My world exploded when an old friend sent me a funny story because she thought I could use a laugh after I’ve been through so much pain on this verbal vomiting journal web site. She was right. We talked about everything from old inside jokes to the government’s surveillance program through the cunning use of microwave popcorn. If there’s anything I could use right now, it’s laughter.

Yesterday I found out that my stepmother is having heart problems, another thing to add to the pile that the universe seems to be dumping on my family. I don’t actually believe that the universe cares one way or another, but it seems to be the best explanation for all these random very bad things happening at once. I am one step away from “the little baby Jesus doesn’t love me anymore.” Which is, in fact, also a load of crap. Jesus doesn’t cause pain, he relieves the pain already inside you through the meditative nature of prayer…. the Responder and not the Actor. Sometimes bad things happen to good people, many things at once, in fact, and prayer is the only way I can seem to stay calm in the middle of the storm. Well, that and Klonopin…. better living through chemicals.

SinusRhythmLabels.svgThe scariest thing was that my stepmom needed a full cardiac workup, and couldn’t be admitted to the hospital because they didn’t have a bed free. She’s in good hands, though, because my dad has a handheld EKG monitor where he can read the pqrst strips at home. All of this is hard to sit and watch from my perch in DC, but we all keep each other well-informed. For now, that is enough. Someone will tell me when it’s time to worry, and perhaps take a road trip so I don’t have to rent a car once I’m on the ground. I’d rather have my own car than something unfamiliar, because I hate change during stressful situations. Most of my friends have moved away from Houston, because they think that they’re too young for their parents to have deep health issues until they’re old, and thus, need to move back in order to help take care of them. I have been in the same boat. My parents are only in their early to mid-60s because my mother had Lindsay and me when she was fairly young. The fear of being far away wasn’t supposed to pop up for what I viewed as years.

As Texas gets more and more oppressive toward the GLBT community, I can’t imagine moving back at this time. Getting out of the Bible Belt has been a blessing every single time. No one is stopping me from using any restroom I want, because even though I’m not trans, sometimes people look at me as if I could be. In my world, clothes have no gender, but not in theirs. Plus, I haven’t had my boobs removed in order to make my clothes hang right to actually look like a man, so you’d think that would be a tip-off…. reminding me of an old girlfriend who told me the first time we made love, ohhhhhhh…. you got the boobs I always wanted. In short, they’re hard to miss, and yet people do it all the time based on the way I dress.

Case in point, though I’ve mentioned this before…. walking around a theme park in Florida and getting weird looks as I went into the women’s room, because as the other women came out of the stalls, you could see the looks on their faces as they tried to decide whether to say something or not, if I’d obviously just walked into the wrong room.

One of these days, some asshat will come after a female soldier,  who will tell them that there are people who choose to die to protect their right to make their dumbass comments. If there is justice in the world, I’ll be there to witness it. The female soldiers and policewomen I know, whether gay or straight, choose to wear their hair close cropped as not to be grabbed by the hair in the heat of conflict because long hair makes an excellent dragging device….. a totally valid reason why even straight women should be afraid of the ridiculous backlash of bathroom bills being instituted across the nation. Unless said straight woman is wearing a dress, they’re just as vulnerable as I am, mislabeled in order to make a shortcut to acting punitive and vindictive.

In the South, the bullshit is piled so high that I feel nervous even going there, and even though Maryland is under the Mason-Dixon line, it doesn’t act like it. Virginia is a different story, because it is where the Deep South begins as you go further and further away from the DC area. It reminds me a lot of Oregon, where Portland and Eugene are fine, but outside of that crunchy granola area, you are dealing with the same redneck problems with which they seem to have great pride. In both Portland and NoVA, they tend to act as if the rest of the state doesn’t exist, which is probably a sanity necessity. I’m sure that in some ways, Maryland is the same out in the sticks, but it’s so small that the DC area overrides conservative voters all the time. In Oregon and Virginia, there are just too many people in conservative areas that override the rest of the state, which is why living in the DC area but having Richmond control the laws there makes it anger and outrage-inducing to live in places like Arlington and Alexandria.

I imagine it is the same living in Austin, as the extreme left watches their rights come apart at the seams a few miles from their houses. I am sure it is the same in The District, because even though it is incredibly blue, having the GOP in full power in their backyard, the Congressman that actually are supposed to look after them fail them mercilessly. Eleanor Holmes Norton is trying hard to push for DC statehood, but is not having an easy time of it. When she tried to hold a rally at the DNC, only 60 people showed up. At the RNC, there was a grand total of one.

The reason the GOP fails The District so hard is that they couldn’t care less about what the people want, because they have no true representation. It’s so difficult to get deep blue ideas across to a red Congress. The mayor, Muriel Bowser, has made some strides by implementing District laws rather than federal, but it is just not the same, and as it has been proven over and over, separate but equal isn’t.

As for me personally, living in Maryland was the right choice, but I live in an unincorporated city governed by the county…. neither bad nor good, it just is. Local politics are broadened to an enormous degree, inversely proportional to living in the city of Alexandria, the side that’s not governed by Fairfax County, which is where my last “DC” house was zoned. The one truly weird thing I remember instituted by the city was a 4% “meal tax” levied on top of sales tax…. a modern day Stamp Act, which has never led to rebellion, but stood out to me as a total pain in the ass.

Though DC has its problems, unless disaster strikes, Texas and I are never ever ever getting back together. I can’t believe I just quoted Taylor Swift. What is wrong with me today? I hope my microwave will forgive me….

As a lesbian, I feel there are so many people who don’t know and/or don’t care how hard it is to live in a state that would rather you not exist… or portray homosexuality, bisexuality, and gender dysphoria as mental illnesses that can be “cured.” Worse yet is thinking that it’s a phase one grows out of. I came out in middle school, so this is officially the longest phase ever, as I will be 40 in September.

Living outside of oppression allows my own pqrst waves to remain deep and even, because I don’t have to spend my days worrying about things that don’t matter. I live in a post-gay microcosm, where gays and straights live on the same street with equal rights and no one bats an eye because it’s not a thing and never should have been in the first place.

Homophobia and transphobia are all learned constructs, and for the oppressors, it’s not that they’re scared of us. It’s an excuse for violence, emotionally and physically, because we don’t fit into the strictly enforced gender roles that have been passed down from generation to generation. If people were actually scared, they’d just keep to themselves and go out of their way to avoid us, because that’s what fear embodies. It doesn’t perpetuate the idea that it’s okay to beat someone to death… That’s anger and aggression toward something they don’t understand and are unwilling to learn.

It’s a fight I became unwilling to have, because I could have stayed in Texas and tried to fight the system. Eventually, I realized that it was a losing battle and to just GTFO. It sounds entirely sheepish and selfish, but when so many of my friends are actually scared about the direction their lives may go, I decided not to be one of them.

It just happened to be terrible timing, but there’s no way I could have predicted everything that’s happened over the last few months. If I could’ve, I would have felt too guilty to pack up and leave and swallowed my pride. I love my friends and family there, but the lack of state protections for “my people” often makes me feel like a Texas exile. One of the main reasons Dana and I left Portland was so that Dana could get a teaching degree without having to go to grad school. One of the main reasons we were sad that we left Portland was that we flushed our state domestic partnership rights down the toilet. It was a terrible choice all the way around, because there were pros and cons to each.

Leaving Texas was an equally hard decision, but in the end, I decided that I needed to protect my own heart as easily as I gave myself away to protect others.’

One pqrst at a time.

Whose House?

My sister texted me that she would text me again when she was about an hour from finishing up for the day so we could go to dinner at tsunami, a restaurant we checked out a few weeks ago and wanted to go back. I replied that I was already in Annapolis, doing some sightseeing, and to take all the time she needed. She said to just give her a few minutes and we could go to dinner, but we’d have to go back to the house afterward. I forgot what she does for a living and seriously thought, whose house are we going to? She doesn’t know anyone here but me. Cut to two hours later, when we are sitting in the gallery of the Maryland State House, waiting on her bill to pass on third read, which means that next week, she’ll be back, and I’ll be with her in the gallery of the state Senate. She showed me a copy of the bill, and I asked her who wrote it, pointing to the names of the delegates at the top. She said, no, those are just the sponsors of the bill… I wrote most of it myself.

“My baby,” the one whose diapers I changed and older-sister-tortured all through our childhood wrote a bill that just passed the House? I remember when she thought Washington, DC and Washington were close together and wait,  New Mexico is a state?

Lindsay works for a company that has bills working in several state capitals, but right now, the focus is on Annapolis because session ends April 10th. It’s been great to have her close, and really hard when she leaves. As a writer, all I really want to do is follow her around, because she’s a mover and a shaker, though she would never say that about herself. The circles in which she runs are rarefied air, and the cause she works for is extremely worthy. Because she’s not a local, she has lobbyists in all her capitals that tell her the power players she needs to see to get what she wants, and her lobbyist in Maryland is a former state Senate Majority Leader. Internally, I had so many questions, and outwardly, I could barely do better than not tripping over my own feet.

We had to wait a while in the gallery before her bill came up, and the one currently being debated was whether to lift the sanctuary city title from Baltimore. It angered me to no end, because there was no Venn diagram between immigrants and criminals from the Republicans, as if those two terms were interchangeable. The most moving speech was from a liberal Christian (I’m guessing), who quoted the Bible with every passage about welcoming the stranger. It made me ridiculously happy, because as long as I’ve kept up with politics, the Republicans seem to commandeer the Bible, and he showed that the Religious Left is alive and well.

I needed those moments of happiness, because at dinner my sister pulled one of my mother’s scarves out of her enormous purse and said, it still smells like her closet. She handed it to me so I could smell it, too, and there I was, in the middle of one of the hippest restaurants in town, willing tears not to fall and failing miserably. I stopped myself before I went into full-on ugly cry, and felt lucky that I was wearing my glasses and the lights were low. I put my head close to my ramen bowl, a necessity for using chopsticks and hiding my face, the steam working on my sinuses so my face could go back to normal. It’s moments like these that make it so hard to watch her leave, because who else would be able to move me in such a way?

We both wear jewelry that has my mother’s fingerprint, ordered from the funeral home. Though I’ve had several people tell me it’s kind of creepy (because they focus on how said fingerprint was acquired), I wear an ichthus necklace, and she has her heart necklace wrapped around her wrist like a bracelet. We never take them off.

The icthus originated in the Roman Empire, where the Jews of the new church were persecuted and then prosecuted, often thrown in jail or swiftly executed. They had to have a symbol that meant nothing to the Romans and everything to them. One Jew would put a curve in the ground with their foot, and if the other person was a follower of Jesus, would answer with another curve crossing the first so that it came out looking like a fish (taken from Jesus’ words of fishing for men, I assume).

I prefer it over the cross, because I choose to focus on the way Jesus lived, as opposed to the way he died… the conservative idea of the sticky, sticky blood. As an aside, the worst theology I think I’ve ever heard is a hymn that begins there is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins…. and later, sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains. Though I know it is a fundamental tenant of Catholicism, transubstantiation grosses me out.

So for me, the icthus is not only something I wear around my neck, but have tattooed on my back as well, with the Hebrew letters for YHWH on the inside. Two funny things about that. The first is that I didn’t consider that it was against Talmudic law to a) get a tattoo ii) especially with Hebrew letters. The second is that I always joke that if I ever lose my faith, I can always black out the letters and add feet.

I don’t see that happening, though. Because I live in two houses, God and state. One gives strength to the other. The former gives me the ability to affect change in the latter…. one phone call, one visit, one step forward at a time.


If It’s Not One Thing…

It seems that my family has gotten the short end of the stick lately. My stepfather has gotten cancer again. I can’t remember what kind he had the first time he went through it, but this time it’s in his throat, which is a much scarier proposition. Good vibes are needed all around, because it’s a much tougher battle than last time.

Me (Leslie), Forbes, and Lindsay after my mother’s funeral.

Outcomes could range from chemo and radiation and he’s fine… to completely having his voice box removed. For a singer who was once in Syracuse Opera, I can’t imagine what he must be going through right now. Being a singer myself, I don’t know what I would do if I was in the same situation. Given past bad situations, I imagine that I would be a puddle on the floor of anxiety, so a lot of my prayers go out to him on a daily basis.

Historically, we have not been close, but bonded over the look and feel we all wanted for my mother at her memorial service. For instance, she did not want an open casket funeral complete with “cakewalk,” so we buried her before the service began, with just Forbes, Lindsay and Mathew, James (best friend from high school as support person) and me, and a few family members and close friends. I’d never heard of burying someone before the funeral, and it’s stuck with me because it was so perfect… definitely something to ask the family when I do a funeral. It seemed to make everyone much calmer, because the sad part was “over” and we could just focus on the celebration of her life.

I miss my mother every day, slowly beginning to come out of my shell, but I have not been prepared for setbacks in grief. My grandmother dying has made things worse, but at the same time, due to her Alzheimer’s Disease, I highly doubt she would have recognized me had I gone to say goodbye before her funeral. The last time I was in NE Texas was five years ago, for my aunt Shawn’s wedding, and it was in Longview. I never made it to her house in Lone Star, which might have provided some context. Five years is long in Alzheimer’s time… yet another thing I wish I’d done differently, which is to make time for the trip north.

I’m planning on going with my dad to see my grandfather, which I almost perceive as being better than trying to get out of town in the snow, because just like my mother’s funeral, I was greatly intimidated by the prospect of a room full of people I didn’t know, or hadn’t seen in at least 10 or 15 years…. although still very much recognizable because I stopped growing in 7th grade. As a true introvert, the prospect of just spending time with my dad and grandfather on my own truly appeals to me…. going for “walkies” with Harry “Putter” and sitting in “the new room.” I also can’t wait to go back through all my grandfather has written, because my style is very much inherited.

A Personal Century, Vol. I

His first book concentrated on their family in the early years, and it’s been fun to hear what my father and his siblings were like as children. Apparently, my father was quite the Boy Scout, which surprised Lindsay and me to no end, because when we were kids, we never camped once. Perhaps it was because as a child, he’d had all the camping he could take. We always joked as a family that our idea of “roughing it” was a hotel with no room service.

When my grandfather was younger, he was the Public Relations Manager at Lone Star Steel, making a career of writing and photography. He passed that love of writing to my dad in his sermons, and of course to my blog and my own sermons. I don’t know that I ever read anything my grandfather wrote during his career, but it is clear that writing is genetic, a need rather than a want.

I know for certain that I don’t know how I feel about something until I’ve had time to think about it in “longhand,” the hallmark of a writer. I wish I was better at fiction, because it would allow me so much more license in terms of getting out emotions without characters directly related to the people in my own life… they’d just have to guess rather than seeing their names or the loving terms of endearment I’ve given them over time.

The people in my life that are terms of endearment on this web site include Argo and The ___nator. Argo is a nod to the line I wrote about her years ago, that I sleep deeply in the belly of the ship, where I know my passage is safe. The ___nator comes from wanting to leave out her name, but she’s part Buddha, part tornado, a velvet hammer if ever I’ve met one. If I had to compare her to anything, it’s an M&M…. hard shell with sweetness in the middle.

They’re gone now, but I live for the memories they’ve left me when they run across my mind…………. a grief sometimes deeper than death, because we’ve all agreed to just move on, and they’re just out there with their hilariousness of which I’m not a part. In order to let go, I had to constantly stop thinking about what I could do to make things better, because nothing would. I had to start looking forward to the future, to the people I’d meet, to the places I’d go, and how my experiences of them inform who I am now and want to be.

It has taken an enormous amount of work, and I’m still not finished. But what I do know is that the end is the beginning is the end as I approach getting older and leaving behind things that were not meant for me, which was tending to react with rage because PTSD touches the parts of your brain that render you speechless in the right ways and activate all the wrong ones.

Getting my anxiety under control and taking to my room is what has helped the most, because Dana and I were partying and not pondering, the paralysis of analysis put away for yet another day. Because of this, I was angry with the wrong people, or as the old axiom says, I didn’t say it was your fault. I said I was going to blame you. Taking responsibility for the fact that words sometimes do hurt more than sticks and stones has been the focus of my recovery, because not feeling the physical reactions to anxiety has allowed me to delve deeper into myself than I ever have, because I don’t get panicked as easily, don’t shoot off my mouth when I feel threatened, don’t feel cortisol racing through my body, taking away my ability to put things in perspective…. which would have been a Very Good Thing™ when I was married. In a lot of ways, I feel like I was an amazing wife, and in others, I failed miserably. The same goes for my friends. In some ways, I was awesome. In others, I was a right bastard, a judgmental dickhead that popped off faster than I could calculate consequences, which were immediate and dire. The PTSD excuse only goes so far, as well as being bipolar and anxiety-ridden…. because even though I am all those things, it doesn’t erase responsibility for the damage I caused…. and that responsibility weighs on me like a rock when I agree to pay attention to it. I have to, sometimes, because I have to know whether I’m progressing or not…. just backbreaking emotional work for someone who really needs to do it. It makes my mind tired, as if I’ve been trying to prune kudzu and blackberry vines, which seem to grow as you’re cutting.

In terms of grief, the best way I can wrap it in a box is if it’s not one thing, it’s your mother. I cannot underestimate how much losing my mother has changed me, as if nothing can get worse, so it’s only onward and upward from here. Surely there has to be some merit in remaining calm and collected through it, without the rage of losing the possibly 20 years I could still have had left with her.

I am trying my best to live life without regret by not doing dumb shit I have to regret in the first place. I am also considering yoga, because a trauma specialist on On Being with Krista Tippet said that it’s often hard for PTSD sufferers to get back in their bodies, having cut off their feelings and hidden them so deep there aren’t words, just compounded pain in the muscles from years of fear, anxiety, anger, and the associated triggers. For me, it’s the scent of fall; the air tinged with burning leaves, seeing my old church, hearing music I’ve heard a thousand times in a different light. At Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, it was the handbell tables with their long curtains and hearing the ringing of them. I was so proud of Dana for finding a musical outlet, and suffering on the inside as I watched her play, because in a lot of ways, it was just too much.

Now I watch and wait, praying on the spaces…………….. that these triggers will become less powerful over time and space, trying to concentrate on the people who need me rather than taking to my bedroom in order to avoid coming undone.

And as I pray, I use the words I’ve used since I was 17; may God forgive me for all the things I’ve done, and all the things I’ve left undone. It’s a mantra of enormous proportions, simple words that go through my mind all the time rather than setting aside room for prayer. Instead of believing that there’s only power when I hold space for God, it’s that God flows through me like water, all the time, without thinking and therefore smoothing the jagged edges and eroding the hard places that live within me.

I can only hope that it shows on the outside, rather than just abiding in the thoughts no one can read.

Where the Devils Are Hidden

Kellyanne Conway says that there’s no sense of humor in Washington. Might I remind her of Jack Kennedy’s HILARIOUS take, that Washington is a city of Southern efficiancy and Northern charm…. or Harry Truman’s half-joke that The White House is the crown jewel of the federal penal system, or his other half-joke when FDR died, well, gentlemen, if you’ve ever had a bale of hay dropped on you, you know how I feel. Or perhaps Ronald Reagan, one of the funniest presidents on record, that when he and Helen Thomas did the opening of a Lebanese community center in The District and Thomas broke ground, that he could hear the ghosts of every former president yelling push her in. Or when Reagan heard that the Sandinistas were shooting at press helicopters, said, well, there’s a little good in everybody. Or, and I’m paraphrasing, that you should always run for public office, because if you win, you’ve won. If you embarrass yourself, you can always write a book. Or when Lynne Cheney said of Dick, I like it when they call you Darth Vader. It humanizes you.

What’s not funny is a theory Aaron calls Schrödinger’s Douchebag, which is that the joke is not deemed funny until the crowd reacts. It’s Conway’s permanent mode, trying to laugh off a gaffe, which, in the beginning she meant totally seriously… that our microwaves are capable of spying on us. So far, President Trump hasn’t said anything even remotely funny, except for the things that come out of his mouth that Twitter makes funny afterward. 45 doesn’t have time to work on serious problems, but he always has time for a Twitter war… which, in my mind, is the least presidential thing about him. It’s the thing with which I was most terrified, that we’d forsake a policy wonk that’s not afraid of diving into the details for someone who has no idea how Washington works and is rebelling against it by leaving as often as he can. His avoidance tactics are doing nothing but showing how ill-prepared he still is, despite briefings designed to educate him. He doesn’t seem to want to try to learn anything, and stupid is as stupid does.

I get wanting to reject the establishment. I really do, even though I don’t necessarily agree with it. If you want to reject the establishment for a Washington outsider, you at least have to pick someone who knows how a bill gets through Congress, how committee assignments work, limitations of Presidential power, etc. Even if you’ve never run for office before, you at least need to know which committees work on which problems and how to get a bill from the committee to the floor. You have to know the difference between the power players and the rank and file. You have to know something about the history of the country, and voters need to understand that intelligence is an asset and not a liability. Like it or not, there’s a system in place, and not being able to affect change from within gets you approximately nowhere…. as well as issuing executive orders in which you have no idea what kind of legal precedent they set. The Supreme Court is becoming more and more important, because at least there is a place where the “airing of the grievances” has some modicum of sanity…. at least for now.

The president is not the “national daddy,” nor is he your drinking buddy. By reducing him or her to such, you’ve alienated the people who are actually capable of doing the job. The skills needed to campaign and the skills needed to be president are vastly different, which is why I believe Hillary Clinton and Al Gore lost. Bill Clinton was the ultimate hybrid, telling people he could hear their pain while also being one of the smartest guys in the room, but he had so much help from both Hillary and Gore, because they were the people willing to drill down into the details with him. Trump doesn’t want to read thousand page bills and sum up what he thinks of them. He just wants to enjoy the title of President, because it plays to his celebrity ego. True government runs on details, where the devils are hidden. He doesn’t care that the pork barreling begins on pp. 500, because he’ll never get that far.

What he’s done with the Joint Chiefs of Staff is absolutely disturbing, because he’s dismantled the few people capable of educating him in favor of people who just agree with him…. people who don’t have a history of the chessboard and believing that you can checkmate by moving one pawn at a time… never thinking eight moves ahead.

Senior intelligence is an oxymoron, because he’s fired everyone who’s tried to plead their case that he’s wrong.

Michael Flynn…. gotta talk about it. When did he become the most insane guy in the room? Historically mild-mannered Democrat becomes Caligula. Why Hillary Clinton hasn’t sued him for libel and slander is beyond me.

The same with James Comey, who caused irreparable damage to her reputation a week before the election, after hammering her over and over before then with no tangible result. What was the point of re-opening the case against her? What is the point of not opening the investigation of private e-mail servers in this presidency if he was so damn concerned? Trump is using an unsecured Blackberry, for God’s sake. Does he not know that Blackberries are also computers, and if you can hack a network/desktop/laptop, you can also hack smartphones? Sounds unlikely for the head of the FBI.

James Comey should have been out of there before the Trump presidency ever began, and if there’s any justice in the world, he’ll be prosecuted one way or another.

It was also inappropriate for Hillary to be slammed with so many Benghazi investigations, because even though she was on the hook for it, she wasn’t the only one responsible. Republicans slashed funding for the amount of security actually needed, the CIA had a rescue mission in place but got delayed, shit went sideways, and therefore Benghazi did not happen because of one person’s actions but the twofold approach that it was a series of missteps by a lot of people AND sometimes ops just fail. PERIOD. Everyone, from the top down, is crushed when it happens, but there’s no room just to say it was an accident of enormous proportions, and therefore, no one person’s fault and everyone involved contributed to a horrible thing that could have been avoided but wasn’t. Voices that should have been heard couldn’t blow their covers, and therefore, could not have added to the discussion that might have made people realize what a clusterfuck the situation was beyond State’s power to do anything about it.

So, due to a number of factors, we’re stuck with someone who has great power, but seemingly no culpability for his actions, because there are too many Congressmen willing to excuse that kind of behavior, along with ignoring their constituents’ wishes. Where’s the outrage that 45 wasn’t even in the sit room when the latest failed op was national news? Would he have even bothered to read the sitrep?

My guess is no, because it would have taken someone willing to drill into the details, you know, where the devils are hidden.

This is Going to Sound Weird, But…

iZombie and Santa Clarita Diet are so comforting to me. The idea that zombies can be totally normal undead human beings if they eat brains gets me through the day in terms of grief… because who wouldn’t want to think that there’s a solution to death, even if it is totally, completely fictional and inane. SCD has a few more murders for fresh brains than iZ, because the main character in iZ gives up her surgical career to work in a morgue so that she doesn’t have to kill people to eat. The thing about that show is that by eating those brains, she gains the person’s memories, and becomes a badass detective by pretending to be clairvoyant because she can see either clues to what happened or the crime itself as it is happening. It is endlessly fascinating, because it is kind of like Bones rather than The Walking Dead.

Though there are a few zombies in iZ that resemble geeks, it’s because they’ve deteriorated because they didn’t get enough to eat when they first got the virus.

Why wouldn’t I want to believe that in a fictional world, my mother could come back? Perhaps one day I’ll write that book, because I miss her so much and know so much about her that I could create a submersive world in which she can live forever. It would be fun to have a book (even if only I read it) that has dialogue with her own NE Texas patois. Maybe I’ll make myself her brain procurer, because my mother would roll over in her grave if I made her even a fictional murderer. 😛

Or perhaps I’ll somehow tie it to CIA and State so she’s eating world leaders. I can think of two in particular with which I’d like to start…………………….

This is the most fun I’ve had in a long time. I am literally dying with laughter at these ideas that are just flowing forth. Maybe I will make her a fictional murderer only because it would be like making a sweet little old lady into Walter White. Have her totally play against type, because I can’t think of anyone who would more qualify for sainthood. Working with children ensures it. The children she taught with the most innocent names were always the worst kids…. like Godly, Christ, and Precious.

Yes, my mother had a student named Christ. I always kidded her that at least once, she ought to say, Christ would ya siddown? But no, she’d laugh about it with me privately and call him by his last name at school, because she wanted to avoid that scenario entirely.

There’s a really funny story from her teaching days that I’m going to tell on her, but first, you need to know the setup. Over the years, my mother had kids named Shampain, Vernon (but on his birth certificate, swear to God, his name was spelled VERMIN), the aforementioned Christ, Godly, and a whole host of other weirdnesses that she used to joke that one of these days, she was going to have a kid named “XYZ,” but his name would be pronounced “Bill.”

So, one day she gets a new kindergarten student who’s too shy to say anything, so she asks the other kids in the class what his name is. They say, “Wedgie.” So, after having all these kids with weird names, she doesn’t blink an eye… and it’s like, three or four weeks before she gets the new official roll and calls this kid “Wedgie” the whole time. On the official roll, she learns that his name is “Reggie,” and falls over with laughter and embarrassment.

My other favorite story is that she had a holy terror named Dexter, and every time she corrected him, he’d tell her he didn’t speak English. Now, my mom was smart enough not to buy it, and on one of my days off from classes, asked me to come in and watch him. Though I have never been fluent in Spanish, I know enough. So, I get there and Dexter is running around the room, and when my mom tells him in English to politely calm the fuck down, he throws up his arms and continues, not knowing that I’m there to be the “ringer.” He takes off toward the percussion instruments and I say with my best stern teacher voice, Dexter! Sientete, por favor! He froze, because he knew his days of bullshit were numbered. For the rest of the class, he was the perfect student, and I never had to come back.

For those who don’t speak Spanish, all I had to was look at him with the evil eye and say, sit down, please. My days of reading Clifford Va de Viaje (Clifford Goes Traveling) paid off.

While I had good Spanish teachers in school, I learned far more by immersion on mission trips, so every time I’ve gone to Mexico, I have willed myself not to speak English. Mexicans are GREAT about forgiving grammar errors, you talking AROUND what you need and figuring it out, etc. They’re just happy you’re willing to learn the language at all. I also will myself not to speak English at taquerias/panaderias in Houston, because it’s the only time I ever get to practice in order not to lose it. I’ve even used Spanish in Maryland, but only once. I asked a janitor where the bathroom was at the mall in English, and she just looked at me like I had three heads. So I flip into Spanish and her eyes get even wider, as if I’d grown another head in the process, and gave me directions. My guess at why she looked at me so strangely was that she didn’t meet gringos who spoke Spanish in MD all that often…….. and given the way I was dressed and my haircut that I was asking for the women’s room.

Maybe I should have started the conversation with this is going to sound weird, but……………

The Mary

It’s not, but it kind of feels like the universe is somewhat out to get me. First, I leave DSI on a Friday and my mother dies that weekend. A few months later, my grandmother dies and we’ve had warm weather until the ONE WEEKEND I need to get out of town. When I lost my mother, my father was unbelievable in his support of me, and I am gutted that I cannot return the favor in person. I’m always up for a phone call or a video chat, but right now I am in whiskey tango foxtrot irritation mode.

When I was living in Alexandria, my grandpa Max died, and I couldn’t make it to his funeral, either. I can’t believe it’s the same situation 16 years apart.

Two things kept me sane last week. My sister took me to dinner in Annapolis and I’d never been there before. It’s gorgeous, and I could totally see myself living there if it wasn’t so far from DC. I mean, it’s not terribly far, but the whole idea of living in DC is to be a part of the action. I want to be able to take off for the federal buildings on the Metro because parking is a nightmare…. on the other hand, there’s just so much damn eye candy at the Naval Academy (did I say that out loud?).

The second thing was dinner and a movie with Dan. We ate a ton of Thai food and went to see Get Out. I saw it by myself the first time, but had to see it again because OH MY JESUS IT IS FANTASTIC. It was nice to get hang time and a big hug from my buddy when I really needed it… and, of course, walking around Del Rey doesn’t suck. When I lived in Alex, it was on the other side, near 395 and Seminary (foreshadowing?). Not far from Old Town, but not walking distance, and the fun of Old Town and Del Rey is walking around and looking at stuff.

Technically, the most fun part of living in DC is walking around, anyway… stopping into shops and museums and seeing memorials all over the place. I remember the days fondly of joking with Argo about it, Dana & me flanking her on either side, the bitches on her arms she never asked for… and even though Argo is so gorgeous you’d dive naked off the Empire State Building singing The Star Spangled Banner all the way down if she asked (you only think I’m exaggerating), pretending I’m the cute one. Hey, it’s my daydream. In it, I get to be the Mary and she gets to be the Rhoda (Bonus points if you get the reference, and the prize is that you’re old).

Although in this case, I can’t help but remember a quote from one of my old coworkers at University of Houston, that beautiful is a dime a dozen, but cute is dangerous. I’ll take it.

In all likelihood, reality would be walking the shops with Argo’s superninja shopping powers and me holding all her shit. No, wait. Dana’s there. We’re holding all her shit…. because I also remember a time when Dana and I used to joke that I was the shopping superninja and she was the butch sitting in the Husband Chairs holding my purse.

I’m not really that much of a retail therapy kind of babe, but I do have a black belt in Goodwill.

This week the sustainment factor was joining an online book club for Outlander called In the Waterweeds, put on by That’s Normal. I’ve always watched it, but I’ve been a “long time listener, first time caller” sort, too shy to engage because sometimes I am too dumb to literature, at least on the spot. And during a live tweet session, by the time I have a coherent thought the conversation has moved on. But still, I enjoy Outlander so much. I haven’t really delved into it critically before, because my attitude has just been to relax and enjoy the ride… skipping over the parts where it’s a bit poorly edited just to live in that world for a few more pages. It is completely submersive, much like the world of Harry Potter.

Many, many people will disagree with me, but my favorite character is Roger MacKenzie, mostly because we share a passion for inclusive theology and both have monocular vision. It’s a tossup to me as to which is more important. 😛

I can’t wait to find a love like Jamie and Claire, but I had that passion that ignites the soul with Dana and lightning doesn’t often strike twice. I think that’s the reason it’s taking me so long to really wrap my brain around dating, preferring to stay home with men in my bed (my Postman Pat and Yakko Warner dolls 😛 ). I find it more comforting to stay single than to open up to the possibility of dating and it just not going well. Dating sucks. It’s like a series of job interviews, and I have trouble showing up for the people that know me, much less strangers. Netflix is starting to become a warm, close, personal friend.

Although at some point, I will have to get tired of hiding behind my blog, but that day is not today…. mostly because as of right now, snow is RAGING against my window. The bright side is that it’s deliciously fluffy flakes and not sleet, because sleet is of the devil.

I am wearing flannel pajamas and my Carleton Ravens sweatshirt, which I bought on a trip to Ottawa when Kathleen and I were on our “honeymoon,” such a disaster that we went to visit Meag & Deah because we weren’t having that great a time on our own. This sweatshirt is the best souvenir ever, because Canadians know how to do warm clothes. I used to have a Carleton baseball cap, too, but I can’t remember whether an old girlfriend commandeered it or whether it was just lost in a move. It’s no matter now. I rarely wear anything but my Rice cap, because practically my entire wardrobe is shades of blue.

I also have a really cute toque I bought at 7-Eleven, of all places, striped and adorable.

…because I’m the Mary.

Dr Pepper (on Sale)

I never knew that my grandmother was so smart she skipped two grades in school, although she was really the first woman I knew with a job…. and not only was she classmates with Ross Perot, in high school she and my grandfather both graduated with Elmore “Rip” Torn. The fact that they went to high school with Agent Zed is one of my favorite facts in life. I also did not know that she went to both private and public schools, or that she didn’t finish college until her kids were adults.

You cannot imagine how much strength I drew from reading her obituary, because it echoes my own path… I didn’t leave school because I had kids. I left school because I had the ability to make lots of money right away, and took that chance because I wanted to be able to pay for my own tuition without relying on my parents.

It gives me the ability now to believe that it’s never too late to do anything.

What it says in the obit is that she chose medical technology over becoming a biology professor. What it doesn’t say is that she used to call herself the “blood and tinkle lady.” She was always so humble. When you’d praise her about something, she’d say it was an old commando trick she learned in the Army (she was never in the military) in an “aw, shucks” kind of way.

She also, for better or for worse, turned me into an Anglophile with annual viewings of A Child’s Christmas in Wales, Christmas Crackers complete with paper crown and joke, and an entire VHS library of BBC shows taped late at night on Dallas PBS. She was the one that introduced me to The Vicar of Dibley, Blackadder, and Weetabix™…. and digestives (plain, not chocolate)… and Branston’s Pickle.™ And, of course, she and my grandfather are even bigger Harry Potter fans than I am.

My grandmother showed me from an early age that there was a great big world out there beyond our two tiny little towns, and though she’s seen more of it than I have, she definitely gave me the same wanderlust and voracious appetite for new things.

And though it didn’t cure Alzheimer’s or leukemia, Nanny was fairly certain Dr Pepper could cure everything else.

So if you’ve got one cold, please raise it to her tonight. If you have to go out and buy some, make sure you’ve got a coupon. Nanny never bought anything full price… it was the servings that were priceless.

Mary Janet Fort Lanagan, 84, died March 12, 2017 at her lakeside home in Lone Star.

Born May 25, 1932 in Waco to Foster and Jean Curnutt Fort, she lived briefly in Texarkana where she was a private school classmate to H. Ross Perot. She moved to Longview in 1939 where her father opened a photo studio on Hughes street.

She was sitting on the front steps there in 1942 when her future husband, John Mayo Lanagan, came to sit for a 12th birthday portrait.

Mayo and Mary did not meet again until Junior High School. A brilliant student, she had been moved up two grades, allowing them to graduate into high school together on D Day, June 6, 1944. They were friends and companions throughout school, but were separated when she was deemed too young at 15 to enter college.

They reunited in 1950 to begin a 67 year long marriage that produced four children. Judith Lynn, 1951; David Mayo, 1952; Elizabeth Shawn, 1954; and John Matthew, 1955.

Active in their community, they were “parents to many” in the Methodist Churches of Lone Star and Daingerfield, as well as the Girl and Boy Scout organizations, Band Parents and school supporters at Daingerfield- Lone Star high school.

With children entering college, Mary also went back to school. Her ETSU professors urged her to get the additional credits which would qualify her to teach college level biology, but she elected to pursue medical technology, working many years in area hospitals and clinics.

They shared a lifelong passion for books and music and when retired spent weeks in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, Canada, Alaska and Mexico enjoying great museums and different cultures. In later years, they enjoyed six Caribbean cruises.

John Mayo, with assistance from their children, chiefly Shawn, gently and lovingly cared for her during her last challenges of Leukemia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Mary was preceded in death by her brothers, Foster W. Fort and Walter Lee Fort; her sister, Saundra Lloyd, and by one great grandson, Xander McMurrian.

Those left to cherish her memory are her husband, John Mayo Lanagan of Lone Star; her children and their spouses, Judy and Dan McMurrian, David Lanagan and Angela McCain, MD, Shawn and David Snyder, and Matthew and Beth Lanagan; two brothers, Arthur Fort and Gene Fort; her grandchildren Daniel McMurrian, Braden McMurrian, Megan McMurrian, Leslie Lanagan, Lindsay Zeis, Kelly Sole, Caitlin McMenemy, Jason Horn, Jonathan Horn, Dr. Chasity Henderson, and Christy Henderson; 16 great grandchildren; numerous nieces, nephews and cousins; and her faithful canine boss, “Harry Putter”.

The family is deeply grateful for the skills, compassion and care from her doctors, Dr. R.J. Sansom, Dr. Rodney Slone, and Dr. Lewis Duncan; Longview Cancer Center, Good Shepherd Home Health Care, and Heart’sWay Hospice during the last stages of her illness.

Graveside services will be held at 10 AM Wednesday, March 15, 2017 at Rosewood Park Mausoleum under the direction of Rader Funeral Home of Longview. The family will receive friends Tuesday evening from 5-7 PM at the funeral home.

Donations may be made to Heart’s Way Hospice of Northeast Texas,4351 McCann Rd, Longview, TX 75605 or the HiWay 80 Rescue Mission, 3117 W. Marshall Ave. Longview, Texas 75604.

A memorial guestbook may be signed online at www.raderfh.com.