The Yahrtzeit

Don’t call me. I know you’ll all want to when you hear what I have to say. I am leaving tomorrow to go to Houston for the first time since my mother’s death. But stop yourselves from reaching out to give Lindsay and me room to grieve on our own. If we end up getting together with friends at any point, I’ll make sure you’re included. But we haven’t gotten that far. We’ve only planned what we’re going to do on the actual anniversary of my mother’s death on the second, besides attending my cousin Hunter’s wedding the day before.

Because I thought I’d be in DC during the wedding, I did not RSVP, so I hope they can haul ass to the kitchen, rearrange the food, and squish in a place setting to welcome a “Haiti-an. It actually is important to me to go to this wedding. It’s my mother’s brother’s second child, so I will get to see everyone on that side of the family at a time when we really need each other. Of course it is Hunter’s day, but seeing each other is an excellent added bonus. Plus, the wedding is in Tyler, Texas… the perfect amount of road trip. I haven’t done a real road trip in ages, so even that in and of itself is perfection.

When we get back, we’ve planned to go to the cemetery and just sit with Mom. We enjoy it because the cemetery we chose is so tranquil and peaceful it is an escape from the rest of the city. It’s also been a year since I’ve seen “Fred,” the infant-sized tree planted last year that will one day surround my mother’s grave in its majesty. I’m only sort of glad I waited this long, because I don’t think I would notice as much of a difference in “him” if I’d seen him every week.

Lindsay has said that she’s not crazy about the name “Fred.” I can’t wait to see what name she’s come up for “him.” For me, “Fred” was an easy choice because every plant I’ve ever had has been named “Fred….” and this Fred has people to take care of “him” that actually know what they’re doing. I don’t have to worry that I’m accidentally going to poison “him.” Plus, this time of year the weather should be pretty good… no pictures of the headstones with a “light dusting of snow.” We’ll eat and drink it what is hopefully sunshine and not threatening grey weather. But rest assured that I would carry six golf umbrellas before I missed going to see my mother’s grave.

It is such a bittersweet experience, because logically I know that I am just talking to her shell. Emotionally, she feels very real and present…. not in a viscerally physical way, just that her spirit is near.

It was that spirit which brought me to my knees. I didn’t want to spend that day alone, either, because I didn’t want to spend it with anyone but Lindsay and she’d already come and gone for this week.

She and my father both worked on this idea to let us have our time to laugh and cry, and the fact that they thought it was important enough to spend their hard-earned money and/or frequent flier miles to make sure it happened is exactly the kind of thing my mother would have wanted.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what it is she actually would have wanted, and yet I know this one hits the nail on the head. Now if Forbes, my stepdad, needs to get his internet fixed or his cable is down, that would just be the icing on the cake. My mother assumed my entire adult life that because I work in Information Technology, if it plugged into the wall, I could fix it. She once actually flew me to Houston just to fix her computer because it was exactly the same price as taking it to Best Buy,™ and she knew that I would be nicer to her than they would because I wouldn’t try to upsell her on anything. 🙂

As it turned out, I couldn’t fix the computer after all, because it was a hardware problem and not software… but I still earned my keep. I told her that for the same price as getting her old computer fixed (emphasis on old), she could buy a cheap throwdown that would do everything she wanted it to do and I could transfer all of her files for her, or just install her old hard drive as a secondary drive in the new one. I ended up just transferring her files because I didn’t know whether the hard drive was about to blow, and thanks to her excellent grasp of “the Mommy Save,” it was ridiculously easy. The term “Mommy Save” is an old IT Help Desk joke that refers to people who have no idea how directory structures work, so everything they’ve ever worked on is an icon on the desktop. Mind you, not folders created on the desktop. Individual files that cover every possible millimeter of desktop real estate so it doesn’t even matter what the wallpaper is… you can’t see it, anyway.

And, of course, my mother also had no idea how installing peripherals worked, so of course things that were simple to me, like installing the printer/scanner/copier driver, seemed like magic to her. She really thought it was magic when I discovered that her PSC had wireless and set up every computer in the house to print to it, and enabled file sharing so that she didn’t have to e-mail Forbes everything she wanted him to see.

I also locked down her router so that no one in her neighborhood could steal bandwidth from her using the router’s default username and password, the one that had been on it for, like, two years. I think I gave it the SSID “Baker’s Dozen,” because Baker was her married name…. but I TOLD her it was “Carolyn’s Tattoo Parlor and BBQ Pit.” Because she’d known me my whole life, she knew I was just kidding… and I knew exactly what she was thinking…. my Godyou are way too much like your father. I don’t think I am….. he’s WAY more funny than me. Just more practice at it, I guess…. or at least, that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it. Perhaps one day his little grasshopper will reach satori, but I am not holding my breath.

Although this story may come close.

I love temporary tattoos, because there are lots of tattoos I like, but won’t commit to them forever. I was out shopping and found some really cool ones- tribal representations of animals, armbands, etc. My mother, however, did not like tattoos AT ALL. So, I wake up before she does and put this GIANT tiger temp tattoo on my neck. Not even an Oxford button-down will cover it. She comes into the kitchen a little while later and I can see the wheels in her head turning, trying not to explode as she thinks through all the jobs I’ve just lost. She tries so hard….. when did you get your tiger tattoo? If it’s on your neck, it must’ve really hurt. Do you think your job will care? How did you manage to hide it? I didn’t even see it last night…….. Your mom is going blind in her old age……. I let her twist in the wind for a few more minutes before I took some cotton balls and a small bottle of baby oil out of my pocket and rubbed it off. It was nice to see some blood come back into her face, and she laughed- not necessarily because she thought it was funny, but because she knew she’d been had and it was exactly the type joke her firstborn would play on her…. but not before trying to convince me that she’d known it was fake all along, that she was just trying to keep it going, etc. I didn’t buy it for a second, but it was hilarious to watch her backpedal nonetheless.

My mom was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, but because her brain worked on a very high, creative plane most of the time, jokes often went over her head. She had bigger things to think about than whether her daughter was pranking her or not, which made her an easy target, especially since she was so willing to laugh at herself.

One of the times she absolutely lost it laughing at herself was when my dad took my mom, sister, and me to our friend Hardy Roper’s vacation house in Galveston. It had a dock on the bay side of the island, and Lindsay and I were doing a half-hearted job of fishing, using cheese as bait (or as my sister said, “WE’RE GONNA CATCH FISH WITH CHEESE!!!!!). I was wearing my favorite loafers, which happened to be pretty expensive, and my mom just knew I was going to drop them in the water while my feet were dangling over the side. She rushed over to me and said, hand me your shoes. If you lose them, we won’t be able to replace them. So, I hand them to her, and for whatever reason, at exactly that moment she was thrown of balance and promptly dropped both of my precious loafers into the bay. We laughed until we cried…. which is exactly what I want to do at the cemetery.

Of course I miss my mother, and it is incredibly sad, but it is a good thing that part of grief is the uncontrollable laughter of reminiscence.

If there’s anything I hope for during this trip, it’s that nearly every sentence begins with do you remember the time when Mom……………… It is the best opening line for me since once upon a time………….. because once upon a time, I could not laugh like this. 2017-09-30 00_53_56-Mourner's Kaddish _ ReformJudaism.orgI was too engrossed in survivor’s grief, not allowing myself joy because it did not seem appropriate to have fun. I felt that the only thing I deserved was to look down in sadness, tear my clothes, and even though I’m not Jewish, say the Kaddish (also known as The Mourner’s Kaddish) in her honor. If you’ve never heard it, the graphic to the right is the prayer in Hebrew. What follows is the English:

Exalted and hallowed be God’s great name
in the world which God created, according to plan.

May God’s majesty be revealed in the days of our lifetime
and the life of all Israel — speedily, imminently, to which we say Amen.

Blessed be God’s great name to all eternity.

Blessed, praised, honored, exalted, extolled, glorified, adored, and lauded
be the name of the Holy Blessed One, beyond all earthly words and songs of blessing,
praise, and comfort. To which we say Amen.

May there be abundant peace from heaven, and life, for us and all Israel,
to which we say Amen.

May the One who creates harmony on high, bring peace to us and to all Israel.
To which we say Amen.

I ask all of your blessings as two Christians try to make their own theme & variation on a yahrtzeit that weaves my mother’s personality throughout. The concept of the yahrtzeit is extremely meaningful to me, because it is not the first anniversary of a loved one’s death, but all of them. I tend to steal borrow from all faith traditions as I try and navigate the largest unknown I’ve ever faced. Making things better probably won’t come out of one book, but many. I mean, not everybody can be Doug Forcett.

I would appreciate each and every one of you holding space for Lindsay and me as we survey dark wilderness…. because maybe next year, having some contour lines will help.

In the meantime, I am praying not only on the words, but the spaces in between. Often, the wisdom is in the pause.

#prayingonthespaces

Cold Brew Nitro

It’s 5:53 PM, which means that Cold Brew Nitro is probably the worst thing I could drink in the universe rn. However, today is double star day, and I couldn’t pass up a relatively expensive drink to further my quest for even more free coffee. If I need to, I’ll take some sleep medication rather than staying up all night… but sometimes I am even more productive in the quiet, so we’ll see how I’m feeling later. I am certainly typing faster. Again, cold brew on nitro is INSANE, and apparently it isn’t rolled out all over the country- at least, not yet. So therefore my Houston friends are jealous that their nitro won’t arrive until at least Feb. 2018. For my Portland friends, imagine that you can’t get Jubelale on nitro this Christmas. Yes, it’s that sad. Tears, gnashing of teeth, the whole bit. My Houston friends are just lucky that they don’t know what they’re missing.

If any of them come to visit me, they will… and then all Starbucks coffee after that will just pale in comparison. Those poor, unfortunate souls.

I came over here for some black coffee and writing because I just finished dinner at the pub; I had a chickpea burger, a metric fuck tonne of Diet Coke, and an herbal gimlet for dessert. It took a while to get said gimlet, and one of the bartenders told me that it was because the other bartender had to go downstairs to get some basil. When the drink arrived, there was no basil in it. There are two possible reasons for this. The first is that the restaurant is out of basil. The second is that the second bartender was covering for the first. Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt…. several, actually. Never leave a man behind. You never know whether you’re getting a customer who’s been in the service industry before and understands everything about why the food and drinks are late, or someone who’s never been in the service industry and makes their displeasure known by screaming across the entire restaurant. My favorite is when BOH (back of house) is running behind and people are screaming at FOH (front of house) because their food is behind, as if the waitress has any influence over the kitchen whatsoever. FOH is running interference, because that’s about as much as they can do when the kitchen is in the weeds…. if the manager is feeling generous, perhaps a comped appetizer or dessert. Other than that, there’s nothing the server can do except grin & bear it.

FOH and BOH have a fight between them that’s probably been going on since the beginning of time. One constantly blames the other. It’s not the waitstaff’s fault the kitchen is behind, because they’re in charge of getting their shit together on their own. It’s not the kitchen’s fault it’s behind, because when you slam the kitchen with an entire restaurant full of orders all at one time, the kitchen can’t help how fast the food comes out…. unless the waitstaff doesn’t care if it’s wrong, because they’re rushing too fast to look at the orders properly. So, FOH is yelling at BOH because either the orders are wrong or aren’t fast enough. BOH can’t win. BOH just goes on gritting their teeth in pain and trying not to kill anyone. The one point of respect that FOH gets from BOH is because at least it’s not them having to deal wth customers. Cooks are not great polite company. There’s a reason BOH stays there.

With cooking, there is no HR department. You just have to get used to the fact that during service, your mother is a whore and chef’s dead grandmother can cook *and* wash dishes faster than you. Also, your salad looks like crap- redo it, I’m not serving it, it doesn’t matter how many orders we have to get out in the next five minutes. FOH is just going to have to wait, those sanctimonious motherfuckers.

You just can’t help but swearing at each other when the atmosphere is that high pressure. As I have said before, it’s like doing Zumba in a bikram yoga studio for eleven hours at a clip.

I am also not impressed by food safety laws that put cooks in danger. For instance, at one of the pubs where I worked, the burgers were cooked over an open flame and we were required to wear latex gloves. It didn’t take 45 seconds for the latex glove to fuse to my skin and burn my hand…. badly. Believe me when I say the heat is enough to get germs off your food. In fact, vegetarians wouldn’t believe this, but cooks can actually fry meat and vegetables in the same fryer without cross contamination because the oil is so hot it kills all biologicals. We separate it all out, anyway, but basic science is on our side. Now, I am not advocating for using the same utensils or griddle, just deep fryer…. and there are few things in the world I enjoy more than a deep-fried Garden Burger… often my sandwich of choice with bacon, called “The Hypocrite.”

My diet is partially vegetarian and vegan because I try to save calories where I can when the food is delicious. I don’t think anyone was meant to eat meat for every meal. For instance, the chickpea burger I had was greek, with onions and feta. Maybe next time I’ll order it with bacon and let people look at me funny until I use “The Hypocrite” line on them and they fall over with laughter. I have had much success with that joke, along with “it’s a burger in which two animals don’t have to die for me to have it.” But on the flip side, when I order real bacon burgers, I always make the joke that I love them BECAUSE two animals had to die for me to eat. Why yes, I am the Diet Coke of evil. Thank you for noticing.

Well, maybe not evil, but definitely willing to do damn near anything to get a laugh. I enjoy just forgetting who and where I am, because grief goes out the window when no one knows me and I can just be funny- without ever divulging my personal problems as if people want to hear them. When I’m just funny, there are no people who look at me with pity and say, “now, how are you REALLY?” There are precious few people in the world I will let have the answer. The rest of the time, I want to laugh about deep-frying veggie burgers and topping them with bacon.

The other laugh line that made me smile last week ran thusly:

Friend: I hope you had a nice birthday.
Leslie: I didn’t get nearly enough cake.

For my birthday, I always like to go “full on fat kid.” I did that the week before, where Dan and I went to dessert and got a peanut butter mousse with chocolate on it, but not a “death by chocolate” experience- mostly because I do not like them. So, anyway, Dan had one or two bites and I proceeded to inhale the rest. It was just on my actual birthday that I should have gone to the store and bought myself some kind of fruit-filled monstrosity. You have to do that when you don’t really tell anyone it’s your birthday and you like it that way.

On holidays, though, I tend to gravitate toward white cake with white icing, all due to an old girlfriend that said something to me I’ll always remember. She said that she loved white cake with white icing because it reminded her of joyous occasions, such as weddings and birthdays. So, to this day, white cake is all about joy.

Perhaps I will buy one for Christmas as I celebrate the first woman Doctor. It’s a huge joyous occasion that deserves celebration.

Maybe I’ll even spring for Cold Brew on Nitro to go with it. It’s all about balance- smooth black coffee and icing sweet enough to cause cavities all by itself. It will taste great after the deep-fried hypocrite I’ll be eating for dinner. 😛

And now it’s time to go home, having finished my, again, INSANE cup of coffee to look up where I can watch Broadchurch. Christmas is too long to wait for a Jodie Whitaker injection.

Again. Nitro? INSANE.

Do it.

Zagreb, etc.

There’s so much to tell over the last few days that I really don’t even know where to start. I suppose the easiest thing to do would be to work backwards, so that the thing that is the most fresh in my memory takes precedence over the ones where it’s clear I’ve slept since then.

My iPad Mini has gotten to the point where it is lagging behind app requirements, because it won’t even upgrade to iOS 10. That means that all the new features of mobile WordPress have been unavailable to me for quite some time. I finally gave up the ghost and ordered a Kindle Fire, the 7-inch that everyone is talking about because it’s so cheap. There’s a reason for that… but I have no actual complaints. Just things that I wish were different. For instance, you are tied into the AMZ universe and even though Kindle OS and Android are virtually indistinguishable, it doesn’t come with the Google Play store. It’s not that much of a problem; there’s really only one app I’m missing that I hope comes available quickly, which is the LastPass browser. It’s basically Google Chrome with LastPass already built in.

If you’ve never heard of LastPass, it’s worth checking out. The account is free and you can access your passwords from anywhere, even if you don’t have the mobile app or browser plugin. You can simply use the web interface at LastPass.com. So, I’m not stranded or anything, it would just be nice. The only password I ever have to remember is the master unlock for the app/plugin/web site. It makes it easy to create passwords that are long, random strings that would make a hacker cry (like I’ve said before, if a password takes several days to decrypt, you’re less of a target than the asshats who contine to use “admin” or “Password”). You can’t prevent hackers altogether, but you can stop lazy ones.

How do I know this? There was a hacker in my apartment complex in Portland who I asked to do a penetration test on my router. After three days, he gave up. It just wasn’t worth the incredible number of dedicated CPU cycles to see information that wasn’t very interesting. As an aside, in order to lock down a router (because this is a key you’ll probably want to give to your friends when they come over), the router will take spaces as characters and you can do a passphrase in “haxxorspeak.” For instance, let’s say, and this is just off the top of my head… @rg0 4k Y0urS3lf.

Yes, I did get that t-shirt. I underestimated just how many people in DC have seen that movie, and it has been a kick to hear that phrase yelled at me from passersby. So, fair warning, if you go to the Spy Museum and get one, too, be prepared.

Good times.

So, today was all about setting up my tablet so that I don’t have to lug around an iPad that won’t do what I want, or a laptop that will but seems to get heavier with every block I walk. By the time I get to Starbucks, it feels like it’s about 75 lbs. However, it does have a full-size keyboard and an excellent sound card so I can blast bass enough to drown out SBUX elevator music, so I got that goin’ for me.

Speaking of Starbucks, I got lots of gift cards for my birthday, and in addition to getting drinks, I also bought two mugs I’m very proud of. One is a glass replica of the classic paper cup, and the other is a dark teal with the mermaid painted in gold- part of their Anniversary Blend series. I decided I didn’t want to spend all of my gift money on something as temporary as coffee in a paper cup. It was my 40th, and every time I look at those mugs, I’ll be reminded of the day I got them…. even if I don’t actually put Starbucks coffee in them….. yesterday, it was Stash Chai with lots of milk and Splenda.

In addition to going to Starbucks, work has me chained to my desk a lot of the time. Between trying to set up a Udemy course, writing a YA novel, and trying to get that one Really Great Job,™ there are few moments in my day that I’m willing to leave my room. Though I do enjoy working in a coffee shop sometimes, I am most comfortable sitting at my desk with the 32-inch monitor. Technically, it is a TV, but I have used it for that purpose exactly once in the three years I’ve lived here. Though cable comes with my rent, I am much happier as a cord cutter. I am much more centered that way, rather than using the TV for company as it rattles on in the background. Whether I am writing or reading, I prefer absolute silence. When I’ve got things going on in the background, I have to go back and read everything three or four times to make sure I’ve understood it… especially with non-fiction.

As I have said before, I am reading David Halberstam’s somewhat snarky account of the conflict in Korea, called (appropriately) The Coldest Winter. I have only finished parts one and two, and here’s what it boils down to so far. Everything that could have possibly gone wrong did… and not in a comedy of errors kind of way. MacArthur purposefully cut out intel from the OSS/CIA so that he could give orders from his own flawed confirmation bias…. for instance, OF COURSE the Chinese weren’t going to invade Korea… and if so, it wasn’t going to be THOUSANDS of soldiers…. that would just be crazy talk.

Americans were embedded with the ROK (Republic of Korea) soldiers to support them, but support is relative when you can’t communicate with each other and the higher-ups are giving you wrong information all day long, anyway.

I’m actually not really all that interested in war. I just love Halberstam, and I have read everything he’s ever put to paper. I’d read a phone book if he wrote it. The day he was killed in a car accident was the first time an author’s death floored me. It was just so surreal.

As was showing up to McGinty’s Public House on Monday night and finding out they had a trivia game going. I originally showed up to meet my sister for dinner, but I got there a little early and by the time she arrived, I’d already won us a free drink. I am always amazed at the amount of useless knowledge I possess…. For instance, how in the hell I know that the capital of Croatia is Zagreb is just beyond me… Mostly because I know that random fact, but don’t ask me to find it on a map. I am way too dumb to geography. I can’t even be trusted with the layout of my own neighborhood.

However, I know where the mall is, and that’s really the most important thing, is it not? I mean, that’s where the pub is.

Lindsay and I ordered more food than we needed and gorged ourselves silly as we talked and joked. It really is true that I see her just as much now as when we were both living in the same city. In fact, the meeting she had this time around was actually in Silver Spring. Since she works on federal legislation as well as state, and Maryland is one of the states in her territory, there are very few months of the year in which we don’t get a few days together. During Maryland session, she’s here three or four days a week for (generally) five weeks in a row. It’s been fun showing her around “my DC,” and my little town in particular.

I’m also glad to be that person in town she knows, so that she can let her hair down after work and just blow off some steam, rather than feeling isolated in her hotel.

In turn, she’s shown me “her little town” as well. The capital of Maryland is Annapolis, and I’d never spent any time there until she arrived. It’s gorgeous, just a love letter to the Chesapeake… poetry in motion all over the place and my now two favorite words…..

Dress. Whites.

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.