Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Kindness of (Semi) Strangers

If anyone is looking for a restoration of faith in mankind, then you've come to the right place. It should come as no surprise that the holidays can be kind of depressing. I'm still not over the divorce and its consequential fracturing of my family, the family of which I always dreamed. In fact, I've been so miserable that I was contemplating a post on suicidal thoughts, a frequent companion of mine, and I'll probably still write that. However, something happened today that absolutely trumps that sort of subject, and I hope that it will inspire everyone who has become a little jaded with the conspicuous consumption that now seems so much a hallmark of the holidays.

I have two relatively new coworkers...they're working with us on a temporary basis, due to enhancements provided by the stimulus (okay, I work for a grant); however, they're both lovely people and I consider them friends as well as coworkers.

One of them also works for a thrift store in her hometown, and she's asked several questions recently about my children (sizes, etc.) that led me to believe that she would get them something for Christmas. I tried to demur, but, whether I feel deserving or not (and the answer is...NOT), well, this isn't about me - it's about my children. At any rate, earlier this morning I was sort of "lured" from my office (an aside: I'm one of those frustratingly literal people; I cannot read between the lines or sense nuance, so I'm easily bamboozled by any sort of subterfuge). When I returned, about 10 minutes later, my door was shut, but I didn't think much of this and opened it. I am not kidding when I say that my office was virtually filled with gifts for my children. A beautiful winter jacket for each of them, several outfits apiece, toys, hats, name it.
I knew from whom it had come, although what I didn't know was that it wasn't just my coworker, but HER coworkers at the thrift store, as well. I had been fretting the last several days, while shopping and wrapping, hoping that I had done enough for my children for Xmas, all the while realizing that I can tend toward overcompensation, largely because of the transgressions I've described in previous posts. I mean, I know, academically, that nothing will ever make up for the monumental fallout from my bad judgment; but intuitively, I still...I don't know, reach, I guess, for something that will, at the very least, distract from what I've done to them.

Last night, during a conversation with my son, we talked about Santa Claus. He is ten, and really doesn't believe in Santa, but we've had a few talks about the fact that his 3-year-old sister does, and that under no circumstances should this be spoiled for her. But he said something that, in hindsight, seems incredibly prescient. He asked me, again, about if there really was a Santa. I, in turn, asked him what he thought. He said, "I think, Mom, that if I believe in him, then he's real." I know that every mother out there thinks that their children are remarkable, but I have to say that my boy is...well, let me put it this way: He's been, by several different people, characterized as an "old soul", someone who, perhaps, has been here before. No matter what your personal beliefs on such subjects are, the fact is that my son has an amazing amount of emotional maturity, so much so that he shames me on a regular basis - not, of course, on purpose, but he does nonetheless.

I cannot help but think that, this morning, my son's belief was made real.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

(I Hope) The Kids are Alright

I am, once again, grateful for the feedback I've received on the posts I've published thus far...and, as I mentioned previously, there's been no embellishment - hell, this story doesn't NEED it.

I think, though, that a little backstory might be in order. Although I am, indeed, a convicted felon, it's doubtful that, upon meeting me in, say, a grocery store or at a school function, I'd be the one you'd look at and say, "Oh, she must be the felon in the room." Nonetheless, what was described in the "Redux" post was one of 3 such events. Being caught red-handed during the last one, I confessed to the other two and was charged with 3 counts of burglary (felony 2s, because of the fact that this was someone's house; an "inhabited structure", in legalese), and 3 counts of theft (felony 4s). I did serve a period of incarceration, but it was in what's euphemistically known as an "alternative facility", not a prison, per se; however, should I have been subjected to the maximum penalty associated with each charge, the penalty would have been - get this - twenty-seven years in prison. If THAT isn't deserving of bold italics, then I don't know what is. The even-more-unbelievable thing is that the actions that could potentially have taken me to that place for that length of time amounted to a TOTAL of six minutes. Six. Minutes. Of my life. And, for all that my infant daughter was with me on that last and most fateful of trips, I wasn't charged with child endangerment or anything like that, because, despite the fact that I left her in the car while I broke the law, the amount of time she was left alone and the location of the car actually made this part of things less severe than, say, leaving your child locked in the car while you ran into the store to pay for your gas.

So. Before the legal situation had even begun to play itself out, my husband sued for divorce, custody of the kids, and for me to "vacate the marital residence" which, in all fairness, had been HIS residence prior to us getting together. I will never forget the day the papers were served: We were coming back from a trip to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, where we had taken our tiny daughter for a checkup, of sorts - she had undergone some evaluation due to a potential issue that arose from her newborn bloodwork. As we were turning into what was still our driveway, a sheriff's cruiser was pulling out. They pulled up to our vehicle, handed in the paperwork to him, and he simply handed it over to me. I opened it up, read it, looked up, and said, incongruously, "Oh. This is from you," almost as though it were a gift, or a letter - and not the beginning of the end of the marriage that I had treasured so much.

I contested NOTHING. He got the kids. I have a good relationship with him, and see my kids frequently...we don't abide by the formality of the court order, and still do things as a "family", like go to the fair and birthday parties. But it will never be the same, of course. And I mourn the fact that my small daughter, who was not quite one when I moved out, will never know a home with two parents. Or, is it worse for my now-ten-year-old boy, who DID know it, and mourns the loss? Worst of all, perhaps, is the fact that they are in the care, while my ex and I work, of my evil nemesis, HIS MOTHER, about whom there will be many a forthcoming post. I've often wondered about how to handle HER in the memoir-to-be...she's the type that wouldn't even be grateful to be made famous (hah...infamous is more like it)!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Census: A Way - in a Manger!

Well, even in a touchy-feely world such as this one, this article ranks up there with one of the most ridiculous things I've read recently. An aside: I am not an atheist; however, neither am I a Christian...and my apologies if I am offending anyone. Not to make this post about my personal beliefs or anything - actually, I'm hoping that this one strikes a few funny bones - I do believe in a "higher power", but the philosophies propagated by pretty much any of the organized religions out there? Ridiculous, in my own, admittedly humble, opinion.

Well, on to the good stuff: I absolutely love the line, in the article, that reads: "The connection between the Census and the birth of Jesus may need a word of explanation" (my emphasis). Umm...a word? You think? For Christ's (pun intended) sake: I went to CATHOLIC SCHOOL, and I have absolutely zero recollection of being taught that Joseph went to Bethlehem to participate in the Roman census. Personally speaking, I think that the most offensive thing about the whole campaign is the poster: Either Mary is leading the donkey (exploitative); Joseph is carrying the Savior for her (blasphemous!); or Joseph is retaining water (thoroughly inappropriate), because he's looking a little zaftig in that illustration. Either that, or his robe is really billowy.

In addition to that, I also liked the part of the article that reads: "It represents an effort to reassure a group that is sometimes suspicious of such government initiatives as the Census" (again, the emphasis is mine). The "group" is NALEO, the National Association of Latino Elected Officials. And, folks, these people must be really paranoid, and I know whereof I speak. When I was pregnant (for the second time, but with my first child; I had a miscarriage shortly after my marriage) I came home from work one day to find my husband installing a satellite dish. Well...I went OFF. First of all, I didn't know that he was going to do this; we'd talked about it, but I wasn't aware that he was actually going to act on those discussions. By the time I arrived home (although I worked a Mon.-Fri. job, inherent within the position I held at the time were a lot of short Saturdays), the deal was pretty much done. For a time, I threatened to wrap myself - or at least my head - in aluminum foil, against whatever forces were arrayed against me.

Actually, the crux of the "complaint" against this campaign is really about a church/state issue...and I get that point. But I think it's downright hilarious that someone out there had the idea to utilize the birth of Christ as a way to get a targeted group of people to participate in the census.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Beginning: Redux

"It is always best to start at the beginning" - Glinda, the Good Witch, from The Wizard of Oz
"Some people without brains do an awful lot of talking" - The Scarecrow, from The Wizard of Oz
Can you tell that my daughter is "into" The Wizard of Oz? Yeah...she's three. However, it beats THE HELL out of Alvin and the Chipmunks; thanks to Lemmy, who gave us a copy of it (originally intended, I think, for my son; appropriated to an ANNOYING EXTENT by my daughter), I've probably seen AatC AT LEAST 70 or 80 times. Horrible stuff. Every time I watch it, I think..."If this is all it takes...why the hell am I not a millionaire?" SERIOUSLY.
Okay, the title. Well, I am absolutely amazed at the sincere sweetness of the people from whom I've received comments, so...I am going to throw out that kinda short piece that will, eventually I hope, be a first chapter of a memoir (or maybe a "true-life story"; don't you love that? A new "genre"...kind of like an historical novel, I suppose, but used when the story that's being written is something less than historical - I think). Honestly, it's not like I think that anyone is waiting with bated breath - and it is just that kind of self-involvement, or the seeming self-involvement, that kept me from writing a blog. I mean...who really cares what I have to say? But then again...what do I have to lose? And now, of course, there's that "kindness of strangers" aspect for which I was thoroughly unprepared. Just an FYI...this is all the complete, 100% unvarnished truth. And, please...if you care to comment, be brutally honest. I don't know why the hell the whole thing centered and not just the title, but I'm hitting "publish post" before I have time to delete the whole goddamn thing.
Eponymous: After Me

Once upon a time…

“What were you doing in my house?” This is said low, almost conversationally.

“Uh, what, no, I wasn’t in…I’m really glad you’re here! No, not in…I, I, need to take something…Do you know where the Petersons live? Around here?” This is what I said. What I thought was, Apocalypse. Right fucking now. From behind me, there is hollering.

In a beautiful kingdom…

“What the fuck are you doing? I called the cops! Don’t make a move!” I’m terrified, yet strangely detached at the same time, something I probably couldn’t achieve had I been trying. My eyes wide, I look around…this is really happening. And then I bolt for the car. More yelling. “Block her in! Block her in!”

Far, far away…

The baby. Oh, God…the baby. She’s in the backseat, but I don’t know if she’s sleeping, just being quiet, or overwhelmed at all of the activity. I cannot get away. I am blocked in. I get out of the car again. “Please. Don’t. I’m so sorry. I’ll just…here. Take them back.” They are a handful of pills. Painkillers. And here’s the rub, the irony, the bitter pill, pun definitely intended: There are twelve of them, an even dozen…and barely enough to do anything but make me somewhat nauseated from the amount of acetaminophen they contain. The narcotic itself, or, I should say, the amount contained in what would surely be a whopper dose to someone who doesn’t have the tolerance of a male bull elephant in his prime – or, you know, a drug addict – is no longer enough to do anything much to my consciousness. And let me tell you something even crazier: In my glove compartment is a prescription bottle with about 50 painkillers, stronger than the ones in my jacket pocket. And yet, I have just broken the law – although, of course, that’s not how I’ve characterized this “visit” to the home of friends, at least not to myself – for something that is less by every measure.

Lived a beautiful princess…

Did I hear this right? Did he just threaten to hit me with a baseball bat? Strangely, this seems like a great idea. I mean, if he hits me…then he’s in trouble, too, probably bigger trouble than me, but then, how will I explain THAT, because of course I am ultimately going to talk myself out of this, and my husband will never know. Probably. Or, he’ll know a version of events that will only somewhat resemble the ones actually taking place. Because I can do this, I am charming, and I am smart, and, under the right kind of pressure, quite the actress. Oh, and let’s not forget that I’m a Good Person. And, of course…I have the baby.

“Take them, here, just…I’ll just give them back, and then, you know…this never happened, okay, here they are.” And I put them down somewhere…I think on the back bumper of their van. It’s incredibly difficult to believe that this once seemed like a good, even innocuous idea; you know, just something to break up the monotony of the day. Certainly I’ve gotten away with this twice already, and the haul was much better on each of those occasions.

I. Am not. Her.

The cops have landed. What I am, is fucked.

I'm Overcome...

And I seriously am. First of all, thanks to Lemmy...who, I should disclose, is a real-world friend and not a virtual one. And thank you so much to everyone who commented...I appreciate the kind words of encouragement.

Well, I sort of owe this post to Lemmy, too...because he mentioned that it would make a worthy post, and probably some good commentary.

First, I should say that I am an orphan, have been one for some time - and this is notwithstanding the fact that I am squarely into middle-age. When my dad died, almost 15 years ago (my mother, at that point, had been dead for 9.5 years) I was 28, and I said something to someone about feeling like an orphan. This person - who STILL has two parents - said, "Oh, you're too old for that." HAH. I say, when your parents die, you're mentally 6 again, no kidding. I also am divorced, mentioned that earlier...and do not have custody of the kids. I often tell people that I don't have the kids because I'm a student and a full-time employee...although these things are true, it's NOT why I don't have the kids. I don't have them because of a spectacular fall from grace, during my minor-sometimes-major career as a drug addict. That predicated the divorce. And the custody arrangement. My ex and I have a decent relationship though, but not having the kids sucks, and hurts. I'm close with them and all that, but still feel like a failure. the point, I guess.

My mom died when I was 18; alcoholic cirrhosis, if anyone cares, and more proof that my family has a horrible history of addiction (she's one of many, many others). HER mom, however, lived a lot longer, although she was not mentally attending due to senile dementia. But: In her prime, my grandmother was a TRIP. And, several days ago, I was commenting about something to Lemmy, and that's what this was SUPPOSED to be about (I'm a digresser, notice that?). Okay, mother's family was Irish and German...and they had the weirdest sayings. One of them...when they didn't like something, like some restaurant's food, was: "I wouldn't hit a dog in the ass with that." My sister and I find ourselves saying these things, perfectly seriously, and cracking up about them. Who says this stuff? And...what, if the food was good, you WOULD hit a dog in the ass with it? This is what I meant, in that first post, when I said "mental meanderings."

Thanks, again, for the WONDERFUL comments...and, please, tell me if your families had such crazinesses. Honestly, sister and I laugh, and then, we cry. A lot. Our parents have been gone such a long time, and missed so much of our lives, and yet we still miss them - every day. And for my two kids...I try, as best I can, to keep them alive. They'll never know them, and oh, just wait: I've got some mother-in-law posts coming up...terrifying stuff, and I'm NOT kidding about that.

Damn. I never know how to end these things.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dipping My Toe into the Water...

Well, I've gone and done it now, haven't I? For some time, I've "threatened" - and perhaps I should have left those quotation marks right the hell off of there - to do this, to write a blog. I guess I should be up-front and honest right from the beginning; I have no compunction about saying that, like every other blogger out there, I'd like to write a book. No, I think I might NEED to write a book. Catharsis, and all of that blahblahblah. Here's the thing: I actually wrote a sort of truncated version of a first chapter...and, I mentioned, to a co-worker, something about writing a memoir. Now, this is a very nice person, and someone with whom I've become quite good friends. Also, she knows a good deal of detail about the past, somewhat sordid (!!! I am being uncharacteristically understated here !!!) last several years of my life. But, she gave me a rather indulgent look, the kind of look that you might give, say, a 3-year-old who says that she's going to be an astronaut. At any rate, I e-mailed to her what I had written, and...several hours later, she came into my office, grabbed my arm, and began talking...about what, I wasn't initially sure, because she was sort of stammering. She finally used the word - get this - "gripping"...and, finally, I got it. She said that she would love to read more. So, based upon that and also upon the truly biased opinions of a selected few others in my life, well...I guess, if nothing else, it will be the cathartic experience of which I've been assured.

Now that that's out of the way, I guess I should make a "formal" introduction (hah! to this moment, I'm NOT giving my real name...and the names of others will be changed, you know - to protect the innocent and all of that). So, this ought to blow at least part of my cover (riiiiiiight):
My name (for the present, anyhow) is Eponymous.
I am a mother.
I am a sister.
I am a friend.
I am a student.
I am an employee.
I am an ex-wife.
I am a drug addict.
I am a convicted felon.

Now, to decide the direction that this blog will take, and to inflict my hapless mental meanderings on some other poor, unsuspecting (at the moment, at least) bloggers out know, to get "my word" out there to the several billion other wanna-bes who beat me to blogging oh, several years or so ago.