids wished each other Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa...and on and on...without worry. Nobody took offense at being wished the "wrong" holiday, no one was sent to the principal's office no need for self righteous indignation so stop it.

As I write this blog I am listening to my Christmas music. Right now Joy to the World is playing. Do you find that insulting? An agnostic listening to Christmas carols? Then no worries the next song on the list is Wish Liszt (Toy Shop Madness). But now are you insulted that I am listening to a song by a rock band about toys instead of religious song for Christmas? I enjoyed both of those songs so I am fine either way. In a little bit a nice Jewish woman with a gorgeous voice will sing Christmas carols for me and I will love that as well. Which is where the heart of the argument comes in for me. If you get mad that I wished you Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas instead of the wish you preferred you are saying much more about yourself than you are about me.

I have a Christmas tree but could not care less if you have a holiday tree or if you call my tree a holiday tree. Because....and I know this is hard to grasp....Christmas is a holiday! Oh my gosh! So is Hanukkah. So is Kwanzaa. So is Winter Solstice! They are all holidays! We celebrate Christmas in my house. Not for any real religious reasons, but just because of tradition. C knows the Christmas story but he also knows A Christmas Carol and Elf and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Heat Miser and Snow Miser were as big of a part of his holiday as the Inn Keeper or the Little Drummer Boy. And all of that being said if you wished me Happy Hanukkah I would say thank you.

As the blog above says, the only one who can take Christ out of your Christmas is you. So if you want to celebrate a religious holiday, then Merry Christmas. If you want to celebrate a secular one, then Merry Christmas to you as well! And if you don't celebrate Christmas at all then Happy Holidays and have a wonderful New Year! Enjoy your family. Love your neighbors. Make the day better for some one else. Don't get so wrapped up in the words that you miss the wish behind them.

Have a Cool Yule, y'all!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mea Culpa

A few weeks ago I was having a conversation with a friend of mine. He was telling me about something rude his sister did to a friend of his daughter. He had then told his daughter that since it happened at her grandmother's house she should tell her grandmother that she didn't appreciate a guest in her house being treated that way. I told him if my niece went to her grandmother with something like that my mother would say,  "well you know how your aunts are," and that would be that. He was a little taken aback by that and explained that it was rude and inappropriate. I told him that in my house that wouldn't have mattered.  Right, wrong or indifferent the response would be you know how they are. And then I said, but I am sure she did it with the misguided thought that she was being helpful. He didn't buy that, but I know from which I speak on that one as well.

I don't drink a lot. My mother was very clear with all of us growing up that alcoholism was a disease and that we all carried the gene for it. She's right. But it's more than just alcohol, it's addictive personalities in general. I had my first cigarette at age 12.  I can tell you what I was wearing, where I was sitting and how it tasted. I didn't stop smoking until I was 20 and only then because I realized that a 20 year old woman shouldn't be huffing and puffing while trying to do aerobics. In my dreams I am still a smoker.  If they came up with a safe way to smoke I would start again tomorrow. It's been 23 years since I quit and at times I still think to myself..."I need a cigarette." So it's addictions in general that get us in my family.

Now that's not to say that I don't drink because I realized the grand truth that I could get addicted very easily and heeded my mother's warnings to stay away. I don't drink now because I did a lot then. Then being high school and my first few years out of school. I don't drink a lot now because during that stretch I learned two things, the first being I like drinking a little too much and the second being I am a mean drunk. So now when I feel like I want a drink the most is when I will be least likely to have one.  Or if I do have one, that's it. One. It's very rare for anyone to see me have more than two. It happens, but it's rare. And I always try to make sure I stop while I am buzzed and never let myself get drunk. Because nobody needs to be around me when I am drunk.

Now you are wondering how these things tie together aren't you? Okay, here goes. When I was in New Mexico this summer my oldest nephew, my niece and I were talking about drinking. He doesn't drink for his own reasons and I don't drink for mine. I mentioned that one of them is that I am a mean drunk, I will say the most horrible things to people and just eviscerate them with my words. My niece said that I should drink with her husband, I guess he is the same way, and I said that no, I shouldn't because I would have a lot to say to him. My niece, naturally, asked what those things were and I told her. No nice way, no easing in to it, no couching it, just flat out told her what I would say. Which was rude. And insulting. And inappropriate. And offended her deeply.  As it should.

Basically I brought up things from YEARS ago that need to just be laid to rest. My niece told me as much, and I said, yeah, but if I were drunk they would still come up. My aunt tried to smooth it over by saying that was why I didn't drink. But my niece was hurt. And I understand that. Now I am going to give myself a little bit of slack here, just a little though. My father had just died that week and I was operating on grief, no sleep and stress levels that were through the roof. My filter fell off and out came words that needed to stay in my head.  I also sent her an apology and an explanation of what I was trying to say, and had just said very badly. But that's not to say what I did was right, or unprecedented.

There is a significant age difference between my niece and her husband and they started dating when she was much too young, in my opinion. At her high school graduation I met him for the first time and only saw him for a few minutes, which was good because I was not happy with the fact that nobody seemed to be concerned at all with their relationship and I wouldn't have been nice. At all. While they were still dating he got a job transfer to Colorado. She decided to go with him. This time my family freaked the fuck out. All of us. But for very different reasons. I really felt like Ash was going to be giving up her fun teenager/ early 20s years and end up in a much older role. I wanted her to take a year, let him move up there on his own and then follow him if she still wanted to. The rest of the family wanted her to get married. This part I told her in no uncertain terms was NOT my advice. I didn't want her married to him because I wanted her to be able to leave. I was pretty clear with her on why I thought and felt what I did and what my advice was and she listened and thanked me for being honest with her and moved to Colorado to be with him.  But she didn't marry him so for that I was relieved.

A few years went by and as these things happen she got pregnant. It wasn't their plan, but it was still happening. And my family freaked the fuck out. Again it was because they weren't married. This time I saw the logic behind it. But I didn't tell her that she should marry him so that there wouldn't be a baby out of wedlock, I couldn't care less about that, I told her she needed to make sure she was covered by his insurance and to protect herself financially.  Now, just are a young woman who just found out you are pregnant with your first child. It wasn't a planned pregnancy but you are happy none the less. You are in love with the father of your child, you own a house together, you have been together for a few years and the reaction you get from your family is, "marry him so the baby isn't born out of wedlock" and "marry him so you can cover your ass". Not the most loving giving scenario right? To be fair we all also told her that we loved her and we would love the baby as well.

And we did and we do. Now here is where things start to shift for me. A year and half ago we went home to New Mexico for Spring Break to see the whole family. Ash came down from Colorado so we could meet Liam as well.  And he was perfect.  Adorable, sweet, happy, healthy. Everything you could hope for in a child and the only way to get all of that is through good parenting. She is a wonderful mother. But she isn't doing it alone and this wasn't lost on me, though I didn't say anything at the time. Another thing that struck me was that we had family pictures done during that visit and as people would say it was almost the whole family, my sister was away on work, Ash would patiently correct them saying, and Mike and Dylan aren't here.  Her husband and step son. Over and over she said this. It stuck with me. Not just because she heard again and again people that love her not mention her baby's father and her other son, but because she handled it so much more graciously than I ever would have.

Fast forward to this summer. We are past the conversation where I bullheadedly argued with Ashley about things that are over and done with and on to the day of Dad's funeral. Mike had been working and so this was the first day he was in town. Watching how much more relaxed and at ease she was when Mike was around was something to see. Remember I had only seen him once before in all of the years they had been together so this was new to me. Watching them together, with Liam and seeing how their family worked I realized that I had been so wrong to hold on to the past. Yes, in a perfect world they would have started dating later than they did. They would have had Liam at a planned time.  There would have been a wedding that she planned and wanted instead of a judge and a piece of paper.  And in that perfect world they would have been...well....they would have been just what they were right then. A family. Happy to be together. Raising their sons to be good men. Loving each other the best that they can. Being each other's rock and safe spot to be during stressful times. How it began is never as important as how it ends.

So here is the other thing I did wrong that week in New Mexico that I am going to fix now. I fought with her in public but apologized in private. So now I am apologizing again, but this time in public. I am sorry I was horrid. I love you, baby girl, and your husband, and your sons.

I wish I could promise you that I won't ever be a bitch again, but know how your aunt is...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hard to write

A few weeks ago I started thinking about writing this blog. Again. I have gone to write it a few times and then not. It's a really tough one for me to write because there are a lot of conflicting emotions around the story. Part is that it's about me as a teenager and I wasn't nearly as good of a kid as my own kid is, so to write about myself in those days is not going to be easy for him to read. In fact part of what I will write will be down right squicky for him (this is your warning to back out now, C). Part of it is that I go through stages where I am pretty sure I have dealt with it completely and there is no need to talk about it at all. Then something happens and I have a nightmare. Part of it is that there are people around who know who I am talking about and I am not sure how I feel about them reading this either. But then there is a part of me that thinks, I tell you guys everything so I might as well tell this as well. And then someone prints something like this and I take a deep breath and tell my story.

Let me start out by saying I am lucky. My story is a good one in the fact that something much worse could have happened. I also learned a really valuable lesson and a lesson learned is always a good thing. Even when it happens in the middle of a very bad situation. Okay, so here we go.

Even though I got married at 18 I dated a lot as a teenager. I was a serial monogamist, I didn't generally date more than one boy at a time but did date boy after boy. I enjoyed the company of guys, I had fun dating and because I wasn't shy about letting a guy know I liked him I generally had a lot of opportunities to date. I was also a virgin. It's a big part of the religion I was raised in and I got married at 18 so it's pretty easy to stay a virgin until you are with the person you are going to marry if you get married that young. Because I dated boys in and out of the church I was also very clear about the fact that I was a virgin and would be staying that way. I dated a guy for awhile who was much older than I was, I remember the phone conversation where I told him he might want to change his mind about asking me out. He wasn't part of the church and he was of the age where sex on a date would be more natural. I told him he needed to know I was going to be a virgin when he picked me up for our date and I would still be one when he dropped me off. If he had a problem with that then he could cancel the date right then and there would be no hard feelings from me.

However....being a virgin was not the same as being a saint. Basically anything above the waist was fair territory if I was with someone. Second base in common vernacular right? It felt good, it was fun and I was still a virgin. Now in the church this was, of course, still frowned upon but I didn't really care. Didn't hurt anyone, didn't bother me. But it was beyond the chaste closed mouthed kiss and holding hands that we were supposed to do and as girls were supposed to reinforce because boys just couldn't help themselves. Yes, that was the message from our minister at the time, he did a series on teen dating to let us all know the proper way of conducting ourselves and it was entirely up to the girls to dress modestly and maintain the distance on a date so as not to drive the boys crazy. But for me, at 15, this was not an okay message. One it put it all on the girl, nope, not okay. Two, I looked really good at that age and dressing modestly was not in the cards.

So the summer between my freshman and sophomore years in high school there was a lot of turmoil in our church. Turns out our youth minister was abusing a group of our teenage boys. At the time we weren't told of this, we were told he was gay and that's why he had to leave the church. Happens a lot in churches, gay used as a synonym for pedophile. I know I've blogged about this before so I won't go back in to it, but I wanted to bring it up because it is important to the story. At the time the boys involved didn't say anything. I heard the stories years later from a friend who was one who was abused. I know his details and second hand the details from a few others that the friend shared. But it's important because there were two things that happened that summer because of the abuse. One was they planned a lot of activities and functions with our youth group and our new youth minister. They wanted us all to move not talk about the old minister. Because those of us that had no idea what actually happened were sympathetic to the old minister. We missed him. We had no idea that he wasn't gay, that he was a monster. Because we weren't told. So anyway...the powers that be wanted us to forget that he ever existed and to do that they put us together with the new minister 4 or 5 nights a week all summer. The other piece that was happening is that the guys that were involved were all sizing each other up. They didn't know while the abuse was happening that it was happening to anyone but themselves. So when it all blew apart there was some posturing and posing that was done. Excess testosterone being bandied about to "prove" they weren't gay. There was a lot of dating and story sharing going on.

Out of that mix comes my story. There was a boy in our youth group that I had had a crush on off and on for years. He was a year or two older, I can't remember now, and had dated a couple of the older girls. He wasn't as active as some of the rest of us, he sort of came in and out of the group. Which was odd since his parents were really active in the church, his father was even an elder. So this summer he finally noticed me.  We spent some time flirting back and forth and hanging out together at youth group functions. The new youth minister was house sitting for a couple from the church so a lot of functions were at this house. It was on a golf course, or park, something like that, I can't remember now exactly but there were walks in the dark holding hands and talking. It was all very sweet.

Then one Sunday night after church he gave me a ride home, which was pretty normal, I didn't drive yet and we would often all go out as a group after services and grab something to eat. Rides were divvied up by who had a car and who lived near whom. Since we were a couple now it was normal that he would give me a ride home. It also wasn't that unusual when he pulled over before taking me to the house to kiss me goodnight. Most guys didn't like kissing you goodnight right in front of the house. We were living in a trailer park off of University at the time and generally my date would pull over in the driveway on the way in and kiss me goodnight then drive the rest of the way into the park and drop me off at home. This night he pulled over into an area that was under construction. Off of the main drive in. Right away I was a little uncomfortable with this but I didn't want to say anything. I didn't want to be looked at like I wasn't cool. Oh the curse of the teenager!

So anyway...we started kissing. Things got a little hotter and heavier than they would get with most boys from the church. But it wasn't that far out of bounds from what had happened with boys outside of the church that I had dated. He then asked me if I wanted to move to the back seat. I said no. He asked again. I said no again and said he should probably take me home. That's when it turned. He grabbed at my jeans and started to work at the button while telling me that this is what was going to happen and that he knew it's what I wanted. I was in shock. I had never had a boy not respect my boundary. I had never been in a situation where I felt like I was in danger while dating. Or where someone talked to me the way he was talking to me. I don't remember all of what he was saying because I was starting to just shut down but there were a lot of sluts, bitches and tease thrown in there. Then I banged my head on the door as he yanked at my waist band and I think that is what snapped me out of my stupor.

I went from being in shock and passive to pissed off and ready for a fight. When he raised himself up a little I got my legs under me and kicked him as hard as I could. In the crotch. I got my door open behind me and fell ass over teakettle out of the door while he was vomiting out his side of the car. I got up and started walking back to the main driveway and to the house. Pissed as all get out. Once he got himself together he drove after me. He pulled along side me as I walked up the hill and yelled..."You might as well not tell anyone because no one will believe you. And if you do, I will let them know you wanted it." This made me even madder. But it worked. I didn't say a word to my parents when I got home. I didn't even know what I would tell them. And honestly it really didn't cross my mind at the time to talk to them. I viewed it as a date gone bad.

So a couple days passed and I head in to a youth function at the church. I walk in to the kitchen and there is the boy and he is talking to another boy who happened to be a very good friend of mine. As I walk in my friend walks over and grabs my arm..."Did you let him touch your chest?" What? "Did you let him touch your chest?" I was shocked. This was what the important part was? This is what was being said about what happened that night? As I looked over my friend's shoulder at the boy he smiled at me and mouthed the words "told you".

For the rest of that summer he tormented me. Teenagers in a church do a lot of things so you can touch each other without being bad Christians. The games sardines is one of them. One person hides and you all look for them. The lights are off, it's dark and if you find them, by whispering "sardines" and listening for the whispered response of "it" hide with them. Basically an excuse to get as close to each other legally as you can. If he was at a function he would make sure he was right next to me pressed up against me. Until the one night he went a step further. We were all crammed in a corner about to be found by the last person and he snaked his hand up my shirt and grabbed my breast. He knew I wouldn't say a word because he would just say we had been dating and this was what I allowed. Making me out to the be the bad one. But what he forgot or didn't realize was that the passive chick in the car was the anomaly. The one who kicked him in the nuts was the real me. I reached up and grabbed his finger and started bending it back. He whispered in my ear to stop it that it hurt. I whispered back that if he didn't stop touching me I was going to break it off and shove it up his ass. He told me that I didn't want a scene, I told him to try me. He backed off. Imagine that entire conversation happening in a dark room surrounding by a group of giggling teenagers to get the full surreal experience that it was.

He would also tell people that I had a ride home and try to make sure he was the one to take me home from places. I was able to side step him each time by arranging a ride at the beginning of the night. But I still didn't tell anyone what happened. The closest I came as a teen to telling anyone was the new youth minister. One night at a function this boy did the usual stance that he would take me home and our youth minister stepped up and said that he had it handled. Now this didn't make sense considering we were at his new apartment at the time so why would he leave to drive people home? But it worked and the boy backed down.

So on the drive home that night I was the last one in the car with our new youth minister. This poor guy wasn't even out of college yet, he came on in what was supposed to be a temporary summer position and ended up staying for a couple of years to help all of us messed up kids out. He must have only been around 20 himself at the time. Which made him entirely relatable for all of us and entirely too young to be in-charge of a group of almost peers. On the drive home that night he asked me if things had gone a little too far with the other boy and if that's why I was uncomfortable being around him now. I clenched my jaw and didn't say anything but I did tear up. Here it was. I was going to be judged by this guy now too. He had been doing a lot of work with just the teen boys in our group to help them sort of get past what had happened and I knew that he had been told that I was easy, that I had let this other boy go too far and that it was all my issue. And then he did the one thing that I couldn't deal with. He pulled over and stopped the car at the entrance to where the other boy had taken me. I panicked and started to get out of the car. He reached out and grabbed my arm to hold me back and I swung at him with the other. And the realization of what must have happened hit him. He looked crestfallen and told me, "I think I understand now. Don't worry. From here on out I will be taking you home. I will be your only ride. You are safe here." And I believed him. Took a deep breath and closed the car door. He drove me home that night and every night from there on out. I was always the last person in the car with him and we had a lot of great talks during those drives,but I never ever said what had actually happened and he never asked again.

For years I thought of it as a bad date. As a boy who wanted to go further than I wanted to. And that was it. Then years passed and I realized that what it had been was an attempted date rape. Then a few more years passed and I dropped the qualifier that seems to lessen the crime and called it what it was, attempted rape. When someone tells you no and you try to force them to have sex with you it's rape. Doesn't matter what you were doing before the no came, it's rape. Doesn't matter if she was wearing a tight t-shirt and had just been kissing you, when the words no take me home are spoken and you respond by grabbing her jeans and trying to undo them it's attempted rape. I have no doubt that if I hadn't gotten out of the car that's what would have happened. As it was I stopped him. But I didn't say anything. And for that I am sorry.

Years later (we are talking 15 or so years) I was talking to my friend from the kitchen scene. I was telling him that for a long time I was really mad at him. That he was supposed to be my friend, to listen to me, but he didn't ever ask me what happened he just had accusations for me. I told him what had happened and he got very quiet. Then he told me that a year or so after my incident he was talking to another girl from our church. Turns out that boy had done something similar to her. The difference being he forced her to give him a blow job. And she had said she knew other girls he had done similar things to. And none of us had ever said a word. He had a pattern. Rape, and then let the girl know he would blame her and we all believed him. Because in our world that was what would have happened. It was the girl's responsibility to make sure the boy didn't lose control and we had all obviously failed. What a crock of shit.

So that's my story. It turned out better than it could have since I got away. It turned out worse than it should have because I didn't say anything so other people were harmed as well. Though I will never know if saying anything would have made a difference. The atmosphere I would have been outing him in was one that had just let a child molester out on to the public by branding him as gay instead of turning him over to the police. I have a feeling I would have been the hussy and he would have skated.  But the biggest lesson I learned was to never ever let yourself get in to a situation where you feel uncomfortable. When he pulled off in to the deserted area I felt uncomfortable and I should have said something right then. It might not have helped, it might still have gone all the same way, but don't ignore that little voice in your head that tells you when something isn't right. When you are on an elevator and the person who gets on with you makes your spidey sense tingle, get off. When you are walking down a street and you get that creeped out feeling, look around, duck in to a shop that has customers in it, pull out your phone and call someone to tell them where you are and how you are feeling.  Pay attention. And the final lesson...a good hard kick in the balls isn't unladylike or undignified. It's a valid and useful way to fight. Especially in a situation like that. If he is about to use his dick as a weapon then it's only fair to disarm him.

Now some of you might be wondering why I didn't use his name through all of this. It's because the statute of limitations has passed on what he tried to do to me, what he did do to other girls from our group in those years, but it would still be libel if he saw me call him a rapist in my blog. So instead he is just that boy in this blog. And the boogey man in my nightmares. Now that I've written about it and shared the story for the last time I am hopeful that the dreams where I don't stop him, where it goes much worse never come back.  Here's hoping....


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Angry blog...

A few weeks ago on my Facebook page I posted a pretty disturbing video.  The video showed the staged attempted abduction of a young girl on a busy New York street. The disturbing part was how many people did nothing to help her  When asked about it afterwards many of them said that they thought someone else would take care of it. Someone else would step up.  It was shocking and heartbreaking as a parent to watch.  And it made you question yourself just a little bit, what would you do if you saw or knew of a child that was in danger? Would you step up and do something or would you assume someone else would take care of it?  And what exactly is the right thing to do? In the abduction case in the video stopping the abduction is of course the first step, but then what? Do you let the guy go? Or do you sit on him until the cops get there? Seems like it's a pretty clear answer.

That is unless you happen to be the Catholic Church or Penn State. Then your response to what needs done to protect a child in danger seems to come second to what needs done to protect the institution. We are all familiar with the Priest Shuffle the Church practiced for years to get pedophile priests not in jail where they belonged but out of a parish if they touched a boy who talked. Protecting the reputation of the church was the priority. And when the lawsuits came and the scandal was revealed there were those who were upset at the victims for speaking out. For tarnishing the name of the church.  And those that didn't put blame on the Bishops and Cardinals and the Pope for allowing the abuse to continue, for allowing a priest to confess his sins and then move on to a new batch of boys.

Which leads me to Penn State. As the story broke this week my feed on Facebook was split between people outraged at Sandusky for being the criminal he is and people outraged that anyone would dare question Joe Paterno's role in all of this. Wait, what? Sandusky raped little boys. For years. Penn State covered this up. Your outrage should be at Sandusky and at the institution that allowed him to continue his behavior. Not at people who were justifiably furious at the length of time this abuse, this systematic raping of young boys was allowed to continue. Just how heinous was Penn State's reaction in all of this? Let's take a quick look at the timeline and imagine the conversations that must have taken place between Sandusky and the leadership at Penn State.

In 1998 the first accusations and charges were brought against Sandusky. The officials at Penn State did not report this to the police, they handled the investigation themselves. I imagine the conversation must have gone something like this, "Jerry, you cannot rape young boys while coaching at Penn State University!" So he retired in 1999 and received the title and position of coach emeritus so he retained access to the all of the facilities on campus and and an office as well. Now imagine PSU's chagrin when in 2002 he was found raping a 10year old boy in their shower by a graduate assistant. Of course the assistant went home and told his father first who had the very logical response of calling the police...oh wait, no he didn't he told his son to tell Coach Paterno. Coach Paterno had the logical response of calling the police. Oh wait, no, that would be ridiculous.  Everyone knows the person you should report child rape to is the athletic director. Which he did. And then seemed to have promptly forgot all about it. We will come back to this later.

Now can you just imagine how uncomfortable that conversation was? "Now, Jerry, we told you couldn't rape boys while coaching at PSU apparently you did not understand our position on this. Unequivocally it is wrong WRONG to rape little boys while on the main campus of PSU. From here on out you may not bring young boys on campus. You still can hold your summer camps at our satellite campus, we aren't going to be draconian here, but remember you MUST NOT EVER RAPE YOUNG BOYS on the main campus of PSU."

Jerry Sandusky was allowed to continue to use the satellite campus of PSU to hold summer camps. Jerry Sandusky continued to run his "outreach" program for at risk youth. Jerry Sandusky continued to have a relationship with Coach Paterno and the rest of the PSU faculty. These people had all been informed, told about, talked to, reported to how ever you want to look at it about Sandusky raping a young boy in the shower. They knew. They knew and they didn't call the police. They saw that he was continuing his ways, his contact with young boys, his continuance working as a "mentor" for at risk young men. They saw this. They knew what he was. And they let it go on. Did they think someone else would take care of it? Did they think the possible damage to the institution was too great to risk sending a pedophile to jail? What were they thinking?

Do you know when Jerry Sandusky was banned from campus at PSU? Sunday. Of this week. A long long time away from 1998. And why did they ban him from campus? To try and protect themselves from the fall out that was coming their way as the grand jury indicted Sandusky. The indictment was for 40 counts of sex crimes against 8 boys from 1994-2009. How many of those charges happened after 1998? After 2002?  

And finally, Finally! The students at PSU heard the news and they rioted in the streets last night. They realized that the institution that was supposed to usher them from childhood to adulthood, the school whose athletic department's motto is "Success with Honor" had let them down. Had endangered helpless young boys. Had decided that protecting themselves and that evil sick bastard Sandusky was more important than doing what needed to be done. That as winning as Joe Paterno has been, as great of a leader he has been to a multitude of athletes that have come through his program, as clean of a program he has run, that this, this stain, was too much. That the statement that he issued when announced he would retire at the end of this season, "It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more." That this wasn't enough. That understanding that there is no need for hindsight to know what is right and what is wrong when you are told a child, a CHILD is being raped. Yes, the students had enough, and they took to the streets in the campus!, again, this isn't what happened.  See, Paterno was fired. Along with the President, the Athletic Director and the Senior Vice President. Fired for the cover-up. Fired for allowing it to continuing. Fired so PSU could start to try TRY and repair their damaged image. And so the students took to the street to protest the firing of their beloved coach.

I have heard many people say that he did what he was required to do. He reported what he was told to his superior. I have an issue with doing what you have to do in this case. How about doing what you should do? What you should do is protect those that cannot protect themselves. Not protect your own asses. Which is what PSU did. Make no mistake here. They were not acting in the interest of those boys. They were acting in their own self-interest. I have also heard people say that because he was only told of the rape and didn't witness it himself that lets him off the hook. Oh, okay, so if you are only told of a child being hurt it's okay to ignore it. To allow it to continue. To let it happen to others. Success with honor.  

Jerry Sandusky is the big bad guy in this story. He is a pedophile. A predator. He set up an organization for disadvantaged youth so he could have boys brought to him that he could prey on. He should be punished in a way that is fitting a crime that you and I cannot even let our brains imagine. But PSU and all that knew about it are not innocents in this. They knew. They knew like the Catholic Church knew about their pedophile priests.There should be punishment for that. Being fired is pretty small punishment for allowing young boys to be raped don't you think? And it seems as though it might not be. All who knew about the cover up are now being investigate under the Mandated Reporter laws (Thanks, Corrie, for the link). They could end up serving time themselves. The person you are mandated to report to if you know of or SUSPECT abuse isn't your coach, athletic director, senior vice president, president, board of's the police.  Rapist are reported to the police. Simple.

Now let's take a little trip back in time and use that hindsight that Coach Paterno wishes he had had. Can you imagine how differently this would have all turned out if in 1998 when the accusations first hit the good folks at Penn State had called Jerry Sandusky in to their office and said, "Jerry, this is Officer Takeyoursorryasstojail. What you have been accused of is so outside of anything acceptable we must at this point in time wash our hands of you. Completely. We will be co-operating with the police in this investigation and working with the victim's families to ensure that those boys are taken care of and are safe. We are Penn State. This does not happen here." Now that's some hindsight for you....

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Growing up my family had a loose definition of what being a member of the family meant.  My Aunt Carol and Uncle Denny weren't my parent's siblings but their best friends.  My nephew called my best friend Aunt Chrystal.  Family dinners could mean five people or 50 people and everyone was considered family in some way or the other.  Trying to explain to people who was blood and who was "adopted" took more time than it was worth. There are people that to this day aren't sure who is really family and who isn't.  Though in my house it's easy.  We are all family.  I explain all of this so you understand that I am not nearly as dumb as I will come across in just a second.

I cannot remember a time when my brother and his wife weren't together.  My oldest brother is 14 years older than I am and he married his high school sweetheart when I was five.  So you can see that there would be a few years in there where they weren't dating but they were before I have really solid memories.  So in my life I have always had two older brothers and two older sisters.  I also have two sisters and a brother who died before I was born. My sister-in-law is more "real" to me than they are since I never met them.  They are photographs in a picture album and memories from my mother that she would share.  Oh and picnic lunches at their grave-sites when we were in Iowa.  Yeah, it seems creepy saying it out loud but it wasn't that bad.

In fact one of my first sets of memories of my sister Ann are from a trip to Iowa.  I think it must have been the summer before they got  married because I seem to remember Ann sharing a room with Susan and I .  But I was very young so it could have been the summer after they married, but I think it was before.  Anyway...I remember being on the playground across the street from my grandparent's house and Ann riding the teeter totter with me.  This was a big deal because none of the big kids would ride with me.  Or if they did they would leave me way up in the air while they weighted down the other side then get up and let me crash to the ground.  Playing a balance game with someone who is 3 feet shorter than you and how ever many pounds less in weight isn't that easy or fun but I still loved it. I also remember a box of saccharine pills spilling in the car and finding the little white pills for months afterward.

The next set of vivid memories is the wedding.  I was the flower girl.  I can remember my sister Susan lecturing me about not waving to people as I walked down the aisle with my flower basket.  I was very insulted and let her know I KNEW how to do it.  I can also remember that the ladies of the church had made "bouquets" out of the ribbons from Ann's shower for all of the bridesmaids to carry during the rehearsal and they forgot to make me one.  I was devastated.  Ann pulled bows out of her bouquet and gave them to me to carry.  I also am probably the only bridesmaid in history to have actually worn their dress again after the wedding.  It was worn to church, to school, to the grocery store, where ever I could convince my mother to let me wear it, I wore it! I wore my flower girl dress until it didn't fit anymore.  

A few days ago my sister Ann posted her senior picture online.  When I saw it I was reminded of something else from my childhood.  I wanted to grow up to look just like her.  I didn't really look like anyone else in my family (I thought, now I see how much I favor my mother) so why couldn't I just choose who I wanted to look like?  It's not as far fetched as you would imagine.  Jeff and Ann favored each other enough when Jeff was younger that I had friends who though Ann was the blood relation not John.  That was until they saw John and Susan together and saw how much they looked alike.  Then they were just confused. Ann is blond with blue eyes, my brother John has brown hair and blue eyes, my brother Jeff was blond (not so much anymore) with green eyes, my sister Susan was blond with blue/green eyes.  It just seemed logical to me that I could grow up to have any combination of those features.  I chose Ann's.  

Imagine my chagrin when my brown eyes wouldn't change to blue and my brown hair wouldn't turn to blond.  I had decided gosh darn it!  As I got older I of course realized why it wasn't going to happen, and discovered that no matter how much I laid out in the sun with lemon juice in my hair I was never going to get lighter than a strawberry blond and colored contacts were just freaky.  Genetics will tell.  Though the fact that I am the only brown eyed child in the bunch always made me laugh when we got to brown eye dominance in biology.  Just me and Dad in that wagon.  Of course now I am glad I have my father's eyes and glad that in a face that looks just like his father's my son looks back at me with my brown eyes.  But at the time I really wished for her blue eyes and long blond hair.

Fast forward to last week.  When Ann posted the picture I told her about how I had always wanted to grow up to look like her.  She told me that I grew up gorgeous on my own.  Which triggered another memory for me.  When we were home visiting when C was six months old I was sitting in their den with my brother and a song came on the radio, "She Don't Know She's Beautiful" and my brother teared up.  I asked him what was wrong and he said that the song just reminded him of Ann so much it made him misty every time he heard it.  It's true.  She doesn't always realize how beautiful she is.  From the inside out.  Look at those earliest memories, the teeter totter, the flowers at rehearsal, to now, telling me how pretty I am instead of realizing how beautiful she is.  So even if she isn't really my sister by blood, she is really my sister by bond.  And that's good enough for me.

Oh...and just to point out that genetic confusion runs in the family...when Ann was pregnant with Ashley we all just knew she was having a girl, just knew it.  My nephew Brian announced one day that though we all knew she was having a girl no one knew what color she would be!  :-)  

To be fair...his Aunt Chrystal that I mentioned earlier is black, so his ideas on what family meant were different as well.  Family, who do you choose to be in yours?

My sister Ann.

My senior picture, I almost got the hair right! (though her's was blonder in real life)

Edit: 11/9/11
After posting this blog my niece let me know that her mother actually has light green eyes not blue.  All of these years I have been trying for the wrong color eyes!  And just to show you how very sweet my sister is....she read the blog and didn't correct my mistake, I am sure she didn't want to make me feel bad for getting it wrong.  

Saturday, November 5, 2011


I am not sure exactly what triggered it.  If it is the constant questions from people on what Brent and I are gong to do this year for our milestone anniversary.  If it was the marathon of shows I watched while trapped in Burlington during the hurricane or if it's just a recessive gene that all women have, but I have become addicted to wedding shows.  Two in particular, Say Yes to the Dress and Four Weddings.

In Say Yes to the Dress you follow three or four brides in an episode as they try on dresses and pick their perfect dress for their perfect day.  In Four Weddings you have four brides who didn't know each other to start and they all attend each other's weddings and judge them for food, venue, dress and over all experience and who ever wins gets a honeymoon.  The first time I watched the SYTTD I was stunned at the prices!  They would ask the bride her budget and at times the answer would be $10,000 or more!  For a dress! That you are going to wear once!  I couldn't believe it.  But then I caught myself last week during an episode where a woman wanted to spend $1,000 thinking, "oh you won't get much of a dress for that"  Eek!

The first episode of FW that I watched I came in in the middle.  I couldn't figure out why these friends were dissing each other's weddings on camera.  "I just didn't like her dress, it made her look like a wedding cake." was one comment.  I thought her dress was lovely.  And now thanks to SYTTD I can tell you it probably cost around $7K.  After the marathon was over, (or at least for me, I switched off part way through, not because I was tired of looking at weddings but because I was craving wedding cake too badly to continue) I understood the concept of the show a little more and could understand why they were critiquing the weddings.

I am seriously fascinated by these shows.  Poor Brent has heard more about weddings in the past few weeks than he did when we were planning our own wedding.  The biggest thing for me is how much people are spending.  It's not unusual on an episode of FW for the wedding to cost $70K or more.  The "budget" weddings are usually around $7K.  Sometimes you can tell where the money went, open bar and food for a large group.  Sometimes you watch and think, oh you got ripped off!  But it never fails to fascinate me.  And almost every bride talks about how her day is all about her (not a lot of mention of the groom) and how she deserves to be a Princess that day.

If you were to add up all of the expenses from my wedding, dress, venue, food, invitation, photography, rentals, all of it, we probably came in under $1,000.  My dress was the first one I tried on, off of the clearance rack at JcPenney.  It actually cost less than my prom dress did the spring before.  The shoes I wore for my wedding I bought for prom knowing they would match my wedding dress as well so I wouldn't feel guilty spending the $25 for a pair of shoes I would only wear once.

Don't get me wrong, my wedding was a big, fat, hairy, deal to me.  My mother was the wedding director for our church while I was growing up.  I had been to hundreds of weddings before my own came around.  I had my wedding planned from the time I was 12.  My family joked to Brent that I married him because he fit the tux I had hanging in the back of my closet.  It was a church wedding and we were 18 so there was no open bar or dancing but it was catered.  But the catering was done by a friend of the family who wanted to break in to the business so she did it just for the cost of the food as a gift to me.  My Aunt made the cake, she makes the best cakes.  My mother and Aunt did the flower arranging.  We got married in my home church and had the reception in the fellowship hall.  The tuxes were rentals, the bridesmaids dresses were plain, the invitations were on discount.  My engagement ring came from Sam's Club and our wedding bands were my mother's for me and his father's for him.

And still, doing it all that inexpensively if I could go back in time and convince the 17 year old me that a big deal wedding was not really what she wanted I would.  We needed that money the first year of our marriage. If we could have kept the money in the bank it would have made it so much easier to find a nicer apartment to live in, better food to eat, maybe some furniture before we hit our first anniversary.  It would have been a battle to explain to the me I was at 17 that she would look back on her wedding day and not have really enjoyed much of it, that the wedding isn't the fun part, the marriage is.

In planning for the wedding my mother and I started clashing early and often.  I didn't want programs for the wedding, my feeling was if you are attending you know who everyone is and if you don't then you can ask somebody for an introduction.  My mother insisted that they were necessary.  I said no.  We had programs.  My parents had given me a set of cut glass goblets for graduation to use for our first toast, about a month before the wedding my mother asked if I knew where they were, I told her I was pretty sure they were under my bed where I had put them. She decided that the Bride and Groom champagne flutes would be better. I said no. When Brent and I took our first toast we had the Bride and Groom flutes.  Are you seeing how this went?

I was sick the day we got married.  Sick enough we had a glass of water up on the alter in case I started coughing during the ceremony, because I was coughing so hard I would throw up.  I had been sick for months.  The flu strain going around that year would not let go of me.  I worked in food service at the time and shudder to think of how many people I must have infected by medicating and going to work....sorry, Albuquerque!  I was so sick that the final fitting for my dress was two weeks before my wedding and they took the dress in more because I had lost weight from the fitting a month before.  Then when I put my dress on on my wedding day it was too big again.  Every bride wants to be their slimmest on their wedding day, right?  The dark bags under my eyes were so black that the woman who did my makeup put on highlighter so thick in pictures my skin looks white under my eyes.

In a town that never gets snow we had a big snowstorm the day before the wedding so fully half of our guests didn't come.  Friends of ours from high school showed up dressed to go out to Rocky Horror that night, at the time it pissed me off completely, now looking back I think it's pretty funny.  My sister Ann was pregnant with my niece and due any day, I kept telling her to wait, just wait a few days, Ashley listened and held out until January but looking at the pictures I know Ann must have been miserable standing at the guest book.  My sister Susan was just pregnant with David and actually had to duck out of the service and sit down because we had her wedged into her dress so tightly she about passed out.  My oldest nephew was the ring bearer and broke out in to hysterics during the service.  Our candles wouldn't light before the service and our unity candle didn't want to light during the service.  My brother-in-law's father committed suicide the morning of the wedding and my brother-in-law decided the best way to get through the service was by coking up.

Even with all of the food at the reception Brent and I got a bite of wedding cake and a sip of punch and then were shuffled around for pictures and greeting people and opening gifts.  After the formal reception at the church we headed over to a friend's house who was throwing us a party.  We were given a bottle of champagne and put it by my bag to take with us back to the hotel.  When we went to leave someone had helped themselves to our champagne and left the empty bottle for us.  At the hotel Brent's folks had arranged a delivery of roses, chocolates and champagne to the room.  We got the roses the next day, that was it.

And honestly, that's what I remember about the wedding.  My best memory of the day is getting to the hotel that night with Brent and doing what all newly married couples do....order room service.  Seriously, we were starving!  We ate pizza that to this day I think was the most delicious ever made while Brent took my hair down from the complicated updo (and not what I asked the beautician to do) I think I have ever had.

As I was telling Brent about the shows and my complete fascination with them he said, "I think our wedding was where you came to the conclusion that you are not a girly girl."  And I guess he is right.  I can look at their weddings and see how they would be fun to attend and look at the dresses in SYTTD and think how gorgeous they are (mostly, some are just UGLY!) but as soon as that price tag hits I think, no way!  I don't ever feel like I need a day to be a Princess.  Though again, Brent would tell you that stepping down to Princess when you are used to being the Queen doesn't sound like much fun.  Now if you'll excuse me I have Beverly Hills Weddings to's like Say Yes to the Dress but with NO budgets!!  Ooooh!

The day before the wedding.  Don't I look thrilled?

 The day of.  Yep, I look the picture of health.
But it wasn't all bad.    
And seriously...look how thin I was!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Life Stories

We had our furnace serviced last week.  Frank the guy who did the work left home when he was 16, actually his parents kicked him out, he spent the next two years couch surfing to make it through high school.  His folks own an appliance repair store down in Southern Oregon so everyone assumes that's how Frank learned the trade but he only worked for them for a few years in his 20s. See he got tired of working for them when he realized that everyone else was getting paid more for less hours and every time he would bring it up they would dangle the carrot of work hard, some day this will all be yours over his head when all he really wanted was to have some extra money in the bank right then for his wife and kids.  Getting married at 18 and having kids at 19 wasn't the smartest financial thing he ever did, but his daughters were the joy of his world.  Now that they are grown up he dotes on his grand-kids as well as his 12 year old step son.  Now there was some sort of scandal there where people assume the boy is his, due to his blue eyes, but as Frank is only 5'6" on a good day and the boy is already almost 6' tall it's obvious that it's his Daddy's genes in there....I could go on and on, I have a lot more of Frank's story I could share. How do I know all of this you wonder?  Well, it's my mother's fault.

I've mentioned that my mother stopped cooking when I was around 12 and didn't start again until it was basically just her and Dad she was cooking for.  With everyone working or going to school and living in the South Valley while working in the Heights it was just easier in her mind to eat out.  And for the most part cheaper as well.  What this meant is that instead of the meal rotation that happened in other families, Monday is spaghetti, Tuesday is meatloaf...we had Monday is Furr's, Tuesday is Cornucopia and so on.  Dinners would consist of me, my folks, what ever other members of the family were around and the waitstaff.  Yep, we would catch up on what they were doing, fill them in on what we were doing and did this every week.  For a teenager it was so embarrassing.  Other people's families didn't make friends with the waitress when they went to dinner why did we have to?  And this would be repeated at grocery stores, at the mall, in line at the post office.  No matter where we were by the time we left Dad and especially Mom would have heard the life story of whoever happened to be closest to us. It would drive me crazy.

Fast forward a few years.  Brent and I are checking out at the grocery store and the cashier is telling me about how she was really tired because she was working that day after staying up with a cranky baby the night before and she still had a class she needed to study for.  We get out to the car and Brent tells me, "You are just like your mother."  Excuse me?  Not exactly the words most women ever want to hear.  He goes on to tell me everyone just talks to me and tells me their life's story.  I said that I didn't ask them to!  They all just started talking. He said, "yeah, just like your mother."  So then I thought back...and he was right.  My parents were very nice people (my mother still is), very quick with a smile, very open and very polite.  So when someone answered the question "How are you?" honestly, with how they actually were, my folks would listen.  And because they would listen people would talk more.  And then because they had shared all of this information about themselves they ended up feeling a connection to my folks and so the next time they saw them they greeted them like they were friends instead of just someone they saw one time.

And so it got to be sort of joke between Brent and I.  He would nudge me every time someone would start in on their life story and I would just have to smile and take it.  He was right, I was just like my mother.  It would have been rude to not listen, and really most of the time it was pretty interesting.  And I always figured  that the extra 5 minutes out of my day were no big deal to me, but just having someone to talk to might be a  big deal to them.  I am still not entirely sure why people do this to me but they do.  I have always joked I just have one of those faces.  I look like everyone's best friend from third grade or their best friend's cousin or sister.  I smile easily and I look people in the eye when they talk.  I am my mother's daughter.  And because of this I am the receiver of everyone's life story.

I would like to be able to go back in time and apologize for every time I sighed or rolled my eyes at my mother listening as some stranger told her about their day.  Now I know that she didn't ask for it any more than I did.  But she embraced it and understood how important it was to other people as well. And also how much a little friendliness can mean to someone. When Dad died we all shared stories about him and my sister-in-law (I don't usually call her that, but it makes the story more clear) talked about the first time she met my parents (this is why I don't usually call her my SIL, she has been in the family for as long as I have been and it's weird to me to think of a time she wasn't she has always just been my sister) anyway....She met them as they were the greeters for Sunday services the first time my sister-in-law came to Ridgecrest.  Ann said she remembered thinking that she was really going to like going to church there if everyone was a friendly as they were, having no idea that in a few years those people were going to be her in-laws.

Ann had to have met our parents for the first time over 40 years ago.  And obviously has a lot of history between then and now and she still remembered that moment.  It makes me wonder how many other people remember the small kindness from my parents of just listening to them.  And how many people would say the same about me.  So yes, I know a lot about Frank the Furnace guy and I hope that sharing all of his story made his day a better one than it would have been if I had shut him down when started to talk, or worse yet if I had been the sort of person that made him feel as though he couldn't.

And on a purely selfish note, and a totally random coincidence I have been working on a short story in my head and I had just decided to name the main character Frank.  I have a predicament he is in but I was having a hard time fleshing out his back story.  Now I have one.  You never know what good things come by just taking the time to sit and listen to someone.  Thanks, Frank the Furnace Guy you are going to be a big help to Facebook Frank.  And thank you, Mom and Dad, seems I was listening as well.