Saturday, December 13, 2014

Reality Check

Someone needs a dose of reality.

D: People tell me I'm spoiled. I'm not. I work for everything I have now.
Me: Your car?
D: ...... Oh. Um. Shut up. Everything else.

Point proven in .8 seconds. I didn't even mention the iPhone, the fact that she doesn't pay her cell phone bill, or that since she doesn't pay rent she can afford to blow her money on 18,000 bottles of lotion, body spray, and perfume.

Friday, December 12, 2014

When Cheesecake Leads to Racism

Last night the Texan and I went to dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. I'm always boggled by the fact that the servers there wear all-white uniforms. I mean, all I have to do is look at a plate of food and I end up with half of it on my clothes. I really hope they don't have to pay for their uniforms. If I were forced to wear a white uniform, I'd spend my entire paycheck on my stupid uniform.

Anyway, that thought led to this little conversation. (Side note: our server was a black lady.)

Me: Why do they have to wear all white?
The Texan: That was racist.
Me: What? What was racist about that?
Tex: "Why can't they all be white?" That just sounds racist.
Me: That is NOT what I said!!

And people wonder why I have white guilt.

Thinking about blogging that little bit, I realized I would have to call him something. Which led to this little exchange.

Me: I need a name for you.
Tex: Stud.
Me: You're not an 80's porn star.

Incidentally, he has given himself a porn name and whole (imaginary) porn persona. I may have met my match.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Gay People Owe Us

The Wife and I are used to people thinking that we are an actual couple. At first we were like, “Us? No! No, we’re not together. Not like that. Ha ha ha. No…….” And now it happens so often we just shrug it off. There are far worse things that could happen than being mistaken for being gay.

This past weekend was the perfect example of how often this happens. We went to look at some open houses in ritzy neighborhoods. Because they were all in the million-dollar price range and there is no way we could actually fake it with a realtor long enough to be shown these homes otherwise. It was also a spontaneous thing that happened on the way to Trader Joe’s. That is how our weekends usually go because we’re both like, “Squirrel!! Squirrel in a mansion!!” But, anyway……

We went to three houses and all three realtors at all three houses asked if we were buying together. They were all dudes so maybe they were just being hopeful, but it was a little odd to have a 100% rate of people thinking we’re lesbians. And, what? Friends can’t look at houses together? Sisters don’t look at houses together? If you are spending a Sunday afternoon looking at houses that are outrageously out of your price range with a member of the same sex that automatically makes you a “couple?” Whatevs.

Afterward though, when we were talking about how people like to put us in this box, we did appreciate the fact that they all seemed very accepting of us. Even the old guy didn't bat an eye when asking if we were together. Way to be progressive, Nashville! But then we (because one of us is a Leo) decided that it's us that makes people so comfortable with the idea. People who seem like they would normally be turned off by anyone doing anything differently than they do. We’re nice. We’re approachable. We’re a good representation of the gay community. Only we’re not. Gay, I mean. Still, people think we are so we’re inadvertently doing our part to advance awareness and acceptance. For that, for taking one for the team we don’t play for, the gay community owes us.

How can you pay us back, you ask? Wifey wants someone to take her shopping for clothes. It sounds easier than it is. I just want to be invited to cool parties.  I’ll bring the Wife. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Single Girl's Version of a Great Weekend in Nashville

Friday – Go work out. Actually, this isn’t that great because it hurts like hell but it means you can order the sushi with the crunchy shrimp and fried chicken. And, yes, that is better than and as good as it sounds, depending on what you’re thinking. Plus it’s called “Hot Chick” so you hope you are what you eat.

Saturday – Try a new breakfast place where, because it’s closer to noon, you order crab fondue with a crawfish/gouda omelet. Fall in love with cheese for the billionth time. Visit some antique stores and find really creepy things, either because it’s Halloween or because the store owners are just kind of creepy. Hope it’s the former. Meet some friends for a little free outdoor music and pet shy dogs. Spend a much-needed evening at home watching one bad movie and one heart-breaking movie while drinking bourbon.

Sunday – Go to the dog park and meet adorable squishy, smooshy faces while continually scolding your dog for humping anything on four legs that walks by. Have a fabulous brunch before driving around incredibly beautiful neighborhoods, witness a stunning sunset, and finish up the evening eating ice cream before Walking Dead takes a turn for the really gross.

Curl up in bed with adorable puppies, a new book, and complete gratitude for taking leaps of faith and carving a new life. Recognize that it’s possible to fall in love with a place and your own life. 

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Literally the Last Thing I Ever Wanted to Hear. Literally. Ever.

Seriously, this isn't even hyperbole. I literally heard the last thing I ever wanted to hear in the world this weekend. Okay, to clarify - the last thing I ever wanted to hear about my appearance. And I've been asked if I was pregnant when I wasn't. The baby doll dress was not a good look for anyone.

But this is really the last thing I ever wanted to hear.

The wife is considering going back to culinary school. Which is awesome and I hope she does it. She's currently researching schools and I, as the good wife, went with her to an open house at The Art Institute of Tennessee. We were late, as usual, so we got a personal tour rather than a group tour. Yay. When Jim (go ahead and read that as Jimmy in a South Park voice) came out to get us he asked, "Who is J?" As the wife stood up he then said, "Oh, who did you bring with you, your mom?"

Yeah, let that one sit for a minute......

He was referring to me. Me. He thought I was the mother of a 41-year-old. ME.

J's jaw dropped and I started laughing only to cover up the fact that I was literally bursting into tears. I even said, "Are you serious? Do you want to make me cry today??!!!" He then stammered about how he's used to seeing seniors (What senior fucking citizens????) and tried to assure me that I am beautiful. Half-heartedly. Before he mumbled something about going to his office. It was such a giant fucking faux-pas that he had to leave the fucking room.

I only continued to laugh because I was completely, utterly fucking horrified. "Do I look like I'm fucking 60????? Jesus!!!!" The girl at the front desk also tried to half-assed reassure me but I couldn't even look at her because there were tears running down my face. J tried to make a joke about needing eye cream because we've both been out of it for a couple of weeks but I just couldn't get past the fact that someone thought I was my best friend's mom. Not sister, not fellow student, not even her lover, but her fucking mom.

Jimmy returned to walk us around the classrooms and kitchens and all the while he kept asking the same questions repeatedly. "Do you have a job now? Have you been to college? Why did you move from Oregone?" (By the way, that is not a typo. That is how this imbecile pronounced Oregon. Over and over and over again.) When she answered the last question saying she wanted to be closer to her mom in Florida, I said, "But I'm right here." I refused to let him get away with that one. Especially since he never really apologized.

So, yeah, I'll be buying some eye cream. And scheduling some plastic surgery. Maybe a chemical peel, a face lift. This will all happen when I emerge from the fucking deep depression I'm about to fall into.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Speak Their Language

I cannot tell you how tired I am of reading about dog bites and attacks by dogs and dogs being put down because they are "vicious." These stories break my heart. The vast majority of these encounters are avoidable with just a little bit of attention.

We, as a human species, rely too much on verbal cues. We rarely read the body language of other humans, let alone dogs. Dogs don't have words. They have body language and they rely on it heavily. It isn't fair to expect them to communicate in the same way that we do and then punish them when they don't.

This weekend I was witness to the perfect example of this exact situation. I was at an outdoor market where, because Nashville is so dog-friendly, there were several dogs in attendance. Most of them were happy-go-lucky and enjoying their interactions with everyone around them. However, there was one dog who was clearly in distress and his owner was oblivious to how increasingly dangerous the situation was becoming.

He was a heeler, his owner was a woman. They were at a booth with dog products. On the surface, this is an acceptable and appropriate setting. But as I watched, the dog became increasingly anxious and his owner remained completely oblivious. The saleslady at the booth attempted to put a bandanna on the dog, with his owner's permission. In fact, his owner was trying to hold him still while this stranger came at his face attempting to place something around his neck. He didn't come close enough to bite her, but he did show his teeth and mimed biting her. He was clearly giving her a warning that he did not want her in his space. The saleslady was visibly alarmed and the owner, in frustration, said she better just do it herself. This should have been enough of a message that the dog was uncomfortable and agitated and that it was time to leave. They didn't leave. His owner held onto his collar and said stupid things like, "He's just protective of me." No, dumbshit, he has to be protective of his own personal space because you won't do it.

They stayed another several minutes. The dog barked and growled at people around him. His owner sat on the ground with him, pushing him down into a submissive position beside her, exclaiming again how unusual he was acting but it must be because he's trying to protect her. God, we are so self-absorbed, aren't we?

If a child throws a tantrum because she has missed her nap or she has a cold or she's just out of sorts, she is almost always removed from the situation and taken to a calmer place, like home. Or she should be. If I tell my friend I don't feel well or a situation is making me uncomfortable, she will leave with me. She doesn't force me to stay where I feel badly and she certainly doesn't pin me on the ground and tell me to stop having the bad feelings that I have.

Yet we do this to our dogs. They don't have the ability to say "Hey, I don't like you touching my face" or "It is really crowded in here and I need some space." So they try to give non-verbal cues. They lay their ears back. They growl. They show teeth. They pace. They whine. They avoid eye contact. And when we ignore these signs and continue forcing negative stimuli on them, they snap. Just like a person would. Only when they snap, someone usually gets hurt. A person, a child, another dog. And then they are labeled "vicious" and "dangerous" or an "undesirable breed."

I finally had to leave that booth that day because the tension was too much for me. Imagine how it felt for that dog, an animal who uses its senses a hundred times more than we do. How betrayed he must have felt by his owner to be punished and choked and pulled around by the person he trusted to take care of him.

Dogs don't have words. But I do. And I am telling you to listen to the little souls that depend on you. Pay attention when they are trying to talk to you. Don't put them in situations where they can get hurt and hurt others. It is your responsibility to keep them safe. Be their advocate.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Highway Clowns

D: When I'm famous I want to have rodeo clowns carry my stuff for me.
Me: Rodeo clowns??
D: Isn't that what you said?
Me: Roadies? I said roadies. (followed by uproarious laughter)
D: I thought you said clowns. Shut up.
Me: Why clowns? Who wants a bunch of clowns following them around?? It's roadies. As in R-O-A-D. Because they're on the road with you.
D: Okay, fine. Stop laughing. I get it.
Me: No, maybe you should have clowns. It makes more sense for you.
D: Stop it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Free: One Male Dog With a Pee Problem

Conversation from earlier today.

D: Remy peed on my foot and the patio.
Me: He's a jerk.
D: I don't want him anymore.
Me: .......
D: I really don't want him anymore.
Me: He peed on me last night.
D: Ewwww. Let's throw him out.
Me: It's National Dog Day so we can't.
D: Tomorrow then.
Me: Pack his stuff.
D: Okay, I will.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Second Impressions

It's been almost three weeks now and I'm settling into something of a routine. Mostly this routine consists of working and looking for shoe stores and (still) tripping over boxes. My younger, more anal self would have bitch-slapped me for not having it all done yet. Whatever. At least my dogs are settling into a potty schedule and I'm only cleaning up after myself.

Here are my latest observations about my new home:

1. Still finding unexpected pockets of gorgeous homes and neighborhoods. I never know what to expect so every little trip is an adventure.
2. People like to talk on their cell phones while driving. Guess that law hasn't passed here yet.
3. Apparently yellow is the same color as green.
4. I have white guilt. Didn't have it in Southern California so it must be something about knowing that slaves actually lived here. My overcompensation is bound to embarrass me.
5. These people love their Greek. As in sororities and fraternities. You can buy all kinds of sorority-logo shit here.
6. They also like their monograms. There are initials on many doors and framed initials in a bunch of stores. Meta was invented here.
7. It's okay in an office setting to let people know that you dislike same-sex marriage. In other words, you can be a total asshole at work.
8. Fortunately, open (and pretty flamboyant) homosexuality is accepted at Cracker Barrel.
9. I may be destined to never eat at Chick-Fil-A and I'm okay with that.
10. Aside from the discrimination, my job rocks. My co-workers are awesome, I got a recommendation for a shoe store on my way down the elevator, free lunch three days this week, omelettes, Cracker Jacks, and chocolate whenever I need it. Also, there is now an egg of Silly Putty at my desk.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Depression Dialogue

I was going to say something about the death of Robin Williams because it has affected me so profoundly. I woke up yesterday feeling like life was okay and then I turned on the radio and heard the news again and realized that life is not okay and the world is now Less Than. I cried on my drive to work and for a few hours I had to avoid reading anything about him or his death and I wasn't sure I'd be able to function for the day. But then other people have said things in blogs and articles and posts and it seems like a lot and most of it has been said in a better way than I could anyway.

What I am going to say today is different than what was forming in my head yesterday. I want to say thank you for the mostly supportive outpouring of emotion. Thank you to those who have shared their stories about their battles with this asshole of a disease and thank you to those who try to understand it and reacted with sympathy rather than judgment. For yesterday and today and, hopefully, a few days from now, I feel a part of a community that finally gets me. I feel like I'm not alone. I would like to hope for more than a few days, but that seems overly optimistic. The truth is that this death, this loss, will cease to become headline news. You'll go on with your lives, you'll go to your jobs, you'll take care of your kids, and this will become a sad, distant memory.

Please don't. Please don't let this death be for naught. Please start the discussion and continue it. Depression didn't start with Robin Williams and it won't end with him. Many of us will continue the battle; it isn't over. When the media frenzy dies down and the rest of you go back to your lives, we'll still be here fighting. Only that wonderful sense of community I feel right now? That will go away. Depression, being the hateful bitch that it is, will tell me I'm alone after all. It will lie to all of us and push us back into our dark corners. Those days are coming, no matter what I do. It's just a matter of time.

So, please. Find out what you can do for those you love who are suffering. Educate yourselves on how twisted this disease is, how we didn't ask for it and we don't want it. Learn how to help and how to set aside your judgment. Remember, that when we smile the brightest we may be hurting the deepest. Don't forget that. Ask questions, open your arms for hugs, sit and listen, hold our hands. Reach out and don't stop reaching out.

Don't let depression steal more from us than it already has. Start the dialogue now.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

First Week First Impressions

I have now been in Nashville for a week and finished my first week of work. It still feels temporary and I have only just been reunited with my bed and my shoes today but it sinks in a little bit more every day.

So, what is Nashville like? Here are my first impressions:

1. It's very green. So green. And hilly. And all of the hills are covered with trees. So many trees.
2. The houses all have storm doors. So weird and I don't know why. Not screens, just glass storm doors.
3. If something is two miles away, it will take 10 minutes to get there. If it's 5.6 miles away and on the freeway at rush hour, you don't go there.
4. I love fireflies as much now as I did when I was a kid.
5. The humidity is bearable unless you're moving boxes and furniture into the house. Then the movers drip sweat on your boxes and floor.
6. Driving 80 mph on the freeway is fun.
7. People talk about going to church a lot. Like everyone. And the churches are huge. Also, Koreans are Baptists.
8. Neighbors are actually neighborly.
9. Every parking lot is Costco-sized, but there are gorgeous hidden neighborhoods that feel miles from town even though they're a minute from Target.
10. They have different bugs here. And different spiders.
11. For a place called Music City, there aren't many good radio stations. At all.
12. People open doors but drive like shit. Unless they are old and expect you to hold a door open for them and then don't say thank you.
13. It's not all southern accents here. And it's really weird to hear an Asian girl with a thick drawl.
14. Not all sweet tea is created equal. (Equally?)
15. There is a Gus's fried chicken that I must go to. I wonder if Gus worked there before he got blown up.

Okay, on to week two and unpacking all of my shit. That there is no room for. Fml.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Saying Goodbye

It's been a long, long time coming but it's finally here. My last night in Bend.

I've been here 22 years. While I've spent the majority of that time wishing to be somewhere else, this has been my home. For better or worse. Twenty two years is a lifetime. I got married, had a baby, got divorced, I've had other important relationships, friendships. I've had jobs, said a temporary goodbye to some and permanent goodbyes to others. I moved here the day after I graduated from college so, basically, I've grown up here. Ups, downs. Happiness, heartbreak. It's hard to quantify that many experiences.

Since making final plans to leave three weeks ago, it's been the proverbial roller coaster of emotions. In one day I literally jumped up and down for joy and then broke down in tears approximately 7.8 minutes later. Last week I had the what-the-fuck-am-I-doing meltdown. As in, this is a mistake and I should stay Here because This is what I know. But what we know isn't necessarily good for us and by the time I walked into work the next morning I knew I was doing the Right Thing.

Tonight I spent time with the two people that I think I was meant to spend the Last Night with. They reminded me of the best parts about being here. The best parts are the friendships I've made. The friends that were there when I needed them. The ones who made me laugh through the tears. The ones who commiserated over The Job and kids and the deaths of relationships. The ones who made living here bearable, if not possibly worth it.

What this chapter of my life amounted to is these friendships and the lessons they've taught me. I can do the things I want to do. I have choices. I know gratitude. There is real love in my life. It didn't come in the form of Prince Charming. It arrived in these beautiful, strong, smart, funny, dependable, witty women. The friendships I least expected turned out to be the best and the most meaningful.

So, while I'm saying goodbye, I feel it's not a real goodbye. These are the relationships that will last. We'll sit outside on a summer evening once again discussing our troubles, our joys, reminiscing over the moments that brought us together. We'll profess our love over cocktails, passing down these small rites to our daughters.

People say that Bend has a lot to offer. And it does. It's spectacularly beautiful in the summer. It's a skier's paradise in the winter. You love beer? Well, this is the place. Me? I'm going to take these offerings of friendship with me. The lessons of gratitude. The moments of laughter and the acceptance of my tears.

Ladies, thank you. Because of you I have the courage to make this giant leap into the next adventure. I will carry your hearts. I will carry them in my heart. Always and forever, with gratitude and love.

Thank you. I love you.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

A Graduation Letter to My Daughter

My Darling Bugabooga,

I loved you before you were born, before your first movement. I have never been as in love with anyone in my life as I was with you in the first hours, days, months of your life. This love for you has continued to be and will forever remain limitless, boundless, and timeless.

My wish for you, from day one, was simply happiness. And not just mere happiness, but immeasurable joy. Happiness comes to us in many sizes, forms and at different times in our lives. Take it however it comes to you and relish it. Wallow in it. Find happiness at your core and hold on to it.

Music has always been a piece of you, whether through the movement of dance, the lyrics in a song, the keys on a piano. Continue to dance your heart out and sing from your soul. Add your own music to the world. Let it hear your voice and add its own lines to the song of your life.

Be kind. Not only to others but to yourself. Take care of yourself when nobody else will and I am unable to. Take naps, eat treats, exercise. Dance when you feel like it and hug your pillow when you don't. Cry when you need to because it's necessary, healthy, and refreshes your heart. Just promise to laugh more than  you cry. Laugh at the little things, laugh with friends; be mirthful.

Find love. Love for friends, love for a soul mate, love for children. Love those who need it the most, including you. Don't be afraid to love first, be reckless with your heart and love with abandon. Still, recognize when this love is appreciated and have strength to walk away when it isn't.

Remember that dreams come true and wishes become fact. Have the courage to make your dreams your reality. Follow your heart and believe in yourself. Know that I believe in you too. When my voice sounds like doubt, it's only concern. Concern for the little girl I will always hold in my heart, who I want to protect from every bit of harm, knowing all the time that this is impossible.

Learn. Learn in school, learn from others, learn from your mistakes. Refuse to feel shame but move forward. Do better, allow yourself growth. When it hurts, you're doing it right. Keep pushing to the other side.

Be you at all times. Be silly, be serious, be angry, be sad, be spirited, be passionate, be sassy, be bold, eat fire and spit nails. Be who you are in all of these things, let nobody make you feel less than. Dare yourself to be better, to want more than you think possible. Inspire others to do the same.

Know, in the pit of your soul, that I love you. Nothing you do can ever change that. Being your mother is the greatest gift of my life. I've made mistakes and the road has been long, but you have challenged me to be a better parent and a better person. For this, for your wit, for your radiant spirit, I am eternally grateful.

It has been a great adventure but now this chapter is over. Write the next ones with vigor, with daring, and with your heart. Make it your story. Make it an epic.

I love who you were, who you are, and who you are becoming. I love you yesterday, today, tomorrow, and every minute in between. I simply, endlessly, love you.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Successes and Shortcomings

D graduates in three weeks. Three. I knew it would go fast, but I didn't imagine getting to three short weeks. During the last three years, I wasn't sure we would make it to this point. But here we are.

Of course this is a time of reflection. A time to think about what we've been through, how beautiful she is, how she frustrates and surprises me in the same half hour, and what kind of parent I've been. I have failed a lot. In little ways, in big ways. I can't help but feel regret for those moments. Knowing there were plenty of times I could do better. So much advice I would give to my 27-year-old self and my 35-year-old self.

I knew as a parent of a baby to appreciate every moment. I would hold her for hours, not putting her down for naps, but rocking with her. Memorizing the feel of her baby skin and how her small body weighed on me and how long she was as she grew. I inhaled every bit of baby scent I could get. As she grew, I talked to her constantly. I taught her "sign language" before she could use words. I encouraged her sentences and relished in her tiny accomplishments. Babies are so easy that way. So eager to please and to smile and to laugh. D was no exception and she was just, overall, an easy baby. An angel at two with no tantrums. I couldn't have been any luckier.

By second grade I was tired. I have never enjoyed school assemblies or concerts or any other event that required parent participation. Mostly because I don't want to suffer through 60 other people's kids to see mine do something for 45 seconds. She did ballet so I drove back and forth to practice multiple times a week. I was trying to hold together a relationship that was always destined for failure. D had her own likes, dislikes, and agendas. They didn't always mesh with mine and I lost my focus. I was more concerned with grades and behavior than with who she was and who she would become. Mostly, I stopped having fun with her.

My biggest regret is that I didn't have more fun with her. I forgot to remember to treasure the little moments. I never forgot that I loved her and would do anything for her, but there are very few occasions in which one actually has to save the life of her child. The love is really in the little things. Vacations reminded me of what an incredible person she is and I started to live for those rather than the hour on a Sunday where we did nothing but sit back and appreciate that minute. She begged for my attention but I didn't want to play Chutes and Ladders. I didn't want to play some dumb video game with her. I chose not to relish those moments, thinking that the big ones would suffice.

Teenagers are a completely different animal. Her depression both pulled us apart and pushed us together. I have pushed her away and pulled her towards me in the same way. This last year especially required a lot of my mental and emotional energy. Fortunately, there isn't a whole lot I would do differently in that sense. She was my sole focus. Her life became my purpose. And maybe that needed to happen. I think I needed to be reminded of who I was as a mother.

Now every moment feels bittersweet. Her last play. Her last concert. Her last prom. Her last, her last, her last. I think I've cried more over her growing up this last year than in the previous 17 years combined. Senior pictures reminded me so sharply of her one-year-old portrait session. She even wore denim similar to her tiny little dress in those photos. Prom made me sob for about half an hour. The graduation announcements arrived and I couldn't even read them. She now watches me for the tears that she has learned to expect.

These moments are poignant because they just are and they're supposed to be, but it's more than that. I'm losing her to her adult life. It's coming. It's just down the street. I hear it and I'm trying to be ready. I'm finally trying to be what she needs me to be. Problem is, my feelings get in the way. I want my baby back. I want another chance. I want to fix my mistakes. I want to be the mom with endless patience and hours of time and the sincere desire that I had when her feet were so tiny and she needed me so much. She needs me less now and it's both heart-wrenching and rewarding. Mostly it's just too much to process in three weeks.

So I'll cry. I'll beam with pride and cry some more. I will continue to be amazed at how beautiful she is. How surprisingly talented because that doesn't come from me. I can't claim that one. And I'll cry some more.

You can find me on June 8th in the corner. Crying and spilling with pride at the same time.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

What the Guide Books Don't Tell You

When researching a destination for vacation or other purposes, there is a plethora of information from guide books to websites and forums to blogs and travel magazines. These are all very good and necessary, but I think it is equally important to speak with someone who has actually been there. Now that I have a single stamp in my passport, I consider myself somewhat of an expert on traveling. Or at least traveling in Ireland. Or just traveling the part of Ireland that I saw.

Anyway, here are some things that I found interesting that you also might like to know.

1. Restrooms/bathrooms are called toilets. There are signs for toilets everywhere and it never ceased to amuse me. We started to declare, "I'm going to the toilet" and vowed to say it regularly when we got home.

2. Pay toilets are also endlessly amusing. The ones in Ireland, at least, claim to completely clean and disinfect themselves after each use and we were able to listen to what sounded like a small hurricane whirling around inside before we were allowed to enter. The giggling only started there. The wife and I shared one so that we wouldn't have to pay twice, which we thought made us smarty pants but the toilet was smarter. It wasn't as clean as we'd expected and everything was covered in water, including the toilet seat. Guess what sounded like a giant hand dryer wasn't that effective. Everything is automated though, you don't have to touch anything. Not to flush, not to turn on the sink, not to get soap. Except it only runs through once because it only expects one person to be in there. I got to have clean hands, the wife didn't. Still, it's worth it for the laugh factor.

3. You can buy pretty much anything in a bathroom vending machine. They have condoms, small sex toys, and then diapers in case the condom doesn't work.

4. Ireland closes early. Don't expect to go shopping after 6:00 p.m. Not even in Dublin. Restaurants like to be closed by or before 8:00 p.m. It's weird, it's like people actually go home to spend time with their families for dinner or something. But then they go back out after 9:30 to the pubs for music.

5. Cell phone coverage is spotty. I don't think they have 4G at all. Most of the time I had 3G but then sometimes I only had G. And nothing in Northern Ireland, which you can pretty much skip anyway.

6. It takes a lot longer to do things there than you think. We were told we could see plenty of attractions in Dublin in two days. Not so much. It's a small island so you think it can't take that long to go 60 miles, but it can and it does. Between the smaller roads that twist and turn, you occasionally have to stop because a farmer is moving his cows from the field on one side of the road to the field on the other side. Or there are lost mama sheep with their baby lambs. This will take longer because you must ooh and ah and squeal over how cute they are and want to either sheepnap them or find their proper field. Also, there are cool and bizarre shops to stop into on coastal roads. Sometimes you might even find a bear penis.

Another note about tourism and time - there is this great-sounding bus service. It's called Hop-on Hop-off. Which sounds so simple. You want to go to Guinness? Hop on the bus, hop off when it gets there. Only if you start at Point A and want to get to Point L, you have to ride along and stop at everything in between. Likewise, if you get off at Point C, when you get back on, you don't get to go straight back to Point A, you have to go through all of the other stops. It adds about 90 minutes to anything you do.

7. People in Dublin aren't friendly. You will hear how Chatty Kathy everyone in Ireland is, but this doesn't hold true for Dublin. Everyone there rushes around with their heads looking at the ground. They don't make eye contact. After a while, your self-esteem might feel like it's getting kicked in the gutter. Just get out in the country and you'll feel loved again.

8. Ireland is not a country where heels should be worn. Ever. Not only is there a lot of mud and water, but there are also lots of cobblestone streets where heels can get stuck. Even the sidewalks that seem level have these weird little rain gutters placed at random intervals. Luckily, I didn't learn any of this by experience but by simply observing the silly ninnies that did wear them and ended up looking like toddlers walking in roller skates.

9. A lot of places take only cash. I'm so used to using my debit card nearly everywhere at home but even a lot of the restaurants there take only cash. Be prepared.

10. While we're talking about restaurants, you should know that they take a billion years to bring you your check at the end of a meal. You could probably sit and have enough meals for a week by the time you get the check for the first one. I guess they want to be polite and not rush you out, but it's ridiculous. Someone finally told us that you just have to go up and ask for it. Which then made us feel rude.

11. There isn't a lot of honey available in the country it seems. I only got honey for my tea once.

12. While most guidebooks tell you the best times to travel, they don't tell you when not to travel. We didn't learn until we looked for a place to stay on March 31st that most of the B&B's don't open until April 1st. If you're not traveling in the summer, you may need to make prior reservations.

13. The toilets don't all flush the same way and the electricity plugs have on/off switches. There is a main switch for lights in the room, but then each plug also needs to be turned on. Also, some of the showers run on electricity and need to be turned on before any water will come out. I learned that one the hard way.

14. They still use skeleton keys. Like for doors that are used daily. It's adorably quaint.

What you should really know is that you should just go because it's now one of my favorite places on earth. If they had a Disneyland (and more than a handful of days at 70 degrees), I'd move there next week.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Imbibing in Ireland

Ireland is known for how green it is and how much its people drink. The first is definitely true; Ireland is as green as you imagine. The second? Well, there is certainly enough alcohol available to drink to your heart's content and they are clearly proud of their spirited heritage.

First of all, Guinness is everywhere. Small neon signs advertise it in nearly every pub window. It's in stews and desserts. There is a huge shrine to it known as the Guinness Storehouse with a self-guided tour and plenty of historical memorabilia (and also plenty of gimmicky souvenirs to fill up valuable room in your suitcase). Not to mention the chance to learn how to really pour a pint. Which they give you a certificate for that, in turn, gives you the ability to be smug to people who haven't learned this important life skill.

I heard from people on both sides of the Atlantic that Guinness tastes different in Ireland. Apparently it doesn't travel well. It's been a while since I've had any over here, so I couldn't compare, but it goes down easily enough. And it's the perfect drink to celebrate a new tattoo with.

There are some other Irish beers, believe it or not. The only other one we really got to experience comes from Dingle Brewing Company - Crean's. It's new and small and quaint. Their fermentation tanks are about a quarter the size of Deschutes' and made of wood. I didn't have the chance to enjoy my sample pint because of the stupid tonsillitis but they were nice enough to send me home with a bottle.

I didn't realize how much the Irish like hard cider, but it is also found all over the island. I lost track of how many different kinds there are and I only sampled about three. One thing to note is that no matter what you order, it will be served in its own glass. You order a Guinness, the glass has the name and logo. If you ordered a Corona, you'd find the Corona label on your glass. Same with the cider. It's a pretty good marketing ploy.

Now, what I was really waiting for was the whiskey. I mean, drinking fecking Guinness in fecking Ireland was fecking grand, but I'm a whiskey girl. Luckily, my first whiskey was at the Jameson distillery in Dublin. There is really nothing like a Jameson Manhattan. It's delicious. I think it's the cold Irish air that makes it so much better. Or I was thirsty. Or it's just a damn fine whiskey.

We also toured the Bushmills distillery which was cool because they let us walk right through the factory where we saw the assembly lines for labeling and boxing. I've never seen so much booze in one room before. It made me a little dizzy with joy. And of course there was the free drink at the end. Oh, happy day.

Unfortunately, the stupid tonsillitis ended my fun here. If you go, please drink 10 pints and a  few bottles for me. Trust me, there's enough for everyone.

Defining Tea, Scones, Sticky Toffee, and the Myth of Corned Beef

A co-worker brought in scones from Safeway this morning. Immediately I was reminded that I haven't yet told you about the food in Ireland. Food is always a big part of any vacation for me and, this being my first European trip, I was especially intrigued about the epicurean delights I might encounter.

My only aside is that, because for the majority of the trip I felt like I was forcing down a ball of sandpaper heated to the temperature of molten lava every time I swallowed, I wasn't able to indulge in everything I wanted. In fact, I lost four pounds which is unheard of in vacation history. However, I made the most of what I could and fell in love with a couple of dishes and that's what I will spend the rest of my life obsessing over.

Our first night in Dublin we searched for and found the perfect little eatery. I'm calling it that because there is a distinct difference between pubs and restaurants in Ireland. If you ask for a food recommendation, they will ask if you want a pub or a restaurant. This place leaned more towards the pub side, but they did have more restaurant seating in the back of the building, whereas we sat in front by the bar. Of course.

We ordered a Guinness. Of course. Which isn't food, but it's such a staple of the meals there that it has to be mentioned. There is a specific way that Guinness is to be poured, which I didn't know at the time but one of us did, in fact, notice that night. Supposedly if you just order "a pint" you will be served Guinness but we always asked for it by name. Anyway, that night, we just couldn't get over the fact that we were drinking a fecking Guinness in fecking Ireland. Really, for the first two days I thought I was just on a movie set at Universal Studios because it was just so unbelievable.

The menu that night listed something called a beef casserole. Here, casseroles tend to be a jumble of a bunch of ingredients tossed together and that didn't sound extremely appetizing so I ordered the traditional Irish stew. The "casserole" turned out to be delicious beef covered in a hearty sauce next to creamy mashed potatoes. My stew wasn't bad, but the casserole was better.

Lesson #1: You can't rely on the descriptions/labels given on the menu. We started asking specifically what things were.

The next morning I fell in love. I had my first Irish tea and I will never think of tea the same way. I am as obsessed with Irish tea now as I am with sweet tea in the south. I could happily live off of both with some bread and cheese for the rest of my life. I had heard that Irish and British tea drinkers often pack their own tea when traveling because they can't be sure they will be served the same quality in foreign destinations. This is smart because they won't. American tea is rubbish. Even our tea houses can't compare. I don't know what it is about that simple liquid, but it changed my life.

Tea is something of a production, whether you're ordering in the morning, afternoon, or with dinner. It's always the same. You are brought a cup on a saucer, a small pot of tea, a substantial-sized creamer of milk, and either a jar of sugar or bowl of sugar cubes. These dishes are almost always white, always ceramic. If someone else at the table also orders tea, they get their own setup. You only share the sugar. It feels very special even if it's the standard custom there.

And the tea itself? I can't even describe it. It's soft and creamy and comforting and luxurious all at the same time. When I was sick and couldn't have booze, I had tea and didn't feel like I was missing out on anything. The first things I missed when I got home were Irish tea and Irish accents. Everything at home felt flat and dull without them.

The wife fell equally in love with the scones. Scones at home are often hard and dry. They're really pointless. Irish scones are moist and delicious, sort of a cross between a cake and a biscuit. You can slather them with jam or butter or even eat them plain. I don't think either of us could count how many she had while we were there but her eyes would light up any time they were on the table and she'd pout if they weren't.

There are a few things you'll find everywhere. Irish stew is one of them. It doesn't really differ from ours except they do like to put Guinness in theirs. Why not? Alcohol makes lots of things better. Also, in a country that is so often cold and damp, it's really a nice dish to warm up with.

Nearly every dessert menu had sticky toffee pudding. This isn't really pudding, it's sort of like bread pudding, but more cake-like and covered with gooey toffee yumminess. I only had one of my own the whole trip and it wasn't the best. The best was at Bruno's in Kinsale. It was just decadent and perfect and I didn't get enough because I had to share it.

Bruno's deserves its own special mention because it was the best restaurant on the entire trip. Kinsale is purported to be the foodie capital of Ireland and it definitely is that if Bruno's is any indication. Our B&B hostess recommended it to us and I will forever be grateful. Bruno's is a wonderfully inviting restaurant, part of which is housed in an old lighthouse. There was a fireplace in one corner and brick accents all over. The menu was short but you don't need a long list of choices when what you do is this fantastic. In-N-Out has the same philosophy and I will love them until the day I die. We had pizza, risotto, and ravioli. They recommended the perfect wines and it all combined to create an experience, not just a meal.

There are a few terms the Irish use that are different from those that are American. Beetroot is just a beet. It makes sense since it is technically a root, but they don't say carrotroot or potatoroot. Aubergine is eggplant and they had some fancy term for zucchini that I can't remember. We saw rocket everywhere and finally found out that it is merely arugula. Rocket just sounds more fun. Malt vinegar to us is just vinegar to them. Most of us know that chips are french fries, but these are the wider cut, a lot like what they have at Red Robin. They come with nearly every meal. There is no shortage of carbs on this island.

There are a couple of things you needn't bother ordering. Skip the hamburgers. The Irish are good at many things, but hamburgers aren't one of them. They either top them with really weird things like pickled onions or capers or they come to your plate bone dry. Also pass on the pancakes. The first B&B we stayed in had a limited menu, consisting of porridge (which is also EVERYwhere) and yogurt, which is always plain there and has to be doused in honey. I thought pancakes would be a safe bet but on my plate was a single, round object as dry as an American scone. Accompanied by about a teaspoon of syrup so I couldn't even mask the bland taste. The really comical thing is that the grocery stores all carry "American" pancakes in shrink-wrapped packages. Lastly, never, ever order nachos there. I don't even know what I was thinking except that I was cold and I wanted some hot cheese. My dog could throw up better-tasting nachos than these.

Lesson #2: You can't rely on your regular stand-bys.

Pastries in Ireland are hit-and-miss. A lot of them aren't as sweet as what we're used to in our sugar-soaked and soda-heavy diets. I did love the pie crusts. I don't know why they're so different, they just are. Less flaky, but with a hint of sweetness. They're delightful. What America has that sucks is chocolate. Our chocolate tastes like flavored cardboard compared to what they have in Europe. There were so many Cadbury options to drool over, things we just don't get here. I got D a bar with caramel and brownies and it has real layers of caramel and chunky pieces of soft brownie. Even their cheap, commercial, gimmicky, made-for-kids crap is dozens of times better than our "gourmet" bars.  Seriously, it breaks my heart.

Another very important meal all over the place is fish and chips. Fish and chips are the iconic Irish and British meal. Remember the scene in Angela's Ashes where his uncle eats his fish and chips wrapped in newspaper and he's starving so he licks the salt and grease off the newspaper when his uncle discards it? I was hoping they'd be wrapped in newspaper but they've probably learned something about how bad newsprint is to ingest with food. Anyway, I was really looking forward to this experience and Kristi found what claims to be the oldest fish and chips establishment in Ireland. We were in Dublin, it was our second night there, and we were ready to immerse ourselves.

But then they were awful. I have never had a meal with less taste than this one. This is why tartar sauce was invented. Even the grease didn't have a taste. Drowning them in vinegar just tasted like vinegar-flavored paper. Horrid. It was like 30-second sex. We did entirely too much walking and anticipating to make it even worth the trouble of ordering and picking up a fork. Unfortunately, this was the standard experience. These were definitely the worst, but most of them were just bland. On the last night, with our celebratory Guinness (for getting our ink done!), the wife tried one more time. This last option was made with cider batter and that just might be the difference between horrendous and outstanding. Or maybe they did something else magical, but these were the best fish and chips I have ever had.

Oh, speaking of fried, I have another new love. Fried brie. Just what it sounds like. They take a wedge of delicious creamy brie, batter that puppy up, and fry it. You slice your fork through that golden nugget and are rewarded with gooey, melty heaven. Tiny angels sing.

Sausage and bacon are not the same in Ireland. I couldn't wait to get home to have real bacon and I think it was one of the first things I ordered. Bacon in Ireland is like Canadian bacon, only slightly thinner and fried. Also very hard to chew. Sausage rolls are popular and consist of a pastry with sausage inside. Sort of like a sausage pop-tart but flaky. Their sausage is a different color, more of a white, and when we asked someone about this, he told us that it's all the rest of the pig that isn't used for other things. Well, we do the same thing with hot dogs, maybe it's just less processed. At any rate, it turned the wife off from it for the remainder of the trip.

The one thing I absolutely refused to put in my mouth was blood pudding. Because it's made with blood. They don't even hide the fact with a cute name. Why on earth would I want to eat blood voluntarily? I'm carnivorous enough that I like my steaks fairly rare and juicy, but they aren't called blood steaks for Pete's sake!! Kristi was fool enough to eat this crap not once, but twice. She claimed it just tasted like a veggie burger, which didn't make it any more appealing because I also hate veggie burgers. Blood. Icky.

One thing that I think is important to note is the fallacy of what is traditional Irish dinner. Every St. Patrick's day everyone wants to make a big deal of celebrating with corned beef and cabbage. This is wrong. Don't do this ever again. I never once saw corned beef on any menu. There might have been cabbage but it wasn't prevalent. Making corned beef because you want to be authentic is as lame as dying your beer green. Make a stew or fish and chips. That's the real stuff.

There is a lot more that I could bore you with, like what kinds of other gross sausages you find in the grocery stores or how giant the mussels are in coastal towns or how sad it is to know how much they love putting those adorable little leaping lambs into stew. But mostly what you need to know is that there are some wonderful dishes in Ireland to be found and they are more than willing to explain the odder-sounding menu items to you because it's important to them that you enjoy your dining experience. If you're ever in doubt, just order tea and a scone with some fried brie and you'll be happy as a clam.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Best Trip That Wasn't.

I'm going to start the documentation of my trip with this one. This is not the good one. This is the one full of self-pity, the one about how my heart broke. But this isn't the whole picture and I want to get this one out of the way so I can talk about the real Ireland and the vacation not defined by a sore throat.

Yes, I got sick on vacation. I got sick in Ireland. And not just a little cold, not just a couple of days. And it kind of started with a bang. I felt it coming on the fifth day we were there. Sore throat, a little achy. We were staying at a bed and breakfast which also housed Ireland's Oldest Person and Ireland's Greatest Musician. So of course I stayed up listening to the Irish version of Purple Rain and Puff the Magic Dragon and partaking in Hennessy. I threw up violently that night and it wasn't from the booze.

I slept in the car while Jen and Kristi went to explore some caves. I skipped eggs benedict that I couldn't have eaten anyway with a swollen throat. I lost my voice. I woke everyone up with my coughing. I was unable to drink whiskey. Free Whiskey. At Jameson. By day five, when I realized this was far more than just a simple virus I had a meltdown. It hurt to cry, but the tears streamed anyway. I had to skip the horse races I had been dreaming about to go find an Irish doctor.

The diagnosis? Tonsillitis. Penicillin and pain meds that are illegal in the states. Which are so effective, that I was finally, nearly pain-free three days later. Rather than the three hours I probably would have felt at home. I expected to wake up the next day feeling normal but had another meltdown instead.

Being sick isn't fun. Being sick away from home is less fun. Being sick on a vacation that only comes along once in a lifetime is nearly tragic. I cried more than once over my losses. No horse races. No literary pub crawl. No drunken debauchery fueled by Irish whiskey. No frolicking with baby sheep or chatting it up in overrated pubs.

The greatest disappointment? That I wasn't me. I was far from my Best Self. I was not fun, I was not easy to be around, and I needed too much. My depression, anxiety, and self-hatred made an uninvited and unwelcome appearance.

There are truths in life. It is the truth that this wasn't the vacation I dreamed of. It is the truth that I missed out on more than I saw. It is the truth that I failed at a lot of things on this trip. It is the truth that I wish things had happened very differently.

But it is also the truth that I went to Ireland. It is the truth that I was with my best friend in a place that I never imagined I would set foot. It is the truth that I have unforgettable memories and it is the truth that nobody can ever take any of that away from me.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Boring Unicorns

D got her wisdom teeth out today. I was really, really hoping that I would get one of those funny "after" videos that are plastered all over You Tube. I mean, for $750 it's the least I could ask for.

Not so much.

When I went back, she was under a giant blanket in a wheelchair, simply looking drowsy. Sure, she was puffy and had tampon-like strings hanging out of her mouth, but she was coherent. She answered questions logically. So much for the entertainment. "I thought you were going to talk about unicorns and stuff."

We went to get a shake. While we sat in the car she said, "Did you want me to talk about unicorns?" Um, yeah. Something fun. "I can do that. Unicorns are cute. They can fly, so you can save on gas. You can paint them. And then you can stab someone when you don't like them."

Well, I guess that's worth about a buck fifty.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Like a Hooker

I did a Pure Romance party for some friends yesterday and then the wife and I went shopping. This is pretty much a typical conversation for us.

Me: I have a lot of smelly stuff on me.
W: You're like a hooker.
Me: Did you just call me a hooker?
W: Yeah, because you smell. Only nice. Not like a nasty hooker.
Me: Oh, right. I'm a classy hooker. I think that's called an escort.
W: You're like the hooker that's really expensive but then you don't put out.
Me: Exactly.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

What I'm Grateful For

I've said previously that the wife and I started keeping gratitude journals, the only rule being we couldn't duplicate what we were grateful for. Some days, the not-so-great days, it's a little bit of a stretch. Like my socks are soft or I went a day without tripping over anything.

But some days, like today, these things just fall out of the sky and land in my lap! I'm going to share my items of gratitude with you today so you can get a little Joy in your world also. These are really, really good so get ready!!

1. I love the internets. The internets are full of magical wonders that you never even could imagine. Would you have ever thought of this? It's a snail in a sweater. A snail. In a sweater, people. That's all there is to say about that. You're welcome.

If you are lucky enough to actually know a snail in your life, you can buy him/her a sweater like this one here.

2. Next are these pink boots. They're pink. They're waterproof. They just might be the boots I need for Ireland. How can I not be happy wearing these? (I'm providing the link but don't order any for yourself in size 7 until I get mine!

3. We are grateful for three things daily. This one isn't even a stretch. It's like not even having to lift a pinky because it is that awesome and wonderful. Glamping in Ireland. Glamping in a freaking treehouse. I so, so, so want to do this!!

Stay in a treehouse? Yes please. A treehouse in Ireland? DUH!! Plus the campground is called Teapot Lane. It doesn't get cuter than that. Unless I'm sitting in the treehouse and a snail wearing a tiny sweater slimes its way across my pink boots. I might pee buckets of happiness in a moment like that. That is pretty much the trifecta of happy.

See? You don't always have to be grateful for your health or your kids or the fact that you had coffee in your house or office. These are all perfectly good things to be grateful for and you should be grateful for them, I'm just saying think outside the proverbial box. Appreciate more of the things in the world around you. Create some of them and spread that happiness all over the place!!

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Lesson About the Dog and the Lube

Last December I decided to become a Pure Romance consultant. I may have mentioned this. I may have asked all of my friends to hostess a party for me. What I haven't said is how much fun I'm having with it, how supportive everyone is, and how much I already love it. But this post isn't about that. It's much more disturbing than that.

Ruby Tuesday has always had a fascination with candy and lip gloss. She's such a girl. Even for a Boston Terrier. D can tell you how many countless times she's found a ruined, chewed-up tube of chapstick or lip gloss, guilty dog still smacking her lips in the near vicinity. My response is always "Don't leave your crap lying around where she can reach it." Because, clearly, it is never the dog's fault. 

I had a party over the weekend, with another one planned this week. So I didn't put my demo products away knowing I would be using them so soon. I went to Zumba and thought I'd leave the dogs out of their crates since I'd only be gone a couple of hours. 

Do you see what disastrous conclusion is just ahead?

Yes. Ruby Tuesday got into my demo products because they were just sitting in a bag on the floor well within the reach of her tongue.

I'm not sure what she started with. The cap of massage oil had been chewed off and dumped into the carpet. I think the mango scent was more delicious than the taste. For future product sales reference, it cleaned up nicely with no oily stain. 

She tore quite a bit into the Whipped lubricant. It's vanilla cupcake flavor, I really can't blame her.  I don't know if she had just gotten into it or got bored since it's mostly intact except for the hole near the cap and the teeth marks. I can save it for personal moisturizer use at least. 

Great Head appeared to be the favorite. She managed to chew a whole through the side of the tube and lick about two-thirds of it out. Strawberry must be her favorite. What really worried me about that one is the muscle-relaxing effect it has. I didn't even want to know what part of her might have been relaxed. Sleeping with her felt like it might be more of an adventure than I was looking for, but I was afraid to let her sleep alone in case she had any kind of toxic reaction. Which would have served her right, but still. 

Pure Romance products are not tested on animals. My dog tested them on herself without any negative side effects (other than the horrible shame treatment I gave her). However, I recommend not leaving your crap lying around where your dog can get to it. 

If you do, just do what I did. Pour yourself a glass of wine and get into a nice hot bath. With a few spritzes of Body Dew, of course. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Topics of Conversation

Girls' road trips are always fun. There's the going somewhere, the music played loudly, food you don't normally eat, and the girl talk. W and I went on a quick road trip this weekend to our friend P's bachelorette party. Bachelorette parties provide great fodder for car conversations. These are some of the topics you may have enjoyed had you been a fly on the window.

1. The bittersweet melancholy of our children growing up.
2. Matchmaking.
3. Gossip. Of course.
4. The level of attractiveness of penises.
5. Delightfully morbid speculations on cannibalism.
6. How we would be haunted by whoever we eat.
7. Irrational yet completely normal love of cats and dogs.
8. The pitfalls of the wrong marriages.
9. The value of waxing.
10. The benefits of growing up.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Reacting to Today's Loss

I don't have anything to add fact-wise to the event that occurred at Bend High School today. I can't comment on this particular student or the parents. What I can surmise is the tremendous amount of pain that this child was in. What I can expect is that these parents are now in pain that we, especially those of us who are parents, don't want to imagine. Beyond that, I will not conjecture on the details surrounding this incident.

However, we live in a world of instant information, where everyone who thinks they know anything is willing to send it out to the ethernet without thinking about how their words will affect others. There is judgment. There is second-guessing of the school's actions. There are solutions being proposed based on anger. Anger born out of fear.

Again, I don't have those answers. But I am going to plead with you to stop. Stop and think about what you are saying. This isn't a television show. Nobody in that room today chose for this to happen to them. Nobody in that school could predict the reactions of every single person outside those walls. Please don't react with criticism but with compassion.

I have a feeling that today's tragedy will linger with me longer than most of this type. It happened at a high school in my town. So, yeah, there's that. It's close to home. But it's close to home in another way.

We think that these things can't happen to us. We think our kids are invincible to such damaging emotions and damaged psyches. But we're not. You're not. I'm not. This was D and me just a few months ago. Even knowing what she was struggling with, I never imagined that she could take her own life. Not for real. Not until she told me that she didn't feel like she could control or trust herself not to do it. I didn't want to believe it, who does? But I finally had to.

We don't want to think our kids can hurt so much. We think that buying them warm coats and feeding them pizza and going to their games and dances is enough. That's what parents do, right? Of course.

But there's more. We have to listen to them. We have to pay attention. Don't assume that sudden moodiness is just common teenage asshole behavior. It very well could be, but don't take the chance at missing something. Talk to your kids. Let them see you fail. Oh boy, that was a hard one for me, but they need to know that parents are also just people. That they don't have to live up to perfection or unrealistic expectations.

Know your child's friends. Notice when these friends change. Ask. Ask why. Ask about school and ask about activities and ask how they feel in their own skin. They want you to. They want to know that you care about more than just grades or game scores. They want to know that they're loved.

Tell them you love them. Every day. Hug them when they need it. Hug them when you need it. Hug them when it will embarrass them because they secretly love it then too.

And even if you do all of these things, and you still can't stop the pain of depression, know that you did your best. That we don't win all the battles. We just do our best. When one of us loses the battle, show up for them with love and compassion and kindness and acceptance.

Open your hearts to those affected by today's tragedy. Trust that people did their best. Be extra kind to those around you.

Tonight, hug your kids a little tighter. Feel the gratitude.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Taste of Memory

I don't remember what it was, but a year or so ago D smelled something and remarked that it smelled like her childhood. Which is funny because she's still in her childhood. And also I couldn't think of anything that particular smell could be evoking.

Today I had a Jolly Rancher watermelon-flavored candy. It wasn't quite as strong as a scent would be, but it did take me back to my childhood. Which I am far from and I have the gray hair to prove it.

Anyway, it got me thinking about what flavor my childhood would be. There are a lot that I remember and I'll list them for you. (An excuse to make a list!!) Notice this will not be given in any order of favorites, i.e. I despise liver.

1. Abba Zabba. Aside from Jolly Ranchers, these were my favorite candy. My friend Jenny and I would freeze them before eating them. I lost a tooth in one once at the beach.

2. Liver. My daughter has never had this forced down her throat. I have neither eaten it nor made it as an adult.

3. Canned spinach. Mom, really? I don't think D even knows that this exists. Stringy grossness at its slimiest best.

4. Tacos. I asked for them every birthday.

5. Spaghetti. My sister asked for it on her birthdays. My mom made it out of the paper packet.

6. Oily meat. We experimented with a fondue pot for a while. I have vastly improved on the method.

7. Cheerios. My grandma made sure she had some every time that I visited. Until I was 21.

8. Chicken and dumplings. Family recipe.

9. Caramel cream pecan pie. We had this at Thanksgiving instead of pumpkin.

10. Lima beans. Another thing D has never been force-fed.

11. Fried catfish. Freshly caught by my grandpa.

12. Fish sticks. I was never a gay fish.

13. In-N-out cheeseburgers. The single defining meal of my California life.

14. TV dinners. My father, as a single man, was only capable of fortifying me in this inhumane manner.

15. Hot chocolate with vanilla ice cream. Because it was never that cold in California.

16. Fried chicken. I have yet to fry my own, but I'll beg to be invited anywhere that it's done.

17. Biscuits. The kind only my grandpa could make.

18. Pillsbury cinnamon rolls. We had them for breakfast on Christmas mornings.

19. Steak. The grill was used every weekend of the year, no matter the weather. Complete with wood chips.

20. Popcorn shrimp and hush puppies. Until I could no longer order from the kids' menu.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Single Girl's (or anyone's) Guide to Happiness

A few months ago the wife and I started to keep a gratitude journal. Every night we would each (separately, in our own homes) write three things we were grateful for that day. The only rule was that we couldn't use the same thing more than once. After just a few days, I started to see little things that I wanted to write down that night. A co-worker's laugh. Sushi. The smell of my dogs' feet. How comforting it is to listen to guys talk about sports (even though I usually tone that shit out). After a few weeks it started to make a real difference.

I started to look for other opportunities for gratitude and happiness. And, when D went through her serious suicidal thoughts, we looked for her happiness too. She did something brave that day. She asked for help. Someone told her she was pretty. Someone told her they want to be like her.

You see, if you look for the positive, that's what you will find. Even on my down days, I didn't have to reach that far. It could be something simple like a pair of fluffy socks because you don't have to conquer the world every day. When you open yourself up to positive, it walks right through your door.

As I mentioned before, being so close to losing D put things into perspective. It made me more willing to take risks. Failure sounded more like an inconvenience than an obstacle.

So I talked to my friend M who is a Pure Romance consultant. It sounded fun, I have student loans to pay off, and I couldn't really think of any reason not to do it myself. Someone doesn't want to do a party with me? No problem, my kid is alive today. It really is that cut-and-dry.

What I found, is that when you remove fear of failure, you open yourself up to real possibilities. The company is offering an incentive for new consultants. Book six parties in 60 days, get free product. I started with the idea that I would just see what happens. No agenda, no expectations. Still, six sounded like a big number and outside my realm of possibility.

You know what? I got those six parties booked. I worked the booth at a wedding expo and booked two more. It is almost falling into my lap. Which only makes me want more. I am very close to believing that I can have everything I want. I do believe that I can be really happy.

Last year the wife and I decided to move to Nashville this year. When I was saying "next year" it felt very far away. Now that it is just a few months away, I canNOT wait for it. It feels like letting go and taking a leap and I have all the faith that I am going to land as light as a feather. (Although don't ask me to think about the actual logistics of moving because I will break out into a panic-induced sweat.)

The wife has the most fantastic job opportunity there and is interviewing today. It just feels right. It all feels right and good and the way it's supposed to be. I told her I have everything crossed for her but I know she's got it already. It's time.

I'm a Disney girl. I love Disney - the man, the movies, the park, all of it. I used to think that I believed dreams could come true. I wanted to believe it, but I didn't really. Because I wasn't open to it. But they can. Sometimes you create them and sometimes you just open yourself up and let it come to you. Don't think this doesn't take work, because it does. But even working your tail off will never work if you aren't really open.

A month ago I told my therapist that I don't think I'm allowed to be this happy. I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. But that is stupid. I deserve to be happy. We all do. There are going to be challenges and frustrations and setbacks. That is part of life.

The cliches are all true though. Life is what you make it. And I'm going to make mine great. Really, really great.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Discretion Is Overrated. Apparently.

There seems to be some kind of correlation between my heater going out and my vibrators making an appearance. Or maybe it's having uninteresting men in my house?

So a month ago, my stupid heater went out. It was blowing cold air and this was during that 50-below-freaking-zero cold snap we had. What I didn't realize is that the access to the vent is in my bedroom closet. The closet that holds my dresses and shoes. Luckily, most of my really good shoes are in boxes but I was worried about my babies.

What I was not worried about, because I didn't even stop to think that someone crawling around in dust and spider webs and whatever other god-forsaken things are up there, was that he might use my bathroom to wash his hands. And I didn't even think about it until after he was done and left. And wouldn't look me in the eye. Whatever, weirdo.

But no. I'm the weirdo in this instance. Or the sexual deviant. Because after he left I went to the bathroom and saw my vibrator out there on the counter for all the world to see. TOM. The big one.

Last week the damn heater stopped working again. Another guy came out. Thank goodness. I also was very diligent in making sure that all vibrators were safely put away and there was no underwear on my floor. Yay, good for me.

When he looked at the thermostat, it showed the battery was low. He asked if I had batteries. AA batteries. I panicked. I knew that I had already scoured the house for and stolen from other devices for my newest friend. I pretended to look in my kitchen drawer, hoping against hope that they would magically appear there. No. Of course not. So I crept to my nightstand and, as-discreetly-as-I-possibly-could, pulled two batteries out of my new toy. Of course he knew. Everyone knows what it means when you take batteries out of something in your nightstand.

I'm not sure what the lesson is here. I don't think there is one. It's more like some perverse Murphy's Law. If my heater needs to be repaired, a vibrator will make an appearance. Live and learn kids, live and learn.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Defining Self-Harm

I opened up publicly about something that D and I have been going through yesterday. Because of the responses I got, I wanted to talk more about her self-harm. This is going to be long and might contain triggers, so please proceed with caution. 

Also, I want to add the disclaimer that I am telling you this from my perspective as a parent. I have not self-harmed, although I have been in dark enough places at some points where I could see the attraction of it. I am not a medical professional so I can only answer questions based on my experience and suggest that, if this ever happens in your family, you need to talk to a professional. 

D told me herself that she was cutting. This was after she told her school counselor and her pediatrician. While I was hurt that she didn't tell me at first, I was proud of her for standing up for herself and asking for help. I had to put my ego aside. 

To learn how to cope with this, I talked to her school counselor and her therapist. I scoured the internet for information. I read groups for parents and cutters. I read medical reports. And I still couldn't wrap my head around it. 

Her counselor's opinion was that, since her cuts were so neat and symmetrical, she wasn't suicidal. She was looking for control. A lot of what I read confirmed that cutting isn't necessarily a suicide attempt. Because she had only been doing it a couple of months, I thought maybe it was just a phase. Her counselor also told me that it comes in waves at the high school. A group of girls will suddenly start doing it at the same time. 

In that first year, I went through a thousand emotions. I'm not proud of a lot of it, but then I was coming from a place of fear. When I felt she was doing it just for attention, I threatened to take away privileges. When I was really scared I yelled at her and told her I didn't understand her, that she was just stressing me out. I pleaded. I cajoled. Once, when we were in the dressing room while she tried on a bikini, I fought back tears when I saw the lines on her hips. I blamed myself over and over and over. I defined myself as a failure. 

I tried to be reasonable. I tried to be understanding. I shamed a lot. I researched more. I asked her why. Why? 

D is somewhat of a control freak. If we have an argument, she can't leave it to resolve itself later. She has to have it all smoothed over the moment she wants it. Which isn't realistic when I'm still angry. So some of the way that she chose to cut convinced me that she just needed that control and that was the way she found it. And some of that was true, but she also explained that it was a way to punish herself. She hated that she was depressed and felt sorry for herself knowing that there are so many people with "real" problems who have it worse. So she hurt herself. 

In my more reasonable moments, I told her that it scared me. I told her I didn't understand. I told her that everything I do is just because I love her and I want her to be happy. I let her know that I was wrong. Her response? Gratitude. Gratitude for telling her that I too make mistakes and I don't expect her to be perfect. 

In the really good moments, she expressed that she wanted to stop. One month she said she wanted to cut deeper, that she wanted to see how far she could go. She told me she liked it. I know that sounds like a horrible moment, and it was truly terrifying, but it told me that she was really working it out. She was testing her limits. Until, one day, she did cut too deeply. And it scared the shit out of her and she really wanted to stop. 

So then, like an addict, she started counting how long between cuttings. Two weeks. Several days. A month. When she made it to six weeks and then self-harmed again, she told me she was ashamed and worried that I would be disappointed. "But you said you were proud of me for making it so long." I hugged her and told her I was proud of her, no matter what. I was proud that she kept trying and I was proud that she opened up to me. 

I think her real suicidal moments came when she stopped cutting. Because she no longer was allowing herself that release, she was just stuck with all of the ugly thoughts bottling up inside of her. I told her that was pretty normal. Often, it gets a hell of a lot worse before it gets better. 

And, just like with the suicide, I don't think her self-harm is entirely behind us. I hope it is, but it served a purpose for her and she might find she "needs" it again. She has said that she doesn't want scars that she will have to one day explain to her children. She makes lists of reasons not to do harmful things. 

Now, why have I told you all of this aside from my own catharsis? Because there are dozens upon dozens of reasons that people do things that we can't explain. And if you're one of those people, or the parent of one of those people, it is really scary. And people judge. However, the biggest reason that people judge is because they just don't understand. It's simple ignorance. If you're up to it, you can try to educate them. If it's not in you that day, just walk away and take care of yourself. 

If someone you love is hurting, get help. Get help for them and get help for you. I went back to my therapist to help me cope and be able to better support D. Talk to people you trust. Gather the wagons, build your cocoons, and trust that it will get better. Communicate, communicate, communicate. 

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Whatever It Takes

A few months ago my world came crashing down around me. I came home to D crying and telling me she wanted to kill herself. We've been working on and dealing with her depression for nearly two years and that included cutting, but I didn't realize just how bad she was feeling. While I hated her cutting, I told myself that, because it was out in the open, it didn't indicate any actual suicidal ideation.

She didn't want to tell me at first because she didn't want to scare me. She asked a friend to come get the knife that she had previously used to cut herself. The one she found hidden in her room. But when she found that she was afraid to be alone because she might really hurt herself, she had to tell me. I did my best to remain calm and supportive for her, but on the inside I was shattered.

We made appointments with her therapist and psychiatrist. We discussed inpatient treatment and we added an additional medication. We evaluated the options and decided that we would work to avoid the inpatient option. First, there isn't a facility in our town and she would have had to go away and neither of us was in love with that idea. She's also been behind in school and missing another large chunk of time didn't feel right. Still, we left it open as a backup. Because I would do whatever it took.

Those first few weeks were incredibly painful. My baby girl was miserable inside her own skin and I couldn't do anything to change that. I was terrified that I would lose her. Every morning I went to wake her up I would pause at the door, hoping against all hope that my worst nightmare wasn't about to come true. I canceled plans with friends so she wouldn't be home alone. I rearranged my work schedule, I let her break the normal rules of hanging out with friends after school. I did whatever it took to make sure she felt safe. Safe from herself.

In the beginning, she didn't want anyone to know. I wanted to respect her wishes so I didn't talk about it. And, although I wasn't ashamed of her and her feelings, I felt like I had failed as a parent. Where did I go wrong that I didn't protect her from this?

And then I had a Halloween party. I had fun. I laughed, everyone else had a good time, it was successful as far as parties go. When everyone left, I fell apart and sobbed to my best friend. Because if I'm going to lose it with anyone, it's going to be her.

A few days later I opened up to the few people I trusted. The amount of support I got was overwhelming. It gave me hope and enough strength to keep trying and to feel less alone.

D also talked to friends and received the support she needed. Her new meds started to kick in a little bit. I checked in with her daily, asking her to rate her emotional scale. Anything below a five required a plan of action and we knew what those actions were. While most of us can handle a low of four or even three or two, D spiraled to zero almost immediately from that point. We evaluated the reasons for her ratings and how we could change them. The important thing was to be in touch and communicate every day.

A couple of months later she thought she had it handled. She put off therapy appointments, she even canceled one at the last minute to go to play rehearsal instead. A couple of days later she walked in the house and fell into my arms crying, saying again how tired she is of feeling this way. So we talked about how we're stuck with depression. This is a thing that we have, like some people have asthma or any other physical disability or health issue. We have to take care of ourselves, we have limits that we have to respect in order to take care of ourselves. Some things are too much sometimes and that's okay.

Now, a few months later, I think we're over the hump. We've learned what we need to do and what to look for. And, while I can breathe again, I'm not naive enough to think we're past this for good. We're just not. D, as a high school senior, is dealing with a lot of emotions and fears and doubts and excitement about what will happen in the next few months and in the future. It's all very normal and expected. To someone with a tendency towards severe depression, these stresses can send her spiraling down again. My hope is that we have both learned what to look out for before it gets to that bottom level.

The greatest lesson I have learned through all of this is that there is a lot of shit that just doesn't matter. During those dark weeks, I couldn't even focus on my weight like a normal neurotic woman. Because who cared if I lost those 15 pounds and looked amazing? What does that matter if my baby girl is gone? My job seemed nearly pointless. My friends, who I have always known that I appreciate and tell them fairly regularly, meant the absolute world to me. I gained enormous perspective. I became less afraid of a lot of things. Because the scariest thing in the world is losing the person you love the most. Everything after that is just an afterthought.

I think D has learned the strength she has. It takes real courage to ask for help. It takes a hell of a lot to tell someone the ugliest part of yourself and risk not being understood or, worse, ignored. Not only did she ask for help, but she kept asking for help until she got what she needed.

I asked her permission before sharing this with you. She didn't hesitate to say yes and that tells me how much she has grown and how much self-acceptance she has gained. My reason for telling you is that if you feel alone, you're not. If you're afraid to talk, don't stay quiet. If you're not heard the first time, try again. Try someone else. Do not lose what is important to you because of fear.

Most of all, don't lose hope.

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