Thursday, February 25, 2010

Me or Miss Doxie

Some of you may know I have a beef with Miss Doxie. Mainly it's that as soon as I discovered her, she disappeared. Then she reappeared a year later and got a cat and disappeared again and every time she comes back with her yearly post she has all kinds of promises about how she has problems with her site and they're getting fixed and it's all going to work out and how she is going to write great stories and then NOTHING HAPPENS. Now I know that this woman has a job and a dog and now a cat. I understand this, but stop saying you're going to do something and then not doing it. It's not fair. The sick thing is she can not blog for a friggin year and come back and get 400 some comments. Not fair. She clearly doesn't understand that her priority is not her lawyering or her pets or her new boyfriend. It is entertaining me with extremely wordy, funny stories about Atlanta, a place I miss desperately. I used to crack up at her stories like nothing else. I really did.

Besides Miss Doxie not ever writing anything and stringing everyone along, it really annoys me that people (famous bloggers no less) keep her links on their own sites. I've decided to start a movement, a petition or what have you, all across the Internet to remove Miss Doxie's link and replace it with mine, because I will write you all some stories. I may not write every day, but at least I write more than once a year.

If Miss Doxie finally stops arguing stupid legal cases and snuggling with her boyfriend and new cat, and writes us some stories THEN everyone can add her back.

And I hope everyone realizes that I am very tongue in cheek about this and that I say this all in good fun because I actually really liked her stories a lot. I had to put this disclaimer because some fool WILL write me to the effect of: "You are a stupid bitch who knows nothing and you aren't the writer Miss Doxie is. You don't have half her talent in your little finger and she's probably way hotter than you and that's probably why you don't put pictures of yourself up ever. How dare you say mean things about Miss Doxie. I've been camped outside of her house for over a year so I know she is a wonderful person!!"

I don't have a lot of hope about Miss Doxie's return or that my evil plan to replace her links with mine will work, so in the meantime, I need something funny to read. You know I've been down lately. I need some serious humor (or some good, paranoid, whack-job UFO conspiracy theory) to keep my mind off my troubles. Please suggest. Many of your past suggestions have become regular, favorite reads. You all clearly have excellent taste.

Sam

Sam has lived with my parents since before Thanksgiving and somehow I haven't gotten around to telling you about him. I have no idea how that happened. I mean, you think a pimp/ male prostitute becoming a part of our family would have been deemed immediately blog worthy, right? I don't know what got into me. Maybe it was all that worrying about my birth control methods failing. Ahem.

Sam is Velva Haux's ex boy-toy. They lived together for a year or so, give or take. You recall that Velva is the madam who used to live in a gigantic mansion in my parents' neighborhood? She's totally out of her mind. She's since moved somewhere else, thank god. She even unfriended me on Facebook, but that's another story. The nerve. She said my family was trash. Can you imagine? A skanked out ho calling us trash? Child, please.

Part of the problem in Velva and Sam's relationship was the fact that because of the economy, she started servicing clients herself. In addition to that, Sam was almost twenty years her junior. Velva's a nasty old cougar and she likes young guys because she thinks she can control them. She didn't let Sam work and paid him to pretty much go to the gym and just be at her beck and call all the time, which would have been ok maybe had she actually been nice to him. Velva though is crazy and with her crazy comes mood swings and delusions that make her rage for no reason. She's also a drug addict and an alcoholic. This caused the biggest problems because Sam has been sober for two years. He is a former heroin and pill addict who is really active in NA and runs meetings and has made it his whole life. He's really passionate about being sober. It's always confused me how, if he was so serious about being clean, that he would choose to shack up with an active addict. People are just confusing.

Sam is just a big old, golden retriever of a guy. Without the seediness of drugs in his life, he's practically a 1950s Mormon. He just has this sunny personality and aw shucks-ishness about him. He almost seems kind of innocent. I know that makes no sense given his ex girlfriend and his current "job" but you just have to see it for yourself. He's the kind of guy who likes board games and romantic comedies and whenever he goes to someone's house, he's always the one washing dishes and taking out the trash. He enjoys family nights and Disney. He's like a big, sweet kid.

Velva liked Sam for his looks. He is a former model and an aspiring actor. He looks like Matthew McConaughey. Women throw themselves shamelessly at him wherever he goes and I've always thought that has to be a troubling way to live. People treat him like an object of lust all the time. He can't go out of the house without getting propositioned. I've even seen straight men become completely enamored of him. Luckily, Sam doesn't do it for me at all. Not my type.

When Velva and Sam had a big blowout last summer, she threw him out and having no job, he had nowhere to go. He decided to go to LA to try to make it big. He rented a room, met some nice people at meetings, some of whom were on Celebrity Rehab, not mentioning names, and started getting some small modeling and extras gigs. It was ok. He was making a little steady money and he had auditions.

This is about the time when my parents rolled the RV out to California last summer. He started hanging out with them and then Sam got a call for an acting job where he had to play a male prostitute on a very well known talk show and make it look like he was the real deal. The whole thing was staged. He even used a fake name. Sam did not tell his parents about this because they are extremely conservative and wouldn't approve of him even playing a character like that. They never knew about Velva. Sam, being so wholesome, didn't want to do the show, but he needed the money and was convinced it was harmless.

Two things happened because of the show.

First, Sam's brother is a doctor. Sam's brother the doctor was doing his rounds when he went into a patient's room and the patient was watching the talk show that Sam was on. He looked up and said "Oh my God there's my little brother using a fake name and OH MY GOD he's a male prostitute." He called their mom and dad who were extremely distressed. They called Sam and he had to explain that it wasn't real, but they were still upset anyway. How he thought he could get away without anyone knowing he was on the show is beyond me.

The second thing that happened as a result of the show is that Sam became an overnight, instant Internet sensation. People were searching out his fake name because they wanted to hire him. Women were flipping out contacting the show and the show had to forward all the emails they were sending to him. Suddenly, journalists wanted to do stories about something that wasn't even real. Sam decided to capitalize and made a website to sell advertising. He made an email account for his new alter-ego and it was flooded with fan mail and requests that I don't even want to imagine.

One woman who was terminally ill wrote and said that her dying wish was to sleep with him and that she would pay all of her savings. It was like he was the Make a Wish Foundation of sex work. Tragic. I couldn't believe that one. He wrote her back and nice letter and sent her some stuff, but he didn't do it. The thing is, Sam WOULDN'T do something like that, but because of all the google searches, he was making some decent ad money and pretty quickly.

Do not ask me how because I don't know, but somehow this mushroomed into Sam starting a male escort service. Life imitated art, I guess. I'm a bit confused on the whole thing. Apparently it's legal because the guys just go on dates with the women and that's ok (??). I don't know how it all works and I don't want or need to. The way it was explained to me is that Sam is like a headhunter for male escorts. People go to his once fake website, call him up and he directs them to escorts who have contacted him and then they pay him a fee for finding them clients? Something like that?

So now Sam has this weird double life. On one hand he is Sam, the board game playing, sober living golden retriever that we love. On the other hand, he has his dark side, the character created on a talk show who ironically came to life because a bunch of horny women thought he was the hottest thing they'd ever seen. But this character isn't Sam, in spite of his admittedly troubled past and all, and all the women who write him endless, flowery love letters, just objectify him and project upon him whatever fantasy they have of what they want him to be.

Well, after the show, Sam decided he wanted to move back to Florida. I don't know why. I missed this part of the story. He didn't have a place to stay, so he asked my parents and you know what they said. They like having him around because he's nice and cleans up. He organized their garage even and it looked like something off of Hoarders. He even does yard work and washes the cars. Sam is their houseboy and we all enjoy his company.

During the day he's sunshiney Sam. At night, he is his alter-ego and does his "work." I don't think he makes a lot of money because if he did, he wouldn't be living with my parents, right? I don't know how that works. Maybe he just likes it at their house. Logic has never been a part of anything related to my parents or their friends, so I should stop trying to apply it.

Occasionally Sam shows us the letters and "sexts" he gets from women, some who know him from the show or the site, and others who pick him up randomly when he's out and about. These have led me to believe that the general population of women is far more insane than I had originally estimated. Sam has stalkers.

But Sam has a kind of girlfriend and we kind of like her. Her name is Bingo and she is her own story.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Moment of Lost Nerdery

I have to say this, because I am admittedly, ridiculously Lost obsessed, in spite of the fact that sometimes it's frustrating and cheesy and annoying.

I think the mother of Jack's parallel universe son is Juliette. I've searched the Internet and haven't found anyone else with that theory.

Does anyone want to obsess and theorize and rant over Lost with me? Theories anyone?

And be quiet. Don't make fun of me. I have stress. I need distraction. It's my escape.

Another theory I have is that it's a lot like Paradise Lost. I think the title has several meanings.

Crazy Busy

My week has been ridiculously busy. The best part about that is that it passes by really quickly.

As you know, I've been dealing with some hard stuff that I can't write about. I'm getting through it. I hate when bloggers allude to things and won't tell what they are. I will give you a brief overview. The first thing is that someone I care about very much, who is not a relative, is in a kind of horrible prison we have here and awaiting deportation. I may throw all caution to the wind and just write about it, but I need to process it all first. I went to this facility to visit and came out with a whole new view of the world and it was deeply traumatic. My husband has done everything possible to help this person and we have even contacted a lawyer who is always on TV. There is just nothing we can do. Because of this experience, I realized that I really do have white privilege and it made me feel awful. I actually experienced being treated differently because I was educated, wealthy and white. It sucked.

The second thing I am dealing with is a problem I had at school. There are federal laws prohibiting teachers from writing about their work, so I have to leave it at that. It's a troubling situation, but there are a lot of people on my side helping me get through this. Unfortunately that's all I can really say about it here. Just send good thoughts.

I am also in the middle of one of my overly dramatic, psychosomatic pregnancy scares. I've decided that even if I am pregnant that everything is going to be ok. I'm probably not though. You know you all want this to be a mommy blog. Just admit it.

Yesterday Chastity's wedding invitation came in the mail and I still can't decide to go or not. Apparently now, my biological father is calling himself Dr. Ronald Holland. What is wrong with this man? You're not a real doctor if you get a PhD from life experience, from a non-accredited online Jesus correspondence school. Ok? Can we agree on that? After the stress I had to go through formatting a real thesis at a real university, I take total offense. I earned my degree. He wrote some emails about Jesus.

Last, I'm still working on the Breadloaf application and manuscript. I've gotten some very enthusiastic feedback on it so far.

Now I have to go to work and prepare for another long day. Luckily I have two classes full of bright, enthusiastic and truly amazing students who inspire me every day I get to spend with them. It sounds corny, but it's so true.
Monday, February 22, 2010

My Parents Went to Asheville and All I Got Was This Trashcan

Do you remember those old tee shirts kids used to wear back when I was little (and some of you were too)?

Well I didn't get a tee shirt, I got a trash can. All weekend long I'd been looking forward to seeing what on earth rainbow boots were. My parents got back last night and Husband and I went to see them and have some dinner. I couldn't wait for the rainbow boots, but alas, at the last minute they decided against them, thinking maybe I wouldn't like them, and lo and behold, I get this. A new, beach themed, sea shell trash can. I also got some adorable shirts from the J Crew outlet, which I love. I've been told that Asheville has the J Crew outlet to end all J Crew outlets. This alone is reason to move there. The trashcan did not come from the J Crew outlet. Sorry, J Crew is not currently offering a line of waste receptacles. Maybe next season. I'm looking forward to my new Madras Plaid, Boyfriend Recycling Bin personally. I'm getting it in Sea-sprayed Mint which will be gently distressed so as to appear vintage.

Anyway, I like the trashcan and am very grateful for it, but I did find it to be a bit random. I wonder what the thought process was on this gift. I wonder why they saw this trashcan and felt that I, of all people, must have it, that my life will not be complete without this new trashcan. Now, in all fairness, the trash can matches my apartment, which is beige, as you all know, and has a beachy, sea shell theme, so that is probably why they got it. I just thought it was a funny, and unexpected souvenir from a trip to the mountains.

That said, I promised you a picture of the boots, so I had to deliver with a picture of the trashcan, in its new home, my bathroom. You have now seen my living room, my kitchen and my bathroom. That's pretty much my whole house. I don't feel like showing my bedroom anytime soon because I don't have it looking how I want it yet.

I put the trashcan on the sink because I didn't want you all to see the ungodly amount of my hair that is on the floor. I clean it every stinking day, but to no avail whatsoever. I don't know how I'm not bald. When I put the trashcan on the sink Canela immediately jumped up, sniffed it, asked me why I put it on the sink and if there was anything inside it that she could shred up all over the house and then, for no reason, started staring at the ceiling, as she is often wont to do. It creeps me out. I don't know what this cat's fascination with the ceiling is. She'll sit and stare at the ceiling for hours and there's never anything up there.

So there you go people. My new trashcan. I have a long and trying day. I have a meeting at school which I have no desire to attend and will be teaching late. I'm nervous about some work issues and very unsettled at the moment. So please, think good thoughts in my direction because I need them and I'll be back tomorrow afternoon with a better story for you all. Thanks.

And don't be jealous just because you don't have a new trashcan like I do.
Friday, February 19, 2010

Asheville, Please Accept My Apology

This has been an awful week on so many levels and it frustrates me that I can't, right now, write about any of the awful things that have happened. Some of it is work related and some of it has to do with a close friend and both of those topics are off limits at the moment. I'm confident everything will work out in due time, but this week has been hard. The good news in all of it is that I think the recipe I was looking for was Chili-Mac and I intend to make a pot tonight. Husband does not have pneumonia! He has bad bronchitis and it should clear up on its own in a week.

The highlight of my week though was a call from my parents. Last week they up and left for Asheville, North Carolina. It's their first trip there. As soon as they left I told my sister that they were going to decide they wanted to live there and not come home. Sure enough, they're looking for property as I write this. This is a good thing. I have been to Asheville and I love it. I think it's perfect and I really hope my parents do buy a house there because I'll spend all summer long up there. You all know I've always wanted a summer home and I would just love it if my parents lived in the Carolina mountains.

If this happens, and of course we don't know if it will or not, my parents being as unpredictable as they are, Asheville needs to get ready. While in LA, my parents just blended right on in, I think in Asheville they might be a little more obvious. And you know wherever they go, the entourage follows. Suddenly there'll be a lot of weird guys showing up in town with blow outs and Ed Hardy shirts. A new strip club will have to open up and suddenly Asheville will find it has an unusual spike in both prostitutes and people whose skin is unnaturally orange. The natives will be so confused until someone tells them a family from South Florida moved in and now their friends are suddenly coming to visit. It'll be like that movie where Steve Martin was a mafia guy and had to move to the midwest when he was in the witness protection program. What I want to know if why on earth hasn't someone discovered my parents and turned them into a reality show yet?

Yesterday they called me excitedly, while I was at work, specifically to tell me about their new boots. While shopping in Asheville they had purchased matching cowboy boots and what they were so unbelievably excited about was the fact that the toe of the boot was shaped from a whole alligator's tail with the bumps still on it. My mother got pink and my father got white. I have provided a picture of a similar boot, based on their description, but the picture I found was in blue.

With the bumps still on it. I think that's kind of gross actually. I'm just not a cowboy boot kind of a girl and most of my shoes aren't made from animal products. Leather's generally too expensive for Payless and Target. Alligator would be totally out of the question. They're kind of nasty animals, but I don't think they deserve to be killed and made into accessories, although there is quite the market for alligator meat here in Florida and I guess if you're going to eat them, you should make good use of their skin too. But yuck. And in pink no less.

My parents knew better than to get me a pair, but they did mention kind of offhand that in another store they found a pair of rainbow boots for me. I'm scared honestly. I can't form any sort of mental image of rainbow boots that would be appealing, unless they mean the brand Rainbow, but I think they only make flip flops. We'll see when they get back Monday and I'll take a picture of these mysterious rainbow boots for you. In the meantime, if you want a pair of alligator tail boots to match my parents, you can get you some
here. But please don't, ok.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Kindlin'

I'm really excited because I got a Kindle for Valentine's Day. I've been wanting one for a while for a few reasons. First, I just don't want to be one of those people with a house full of books, yet I love to read more than anything. I have such limited space that if I keep getting books, my house will soon resemble a used book store. I sell most of my books on Half.com when I finish. Some I give away to friends and I try to just keep the most special books. Some books I'll never give up, like my cook books and art books. Decluttering is as important to me as reading, so the Kindle was the perfect solution. I can read as much as I want and not junk up the house. The Kindle also works well for traveling and it's good to take to school because it saves room in my school bag and lightens my load considerably. Lugging around a case of books isn't fun.

I didn't think I'd be lucky enough to actually get a Kindle though, so I was really surprised to find out that was my Valentine's gift. I just love it. It's small, light and sleek and it holds 1,500 books. Wow. I decided to immediately order a case for it to protect it in my school bag.

Last night the case arrived via UPS. I was home alone, cooking dinner when the knock came. Now I know our UPS guy. He's been delivering this route for ages and I certainly have ordered a lot of stuff from Amazon in the past few years. Husband is always ordering stuff with cords. I ordered most of my books for grad school through there, and because I hate shopping, I order most gifts through Amazon too. Because of this, I've gotten pretty familiar with my UPS guy. He's a young guy, with a strong Southern accent. If I had to guess,I'd say he was maybe from Tennessee or Alabama or somewhere similar. I'm basing my guess on the quality of his accent.

As I signed for my package, he asked me a question.

"Hey, do you got a fireplace?"

"A fireplace? No."

"Oh," he said, "Well, can I ask you another question?"

I said "Sure." He flipped the box around and looked at it puzzled.

"Well, it's just ever since Christmas or so, I've been noticin' all these boxes coming from Amazon sayin' 'kindle' on the outside and for the life of me, I cain't figure out why so many people down here is orderin' fire wood from Amazon. I thought they sold books and gifts, but I swear I deliver a box at least once a day that says 'kindle' and the thing is, the boxes ain't that heavy. So, I sees this one comin' to you and I figure I can ask you, what are you going to do with kindlin' and why are you orderin' it from Amazon?"

"Well," I said, "It's A Kindle, not kindling. This isn't the actual Kindle. This is a cover for it."

"Is it some kinda fancy candle or something? And you got a candle holder?"

"Actually no. It's a little device that Amazon makes and it's kind of like a computer or a cell phone, but it's for books. You can store books on it electronically and read them and it's a lot smaller than a book. It saves a lot of room."

He looked at me like I had lost my mind.

"Let me show it to you," I said.

I went and got the actual device and demonstrated it. I let him look at it.

"So THIS is what all these people is buyin' around here. Wow. Ain't that neat!"

"You can even read some magazines on it too," I said.

"No way!"

"Yeah! It is neat."

"I'll be daggoned. All this time I thought people was orderin' firewood from Amazon because this winter has been so durned chilly down here. I thought all these Floridians didn't know they could just get kindlin' in their backyards or get one of them duraflame logs if they wanted to start a fire so bad."

"Nope. We're readin' books," I said.

"I'm gonna look into getting one too. I like to read a lot."

Bless his heart. I love my Kindle and my UPS man and in the interest of full disclosure, no, Amazon did not pay me to discuss their product. Jeez, I wish they would. I always wanted to be one of those bloggers who got free stuff, but it's never happened.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Nasty Assed Recipes - Cold Winter Night Edition

I really don't want to admit to how I found this recipe, but I will. Years ago my aunt used to make a nasty-assed recipe that was actually good. It was some kind of concoction of hamburger and tomato sauce and macaroni all cooked together, and while it was tomato-saucey, it didn't taste Italian. It had almost a sweet/ tart kind of a thing going on. It was extremely comforting and we kids just tore it up. I hadn't thought of it in years, but it's really cold here (ok shut up. I know it's 40 below where you live but 40 above is cold for Florida) and I wanted to make it. Husband's gyno has sent him for chest x-rays and I wanted to make him something hearty, kinda bland and warm and homey to make him feel better. I thought my aunt's recipe could work. I remember my aunt called it goulash, which is definitely some ridiculous trailer park misnomer. My eastern european grandparents make real goulash and it involves a lot of beef, a lot of potatoes, a lot of garlic and even more paprika. It in no way at all resembled my aunt's dish. Still, sometimes you yearn for the foods you ate when you were little. But then I found this. Miss Lady's version. God help us all. As soon as I saw the word "jiggle" I knew it had to go in our Nasty-Assed Recipe Box. So enjoy please, and if you know the recipe I'm describing, my icy heart would thaw if you could post it in the comments or email it to me. Because God knows I will NOT be making this version.
MISS LADY'S GOULASH
1 lb. hamburger, browned
16 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 regular size can whole kernel corn
1 regular size can LeSeur peas
1 cup or more small elbow macaroni (12 oz. size package)
paprika and/or chili powder, to taste
minced garlic, to taste
Put all ingredients in a pot and cook until the noodles are done.

It shouldn’t be like soup, but should have some ‘jiggle’ factor. A great family favorite for years.

Monday, February 15, 2010

What's Been Going On

My parents packed the RV up yesterday and left to head up to the Carolina mountains with the intention of seeing some snow. I think they're going to get their wish, although I've had terrible mental images of them careening off an icy cliff in that bus. Let's hope they're ok driving in inclement weather conditions. My friend Carina is with them, because she's going up to see her sister, who lives in that area. Carina said if she dies in the bus that I can have all of her clothes and this is a good thing because the girl has some serious outfits. She's far fancier than I am and the same size, so that's something positive that will come out of the deaths of my entire family. I can wear Gucci to the funeral, which would make my mother proud.

The Eyebrow People left on Friday and went back to Frozen River Land, so that's good, but I have a feeling they'll be back soon enough, pregnant Jasmine and all.

In other news, the Amy Winehouse of our family escaped from rehab last week and we've all been pretty upset and disappointed. Another patient there called up her dealer to come pick them up and within minutes, she was out of there and headed back home and once she got there her family pretty much had a giant enabling party.

Addicts are manipulators. They are masters at it. I don't get how they manage to put so many people under their spell - people who know very clearly that these individuals are addicts and people who have seen the addicts at their worst. Yet still, they manage to believe their lies. I do not get it and it's painful and frustrating to watch. Our little addict decided to call everyone in the family and trash talk our family and say that we put her in a hell hole and that it's a cult. They abused her there. They were mean to her. They told her she is a bad mother and a bad wife. SHE IS. The ridiculous thing is that the whole family knows she is a train wreck, has seen her at her worst, has been victimized by her theft and abuse, has seen her literally endanger the life of a severely disabled child in the family and STILL they believe and side with her and say "How could they put her in a place like that?" So now, everyone else on my mom's side of the family is mad at us, including my grandmother who refuses to believe the addict is an addict. The addict's own husband, who begged us to come help her, is now saying that he doesn't think she ever really had a problem and it was wrong to put her in a place with crackheads and junkies and it was cruel and that now she has post traumatic stress disorder from it (which is a great excuse to get some more pills by the way). So great. And you know what's the saddest part? This is a pretty common story.

My aunt and uncle (Bella's parents) were here Saturday. They got in from a cruise and had several hours before their plane back to Millpond left, so I picked them up and took them to lunch, where we discussed Chastity's wedding. They think she's pregnant and that she's doing this whole thing because her younger sister Charity got married last July and was pregnant by September.

Chastity called me last night. I think she reads this blog. I really do. I don't know how she would have found it, but I have sensed on many occasions that she's reading and knows its me. I've seen her town on my site meter a few times, but it's a big place and I can't be sure. The reason I think she's reading is because she's called me before after certain posts and sort of vaguely referenced them. For instance, last night she called me to ask me to read at her wedding. I told her I'd think about it. Then we got into a conversation about how much easier the wedding is without her mother. She brought it up. She said her mother would have controlled and complained about everything and insisted on too many complicated conditions. But then she started talking about how her mom wasn't as bad as I think and that, yes, her mother was obsessive and controlling and had a very all or nothing attitude about everything, that she was still a good person.

"She really was a good person. You have to understand that. She meant well."

I don't know if I believe that, but I'm glad that Chastity is able to have some good memories of her.

Then Chastity and I had a very enlightening conversation about why her mother was a religious fanatic and Chastity, who is extremely articulate and still possesses that weird self awareness, was able to explain it to me in a way that I could finally understand.

"She had no identity without it."

The church gave her a sense of belonging and a set of hard and fast rules to live by so she didn't have to think. It was who she was. It also gave her a community because she had never been the kind of girl who made friends easily. It helped her to not be lonely. That's what being a mother did for her too. Motherhood also gave her an identity and I never realized that Louise, I guess, didn't really have a sense of who she was and needed all this other stuff, all of these other fringe beliefs and fads and ideologies to believe in because she was unable to come up with her own ideas and her own beliefs and because she was utterly incapable of understanding nuance and grey areas. She was attracted to extremes because they shut out other possibilities and her mind couldn't handle other possibilities.

I think this is really key to understanding a lot of people. I had no idea, until I wrote about my experiences, that so many of us had lived with or known or had relatives who were religious fanatics. This fanaticism can really hurt people and so many of you have been wounded by it in some way too. It's really sad, but I think a way to overcoming the hurt is to understand what was going on behind it all. Understanding Louise a little more has helped me to be able to feel compassion for her and to not see her as the two dimensional evil stepmother, so I was really grateful for the conversation Chastity and I had last night. And I don't care if she's secretly reading this or not.

Besides that, my husband has been sick for going on three weeks now and he will not get his stubborn ass to the doctor. The problem is that his best friend is a gyno and he just asks him to check him out and write him prescriptions because he doesn't want to go to the doctor and pay our $35 co-pay. I know that's what it is, although he denies it. So my husband's gyno gave him some cough medicine and a Z-pack, but it didn't work and then he said that he thought husband had pneumonia, which he shrugged off and has totally ignored. And by the way, my husband's best friend is NOT my ob/gyn because eww, how weird would that be? In case you were wondering and I kind of hope you weren't. I do have him look at my blood work results on occasion and I've been known to call him up when I've sworn I had pancreatic cancer, ALS, brain tumors, Hodgkins Disease and multiple myeloma. He's good at talking me down from the ledge. At Christmas I became convinced I was having a lupus flare and was going to have kidney failure and die before New Years and he was able to assure me, correctly, that I had a virus. But anyway, my husband has been sick for three weeks and is ignoring his friend's advice. I don't know what to do. He's sleeping all the time which is very out of the ordinary for him. He's normally a hummingbird of constant motion. He's also coughing up blood. Not good.

"But if I die," he said, "Then you can sell all our stuff, take our savings and go live in Paris."

Which means that if my parents and friend die on the bus on an icy road and my husband dies of pneumonia, that I'll be living in Paris AND wearing Gucci.

But I'd rather have my family and continue to wear Merona.
Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

Do you remember these silly old Valentines? I remember in elementary school we had to give every single person in the class one. We'd attach a big manila envelope to our desks and then, in a miserable parade, we'd have to walk around the classroom and drop a card in everyone else's envelope. It was a study in torture, because you had to be nice and give one to everybody and kids, being the hateful savages that they are, can't stand that. The whole exercise was awkward and embarrassing and we'd get in so much trouble if we tried to act like we just forgot that pale, scrawny kid who always threw up on the bus. We did get to have a Valentine's Day party though. It'd be at the end of the day and we'd eat enough candy to send a bull elephant into diabetic ketoacidosis. On top of that we'd have cupcakes that had pink icing and red hots all over them. Then that kid would throw up on the bus on the way home.
Saturday, February 13, 2010

The End of the Story for Those Who Need More Clarity

Canela

I'm currently working on a manuscript to send to the Breadloaf Writer's Conference as a writing sample to see if I can get it. I would pretty much do anything to get to go to Breadloaf. The piece I'm working on is very different from the writing I do on here. On my blog, I tend to get really chatty and careless even. I just let it all hang out. For my more professional writing, obviously, I'm more polished and measured and I don't write quite so much. Usually, my two writing worlds don't overlap, but I'd like to share with you today, a little excerpt from my Breadloaf application. You will notice the difference in tone and style I think, but I still think you might appreciate the story. This is just a small piece of the overall manuscript, which is a series of short, present tense vignettes all centering around a main theme, which is a certain internal struggle I have. If I were to boil it down, the whole bigger piece is about learning to love and about being selfless. (And dangit, whenever I paste from Word, the formatting gets so screwy and weird. Drives me nuts.)

This vignette is about how I got Canela. Let me know what you think.

The last thing I want is a cat. I don’t need something to take care of with the litter box, food, vet’s bills. I haven’t even managed to take care of myself since (Ex) and I broke up. It’s been eight months and I still live in my parents’ guest room. I still work at a strip club. I don’t have a boyfriend. I don’t really have any kind of friend for that matter and I’ve gained fifteen pounds. The list of things I want is long and a cat isn’t on it.

“Did you see the kitty?” one of the dancers asks excitedly.

I’ve just gotten to work and we’re changing from day shift to night so it’s a little hectic with some dancers clocking in while others are cashing out.

Working in a strip club, there are several jokes I could make to answer her question. Usually if a stripper asks you anything about seeing a kitty you can expect to be out at least twenty five dollars before all is said and done.

“No,” I say, “I did not see the kitty. I’m not sure I want to.”

“Oh my God, it’s adorable. It’s out in the parking lot. Brian found it and he’s carrying it around.”

Brian is the parking lot attendant. He stands outside every night waving two Mag-lites directing the cars into parking spots they could have easily found on their own. He looks like he’s landing planes.

All night the girls are running back and forth from the parking lot to the club because they want to pet the kitten. Finally, curiosity gets the best of me.

“You want to see the kitty?” Brian asks me.

He makes a kissing sound, bends down and snaps his fingers and a tabby kitten, big-eared and skinny, trots out from under a Buick. The kitten is so tiny that I imagine she has barely been weaned and one of her front paws is peach, while the others are grey. When I scoop her into my arms, her purr drowns out the bass thumping from inside the club. I can’t even hear the traffic speeding by on the highway beside us.

“You want her?”

“You’re not keeping her?”

“Naw, I don’t want no cat. She’s a friendly little thing though. Sweet. Make somebody a good pet if she don’t get run over out here in this parking lot. She ain’t a wild cat, that’s for sure. Somebody musta dropped her off.”

I keep the kitten in the break room. This accomplishes two things. It keeps the dancers inside and it prevents the kitten from getting hit by a car. The kitten is thrilled with the attention she gets, along with several pieces of take-out sashimi. Whenever I can get a bouncer to cover the register, I check on her.

“Somebody’s got to either put her back outside or take her home at the end of the night,” the house mother tells me.

I can’t take a kitten home. It’s not my house for one. Maybe if I was on my feet more and had my own place. There was no way I could have a cat at my parents’ house. Not with their three dogs. It would never work out.

I left my cats in Atlanta with (Ex) for this very reason. They loved that backyard. They sunned themselves on the back deck and chased chipmunks under the pine. I couldn’t take them from their home. I knew how it felt to be ripped from a place you loved and forced to live somewhere you didn’t and I figured if I had to suffer, it wasn’t fair to drag them along with me.

I had two cats. One of them since the sixth grade. My mother bought her for me at a pet store across from the mall the week I left Millpond and moved with her and (my stepfather) to New York. She said I needed something to love. That cat was sixteen years old. And I abandoned her, thinking she would be better off without me.

I don’t deserve another cat.

I call my mother and tell her about the kitten.

“Do you want it?”

“I don’t know. Someone has to take it, at least for the night. Maybe I can find it a home.”

“Let me come get it right now. A kitten doesn’t need to be hanging around in a strip club. Lord knows what can happen to it.”

The first night, I don’t want the kitten in my bed. I make it a shoebox to sleep in on the floor, but it uses its tiny, pin-like claws to hook on and climb up my mattress, where it curls up on my pillow beside my head. I let it stay.

The kitten, which I don’t name because I’m not keeping it, follows me everywhere. It wants to be as close to my face as possible at all times, furiously head butting, bunting against me, even climbing up my pant legs to get into my arms. And it never stops purring.

The second night the kitten gets sick. It knows to use the litter box in the bathroom attached to my bedroom, and it has diarrhea. I find streaks of blood and mucous in the box. Again, the kitten wants to sleep by my head, but in the middle of the night it wakes and cries out, a moan I can tell is from pain. She has stopped purring. The kitten vomits and cannot control her bowels. All night long I hold the limp kitten close to me. I try to get her to lick ice cubes so she isn’t dehydrated.

“It’s ok kitty. It’s going to be ok.”

Her breathing is ragged, yet she manages to tick out a few beats of a weak purr.

In the morning I take the kitten to the vet, where she stays for two days. They put her on an IV, deworm her and give her antibiotics after I authorize treatment.

“Ma’am, you realize this kitten is a stray. She’s very ill and since you say she’s not your cat, we could save you a lot of money if we euthanize her. You do know you are financially responsible for her medical bills if we treat her, right?” the vet tells me.

“I don’t care what it costs. Just make her better.”


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sister "Hood"

I was coming down with a stomach flu the night Chastity called me to tell me I was going to be an aunt. I wasn't really in the mood to hear something like that, because as we all know, I don't take anything regarding reproduction and potentially screwing up other human beings' lives lightly.

"Who is the father?" I demanded.

I felt so nauseated.

"I don't know. Exactly. I mean, it's one of two guys. We had a threesome. One of the guys is bi. The other is my kind of like boyfriend or whatever and he doesn't want it. I told him and he took off and disappeared. The other guy -"

"The bi one?"

"Yeah. He said he would raise the baby as his, even though he thinks it's probably the other guy's."

"Is this a healthy way to raise a child?"

"Well, no of course not, but I want a baby."

"Do you think a baby would want you? How will you take care of it?"

"I don't know. I don't have any skills, I know. I could be a nanny and bring it with me or something."

"That's not realistic. What about adoption?"

"No way. I'm not carrying a baby just to give it to someone else. I want a family."

"So take your time, get your life in order and EARN a family. Find a nice guy, get married, make sure you can support yourselves and THEN have a family."

"I know. Should I get an abortion?"

Well yes, probably, but suddenly I just couldn't tell her to get an abortion. I couldn't do it. It was so weird. You think you believe one thing in theory but then when you're confronted with it and it's smacking you across the face, you might be surprised how you actually feel. That's what happened to me. I thought I wasn't affected by the Baptist brainwashing, but the only thing that came in my head was "Oh crap, if I tell this girl to get an abortion I am going to Hell." And it was a strong, shocking feeling to think that and to realize that fear still had a very strong grip on me and I hadn't even realized it.

Then I threw up until well into the next morning.

Chastity called me a couple days later.

"I need help. I think I want to have an abortion."

"Look, this has to be your decision alone. I will not tell you if you should or should not have an abortion. You got yourself pregnant. If you are grown enough to do that then you are grown enough to figure it out."

"Well fine. I'm getting an abortion."

"Well that is your choice and your choice is none of my business but I support you."

The next call I got, and you all have seen this coming, but I didn't, Chastity asked me for money to pay for the abortion.

"I'm so sorry, but I can't help you with that right now. I'm not financially in a position where I can do that because I'm in grad school."

"Then I'm going to have to wait and get a late term abortion then."

"I think you'll work it out."

A couple weeks pass and she calls me again to tell me that her life was in a bigger mess. Somehow miraculously, she'd raised the money, but her sister Charity had gone and told Ronald that Chastity was pregnant and he'd staged an intervention with people from the church to try to convince her to keep the baby and not murder his grandchild. She claims she told them all to shove it and went and had the abortion to spite them.

Here is where I started to call Bull. Shit.

I have an advanced technology BS detector. I'm like the freaking spy satellite that can spot a flea on a dog from outer space of bullshit detection. I should be a CIA interrogator.

I can't explain how I do it. It seems psychic, but it isn't. My theory on my superhuman bullshit detection is that I have just seen so damn much of it in my life that all of the subtle, tiny, nearly undetectable clues that people give off when they are engaging in some serious bullshitting have become imprinted on my subconscious, so now when I see them, something in me recognizes them and sends an alarm signal, which registers in me physically as an obvious "gut feeling." Or I'm psychic. Whatever.

I believe that Chastity had been telling me some truths about her background. I know because I experienced a lot of it and because other relatives had confirmed it. But some of it was bullshit.

I don't think she was a hooker. I don't think she was pregnant and I don't think was engaging in half the nonsense she said. The problem was that there was no one I could confirm her stories with because I didn't know anyone in that family.

I decide to keep Chastity at arm's length. I don't tell her when I visit and I relegate her to only the occasional phone conversation, email or Facebook chat now and then.

A year later she tells me she has her life in order. She's a nanny and she has a steady, hardworking boyfriend and they've moved in together.

The next call she's decided to rob the family she works for. The family went on vacation. She knew the alarm code. They didn't pay her enough, blah blah. She and the boyfriend break in and steal a bunch of jewelry and TVs and take it home. Once they get home, they feel guilty and keep all the stuff. She described a scene where the family came home and called her because she was such a comfort to them in times of crisis. She said she felt guiltier so she decided to go in the middle of the night and put all the stuff back in their yard so they'd find it in the morning.

BS detector going off again.

Allegedly this happens but it's not over because even though they have the stuff back, the case is still ongoing and they're closing in on her.

"What do I do?"

"Confess and turn yourself in."

Well, what else was I going to say?

The next phone call she tells me that she called the cops and told them and they said she and her boyfriend had to turn themselves in.

"So I was calling you because they're going to lock me up and I'll have to get bailed out and I was wondering if you could help me out with that."

"I'm really sorry again, but I am not in a position to do that."

"I really need your help."

"I didn't help you steal your employer's valuables, so I'm not helping bail you out."

"Dad will kill me."

"He already isn't speaking to you because you had an abortion and you know what, I'd kill you too if I were him."

I never thought I'd agree with Ronald on anything, but I had his back on this one.

I saw her at Pop's funeral and I held on to my purse. She had a friend drive her and she breezed in for the viewing and left immediately after the service and didn't come to the cemetery. I was really shocked at how she looked. Chastity is gorgeous. She's a blue eyed blonde, with Texas curls and a full figure. She's a bigger girl, but she looks more South Florida than North East. She looked like a hooker honestly.

I met Charity that day. Charity almost gave me a heart attack. She is the spitting image of Louise when Louise was young. I have never seen a child look so identical to her mother. It was disturbing how much Charity looks like Louise. But Charity seemed half normal. She was there with her boyfriend who was very normal and Charity was polite, though a little aloof. She added me on Facebook later, but we've never really talked and she didn't invite me to her wedding this past summer. I didn't expect her to. Apparently Chastity wanted her to and Charity told her that Ronald would hit the roof so she wanted to avoid drama. I get that. I didn't want to go anyway.

I went to Millpond in August and I went to Philadelphia to see Bella while I was there. Somehow I also ended up in New Jersey, but that's unrelated. Chastity got wind of my trip and wanted to get together. We were about an hour to an hour and a half away from each other and I told her I would meet her at a mall halfway because I needed a dress for my upcoming grand adventure to New Jersey. I get almost there when she calls to tell me that she can't make it because she had to get gas, tripped at the gas station and severely sprained her ankle. The BS detector went off again. The girl is just a mess. That was the last time I heard from her except for the occasional Facebook thumbs up. I sent her a Christmas card.

Last week she texted me that she was getting engaged but wasn't yet and not to tell anyone. I ignored it.

Last Saturday she texted me that now she was engaged and to call her. She ended up calling me and she told me that she was getting married in March and that she wanted me to be there so get my plane ticket. Coincidentally her marriage just so happens to be my Spring Break. I asked her how she was getting married so quickly and she gave me some cockamamie answer and I didn't promise to go.

For some reason, this dang BS detector will not stop sounding. What is it? Is it another set up for a big con? She's about due, since she asks me for money about once a year. You have to give her credit for both creativity and persistence and I haven't fallen for it yet.

It's gotten so bad that Bella (my cousin and best friend remember) and I just laugh over her tales.

This is what Bella and I concluded:

If Chastity is telling the truth, she is really, really messed up. If Chastity is lying, she is still equally messed up, just in a different way.

I also know she asked Mommom Jewell for money last year too and didn't get any, although Mommom doesn't know any of this stuff and honestly believes that Chastity is a good church girl still. Once Mommom told me that I was probably a little too wild for Chastity because even though I don't drink, I still do play cards. Yes people, you know my secret now. I play me some cards. I am a card player. Cards. Satan's paper rectangles. Jeez, my damned family never ceases to amaze me. Where did my grandmother come up with that one?

My husband thinks we should go to the wedding, because at least because it will be interesting. I think he has a hankering to go back to New Jersey or something.

"You can write about it," he says.

Like I don't have enough material.

Now excuse me while I go buck wild and play some cards. Uno cards no less.
A commenter hit the nail on the head when they said that Louise was obsessed with controlling her children. She wanted robot zombie kids to perform on command and make her look good. She had nothing about herself that she could feel confident about, except religion, so she sought to correct every apparent wrong in her own life, by trying to create some kind of maniacally perfect brood of children. She wanted compliments. She wanted people to think she was the perfect mother who had raised the perfect children - children others awed. She just didn't have the skills to manage a home, all the lessons, the homeschooling, breastfeeding, wacky diet fads, church, missionary work or five children. She couldn't do it and then she got mad and took it out on the children. All of it was in the name of God. Apparently, everyone in her church thought she was a saint of a woman. You should have read the things people wrote about her after her death. Maybe they were just being polite, but Chastity said all the people in that church were just as insane as Louise. Churches like that always draw fanatics, obsessives and the mentally ill.

Another commenter sent me over to No Longer Quivering. I am addicted. Addicted. And I haven't even mentioned my obsession with Quiverfulls. For those who don't know, it's a fundamentalist movement (cult-like in nature) of people who swear off birth control. Think of the Duggars who have a show about their ,now, 19 children. Quiverfulls are absolute freaks. Do you remember my old neighbor Merle from Atlanta who sent me the fetus Christmas letter last year? I guess he's a Quiverfuller now too. My Christmas card this year was a felt quiver with a photo of all the kids stuffed in it like arrows. It said "Thanking the Lord for Blessing Us With Another Arrow for Our Godly Quiver." They just had their sixth child. Freaks. Quiverfullers are wack jobs beyond my comprehension, which is why I'm obsessed with them. I love stuff about cults and fringe movements and unlike my deceased stepmother, I don't join them. I just like to read about them. It's just amazing the nonsense that people will believe. Scientology, for example, which is another one of my fascinations. I loved reading No Longer Quivering and a lot just really rang true. One story mentioned a mother being closed in a "prayer closet." Louise did this to me regularly as a child and I had no idea that it was a "thing" these people did. I really thought I was alone in this. I couldn't believe when I read that. To clarify, Louise and Ronald were not Quiverfulls. I know this because she bragged her youngest was born after Ronald's vasectomy and was a miracle child. If she were Quiverfull there wouldn't have been a vasectomy. I think the only reason she wasn't one though was because no one had heard of it until a couple years ago. Trust me, if she were still alive and of childbearing age now, she'd probably be one. She'd probably have a blog, run a forum and the whole shebang. But while they weren't Quiverfulls, they shared many of the same beliefs. Same stupid mess.

Another blog that I am obsessed with, due to this freakishness, is Under $1000 a Month. The author is very young and already has three children. The whole premise of the blog is that she and her husband, a pastor in training, live in poverty and make things work. Sounds good right? She's a hard worker, that's for sure. She has some ok ideas here and there, but oh my word, she is so much like a young Louise. She reminds me so much of her. I think I read this blog because it's like I get a peek into the mind of Louise in a way and I could never get into the real Louise's mind. She died before I could ever get the answers or the understanding I needed. What makes someone like that? I just don't get it. The girl who writes this blog is definitely fanatical, has some very radical ideas, is extremely naive and idealistic and is also very stubborn. All like Louise (she seems to not be lazy like Louise though). Often commenters will offer very valid safety concerns and she seems to not like that very much. This girl's family lives very similarly to how Ronald and Louise lived, with kids sleeping on floors, a lot of clutter and junk lying around and what seems to me like a contradictory blend of both extreme control over the children and also a sort of neglect. Now I'd like to add that I make a habit of not criticizing other bloggers. I'm not a blog troll and I don't really care what choices other people make about their lives. I make my choices and they make theirs. I'm telling you about this blog because it gives me so much insight into someone who influenced my life in a very dramatic way. I would also like to add that I know Louise and Ronald beat and harmed their children. There is no evidence that this blogger and her husband beat their children. She doesn't talk about discipline methods and I don't want to know about them. Let's hope she doesn't.

Those of you who said I was lucky to escape are so right.

But we need to get back to Chastity's story.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sister Act - Part 3

This is probably not going to be very long because today is my longest work day. I wanted to give you some more of the story though.

I have never been a religious person. Ronald and Louise turned me off to it young. Moving to New York and not being accepted by my new father's religious Jewish family (at first, it's fine now, they love me) sealed the deal. Throughout my life, religion has caused nothing but suffering. I believe in God, just not theirs. I'll occasionally go to church with my grandmother in Millpond, but it's to make her happy and also because she goes to the most liberal church there is, without realizing it. I mean, the pastor is gay for heaven's sakes. Please don't tell Mommom Jewell that though. Her heart is weak. I choose not to go to church because it gives me panic attacks and there have been many times in my life when my faith has definitely faltered, and when I really questioned the existence of anything beyond there here and now.

But when Louise and Ronald's oldest daughter told me that she was a hooker, well, at that moment I realized that yes, There Is A God. And he has the sense of humor I always suspected. There really is divine justice. It exists. Hallelujah. I was practically praising the Lord like a Baptist.

Because, according to Louise, wasn't I the one who was supposed to grow up to be a whore and a failure and a number of other terrible things? Yet, here was her own flesh and blood, whom Louise herself had told me point blank was going to be my replacement and who would be a perfect child, selling herself.

Divine Justice and irony did not erase the fact that I now had a hurting, young girl on my hands though. Chastity lived far away and the only thing I could give her was a few hours on the phone, but I gave her that. I let her tell me her story.

One of her biggest challenges in life was a total lack of education. Lazy Louise liked the idea of homeschooling a lot more than actually putting the work and effort into it. She loved telling people her kids were homeschooled and then criticizing all other methods of education. She had a whole schpiel that went along with her breastfeeding one. So what had actually happened was that Louise kept her kids home and really wasn't able to keep up with the demands of educating all five of them. She dropped the ball. At first she was all gung ho, but she didn't have the follow through again and so all of her children learned very basic reading, writing and math and a whole lot of Jesus and not much else. Their skills were really behind and she couldn't admit defeat and send them even to a church school. Mostly, the older kids spent time on the Internet each day and Louise called this "school." Then the older kids would kind of help the younger kids, but no one cared and nothing much got done. The older kids just kind of stopped doing anything and never got their high school degrees. All these supposed future prodigies and doctors and whatnot that they were supposed to be were nothing but a bunch of dropouts. Towards the end, Louise told the girls that it didn't matter because women should just marry and have babies anyway. She claimed she had realized that she had been wrong and that women shouldn't be educated in anything except taking care of a home. 


I'd been talking to Chastity for about two months when she called me one night in tears.

"I have a serious problem," she sniffled.

"What on earth? What happened?"

"I'm pregnant."
Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Sister Act - Part 2

This is a hard story for me to write. I can't articulate why, but it is. It just brings up a lot of my worst issues I guess. So I just ask you to be patient with me as I tell it and to be forgiving in your opinions of me when you read it. There's a lot of crap that I have to work through. I may have grown up to be a responsible, fairly normal, healthily functioning member of society, but really I did not come through my childhood unscathed. I am aware of my faults though, and I always try my best to work on them.

So I gave Chastity my number and she called.

I imagined Chastity as a scrubbed clean, virginal, innocent girl. I knew she'd be horribly sheltered, to the point of not being allowed to dance or listen to music that wasn't religious. She had to wear long dresses and from what I'd heard, she even went to a famous Fundamentalist college for a semester. When she called me, I tried to be respectful of her background. I spoke carefully and didn't cuss or act ingracious. In fact, I told her how very sorry I was about her mother. I tried to drum up a good memory of her mother. I didn't have any, so I talked about a moment that wasn't as bad as some of the others. I complimented Louise - a woman I despised. I did this out of kindness for a young girl (she was 21 or 22 I think maybe) who had lost her mother.

"I'm so sorry you had to lose your mother so young," I said.

Chastity laughed.

Wait, huh? She laughed?? Yes.

"I'm not," Chastity said coldly.

"Whuhhh?" I said.

"I'm glad my mother died and so is Charity. She took forever. We thought she'd die months ago and she just kept hanging on and on and on and on. We actually had to leave the house. Hospice said she'd die if no one was there. Thankfully it worked."

"You mean so she wouldn't have to suffer anymore?"

"No," Chastity said, "So WE wouldn't have to suffer anymore."

Huh? No. She. Did. Not. Just. Say. That.

I was stunned into silence.

"Well," I finally mustered, "Taking care of someone that ill can be really exhausting and sometimes it's a relief when they go and it's ok to feel that way. It's part of the grieving process."

"I don't think you're getting it. How long did you live with my mother?"

"2 years."

"Ok. WE had to live with her for over twenty."

Wow. Ok.

Chastity explained to me that before Louise's diagnosis, that she had been thrown out of the house and went to live with friends in the city. When her mother was in hospice, she returned to take care of her youngest brother and sister who were about 10 and 13. She wasn't there for her mother. She was there because she worried about her littlest siblings. Charity had also moved out on her own and the oldest brother Peter still lived at home. It sounds like Peter might have Aspergers. He was 18 at the time, but severely nerdy, with bad social anxiety. He was obsessed with Disney movies and scripture and wanted to be an engineer and a missionary. He didn't like other people and was not really emotionally or intellectually available to really be much help in taking care of a chaotic household. Chastity explained that she and Charity, who did not get along, rejected their upbringing, but the three youngest siblings were totally brainwashed.

"I'm not a bullshitter," Chastity said, "But my sister Charity is. She's manipulative and she's an ass kisser to all the church people and to Mom and Dad, so they think she's Miss Innocent. I don't play that game. I'm honest about who I am and what I believe and I think their church is a cult. I have so much to tell you."

She sighed.

Not what I expected to hear. In a good way. Kind of.

We talked a lot, having several hour long conversations, in which she detailed what her life had been like and it hadn't been pleasant. She confirmed many things that everyone in the family had suspected.

Louise and my father abused all of their children.

I thought it was me. I thought it was because I wasn't good enough, because I was spoiled and lacked talents. I thought with their own kids, everything was going to be so perfect. But it hadn't been me and it wasn't my five half siblings either. It had been Louise and my father all along. His name is Ronald by the way. We'll call him that from now on, because this man is no father of mine. These people were sick, control freaks.

Louise had a lot of dirty secrets. For one, she was literally dirty. She kept her home filthy. Miss Perfect homemaker was a slob and a hoarder, and part of the reason they were so isolated is so that Louise could hide her secret problem. My grandmother, who had been to their house briefly a couple times, had mentioned this, so I know Chastity was not lying. I also remember Louise being a pig from when I lived with her, but over the years the junk had accumulated.

Louise was lazy and Ronald was whipped. He submitted to all of her crazy ideas. She was the boss in that house. Louise had another problem wherein she'd always get crazy, radical ideas about the life she wanted to live. She wanted to live on $40.00 a week for groceries. Then she wanted them to go raw vegan. She became fanatical about La Leche and wanted to be a breast feeding activist. Then she became obsessed with some kind of homeschooling group and some way of teaching little children languages and musical instruments. She seemed to always take everything to the highest extreme. Fringe groups appealed to her. Of course, nothing appealed to her like her church, which validated all of her zealotry, extremism, paranoia about mainstream anything, and her bigotry. It told her that isolating her children was good. Beating her children and disowning her relatives was desirable. She was a good woman. Except for the church, Louise had very little follow-through. She would become quickly obsessed with new ideas, but couldn't see them through and the ones she did see to completion were deeply unhealthy. All of her children her malnourished.

I am going to get crap for this one. I am prepared. Just spare me though because you are seriously wasting your time.

Louise breastfed her children until they were five. Sometimes she breastfed two at once. I know people say that this cuts cancer risk, but I've often wondered if this had anything to do with her cancer. I don't believe that Louise breastfed her children until they were five because she sincerely felt it was good for them. I think it gave her a sick thrill and that a lot of the sick thrill she got was from shocking people. She just dared someone to say something to her about it and when they did, she'd launch into her whole speech about third world countries and blah blah blah smug. Louise was superior to people who didn't or couldn't breastfeed or to those who chose to do it for a normal amount of time. Breastfeeding your kids that long is nuts and I don't care what anyone says. Breastfeeding is one of the best and healthiest things you can do for a child and for yourself. Mothers should at least try it and you know what, if it doesn't work out, so what. Plenty of children have grown up fine without it and plenty of kids who were breastfed (and at length) have grown up to be nutcases as you are about to see. Here is my argument to the Louises out there: Have you ever had a pet that had babies? Like a cat or a dog? They nurse their young until they get their baby teeth and then they wean them. These are animals acting on instinct. They are doing what's natural. Once the babies have enough teeth to eat food, they should transition into doing so. Human babies get teeth at different rates and ages. When a child has enough teeth to eat a full meal, that's a good clue that maybe it doesn't need the breast anymore. Isn't THAT what nature intended? If not, why would babies grow teeth so early? Wouldn't they be getting teeth at five? No. That's when a lot of kids start losing the baby teeth and getting adult teeth. So there Louise. I wish I could have told you that when you were alive. And you know what else? Any child would be healthier raised on formula and not beaten, than a child nursed five years and whipped with a belt.

OK, now that that's off my chest...

Chastity had a lot to tell me. I had no idea how horrible her life had been. I had wondered over the years. I thought of those siblings often. I wobbled between thinking they had the perfect life and everything was great to what I really knew - that they were abused and miserable. It kills me.

Chastity explained that she and Ronald were not speaking. He had disowned her and if this story is true, this is horrible.

She told me that Ronald told her that when he got the life insurance check from Louise's death that he would give her $20,000 of it as a reward for her sacrifice. For over a year she took care of her siblings and mother and cooked and cleaned the house, getting rid of a lot of the clutter her mother hoarded. According to Chastity, after Louise died, he went back on his word and told her he didn't want to give her the money.

"I was going to use it to get my own apartment and to get a car so that I could get my life in order," she said.

She currently lived in an apartment with several other people.

"I made some cash from selling Mom's morphine and oxys," she said, "But Charity stole most of it."

HUH??????

"You sold your mom's cancer drugs?"

"After she was dead."

Silence.

"Hey," she said, "What's the craziest thing you've ever done."

Umm. Give you my phone number apparently.

I told her I hated to disappoint but I wasn't very wild and then she told me how she needed to get some more things off her chest.

"I should have told you sooner, but I have sex with men for money."

"You're a hooker??"

"Not on the street corner, on the Internet. It's totally different. But that's why I was having problems with Mom and Dad back when Mom first got diagnosed."

"You told them you were a hook-, um, escort or whatever?"

"Yes. I told you, I'm honest. And I'm experimenting with life."

Chastity had a weird candor about her and an unusual self awareness that I didn't expect.

"I was sheltered so much that I exploded. I am learning everything now. They never taught me boundaries as a child, so I'm pushing them now to find out."

"Maybe that's not the best idea."

"I want to do everything. I dance. I've had sex with women. I've had sex with two men at once. I drink. I do drugs. I want to do it all."

And she said it with such conviction and awareness, like she believed it, like she thought all of this was a grand adventure with no real, adult consequences. I didn't hear that. All I heard through her bravado, was a broken, lost child whose parents had destroyed her. My heart just deflated.

I could love her, I thought. I could show her what love and kindness and acceptance were. I could be the role model she needed to guide her through this mess she had lived and I could show her that a healthy, happy life was possible in spite of it. I wanted more than anything in the world to be Chastity's big sister and she seemed to need me.

And you haven't heard the half of it....

Monday, February 08, 2010

Sister Sister

My sister is getting married.

Wait, you're thinking, her sister already got married. Back in December, right? What happened? Are they part of some bigamist cult? I mean, they do live in Florida after all and that kind of crap is common down there isn't it?

No. My other sister is getting married. And my other other sister got married last July, making a total of three sisters (out of four total, not including me which would make five) getting married in one year.

What in the hell is she talking about, you wonder. She just has one sister. The one who managed not to murder any of the patrons at the Cajun bar where she was forced to work a double on the Super Bowl Sunday when the Saints won.

Umm. No. I have a total of four sisters actually. I just don't really know three of them and I've hesitated to write about them because I was generally just sort of freaked out about their very existence and I didn't know them anyway. But now, I'm just putting it all out there. I'm going to be Mrs. Oversharington here and let you all enjoy the neverending, hyperbolic drama from every possible direction that is my life.

The sister you know is the one I grew up since I was eleven and she was three. She isn't even my sister at all. She's my mother's half sister, my half aunt but we were raised like sisters. She's my grandfather's daughter from his marriage after my grandmother. That marriage didn't work and she and my grandfather lived with us on and off for several years. When my grandfather died, my sister came to live with us permanently. We aren't blood sisters, but we have the relationship of sisters and calling each other sisters is far easier than going through a paragraph long explanation of our actual relationship, that no one can quite grasp anyway.

On my biological father's side, I have five siblings: three sisters and two brothers. I don't know them. These are the children he had with my stepmother Louise and all were born after my mother had finally gotten custody of me after many long years of trying. I moved away from Millpond to New York at the end of sixth grade. I moved in June and their first daughter was born in July, so I only got to see her as a massive, veiny swell under my stepmother's hideously frumpy maternity jumpers.

My stepmother Louise was a cruel, selfish woman. She was a zealot, smug, self righteous and judgmental, though utterly lacking in good judgment. She was vicious and manipulative and I believe, especially now that she's dead and I've learned a lot more about her, mentally ill, though I couldn't really put my finger on any definite diagnosis, unless plain hateful is somewhere in the DSM.

Louise was young when she married my father. She was a middle school teacher at my school and had, what I now realize, is a very idealistic (and unrealistic) expectation of what her life was going to be like. She wanted to marry, have as many children as possible and stay home to take care of them. Then, all of them would grow up to be violin concertos, missionaries and PhDs. The girls would never wear pants or cut their hair. The boys would be doctors or pastors or even both. The children would all speak several languages. She'd homeschool them all. These children would be disciplined within and inch of their lives. They'd be prodigies with impeccable manners and multiple talents. Everything would be perfect and there would be no deviation from her plan.

The biggest problem was me. She chose to marry a man knowing he had been married once, for a short time, when he was very young and that marriage had produced a daughter, whom he had custody of. To her, this was unacceptable and it didn't mesh with her plan. I've always wondered why she went ahead and married him. Maybe she really loved him, but I have a hard time believing she was capable of love. I think she didn't have a lot of options. Louise was ugly. She was an unkempt girl with snarly hair, very bad skin and her outfits were always thrown together and full of wrinkles and cat hair. Nothing matched and she always smelled like moth balls. She had squinty eyes and a mouth that looked like it was drawn with a very sharp pencil. Besides being unattractive, she just wasn't pleasant to be around because she was always making arrogant religious statements and telling everyone they were going to hell. This is not a way to make friends. Most men would not want to marry a religious fanatic who'd been beat by the ugly stick. Except my father, who was just as mean and smug and ugly as she was. I honestly think these two were soul mates. No more perfect match could have ever been made. They were exactly alike.

But he had a kid and that didn't mesh with her perfect plan, and besides that I was already nine when they married so that meant I had passed the age of being able to learn languages and musical instruments. You have to start kids in infancy apparently. I was no prodigy at anything. I had no discernible talents and all that scribbling I did in notebooks I called journals was a waste of time and probably sinful. Louise had to get rid of me. She had to make me so miserable that I would want to go live with my mother in another state. It had to be MY choice so she could play the victim. She couldn't be seen as a woman who got rid of her husband's child. Her plan worked and just in time for her to have a new baby. Unfortunately, the part of the plan that didn't work was the part where she looked like the victim. No one bought her crap and the entire town of Millpond despised her and gossiped about her. A few months after I moved, she convinced my father to move far away and start a new life in a distant, northern state. Once there, they got caught up in a cult-like church, which conveniently for her, encouraged its members to give up their worldly, non-believing families and become a part of the church family instead. They had very, little contact with my aunts and uncles and grandparents after the move and zero contact with me.

Conveniently, they were in a new place where no one knew their pasts. To all involved, they were a young, newlywed couple just starting out and having their first child. I did not exist. No one knew about me. Louise had done it. She had her idealistic, unrealistic plan in place. She had five children. I never met any of them. I knew about them from other relatives telling me they were born.

At my wedding in 2005, my aunts told me Louise had been diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer. It's the most aggressive form of breast cancer. It usually had a bad prognosis. There was little hope for Louise because she had grown massively obese, was sedentary, had poor nutrition and tested positive for a breast cancer gene that had already killed several female family members. Everyone present at my wedding said that Louise deserved her fate, except me. I felt sad for her.

Suffering from the condition of unrealistic idealism myself, I decided to write her a letter and try to make things right with her before she died, to tie up some karmic loose ends so she could pass from this earth without unfinished business with me. I wanted to forgive her. I wanted to show her what a good loving person, what a successful person I had turned out to be in spite of the fact that I dropped out of high school, had premarital sex and couldn't play a note on a violin. I imagined some scene out of Anne of Green Gables where she'd weep and beg my forgiveness and sob about how wrong she'd been to me. In my letter, I was positive and hopeful, but I also didn't mince words. I told her she'd hurt me and that what she'd done was wrong, though I said I was willing to move past that now. I just knew that now that she had cancer and was facing certain death that she'd soften and change.

I am a complete, flipping idiot.

Louise was always a bitch and now she was just a bitch with cancer.

She wrote me back. She did. I'll give her that, but all I got was a terse "I'm sorry you still think after all these years that I hurt you." That is not an apology. Then she just basically proceeded to brag about how great her five kids were and all the things they could do. After that she asked me if I went to church and then sent me a bunch of tracts about getting saved and Armageddon.

Louise knew she was going to die and she started a blog about her cancer. Now if I were dying, I'd write something for my kids to remember me by. I'd write about them, and all the things I loved. I'd give them advice for their lives for the times I wouldn't be there. I'd write about how much I loved them. I'd write memories and moments and capture the best parts of my life. Did Louise do that? No. She essentially did nothing except complain about her treatments (and I cut her slack on that because I get how bad it is), and ask for people to pray for her and bring her things. She'd put lists of things she wanted so people would get them for her. She rarely mentioned her children. I don't know if maybe I'm just pissed and biased. I tried to be sensitive about this blog, but it just seemed so self centered, so all about her suffering and nothing positive and nothing to really remember her fondly by.

Towards the end, she mentioned that they needed money. Their car had died and the oldest daughter Chastity had quit her job to take care of her mother in hospice. She had no money to get by after making this huge sacrifice. She asked people to pray for money for them.

What did I do? I sent their asses $300. I had apparently lost my mind. Lost it. It was crazy, like I still wanted these horrible people's approval. That's the only reason I did it. I admit that. It wasn't altruistic at all. I sent them that money because I wanted them to see that I had it and that I could be the bigger, kinder, more generous person in spite of everything they'd done to me - that I was the truly good one no matter what they said and that they were wrong wrong wrong about me.

This is so stupid. I knew better deep down, but I did it anyway.

A week letter I received a thank you note in the mail from Chastity, the oldest daughter, profusely thanking me and mentioning Jesus a few times.

That was it. Then Louise died. Then, although I was in California and couldn't have come anyway, my father made sure that he got the message to me that I was not welcome at Louise's funeral under any circumstances. I don't know why he thought I'd come. Asshole.

Louise died at Christmas. In January I get an email from Chastity, the oldest daughter. There are three daughters - Chastity, Charity and Mercy. In her email Chastity said she wrote her mother's obituary and that it had originally included me as a survivor of the deceased. Survivor. That's the perfect way to describe it. I had definitely survived Louise. I survived her like a natural disaster. My father had thrown such a fit that she had to remove it.

"Your mother would never have wanted that," he said to Chastity.

She wrote to me that there was a lot I didn't know and that she always wanted to know about me and who I was. She had found a hidden stash of pictures of me from my childhood in their attic. She said she always knew she had a sister far away, but was threatened never to mention it. Now that her mother was dead and Chastity was an adult, she said she wanted a real relationship with me.

"I've always wanted a big sister and now I need one. This is a really hard time in my life. Can I have your phone number? I just want someone to talk to."

How could I not fall for that line? How?

I fell, and hard. I landed face first on asphalt from it. I gave her my number and proceeded to open up a Pandora's box of drama that now, two years later, hasn't ended.

To be continued...

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