Monday, December 21, 2015

Tater Tots at the End of the Tunnel

Phew. Friends. Rough times lately. Aside from the constant onslaught of global tragedy (which, in case you hadn't noticed from the tenor of my recent posts, seriously gets me down), life's just been hard for the last bit. I mean, socio-economically stable, American white-girl hard. Which calls to mind a quote I just heard:

"There ain't no situation that you ever had to respond to that's adverse. The messiest thing you've ever gone through was your purse." - Eminem, Phenomenal. From the movie Southpaw, which I liked quite a lot, surprisingly. If you're a fan of Jake Gyllenhaal, overacting, and sports-themed feel-good movies, I highly recommend it.

But damn Eminem. That's harsh. Hittin' a gal where it hurts, right in the mom-purse. Low blow, man.

I mean, I get it. In the grand scheme of things, my life is not that hard. Whenever I'm feeling really bad I just imagine what it would be like have cancer at the age of 30 or to be a Syrian refugee or a young village woman in Burundi or a human-American who honestly believes Donald Trump would be in any way, shape, or form suitable for the office of the President of the United States of America and I instantly feel a lot better about my problems, such as they are. If you've been around these parts for a while you may be familiar with The Scale of Suck:


It's all relative. But that doesn't mean I'm not going to whine about it from time to time.

Anyway. Now that we've put it in perspective. My first world problems were stressing me the F out. I just felt like I was hiking up this interminable mountain and I wasn't allowed to stop to rest and I kept stumbling and falling down and I couldn't see when or if it was ever going to end. I regularly asked myself, "How do people do this??? How does the majority of the world survive on a day-to-day basis and do all the things like make their house not look like a HazMat zone and feed their children every single day and keep their family in clean underwear? I don't get it. This is so hard!" I was literally giving myself pep talks morning and night like, "Okay! You've got this! Just a little while longer. Pull up your big girl panties and handle this shit." And I did. I white-knuckled my mom-purse-adversity with nothing but some spit and sunshine.

I realized I had arrived on "the other side" of these trying times a week or two ago, as I sat in the sun on a deserted beach, in December, inhaling an entire plate of "totchos" (a.k.a. tater tot nachos), while my husband and the critters frolicked in the ocean waves. If there is a heaven, let it look like this. But hold the onions, please :)

"You know life is good when you're taking pictures of your feet." - DM
Everything's comin' up fried potatoes.

We hosted our first Thanksgiving at our new home and normally that sort of situation is my worst nightmare but I didn't cook a damn thing and I ended up being super sick the day of so my sister-in-law expertly managed the warming of things (which is actually way more involved that one would think, given that everything was already cooked), and my husband and mom- and dad-in-law wrangled the children, and it was a totally enjoyable day despite feeling like fresh hell.

I got to have a grown-up date with my husband, at the concert of a band we saw for our first official date thirteen years ago <3


We roasted s'mores on the beach in December, which was glorious until the inevitable meltdowns because they got wet and sticky and sandy roasting marshmallows at the beach and I did not have sufficient "wep-wipes wifout chemicals" on my person to give them full hospital baths.

 
We got our Christmas tree up and decorated before Christmas. The dogs only ate one four priceless ornaments (so far). And I persevered the "OCD itch" for three whole hours before I rearranged all of the ornaments the kids put on the bottom two feet of the tree. Come to think of it, I've completely let go. The lights on the top third of the tree are 30% dimmer than the rest (because we ran out and had to go get more and apparently there is no industry standard for shiny brightness of fairy lights), AND, Daddy Mack just discovered two entire boxes of my most precious and fragile ornaments that we didn't even put on the tree and I'm pretty sure I'm just going to leave them for next year! I'm a new me who's fresh outta f*cks to give!

We started strong. That's all I can say about that. 
I got crafty as hell with my sis and a girlfriend.


And somebody thought it would be a good idea for that damn elf to come anywhere near my hours of painstaking handiwork.

Chuck Ferry, I swear to God and everything Holy, if you tarnish one glistening ball on that wreath, you will have a hot date with a glue gun and I can guarantee it won't be nearly as pretty as this.
I finished my Christmas shopping before Christmas eve.

My kids had multiple run-in's with everyone's favorite Capitalist incarnation of the birth of Jesus Christ. (I don't mean that as an insult, Santa is my own personal lord and savior.)


My dad and brother are coming for the holidays <3

One of my BFFs just had her FOURTH precious baby and it makes me smile.

As of today, 60,000 people have visited my blog. I know "real" bloggers get that much traffic in a day, but that's 59,993 more than I expected (and okay let's be honest, it's probably a combination of my besties and Ukrainian hacker bots visiting 30,000 times in a row but whatever, I'll take it :))

And, I just had my first official review at work (after 4 and a half years? I think they just realized I work here. Just give me my stapler and call me Milton). And they actually really like me ;)

Not to be like, "#blessed," or anything. But it's nice to be reminded of everything you have to be thankful for, especially on the heels of a patch where you're thankful just to get through the day. I write this to say, if you are in the shit, mom-purse-petty though it may be, and it feels like it will never end and you are not sure how you're going to be able to hold it together much longer, just keep on keepin' on. You'll get through it. And there are tater tots at the end of the tunnel.


And tonight as I'm listening to NPR on my drive home, hearing about how terrible everything is in the world. As it takes me 75 minutes to drive 27 miles. As my children are literally fighting about a goddamn eyelash. As I actually shed a tear over spilled milk. As I open the credit card bill for all of those expeditious Christmas purchases. I will repeat this mantra to myself: There are tater tots at the end of the tunnel. There are tater tots. At the end. Of the tunnel. Amen.

PS. In case you're thinking, "Nice humble brag, b*tch." Don't you worry, I got mine. I wrote this and before I had a chance to publish it, I caught a nasty stomach bug from my husband. Poor DM. Before kids, if he'd had a stomach flu I would have been like, "Oh honey here's some flat ginger ale and dry toast, may I hand-feed you spoonfuls of homemade applesauce?" (Actually I wouldn't feed him toast because he thinks toast causes migraines. But I would feed toast to a normal person with the stomach flu.) Now I'm like, "Don't breathe on or near our children. If they catch this shit I will f*cking end you." (I'm paraphrasing. ;))

Anyway, just when I thought I was in the clear, BOOM BOOM BARF. I was SO ILL, people. And I do not have any days in life to spare. I was also going to miss my daughter's first ever ballet recital. You know what's worse than missing your daughter's first ballet recital? Having to attend your daughter's ballet recital while you are in the throes of the stomach flu because your husband gets stuck in aforementioned hellacious traffic. And you are pouring sweat from places that shouldn't sweat and trying not to throw up in your mouth and/or sh*t your pants and Purell-ing the hell out of yourself and everything around you the while attempting to look totally normal, present, and overwhelmed with the adorableness. I felt like one of those people in the movie Contagion, or some zombie-apocalypse movie, where you have to pretend not to be "infected" otherwise they put you in quarantine and leave you for dead.

The Universe said, "This is what you get for counting your tater tots before they're nacho-fied, SUCKAH!"

But I gotta tell ya, the barfs really put it all in perspective. You know how when you get really sick, you're just like, "I can't believe I ever had such a joyful time in my life that I could think about, let alone eat, totchos and not projectile vomit. I would do anything to feel like that again." (Or, "I can't believe I could breathe freely through my nostrils and I didn't breathe ALL THE AIR!") When you recover, you really have a new lease on life! Donald Trump, who? I'm eating bread, bitches!

So yeah. Tater tots. Or dry toast and flat ginger ale. At the bottom of your mom purse.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Ignorance Is Not Bliss

I've got a bone to pick. I keep seeing the same handful of "arguments" (which falsely implies some sort of logic) being hurled about the Interwebs lately (at me privately, on my blog, and repeatedly assaulting my eyeballs on my news feed). And I think they're a bunch of baloney.

First things first.
Credit: Notions Capital (Flickr Creative Commons)
1. Donald Trump and his latest blatantly racist douchebaggery chicanery.

Just no.

Remember how in my last post I was like, hey, let's practice tolerance, if you actually sit down and share a cocktail or a quesadilla with someone you'll find out they're human, just like you. Well. Let me tell you. I am having a REAL hard time practicing tolerance and understanding with this piece of ... work. And hey, if he was just some lone (crazy ass) ranger who was totally off the reservation, that would be one thing. But this PSYCHOTIC YAHOO is the front running republican candidate?!? I'm sorry but what in the fucking fuck, people?! I AM SO CONFUSED. Confused, and also, filled with an overwhelming urge to scream, cry, or bury my head in the sand. If I sat down across the table from Donald Trump I would have to try very, very hard not to throw my conciliatory community-building beer in his face. At first it was kind of amusing, like a sociological experiment. Then it became unbelievable. Then it became disturbing. Now? Now I am absolutely terrified. Please PLEASE tell me this is all just a terrible joke???

THIS GUY JUST HELD UP JAPANESE INTERNMENT CAMPS AS A POSITIVE EXEMPLAR FROM AMERICAN HISTORY. AND HE IS RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. The land of the free. A country of diversity and acceptance. A nation that was founded by immigrants. (Okay, well, more like stolen from its original, rightful owners by immigrants but you get my point). He thinks Islam has no place in America? No place in the 21st century? HE has no place in America in the 21st century. He is a fear-mongering bigot whose beliefs go against everything that American stands for.

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breath free,*
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.**
Send these, the homeless, the tempest-tost to me,***
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

* Except Muslims.

** But actually, really really ridiculously rich Muslims are cool.

*** Excludes Syrians and other people who are browner than me, but ORANGE PEOPLE ARE WELCOME! Send me your overworked Oompa Loompas, I've got just the factory for them!

PS, If Dick Cheney's like, "Bruh, you went too far," you done CROSSED THE LINE.

2. The meaning of "well-regulated" in the Second Amendment (from my recent FB post):

An anonymous reader commented on my post about guns. I still can't get over the fact I have anonymous readers. DM doesn't really believe it, he thinks my post hits are all Ukrainian hacker bots. Anyway. S/he wrote this:

"Nice piece, but you might want to look up what "well regulated" means in the vernacular of the late 18th century, when the second amendment was written. It means "well equipped". :)"

This was my response:

"Thanks. Actually, according to the Supreme Court in DC v Heller (whose holding I vehemently disagree with but it is the supreme law of the land, after all ;)), per the vernacular, "well-regulated" means "the imposition of proper discipline and training," which sounds to me like a great place to start!

In any event, even without the qualifying clause, no individual rights granted by the Constitution (Bill of Rights) are without limitation. They are subject to a balancing act of the rights of the individual vs. legitimate government interest, e.g., the general welfare of its citizens."

In fact, the Court in Heller said that "the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited," and pointed out that "the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose."

Like I said, I'll talk about this stuff until my face turns blue!

3. "In 1789, Thomas Jefferson said 'Cross my heart, hope to die, the Federal Government will never steal your guns, pinkie swear, no take-backs.'"

You know what else our "Founding Fathers" said? That white people could OWN black people. That blacks had 3/5 the human worth of whites. That black people could not vote. They were not allowed in white schools, restaurants or places of business. Women could not vote and were considered chattel. Native Americans were systemically displaced and slaughtered. So, forgive me if I don't find this to be an ironclad argument. The Constitution is an amazing document and the backbone of American democracy, but it was written over 200 years ago and has to adapt as we learn and grow as a nation.

"Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better." - Maya Angelou

PS, You're not the only one who can quote the Founding Fathers in support of your argument. They also said that gun owners should be subject to discipline and training, as noted above.

PPS, See also, section 2.b re: no individual rights being absolute, including but not limited to, the right to keep and bear arms.

PPPS, How do you know the framers weren't talking about THIS?


4. This meme has come across my news feed no less than five times in the past week. There's so much wrong with this analogy, I don't even know where to start. 


I guess my main issue is this: No one is saying "make guns illegal," are they? I know I'm not. I mean, we can't even vote to keep guns out of the hands of suspected terrorists, so I don't think rounding up all the guns in the country and throwing them in the ocean is on the agenda. All people are saying is "make guns harder for baddies to get," and also maybe "you don't need a grenade launcher and a high powered assault rifle for 'self defense?'" If I were in charge I would also say we must take further steps to ensure that all the "good guys with guns" know how to safely maintain, store, and operate them. Is this really so unreasonable?

In any event, as I said in my last post on the subject, laws against drunk driving and prescription drug abuse don't completely eradicate those behaviors, either, but its a place to start. (And hey if you're arguing for a cease-fire in The War on Drugs, I'm all about that conversation.)

5. "Thank God I don't live in crazy Commie California!" Amen to that.

6. "I still don't believe Muslims are generally good people."

I'll ask you again: Do you actually know any Muslims? That's what I thought. Go befriend an actual, real-life Muslim, then get back to me.

If you still feel that way after you actually know a person from the faith about which you so freely cast aspersions, watch this:



Here are the Clif Notes: Yes, some countries that are predominantly Muslim (e.g. Saudia Arabia) have some messed up laws. Some countries that are predominantly Christian (e.g. Ethiopia) have some messed up laws. Balancing human rights and multiculturalism is a messy thing and (much) more work needs to be done. And yes some terrorist organizations have bastardized the religion for their terrorist purposes which I've already said is not a trait unique to Islam. But that is on the country and the organization and the individuals who carry out these acts, not on the religion itself.

"Islam doesn't promote violence or peace. Islam is just a religion, and like every religion in the world, it depends on what you bring to it. If you're a violent person, your Islam, your Judaism, your Christianity, your Hinduism is going to be violent. There are marauding Buddhist monks in Myanmar slaughtering women and children. Does Buddhism promote violence? Of course not. People are violent or peaceful. And that depends on their politics, their social world, the way they see their communities, the way they see themselves." - Reza Aslan

6. "No Christians have done anything bad in the name of Christianity since the Crusades." Wrong again.

The KKK.

Neo Nazis, skinheads and other non-Muslim extremists.

FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints).

Now, I assume members of mainstream Christianity would decry, "But those aren't Christians!"

And now you know how Muslims feel.

That is all. I swear I have some non-political posts for you. I just need to get to a place where my fingertips aren't autonomously driven by a blind and fiery rage.

Unless I get picked up by the US Government for my search history: guns, terrorist, Muslim, Christian, KKK, neo-Nazi, skinhead, child marriage. Don't worry though, I'll still be able to get a gun!

Until then:

On the subject of religious bias, watch this video, I implore you.



The Paradox of Tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. 

- Karl Popper, Open Society and its Enemies, Vol. 1

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak for me.


- Martin Niemöller

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

- Edmund Burke

Friday, December 4, 2015

don't be a dick

I. Can't. Breathe. My chest is in a vice, the air is being sucked from my lungs. My heart feels like it is on fire, my blood like hot, volcanic lava pumping through my veins. The heat rises from my gut, up, up, up, like a cup filling with boiling hot water. My skin hurts. It feels as though its been scrubbed to bleeding with steel wool. As I'm reading stories on the internet, as I listen to the news in my car, this is how I feel. I can hear my heartbeat pounding in my ears, and it's almost, almost, loud enough to drown out my frenetic thoughts, but not quite. Is this normal? To feel so affected by the ills of our society? To physically manifest the pain of the world in my own body? It should be. Maybe then people would wake the fuck up and realize that this planet is in desperate, aching need of something other than intransigent demagoguery.

This is not really a new thing for me. It's part of why I started blogging. I just have so many feelings and it's like they're trying to crawl out of my skin and bones and blogging is a sort of blood-letting that way. DM always pokes fun of me, says I'm dramatic and doomsday (though, may I point out, he is the one who has always wanted a bomb shelter in our backyard in case of apocalypse). I don't sleep at night because I worry about the drought and oil spills and white rhinos and rising sea levels and the PPM of PM10 in the air and sulfates and parabens and nitrites and hormone disrupting chemicals, and so on and so forth ad infinitum.

But in times like these when it feels like we're all going to hell in a hand-basket, like, tomorrow, multiply all that by 347,000.

It's funny (funny-interesting, not ha-ha-funny). A few weeks ago my two BFFs were in town and we were up late having a deep and meaningful conversation and Betsy said she was afraid of ISIS. (This was before Paris, and San Bernardino.) Claire, DM and I started laughing and gave her shit. "That's so silly! You should not be afraid of ISIS! That's not a real thing to be afraid of in California." Little did we know.

Still though. I'm not really that worried about ISIS affecting me personally. Okay, I'm totally lying. The day after the Paris attacks I was home alone with the kids and the power went out and I texted DM, "Am I crazy for thinking this is the precursor to an ISIS attack?" His answer: "Yes."

So, alright, I'm a little scared of ISIS. But I am way more likely to die of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, the flu, a car crash, a drug overdose, an accidental shooting, or an intentional shooting by a non-Muslim extremist than to be killed by ISIS. Fun fact: for every American killed by terrorism in the past decade, more than 1,000 were killed by gun violence in the United States. So, yes. ISIS and guns. Also global warming. And sharks. Super scary.

But. Want to know what I'm REALLY scared of? Us. America. Americans.

A couple of days after the Paris attacks, I was crossing the street behind a group of giggling high school girls when this guy snarls "GO BACK WHERE YOU CAME FROM, TERRORISTS!" and SPITS on one of the two girls in the group who were wearing hijab. He SPIT. IN. HER. FACE. I was in SHOCK. The shock quickly gave way to a burning flood of rage. I honestly cannot remember the last time I was so angry. I am literally shaking as I type this, thinking of it again. HULK SMASH.

Unfortunately Hulk wasn't so quick on the draw. I eloquently yelled after him, "FUCK YOU, YOU MISERABLE PIECE OF SHIT!" In the moment, I wanted to throw my coffee on the guy, but I fumbled with the lid and by the time I got it off, he was already across the street. Which is probably good. Fighting assault with assault is not the answer. What I should have done was taken his picture and blasted it out on social media. Next time.

The group of girls congregated on the corner, expressing disbelief more than anything else. The girl who was spit on and the other girl in hijab didn't even seem that upset or surprised. As I approached, I didn't even know what to say. All I could do was say "I'm so sorry." She shrugged. All I had to offer was a pathetic apology and a crumpled napkin. (Which, incidentally, is kind of an apt metaphor for America's response to gun violence.)

I was SO ANGRY, FAM. I texted DM as I walked back to my office, but warned, "Don't call me or I will start crying." I CANNOT FATHOM being the target of such baseless hostility. There are few actions that are so viscerally emblematic of hatred and disrespect as SPITTING your bodily fluids in someone's FACE. For what? Because of the way they dress, their name, their faith, their sexual orientation*, the color of their skin? I just can't even wrap my mind around it.

Hatred. Ignorance. Unfounded assumption. This girl. These two girls, actually. The targets of indefensible ill will. They couldn't have been more than 16 years old. They were walking back from lunch with their friends. They were laughing and talking and being high school girls. Maybe they were immigrants but they were more than likely American citizens. And yet this dick whistle without two brain cells to rub together literally spewed hate at two children because of the way they looked and what that meant to him in his tiny mind.

Why isn't anyone out there spitting on crazy old right wing extremists with mangy beards, or 20-something white dudes with bad hair and sociopathic stares?

Let's talk about San Bernardino. This Syed Rizwan Farook. He was an American. He prayed to his God in his country of birth because that was his right as an American citizen. He traveled to another country and he married an immigrant because that was his right as an American citizen. Somewhere along the line, for reasons we will probably never understand, their belief system was twisted and perverted into a theology of anger, hatred and intolerance. (Or so we assume, though really we don't know the whole story and we probably never will. Did you read about how he shot a woman from his own congregation, point blank?)

Here's the thing. Muslims do not have a monopoly on the perversion of faith. Any brand of religious fanaticism can become lethal when combined with the right amount of deluded fury, psychosis, and fire power. But we don't call it terrorism when white Christians kill people. And yet. There you are on Twitter, Facebook and the like, veins popping, spittle flying, screeching "Down with Islam!" Because a fraction of the Earth's psychopaths misguidedly claim Islam as their motivation, 1.6 billion peaceful, innocent believers are guilty by association. Even (or especially) when this purportedly Muslim whack-job is one of our very own. What I want to know is, where are the "Christian Killer" headlines? Where was the blaming and shaming of 2.2 billion non-radical Christians after the killings at an AME church, a Jewish Community Center, a Sikh temple? Do we scream DOWN WITH JESUS because of the KKK?

What would this eradication of Islam look like, by the way? Round up ... who? All Americans who believe in Islam? What if they're white? Still guilty? And what about Christians of Middle Eastern descent? Are they cool? Or should we boot them too because they're brown? Oh, the WIFE was a Muslim immigrant who, apparently, avowed her support for ISIS. So, should we get rid of everyone married to an immigrant too, just to be safe? And we'd put them where exactly? Some sort of... camp or something? Hmmm... this is sounding awfully familiar. You know where I'm going with this, right? Or do you need me to spell it out for you? You sound like fucking Hitler.

If you really want to start rounding up atrocious examples of humanity, maybe you should start with young white American dudes wearing ratty baseball caps and Aero Postale t-shirts one size too small whose mommies never taught them it's not okay to spit on other human beings.

This is what I want to ask the people who are saying these things: Do you actually know any Muslims? (American, Immigrant, or otherwise). Of course you don't! But if you did, could you stand across from them, the men, the women, the children who are not so different from you, could you look them in the eye and tell them you believe your life, your rights, your very existence is worth more than theirs simply because they believe in a different God than you? Do it. I DARE YOU.

It all boils down to this: Human connection. It's easy to hide inside the Internet, to spew nastiness from your screen without ever feeling or understanding the ripple effect your ignorance and intolerance have in the real world. (Although, apparently, some very special assholes can do it straight to your face.)

For someone who isn't a huge fan of people, I know a lot of different kinds of humans. If most of them just emailed me their life's resume, I might assume we wouldn't get along. Here's a non-exhaustive list:

Republicans. Lots of them. And you know what? They're actually not so bad ;)

Wild conspiracy theory tin-hat-type folks.

Super duper Christiany folks. I mean, these are actually my people - the stock from which I hale. But seriously, some of the stuff they say? Whooee boy. If I read it from a stranger I would assume they were legit straight-jacket crazy. Even knowing I'm related to these people, it still sometimes makes me want to stab myself in the eyeball. (And I'm sure they feel the same way about me and my beliefs.)

Mean girls.

A real, honest to goodness internet troll. I mean, he is honestly sort of a terrible human, but he's totally nice to me. A little too nice, actually. More on that another day.

Guys who wear ratty baseball caps and too-tight Aero Postale shirts.

Convicted felons.

Registered sex offenders.

People who most pictures of mangled fetuses online and call women who've had abortions murderers.

Straight up racists.

Alcoholics.

One pathological liar.

Cheaters.

Thieves.

Drug dealers.

A dude who used to run a dog-fighting ring.

Douche bonnets galore. (As DM and I like to say, "You're an asshole. But you're my kind of asshole.")

And you want to know something? I could sit down and have a beer and a civil conversation with each and every one of these people. (Well, okay, I should probably not have a beer with the alcoholics or the parolees. Also I don't like beer. Maybe just some coffee. Or caramels ;))

The best thing about actual, real-life, human connection? It works both ways. Some examples:

When I was dating my Iranian American husband, whose father, brother, and countless relatives are doctors, a couple of great-aunts were telling me that all Persian men, and ESPECIALLY Persian doctors, were lecherous, cheating creeps. They based this off this one Persian doctor they once knew. However, when they actually met my husband and his family, those (mostly ;)) unfounded preconceptions were shattered. Nobody is immune to the charms of Daddy Mack ;)

DM works for a well-known civil rights organization that some of my right-wing family think is the actual antichrist, blaspheming God and fomenting a Communist revolution. They were shocked to discover that he is actually a totally reasonable and immensely likeable dude.

My Iranian immigrant in-laws had their preconceived notions about Midwestern Evangelicals as well. But when you sit down and share a meal with someone, you are forced to find common ground. And as I've said before, my old school Muslim Persian in-laws and my old school Christian Midwestern relatives have a lot more in common than you might think. They can be culturally insensitive and try to make me eat meat in peace and harmony :)

My brother came out of the closet to a family that openly declares homosexuality is a sin, an abomination in the eyes of the Lord. But they once felt the same way about cards, nylons, movies,  cigarettes, alcohol, divorce, "illegitimate" children, interracial marriage, Mormons, Catholics, Jews (don't even get them STARTED on Muslims), people from I-Ran, ear-piercing, and rock-n-roll. It's easy to disavow something when that something has never touched your life. But when the subject of your prejudice has a face and a name, when they're sitting across from you holding your hand, when they're speaking softly and reasonably, even when you disagree, that hatred is a lot harder to muster. You'll start to question everything you thought you knew.

I truly believe exposure therapy is the answer. Try it. Your first session is free.

WHOEVER WROTE THIS NEEDS A MUSLIM HUG IMMEDIATELY
 * I was reminded, then, that this happened to my baby brother recently. Some douche canoe called him a faggot and spat on him in the street. In San Francisco! Hello! Are you by chance aware of your geographic location, sir? You're in our house now, biatch. By the way, this also happened in a crosswalk. Take-home lesson: Beware of crosswalks, bigot-breeding-grounds.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

from my cold dead hands

THIS IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW:

Multiple shooters with long range rifles shot up the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, a facility that serves people with developmental disabilities. We don't know how many casualties. The suspects are still at large.

Listen. Gun control is not one of my "pet topics." It does not incite in me the same fiery rage that other issues, such as gay rights, do. But this shit is starting to piss me off.

I am not saying you, personally, should not be able to own a gun (or, I don't know, maybe I am--- are you bat-shit crazy with a vendetta???) I will, however, argue Constitutional Law and the wording of the Second Amendment with you ALL DAY E'ERY DAY. My favorite (and by "favorite" I mean NOT MY FAVORITE) is how pro-gun people conveniently omit the first part of the amendment which says "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." I'm just a lawyer who once specialized in Constitutional Law, so what do I know, but to me, the right of Joe Psycho Six Pack to amass an arsenal of grenade launchers and machine guns in his basement is not implied.

ANYWAY. Whatever. You want to "protect" your family (even though overwhelming evidence demonstrates that having a gun in your home actually significantly increases risk of injury or death,) or shoot Bambi for sport? Fine. To each their own. You can have a gun or even a few. (I feel like NRA Oprah: "You get a gun! You get a gun! EVERYBODY GETS A GUN!") I just don't think it's unreasonable for you to have to jump through a few hoops to get one. I understand that this makes you squeamish and I'm not saying your distrust of the government is totally unfounded. But I think you can rest assured that the NRA and its right-wing pawns in Congress will always have plenty of bargaining power to protect your "rights," as such. Further, if ever it actually becomes necessary to obtain guns to form a well-regulated militia to ensure a free state and/or overthrow the federal government, I'm envisioning some sort of Cormac McCarthy-esque post-apocalyptic scene with Russell Crowe, Denzel Washington and Charlize Theron dressed in dusty rags and feasting on human flesh and I don't think Section 3.14159265359 of the Federal Rules and Regulations is going to get in the way of that.

THIS is what makes me very, very angry:

1) People posting shit about how more people die from prescription drugs and car crashes every year than from gun deaths. I'm sorry but that argument is stupid. Prescription drugs kill more people than terrorists. Are you saying we shouldn't fight terrorism? Further, no one in their right mind would say you should be able to walk into WalMart and get a bottle of OxyContin on Aisle 3, or drive a half-ton hunk of careening metal on public streets without providing some sort of assurance that you can do so without being a menace to society. Do regulations mean no one will ever illegally obtain prescription medications or dangerously drive a car without a license? No! Do regulations mean no one will ever die of prescription drug overdoses or drunk driving or car crashes? Of course not! But they will sure as hell help.

I am sorry (not sorry) but anyone who understands why my deaf, blind, 97 year old grandmother is no longer allowed to operated a motor vehicle should understand the same reasoning when it comes to guns. You should be required to show that you're not (historically) violent (aside from being bent on Bambi). You should be required to show that you're not (historically) insane. You should be required to instill safety measures so that your husband/wife/child or friendly neighborhood burglar doesn't accidentally (or on purpose) kill you or themselves or anyone else! (E.g., safes (the name isn't an accident), "smart guns," etc.) Perhaps most importantly, you should be required to show that you know how to use said deadly weapon, and that you are unlikely to accidentally shoot yourself or someone else in the head or the tit (I'm rather fond of both). Just... stop being fucking crazy, people. (And I mean that in the common vernacular of, "your views are asinine and completely unsupported by fact, logic, and reason." Not that you are actually mentally unstable. But in either case, may I recommend against gun ownership until you sort that shit out?)

I am not saying that tighter gun control would completely eradicate mass shootings like Sandy Hook, Santa Barbara, Aurora, Virginia Tech, West Nickel Mine, Umpqua, Columbine.. (The list goes on. Click here for a timeline of the deadliest mass shootings in the U.S., if, you know, you're really wanting to get some holiday cheer goin' on.) I'm sure there will always be people who will find a way. But if it prevents just one more, isn't it worth it?

2) This stupid law and others like it that make it easier to carry a concealed weapon (in general and on school campuses in particular). In other words, I could carry a concealed weapon. Would you trust me with a loaded gun in an emergency response situation around your children, your sister, your mother? BECAUSE YOU SHOULDN'T. I don't know WHAT the fuck I'm doing and by the way I do not respond all that well under pressure so it is much more likely that I would accidentally shoot myself in the toe or, you know, MURDER SOMEONE than save any lives, Ben Carson-like delusions of grandeur notwithstanding.

Would easier legal access to concealed weapons help prevent tragedies like Sandy Hook? Honestly, I highly doubt it. But alright, assume that, on occasion, when some psycho with a gun decides to shoot up an elementary school or a movie theater, there just happens to be a well-trained and steel-nerved hero with a concealed weapon on the premises and he or she has the luck and cat-like speed and reflexes to kill or incapacitate the killer and prevent or reduce senseless killings. That's great. Really it is.

Here's my counter-argument. Have you ever been to a Raiders game? How well do you think that would work out if beneath their starter jackets, drunk and angry fans had guns in their pockets? I don't mean to discriminate against the Raiders (actually, as a Niners fan, I do.) But okay. Take the Eagles. They'd just shoot their quarterback. Really, take any large gathering of humans. I just don't think adding fire power of unknown pedigree to the situation is the answer. And, back to my original point - would you trust these Jim-Bobs and Joey-Janes with a gun in a crisis around your kids? I don't. I mean, I'm sure there are some Seal Team Six motherfuckers that would be immensely useful in a gun fight. But with over 12 million concealed carry permits nationwide, there are certainly more than enough Elmer Fudds and Yosemite Sams to tip the cost-benefit analysis.

Some people point to the statistic that while concealed-carry permits have skyrocketed over the past 8 years, gun deaths have declined (Might I point out that they are still quadruple that of most developed nations). I find this to be a misleading argument. It is like saying that, over the past 8 years, there have been more McDonalds, but childhood obesity is decreasing (both true, by the way, but again, Americans are still the fat kids by a long shot), therefore, more McDonalds = less childhood obesity. In any event, consider this: Of the 722 deaths and 544 cases involving concealed weapons in the same time period, only 16 cases were ruled to be in self-defense.

That is all. I am done editing myself for fear of getting someone's panties in a twist. Shit's about to get twisted!

PS I don't have a deaf, blind, 97-year-old grandma, I was just making a point.


For your continued reading pleasure:

> The NRA's own Gun Safety Rules

> Guns in the Home and Risk of a Violent Death in the Home: Findings from a National Study, by Linda Dahlberg, Robin Ikeda and Marcie-jo Kresnow, American Journal of Epidemiology.

> Study: Guns in home increase suicide, homicide risk. CBS News.

> Guns deaths in children: Statistics show firearms endanger kids despite NRA claims: by Evan DeFillipis and Devin Hughes. Slate. "The United States accounts for nearly 75 percent of all children murdered in the developed world. Children between the ages of 5 and 14 in the United States are 17 times more likely to be murdered by firearms than children in other industrialized nations.

> Gun deaths involving children are devastating. The NRA has no idea what to say about them, by Nathan J. Robinson of the Washington Post.

Again, if you trust yourself and your family and your precautions with a gun in the house, well that is your prerogative. But that doesn't mean I have to trust you (or Trigger Happy Tim) with a loaded gun near me and my loved ones - in a crowded place, near my children inside a classroom, or near my husband, a professor, at the front of one. And you most definitely should not trust me with yours. Someone is likely to lose an ear.

> How I Got Licensed to Carry a Concealed Gun in 32 States by Barely Trying: I was clueless, hung over, and totally worthless with a firearm. Four hours later, I was officially qualified to pack heat, Tim Murphy, Mother Jones

> The Concealed Carry Fantasy, by the Editorial Board of the New York Times

> Concealed Carry's Body Count, by the Editorial Board of the New York Times

> 10 Pro-Gun Myths, Shot Down by Dave Gilson, Mother Jones

> Gun Control: What We Can Learn From Other Advanced Countries by John Donahue, Newsweek

> Bang Bang Sanity, Jim Wright, Stonekettle Station (I am really digging this guy lately)

> As a Navy Veteran, I Know How America Should Implement Gun Control by Shawn VanDiver on HuffPost (originally on The Daily Beast).

> Meanwhile, in California. Gotta love my Downtown Jerry Brown. In wake of school shootings, Gov. Jerry Brown bands concealed guns on California campuses, by Patrick McGreevy, LA Times.

And this, a tangential piece about the over-militarization of US Law Enforcement. The Serial Swatter by Jason Fagone, New York Times.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

kissin' wears out

I was going through my mom's old recipes yesterday. Not sure why, exactly, since I am not cooking anything for Thanksgiving this year. Seriously. Even though I am sort of accidentally hosting a sizeable shindig, I am not cooking a single. damn. thing. Thank you, Sprouts Farmers Market, for catering (literally) to the domestically challenged. I am surprisingly unapologetic about it, too. Years past I would have explained and justified and excused and apologized ten ways to Sunday for my woefully inadequate domestic skills. But I don't know. I just don't feel that bad.

One of the only things I've actually learned as a parent (aside from the mind-boggling vastness of what I do not know), is that time is precious and I don't want to spend it doing things I don't want to do just because I feel that I "should." As my BFF Claire always says, "'Should' is a bad word."

This is not to say I don't waste precious minutes on a lot of stupid shit. I will spend hours, DAYS, and an exorbitant amount of dollars crafting a Christmas ornament wreath I could buy for half the price on Etsy, because that brings me JOY. But running around like a sweaty maniac in the 24 hours prior to Thanksgiving so that I can serve mediocre, luke-warm food that is ready in seven different shifts is just not something I enjoy doing. Oreo pops, picture perfect cupcakes, and a biannual pumpkin pie? Yes, please. Fisting a slimy turkey carcass and spending the ensuing 8 hours in a hazmat suit trying to eradicate salmonella from my entire home? Thanks but I think I'll pass.

It reminds me of this time one of my aunts was stressing to my mom about the chore of buying and writing and sending Christmas cards. My mom's response? Don't do them. It might not feel easy, but it really is.

Of course, my mom didn't always follow her own advice. But by the time she passed, she had evolved into one of the more skilled liberators of "shoulds" I ever knew. It takes a lifetime of practice, but my end goal, a salty blue-haired grandma in a leopard velour tracksuit who gives zero f*cks, will be well worth the effort.

You too can engage in the emancipation. Just give it a try. You won't be sorry. Set those f*cks free. Send those shoulds packing. Fly away, onerous expectations. And bask in your newfound freedom :)

Anyway. I was looking through my mom's recipe book. This is the emblem on the top of her old recipe cards:
"kissin' wears out. cookin' don't."
Well shit. Guess I better up my kissin' game ;)

Have a great Thanksgiving, friends. Hope it's full of YOUR kind of happy.

Like shrooms and alcohol.

Siri just doesn't get me.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

revisionist history

Are we entitled to whitewash our memories? They are our memories after all, and inherently subjective. I think it's human nature to look back through rose colored glasses. But is there some acceptable standard deviation from the cold hard facts? I guess even "facts" get squishy when filtered through our tiny human brains, don't they?

A while back, my little brother posted a photo of my mom standing alongside my sister, brother and one of my mom's best friends. My brother wrote that the photo was taken after the Bay to Breakers 10K in San Francisco, and that she'd pushed him in a stroller the whole way. That did actually occur, but that is not what this photo depicted. My sister and I both mentioned (separately) that the picture was in fact taken after Mom had run a marathon in the Redwoods. My brother got annoyed and said something along the lines of, "Thanks for editing one of the few memories I have left." *Sad face.* At the time I was surprised by his reaction. We reasoned that if it were us, we would want to know the actual story behind the photo. But now? I'm not so sure.

My mom is the one with legs for days and totally tubular hair.
My sister is the cute blond.
My brother is the one staring at the clouds ;)

For those that don't know, my mom and step-dad died in a plane crash when I was 18 years old. My little brother lost his mom and his dad-dad. He was 7 years old at the time. He doesn't remember a whole lot beyond moments captured in photos and stories he's been told. My sister and I often discuss how sad that is, and how sad it would be if we died tomorrow. For lots of reasons, obviously, but not least because our children, ages 7 (hers), 5 and 3 (mine) probably wouldn't remember much at all. From our perspective, a whole little life has been lived in those 3, 5 and 7 years. It is the entire universe of our experience as parents and so to imagine that being reduced to a few fuzzy memories and dusty photo albums is just... unfathomable.

Now, as a mother, and a big sister, the saddest part of remembering my parents is that my brother... doesn't. The notion that he can only experience their love in snippets and freeze frames and secondhand stories just breaks my heart. And so I consider myself, albeit a poor proxy, an ambassador of their love. I feel like it is my responsibility, along with others who hold a piece of his mom and dad in their hearts, to pass these imperfect memories on to my brother, in perpetuity. It's like a kidney transplant. You don't need the whole thing. Just cut a little sliver and wedge it in and your body will take over from there. (Or is that the liver? ;))

(Side note: this is yet another justification for my mamarazzi tendencies. My sister actually played this card on Halloween, when DM and my bro in law were grumbling about us trying to get one single decent photo of everyone. "Well, when you lose someone you love and pictures are the only thing you have left you'll be thankful we made you pose for this godforsaken Halloween photo." Jerks. ;))

Somehow the issue of my parents' untimely death came up a while back (probably because Jack is intrigued by morbidity, bonus points if a flying metal death trap was involved). I was furiously texting DM like, "Mayday, mayday, the kids are asking how my parents died!" DM: "In an accident." Me: "Tried that. Not cutting it. They want specifics. What do I say???"

I ended up giving them the general idea even though they're probably too young and I probably damaged their wee psyches and I'll certainly regret this next time we're flying on a plane with other members of humanity. "Mama? Are we all gonna die in a fiery pwane cwash like your mommy and daddy did?" Anyway. It came up again last night in a conversation about grandpas and Colby said, "WAIT. You lost one of your dads, too?! You must be SO SAD for yourself."

Yeah, kid. Sometimes, I am.

I wrote a couple of posts about this back in The Cheese's infancy, one about my mom, and one about the anniversary of their death. I've actually written plenty of posts about death, for a grandpa, a couple of grandmas, my dog, my best friend's mom, etc. For whatever reason, these types of posts really resonate with people, more than the so-called funny ones. Misery loves company and all that I guess. Or maybe it's just easier to tug on heart strings than it is to make people laugh. Anyway, in the spirit of laziness and not reinventing the wheel, every Mother's Day and October 17th (the day they died) I usually just trot out the mom post and call it a day.

This past Mother's Day,* in response to my recycled post, "Uncle P," one of my mom's best and oldest friends, wrote "Your mom would have liked this post a lot. She would tease you a bit about it being a little over the top (it is), but she WAS a good soul and a good friend. You apparently don't remember her fiery temper and biting tongue, but she was also quick to laugh and quick to forgive. She also loved her children as fiercely as she loved her independence. She would be proud of the adults you have become."

Made me smile. And he is right about the post being over the top. It is saccharine enough to make your teeth hurt, and Mom was not one for hyperbole. But the part about her temper and biting tongue really got me thinking. I would never list those among her memorable traits. Maybe I didn't register the biting tongue so much because I inherited a bit of the biting tongue myself? Who knows. But the temper? No way. I can honestly remember two serious arguments we got into growing up, and only one real, legit fight that my mom and stepdad had in front of us. Maybe it's because my father had a very volatile temper and so, in comparison, she seemed calm, cool and collected? Or have I just completely rewritten history in my mind?

Which brings me back to my original question: Am I not entitled to do so? Do I not have artistic license over the memories I've woven in my mind's eye?

Uncle P was actually there when my mom, step-dad, and their friend Bud, died. Like, right there. He scaled down rocky cliffs and into the ocean waves that were crashing against the rocks to try to pull them from the wreckage (at least, I think this is how the story goes, but again, I could be completely making this up). Uncle P has been very open and forthcoming with my siblings and me about this. If and when we want to know the nitty gritty, he will be there to tell us. But again, enter Mackenzie, cherry-picker of memories. I really don't want to know. I have been to the crash site, by the way, and even in broad strokes, its enough to give me nightmares. The few gruesome details I have gleaned can still, nearly 20 years later, wake me from a dead sleep in a sweat. I have almost nothing but good memories of these people lodged in my heart, and I guess I'd like to keep it that way. Some people say, "Oh but you need closure." But you all know I think the notion of closure is a bunch of BS ;)

This train of thought makes me think of my mom's funeral, where one of her brothers stood up and talked about how my mother lived her life in service to Jesus Christ, her Lord and Savior. At the time I was doing a Category-5 eye-roll in my head, thinking, Really? That's funny, because the way she told it, as soon as she was old enough to do so, she ran away from Jesus so fast her hair was on fire, and never looked back. She thereafter avoided religion like the plague, and made absolutely no effort to instill in her own children any of the religious tenets that were the foundation of her upbringing.

But you know what? Despite her tumultuous past with the church and good ole JC, my uncle was right. At her core was an enduring kernel of faith. People who knew her in her later iterations might be surprised to hear it, but I remember my mom telling me about a handful of childhood "miracles" from which this tenacious thread of faith was spun. She spent a good chunk of her life thumping Bibles. It is not a belief system that is so easily outgrown. My uncle remembered one of many Moms. And who am I to begrudge him that?

Linear thought is not my strong suit, which might explain why I am also reminded of this story:

Once I was sitting with my mom and step dad, listening to a Blue Oyster Cult CD my mom had just bought in a fit of nostalgia. My stepdad said something like, "I can just see you with your Mathlete/Band Camp friends jamming out to this heathenous rock-n-roll." My mom replied, "More like getting stoned out of our minds." She then went on to recount one specific Blue-Oyster-Cult induced memory where she drank too much tequila and she got so sick she lied down behind a car in the parking lot and prayed (presumably to the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit) that the car would roll over her and put her out of her misery. I remember the look on my stepdad's face, like he'd never met this woman before in his life. It still cracks me up to think about it. See? We fabricate memories of the people we love even when they're still alive.

One of my best friends recently lost her mother. They had a deep but complicated bond, and I think that makes it so much harder on the person left behind. I thought this quote really captured the intricacies of love and grief and the many roles we play in each others lives and the ways in which our memories of one another evolve into these stories we grasp so tightly in our sweaty little hands:

“Don’t be so hard on yourself, You’re doing the same thing, trying to reconcile all the moms that Mom ever was - The one you wanted, the one she was when you needed her and she was there, the one she was when she didn’t understand. Most of us don’t live our lives with one, integrated self that meets the world, we’re a whole bunch of selves. When someone dies, they all integrate into the soul - the essence of who we are, beyond the different faces we wear throughout our lives. You’re just hating the selves you’ve always hated, and loving the ones you’ve always loved. It’s bound to mess you up.” - Christopher Moore

I think in that way I am very lucky. I mean, sudden, tragic death sucks balls, but, all things considered, I had a great relationship with my parents. I am not left with regrets, or resentment, or some burning question I'd been meaning to ask, or words I'd always meant to say. My grief was (and is) sharp and pure and as uncomplicated as grief can be. And for that I am grateful.

Well, anyway, the whole point of this line of thought was to write a less theatrical tribute - Mom: IRL. But I just wrote a LOT of words and that seems hard now (on me AND you!) so, another time :)

Until then, some quotes I like:

“When we think of the past it's the beautiful things we pick out. We want to believe it was all like that.” Margaret Atwood

“It has been said, 'time heals all wounds.' I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.” Rose Kennedy

“Whoever said that loss gets easier with time was a liar. Here's what really happens: The spaces between the times you miss them grow longer. Then, when you do remember to miss them again, it's still with a stabbing pain to the heart. And you have guilt. Guilt because it's been too long since you missed them last.” Kristin O'Donnell Tubb

“He always thought that Touie's long illness would somehow prepare him for her death. He always imagined that grief and guilt, if they followed, would be more clear-edged, more defined, more finite. Instead they seem like weather, like clouds constantly re-forming into new shapes, blown by nameless, unidentifiable winds.” Julian Barnes
A baby Mama. I mean, c'mon. Cutest little fish monger you ever did see <3
* Yes, it has taken me 6 months to turn the note "write about mom memories" into an actual blog post. What can I say, it's been a busy year :)

Friday, October 30, 2015

Bitch be cool.

Hi. In case you didn't get the memo, I'm a hot mess lately. This is a recurring theme: Exhausted. Stressed. Maxed out. Just plain done. Blah blah blah. I know I sound like a broken record. There's just So. Much. Stuff. I used to be really good at handling my (and everyone else's) shit and suffering in silence while managing to keep it together. But "juggling" has simply become "dropping all of the balls," or, some days, just "drowning in the ball pit."

Awesomely apropos mug from Hot Mess Mom. 
One unpleasant side effect of being stressed the F*CK out is forgetting things all the time. My kid called me "Dorie" this morning!!! But the Mackenzie Nunchuck Cheeseman that *I* know DOES NOT FORGET THINGS. So now, not only do I forget them, I fret about the forgotten things like Rain Man worrying over Judge Wapner for the next 7 hours or 7 days, or, I don't know, possibly 7 years, I'll have to get back to you on that. Meanwhile, HOW did this happen to me?!? I am NOT this person! (Or am I?! I forget ;))

DM: Baby, it's just a checkbook. You have more checks. It's not a big deal.
ME: I KNOW I have more checks. That is not the point. The POINT is I am not the type of person who misplaces a checkbook. Or a spare key. Or a photo album. Or the perfect card I've been saving 9 months for this exact occasion. Or, *gulp,* the roll of masking tape that held 5 years of my kids' measurements from the old house that is irreplaceable, and, just... GONE. Waaaaaa.

OH WAIT. I forgot (shocker) to tell you about the infamous Columbus Day Incident of 2015.

So. Jack didn't have school on Columbus day. Even though Colby, DM and I didn't have the day off, we decided to play hooky and go to Disneyland. We surprised the kids and hooked a left onto the 5 north instead of taking them to school Monday morning. They loved it, and there are few places in the world I would rather be than Disneyland.

But. Jack came home after school on Tuesday and said, "My teacher asked me why I wasn't at school yesterday." BECAUSE HE DIDN'T ACTUALLY HAVE THE DAY OFF and we all just ditched work and school for no reason. (Well, no reason except MICKEY MOUSE, which is an excused absence as far as I'm concerned ;))

How have I fallen so far???

Feta says, "Bitch, be cool. Seriously, woman. Pull yourself together."
One silver lining to my slow spiral into insanity (or, if you prefer the proper medical terminology, "Motherhood,") is that my husband is finally getting a little taste of what it's like to be married to himself. (And I've become a little more sympathetic to his schtick, which I refer to in shorthand as "Huh?" :))

DM: "Did 'we' buy my cousin a wedding present?" "Did 'we' get my dad a birthday card?" "Did 'we' schedule the kids' dentist appointments, or purchase and launder clothes that actually fit our children who grew 3 inches since Tuesday, or call an electrician, or arrange a meeting with a contractor for that one hour we have free in the next calendar year?"

Nope. Nope. Aaaaaand no. And PS, where are my goddamn keys?!?


All of this is a roundabout way of saying I have yet to write that "real" blog post I've been meaning to do. Someday. Maybe ;)

Don't worry about me. I've got this under control. Butterfingers may cause diabetes and liver disease but they are gluten free, bitches!
Anyway. Happy Friday, Friends. Good luck juggling yer balls. I say leave that to the clowns ;)

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Nacho Cheese

You know that feeling where you “should” be done having kids but you don’t really want to be done having kids? That “maybe just one more” feeling? Well, I don't get that feeling. Except when it comes to tacos, pizza, garlic bread, and ice cream sandwiches. Aaaaand… puppies.

See, I’ve been trying to convince Daddy Mack that we should get another dog.

Here’s a little backstory. I LOVE dogs. I've always had a dog in my life. I come from a long line of dog-lovers. We were always a one-dog family, except for this short period where we had two - Madeline and Pepper - and it was a total shit-show so we pawned Pepper off on a family friend. Since then, I always just assumed I’d be a one-dog kind of gal.

I bought Blue in college. (Gasp. Shhhh. Don’t tell anyone. This was before I was a humane society volunteer and had been inculcated with an attendant distaste for dog breeders.) Blue was my girl. My one and only. We went through thick and thin (literally and figuratively) together.


Ownership of one dog didn’t stop me from looking for more, though. And getting dangerously close to adopting another a couple of times. It usually went something like this: Friend/family/coworker: “This dog needs a home, can anyone take it?” Me: “I can!” Later, to DM: “It’s cool if we get another dog, right?” DM: “Um, no.” Me: “Shit.”

Still, I could never actually pull the trigger for the 13 years we had Blue. This was mostly because she thought she was a furry human and did not enjoy the company of other canines. We were actually pretty seriously looking for another dog to adopt when Blue passed away last year. I stopped the search for a short while, but a couple of months later I was back on the hunt. DM had extracted one promise from me: This dog had to be a “real dog" (not a spastic cat-like little furball as Blue the Pomeranian had been).

Enter Feta. She is adorable. And sweet. (As long as you are one of the 4 people in our family. Otherwise she is a shifty growly thing with a special talent for scaring the bajesus out of delivery and service people.) She's our protector. She is smart and loyal. She is 100% "real dog." And maybe for this reason, she didn’t really fill the hole left by Blue. She carved out her own, new space in our family. She plays fetch and runs like the wind and hurdles ocean waves and cacti. She curls her big warm body up on our feet and follows us around thwapping us with her tail and presses her heft against us any chance she gets. But she is a big, hard ball of energy. There is no fluff there. She’s not going to cuddle on your lap or snuggle on your pillow. She can, however, give you this look and melt your heart:


Funnily enough, Colby, who had known Blue for the shortest amount of time, seemed to miss her the most when she was gone. She cried for Blue at night, and tearfully informed anyone she met "My dog got dead and went to Heavens.” I think her missing little fuzzy old Blue really stood out in contrast to Feta's hulking presence. This new dog was bigger than Colby, and frequently stepped on her and/or knocked her over with her lumbering Lenny-like love. It was so extreme that DM started campaigning for a bunny for C. I researched hutches and had a short-list of names for pairs: Paisley and Argyle, or Fern and Myrtle. But then my sister reminded me about that time in college (pre-Blue) when we bought a bunny from a pet store – gasp again – and then GASP for real because my face swelled shut and I couldn’t breathe. So, ix-nay on the unny-bay.

ANYWAY. I’ve been passively looking for Pomeranians ever since. And by “passively” I mean, searching PetFinder for pom-mixes almost daily, and actually submitting adoption applications several times. But it never worked out. UNTIL... last week, the day before we were scheduled to move to our new house. A friend of a friend had bought a Pomeranian off a sketchy breeder on Craiglist, and got it home only to realize her existing dog did NOT like Pomeranians. This friend knew I had a special place in my heart for homeless dogs in general and Pomeranians in particular. In other words, I had “sucker” written all over me. And it was black, just like Blue. I mean c'mon! I was in love. New puppy at the same time as major life upheaval? BRING IT ON. Now all I had to do was convince DM.

Strangely, DM was less than enthused with the prospect. Actually he said “There is absolutely no fucking way in hell.” I agreed that bringing the puppy home the weekend we were physically moving was not realistic, so, in my magical line of thinking, I decided that if the dog was still available a week later, that was basically a sure-fire sign that God wanted me to have it. And, apparently, He did. Who am I to argue with the will of God, people? (And yes, I am indirectly supporting skeevy Craislist puppy peddlers. So sue me, Sarah Maclachlan. At least I didn't clone it.)

I enlisted the kids’ help in my full-court puppy-press. We all spent seven days cajoling DM. At one point Jack asked who was winning the argument about the new dog. DM said, “I don’t know, who do you think?” Jack replied, “Mommy, because she uses more words and bigger words." Ha! He said "Mommy has 25 points and you only have 10.” Ladies and gentlemen, we have a WINNER. Okay, so, I didn’t so much “win” as my opponent waved the white flag in resignation, acknowledging his inevitable defeat. Details, details.

And so, without further ado, I would like to introduce you to: Nacho.
Our realtor just came over and saw this and asked, "What in the hell is that?... No. Seriously. Is it a dog or a cat?"
By the way, if you are actually, literally, losing your mind, are you aware of this fact? Just curious. I have been accused of being a nut ball many a time, but this most recent decision of mine was, apparently, the craziest one yet, if the opinion of every single person I know counts for anything ;)

PS, I came downstairs last night looking for the pup (my faithful steed Feta was already upstairs with me), and found her asleep on DM's back as he was lying on the ground working on his computer. “What?” he shrugged. “She feels… familiar. I already know this dog.”

PPS, Colby has never loved anything or anybody so much in her entire life. She is obsessed with her "Pomeration," "and that's for true." <3 And Feta is welcoming the change with a sense of love, bossiness, and reluctant acceptance befitting big sisterhood. 
Welcome to Chez Crazy, Nacho Cheese.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Lurve and Tang: A True Story

I've been kind of sappy and nostalgic and emotional these last few days, which definitely isn't my baseline. I thought maybe it was because life has been so crazy lately, but really, except for the real estate transaction bonanza, it's not a whole lot crazier than it has been for the last three-to-five years. Then it occurred to me that for the first time in over 20 years, my hormones are actually my own. They are not at the mercy of chemical birth control or tiny humans growing in my belly. And I'm not sure how I feel about it! Is this that "PMS" that everyone has been talking about? Yowza. You people weren't joking around.

Anyway, in light of my recent state of sap, and cleaning and sorting things for the impending move, here's a mini retrospective on my love. Sometimes it's nice to be reminded why you married someone, especially at those times in your life when you've recently argued about a mop.

First, I came across one of our wedding programs. On one side were the lyrics to Bob Dylan's "Wedding Song," which I love to this day:

...You're the other half of what I am
You're the missing piece
And I love you more than ever
With a love that doesn't cease...

And on the other side was this letter:

Dear Mom and L -

A lot has happened in ten years, and I wish you'd been here to experience every minute of the wild ride. I grew up. Sorta. I'm not a trainer for the 'Niners, but a lawyer instead. It still sounds funny to say that. But I love my work. I do good (and medium-well ;)), and I learn something new each day. Little Brother is headed into his senior year of high school... no longer a little kid that falls asleep amidst a sea of markers and crayons, but an (almost) man with big ideas about how to turn those markers and crayons (and paints and pens) into an exciting future. Little Sister is married, and she's a MOM!!! I can't get used to that either! But it's an incredible thing... your first grandbaby!

My favorite story to tell, however, is this:

I met a boy. And I loooooove him. And the best part is, I know you would, too. He's smart and he's handsome and he's funny (but don't tell him I said so :)). He likes adventures. He makes great margaritas. And he makes me smile every single day. I feel so lucky, not only that he and I found each other, but also that I was fortunate enough to get plenty of lessons in love from the two of you. Thank you for teaching me that friendship and laughter and silliness are just as essential to a relationship as commitment and strength. Thank you for teaching me that true love doesn't fit in a box, and can't be captured by words. And thank you for providing inspiration and encouragement in love and all of life's endeavors over the years.

I'd like to think of the two of you here today, in Tahoe, where I always feel your spirits so strongly. I imagine you at the top of one of these peaks, tired and happy and completely content after a long day's hike, setting up camp and preparing a feast of Tang and re-constituted Chinese chicken salad. After dinner you settle in around the fire with your books or a deck of cards, but as the sun begins to set, you take a few minutes to watch the festivities.

You hear music and laughter wafting up the mountain.

You see family and friends dancing the night away.

It's almost as if you're right there.

It's almost as if you're right here.

Miss you.

Love you.

- M.

Then, I came across this little convo between DM and me, probably from a month or two ago:

Me: You're my fave. Thank you for helping out with our lives so much lately. I just can't seem to get ahold of the reins.
Him: We are a team. You only need one rein. I got the other one. Sometimes. And sometimes it's okay for us to be a runaway wagon.
Me: Well thank you. You are a good partner. I don't know if I'll ever grab hold of that second rein again.
Him: That's okay. I like a wild ride :)

As my grandma likes to say, "Hang on tight and don't stand up!"

Thursday, September 17, 2015

an apology to my son

I'M BAAAAACK! Not so much "better than ever" but you get what you get...

To quote my main man Jack Johnson:

And if it ain't this then its that
As a matter of fact
She hasn't had a day to relax
Since she has lost her ability to think clearly

(From a song that until 30 seconds ago I thought was called "Taylor," but, apparently, is called "Posters?")

I should apologize to you, too, for being MIA lately. I'm spread a little thin, which has led to this latest episode of "digital constipation." That reminds me - don't let me forget to tell you about the time my sister gave me laxatives and I almost died, and then ten years later when I forgot this important lesson, which resulted in a visit from some friendly members of Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District Station 109.
Anyway, as DM just wrote to a friend, "After 14 years, I've finally discovered Mack's tipping point:

Buying a house, furnishing said house and turning it into a 'home,' selling two other houses (and organizing the repair and maintenance said sales entail), packing and moving a family of four, two kids in two new schools, and switching one kid's school two weeks in (more on that another day), a spastic dog who may or may not like to snack on small children, interviewing new babysitters so that we might actually be able to get in a full day's work, cross-country travel, weekly birthday parties and the purchase of creative and age-appropriate presents they entail (God Bless Amazon Prime), a husband who demands time for surfing and football, the magically multiplying laundry pile, attempting to keep our place from looking like a Hoarders episode between housekeeper visits, a 1.5 hour daily commute, throwing an accidentally enormous farewell pool party, the small matter of her full-time employment, then add insomnia, and hey, searching for another puppy to adopt because, well, why the f*ck not?!" (That last part is clearly indicative of some sort of chemical imbalance and/or masochistic streak).

So. That's what's going on with me. How about you?!

But. Back to the task at hand. I saw this article the other day about a reporter who's name was in the Ashley Madison database (solely for "research" purposes ;)) and how it made her think twice about what she writes online about her kids, because, apparently, THERE IS NO LONGER SUCH A THING AS PRIVACY AND THERE NEVER WILL BE EVER AGAIN?!?!?* Ms. Patterson writes, "When our kids were less than 5 years old, our fears defined who they were. But now, at ages 10, 8 and 6, we get to see what remarkable beings they’re becoming." It was a good piece and it made me think twice, mostly because DM is always saying I better erase all traces of my blog before our kids are teenagers otherwise they will never forgive me.

I, personally, don't think what I've written is so bad. I actually imagine printing out these hundreds (thousands?) of pages and giving it to them when they have their own kids, so that they can see that they come from the highest pedigree of insanity, and they shouldn't feel alone. I think it shows the evolution of me and my attitudes as a parent, and of my children from baby blobs to real, honest-to-goodness little humans. I've called them raging psychotic A-holes, and angels sent from heaven above. I think (I hope!) that my love for them is apparent. And obviously I think I'm hilarious so there's that ;)

But maybe that's just because I don't have the gift of perspective that time provides. Will I feel the same way about these posts in ten or twenty years as I do about this mortifying letter I wrote for a class in high school? Probably. I remember coming across my old journals when we moved into our current house, and after flipping through them, I just tossed them all, because they were too embarrassing to read. The tone - let alone the content! - was literally unbearable. Thank the LORD they were not memorialized online for eternity!!!

When I was in law school, I wrote regularly to my BFF who was in the Peace Corps in Mozambique. (Did I tell you about the time I sent her a care package that never arrived, and it was "returned to sender," tattered and torn, two years later?! I had moved from Sacramento to San Diego and it still managed to find me there! And it was like a time capsule! US Magazine: Jen and Brad. Oh NO! ;)


Anyway. On my wedding day, she gave me all of the letters I had written. And I still have them. It's an awesome idea in theory. But even they are uncomfortable to read. It's just a testament to what nice friends (and husband) I have, that no one tells me to shut my pompous pie hole! Like, who talks like that?!? Me, apparently! I guess if nothing else my words will serve as a cautionary tale, much like the letters from my 16- and 25-year-old selves.

All of this is a very roundabout way of saying that I apologize in advance to my children. I hope this goes without saying (but lately I feel like things that should go without saying need to be said). I love you both so much. So much I sometimes think I might die. (Stand by, Station 109 ;)) I wouldn't trade you and all your you-ness for all the tea in China. You are unique little snowflakes and I am so proud that you are mine. Even those times when I'm embarrassed to be seen with you in public, I know that despite your rabid temper tantrums, frequent lapses in judgment, selective hearing loss, and volume control issues, you are sweet, good, loving, generous and thoughtful little beings and I will never get over the wonder of having had anything to do with bringing you into this world.

And I'd like to give a special shout-out to my son, my firstborn, my boy. I'm not going to go back and read every post I ever wrote about you because, ain't nobody got time for that. But I will just go on ahead and admit that, In The Beginning, I used to think you were our "spirited" (read: challenging) child, while your sister was our "textbook" (read: angel) baby. Well. I was mistaken. You're both challenging and angelic in turns, and it is presently your turn to be angelic while your sister is (much, much) less so. I remember a wizened mother once told me that one should never be lulled into thinking that you have an "easy" child. Every child makes you pay, it's just a matter of whether you pay up front, or incur a debt to be paid, with substantial interest (think adjustable rate mortgages), down the road.

So, I stand corrected. Our lives used to revolve around you and your moods. If Jack wasn't happy, wadn't nobody happy. You were the familial thermostat - from freezing to boiling and back again, we suffered simultaneous hypothermia and heat stroke. But, as with anything else, it was a phase. About which, if it weren't for these words I've written down, I'd probably get momnesia and forget all about. We have now come to rely on your infectious, sunshiny smile each and every morning. You go to great lengths to make our lives easier, almost all of the time. You are kind and helpful. You are the best big brother, and you bend over backwards to appease and accommodate Colby-Jong-Il, the diminutive dictator du jour.

I'm sure the roles will reverse again and again down the road (or maybe they won't). But remember children, you can't believe everything you read. No matter what crazy mutterings your mother may spout, know that she loves you more than the world. Always has, always will.

"Our heads are round so thoughts can change direction." - Allen Ginsberg


* Random unrelated side note on privacy: I don't understand how it's legal for all these real estate sites like Zillow and Trulia and Redfin and whatnot to leave pictures of your house up, INCLUDING THE ROOMS IN WHICH MY FAMILY AND I SLEEP, for ALL the creepy pervs of the interwebs to see?!? Sorry for the shouty caps but honestly! Some lawyer should look into that.