Sofa-king excited, or ode to couches I have known

Tomorrow, our new couch is being gt delivered. On a scale of 1 to 10 gauging my excitement, this is an 11. It’s a gorgeous, roomy, heavily-upholstered cream color with badass rivets decorating the edges. I am not usually a fan of lighter-colored furniture; I have always admired the effect but then I’d shake my head, thinking, “Kids.” Kids have factored into most decisions I have made about everything since I was 20 years old.

Not the exact couch, but similar, and oooooh I can’t wait to Netflix and chill.

“This carpet is pretty, but will it clean easily?”

“These plates are awesome; too bad they’re glass.”

“I really love this white, cable-knit sweater, but it’ll just get stained. Does it come in brown?”

“I know these tampons SAY super-absorbent, but are they, really? I don’t have time to run into the bathroom once an hour.”

“Nice car, but we’d need two just to transport everyone.”

For decades, our furniture has always been dark, or darkly patterned, and always Scotch Guarded to an almost toxic level. When my children were small, we were given sets of furniture that older family members gifted us because they were A) old and B) they didn’t have kids so they could afford new furniture every 3 years or so. It was the perfect trade-off for them: Uncle Joe wanted a new truck, so the deal was that Aunt Edna got new furniture. Then, they would gift barely-used furniture sets to their poor relatives, who didn’t care that there were scenes of country water mills or patterns of cabbage roses on them; they were in almost-new condition and they were free. Also, there were no puke stains that you couldn’t see but knew were there or chocolate stains or koolaid stains that had sunk into the foam, rendering it a sickly pink.

Let’s not forget the sets of furniture that were so popular in the late 80s and early 90s: heavy, wooden frames with removable cushions. Those bastards were heavy and dangerous if you had kids, because someone was always smacking their head against one of those arm rests that no one could possibly rest against, because they were shellacked instruments of torture. NO ONE was comfortable on these sadistic pieces of furniture, but every young couple had at least one set because they had older relatives who gave them away when Aunt Edna decided she needed to redecorate with a softer, less lethal, pastel theme.

Everyone of a certain age owned this set. Admit it.

One exception I made was the time I caved to impulse and bought red furniture. It was so pretty, so modern, and our living room looked like something out of a magazine.

For about a day.

With a 4 year-old in the house, I should have looked longingly at this set in the store and then moved on to the brown, tweed, stain-proofed set that I am positive everyone’s grandparents probably still own to this day. That red furniture was a massive error that ended up being replaced within two years. By brown, leather furniture. When THAT set needed to be replaced, we settled on brown tweed, because there was now a 7 year-old and a toddler.

It’s been about 5 years since I bought any new furniture. We have an old, brown, microsuede couch bought at the height of spill ages when our grandsons still resided with us, and a monstrous, dark red, leather couch that was purchased secondhand and which needed to be carried in by three grown men because it weighs more than a full-grown hippopotamus. It is a stainproof behemoth, impermeable to almost anything except for a black lab teenager’s paws. Our gregarious, 9 month-old Isla has a habit of doing her zoomies and including this couch in her mad dashes, and she has scored one cushion. I turned it over so no harm, no foul, but I know it’s there and my OCD cannot handle that. This couch is also extremely uncomfortable and slippery.

We’re going to “give” the red couch to the animals, moving it out into the large, empty dining area we have that is empty because we don’t need a dining room table. I am designing a kitchen nook area that will do for our needs just fine, and our meals are so jacked-up and random due to the husband’s work schedule that I’m not going to lie: who needs a table when you’ve got couches? Dinner tastes better with Netflix. Netflix and chill? How about Netflix and eat?

The brown couch will stay a little longer while I decide exactly what model of accent chair I want to go with my new, cream-colored couch. Decisions, decisions! Maybe I’ll get a set of two, or maybe it will be a recliner, or maybe I will get a papasan chair. I bought a new area rug that is still in the shipping box six months ago in anticipation of new furniture, but I just never seemed to find time to get inspired. Plus, Summer was too hot to think about moving furniture around. I much preferred laying on my old couch, prone, like an exhausted, overwrought dishrag.

The point is, there will still be Scotch Guard

and plush throws, and I will still have to vacuum the crap out of the new furniture and brush the cat hair off, and those corner guards for the backs will be attached in case someone gets the idea that they need to sharpen claws and I will be yelling and shooing them until they get a clue, but it will be, at last, something I could choose without a care in the world because the nest is empty. Now, my kids are making their furniture purchases based on color, durability, and “will this hide the koolaid stain?”

The nest is empty.

I can finally say that without tears in my eyes.

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It’s Labor Day, or “I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ babies”

I thought I’d take advantage of the Labor Day holiday to write a blog.

Wait.

I’m currently unemployed. Does it count for me? Am I permitted to take advantage of all of the “perks” of a federal holiday? The sales (that I can’t afford because I’m unemployed), the barbecues, the bingeing of Netflix (or “every day”, as I refer to it), the carefree imbibing of beer for three days instead of two? Or do I need to lock myself away, hidden from sight in my shame, from the employed who got the day off? Am I allowed to say, “Happy Labor Day!” to those I meet even though I, myself, do not get the day off from having, well, every day off?

See, there I go. I’ve done it now. I feel like such a fraud!

Except that I don’t, really. I do work full-time, at a great number of things. Anxiety is a full-time job, as is depression. Second-guessing every, fucking choice I’ve made throughout my life takes up at least the equivilent of a part-time job cleaning a bar after hours. It’s a good analogy to make, because both involve being awake after 2am, when everyone else has fallen into bed and they’re snoring away. Both involve regarding messes others have made that I must clean up, a few of my own due to clumsiness, and wide-awake moments of dismay: “Why am I where I am?”

Running a home in which The Male Sibling Unit lives is also a full-time job. Actually, anything involving The Male Sibling Unit is, indeed, a full-time job, whether it be as his caregiver, friend, or family. You know him? You’re working. This is a job you commit to 100% or else. It’s never effortless, but it is also not without great reward even when he’s doing his best to piss you off. Your take home pay is laughter and more than a few “WTF” moments, and the great thing about this job is that you get paid on demand, every day. It doesn’t pay the bills, but it does enrich your heart (when it’s not raising your blood pressure). It’s a gig well worth taking.

Anyway, it’s Labor Day, and I hope you’re enjoying it. This is one of the holidays that we share with Canada, even though Canadians seem to be much happier than us and as such, don’t necessarily need the first Monday of September off to become happier somehow. I’m sure they have annoying coworkers and I am positive that they have a rich history involving how Labor (or Labour) Day came to be, and I’ll bet it has nothing to do with having babies. Yeah, I used to think Labor Day was a day in which all babies were born. Granted, I was like, 4, but it seemed to make sense before I grasped that we all had unique birth dates. I can still remember sitting on the couch with a box of Cracker Jacks, watching the TV as some old dude shouted “Timpani!” and thinking the big total on the screen signified how many babies had been born so far.

Of course, the old dude was Ed McMahon and the total on the screen was actually money, because we were watching the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. It was a yearly custom in our house to watch it and, indeed, in many. My mom would switch it on at the start on Sunday night and, I shit you not, that TV would stay on throughout the night. It was as if, by turning it off, people would quit pledging and Jerry might fall asleep and wouldn’t raise more money than the year before. Mind you, we slept, but the TV (and I assumed Jerry) did not.

It was exciting to see celebrities on there, performing their hearts out, and then it would get boring and I would drift off to find something else to do. I especially hated when they would switch to the local station affiliates and their own versions of the telethon because who the fuck wanted to see news anchors we saw every day? Every year we’d do the nail bite and wonder, “Is Jerry gonna raise more money than last year?” and every year, my mom and grandma would shed tears of joy “for the kids” and I would jump up and down, clapping, exclaiming “HE DID IT!!!” because Jerry always surpassed the previous year’s totals. Always. You could bet on it and win.

After that, it was “make the final decision about what you’re wearing tomorrow and lay it out” because the first day of the school year was ALWAYS the next day. You can’t bet on that anymore because the school year now begins at least a week or two before. I don’t agree with that, really, because there are some traditions that just ought to be left alone. I know the Labor Day Telethon is no longer held, because Mr. Lewis, that saint of saints, is dead, and Ed McMahon has not been around to announce, “Timpani!” for ages. That rite of passage, though – knowing that, every year, summer was officially over after Labor Day and you’d better put your white shoes away – was a comforting regularity in an otherwise chaotic world. We could probably use that mainstay again.

Now, everyone wears their white shoes year-round and summer isn’t over until Climate Change decides it is. There are grandmas rolling over in their graves because of the white shoe thing, but as for the whole “seasons changing” thing, you’ve got to get your enjoyment out of each as quickly and however you can.

Like everything in life now, weather is extreme, and you can’t count on the leaves to begin to fall midway through October (they’ve actually been gathering on the ground for weeks now, despite the heat) and the snow to fly just before Thanksgiving. Regions that always got White Christmases can’t count on it. Spring doesn’t always “spring” when it should; I am pretty sure we went straight from winter to summer this year. One thing that is certain, though, is that it’s hotter longer, and that change doesn’t appear to be changing. The climate is changing in our region and in others; Montreal (sorry, you happy Canadians, for this decidedly unhappy discovery of the vile little tenticles of stench) now has stinkbugs. The heat is rising in politics, in human rights, and in general, every aspect of life; it is also rising on our maps, too.

So, on this Labor Day, crack a cold one and hold it against your forehead. You’ve earned it. Cook on the grill and enjoy your pools, your Netflix binges, and each other. Tomorrow, you can put on some white shoes and head off to work, where the heat is on and life will continue pretty much as it has been.

If you’re paying attention, though, you will be able to see that the light is a little different outside, and the air, while still pungently heavy with humidity, is different, too. Sightings of Basic Bitches will increase, with their pumpkin spice lattes and Autumnal colors and insistence upon wearing scarves and Uggs even though it’s still 90 fucking degrees out. I’ll be over in the corner, doing my full-time, unpaid gigs and my part-time, wish-I-could-quit gig. I’ll be the one in flip flops, cutoffs, and an old T-shirt, shucking corn because, when I asked The Male Sibling Unit if he’d like to shuck the corn for dinner, he shrugged and said, Idon’tthinkso” all in one word like he does when he is simply not having it. He’s retired, you know, but Labor Day is still a holiday and he has no intention of fighting with an ear of corn. I’ll raise my cup of black coffee to you in acknowledgement, because while I like pumpkin spice and Autumn is my jam, I am not basic. I am extra, and then some.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, there be corn to shuck.

Reflections, blasphemies, and seriously, no f*cks to give.

As I neared my fifth decade, I began to read more accounts from people of a certain age, who were taking chances and living their best lives and grasping onto really profound thoughts. They were driven by a sense of urgency and pushing past boundaries. They were attempting to live authentically and with purpose. The idea that one has less time left to live than they already have lived is sobering as fuck. I shuddered, at times, thinking that it all sounded pretty scary and daunting and more than a little depressing; as if I needed more of that particular element in my psyche, right?

Before I entered my fifties, I went through a divorce and remarried, became a grandmother, finally allowed myself to admit that I wasn’t mentally stable, and then my mother died. That event added little nuances to everything, it seemed. Forget the fact that I still had one living, breathing parent – and I use that term in the loosest sense of the word – I still felt like an orphan. Thus began two years of the undoing of my brain, when I blindly pushed forward, trying to right wrongs, do things, prove her wrong. And yet, she has been able to reach out from the grave occasionally and remind me that I was an option, not a necessity, in her life.

She never had any expectations of me, you see. She was unable to cope with a smart child with a high IQ who looked her nose down at this town and everyone and everything in it. I had deep emotions – so many of them! – tied to music and art and the written word and nobody got me. My singing, art, and writing was not considered important. The awards I received for essays; all the solos I was given in musical programs; prizes and accolades in art class; all were dismissed in an offhand way. I struggled to understand what it was that I needed to do in order to gain her approval. I wish that she had told me, back then, what she did shortly before she died. I had made the observance that nothing I had ever done was good enough for her. Her response was quietly honest: “No, I suppose it wasn’t.”

Well.

At least there was that mystery solved. Had she waxed poetic and told me she was proud of me, I wouldn’t have believed her, anyway. There’s just some shit you can never fake, and my mother was nothing if not totally, unabashedly disappointed in me.

I think she truly loved The Male Sibling Unit in a way she never could me. I was that thing she did to get my dad. It failed. He was that thing she did that ended up looking just like our dad. In a way, she won, that time. When his developmental delays were discovered, I really think that something inside her rejoiced, because now, she would never lose him. She could care for him in a way my father rejected. I know; this sounds like a sick, Shakespearean play, but wasn’t Shakepeare’s writing simply observations of reality, fleshed out onto the stage? Life itself is Shakespeare. I, for one, don’t enjoy Shakespeare, but I guess that’s because it’s just a little to depressingly real. The prose is fucking irritating, too. “Methinks the lady doth protest” packs much less of a wallop than “Woman, all you do is fucking bitch!”

Lately, since entering this oh-so-giving of decades (giving of new aches and pains, giving not one single fuck about anything, giving of courage, and of realism) I have wondered what it might have been like, had she loved me the way she did him. His life was fraught with so many obstacles in the beginning that we sort of joined forces to make things good for him. Education, special outings and programs, toys, foods, you name it. He enjoyed the sort of childhood every parent wants to give their child, because it was crucial that he fit in as much as possible and that every opportunity be given to him. It was important to enrich life and to show him how valued and cherished he was. There was no obstacle he could not overcome.

In his own way, he has become exactly what one wants to be: uniquely and unquestioningly himself. He has enjoyed every opportunity and lived quite a full life for someone with his disabilities. He has been fortunate in that he knows he has disabilities, but they are in no way limitations. He lives his life brazenly, out there and with no regrets. He has love, and social enrichment, and everything he could ask for, materialistically. He has a good life; indeed, he expects it.

I envy that.

When I was in the 9th grade, my best friend talked me into trying out for flag corp. This was a division of the high school marching band, which was, back then, nationally-acclaimed. I was not a “joiner” in the literal sense of the word. I did things my way, listened to my own music, followed my own beat. I had friends, but I only let them in so far. My bestie and I were as close as two girls could be, even though her family was well-to-do and mine wasn’t. She never judged me, and I learned that it wasn’t always good times just because one had a mom and dad and a nice house and some money.

I coulda been a contendah.

We sweated and worked and practiced for four days, learning a routine to Styx’s “Rockin’ The Paradise”. I was never a dancer, or graceful, and it was quite a momentous thing for me to memorize a flag/dance routine and not look like a fumbling, stumbling idiot in the process. I was taking quite a chance, socially; I had yet to make my mark on my classmates as that dark-witted, sarcastic side-talker who ridiculed teachers under her breath , but managed to be an amazing writer, singer, and artist, got good grades, and lived in the Explore Room most of the time. I was yet to be the girl just a couple of votes shy of being voted “Funniest” in my Senior year.

When the team was chosen, I was on the list of two alternates, should anyone drop out. I knew I’d done my best, mostly for my friend, because she really wanted to be a part of marching band. Did I ever consider myself good enough? Not at all. I wasn’t “one of them” and had pretty much made my peace with that. I wasn’t going to be able to go on band trips and eat out at restaurants and come up with spending money for big city excursions. I had to save every penny I made babysitting to buy my own school clothes. This was a pipe dream my secret, tucked-away self harbored; not the solitary, resolute hardass who didn’t give a fuck persona I put out there to avoid the pain of rejection. And so, life went on.

Until a day, about a week later, when the flag corp advisor called and excitedly offered me a spot. Someone had declined. I was in! Inwardly, I rejoiced. Put-away girl opened the door a crack and looked out, hopefully. Was this finally going to be the key to being accepted by someone bigger – an important entity in the community – than myself?

Then, the list of requirements arrived. Uniform prices, out-of-pocket things like certain Nike sneakers, shirts, socks, costs, and the list went on. At the time, it was about $150 in stuff. Today, that’s not a large sum, but, back then, it might as well have been $150 million. I showed it to my mom, thinking she had to be proud of me for getting an opportunity to be in the band, who had marched in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and gone to Disney World. I was only marginally good enough, but still! I would work hard and get better and be good enough. She had to be so proud of me!

“I don’t know what you expect from me,” she said. I stammered, “Well, I’ll work hard, and I’ll babysit more, and get a job as soon as I’m allowed. I’ll pay you back.” She fairly seethed at me her answer.

“Your brother has school clothes he needs. He grew out of everything. And I don’t have the money to waste on this stupid idea you have. You’ll never be able to go on trips. We don’t have the money. Forget about this. You’re not privileged like those other kids are.”

“I hate you.” I managed, and retreated to my room, where I turned the metal up as loudly as I could to drown out my angry tears.

I composed myself and called the advisor back the next day. “I’m sorry, ” I said, distantly and with a coldness I didn’t feel, but hoped to convey with my voice, “but I have too much going on at home and I’m committed to babysit nights for someone. I can’t accept at this time.” I’m sure this wasn’t the first time some poor girl had to decline, so she probably saw right through me. No matter. With that one phone call, something in me turned to ice, and stayed that way, for a long time.

Had my mom congratulated me, assured me we would figure it out, and allowed me this one chance to blossom in a normal way, who knows what might have happened for me from there? Maybe the mistakes I ended up making after that – in spending my entire first year of college drunk, and dropping out to marry a monster who scarred both me and our children, and all the years of poverty and suffering and his control, squandering my gifts and letting both my mother and him convince me that I was, indeed, nothing special – maybe I would still have made them. Maybe I was irrevocably damaged even before that flag was placed in my hands and I learned to wave it around. There is no sense wondering what if, and I always insist that I regret nothing, but that shit is partially a lie. I do regret some things. I regret not using that dark, angry, pissed-off girl as a weapon to save my children and myself sooner than I did. She resurfaced with a vengeance when I finally left, but she grew out of control because she was out to prove she was bulletproof. And she was not.

I am not.

What advice can I offer to anyone with kids, or deciding to have kids, or finding themselves totally befuddled by the mystery that is their teenaged spawn?

Don’t fucking do any of that shit to your kid. Seriously. Don’t be an asshole, and then unleash another asshole on the world. That asshole will spend decades trying to figure out why he or she is an asshole and, in the end, you’ll get the credit you so shamefully deserve. Let’s hope that, if you’ve already begun to make a clusterfuck out of your child’s life, you STOP. I mean it. Stop.

Now, a year into my fifth decade, I want nothing more than to wipe all traces of a painful past from my consciousness and to focus only on the good stuff. I want to spend my time loving who I love and welcoming beauty and grace into my life. I want to continue to make sure The Male Sibling Unit continues with the charmed life he leads, but I would like a little charm to bleed into mine as well. I can’t cast out my living dead girl; she is me, as sure as my eyes are black. But I can let her laugh. And I can let her be brave.

 

The Sins of the Fathers.

This used to be my thinking place. It was a place of solitude and safety, where I could sit and reflect. The cacophony of noise and loudness, the whir of background whisperings and hummings within and without; it would fade in this place. There would be an echoing silence, broken only by an occasional door closing or distant, hollow sound of a cabinet opening and closing if someone was in the sacresty. I would sit, contemplating whatever it was that troubled me. Sometimes, the answers would come. Often times, it was simply a calming, peacefulness that descended over me, making it easier to work through whatever it was that was causing me worry. I would emerge, cleansed somehow, feeling as if I had taken a short, energy-giving nap; my inner voice strengthened and restored to the forefront, where it could speak over the chaos.

Some would say that this was God. The Holy Spirit was working its magic, giving me clarity. Think whatever you wish. Whatever your beliefs, go ahead and attribute this to them. It’s okay. In choosing not to believe, I am perfectly fine with others who do. I almost envy them, as sure as they are of an afterlife and that God is walking with them. I don’t believe in those things, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in something. I just don’t subscribe to the dog and pony show that is religion, and especially Christianity.

From those first, overwhelming moments as a young child, when I entered through the front doors, I was in love with the surroundings within the walls of my church. I have detailed, before, that the pageantry attracted me, and the ritual. Those things held me in their thrall. When I was young, there was a much more thriving Roman Catholic community here, and we had not only a rectory for the many priests in residence at our parish, but a convent filled with nuns. That was a part of the fabric that made up my childhood; the nuns ruled our catechism classes and taught us all the things we needed to know and the priests were like kings who occasionally deigned to walk amongst us, murmuring words of encouragement about our studies.

There was one priest who was in residence in the 70s, when I was still young and making my first holy communion and such. He was quiet, and spoke gently, and his sermons were always interesting and soothing. He didn’t smile a lot, but when he did, it was beatific. His hair was black and well-kept. He was handsome, reverent, and commanded a room without raising his voice at all. He dazzled me, a child who walked home to a fatherless apartment, and whenever he would say hello to me, I felt annointed. In those days, most of the priests were addressed by their last names, as befitting some sort of decorum. He was Father Lynch. I am sure he never knew that a quiet, naive little girl thought he was lovely. No, I am quite sure he never gave me a thought at all.

There was another priest, much younger, who came to our parish when I was a young teenager. This was at a time when the rules were shifting a bit and the clergy was trying to connect with its parishioners on whatever level it could; this predated RENEW, a program introduced where the Church beckoned those who had left the faith, or had allowed their faith to lapse, to come back into the fold, and recruited new Catholics, too. At that time, revenues were down, the faithful were straying, and new priests and nuns were becoming a scarce commodity. What better way to attract new blood than to “wash all the sins” away and start fresh?

This young priest was absolutely refreshing to our bored, ambivalent CCD class. He was cool, treated us like we felt we deserved, and really connected with us on a level we understood. He got us. Plus, he stayed for a whole class, giving us a break from the Sisters, who were both exhaustingly strident and bipolar, chattering away excitedly one moment, then barking and growling the next.

This priest was Father Chet, as he asked us to call him, and he was the last priest to ever hear my confession. He encouraged us to do it face-to-face, and while I was violently opposed to confession and didn’t believe in it, I lined up, like everyone else, to do this brave, new thing. I don’t remember what I confessed; probably something about swearing and lying to my mom; but he was encouraging and kind and it felt like talking to a friend. I left the room feeling upbeat; I still thought confession was bullshit, but if I ever had to do it, that would be the way I would prefer it – as long as it was Father Chet sitting across from me. I felt connected to him, even though we never had another one-on-one meeting again. He was there; then he was gone. The Church was always moving priests around, and this was a sad consequence.

These two priests are amongst the small, handful of positive memories and effects the Church had upon me as a youth. I would find the courage, when I was 15, to reject the rules foisted upon me; the beliefs I “had” to have in order to be confirmed. I walked home the evening the Monsignor bombasted us with the rules and chastised us if we questioned why we could not have personal choice in things such as abortion, birth control, sex, service to the Church, and so on. I was livid, quietly fuming. My mom and grandmother had instilled, within me, the belief that a woman didn’t need a man and I was aggravated that this guy was telling me how I had to feel in order to have some Bishop place his hand on me. Fuck that, I thought, and entered the apartment, loudly announcing that I was done and I wasn’t going back. My mother’s response was disappointment, but she had also given up trying to force me into things because all it did was cause a fight. She was much more into doing her own thing in those days, which included men and bars. She needed my complacency to assure her a sitter for The Male Sibling Unit. In any event, I would continue to attend Mass and I would lead responses and do solos with the choir, but that was me, doing me; what I liked about attending. I didn’t have to believe in anything but myself in order to sing.

The Grand Jury Report about the widespread corruption and abuse of children by priests in Pennsylvania was published this week. The numbers are staggering; the heartbreak has one, single voice and it speaks to all. Those of us who were abused by authority figures in our youth understand the searing pain, anguish, and shame these victims have felt; we join our heartbeats to theirs to form a deafening sound. Their courage is unquestionable and our outrage is like a forest fire in a drought-plagued landscape. The horrors are legion: pornography rings, marking victims with gold crosses to easily identify desensitized youth susceptible to more attacks, pregnancies, sadomasochistic acts, lying, payoffs; pressure to silence victims, whistleblowers, and families.

This is not “God”. This is not “Satan”. This is “Man”.

This is corruption and blackmail, a rich, powerful entity cloaking itself in privilege and religious piety, deigning to judge others when it was perpetrating horror and hell upon innocent victims and then using that power to beat down anyone who spoke up. It is evil; pure in form, the most blatant, transparent evil ever to walk this earth. It is men in power, surrounding themselves with riches, wielding it in the most cruel of ways. It is inherently human.

Those two priests, Father Lynch and Father Chet, who were positives in my otherwise unremarkable, Catholic childhood? You guessed right if you suspected that their names are on the list of priests who committed abuse in our Diocese. What little faith in the things and people I believed were good back then have been reduced by two. Many names, I recognized; many were not a surprise, because there has been a lot of talk since 2002, when this blew wide-open in the United States. There was one highly-publicized case that occurred in this decade, and that priest was found guilty in a court of law and later laicized by the Church. He still lives here, walks proudly, almost arrogantly, amongst us, and still has his supporters. I even knew some victims of priests going all the way back to high school; I dated a young man whose family had been paid off. That priest is not on the list, which is troubling, because if he isn’t, others aren’t, and that means there are so many more victims out there, afraid to come forward. I urge them to read this report and, if they don’t see “their” priest, to speak up. I don’t care if said priest is living or dead; it all matters. You matter. Your pain, shame, and suffering matters. The only way to free ourselves of the chains is to speak our attackers’ names and expose them. I have to believe that if I am wrong, and God exists, that is what He would want. Therein lies the rub for me, also; what merciful God would allow this kind of pain to be inflicted in His name? But that’s perhaps another subject, for another time.

I’m going to have to find another sanctuary for my thinking. My quiet place has ceased to exist for me. Some might say, “Well, you’re an Atheist anyway. To you, it’s just a pleasant, calming atmosphere where you go to escape the chaos of life. It doesn’t mean anything to you spiritually.”

It does, though. I can never seek out peace, solitude, and contentment in a place where evil has held court. I would not hear the silence I crave echoing through the vast, fragrant space. I would hear the cries of the victims, their voices blending together in one, painful, wailing wave of numbing terror. There is no peace in such a place of blasphemous, malignant atrocities committed against the very weakest, youngest, most innocent of victims. It would be heretically wrong to ever try and find solace in such a place.

Burn it all down. Erase it from the world. Better yet, liquidate it, all of the riches and ill-gotten gains of the behemoth Church, a true monster on this earth, and do some true good in eradicating this world of pain, blight, and suffering. Those clergy left standing should demand a complete overhaul of the “system” and, if the Church is adamant about “a vow of poverty” and celibacy, then damn-well adhere to it. I don’t care how it’s accomplished, but it’s pretty simple: figure it out. That would be a small start.

For me, though? Nothing will ever be enough. Humankind keeps proving me wrong. At least it’s consistent.

Let there be light, and hope, and peace.

Today, a little, brutal honesty. With myself.

Most of you, who are close friends and family, and some of you, who are on the outer banks of my circle, know that I was officially diagnosed with depression and anxiety/panic disorder a few years ago. It was something I always had, from a very young age, but something I stubbornly refused to admit to or treat. My first suicide attempt was at 14. I was in therapy for about a year after that, and then decided I was cured. Throughout my life, I have made really bad decisions; unwise and dangerous for both me and my family. I simply never felt totally “human” or deserving of anything good, or kind, or loving. I settled for crumbs when what I deserved was the whole cake. (A little bit of knowledge for you: we ALL deserve the whole cake.) A combination of shame/refusal to admit that something left me vulnerable/and social stigma left me in the darkness, unwilling to ask for help. It did not go unnoticed; I was doing self-destructive things and behaving in ways that suggested that I did not care. I was, and remain, pigheaded and the very definition of a “runner”; if you spook me when I am not ready, I’ll disappear, right down into myself. Procrastination, avoidance, building walls – that’s my coping mechanism. My family did not know how to deal with that.

My physical problems have exacerbated everything. The loss of physical strength, the pain, and being a slave to eye drops and still not seeing clearly; all of these weigh heavily on me. Not only is my brain doing me in, but my body seems to be giving up the fight, too. This only makes the mental battle seem insurmountable. It is terribly isolating and allows for self-pity. I detest self-pity in others; my own is intolerable.

Bad things have happened to me throughout my life. From a very young age, I was victimized. It left me vulnerable to those who would take advantage of my desire to simply be loved. The victimization continued, and with that, it extended onto people I love. This became unacceptable for me; the hurt I caused with my choices, the terrible things that happened, as a result, to my family, and the victims I felt I created with those decisions. I have thought about/fantasized about/actually planned my demise so many times, it actually seems almost comical to me. What to use? How to do it? When? What will cause the least fuss?

I have been at the edge for a while now. Over the past few months, I tied myself to a tree in order to be there to help the ones I love more than my own life; the collateral damage of my poor choices has left, in its wake, more damage; damage I would not have dreamed of inflicting upon them. Damage that, as someone who has divided up pieces of her figurative heart and soul and given them out, I could have never foreseen occurring.

The pain is too much to bear. The pain I would cause if I took the easy way out of this mess would be greater. I know it. I feel it. I do not wish for that. But the pull is strong, the ropes are loosening, and there is the desire for peace. Somehow, there must be peace. I’m tired; tired of the struggle. I am tired of being strong, when I don’t feel it. Tired of feigning happiness, when my well is is dry. I’m tired of myself.

I sent up a “Bat Signal”, as a friend calls it, yesterday. Know this: I don’t do that. It’s a new thing for me; something I preach to others, urge them to do. If you need me, say the word, and I will be there. Talk to me.

And yet, I have not been able to practice what I preach.

Yesterday, a wave of panic/fear/self-revulsion/hopelessness washed over me that was so strong, all I wanted was an oblivion of nothing. I could have, should have walked into the next room and curled up in my husband’s arms. The thought came to me that he had to be so fucking tired of seeing the woman who stormed the castle to to claim his love, who rebelled against anything she found intolerable, who fiercely (and falsely) asserted her independence after a marriage of chains, taken down by her own mind. He didn’t sign up for this, did he? I reacted by just sending out a meme. The response was swift. A friend reached out and talked to me. She took me out of that immediate panic, where I was frantically trying to free myself from the tree and just run the short distance to the the edge, to darkness. I was able to move then, to rationalize. I was able to get through a day not without stress and problems. Others reached out in their ways. Two friends – one of 35+ years, and one of a lot less but still a great source of strength – reached out last night and let me talk.

They don’t know it, but they all accomplished the task of retightening the knots on my ropes. They provided a respite from my own mind. They gave me a few moments of clarity and a chance to rationalize. It is so very true that we do not know what battles others are fighting. Had you seen me yesterday, buying groceries, you’d never have suspected that I was flat-out stoned from benzos and still racing away from the panic that was pulling at me. The husband is my talisman; my patronus.

He leads me around safely, not knowing just how very essential his presence is in order for me to feel safe when I am in a blind. The things I preach to you all, in my quest to destigmatize mental illness – about tolerance, realizing that the walking wounded are all around you, and putting yourself in their shoes – has yet to formally embed itself within me. The mantras I whisper internally:

You are loved

You are needed

You would hurt them if you left

Find the good every day

haven’t been quite enough lately. Blame life, blame The Fucking Menopause, blame drugs not being quite as effective. Blame, blame, blame.

But, no more.

It is time to to free myself of the chains of the past and the lodestone of guilt that draws me down into the darkness. Maybe, with the right direction, I can untie myself from this tree and move so far back away from the edge of the abyss that I won’t be able to see it anymore. I have looked out into the darkness for so long, it has become my constant; scenery that is “home”.

Thank you, A, H, and J. In the words of a great singer:

And someone saved my life tonight sugar bear
You almost had your hooks in me didn’t you dear
You nearly had me roped and tied
Altar-bound, hypnotized
Sweet freedom whispered in my ear
You’re a butterfly
And butterflies are free to fly
Fly away, high away, bye bye

Successfully Sibling-ed a Thursday

The Male Sibling Unit is riding a wave of happiness today. This is not a difficult achievement for me to accomplish as long as I stick to tried-and-true formulas:

* Buying him something
* Doing something for him
* Preparing foods he likes
* Indulging in his penchant for foul language
*Complimenting him
* Discussing his current interest

Today, I ticked five of those things off the list; all six, if you include the fact that I bought him something the other day in order to prepare him a food he likes.

Therefore, I bought him Suddenly Salad mix, even though I have never made it for myself.

Our mother loved it, and he loved it when she made it. I decided, why not? I tweaked it a bit, adding more bacon because, well, BACON, and more seasonings, and Parmesan cheese. It’s not bad at all. I am pairing it with pork chops, which would not normally thrill him, because, well, CHEWING MEAT, but I am Shake and Baking them, so he’s tickled. Don’t ask me why Shake and Bake changes the game, but it does, although I’m never going to Shake and Bake a steak for him no matter how much he whines, because that would be an insult to even a bad cut of steak. Not happening, fucker.

I was successful in contacting his case worker today and setting up an appointment for The Big Talk to occur next Tuesday, after work. I explained everything to her, because she’s new and doesn’t know all of the many facets and nuances that make up The Male Sibling Unit, resulting in the absolute delight that she will be experiencing. I think that she was overwhelmed, because there’s a LOT to explain, and simply meeting him at work and spending five minutes talking to him doesn’t even begin to expose her to the reality. She gets the polite, quiet man who simply agrees with her because he’s uncomfortable talking to those whom he judges to be authoritative. He’d agree to smear frosting all over his bald pate and pronounce himself a cake as long as she’ll LEAVE HIM ALONE. So, he’s very pleased about this meeting, because “Thank God I’ll be retired soon”.

I complimented him on his work numbers today when he reported them to me, via text, like he always does. I also managed to tick off the foul language delightfulness in that one text, pleasing him to no end.

Thursdays seem to be the only day they have a substantial amount of work, so he was relatively busy and his mouth was less-apt to get him into trouble. On those slow, bad days, I receive texts all day about “that bitch” and “that asshole” and a running commentary, listing the reasons why everyone is either a bitch or an asshole, along with the numerous outrages perpetrated against his person. Sometimes, all they need to do is look at him in a certain way that he deems offensive. Gawd help them if they choose to speak to him on such days, and infuriate him with crimes against his humanity, like

“That candy isn’t good for you”

or

“You have food in your mustache”

or

“I don’t like it when you tell me to go to hell”.

They are FUCKED if they smile at him “funny” on such days. His wrath, via text again, is swift and devastating to my eyes. “That bitch told me what to do and I don’t like her” and “I’m pissed and I’m telling” will be delivered to my inbox and then I must act.

Depending upon my mood, I will either use patient, encouraging rejoinders to walk away, let it roll off his back, smile and thank them, or just simply ignore the offender. On days when my patience is short, due to a never-ending litany of texts describing the awful conditions he is forced to endure, I will simply swear or send him the ambiguous “Dookie” text. That’s all I reply:

“Dookie”.

This is code for “I am not engaging in this nonsense so if you don’t want me to Gibbs-slap you, STFU” and guess what? It works. It’s a sibling thing, a big sister thing, and it has been serving me, and my blood pressure, well for a long time now.

Finally, we have been sending each other Ghost references, because he has finally listened to the new album in its entirety a dozen times over the last few days and he’s freshly obsessed. We have relived his first Ritual, reminiscing about his utter joy at hearing them play live and his stupified realization that Cardinal Copia is a living, breathing person and not just a face he sees on a screen.

I can relate to that; don’t we all experience that moment of pure bliss when we see a band onstage for the first time and we’re confronted with their reality? I certainly felt that way at my first Ritual and was even more gobsmacked afterward, when I Met The Man and found myself snuggled against his delicious-smelling leather jacket for a few moments of deliriousness that I can only describe as life-changing. Then we talked and he focused those striking, green eyes on me and suddenly, I was the only woman on that street; then he bestowed upon me numerous, genuine smiles and if I believed in God, it would have convinced me that this was an angel standing before me. The Male Sibling Unit does not quite grasp that there is a man underneath the Copia mask, so I don’t know if he would feel as shot-through-with-moonbeams-and-fairydust as I did were he to meet him. It sure would be interesting, though. He has, at different times, declared that he loves him, so his reaction would be a true gamble upon our part – for both us and Tobias.


Four days before I met him, looking at another fan the way he did me. In that yummy jacket.

How Tobias might look if The Male Sibling Unit gets to tell him how he REALLY feels. But….those green eyes. *sigh*

Anyway, today was a home run in terms of me, doing the Sibling thing. I don’t often get two of those days in a row so whatever fresh hell awaits me tomorrow: I am ready for you, motherfucker.

The husband is bringing home refills of my meds, just to be safe, and there is wine.

Dildos I have known, or, rotate your mattress more than once every couple of years.

*****Fair Warning: If you don’t care for TMI, scroll, bitches. But if you’re my friend, you ought to be used to this. And if you came to this site, you’re a magnificent bastard. *****

The Male Sibling Unit assisted me with finishing up my cleaning and rearranging of the bedroom on Sunday. I moved my computer downstairs and set everything up so I don’t have to run up and down the stairs constantly. As I’ve said before, I feel like I only want and need things around me that I love, and so bags and bags of clothes, shoes, and junk have exited this house these past couple of months.

We had to move the bed, and I wanted to rotate the mattress and wash the canopy curtains. The Male Sibling Unit does not understand the logic of rotating the mattress and pronounced this “stupid” underneath his breath. The beauty of my repurposed door as a headboard and canopy eluded him, too, and he kept asking, “Why is there a door here?” I explained it to him, and then he needed to know

Where the door came from

and

What if I wanted to put the door back someday?

Valid questions, I guess.

Now, underneath the bed could only be described as “Lori, you need to reevaluate your choice of flip flops, socks, books, and Tim Horton’s coffee cups that you were keeping because you rolled up the rim and won a fucking donut. And then failed to redeem them.” It also revealed dust bunnies that were actually evolving into dust Predators, and various wadded-up receipts that I made for a cat to bat around. I also figured out where my underwear was disappearing to, and I will have two brand-new pairs of gloves for winter. I found a bag of Halloween decorations I bought after Halloween because it’s ALWAYS Halloween in my head. Now I have chains, a crow skeleton figure, and a rat skeleton figure festooning the boudoir, because this is the bedchamber of a Gothic demoness, after all (Shelby Margaret). Good stuff. But it was one such discovery that sparked a conversation that I never thought I’d have, and that I’d never have wanted to have in the first place.

It’s Shelby’s room. I just sleep there.

As The Male Sibling Unit helped me to pick up the mattress and prop it against the wall, I spied a purple, cylindrical object laying on the box spring and hurried to grab it. I wasn’t quick enough and, as I quickly threw it in the trash bag, he pounced.

“Why,” he asked, “have you got a big, purple crayon under your mattress?”

Disclaimer: I’m a chick, and I have needs. I’m also a chick who has had a hysterectomy. While I don’t feel the need to justify the fact that I own a vibrator, I do feel the need to point out that the husband knows, and in the very early days of being ladypart-free, he had to be EXTREMELY patient while I figured out what worked for me during Sexy Time. I had not ever owned a sexual aid before, but, in frustration, I purchased the Purple Miracle at Spencer’s on a day trip to Erie. It was very, very useful, and friendly, and patient. It also stopped working, like, two years ago, and I forgot it was even under there. I should have thrown it away back when I discovered that its get-up-and-go had got-up-and-went, but I guess I was too nostalgic (being a pack rat and all, growing Predators under the bed). After all, it had helped me through a very hard (not the best description but it’ll do, pig – the husband) period of time when I was afraid that I might never awaken the neighborhood again by repeatedly taking the Lord’s name in vain.


Dust Predator Bunny

So, I could have just said, “Oh, it was for coloring in bed.” I think The Male Sibling Unit might have bought that. Something, though, in the tone of his voice, told me that he didn’t believe it was a purple crayon and that his sister masqueraded as Harold on occasion at bedtime.

Me: It’s not a crayon.

Him: It isn’t? What is it then?

Me: What do you THINK it is?

Him: Well, I dunno. (giggles nervously)

Me: (fishes it out of the bag and shows him) What is this?

Him: (laughs really loud) LOOKS like a crayon.

Me: But it isn’t. Do you know?

Him: D’oh!!! Oh my GOD!!!! (hunches over and slaps his leg, laughing loudly again)

Me: So? What do you think it is?

Him: It’s a, umm, it’s a DILDO.

Extra points to The Male Sibling Unit for knowing his sex toy terminology! I was impressed! But only for a moment, because then, he disturbed me.

Me: So you know what a dildo is, then? By the way, I call it a vibrator.

Him: YES I do! Hahahahaha!!!!

Me: Okay, what do you do with it?

Him: You smack your ass with it!

Me:…….what?

Him: Yes, you do! You smack it on your ass!

Me: Uh…you think I take this and hit myself on the butt with it? That’s it?

Him: Or Scott does it.

At this point, I needed to sit down. The visuals that popped into my head made it hard for me to breath through the honking, nose-running-because-the-dust hysterics that had overtaken me. The Male Sibling Unit was thrilled to have elicited such a response from me and wondered aloud, “I think Carol might like a dildo. I should ask her!” Through my shrieks and choking laughter, I said, “So you won’t have the sex with her but you’ll smack her ass with a dildo?”

“Yes!” The Male Sibling Unit then did a little jig. Through my epileptic-like peals of hysteria, I managed to say, “No….Carol would NOT like a dildo. So please don’t ask her!”

Perhaps the dead Purple Miracle (may it rest in peace) awakened the 15 year-old in The Male Sibling Unit, though. Out of the blue tonight, he sent me a text from his man cave: