The Good Place

I think The Good Place is ridiculously funny. Season one is on Netflix and season two is on NBC/Hulu. That being said, the show is not the reason for the title. I’ve been talking to an old friend about what’s happened with me over the last few years, and it’s been really hard to let those events resurface. So, this entry is going to be all the good stuff that has happened or makes me happy, for which I am eternally grateful:

  • When I went to Houston for the anniversary of my mother’s death, I got to hold “Hannah Solo” while she still has that new baby smell.
  • I am weirdly enjoying being without a car because I notice more, my endorphins are higher, and I have more energy.
  • One of the waiters I worked with at Tapalaya, Shane Torres, has a new comedy album out called Established 1981, and it made me laugh until my sides ached. Richard gonna be all right!
    • As an aside, if you can’t afford the album, you can listen to it on Spotify. But if you can spare the cash, buy it outright. Artists don’t make much money from streaming media.
  • My mother’s grave site is gorgeous, and I love the peace that comes over me when I visit. It’s a calm I can’t even measure- there are no words that match up to something so profound.
  • I’ve laughed until I’ve cried when people see my t-shirt from the Spy Museum and yell Argo @#%& Yourself in my direction.
  • News from Dan that I can’t wait to reveal after she does.
  • Getting to see Annise Parker again. I wish she was President of All Time and Space. Why shouldn’t she be? She already controls the weather.
  • Thinking extensively about the Doctor Who Christmas special.
  • The Martin Sheen episode of The West Wing Weekly.
  • Finding Monday night trivia at McGinty’s.
  • Knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that I could live in DC until the day I died and still not see everything it has to offer.
  • Excited anticipation for the Obamas’ portrait reveal.
  • Excited anticipation because I haven’t seen the African American History Museum and not only do I want to go to every exhibit, I want to eat soul food at the café until my stomach explodes.
    • This comedy routine that talks about African American History Museums. Fair warning- don’t drink anything while it’s on.
  • Laughing and joking with my dad over video calls and Facebook Messenger.
  • I see Lindsay all the time because of her job, so it was over the top to spend time with my brother-in-law, Mathew. You won’t hear me say this again out loud, but he’s funnier than me.
  • People donating to Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders for my birthday. The end total was $280…………. just mind-blowing generosity that made my birthday all the more special, especially since I was so down about it being my first birthday without my mom. It was really hard to celebrate a day “about me” when she did all the work.
  • Finding pictures of myself at my sister’s house that I hadn’t even thought of in years.
  • This song, which I first heard at the Ben Folds: Declassified concert at the KenCen, and haven’t been able to get out of my brain since. #staywoke
  • Officiating Bryn and Cory Nelson’s wedding and simultaneously facing my fears about going back to Portland.
  • Readers connecting with me in person and online.
  • Freebooksy, because my Kindle is always full and I haven’t had to pay a dime. The tsundoku is strong in this one…. but I’ll eventually get around to all of them, or at least that’s what I tell myself.
  • Fat Vampire, one of my favorite books I’ve gotten for zero dollars.
  • The Davids, Halberstam and Sedaris.
  • Munch ice cream at The Block in Annandale, Virginia…. you DO want the ice cream and doughnut panini.
  • The lifeblood that comes from deep roots and good friends.
  • IBC root beer on tap in Texas.
  • Learning how to use Instagram and Snapchat so I stop feeling less, well, 40.
  • Walking out of a liquor store chugging on a brown bottle ironically. It was ginger ale hot enough to burn my esophagus. Worth it.
  • The new sweater I got at Target because fall has arrived. Pretty sure it’s from the “Visiting Professor Collection.”
  • Prayer, from long and involved discussions with myself on discernment and clarity to the simple, end of the frayed rope “shit, God.” Anne Lamott says there are only three prayers…. “help, thanks, wow.” I feel I have covered “help” in detail………………. #prayingonthespaces

I’m sure there are hundreds more, but it was important to me to focus on all that’s gone right in the face of all that’s gone wrong. The past few years, but particularly this year, have been the most trying of my life, and focusing on the positive is the only thing that keeps me resilient and malleable regarding change. The top three stress inducers have all happened in my life within the last two years and change…. divorce, move, loss of a parent. I’d like to think that I’ve had dark moments, but overall have faced them with enormous humor, even if no one else laughed.

What’s important is that I did.

Operation Dumbass Attack

I was not driving too fast on the freeway. I was driving too fast for an exit and the slowdown wasn’t marked… a sign that should have said “this is a 25 mph exit curve on a 60mph freeway.” There was not enough time to slow down before I rammed my car into a guardrail. In order to avoid the collision, I would have flipped the car and made everything much, much worse. I feel so bad because I have been a grandma driver and babied the hell out of my car because it’s a Toyota and I intended to drive it until the wheels fell off. Unfortunately, the whole front end was first.

The title comes from my lack of foresight. When I got insurance for my car, I had plenty in savings to buy another one, so I only carried liability. Then, I spent the money on my ITIL certification and grief. It takes savings to completely fall apart and not be able to get out of bed. In the first few months after my mother died, I left the house maybe once a week, and alternately slept and cried, what it took to allow my body to release the thunderstorm I kept hidden the entire time I was in Houston for the funeral… because I had to suppress my grief in order to be able to function. As a natural introvert, it was hard emotional work to handle the business of death, and to meet hundreds of people who knew my mother and not me, or hadn’t seen me since I was a baby/toddler and thus had no memory of them. In addition to grief, for the first month or so, I had what the interwebs call an “introvert hangover.” It means isolation after having to endure enormous amounts of social interaction, especially since I did most of it without the social lubricant of alcohol, because I didn’t want to feel any more numb than I already did. I’d also done my research. A lot of people turn to drugs or alcohol after the death of a loved one, and I didn’t want to become a statistic. Because I live in a household that doesn’t drink, I just naturally followed their lead before my mother’s death.

Afterward, being sober all the time was even more important to me because of what I saw as an enormous trap for the grief-stricken. I’ll have a drink now and again when I go to trivia or out to dinner, but I don’t keep my own alcohol at home and my vice of choice is fair trade, organic hippy douche coffee. As Christian Lander says in Stuff White People Like, “anything else is liquid oppression.” So, not only did I baby the car and drive like a grandma, I was stone cold sober when I realized that my car was gone and I probably wasn’t going to get her back. There’s probably $2,000 worth of body work that needs to be done, and it is unclear to me whether it would be worth it to pay it even if I had the money on hand. This is because Toyotas keep their value, and the car itself is worth about $6k on the private market. For that money, I could also buy another car that hasn’t been wrecked. The point is moot because I’d have to ask for the money to fix it or another car, when I really don’t need one to begin with. It would be asking for a “want,” and I’m just not in a position to place wants over needs.

The best option at this point would be to sell the car for scrap metal in order to save up for a new car, or to buy a year-long Metro pass. In the past, the only time I ever used an Uber or a Lyft was when I was coming home from the grocery store. Safeway and Whole Foods are both within easy walking or bus distance. It’s getting all the bags home that’s a complete bitch. I am more than willing to pay five bucks for the use of someone else’s trunk.

It’s funny (weird, not haha) that I was just saying yesterday how I needed more exercise, and I got it. Just not today. Today I am sore beyond belief, and am not going to push it until tomorrow or the next day.

In the first few seconds after the accident, I’d never felt more alone. I didn’t know what to do. First of all, I was going to Waffle House for some Southern comfort food. I’d found one near Frederick, so at least I was not out in BFE Virginia… but still, 30 miles from home. Secondly, I didn’t know who to call in order to take care of my car AND didn’t want to call 911 because it didn’t seem like that terrible an emergency. My airbag did not deploy (which, in retrospect, I have no idea why). I was sore, but still ambulatory…. albeit dazed with shock and pain. Good Samaritans stopped about two minutes later, and called the police and ambulance for me. I didn’t really need an ambulance, but who else was going to take me to the hospital to see if I had a concussion or any other injuries? Even the police didn’t offer to give me a ride. It was ambulance or nothing. It was another moment that reinforced how alone I was, but also the kindness of strangers. Even the police were sympathetic, saying that they see a lot of accidents on that very turn, and the same exit on the other side of the freeway is worse. I’d like to publicly thank MD trooper J. Deater, because even though he would say he was just doing his job, I would say he went above and beyond the call of duty, even following the ambulance and meeting me at the hospital to see if I was all right. Maybe that’s just protocol, but it seemed sweet to me.

I turned out to be mostly fine. No concussion, just strained the muscles in my neck and shoulders to the breaking point and was given a muscle relaxer because my PA thought my pain was going to get a lot worse before it got better. She was not wrong…. although I am surprised at how well OTC pain meds are working when I expected to need a narcotic for a couple of days. I didn’t ask for any, though, because the PA seemed confident and I trusted her judgment that the muscle relaxer would be enough. As it turns out, the shame and embarrassment is way worse than the physical injury. I just have to believe the officers when they said my accident was nothing special, shit happens, there probably should be a sign, and I really shouldn’t beat myself up. But I’m so good at it! How dare they take away my one superpower?

I just wish I had the tools to go and grab my Bluetooth stereo out of my car, and not to save it for my next car… although I would have. It’s because it was the last birthday gift from my mother. Thank God I still have the birthday gifts from years past that I use every single day. I have a Bluetooth alarm clock with badass speakers and a multi-device Bluetooth keyboard that I carry every single day because I am so bad at texting on my phone… and would be lost without it at Starbucks, where I connect it to my tablet in order to blog away from home when I don’t want to carry my heavy laptop. If you have an iPad and/or an Android tablet, it is a must have, and right now it’s on sale. As an aside, when you set up an iOS device, it provides Mac keyboard shortcuts. If you set up an Android/PC, it sets up those. Just sayin’ because it confused me at first, but is very handy now that I know. I am linking to all of the products because I wholeheartedly endorse them, and not because they were “Mom presents.” In addition to sentimental value, they are all ridiculously useful.

I am also torn up emotionally about wrecking my car because it was a gift from my sister, and when it arrived, smelled like her and reminded me of home…. complete with NASA sticker in the back window. Especially because Eggsy was a gift, it was just more motivation to take care of her. My little “spy car” became my child, because even though it’s an inanimate object, I don’t have kids or a pet, and she was the closest thing. So I always bought her top shelf “drinks,” used premium gas on occasion to clean out the fuel injectors, and watched many, many YouTube videos so I could do my own maintenance.

At this point, I’m not sure which is the bigger wreck…. Eggsy vs. the guardrail or my logic vs. my emotions. Time will tell as I pray for discernment, getting into that small, quiet space where I can listen to what the universe has to say.

Purse Advil

Sometimes things don’t work out the way you’d planned, and yet, are still awesome. I met Dan for lunch near her office in Foggy Bottom, but instead of grabbing food, we decided to walk to The Mall. We ended up touring both the Viet Nam and Korean War Memorials. I didn’t get any pictures of the Viet Nam memorial, because there really weren’t any interesting shots that close up. However, it is powerful because several people have left biographies of their loved ones, and you can see people searching for names long lost to that brutality. We went because we are both enjoying the Ken Burns series on the war, and as cool as it is, I’ve seen it many times but had never been to the Korean… which I wanted to see desperately in David Halberstam’s memory. It seemed like a fitting tribute after poring over The Coldest Winter.

After I took pictures, I walked Dan back to her office and continued on to my car, where I drove to The Red Cross and had a terrible time finding parking… only to find out once I got inside that they provide free parking for donors. I had to walk several city blocks both ways, and my legs are Jell-o today because I am what you would call “indoorsy.” I was in pain and annoyed that the parking was not mentioned in all of the information I got regarding the donor center, but I know I’ll go back.

As it turns out, a few cheeseburgers does not raise your iron all that much, and I washed out again. My iron level was 11.7 in one hand and 12.1 in the other. Don’t ask me how that works… but I’ve taken corrective action by adding iron pills to my daily regimen. I should be able to pass in a week or so. It needs to be 12.5 or higher.

And yes, it did feel like failing an exam. Donating platelets has been important to me since 2009, and I’ve never had a problem before. With all the hurricanes and the shooting in Las Vegas, I just wanted to give back. They can transport platelets all over the country, so if it isn’t needed in DC, it will be moved.

I actually think that failing the iron test twice was a blessing in disguise, because 11.7 means anemia in women. The iron pills could give me more energy, and I could use it. I don’t have a problem sitting at a desk all day, but I love walking around the city and being exhausted from it… right now I am exhausted just thinking about it. Yesterday, I used muscles I’d forgotten I had… and remembered fondly the days when two miles of walking was literally nothing. DC is a walking city. The only reason I brought my car yesterday was that I was running late and Foggy Bottom is one of the easier places to find parking in the city that’s not hideously expensive. The parking wasn’t expensive in the Red Cross neighborhood, either, but it was much more sparse…. thus, the reason when I first woke up, thought, why do I feel like I’ve been run over by a truck? It took me a second…. slow on the uptake in my elder years, I suppose.

This morning, I am the living example of a Facebook meme…. “welcome to 40, where you have home Advil and purse Advil.”

It was important to me to get together with Dan yesterday, though, because she’s off on a work trip all of next week. I have two job interviews coming up, so we agreed to get together the following week to either celebrate or cry.

We have so much to celebrate, anyway, though… I just can’t tell you what.

Yet.

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Apheresis Pieces

I’m at SBUX this morning because I have an appointment to give platelets at 1:30, and I could use a boost. Not too much- just a tall Sumatra. If I need more, I can get a refill, but I don’t want to get too dehydrated beforehand. It goes faster if you drink water and/or Gatorade beforehand. I’m just going to go with water. If you go to McDonald’s for dinner, no matter what you order, you’ve probably had enough salt. Although I didn’t do as much damage as I could’ve… I got a cheeseburger, a small fry, and a Southwest Salad with low calorie dressing. I feel both good and bad that I didn’t eat until I hated myself… because that means at least one dessert.

People ask me all the time how I eat like this and stay so slim. That’s really, really easy. I save up my calories for hours, sometimes days. When I’m really anxious, I stop eating and switch to smoothies. So, when my appetite comes back, it’s on like Donkey Kong because I don’t know when I’ll actually be hungry again. Believe me when I say I am not bragging in the slightest. Depression and anxiety are a horrible nutrition plan. The hardest part is constantly being applauded for truly negative behavior… because if I’m skinny, I’m obviously doing something right. Also, people who are heavier than me that seem to have some sort of misplaced anger and aggression at it, as if I don’t have my own body issues just like everyone else. I’ve lost muscle mass due to my “diet,” and can’t run up one flight of stairs without getting winded. Now that it’s cooler outside, it’s time to start walking again. It’s two miles to the Metro, and that seems to be about right. If I am feeling industrious that day, I will also walk the two miles back. Other days, I take the bus.

Why yes, I could walk one mile in one direction and one mile back, but what is the point of that? One mile is the middle of nowhere. Two miles is downtown… you know, where, like, the fun is? In a short period of time (not exactly sure of the day) Silver Spring’s “outdoor living room” will be flooded with water and frozen so that there’s ice skating until New Year’s. I’m excited because I’m not really good at any sports except ice skating and skiing… and in fact, the way I picked up skiing so quickly was my foundation in ice skating. Keeping your ankles together so you don’t have to wedge all the way down the mountain is strikingly similar.

My favorite song just started playing overhead… the one about the only one that could ever reach me was the son of a preacher man…. Great brass hits, and I know for a fact that it’s amazing because it’s true. I may be female, but EXTRAPOLATE! EXTRAPOLATE!

If you don’t get that reference, we probably aren’t very good friends. Although I do have a few friends that are so busy they rarely turn on the television, so I’ll explain it just for them. There are villains on Doctor Who called “The Daleks,” an alien race bent on world domination by killing all other life forms. The Doctor has been battling them since 1963. You can actually watch the original ’60s movie on YouTube. Their main dialogue is EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE!, so there are many, many variations out there. Coffee shops have gotten a lot of mileage out of “CAFFEINATE!” There’s a somewhat famous desktop wallpaper of a Dalek in the shower that says “EXFOLIATE!” Why a Dalek would be in the shower is beyond me. They’re metal, and as Craig Ferguson has said, look a bit like a cappucino machine in a dress. But the wallpaper is funny nonetheless… suspension of disbelief and all that.

I am absolutely on pins & needles waiting for Christmas, my favorite day of the year because there is always a Doctor Who special, and this year The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) will regenerate into a female (Jodie Whitaker) for the first time. Some people are upset that she’s white, because there’s never been a minority doctor, either. Perhaps it would have been best to save Pearl Mackie for later….

However, I have watched ALL of Broadchurch, and Whitaker will totally be believable as a relatively young person with roughly 1200-year-old eyes. In Broadchurch, she played a mother who lost a son. If any role would prepare her for The Doctor’s immeasurable inner turmoil, that would be it.

My ADD is kicking in… now I’m wondering if I’ll be warm enough for apheresis. It is generally cold AF when you’re hooked up to the machine, because the fact that you’re freezing isn’t dependent on the temperature of the room, but your body’s reaction to the procedure itself. You just have to keep piling on blankets because you can’t easily wear a coat…. there’s a needle in your arm. I’ve also had several vaso vagel reactions and I’ve fainted, but have come back quickly and it wasn’t enough to make me stop. Fainting happens. There’s hurricanes out there. Blood and platelet banks are low, so I have no choice in the matter. I mean, I do, but I’ve been donating platelets since 2009. It’s kind of my thing. Dana and I used to go to the Red Cross in Portland, where the cute nurses would fawn over us because we were so adorable. I can only hope I’m that adorable on my own, because part of the reason everyone loved us was our tennis match stories.

And, of course I’m that funny and cute. It’s just not the same, and it never will be. But that doesn’t mean it’s not ok. Perhaps I’ll meet a hot nurse… not that I’m really looking. I look at the menu, but I don’t order. Ever since Dana and I broke up, I’ve taken working on myself seriously, because I never want so perfect a relationship to go so wrong again. I don’t have it in me. I’d rather be single and celibate the rest of my life than take the chance of hurting someone the way I hurt her, which was mostly because I was having my own emotional problems and in total survival mode, unable to be a partner… more like a hurt kid. This is not to say it was all my fault that things ended. No relationship’s end is one person’s fault. But I take a lot of responsibility… in my therapist’s opinion, a lot of the time too damn much. But there’s not a lot she can say to change my opinion about that, because I literally can’t lay down The River. It’s not that I won’t. I’ve made promises.

However, The Flop and The Turn are basically every session ever. We are just now getting to a second hand. The first isn’t over. I have one pair. I’m never going to win with that, because it’s not pocket aces or anything.

At least I haven’t lost my law school tuition to Teddy KGB… and eventually I will make him lose his Oreos and go on bustin’ him up all night.

Oooooh, now I know what movie I’m going to watch while I’m laid out, covered in blankets so I don’t lose my shit in front of a hot nurse. #eyecandy #thanksbetoGod

Dirt

I started writing this post in Houston, so it may jump around a bit now that I’m back in DC and have a lot more to say. I didn’t forget about you- just too busy to actually post anything while I was away.


There is dirt on my shoes. I hate dirt on my shoes… and yet, I cannot wash it off. The past two days have been a non-stop whirlwind of activity, and I don’t know where the dirt originated. Because it might have come from the cemetery, I can’t bring myself to wipe it off. It has become more than dirt; it’s a symbol of where I’ve been and what I’ve experienced. Red streaks of Houston mud on dark black rubber and canvas that represent something… and yet, I know that if my mother was alive, I would have been scrubbing my Chucks with a toothbrush.

The entire reason I came to Houston was to spend time with my sister mourning our mother on the first anniversary of her death, and the tragedy in Las Vegas overshadowed everything. We couldn’t focus on our own pain, but those of others. I kept saying to myself that there was no such thing as competitive suffering, that just because those families were going through tragedies didn’t mean that ours was rendered invalid… and yet, it didn’t help. Or, perhaps it did. The shooting reinforced that bad things happen to good people every day, and life goes on because it has to- there’s just no other choice.

We, of course, did make it to the cemetery, and to St. Anne’s Catholic Parish in hopes of lighting a candle in my mother’s memory… but they didn’t have a place to do so. I just kneeled on the cushion in the front pew, laid my head on the rail, and cried like I hadn’t in a long time. Even though it’s not, it feels like it’s my job to be “the strong one,” and not because anyone’s ever asked me to. It’s just my personality to help everyone through their pain and break down later. The more chaotic it gets around me, the calmer I become.

Then, as an empath, once the chaos is over, I explode with my own pain and that of everyone else I’ve witnessed. To say that crying in the church at the same time someone else was grieving is unusual for me is an understatement, but it was cleansing nonetheless. I was able to feel stronger, and to stop pouring from an empty cup.

It is no secret that I love my family more than life itself, but physically being in Houston is very difficult for me. I prefer it when my family visits me on “my own turf.” There are too many memories that absolutely torture me here. It helps that my sister has a group of friends I’ve spent very little time with, making new connections and context in this city that I didn’t have before.

It’s just that I’ve been on the long road toward forgiveness at everything that this city has thrown at me, but I’m not there yet. There are old triggers of emotional abuse. There are triggers of loves past that ended badly. There are triggers of discrimination and homophobia on the parts of others, which only reinforces my internal homophobia and all of my kid fears. Having Dana and other old girlfriends live here pales in comparison to the feeling that I can’t really age up here, and in retrospect should have been a major consideration on my part before I dragged Dana into it. Everything that happened with Diane as a tween and teen tightens around my neck like a noose. I have no doubt that one of the reasons Dana got so tired of living with me in this city is that I just had this neverending monologue going about what happened here, and how it was so hard to let go, because the moment I thought I had, the air would smell the same as some night in my past and I would be transported in time, stuck in a moment I can’t get out of.

Breaking up with Kathleen after she personally & professionally embarrassed the hell out of me was almost 20 years ago, and we were both fully-functioning adults. I barely remember what happened in our day-to-day while we were living in Virginia. Therefore, I don’t have any horrible associations with the city and I feel much freer to move about without worrying that something will double me over with pain. In DC, I remember things that come to mind from other places, but I am not constantly walking around in them, living reminders everywhere.

However, my mother is not buried in DC, and her things aren’t there. Because my house burned down in sixth grade, I don’t attach much meaning to them… or at least, I don’t until I reach for something that smells like her. They’re too big, but I grabbed one of her Blue Ridge Elementary Staff button-downs and a knee-length leather coat I’ve been stealing from her since high school to bring back with me. I figure that I can put the shirt in my closet and take it out when I want it, because once I wash it, the magic is over. I can picture myself burying my face into the soft cloth, even when the scent is barely a memory. The coat being a little too big is not a problem, however. It gets cold enough in DC that I can make it fit with all my assorted layers, and “she” will be the outermost, protecting me from harm.

Last night my dad came over to my sister’s and the three of us went through boxes and boxes of pictures, old school work, and toys. I laughed to myself with my kindergarten report cards that I only got one satisfactory in the entirety of my first grade year in “Follows Directions.” There were also three requests for Parent-Teacher conferences. However, there were uplifting moments as well. I never thought of myself as a good student, and in a lot of respects, I wasn’t. But my mom kept a treasure trove of my old writings, ones in which teachers were floored. It made me remember that things weren’t all bad. However, it would have been a different picture if she’d kept all my math homework. 😉

She also kept a science project that I got an A on regarding coal-tar derivative dyes in things like Kool-Aid, and just FYI, pretty sure grape will kill you. In the “follows directions” vein, there’s clearly a grape Kool-Aid stain on the report itself. 😉 You would never know I’d ever done this project if you looked in my pantry and saw all the flavored water bottle mix-ins that are sugar free and still taste like diabetes- bright colored orange, grape, strawberry, fruit punch, the works. I figure that I don’t have any other vices, so if Kool-Aid is ever listed as my cause of death, you can be sure I was at least warned ahead of time… to the tune of about 10 or 15 pages of research.

Eventually, I’ll be posting writings and pictures from “my old life,” because they are priceless. There’s angsty, awful teenage poetry. there’s a few good essays, and pictures of me dressed in girly frilliness that just does not happen these days. When I was a baby, I was very small for my age. I was a preemie, and my dad had to go out and buy doll clothes to bring me home. The trick to being in Houston is to remember everything that happened before I moved there, that my family has an unending love for me, and it is where all my history is stored. I just don’t have room for it here. So in order to see the past in the future, it’s a fairly short plane ride away, and it would do me well to remember that fact.

I won’t lie, though, I am happy to be home. I went to a BBQ at Dan’s last night, and for some reason felt the need to eat everything in sight. The food looked good, yes, but I tend to eat a lot more when I’m with friends than when I am alone. Being with them stimulates my appetite because I feel comfortable, able to put away grief and just enjoy myself. I wish I could have that well of joy all the time, but for now, once in a while is enough. Although I could do without the “so full I think I might actually keel over” feeling this morning. 🙂

I was supposed to go out with Dan again on Wednesday, but she begged off because Autumn, her wife, is about to leave on a big trip, so we made plans to get together either later in the week or early next.

Before the party started, I went to Whole Foods Old Town and picked up some chips, crackers, pico de gallo, and vanilla bean ice cream, my contributions to the festivities. The vanilla ice cream was because I knew other people would show up with desserts that needed it, and I was right- an apple pie and a chocolate bundt cake. I chose the chocolate cake, but if I’d seen the apple pie, all bets would have been off. I probably would have eaten both of them. 😛

I also went to Tech Week in DC, which I thought would be the right move, but now I’m not so sure. I went to lectures regarding venture capitalism, and met a lot of people that wanted to start new businesses, but no one that was actually hiring for any. Although I thought about being petty and buying the domain names for their bright ideas so they’d have to pay me large sums of money to get them back. Then, maybe I’d have my own venture capital, but I couldn’t make myself be that mean.

I came up with the idea for a great app, but it would involve finding an iOS/Android developer because I don’t do that, and coordinating with WMATA to get it done. I talked to my sister’s friend who said that there is a technology in government department, and I might be able to work with them. We shall see.

There was a small party at the bar where we went last year after the funeral to pour one out for mom. I made everyone laugh because they asked me what kind of drink my mom would want, and I said, my mother would prefer we didn’t drink. I had one beer when I first got there, but spent the rest of the evening pounding Diet Cokes, my mom’s real favorite. Then, when it was time to toast Mom, we bought really cheap beer that happened to come in a tall boy. It took so long to pour it out that I thought, we have made a terrible mistake.

I stayed in Houston until Wednesday because my sister was on a panel in one of Annise Parker’s classes at Rice, and she was amazing. Then, the mayor took a picture with me. I have loved her since I was a teenager, because she used to own a coffee shop where baby gays who couldn’t drink sat out in front facing Westheimer and watching cars go buy as we overdid it on caffeine. The coffee shop was amazing, but so was the hug from the mayor and the picture 20 years later.

 

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.