Shetland in My Rearview Mirror

At 10 years old, I was chubby, asthmatic, and uncoordinated, longing to rank amongst my sportier classmates, who played competitive soccer and already had “boyfriends.”

At 13, I was still chubby, asthmatic, and uncoordinated, but also surly and defensive around those “stupid whores” who now bullied or ignored me.

At 16, I was every small town, cliche, misfit, declaring this town was too closed-minded for my creativity and biding my time until I could leave the judgemental assholes behind.

giphy4

I used to joke that there was no sight as beautiful as that of the Shetland water tower in my rearview mirror, insisting that once I left, I’d never return. I did leave at 19, to go to college about 45 minutes away. It wasn’t far, but it wasn’t my bizarrely religious and intolerant southern suburban hometown, either. Sadly, however, my college years involved several more moves, a house fire, a miscarriage, and a divorce, as opposed to the more traditional toga parties and slam poetry readings everyone else enjoyed.

vlcsnap-2015-04-12-20h49m41s49

Wait, wait, wait… did Saved By the Bell lie to me?!?!?

Luckily for me, as Robert Frost once said, “home is the place, where when you have to go there, they have to take you in,” because at 23-years-old, newly divorced and a little broken, I returned to Shetland to lick my wounds. Waiting for me was a flexible job substitute teaching and a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment that rented for just $490 a month, with an ironically comforting view of the Shetland water tower from my patio.

After the first year, the fear began to subside when someone knocked on the front door, because I knew the rent was being paid and there was no risk of eviction. After the second year, I realized one morning that I hadn’t slept with my purse right beside me, because there was no risk of anyone stealing from my wallet. After the third year, I was able to put away my .357, in its pink gun sock, because I knew he wouldn’t break in and steal from me again. Surprise of all surprises, when I wasn’t looking, the town I once despised had become a healing place.

Indeed, for six years, my little apartment has been not only my home, but my safe haven. I’ve pulled all-nighters with the patio door open, enjoying the breeze and the cigarette smoke from the neighbors as I worked on my graduate portfolio. I’ve littered the floor with fabric swatches and straight pins in my latest craft project, while marathoning One Tree Hill. I’ve lain by the pool and read romance novels and listened to 50s music. I’ve packed more people than was probably wise onto my patio, to smoke cigars and drink cheap booze. I’ve dramatically cried after bad grades and bad dates and bad days at work.

vday8

In a lot of ways, Shetland now embodies my carefree twenties, more so than my tumultuous teen years. The horse-themed landmarks that once brought forth memories of bullying and boycotted football games now recall nights at the community center playing pickleball with my friends after closing, getting day drunk in my living room floor and giggling over online dating profiles with Gail, decorating my hot pink Christmas tree, sharing my first kiss and makeout sessions with Jake. It’s been a wonderful time in my life and it’s bittersweet to see it end.

Saturday, I bought packing tape and boxes. I threw out my college kid papasan chair. I took down my wall of photos of just my family and friends and consolidated them to one collage frame. In less than eleven weeks time, my life will no longer be just my own and so in just two weeks, Jake and I will move into our first house together. The town of Cherokee is just fifteen minutes from the Jackson library, but forty minutes from Shetland… forty minutes from Gail… forty minutes from my Gramma… forty minutes from home.

I know it’s for the best that Jake and I start on neutral territory, that we have more space than my apartment allows, that my dog finally has a yard, but it’s so hard to pack this stage of life into boxes, knowing I’ll unpack them in another. I’ve hardly begun and I’m having trouble not tearing up looking at my bare walls. Ridiculously, I already get weepy driving through town, knowing that one day I’ll be surprised to see new restaurants and office buildings, that the Shetland I know today will cease to exist.

giphy5

I’ve worked so hard over the last six years to carve out the life I wanted, to figure out what that life even was, who I even was. I’m overjoyed that that’s where I’m headed. I’m also beyond grateful, that I cherished my time here in Shetland and the bulk of my twenties. I didn’t spend my days pining for a husband and children and mortgage. I enjoyed my days alone and my nights with friends and even my bad dates with strangers, because each phase of life should be savored, one is no more valuable than another. At one time, I identified so clearly with Steinbeck’s quote that “it’s a hard thing to leave any deeply routine life, even if you hate it.” But… I loved this one and it’s kind of breaking my heart that it’s just time to put the Shetland water tower in my rearview mirror.

 

 

Getting My Tattoo Removed

At 24 years old, I sat in a Sonic drive-through with Gail.

Gail: “What do you wanna do?”
Me: “Let’s get tattoos!”

ross-phoebe-in-car

Now, perhaps, if I’d actually had a tattoo in mind, this wouldn’t have been such an inevitably regrettable decision. I am not anti-tattoo. My first was not my last. I also have my Gramma’s signature of her first name, which is my middle name and hopefully one day my daughter’s middle name, on my left foot. I will genuinely cherish that tattoo for all time, particularly when she’s gone, though she still insists that she’ll live forever. At 24, though, I had just divorced my ex-husband, lost 90 pounds, was dating again, nearing graduation for my master’s degree, and felt like I’d gotten my whole life back. I wanted to commemorate that, so when put on the spot, I chose something that spoke of life to me. The fact that it was a Logan’s Run reference was just an added bonus.

523215_3154781945948_655773656_n

Today, I look at this tattoo and you know what I see? I see a girl who needed to start her life over and all the reasons why. I see a 260 pound 22-year-old fantasizing that her psychotic husband will kill himself. I see two part-time jobs substitute teaching and cleaning gym equipment with a bachelor’s degree. I see myself driving around with all of my valuables in my trunk, because the man I live with will pawn them. I see a 24-year-old who desperately wants to distance herself from the most terrifying years of her life, by getting a tattoo that symbolizes their end.

You know what, though? I did get my whole life back. I got to be young and reasonably fit. I got to go to bars with my friends and giggle through bad date stories. I finished my master’s degree and built a career. I fell in love. I’m going to get married and have babies and buy a home and it’s just going to be… my life. I don’t need a reminder that I ever had another one. I’d love to say that I came to this conclusion, gradually, over the last four years, and in a way, I did. However, I also went home from the tattoo parlor, looked at my cliché white girl ankh, and Googled how much it would cost to remove it. Maybe a part of me knew, even then, that this symbol wouldn’t be relevant for the rest of my life. Knowing removal would be costly and painful, of course, I tried to rationalize. This was my Gail tattoo. This was something crazy and impulsive we did together. Had I just gotten something silly and fun, like an elephant or a flower, then sure, it would be. But, as Jake and I have become more serious, I can’t deny that this is a reminder of a time in my life that it hurts to remember. Those years still cause me nightmares and I think about them every time I look at this tattoo. I just… don’t want it anymore. I also know that, when it comes to removal, it’s now or never. If I still have this tattoo when I get married or especially when I have kids, it’s not going to be a financial priority. So, a couple of months ago, I bit the bullet and scheduled my first consultation.

Speaking of time and finances, do you have any idea how long it takes to get a tattoo removed or how much it costs? Perhaps I shouldn’t have built my expectations for this procedure on a season of How I Met Your Mother, but I felt like it was a two to three month process, of 10 sessions. No. In fact, there must be eight weeks between each laser removal session and patients are advised to expect 10 sessions. So, in a year and a half, I can hope to see a mostly clear-skinned foot. That’s right. Results cannot be guaranteed, so the decision must be made to pay the price and hope for the best. That price, at the only clinic in the city, is $35 per square inch, with a $50 minimum. Because my tattoo is thankfully small, that makes it $50 per session. I’m no mathematician, but even I can figure that it’s going to cost more than $500 to  get this tiny little ankh off my foot. So, how much does it hurt?

Thiiiiiiis much.

The first picture is of the scorch marks from the laser. The second is of the blistering that happened later. I did a little bit of research online, about how much the procedure hurts, trying to get an idea of whether or not it would even be bearable, before investing money. The comparisons ranged from “popping like a rubber band” to “small droplets of hot grease hitting your skin.” In my personal experience, the latter was dead on. Fortunately, I have a great technician, who will stop and let me take a break. The first session took me three goes, the second only two.

Does it hurt more than getting the tattoo? Yes, but it’s a much quicker process. Because my tattoo was so small, it would’ve taken, literally, about 30 seconds to do the whole thing, had I not needed breaks. Getting the tattoo took about five minutes and was also quite painful. Personally, I’d rather the extreme pain of removal for 30 seconds than the substantial pain of application for 10 times that. That being said, were this tattoo any bigger, I’m not sure I’d bother, partly for the price and partly for the pain.

As it stands, now, I’ve been through two tattoo removal sessions and I deem it bearable… but only just. I’m cheap, though, so even if it did get more painful, I’d be completing the process, because I’ve already invested $100. Fortunately, it’s supposed to get less painful, but pretty much always be awful. I keep having nightmares that I have larger and uglier tattoos to remove. Will this one be worth the time, pain, and expense? For me, yes. My advice overall, is simply not to accompany a divorce with at tattoo.

I’m not going to my ten year reunion.

Gail sent me the guest list, via screen cap on Facebook, because we are our generation.
Me: “Nate Walker and Keith Thompson? I’d rather be part of the human centipede, it sucks less ass.”

Lacy: “Are you going?”
Me: “Nate Walker. Country club. Hors d’oeuvres. It’s like a Mad Lib from Hell.”

anigif_enhanced-buzz-3139-1363725065-12

My response was likely expected, considering I started publicly insisting that the class of ’06 could kiss my ass if they thought I was paying to see them, the day I found out that the class of ’05 was charging for their reunion. In fact, I’m pretty sure the last time I actually expressed any genuine interest in attending my ten year reunion, was ten years ago, when I couldn’t wait to see how everyone turned out.

I’m apparently alone in this line of thinking, however. Everyone is adamant that I’ll regret not going. With the way Jake talks about his high school days, you’d think he went to fucking Hogwarts, he had such a magical experience, so naturally, he wanted me to go to my own reunion. He even offered to pay for everything. Though Catherine and I did attend the same high school, we kind of didn’t. It wasn’t until after college that the two of us started bonding and though we were friendly enough in our earlier days, we didn’t even run in adjacent crowds. While I sat with the drama kids, band nerds, and AP students on the auditorium steps, Catherine regaled her friends with tales of her groupie weekends with local Christian bands. We weren’t hostile, but we weren’t besties, either. Surely Gail would sympathize with me, though, right? I mean, we had all of the exact same friends and nemeses, the same misfit hobbies, a near identical lack of regard for basic fashion. Nope. Gail was even looking forward to the reunion, before deciding that she really didn’t want to go play the role of The Girl Whose Baby Died two days after what would’ve been Grace’s birthday.

So, why am such a Negative Nancy about all of this? Well, it’s certainly not that I hate these people. On the contrary, I’ve really enjoyed looking at pictures of their crazy college days, their wedding dresses, and their new homes. I’ve read all about their infertility battles and wondered how exactly someone manages to take an artsy picture from the bathroom floor, where they’ve supposedly just been vomiting. I’ve both awwed over their baby pictures and scoffed over the cost of the new high chair. All of this is precisely why I’ve no desire to actually speak to any of my old classmates, though. What could they possibly tell me that I haven’t already read, in detail, because nothing is private anymore? I’ve spent the last ten years watching everyone from high school grow up and get over themselves and start their lives… all from the comfort of my own home. So why on Earth would I pay (or let Jake pay) $70 to do the same damn thing, while wearing pants? Facebook has rendered the high school reunion completely redundant, even if I don’t consider the fact that almost no one that I would like to catch up with is going… for all of the same reasons.

“You should go and show everyone how skinny you are, now!” – All of My Aunts

anigif_enhanced-3312-1396362777-2

It’s really quite sweet that they see me this way, in comparison to my 18-year-old self and I’m sure a lot of people will attend with a similar mindset. I could wear a cute dress and bring my hardworking oil man along, flaunting my master’s degree and Supervisory Librarian position to all of those people who bullied me, but… I just don’t care enough about what these strangers think, to put in all that effort. Instead, this weekend, I’m going to celebrate my one year anniversary with Jake. I’m going to wish my Gramma a happy birthday and check on my best friend to see how she’s coping with the grief she still feels. At some point, I’m sure I’ll get on Facebook and smile over the reunion pictures, glad that everyone is having a good time. I don’t need to peek behind the curtain and make new memories of old acquaintances, though. I’m just too busy with the present.

 

The new kid in school…

Of all the complaints people have about adulthood, from paying bills to digging the glass out of the garbage disposal after breaking the cherry jar that got stuck (it happens, y’all), no one ever mentions the thing I’ve found to be the toughest: still being the new kid in school.

07afa9382205da89b2a7acaaae4387db

I’ll never forget when my daycare teachers relocated me from the four-year-olds class to the five-year-olds class. I lined up against the wall, excited to be chosen and dubbed a “big kid.” Two hours later, I sat in a circle, as strange kids played a game. When it was my turn to contribute, the only response I had was “Can I go back to my old classroom, now?”

Yesterday was my last day at the West Side Library. Today was my first at the North Side Library. I’ve been unbelievably excited about my new supervisory librarian position for the last month. I bought a new, custom-made, lunch bag, because no one ever accused librarians of being cool. I ordered a “super librarian” t-shirt and an “awesome librarian” mug, because no one ever accused me of being modest. I scoffed at my coworkers, as they fretted over change, telling them that this was old hat. I’d only moved from the South Side Library two and a half years ago. But, now that I think about it, it seems I forgot how hard that was, because by the end of my first ever, full time shift, I am…

planning-a-wedding-reaction

… overwhelmed. My new coworkers are friendly and welcoming. My boss is awesome and has made it clear that my supervisory duties will be a gradual progression and I’m not expected to immediately know how to make a schedule. I am essentially just supposed to librarian for the first month. I got keys and one of them is to my office! The weekends are finally going to mean something to me and I can save for retirement and actually see a doctor.

giphy2

But we didn’t interfile the young adult science fiction with the adult science fiction at the West Side Library. We had rickety brown wooden book trucks, not those cute and colorful metal monstrosities. My old manager didn’t use Outlook for anything and now I have to learn to use it for everything, because apparently that’s what upper management does. We didn’t keep the magazines in those magazine covers or shelve all large print with no regards to genre. We didn’t build task forces to deal with problems and we weren’t assigned readings by our manager. I don’t know where anything goes and I can’t remember if their names are Caitlin and Diane or Kayla and Diana. I don’t know where the Newbery Medal winners are, because we didn’t have a special section for them at the West Side Library and don’t knock on my office door, because I’m busy hyperventilating!

leonard_inhaler

This is my big break and literally my dream job. I’m happy. I am. That’s why I chose to make this change. It’s going to be wonderful… in a few weeks. But in the meantime, can I go back to my old library now?

A World Without Grace

I was in class the day Grace came into the world. I left early, when I got Gail’s text, planning to visit her in the hospital. Gail and I, being Gail and I, she was comfortable telling me that she was exhausted and felt gross and didn’t want anymore visitors. I accepted that and met her little lady about a week later.

Me: “She’s all wrinkly… and red. When do they get cute?”

rachel green with ben
This IS how I would hold a football!”

Don’t worry. It happened… eventually… and quite severely.

I tell everyone that I was Aunt Belle to Gail’s daughter, but in truth, Gail was not immediately comfortable with bestowing that honor. Understandably, she didn’t want to give a family title to someone who was not technically family, possibly confusing Grace if I wasn’t around much. Over the next eight months, however, Grace became a far more regular part of my life than most of my family, including my actual niece. Any time Gail would swing by to pick me up in her 1997 Bonneville, filled to the brim with crap, I would automatically check the backseat for Grace. Her presence would set the tone of the day, be it drinks and appetizers in the arts district, or having infant Christmas photos taken at Target. It didn’t matter, because I loved Gail and I loved Grace.

labyrinth_lady2Gail driving the Bonneville. No really. I once had to sit in the back, because there was no room up front..

While Grace never smiled, in her life, she adored Family Guy and the sex scenes of True Blood. It had to be something about the colors and movement, but that little lady would nearly knock her bouncer over every time Sookie and Bill rolled around naked in blood. What? She didn’t know what it was. She was a baby, though an admittedly clever one. I don’t think the fake cell phone fooled Grace past the age of six months. She’d just toss it aside and reach for Gail’s obviously more interesting toy.

Now, don’t misunderstand my affection for Gail’s daughter. I am not rewriting history with an easily pacified, giggling baby. Grace was beautiful, innocent, and growled at her toys…, but I don’t know that I’ve ever come across such a demanding child as that one. I think a lot of things played a part in this, one being that Gail was unemployed for much of those first months. There was always someone to hold Grace, entertain her, and respond to her high-pitched falcon screech. Naturally, she was quite the entitled little thing.

At Gail’s apartment, on the phone with my Gramma.
Gramma: “Is that the baby?!?! What are you two doing to the poor thing?!?!”
Me: “She’s fine, Gramma. Seriously. She’s been fed, changed, and there aren’t even any tears. She’s just yelling, because she wants Gail to hold her all the time.”
Gramma: “Well, pick her up, then!!!!”
Me: “Gramma, she’s not my kid. Gail wants her to get used to not being held constantly.”

Oh, how I wish we’d just held her constantly.

Regardless of Gail’s efforts to wean her of this habit, the day Gail finally had to leave Grace at daycare, she falcon-screeched so long that they had to rotate her to different rooms, because the teachers couldn’t take it anymore. I don’t blame them.

:: Hanging out with Gail and a screaming-without-tears Grace ::
Me: “Grace, you have got quite the set of little lungs, don’t you?”
Gail: “I can put her in the other room if it’s bothering you.”
Me: “No, that’s alright. She’s fine.”
:: three minutes later ::
Me: “Actually, could you?”


Grace.

Despite her vocal range, though… Grace was precious. She was entirely portable, so we took her everywhere, constantly talking to her and playing with her. The lady at the barbecue place had even begun to recognize her. I suppose, that since Gail and I had lost touch for a year and a half after high school, Grace was the ultimate test, particularly when I miscarried. She was just a couple of months old and I had a bit of trouble being around an infant. If anything, though, Grace brought Gail and I closer; like on the night Gail called me at 1:00 in the morning. She had taken Grace to spend the night with her ex-husband Shane, only to get a call that her baby falcon just wouldn’t stop screaming. I was just starting my student teaching and had to be up early, but I knew Gail wouldn’t call without reason.

Gail: “Can you just keep me awake while I drive out there? I’m so tired.”

We chatted for a bit and hung up when she told me she was there. The phone rang again, just a moment later.

Gail: “I forgot the car seat. I have to go back and get it and Shane’s yelling at me to just take her anyway.”

Britney Spears drives with baby Sean

… but Britney did it!!!

Gail being Gail, she was an intensely paranoid mom. If Grace sneezed three times, we were in the ER and I do mean “we.” If Gail wanted company and I was free, I was there. So it was, with my second or third trip to the ER, Gail officially dubbed me “Aunt Belle.” Grace had been sick for over a week. It was just a cold, but now she had a high fever. We knew she’d be fine, but they sent us home… and she only got worse. A few nights later, Gail called me late to ask for a ride back to the ER, since her Bonneville wasn’t reliable. When I got to her apartment, though, she told me that the nurse she spoke to said they’d just send her home again, despite the 104 degree fever. We briefly considered taking her to the children’s hospital in the city, but we’d be taking a sick baby into the cold, the hospital was far away, and we both had to be up early. Besides, Grace would be fine. The doctors weren’t even concerned.

Two days later, Gail and I had dinner out with Grace. We laughed at the weird cry she was making, assuming it was a side effect of the medication. That night she lost consciousness and would never awaken. She was dying and we had laughed.

Apparently, a cold had turned into undiagnosed pneumonia, which had turned into bacterial meningitis. I visited the children’s hospital two or three times over the next week. Shane caused drama, over Gail’s refusal to hug him, over her boyfriend Cam wanting to see the baby he’d also loved, probably over the flavor of Gatorade in the vending machine. Gail’s parents, sister, and grandparents wept and prayed. Gail slept beside Grace’s hospital crib. We all waited for news of how this would affect Grace in the long run and when Gail would be able to take her home.

I had intended to buy Grace a learning toy for Valentine’s Day. An education major, I wanted something that would help her grow intellectually. Not knowing what she’d be capable of after she got well, however, I bought her an infant stuffed giraffe that played music. I hated that it had the words “press here” embroidered on it and only managed to remove half of it with a seam ripper, when Gail called.

“If you want to see her again, you should probably get up here soon.”


Toughest drive ever.

“You have to have faith. Miracles happen all the time.” – Everyone

The intentions in the above statement are good. Maybe that’s why the entire world shared some version of it. A baby’s life, however, does not hang in the balance of how hard I pray, how much I cry, whether or not Gail kept a constant vigil at her unconscious daughter’s side or convinced herself that she’d be taking her little girl home soon. God has a plan and if that plan is to take someone you love, there is nothing to be done about it. Trying to convince a mother otherwise is unintentionally cruel. Gail and I, being Gail and I, realized this even then.

Me: “She’s really going to die, isn’t she?”
Gail: “She’s already gone. That’s not my little girl anymore. Everyone keeps telling me to have faith, that a miracle will happen. I just want to say ‘fuck you.’ My daughter isn’t dying, because I don’t believe in God enough.”
Me: “This really sucks… and you kind of smell.”
Gail: :: snort of laughter :: “I don’t actually remember the last time I took a shower.”
:: we both realize it’s snowing outside her window ::
Me: “She’s never seen snow.”
Gail: “I know.”

On February 13,  2010, I got the text message.

Gail: It’s over.
Me: Do you want me to give people your parents’ address for flowers?
Gail: We have plenty of flowers. I’d rather they donate the money to research of some kind.
Me: Okay.
Gail: Thanks for not saying the stupid things you’re supposed to say.

Over the next few days, I didn’t hear from Gail much. She texted once about how she finally understood the reason behind flowers at a funeral: they give you something to talk about, other than the obvious. Grace’s organs were donated on Valentine’s Day and Gail informed me that her heart, intestines, and liver had gone to two other babies.

:: months later ::
Gail: “I don’t think I’d undo it if I could. As much as I want her back, if her death meant the lives of two other babies, I don’t think I could trade that.”

She’s so much less selfish than I.

I texted more than once, asking for verification that Gail hadn’t killed herself. I didn’t realize that she thought I was telling a morbid joke, which, admittedly, wouldn’t be entirely out of character. She’d forgotten the time we went to lunch with Cam and she told us about a special she’d seen, over parents who’d lost their children. She didn’t think she could ever survive that and I wasn’t sure what that meant.

Gail and I, being Gail and I, most of the “concerned” messages came to me. Some of our friends from high school, with whom Gail had been close, were legitimately concerned. Malik told off Shane, in a way that made my comment about how if we could manage not to hit him, he could manage not to hit Cam, look like kitten kisses. The others, whom neither of us had seen in a few years, were shocked. They were worried. They wanted to know what they could do to help. I refrained from sarcastically asking if they had powers of resurrection. I was just so tired of the rest of the messages. The girl who had a screaming fight with me in our eleventh grade algebra class was just sooo sorry. If we ever needed anything, we were to let her know. Oh, by the way… “what happened?” Gail and I still joke about asking her for a casserole. Outside of a catty remark, I don’t think she ever spoke to Gail in four years. The friend of a friend, who was always nasty to both Gail and I, was soooo crushed and would see Gail at the funeral. Oh, by the way… “what happened?” Nothing infuriated me quite like them turning my shattered best friend into post-high school gossip: The Girl Whose Baby Died.

I was the only non-family member Gail let add anything to the tiny pink casket. The aforementioned barbecue place gives away their logo cups for free. In addition to the Valentine’s gift I’d given her (which Gail added), I tried to put one in Grace’s casket, without looking at her body. I missed and it rolled underneath. I ended up having to crawl around to retrieve it, holding up the line. Sigh. That’s not supposed to happen at a funeral.

I cried in my Gramma’s arms. My mom got angry that I chose my Gramma’s arms.

no wire hangers
There are apparently no wire hangers allowed at a funeral.

The program specifically stated that only immediate family was welcome at the graveside. I asked if Gail wanted me there and she said no. I took no offense and didn’t go. Everyone else, however, did. Later, Gail told me that they all stood there, watching, and when she got up and walked away, to wait for them all to leave, they looked at her like “That’s it?”

Gail: “Go fuck yourself. I want to say goodbye to my daughter in peace.”

She, of course, never said that… to them. Apparently, she was a disappointing show. She didn’t shed a single tear and had just stared catatonically at nothing. I received no response when I hugged her and told her I loved her. I don’t know what was worse, laying Grace to rest, or watching Gail go through that… or rather, check out of that. I gave her some Ramen noodles, because they’d take longer to go bad than the casseroles she’d surely be getting. I couldn’t afford any more and included a note telling her that I’d never be able to say the right thing at the right time, but I’d be available when she wanted someone to treat her normally and make inappropriate jokes to take her mind off the pain. I thought I wouldn’t see her for months, an idea that broke my heart after the loss of Grace. Apparently, however, being treated like glass got old fast.

When Gail and I hung out, during the next year, sometimes we talked about Grace and sometimes we didn’t. Sometimes, in the middle of an outing, Gail would tell me she needed to go home, that it was a bad day. She developed severe memory problems and people became tired of her flaking out on them. To this day, I regularly remind her when we have plans. Gail even handled the question “Where’s the baby, today?”, from the waitress at the barbecue place, with… well awkwardness, but she didn’t burst into tears.

“Wow. She’s doing really well.” – Everyone

No matter who dies, there is only so much time that can be spent rocking in a corner, chewing on your own hair. Bills have to be paid. Food has to be bought. You don’t go on with life, because you’re “doing really well.” You go on with life, because there is no other choice. When Gail received notice that she was going to be evicted, everyone thought it was cruel. We both acknowledged, though, that the world does not stop turning, just because yours falls apart. Businesses must still function, even if Gail’s mom found her crying in a heap, where Grace’s crib used to be. Showing surprise that someone’s doing so well implies that they really shouldn’t be.

Gail: “I love when people say that. I want to be like ‘Yeah, there’s lots of polka dancing.'”

Grace died four years ago, today. She was 8 months, 5 days, and 15 minutes old. She never had her Valentine’s Day or an Easter. She never drew a picture or ate dog food or shoved a bully at school. She’ll never have a fight with her mom, a first period, a heartbreak. She’s truly, physically, gone. At first, it was all that filled my head and certainly more-so for Gail. Time went on, though, and I’d realize, that I didn’t think about Grace at all the previous day. More time passed, and then I’d think ‘Wow. How long has it been since I thought about Grace?’ Then I’d feel horrible, because I forgot Grace. At the same time, I’m occasionally shocked at how much it still hurts, being without her. I don’t want to tell anyone, because she wasn’t my kid. She wasn’t even related to me by blood. Maybe I should stop being so dramatic and trying to make this tragedy about me. I’ve even told Gail as much.

Gail: “You were a part of her life more than anyone outside of my immediate family. We joked about you being her dad for a reason. You’re absolutely inclined to feel the way you feel.”

Mostly, I deflect feelings with morbid humor.

Gail: “I wish she’d just been deaf. It would have been just enough to keep Shane from wanting to deal with the hassle, but not enough to keep her from living a life.”
Me: “Yeah. We’d both know ASL ….and that would look great on a resume. Damn it, Gail!”

Emotions go with the last friggin’ horcrux, y’all.

horcrux cave
Right here.

There’s so much guilt in Grace’s death. Gail and I desperately wish we’d taken her to the children’s hospital that night. We blame the local hospital for falsifying records, claiming Grace was smiling and laughing, when Gail tried to pursue a lawsuit. Her parents blame themselves for leaving 22-year-old Gail to care for an infant alone, wanting her to stand on her own two feet. We all blame Shane for being a soulless prick. There is no fault, though. It was God’s plan. It led us here… and here is usually pretty good.

You see, A World Without Grace was supposed to be bleak and filled with sadness, something from a dystopian young adult novel or a Tim Burton movie. On rare occasion, it is. Christmas morning, Gail sent me a text, referring to my miscarriage and Grace…

Gail: “Our children would’ve been up for hours, already.”

She still gets frustrated, when she runs into someone who used to sit at our lunch table, and they fumble around more awkwardly than is normal of post-high school run-ins.

Gail: “Can’t you just not mention it? How about we just pretend that I’m not The Girl Whose Baby Died and you tell me about your life? I want to hear about your boyfriend and work, just like everyone else. I’m not going to burst into tears if you ask about mine!”

I’ve repeatedly suggested telling half of the people at our reunion that Gail had a mental break and doesn’t realize her baby’s dead, while telling the other half that I don’t have any idea what they’re talking about, creating the most confusing gossip ever.


That’ll teach ’em.

Most days, though? Life is really good. The New Year’s Eve, when we rented a motel room and took a taxi to the casino, Gail and I commented on how that wouldn’t be possible if I’d had the baby and Grace had survived. Gail wouldn’t have met Terry, because, hopefully, someone with a toddler would be a bit more careful about fucking a trucker off Craigslist. Just as I wouldn’t have been able to pursue my master’s degree and become a librarian, if I had had my baby; Gail wouldn’t be able to work for the post office, if she had a four-year-old. Two babies, who might’ve lived after transplants, almost certainly would’ve died.

Today, my heart is breaking for the four-year-old that’s not in my life. I’m swearing I’ll never have children and trying not to think about the three-year-old I would have, had things worked out differently. I fucking hate Valentine’s Day, because everyone else is happy right now or bitching over trivial crap, like not having someone to buy them flowers that are just going to die. I can’t get the picture of a catatonic Gail and a baby pink casket out of my head.

… but in six months, Gail and I will be drinking chick beer in my living room floor, giggling about my online dating disasters and her mother’s desperation to get her married off to Terry, as soon as possible. We may comment on how the world would be so different had our prayers been answered. We also may not… because for better or for worse, God intended we live in A World Without Grace.

gail convo 02-11-14

 

Original post date: February 13, 2014

“It’s just not a good fit.”

In the last couple of years, I’ve learned to deal with a lot of rejection. I coped when I didn’t pass my graduate portfolio for the first time. I’ve dealt with my mother hurling cookies at my door on my birthday. I’ve even gotten better at accepting the fact that some men just aren’t feeling it. Now, I have faced these things, but in all of the above cases… I did so horribly. So, it’s with little surprise that I’ve handled my very first professional rejection so poorly, today.

I’ve worked with one library system for two and a half years. They have my loyalty and, luckily, I have theirs. Not only does termination in this library system require murder while intoxicated and an intricate system of strings and pulleys, but I just had my three month evaluation with my new branch. My boss informed me that I was meeting all expectations, she had no complaints, and I seemed to be fitting in with everyone. I’m holding onto that pretty tightly right now, because…

… my other boss just informed me that, after six weeks, I’ve worked my last day at library number two.

Yup. I was let go… for the first time ever. Why?

Boss: “It’s just not a good fit.”
Me: “I don’t understand. I’ve never been late. I do everything I’m asked. I jump up and help customers. I’ve made any changes you’ve suggested. Isn’t there a procedure for this?”
Boss: “You’re still in training and it’s just not a good fit, so we need you to clean out your locker.”
Me: “Did I break some kind of huge rule or something? I don’t get it.”
Boss: “It’s not a good fit. It’s time to get your things.”

So… that happened. I’d be lying if I said things were going wonderfully. After three weeks of working for this library system, the same supervisor told me that she was concerned about the “negative language” I’d been using.

Me: “What do you mean?”
Boss: “Well, when I asked how your training went, you said it was ‘okay.’ When I asked what you thought of staff day, you said it wasn’t what you expected. Those sound like backhanded compliments.”

Um… what?

I said the training was okay, because it was okay. There were things I found useful and things I didn’t. I said staff day wasn’t what I expected, because staff day wasn’t what I expected. We do staff day differently at my other library system and she knew that, because I clarified. Even at the time, I desperately wanted to respond with:

“Well, I’m sorry you’re choosing to take it that way.”

I also didn’t. I told my boss that I’d work on the things she suggested and I did, raving about the useful things I learned in training. But then…

Boss: “You’re not allowed to wear hoodies at the desk.”
Me: “What?”
Boss: “If it has a hood, it’s a hoodie. It’s just too casual and unprofessional.”
Me: “I’m sorry. I’ve just never had anyone express that opinion before.”
Boss: ::scoff:: “Uh, yeah… I guess that’s my opinion. I’m pretty sure it’s the opinion of everyone else in the system, too.”
Me: “Okay. I’ll wear a sweater next time. Just to clarify, it’s the hood that’s the issue, right?”
Boss: “Yeah. We like people to dress professionally. Think bank attire.”

I know what professional dress is and didn’t need the clarification, hence the heels I regularly wear. I also know that it’s cold in libraries and the dress code said nothing about a fleece jacket in November. That makes it a personal preference or… wait for it… opinion I’d also worn it several times before this and she never had a problem with it. Regardless, I never wore the jacket again. I even bought a sweater without a hood, because she did verify that the one with a hood wasn’t acceptable. 

There you have it. I knew things weren’t going smoothly. Just last week, we had one of my boss’s weekly bouts of criticism, where she told me that she had expected me to be further along. I politely explained that I felt like I would be, if the desk time weren’t so spread out, because I was constantly at staff training. I mentioned that I had a lot of desk time coming up and I thought I’d catch on quickly in the next week. She said that would be great. The next shift we worked together was my last.

In retrospect, I’m proud of myself for how I handled our final conversation. I defended myself and made it crystal clear that this woman had no justifiable reason for ending my employment, which was witnessed and understood by the other supervisor in the room. While my boss couldn’t see her face, the woman looked horrified and supremely uncomfortable. I did not cry. I did not beg for a second chance. I made her admit, more or less, that this was a personal issue of hers, because apparently, it’s a thing for someone to let you go, because they just don’t like you… and it fucking hurts.

I probably could’ve done without burning my shirt and name tag in the kitchen sink, though. That was, admittedly, extreme. What can I say? I have two settings:

1. handling it with grace
2. fire

Fortunately, I deleted my old boss’s phone number, so I can’t do anything stupid. One month is a blip in time, not worth mentioning. A restraining order is not.

While I understand that not everyone is going to like me, this woman disliked me so deeply, that she was willing to go through the trouble to hire someone new. Furthermore, I was supposed to do a program in a few days. She’s been blowing me off every time I mentioned it for weeks. I’ve never been able to find her profile on Facebook, though I know she’s friends with her other employees, meaning I’m pretty sure she blocked me ages ago (I even looked through mutual friends… totally rational.) It’s mighty convenient that she only scheduled me for a few hours this month. She was plotting this. She never gave me a chance, because she disliked me that much. Fucking ouch.

Me: ::crying:: “What if this means I’m just a bad librarian? What if this isn’t for me and I never get full time?”
Gramma: “Oh, Belle. Stop it! You’re a good librarian! You just said a man was thrilled that you downloaded a book on his phone. They love you at your other job.”
Me: “How can anyone dislike me that much? I did my job! I didn’t do anything wrong!”

I once read an online article about the most crushing moments in a person’s life. One of them was the first time you’re punished for something you didn’t do. Here, here.

First and foremost, it’s the hurt feelings and unfairness. I don’t need everyone to like me, but you still have to work with people you don’t like. That is so unprofessional and inappropriate… and it sounds like total horseshit to say it was a personal vendetta. Every jilted ex employee plays the victim. I sound pathetic and I know it. Second, it’s the loss of security. I felt like a big girl. I could finally pay my bills and just knew there would be work, and therefore income. Now, I’m back to substitute teaching. I’m unsettled all over again, and in my pain, I was downright weak to my best friend, Rosie the Riveter.

Me: I’m tired of feeling so unsettled. I just want a full time job and a husband. I don’t care if that kicks feminism in its big hairy balls. I want a settled romantic relationship and guaranteed income.
Gail: I don’t think that reduces your value as a person at all.
Me: I’m tired of my twenties. I’m over it. Can I just have screaming kids in the other room and a boy who’s on my side at the end of the day? Can I do that now?
Gail: Other than “you’re allowed to want that,” I’ve got nothin’. You’re doing your best. It’ll probably come. 

As usual, the rest of the world thinks I’m overreacting.

Me: “What if I never get full time at my other job?!? What if this ruins my professional reputation!?!?”
Dad: “Belle, you are reading into this waaaay too much. You barely worked there for a month and you didn’t even like it. It’s not going to ruin your life. You’ve said yourself that the two systems don’t even talk. I’ll bet anything she has someone else she wanted to hire for this position and it has nothing to do with you. Calm down.”

Gramma: “Everything happens for a reason. This is just paving the way for better things. Calm down.”

Coworker at my other job: ::scoff:: “We’re not gonna think less of you. We’re gonna think less of them.” 

Other Coworker at my other job: “Just don’t put it on a resume. It’s not going to affect anything. You’re fine. I don’t know that anyone in the systems even talk to each other.”

So, I’ve allowed myself a limited amount of time to dwell, cry, pout, and be devastated, humiliated, and outraged. Tomorrow, when this blog will post, I will work to put the last month and a half behind me. I will work even harder to regain my confidence as a librarian and recover from losing a job for no reason.

There were no experiences from this position that I’m not getting from my other one. I never wanted to be full time with that system, because they pay significantly less and their benefits suck. My boss stressed me out to no end and I had fantasized about quitting anyway. She’d already made me cry twice and if she continues with this attitude, it’ll all come back to affect her professionally. The time I spent at that job allowed me to catch up financially and I’ve accepted two substitute jobs, just this week. My primary job is going better than I would have ever dreamed. I’ve already updated my resume. I’m set. 

Gail: “You know how, when you’ve made plans to hang out with someone and you don’t want to anymore, but you made the commitment, so you keep it? Well, then, that person calls and cancels and you’re like ‘Seriously? You’re canceling on me?”

Gramma: “Belle, you’ll get over this. You’ve been through a lot worse.” 

Damn straight.

I’m a Librarian, B^+<#@$!!!

Four years ago, I had just found out that I was pregnant and that my ex-husband was lying about having a job… again. I was morbidly obese, starting my senior year of college, about to do my student teaching, and paying the bills through… well, prayer. I was petrified.

Today…

I am a fucking Librarian!!!!!!!

Suck my dick statistics, because I left the bastard and…

I. Did. It.

I followed through on all of my dreams and got that Bachelor’s degree and then that Master’s degree and now the job! My divorce didn’t lower my station in life. It opened up a universe of possibilities and opportunity.

  • Women who divorced between 2010 and 2011 were more likely to receive public assistance than men who divorced during this time, with rates being 23% and 15%, respectively.
  • Of women who divorced between 2010 and 2011, 27% reported a household income of less than $25,000.
  • Children of divorced parents are twice as likely to drop out of high school and less likely to attend college.
  • While men are financially better off than women after a divorce, they are more likely to suffer more emotionally.

I’m sorry. What was that? I can’t hear you over the sound of my I’m a Librarian, BITCHES!!! dance coupled with my ROAR OF AWESOME!!!!

A little bit o’ this…

… and a little bit o’…

.. and some nce, nce, nce.
Finally, some…

Yeah. They don’t let me dance at stuff.

Today, I talked the ear off the lady at the gym who asked why Librarians need a Master’s degree. Yesterday, I bought myself these… because I am just that cool.

dewey mugradical militant librarian

Sometimes, divorce is not a failure. It is the righting of a path. I wasn’t meant to be the miserable wife of a sociopath. I was meant to be right here.

Gail: “The divorce was not the mistake. The marriage was the mistake. The divorce was just what was required to correct that mistake.”

I’m not advising you to leave your husband because he won’t try that new thing in bed or he won’t put his fucking shoes away. If there’s something to salvage, fight for it. If you’re fantasizing about a life where he dies, through no fault of your own, because you’ll finally be free… if the marriage is truly awful and he or she is a truly poisonous person… there is a better life out there. No matter how scary it feels to go in search of it, it is so very worth it.

“It’s a hard thing to leave any deeply routine life, even if you hate it.” – John Steinbeck

Yeah. I looked that up.
http://divorce.lovetoknow.com/Divorce_Statistics

The Amazon in My Corner

Abigail the Passive Assertive is how she’d go down in history if passive assertive people went down in history. They don’t, but you get the point. When we met, I was the mouthy one and Gail was the doormat. We seem to have leveled each other out, more or less, over the past ten years, as I’ve taught Gail the value of standing up for herself and she’s taught me the value of doing so without a screaming match in Algebra class. True story. Every now and then, though, people push Gail just an inch too far and it’s always Feed-the-Gremlins-After-Midnight awesome.

gremlin

Scene: at a bar, where Crooked Teeth has been begging her all night to come out to his truck with him, actually trying to pull her to the parking lot at one point.
Crooked Teeth: “I just want to show you my truck.”
Gail: “Really? You just want me to see your truck?”
Crooked Teeth: “Yeah. I swear.”
Gail: suggestively “Well, what if I just wanted to go out to your truck, pull down your pants and suck your dick until you cum in my mouth?”
Crooked: “Uh… what? Is this a trick?”
Gail: “Uh… yeah…duh.”

The Musician was a phase (THANK GOD) and they were never exclusive. He, however, desperately wanted them to be… on Gail’s part, while he had a mirrored headboard and multiple brands of tampons under the bathroom sink.
The Musician: “So, what? You’re out at a bar trying to pick up other guys?”
Gail: “I’m going to let you go, so you won’t have to talk to such a whore anymore.”
The Musician: “I’m just trying to get to know you and that’s hard to do when my lady is getting to know other men.”
Gail: “I’m not YOUR lady, I’m MY lady.”
The Musician: “It’s just a figure of speech.”
Gail: “So is ‘nigger’.”

See that. Gail’s a regular little Amazon when you push her too far. Overall, however, she’s a pretty passive person. We both had somewhat absent parents in our teens. My mother was busy eating candle wax, while Gail’s parents were busy bragging about her little sister. Don’t get me wrong. Gail and I both understand that they just have more common ground with Sadie and that’s why she was their favorite. It’s not that they love her more, but that they get her more. If there is a crime, it’s that they aren’t all that subtle about their preference. For example, I’m not even kidding when I reference the birthday card Gail saw displayed in Sadie’s bedroom declaring her “the best daughter two parents could ask for.” I cringe, not because of the obvious favoritism, but at ending a sentence with a preposition.

best daughter

As adults, Gail and I find this hilarious. We know they love her just as much as Sadie. They just don’t connect as well with the daughter who truly had to be talked out of living in her truck a few summers ago, for no reason. As a teenager, however, Gail felt rejected and mistreated and, as is still the way of Gail, she said nothing, because familial conflict is a lot more difficult than telling off Jethro Clampett in a bar. So… enter teenage Belle, who felt abandoned and abused, and could therefore totally relate. Ultimately, we clung to each other, fumbling our way through our formative years with only another clueless teen as guidance. Considering we were both divorced by age 23, that may not have been the best path, but it was certainly better than going it alone.

Having been through all we have, Gail and I can both be accused of going Mama Bear on each other at one time or another. After I posted a blog about how overwhelmed I was with grad school, I got a text message demanding “You’d better be kidding about the cocaine.” I was. When Gail told me she met Terry on fucking Craigslist, she got an angry text message “That was wreckless and dangerous. You could’ve been super murdered and then I’d be all alone to deal with how much that sucked. Fuck off.”

royalty
“Eloquence” is the word you seek. I should be allowed to address the masses.

Despite the must-be-fated-in-our-blood connection, Gail and I are far from the same person. As a reader of Red Pill blogs (though I don’t subscribe to the ideology), I love to call Gail “Captain” when she does any traditional male activity, just to piss her off. It’s even more fun than “Rosie the Riveter”. She generally responds with a comment about how I should be churning butter or vaccuuming in pearls. You see, we are the victims of identically broken marriages to men who weren’t men or adults in any traditional sense. Both refused to work and resorted to tears as manipulation tactics. Neither took any pride in supporting themselves and were happy to let the woman of the house do it. Gail took it for less than two years. I took it for just over four. Our reactions were exact opposites. Gail wants to take care of herself and doesn’t need a man’s help. More importantly, she doesn’t want to support a man financially. I can take care of myself as well, but I want to be with a traditional guy who understands what role a man is supposed to play: breadwinner and spider killer. I’ll gladly slip into some pearls and vaccuum in the meantime. Ironically enough, Terry, Gail’s beau, is mighty traditional. I always knew she secretly wanted a man to take care of her.

head pat
Insert condescending head pat :here:.

You see, Gail has a mothering tendency that is beyond normal or healthy and the death of her infant daughter three years ago didn’t help. We once had the following textersation, in true keeping with our humor-cancels-out-emotion arrangement.

Me: I was watching this documentary on penguins and thought of you. “When the female penguin loses her young, she is quick to adopt any stray and will often fight another female penguin over rights to the chick.”
Gail: Shut it, stray.

So, when Gail dates a… oh, just for fun we’ll go with musician… who smokes a ton of pot and lives a wreckless lifestyle, she can’t help but worry (despite her own tendency to fuck Craigslist truckers). She feels like the babysitter, whereas I would just feel like it’s his fucking problem when he gets arrested. In completely different ways, we have both washed our hands of men who don’t act like adults. She avoids them and I encourage them to put pepper spray in their eye: another true story and one that demonstrates this perfectly.

About two years ago, Gail’s on-again-off-again (they still said “I love you”, but didn’t sleep together) boyfriend, Cam, was at my apartment with Gail. I had just begun a new job in a different part of town than my white, wealthy, suburb, where I walk the golf course at 2:00 a.m. with no worries, and my Gramma had insisted I buy pepper spray. My Christmas tree is hot pink, y’all. When I saw pink pepper spray, I was sold. Gail has this theory that there are some things that you just don’t buy in pink. I fully disagree since my tree and my hammer and both of those guns all work fine, Captain.

captain

Gail, however, kept insisting that the contents of my pink pepper spray were “lemon juice and glitter”, to which I responded “I don’t want either of those in my eyes, so we’re good.” I must state that Cam was about two years younger than we were, putting him at 21 during this story. Though he worked three jobs, he was pretty much 12 years old forever in a lot of his antics. The pepper spray debate continued so I jokingly asked Cam…

Me: “Hey, Cam. You wanna test my pepper spray?”
Cam: “Sure! I’ll try it!”
Me: “Seriously? I was kidding. You probably shouldn’t do that.”
Gail: “NO! Do not! We’re going to have to take you to the hospital.”
Cam: “Oh, it’ll be fine.”
Me: “Alright. Here. It’ll be a story either way.”
Gail: “BELLE! Don’t encourage him!”
Me: “What?!?! He wants to do it. Let him do it.”
Gail: “Ugh! This is a terrible idea.”

So Cam took out his knife, cut open the package, sprayed a little bit of pepper spray directly into his palm, rubbed his finger in it and touched his eye.

touching eye

Then… all hell broke loose. Cam immediately declared “It works! Oh… it burns!” and leaped up to run to the sink while Gail frantically ran water… forgetting about the open knife on his lap. As he was bent over the sink, blood gushing from his nose due to his clotting disorder and high blood-pressure from the pain, I took a moment from my uncontrollable laughter to ask “Is your foot bleeding?” as blood dripped onto my floor. Only then did we realize, he’d dropped the knife on his socked foot… and that was even funnier. In my defense, Cam thought this whole thing was hilarious as well and part of the problem was that he was laughing while Gail yelled at us both that this was serious, while shoving tampons into Cam’s nose, partly to shame him and partly so he wouldn’t die.

laughing
Me
kid
Cam
screaming at boy
Gail

That story pretty much sums up Gail’s entire relationship with Cam.. and the musician… and our friend Malik… and pretty much every irresponsible person she’s ever met. I just declare them to all be adults and let them do as they will. Worst case scenario, I know that’s not lemon juice and glitter.

Scene: Cam lies on my floor with an ice pack over his eyes, a bandaged foot, and tampons in his nose. Gail stews angrily while washing the bloody towels and sock.
Me: “Well… at least we know the pepper spray works.”
Cam: groaning laughter
Gail: groaning laughter “Damnit, Belle.”

penguin
Gail and… well, the majority of the relationships she has with people.

Since the Great Pepper Spray Incident of 2011, Gail has pretty much steered clear of Adult Children and I credit that to the actual stray she took in, Ginger.

gremlin
Gail’s all “I don’t remember her taking this picture and this is the second time she’s posted it” as she reads this, because coincidentally enough, the sewer rat Gail insists is a dog looks just like this.

I comforted Gail during her divorce. She held my hair during mine. She listened to me cry during my miscarriage. I helped her make Valentines to leave on her daughter’s grave. Maybe we’re both pretty broken, but it’s beyond amazing to have someone there who will read everything I write and send me encouraging comments, come over and cry to me when a boy uses her, listen to me rant and rave about my lunatic mother, and call me when she’s having a hard time dealing with the fact that her little girl, Grace, would have been four today. Told you she was an Amazon, because fuck I don’t know how she’s retained her spirit through that. Lucky for me, though, because it’s pretty awesome that I always have an Amazon in my corner.

amazon