Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy

  1. I started out my day on Saturday by heading out to the Waffle House in Dumfries, thinking it was close to the blood drive I’d signed up for. Two things wrong with that. The first is that I should have checked. It was not. It took me an hour to get from the restaurant to the hospital. I figured since the address was near Dulles Airport, I was golden. And, in fact, that wasn’t my only dumbass attack that day. I was getting a Gatorade and a water bottle at 7-Eleven before going to said Waffle House and locked my keys in my car. I’d taken my debit card out of my backpack, and accidentally dropped my keys in, along with my wallet, and closed the door behind me. I have a plastic key in my wallet in case I get locked out, therefore my key and my backup key were both as useful as a spork on a ribeye. All the time I would have spent stuffing my face with waffles and bacon was lost as I went to find a mechanic to bail me out. He arrives, has a hell of a time getting the door open, and about 15 minutes go by before he realizes the hatchback is unlocked. I have no idea why. I’ve needed a certain key for it since I got the car- copies won’t work, and it has never been unlocked in the history of the time I’ve owned it. The only thing I can think of is that I might have loosened the locking mechanism with a wire hanger, because I did try the hatchback before I ran to get the mechanic. The only good part was that when he discovered that my car was unlocked, he gave me half my money back.
  2. I got to the blood drive 45 minutes after my scheduled appointment, having signed up to donate whole blood. But then an idea came to me. I said, “do you have more need for whole blood or for platelets?” They said, “oh my God… bless you… we have WAY more need for platelets.” So, I get all the testing done and my iron is too low. Jesus H. Christ on a pogo stick. I should have known. I haven’t had any red meat in ages and it’s the second day of my period. I mean, come on. Who doesn’t know that? Despite not actually having given anything, I’m still eligible for a t-shirt and a Redskins game ticket. I chose Redskins vs. Vikings for nefarious reasons. I already have a Vikings jersey (Chris Kluwe, who is a punter, but when people ask me what position he plays, I say “blogger“). By the time I got there, Santana Moss was already gone, so that autograph was down the drain, even though I brought a Sharpie for my t-shirt.
  3. I’d heard about Munch ice cream from a newspaper article… I think it was in the Washington Post, but I’ve slept since then. It’s in Annandale at a collection of indoor food carts at The Block. I figured since I don’t get across the river that often, I might as well go there and check it out. I got a pork belly bánh mì at Balo Kitchen, complete with french fries, which did not leave me any room for dessert…. however, being full has never stopped me from eating dessert before. At Munch, I got a blueberry earl grey ice cream sandwich, which they make by putting the hard packed ice cream on a donut and running it quickly through a panini press. Then, they top it with condensed milk and your choice of cereal. I said I wanted fruity pebbles, but I got frosted flakes. Close enough. It was delicious…. and if that weren’t enough of a good time, the University of Houston football game was on a projection screen in front of me. Since I am only 5’2, I’m pretty sure the players were bigger than me, wrapped in their “redvolution” glory. I didn’t stay for the whole game, but I should have. I was in such a food coma that I almost fell asleep at a red light…. and this was after the world’s largest Diet Coke. Maybe I should have ordered coffee with dessert. Life lessons for next time, because Munch is only the greatest and best excuse for crossing the river in the entire world…. Next to selflessly giving blood, of course… selfless… yeah, that’s right :::wearing free t-shirt and looking forward to a Vikings win:::

The Anniversary

I’m not sure I’ve ever felt more anxiety as the first anniversary of my mother’s death approaches (Oct. 2nd). I’ve felt like crap on every holiday since, holing up and not talking to anyone on the actual day, just willing it to be over as soon as humanly possible. So, if you’ve tried to talk to me on those days and I haven’t answered, I assure you that it’s not personal and I read every one. I’m just not strong enough to talk. Those days render me into the smallest version of myself imaginable, remembering holidays past and how nothing will ever be the same, or any facsimile in the known universe.

My mind goes back to the time before I turned 13, before hormones and emotional abuse were a thing, because that’s the time when my mother and I were close- untouched by either of those things. It is by the grace of God that the last three years of her life, we got the chance to be closer than ever, healing the rift between us. It is a humbling feeling to be irrationally angry at the universe, as if it owed me more time with her than I got, and realizing that, in fact, the universe doesn’t owe me jack shit.

Sometimes in order to make it through my day, I just “act as if.” She’s still alive, and due to the fact that we live in different states, we just haven’t talked in a while, but she’s still there. It’s not ideal, but it helps me cope when I can’t think of any other way to change my emotional state enough to do the things I really want to do, but can’t muster the energy and drive I need to leave the house.

It’s slowly starting to change, but I can’t put enough emphasis on “slowly.” I went to the Spy Museum yesterday, am going to Air & Space with a friend on Friday, and donating blood on Saturday because even though I’d do it for nothing, I’m really going to meet Santana Moss, the first player to really get me interested in football.

I realized that even though grief is deep and abiding, there are things I can use to distract myself temporarily, the emotional equivalent of a Cesar Milan foot tap. I also lose myself in both fiction and non. I’m reading David Halberstam’s last finished book, The Coldest Winter, a definitive guide to the Korean War, and several novels that have nothing to do with my life…. adventures with the FBI, CIA, police squads, and zombies, or combinations of all of them.

Grief is being Jason, tied to the mast, the siren call of isolation promising to crack my head on the rocks. On some days, resistance is futile. On others, it is everything. I don’t understand an ocean that actively wants me to drown, and pulls out all the stops to try and make it happen. I am generally psychosomatic, grief presenting as headaches, stomachaches, and sinus issues. Well, maybe sinus issues is taking it too far- my allergies have been severe my whole life. But the pulse of a migraine has been present on many days, memories of my mother passed out on percodan before sumatriptan was invented. I don’t get auras and the whole bit, but I often have to slam caffeine to make them stop… additionally giving me energy, a good thing emerging from something terrible.

I often don’t want to live in a world where my mother has ceased to exist, but what choice do I have? Life goes on, the value of it not lost on me……………. anymore. It feels good to have my bipolar disorder healed to that point, knowing that when I’m in a bad way, it is my disorder lying to me about what a waste of space I am, and not what I actually believe. I have many things to give to the world, the least of which being that if something happened to me, no one would be here to update this web site.

Grief is just a passenger in my mental car that I can’t throw out and leave by the side of the road…. and in fact, an important process because my memories keep my mother alive and present. It also allows me to advocate for not taking any relationship for granted, because tomorrow is not promised, a thing you unconsciously believe until someone close to you dies without warning. I didn’t expect to prepare for my mother’s death until she was at least 80…. one of the many things in life I didn’t expect.

For instance, I never expected to be divorced for a second time, thinking that home was Dana and the two were synonymous… and later thinking that divorce was such a blessing because my mother’s death rendered me into survival mode, unable to give to anyone else and unable to care that I wasn’t. I would have been a terrible partner/wife through this time in my life, and I am glad to have spared Dana from it. People who don’t know what it’s like to be destroyed by someone else’s death have no frame of reference for it. They have no idea how it feels to get comments all the time from people that boil down to “thank GOD it was you and not me.” These people have no idea what a punch in the gut it is, especially when you feel hit from all sides and want to lash out, but hold it in, because you know that those people are just having dumbass attacks and aren’t doing it on purpose. To them, it feels like the right thing to say, because they don’t actually use those words, it’s just implied. Like, “I just don’t know what I’d do if my mother died.” Well, thank God you don’t have to deal with it, then. Good for you, you pretentious piece of shit. I think it instead of say it, my words being “yes, I know. It’s so hard. Make sure you give your mom a hug next time you see her.” It puts me in the position of having to comfort them when my world is falling apart. But they don’t know that. How could they? They won’t know it until their mother or father dies, and people say the things they always say when people die, seeing them in a new context. They don’t even know what they don’t know, and won’t until it happens to them.

Because it will, and they won’t be prepared, either.

The Sparkly Vampire Haircut and Other Stories

Today I went to the mall for some much needed time with friends. Well, not exactly friends, but people I see over and over when I go out. First, I got a haircut from my favorite hairdresser. Then, I went to my local Irish pub. A black bean burger, Shock Top, ice water, and ten unanswered Redskins points later (can I get an amen because THAT doesn’t happen often), it was time to come home. Now I wish I had stayed for the whole game, but hindsight is 20/20.

The funniest thing that happened to me today is that when I got my hair cut, I saw the cover of GQ and this guy had the best haircut on the front. I got through the wash, blowdry, and style before I realized that it was Robert Pattinson. So I feel I have to explain to my hairdresser that I’m not a Twilight fan, I just love the haircut blah blah blah because when I realized who it was, I just sat there and blushed until my toes turned red. A burger and a beer was in order after that one, even though my hair turned out ridiculously cute.

The bartender and I have become somewhat chummy, and I feel like it’s “my place.” He treats me well regardless of whether I order alcohol or not…. probably because I’m a good tipper. 😉Lars_work_uniform Though he is black, wears glasses, and has shaved his head, he still reminds me of Lars from Steven Universe because he has the same big ear spacers that Lars has. Totally cute and nerdy, and he has the personality to match. I was watching the game and nerding out over food and drinks with him at the same time. I’m not a huge football fan, but thanks to Dana and Friday Night Lights, I know most of the rules and more about the players themselves than I know about the game (I support the #rethink #rename campaign, but I’m not going to abandon “my team” while they work that shit out). “My team” is in quotation marks because when I married Dana, I knew as much about football as a bag of hammers… also, if you live here, you can root for the Redskins, or you can move. There is no in-between.). As an aside, I told the bartender about Irish margaritas (Bushmills rather than tequila), and he told me he’d try it and maybe put it on the menu as a drink special.

The guy next to me ordered a Smithwick’s, and all of the sudden I was transported back in time to when I came up with the recipe for Lanagan’s Pub Chili at Biddy McGraw’s (Now the O’Neill Pub in Portland, OR). It’s my one legacy… if it’s a) still on the menu 2) still called that. But at least back then, my name was on the menu. I don’t think it would have worked out so well for me if my last name had been Jones.

I ended up at the mall because the International Spy Museum was about to close up shop for the day. I’d originally planned to go there because I got an e-mail from them saying that their Argo @#%& Yourself t-shirts with the museum logo on the sleeve were on sale for ten bucks, and I had leftover birthday money to spend. It’s been my favorite movie since Jesus was a boy… or at least, since the movie came out (you can teach a rhesus monkey how to direct in a day). I was forced to buy the Blu-Ray back in the day because Ben Affleck was on the Today show talking about how, since Blu-Rays hold 50 GB of information, they were able to load it with information about the real people involved, and along with the INCREDIBLE, NERVE-WRACKING DRAMA from the Argo Main Theme to Clearing Iranian Airspace, incredibly funny (brace yourself… it’s like talking to those two old fucks on The Muppets)(Jack: It is my duty to inform you that if you get caught, the Agency will not claim you. Tony: I should have brought some books for prison. Jack: Don’t worry- they’ll kill you long before prison. [Paraphrased… my memory is compromised in my elder years]).

The reason I want to go to the Spy Museum shop rather than ordering it from their web site is that even though I live rather close to the museum, the shipping is still outrageous… about 70% of the cost of the shirt. That is a Grey’s Anatomy “SERIOUSLY?” if ever I heard it. Today was just not that day.

Today was football and a sparkly vampire haircut.

Now We Are 40

The week before my birthday, Dan took me out to dinner and I took her out for dessert. On Friday, I went to both lunch and dinner with friends, and to the zoo in the middle. Therefore, on my actual birthday, I spent the day responding to Facebook notifications and going “off the grid” just to read and relax.

And then donations started pouring in, and I cried for the love of them.

A few years ago, I was having a horrible day at work. A case came across my desk and I dialed the number (I was working as tech support back then, so basically I thought I was calling to help them). A woman picks up and says, Doctors Without Borders! My heart dropped into my stomach as I realized what a selfish git I was being- only focusing on what was going wrong with me and not seeing the forest for the trees. I was safe inside a terribly cold office in 105 degree heat outside. Whatever was going wrong in my life, it didn’t include medical supply outages or the fear of accidentally getting bombed in a war zone.

Since then, I set up my Amazon account to donate to DWB every time I made a purchase.

Now, Facebook has this thing where you can donate your birthday to the organization of your choice. Doctors Without Borders was one of them, and I was able to raise $260 for what I believe is one of the best organizations on earth.

It was such a relief that I was able to get away from my fastidious navel-gazing ways and do something for others. Writers are notoriously introspective, often missing the world around them. I am glad I didn’t miss this opportunity to stop.

Thank you to all who donated- for their sakes, and for mine.

The Deep End of the Ocean

So happy to say that I am spending my birthday week with friends, and in one case, meeting someone new offline that I’ve been chatting with on. As I have said before, I am now averse to the all-online relationship having been both burned in some ways and set myself on fire in others.

Tonight is dinner with my precious Dan, invaluable to me on so many levels. She’s cute and funny in a way that’s infectious, and we’re also able to have next-level conversations because she’s one of the few friends I have that has also lost her mother. It’s not that I don’t value friends who still have them, it’s that a parent’s death is a certain ocean into which you’ve been dumped…. one in which people don’t learn to swim until they’ve been dumped as well…. and at first, you’re so far under you can’t even see the waves.

It’s taken me a long time to stop feeling a little bit bitter towards my friends who are much older than me and still have their parents, as if the slight was personal. Logically, you know it’s not. But emotion is often inversely proportional. My logic is right side up, while my emotions are upside down and backwards. It’s been making those two things slowly come into alignment that’s made me feel better.

There are only five days left in my 39th year, and then I will face my first birthday without my mother there to tell me the story of how I was born at 9:59 AM, which she did faithfully every year no matter what time zone I was in. I’m also not going to get a Peter Pan or Mickey Mouse cake, and now I am absolutely sobbing as I write this. Now I just want my mommy, and I haven’t felt this small in ages. It’s a good thing I can touch type, because I can still get emotions out when my eyes are closed. My fingers fly over the keys as easily as she played the piano.

And trust me, writing that in the past tense rips my guts out.

I am so glad I am seeing Dan tonight. I just want to be held by someone who knows, you know?

I have to remind myself that it’s a happy thing to have a birthday. I have never pictured myself as a 40-year-old, but I’m about to find out what it’s like. If there’s anything I’m hoping to gain, which I already have in some cases, it’s the ability to see what’s important and what’s not. Hurricane Harvey was a great reminder that having food, water, and shelter is a blessing in and of itself…. especially since my family is right in the middle of reconstruction afterward.

They were not flooded, but they’re working to help others. My dad and stepmom are medics on a church team. My sister took a temp job with the City of Houston organizing the relief effort at the George R. Brown Convention Center (she’s back at her “real job” today). It’s a very helpless place that my friends and family are all helping with relief and I’m sitting here high and dry…. although it’s not impossible to imagine Silver Spring flooding during Hurricane Irma, just unlikely due to its current course. If the unthinkable does happen, though, I will be the first to put on a mask and hang drywall.

Thanks to UMArmy, I do have a bit of experience in house-building and repair. I’ve tiled and put flashing on a roof, I’ve glazed windows, and I sort of know my way around a hammer and nails. It’s difficult for me in terms of being able to hit the nail straight on every time with monocular vision, but I do my best. I am not the most skilled “handyma’am” out there, but I am definitely enthusiastic.

I am glad that focusing on hurricane relief efforts in this entry has led me away from sobbing onto my t-shirt, but the devastation in Texas is just as tear-worthy. Again, watching it from afar is a very helpless place, as I’m sure some of you feel, as well. There are so many “Tex-patriots” out there, and I have met SO many in both DC and Portland. There seems to be some sort of unspoken rule that if you went to UT Law, you end up here. 😛

Look at that… a smile.

One thing I hope my 40th birthday brings is the ability to smile more. For the last two to three years, finding things to smile about has been difficult at best. Both Dana and I had our hearts ripped out upon finding that we weren’t as compatible as we thought…. and I am somewhat guilty about how long it’s taken me to move on. But grief has its own timeline, and I shouldn’t fault myself that it hasn’t been linear, or in fact, made any damn sense at all. I suppose the one thing that has made sense is that I needed a large grieving period due to how much we shared in the seemingly infinite number of years we knew each other.

I still remember being creeped out that she was serving lamb for Easter dinner… as if we were roasting Jesus over the coals… and made the joke that the day after Easter we could have leftover Jesus sandwiches. I think I made both Bamberger girls choke with that one.  Wordplay is pretty much the only service writers offer, so take it while you can get it, okkkkkkk……

That Easter was the first time we’d ever gotten together, and my advice to my younger self has always been, and still will be, when Dana invites you to Easter dinner, go. Because of course I was terrified of hanging out with someone I didn’t really know that well. Had I known how fantastic we were for each other at that time in our lives, I wouldn’t have hesitated.

I can only hope that someday, another one of my friendships will catch me off-guard and I’ll get butterflies in my stomach the same way (but not with Dan- she’s old and married and I’m just old [I may catch hell for that one because she’s quite a bit younger than me- I love you, Dan. You complete me.]).

What is it about writing that can allow me to go from sobbing at a paragraph to laughing at another? I’ll never know, but it works. Because of course, at “you complete me,” I lost it laughing about “Dorothy Boyd…. and THIS FISH.”

And on that note, it’s time go shower and get ready for dinner. In the words of an old friend, I thought, ‘what’s that smell?’ Ohhhhhhhhh, it’s meeeeeee…..



It’s 11:24, so this will be short. I need to get it posted before midnight. My niece, Hannah Alexis, was born today. She is Wi-Phi’s  (William Philip’s) younger sister, and gets no less nerdy of a nickname. I call her “Hannah Solo.”

As you can imagine, I am wild-eyed with impatience at meeting her, but for now, she’ll just have to accept my presents in the mail- a Star Wars-themed onesie and a Washington Post, because the Houston Chronicle will not be printing anything for a while.

Hurricane Harvey is the main story in the Post, too, but luckily my family was not affected today. They were concerned that they were going to need to deliver Kelly at home, but the waters receded enough to get to Methodist Hospital in Sugar Land.

Although it is interesting to note that had it come to my sister delivering at home, she would have been fine. My dad took EMT I all the way through Paramedic II, so he’s delivered three babies.

No matter what, things would have turned out perfectly. Hannah sure did. She’s a screaming bundle of joy and it is such a relief to hear her cry loudly over the interwebs because Wi-Phi’s birth was so anxiety-laden. For those of you just joining us, he had to have heart surgery as soon as he was born. He is absolutely 100% perfect, but at the time prayer flowed through me like water, and I just had to hope that it was enough.

This birth was better than textbook. After one push, Hannah was here. “They” were even at the office until her water broke. I’m going to remind myself of that every time I get the sniffles and start to complain.

Virtual pink bubble gum cigars and champagne for everyone. I’m going to go look at my niece’s adoring face and see which of my features she got (this is a joke- her mother is my stepsister). If I have anything to do with it at all, maybe when she’s older she’ll have my smirk, because my dad will have taught it to her, just like he taught it to me.

Goodnight, sweet Hannah. Welcome to the world, baby girl. Let me read you to sleep.

In an old house in Paris
All covered with vines
Lived 12 little girls
In two straight lines….

-Ludwig Bemelmans, Madeline



Pan, Pan, y Mas Pan… y Entonces Queso

So, off I go to Dollar Tree to get my few essentials for the week. I bought a lot of things to cook, but no snacks. I am hungry to the point of exhaustion, and need food RTFN. I notice that there is an authentic Mexican panaderia in the parking lot a few doors down, and think to myself that a piece of egg bread or a cookie will tide me over until supper.

I go into the panaderia and start ordering. I decide to get some stuff for breakfast, too, and then I realize I don’t have any cash. I say, “tomas tarjetas (you take cards)?” What I think the woman says is that we have a five dollar limit on cards. Oh, boy. Do you know how friggin’ hard it is to spend five dollars at a bakery? I think everything I ordered was 50 cents each, if that. When I get to what I think is five dollars, the woman says, “no, you have to have TEN dollars.”

Christ on a cracker.

I have already exhausted the number of conchas I can eat by about three dollars already. Conchas links to a Wikipedia article on sweet bread, and if you look at the list, I probably ordered at least one of each. Now we’re up to seven dollars.

Finally, I realize they have a cold case and get a large block of queso fresco. Why I didn’t think of this before is beyond me. It’s like, six dollars all by itself, and infinitely useful in just about everything.

My bread purchases take up, like, three bags, because not only did I buy sweet bread for breakfast for the next eight years, I also bought a few slices of cake and some cookies.

Who am I kidding? Nine years.

I get home and make some macaroni and cheese from the box, but I do it the way I was classically trained to do- mix the fat (I used margarine) with the cheese and flour to make a roux, then add milk. Once that was set, I added shreds of cheddar, salt-free seasoning, and the aforementioned queso fresco. The queso fresco does not melt all the way- it’s a very hard cheese and tastes comparable to Romano. The sauce and pasta mix together beautifully with these tiny chunks of cheese and it is heaven on earth.

And that’s when I realized I was out of Tupperware…. or rather, I’d bought four packages of Zip-Loc throwaways and they’d all been used up by my roommates. So, I put some in a Zip-Loc bag and ate the rest.

That was probably a mistake. I must have had like, four helpings. It was worth it, though.

Even if I am too full to eat ALL THAT BREAD.