For those of you saying “This feels like a Monday”, STFU, or Tuesday Tirade

Monday was a holiday, so today, I have decided to list some outrages. This could become an everyday feature, but why share my sweetness and light every day? You could become too comfortable with that and I might have a day in which everything is less infuriating and then I’d disappoint you. So, call this the Tuesday Tirade, if you will.

Menopause, you bastard. I tell you this daily. This new symptom that reminds me that you’re squatting in my body is really fucking infuriating, though: pimples. Really? My skin has been basically clear since my hysterectomy. Now, with the death of my shrinking ovaries, you see fit to give me not one, but three blemishes, and one is right near my nostril, and THAT SHIT IS NOT PRETTY. It’s painful, too. The two on my chin aren’t too spiffy, either. Thanks for making an already mildly-distressing glance in the mirror to do light makeup an actual freak show occurrence.

You revellers (who did not read my blog to understand that Memorial Day isn’t exactly a celebratory fiesta) and your fireworks late last night freaked my dog out. Who barked at every stinking sound she heard. All night long. It startled some of my cats. Who jumped in terror and knocked things over. Thanks, you fuckers, for disrupting my ability to sleep, which is tenuous at best.

Cactus weather at the end of May in Pennsylvania? After the winter we had; the one that just kept staying….and going….and returning….and staying….well, that was unpleasant. My skin never got used to it and having hives nearly every day for months isn’t pleasant or pretty (especially now that the pimple issue is back) and begging the husband to “scratch me until I bleed” wasn’t so much a sexual fetish as it was a necessary thing to keep me from running, naked and screaming, outside to fling myself into a cooling snowbank. But really….desert weather now, already? I miss the summers where this wouldn’t happen until August. Now, by the time August arrives, I’ll be so tired of swamps under my armpits, boob sweat (having big boobs is not pleasant and lightness and I do not enjoy them despite the husband’s obvious delight in them and his preoccupation with sneaking up behind me like a sex fiend for a feel), and salt water showers from my soaked hair, that I’ll be moaning for Autumn to please get here soon. I’ll be invoking Nature, doing mystical spells, and laying, prone, on the couch with the air conditioning on high, a fan blowing directly on me, fanning myself with a (sturdy) piece of mail, my head thrown back and my arm thrown over my eyes in a gesture of weary supplication. Oh…..it will be pathetically glorious to behold.

Did you know that you can impale yourself on a post earring? That it can, in fact, pierce the soft skin near your heel despite its blunt end? Well, you can. True story.

Finally, all you people who got yesterday off for the holiday where we celebrate dead soldiers who are now complaining that it’s Tuesday….well, yep. Same time every week. So, really? Shut the fuck up and be miserable, like you are every other day of the week at the job you hate.

I know. I’m salty. Like the cactus sweat of a hot, summer day. From June 21- September 22nd.

Of Memorial Day, and Valor, and Reflection

Yesterday, the husband and I watched a movie called Last Flag Flying. Set in 2003, it is a tale of three Vietnam War vets who come together to help one of them transport and bury his son, who was killed in action in Baghdad. It is a very good film, and I encourage you to watch it. It can be found on Amazon Prime Video for free.

It was particularly stirring for me, the mother of two sons and a son-in-law who are veterans. All three have been overseas; South Korea, Japan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Germany. My oldest son saw combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he is, of course, the one I worried about the most. The other countries may have been less prone to danger, but in these times, one has to worry no matter where they are, and tensions around the globe are high. I will add, though, that when my youngest boy was a submariner, I worried every single time he went underway. Communication was next to impossible for three months at a time, and wondering where my child was, at any given moment, in the vast expanse and depths of the Pacific Ocean? In a large, nuclear-powered tube with nuclear warheads aboard? Nerve-wracking was not even close to describing how I felt, but it will suffice.

My oldest son, getting ready to deploy the first time.

Navy seamen; in the center, my son.

My son-in-law and daughter in a “lighter moment” – attending a Ball.

There was one particular moment in the movie that gripped me and caused a heavy, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, and that was the scene in which Doc (played by the brilliantly understated Steve Carell) describes what it was like to see that gray car pull up to his house and a Marine and Marine Chaplain get out.

It punched me in the gut. I don’t know what it is like to receive that visit, that terrible notification, the words that shatter a parent or a spouse or loved one into a million little pieces. I am grateful, every single day, that I don’t know that pain. But I lived in fear of it every, single day my boys were serving. I especially lived with that fear when my child was in the Middle East, where the fighting was. The thought that an official-looking car could show up in front of my house and a soldier could express “The President’s regret” while a Chaplain stood by, clutching a Bible? That was my worst fear and the stuff of nightmares. I did not sleep well during those years, especially when they were in different time zones. I wanted to be awake if my babies were. I wanted to somehow will my love and strength to them psychically, if that makes any sense.

The scene, in my favorite war movie, Saving Private Ryan, where the mother receives that visit and she is given the devastating news that three of her four sons are dead; I think that moment in cinema will be indelibly etched into my consciousness. Every mother who has sent a child off to war understands that moment in a visceral, raw way; it resonates in the deepest, darkest depths of her soul. In that moment, when you see her spy the car kicking up dust along the road as it makes its way to her farmhouse, and then walk out onto her porch and drop to her knees and just simply sit; you feel her pain as if it was real. Because, for so many mothers, fathers, spouses, and loved ones, it was real. It has played out since World War I, and before the automobile and official visits, via telegram. I do not know what is worse, or more soul-emptying: that car or that impersonal, yellow slip of paper. Both are devastating in their business, though; that much is certain.

Today, we are supposed to honor the fallen, who gave their lives for their country. We attend parades and watch mostly old, fiercely proud generations walk slowly down the center of our Main Streets, holding flags, and some of us stick around to listen to the speeches given by officials in parks, in front of Statehouses or Courthouses. We sing The National Anthem and place our hands upon our hearts and some of us shed tears. We pause in solemn, reverential silence to mark the occasion.

Then, we hurry home to make picnic food, fire up the grill, and crack open a beer or ten. We have pool openings and loud music and raucous laughter in our yards, on our decks, in parks. We tell each other to “go easy” because work commences tomorrow. For those who are working in retail, in healthcare, on police forces or rescue services, it’s just another busier than normal day of stupid people getting into drunken fights over stupid things or some dumbass lighting a firecracker in a beer can and blowing off a finger or two or assholes demanding an employee “go out back and see if there’s more charcoal/marshmallows/etc”.

We celebrate.

Yes, we did our part. We stood in reverence for a few moments and maybe we even thought about our soldiers past, present, and future and their sacrifices. Maybe the tears we felt prickling the corners of our eyes were heartfelt. Maybe for a moment, we actually thought about war, and how it really is hell. My bet is that a great many more of us were looking at our watches, thinking about “everything that needs done” before guests arrive, or that the brisket in the smoker needs checked soon, or “Did I buy enough beer?” ‘Merica, people.

If you mark this day quietly, or if you hold a gathering and pause to reflect, good for you. You still get it. Memorial Day is a day to reflect on and to honor those who have fallen and those who serve and have served with valor. It’s not “The beginning of summer” or “Pool opening day”. Men and women died so you could have that picnic, crush those brewskies, and dunk your kids in that pool.

Reflect, if you will, on this: as you bite into that burger, somewhere, there is the possibility that a mother/father/spouse/next of kin is receiving a visit from an official car by military personnel. Our soldiers are still dying in a foreign land. They still die because they cannot get the help they need stateside after what they had to see and do when they were deployed. Those very facts should be remembered; not just today, but every, single day. These very facts are distressing and require our attention 365 days of the year; not just one.

I have a suggestion for you. Treat every day like Memorial Day. Speak your mind, speak with your vote, honor the fallen, and help to prevent another death by roadside bomb or sniper or suicide bomber by speaking up and demanding that your government end this warmongering behavior it displays with impunity. Not since World War II have we needed to go to war. How many American lives were lost in the wars after World War II? The statistics I’ve consulted put it at roughly 100,000. That doesn’t include wounded who later died as a result of conditions caused by their injuries, or suicides, but those numbers matter. They matter very much. Those suicides? They are a black stain on our country and on a military mindset that doesn’t recognize mental pain. That doesn’t provide adequate services for those afflicted with PTSD. They are casualties, too. Their loved ones grieve, too. There was no official car for those families; just desperation, pain, and ultimately, heartbreak.

They matter, too.

We need to remember that. We need to remember what matters. We need to quit sending our children over to fight wars in countries that don’t want us, need us, or share our values, shrinking as they are under the weight of a hateful, bumbling President who wouldn’t know courage if it walked up to him in the guise of a model or porn star and offered to teach him what it means to sacrifice.

He won’t remember. He won’t do it. But we can.

I’ll leave you with my favorite poem to mark this Memorial Day, and all to come.

 

A Dance Macabre with Faith and Rats in a Secular Haze

Sometimes, life challenges you.

Wait. I lied. And you see right through me, don’t you?

All the fucking time, life challenges you.

I guess that, what I am meaning to say is that there are specific events and times in our lives when we just want to say, “Stop this crazy train and let me off at the next pasture so I can smell some flowers!”

I’ve been riding the crazy train lately, and it’s been gaining speed with a steady uptick that has let me know that, if I didn’t get off just for a brief interlude, the velocity was going to tear me apart.

This past Wednesday, I pulled the cord and got off the train. I jumped into a shuttle of sorts and traveled to Syracuse, New York, where I stood in my symbolic “field of flowers” and just lost myself in a particular mystical, raucous, and magical three hours. I lost that part of myself that needs to be “on” and let myself be caught up in sight, sound, and emotion. I was in good company with 2,000 + other people who where there to do the same. When I am in this particular zone, I feel enveloped in love, in acceptance, and a part of something larger than life. Music truly sets me free, and I have been fortunate to be carried away on waves of euphoria at many concerts, but this – A Ritual – is different. It is like going to church; this is what true believers in their faith experience. I credit KISS with saving my life, but I credit Ghost with giving me life. I may be back on the train, but I know one true thing:

If You Have Ghost, You Have Everything.

Yo Mama.

Happy Mother’s Day to this bouffant-crowned, sarcastically gifted lady, wherever she is. It’s been six years now, and I still find myself feeling awkward on this day of days meant to celebrate her. I know she is at peace in her ever-after. I hope that it’s a place filled with happiness and love, and that some of the friends and family who were able to see her attitude at its best are there, eliciting MORE attitude and sarcasm.

The look she has on her face in this photo was, believe it or not, how I know she was happy when it was taken. She wore her ballsy attitude like a proud vestment of Queendome when she was in the company of friends and family. This was a face I loved to see, her biting comments always deadpan, her voice modulated and dripping with disdain. A takedown from my mother was to be put in your place in such a permanent way that you thought you belonged there. My mother, when in her element, was the epitome of every synonym for sarcasm that exists. Here is the thesaurus entry for “sarcastic”. Read this to know her the way I loved her:

“Synonyms: saucy, derisive, disrespectful, acerbic, trenchant, brusque, disparaging, sardonic, satirical, caustic, biting, mordant, acid, bitter, arrogant, acrimonious, austere, backhanded, captious, carping, contemptuous, corrosive, cutting, cynical, disillusioned, evil, hostile, irascible, mean, offensive, ornery, salty, scorching, scornful, scurrilous, severe, sharp, sneering, acerb, contumelious, ironical, smart-alecky, chaffing, cussed, needling, snarling, taunting, twitting, weisenheiming”

That – ALL OF THAT – was my mother the way I always hoped to see her, and the way I wish to remember her. Some of that could be construed as less-than complimentary, but when we love someone, we love the bad witch in them as well as the Glenda. She could be those negative things, and often was, in her darker moments. I saw more of those than I wanted, and she fell victim to them more than she deserved. In turn, I fell victim, as well.

It doesn’t matter, though. She went through things. We all do, and we all tend to judge others by the way they handle the shit that’s dealt them. She handled adversity; the challenges, the disappointments, the low valleys of sorrow that so often benched her at the kitchen table with only her tormented thoughts, her cigarettes, her coffee, and a deck of cards with which to play solitaire. Sometimes, the cards stayed in their deck and I would find her with her head bowed into her arms. There was no sarcasm then; only desolation. At those moments, I did not know how to elicit that which I hoped to see on her face. I knew that rousing her would only invite those bad synonyms, their barbs cutting into my flesh as she shot those arrows with precise aim at me. I was target practice for the real dragons she wished to slay. I was there, and available. And I loved her. I didn’t know that I wasn’t strong enough to withstand those poison-tipped arrows. Their venom was both immediate and slow-acting. It afflicted me in ways that, even now, I find myself looking for an antidote for.

But no matter. Because I found enough of an antidote to counteract the worst of it, I can think to myself that maybe that shit was savage as fuck, but that it taught me well. It taught me that I had, within myself, those same elements. I inherited her gift for sarcastic wit and I grew it, encouraged and nurtured it, with an expansion of attitude that colors my writing, my interactions, and my every thought. I bring it out, like she did, and put it on full display when it simply needs to be seen, like the crown jewels in a museum. I go one farther than she did, though: I bench it when my thoughts are too dark. I bench it when it would serve only to hit the batter right square in the face when I pitch my vitriole-tinged words. I consign it to the depths and darkened corners and tunnels of my mind when it would do harm if let loose into the world. There, in its cage, it torments only me. And I am good with that, because I know what a steady diet of acidic, cutting, contumelious, vomitus verbiage can do to break down an unwitting (or witting) victim. It wounds, it desensitizes, it changes the chemistry in their brains. It scars.

It scars forever.

She could not contain herself, no. But I can. So, when I go quiet, it’s because the lessons my mother taught me have taken hold, and I have done what I learned to do long ago, and I have consigned them to the basement boiler room of my inner schoolhouse for a time-out. Sarcasm has its place, but when it schools only to hurt, in turn it seeks only to offend.

And it’s Mother’s Day, after all. This is the day to revere our mothers and to reflect upon all the love, the sacrifices, and the countless life lessons. It’s just that, for some of us, there’s a small mountain of salt to go with. If you have more sugar than salt, embrace that. Embrace your mom. Bake her a cake or take her out for ice cream and celebrate all that sweetness.

I’m just gonna sit over here and eat a whole bag of potato chips.