The One Promise I CAN Make to My Future Children

Dear Future Children,

I have six or seven unopened pregnancy tests under my bathroom counter, right now… and not out of hope, but paranoia. I’m not ready for you yet. You’re really more of a concept, an eventuality, and as such, I can’t make a lot of promises. I can’t promise I’ll never yell at you. I can’t promise that I’ll put my phone away every time you have a story to tell. I can’t promise that I’ll never send you to school sick, because I was certain you were bluffing. I can’t promise that I won’t look away for a second, missing the moment you climbed too high and fell and broke your arm. I certainly can’t promise to never embarrass you.

When you’re 11 and just starting to notice that other people judge you, and you forget to tell me that you need a cover for the report that’s due the next morning, I’m wearing my Star Trek pants to the store, or we’re not going. In 2035, when I catch you having a hologram chat with that boy you’ve been crushing on, I’ll interrupt to explain that it’s late and you’re now grounded. If you’re a cute redheaded girl, then I genuinely apologize for how much worse your dad will be on your first date.

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It’d probably be more accurate to just go ahead and promise that I will embarrass you. I’ll sing and dance to 50’s music, when I clean. I’ll use outdated words and phrases, like hogswoggle and hokum. I’ll wear t-shirts that say things like “Having fun isn’t hard, when you have a library card.” I’ll do these things even more when you complain. The one promise that I absolutely can make to you, though, is that I will never embarrass you online.

When you get stuck in the doggy door, I’ll text a photo to your grandma… but I won’t put it on Instagram. When you throw a tantrum at the mall, long after the acceptable age to do so, I’ll record it and send it to your father… but I won’t live stream it. When you have your first wet dream or your first period, I’ll update your Aunt Gail… but I won’t update Facebook. When you’re caught cheating on a test, I’ll make you tearfully tell your dad… but not Youtube.

The people who love you will know all of your embarrassing stories, just as those who love me know mine. That’s the cost of having family and you should never take that for granted. That photo of you, proudly wearing nothing but underwear and a princess crown, will make the annual family album. However, when you have a falling out with your best friend in the 7th grade, she won’t be able to tag everyone you know in it, along with the one where you smeared your diaper all over the crib.

I know that I’ll make mistakes as a parent. There will be times when I forget to sign your permission slip and keep you from watching that video in class. Maybe I’ll forget that your friend is allergic to melon. I’m sure I’ll yell at you for something, only to realize later that your father is to blame. In response, I’ll atone privately, not while wearing a sign around my neck on Facebook. In turn, I vow that you’ll receive the same courtesy. You’ll be lectured and punished, but it will happen behind closed doors. I’ll receive validation from your dad and Gail, not that woman I graduated high school with 25 years earlier.

When your first boss Googles your name, anything scandalous to be found will be your poor decision making, not mine. Large scale shame and humiliation will never be part of your punishment. When I’m angry with you for being a disrespectful brat, I’ll tell your grandpa, not all 157 of my closest social networking pals… only for you to read all about it four years later. I don’t know anything about being a parent. I can’t promise that I’ll be any good at it. I can, however, promise that I will not ruin your online reputation, before you even get the chance.

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Visiting the Family Ranch

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That sounds so made up.

Last Friday, I drove straight from work to spend the weekend with Jake, in Wellston. Lately, my grandma has been dubbed Beagle Sitter, so I didn’t have to go home to get Jude and the other supervisory librarian was comfortable with my leaving an hour early, to make up for a previous late day. Still, Wellston is an hour from Shetland and an hour and a half from the Northside Library, so it was quite the trek and I was glad I’d be getting nearly three days with Jake for my efforts, since I’d arranged to work the evening shift on Monday. I was both hungry and tired when I arrived in Wellston, as was Jake, after working nights on the rig for a week. Neither of us objected to going to bed early, knowing that we’d be attending Jake’s nieces’ basketball games, first thing in the morning.

Y’all, we have officially entered new territory. I am no longer being introduced. I’m being included. This was not a meet and greet, but a family event.

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Having previously met everyone, I wasn’t caught up in a lot of pleasantries with Jake’s family. His brother-in-law, Cody, seemed friendly enough, while his sister, May, briefly said hello between plays, as she was coaching a herd of five-year-olds, her daughter Lucy included. Jake’s nine-year-old niece, Shana, seemed shy, so Jake and I were mostly left to enjoy the game. I don’t know what Jake looked for in me, as I watched his nieces play… perhaps nothing. What I noticed, however, was how wonderfully supportive his entire family was of this slightly silly game. I also admired how patiently his sister coached, without coddling. I couldn’t help but think how much more I might’ve enjoyed sports had I been taught with such positivity.

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On second thought… nah.

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for actually playing sports, I enjoyed watching. From an educator’s standpoint, I found the teaching methods fascinating. As a woman with working ovaries, I found Jake’s open interest and encouragement quite appealing. It’s a good thing, too, because Lucy’s game was immediately followed by Shana’s, in a nearby town.

As I set my stuff down, at the next game, and turned to sit next to Jake, I noticed my seat had been stolen by Lucy, who just looked up at me and grinned. She is, clearly, her Uncle Jake’s smallest fan. Not wanting to deprive either of them of their bonding time, I took a seat on her opposite side and, surprisingly, got the chance to bond, myself. Lucy is both ornerier and more outgoing than Shana and she chattered away with me as I snuck her m&m’s, because a little bribery never hurt anyone. Together, we teased Jake, who teased us in turn.

Jake: “I won a trophy just the other weekend.”
He was referring to the trophy he’d won at the engagement party, as the champion of a drunken carnival game.
Me: “It wasn’t a real trophy, and he cried when he didn’t win the other one.”
He was genuinely mad that his teammate lost him the title of Beer Pong Champion.
Lucy: “Ha ha. You cried!
Jake: “I didn’t cry. pouted.

There are a lot of different ways in which I find Jake attractive, but none of them have ever matched watching him snuggle and talk with his niece as he cheered the other one on at a game that was going quite poorly. At 28, you just don’t care about his six pack. It’s all about dad potential.

This game led to Dairy Queen for the kids and Chinese food for the adults. Afterward, we went directly to Jake’s sister’s trailer, where we all chatted and helped Jake’s parents with their new tablet. The entire day had been spent with Jake’s family, but it was nice to get to know them better, without the pressure of a First Meeting. Knowing we’d have time the next day, I wasn’t bothered, until…

Mrs. Granger: “Your Uncle Benny’s coming down to the ranch to go quail hunting. He wanted you to go with him.”
Jake: “Yeah. Dad told me. I may do that.”
Mr. Granger: “You comin’ down first thing in the morning?”
Jake: “Well, I don’t know if I’ll come down first thing.”

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We hadn’t seen each other for nearly two weeks and now he wanted to ditch me? On the one hand, I didn’t want to tell him that he couldn’t do something, or manipulate him into feeling that way. Jake had already mentioned how limited his time to go quail hunting would be, with his work schedule. On the other hand, we’d specifically planned to spend the weekend together. Not wanting to discuss it in front of his family, but unable to completely hide my hurt feelings, I got kind of quiet, until we got in Jake’s truck.

Jake: “You okay? You’re kind of quiet.”
Me: “I’m… um… I just… I’m good.”
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Jake: “‘Feelings are for the inside?'”
Me: “Um… yeah. They belong with the last Horcrux… it’s just… I had a great time with your family. I enjoyed getting to know them better, but I thought we’d have time tomorrow, because we planned to spend the whole weekend together. That’s why my Gramma has my dog and I even arranged to go into work later on Monday. Now you’re leaving the state to go hunting and I feel like you’re just ditching me. I don’t wanna tell you not to go, because I know you want to hunt with your uncle, but we had plans and it hurts my feelings.”
Jake: “Well, you can come. I wasn’t just going to leave you.”
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Me: “Why… why would I assume that? I’ve never been to your family’s ranch. You’ve never mentioned taking me and I’ve met your parents twice.”

The most functional part of mine and Jake’s relationship is how we communicate. At no point did either of us raise our voices. We were both genuinely surprised by the other person’s assumption. Jake was truly sorry he’d made me feel as if he didn’t value his time with me and I was excited that he wanted me to see his family’s ranch. So, the next morning, we got up early and headed further south to The Granger Ranch.

Y’all, I am not pulling a Belle-esque exaggeration here, where I make some hyperbolic statement and assume you’ll read it as such. The Granger Ranch is a legit, fully functioning ranch. This is the family legacy, which Jake made it more or less clear, will one day be the subject of the Granger boys’ prenups. Over 2,000 acres, a 3,000+ square foot house, hundreds of red angus, and a custom brand comprise the multi-million dollar ranch run by Jake’s parents and his brother. Jake occasionally assists, but tries to distance himself, because he does not want to be a cattle rancher. This, folks, is why I worried that Jake’s friends might think I was after his money, as he’s currently one third of the eventual ownership. His brother Craig’s girlfriend, Matilda, is why I worried Jake’s family would think I was after his money, as she seems to be. I can only assume that this is also why Jake’s mom was so… cool to me, after Jake left me at the house, to go hunting with his uncle for a few hours.

Mrs. Granger: “So, Belle. You don’t like this stuff at all?”
Me: “What?”
Mrs. Granger: “Going out in the pasture, seeing the ranch?”
Me: “No, I do. I just don’t think I’d take to quail hunting and I know Jake really wanted time with his uncle. I didn’t want to intrude.”

I tried a few times to engage Mrs. Granger in more conversation, offering to help her clean the breakfast dishes, but she didn’t seem eager. Soon after, Craig stopped by and briefly said hello. Not wanting to push myself on anyone, I sat down and crocheted a hat for Jake’s smallest niece, Chloe, with the yarn he’d bought me on the way, so I’d have something to do. After I showed Mrs. Granger what I’d made, she seemed impressed and asked if I’d like to go with her and Mr. Granger to find Jake and his uncle and see the ranch. She seemed pretty surprised when I was eager.

As we rode in the high-end ATV, Mrs. Granger began to point things out on the ranch, like the windmill she’d requested for Christmas a few years past. She seemed pleasantly surprised that, while I wasn’t necessarily knowledgeable about country life, I was interested. For a good 45 minutes to an hour, the Grangers drove me over the ranch, telling me all about their land, while lovingly sniping at each other. When Mrs. Granger snapped at her husband to quit going over so many bumps and he sped up, I couldn’t help but think that Jake is definitely his father’s son. Eventually, we found Jake and Benny and took Jake to retrieve the tractor to pull his uncle’s truck out of the mud. A boy riding a tractor…

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Jake: “What are you doin’?”
Me: “Chillin’ with your parents.”
Jake: “You havin’ fun?”
Me: “Yup. I love you.”
Jake: “Love you, too.”

Then he kissed me in front of his mom. Sigh.

Not wanting to be in Mrs. Granger’s way, when we got back, I walked down to the horses I’d seen and talked to them and petted them for a good fifteen to twenty minutes. I didn’t realize it, but Mrs. Granger had been watching from the kitchen window. It was like talking to a different person, when I returned. She told me who Jake was in high school and asked if I could tell the difference between him and Craig in old photos. I’ve known for months that she’s a bit high-strung, often worrying needlessly, but I could see how deeply rooted in love that was. She’s a good mom. Mr. Granger is a good dad. May is a good sister and mom. We had a dinner of ribs and homemade pecan pie, and headed on our way.

Me: “I think they liked me. I liked them a lot. Your sister seems like such a good mom. I’m glad I like her, because…”
Jake: “… you hate your sister-in-law so much?”
Me: “Well, kind of, yeah. I’m not proposing, but it would really suck to have two sisters-in-law I didn’t get along with one day. That’s kind of the same reason I like your mom so much. She may be a little high-strung, but her intentions are good. She’s a really good person.”

A few days later, Jake and I talked on the phone, after he’d gone back to the ranch to quail hunt for another day.

Jake: “Yeah, I asked her, kind of trying to catch her off guard, ‘So, do you like Belle?’ She goes, ‘Yeah, she’s real sweet. She’ll actually talk to ya. She’s a lot better than Matilda.”
Me: “Woot! I’m the favorite. Does she seriously hate her that much?”
Jake: “Well, apparently Craig called to say he and Matilda were going to come over for dinner and mom told him not to, claimed we didn’t have enough ribs. When I told her we had plenty she snapped ‘The only time that woman comes around is when dinner is served!'”

For reasons best not detailed, at this time, I don’t really blame Mrs. Granger for this. The situation sounds like Matilda probably is after Craig’s money, but at the very least, she’s a controlling woman who doesn’t want him to have much to do with his family. I also see it as promising that Mrs. Granger is just as forthright as her son. My own family has always been loud and opinionated, never leaving you to wonder where you stand. That, I can do. Fake, I cannot. Overall, I am beyond thrilled that Mrs. Granger likes me, because she is clearly the one to please as Jake and I continue to grow closer… and that we do.

Jake: “So, do you want to go somewhere the week after next?”
Me: “What?”
Jake: “You have some time off, don’t you? Do you want to go to Ruidoso and ski?”
Me: “I have Friday through Tuesday off. Are you serious?”
Jake: “Well, yeah. Let me look at my budget. I’ll let you know for sure.”

He called just a few days later to tell me he’d booked a room. I didn’t have to plan anything. I just have to go to Wellston on Friday morning, right after I get my last Gardasil shot, and we’ll head out from there to spend our first weekend together that will actually involve sex. I’ll hyperventilate later. Right now, I’m too excited.

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Birthdays and Boyfriends: Meeting the Parents… and Best Friend

So, I celebrated my 28th birthday last week and I did so with such enthusiasm, I’m going to have to have that Logan’s Run themed 30th birthday party I keep talking about… and that city-wide lantern release.

Remember, Gail. This one’s on you.

As I mentioned last week, in my brief Blogiversary post, two of the most significant celebrations I had planned for my birthday were the introduction of Jake to Gail and Terry and his introduction to my dad and Lena. After my late evening at the grown-up arcade with my work friends, on Wednesday night (my actual birthday), I went home to get ready for Jake’s arrival on Thursday morning at nine, as we’d planned. In fact, the previous week, when I’d driven to Wellston and Jake had made me dinner, we discussed this plan, in depth. I told Jake that I intended to take a half day substituting job if I could find one, assuming he’d arrive in Shetland around noon, as he usually does when coming from his family’s cattle ranch.

Jake: “Well, I’ll be there at 9:00.”
Me: “You will? I thought you were leaving that morning.”
Jake: “Yeah, but I’ll leave early.”
Me: “Okay. Are you sure? I don’t mind taking the day off, as long as it’s to spend time together, but otherwise, I need to work.”
Jake: “I’m sure. I’ll be there at 9:00.”

I wasn’t just being pushy, here. While the only times Jake has ever postponed plans have been when he’s driving back from his family’s ranch, it’s also been every time he’s driving back from his family’s ranch. That’s why I was just short of nagging when I asked. So, imagine my frustration to receive this text at 7:00 on Thursday morning.

I’ll be there around lunch.

Even know that three months is too soon to threaten to throat punch the boy, but I was just so frustrated. I could have been working. I haven’t subbed all summer and I could have really used a half day’s pay. Jake, though… well, Jake’s in oil. We have substantially different incomes and likely always will. Half a day’s pay means very little to him and I’m not super eager to admit how difficult September has been, especially with the Gardasil vaccine that I’m getting, at least partly, because of him. I tried to look at things a little differently. Now I had a whole morning to finish sewing my flannel Star Trek pants… for which no one would be paying me. Nope. I just couldn’t get over it, so I kept my texting brief, for fear of sounding bitchy. Verbal and textual chatterbox that I usually am, Jake noticed and called. He said he wanted to make sure the plans were still the same, that we’d be going to the botanical gardens and to the outdoor store. He clearly wanted to see if I was mad and I’m just not all that great at hiding emotions, but I was polite, if brief. When he arrived around noon, I was still a little reserved. Jake actually had to stop me and ask to see the Spock shirt I’d raved about getting with my birthday money: “Trek Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself.” Ultimately, I decided the best bet was just to say something to him, rather than let it stew.

Me: “I’d have worked this morning if I’d known you’d be late.”
Jake: “Ugh. Yeah. My brother was being a dick, so I didn’t get out until later.”

He clearly didn’t want to talk about it and I didn’t want to pry, but I quadruple checked that he’d be there early in the morning! Still annoyed, I set it aside and we started our day with lunch. Midway through our meal, I’d forgotten all about my frustrations with Jake and was just so glad to be with him. I always convince myself in our time apart that he’s not as great as I remember and I’m always wrong.

We had a great time. I stole my country boy’s new phone and changed his theme to pink and his ringtone to Turn Down for What, the latter of which I’m still not sure he’s been able to fix. We joked and talked about politics and I, again, took his phone and pretended to change his Facebook relationship status (he doesn’t Facebook at all), only to have him tell me to go ahead. After lunch, we went to the gardens, which were, quite honestly, boring. Did you know that botanical gardens just equals “trees and bushes”? When we’d gone to the zoo, Jake had been strangely gifted at naming the plants, so I’d thought it would be a fun activity, but I was wrong… except for the Jake part. That part was nice.

After the gardens, we went to the outdoor store and Jake asked if I wanted him to buy pretty much everything I touched. While it’s sweet that he wanted to get me a birthday gift, that’s not really how that’s done, so I declined everything but a bag of cotton candy jelly beans. We played a shooting game and Jake told me the official names of the fish in the tank. As much of a city girl as I can be, there’s something so… familiar about Jake’s country roots. All my life, I’ve grown up around men who hunt and fish. My ex-husband wasn’t into any of those things at all and there’s something almost… comforting in Jake’s down home side. He’s so friendly and laid-back, but at the same time, he can argue Lord of the Rings vs. Harry Potter (he’s wrong). Ultimately, you’d think I’d find discussing types of fish dull, but it’s almost… soothing.

By the time we were supposed to meet Gail and Terry at the bar, I was pretty tired, but Jake had other ideas, which made us later than a nap would have. Regardless, everyone seemed to hit it off quite well. Terry and Jake are both from small towns, with farmer/ranchers for parents. The conversation was easy and fun and my three margaritas put me so far over the limit, by the end of the night, that I jokingly programmed a sex shop into Jake’s GPS… and he drove there, when I refused to tell him what it was.

Finally, we went home and crashed for the night. The next morning, we woke up late for Jake and at normal human hours for Belle.

Jake: “It’s 8:00. We’ve wasted half the day.”
Me: “Shut up. It’s like the middle of the night.”

I made breakfast and somehow, the topic of my taking a job the day before came up again.

Me: “I was just frustrated because I asked for that very reason. I could’ve worked a half day. I don’t even know if one would’ve been available, but I couldn’t look because you said you’d be here at 9:00 and I blocked out the day.”
Jake: “I can like… give you money if it’s that big of a deal.”

Me: “Duuude. Noooo. I’m pretty sure that’s prostitution, so let’s not.”

I’m pretty sure that is the boyest thing he has ever said and that’s saying something. Ultimately, however, he got my point and understood the level of frustration I felt, so I feel the communication was successful. It wasn’t a fight, but it was our first disagreement and I think it was a productive one.

After breakfast/brunch, we went to see The Gift and then to meet my parents. I was a little nervous, but I didn’t want to make Jake more nervous by admitting so.

Jake: “I can’t believe I forgot my beard trimmer.”
Me: “It’s not that bad. Besides, I set the bar really low. They’ll love you.”

That’s me… being supportive.

I was right, though. Lena enthusiastically talked about my steps and both she and my dad told stories of their numerous trips to Mexico. My dad was thrilled to have a cattle/hunting/camping conversational companion and Lena and I bonded over how awful all of those things sound. Both of them loved when Jake told them how he doesn’t care for tattoos, piercings, and colorful hair.

Dad: “Are you going to go to the rodeo with him?”
Me: “Oh, I’m sure I will. His whole family is into rodeos. His dad was a rodeo clown.”
Jake: ::laughing:: “That is not true.”
Lena: “You’ll learn that Belle is her father’s daughter. They’re both dramatic story tellers.”
Jake: “Oh, I got that one a while ago.”
Me: “Hey. The difference is, want you to realize I’m being dramatic. My dad wants you to believe that he saw a cricket the size of a pony.”

It was great. They liked him. He liked them. It was a little loud with the live music and that was a damned shame, but it was just… fun. No one liked my ex-husband, so this is new and I’ll tell you, it’s awesome. I’ve always hated the idea of being with someone who doesn’t click with my family again and I’m pretty sure Jake with his stuffed deer head (who he’s refusing to let me a) decorate for Christmas or b) name Buzz) fit in better than me with my Ravenclaw Quidditch sweatshirt.

So that was my birthday and Jake’s introduction to some of the most important people in my life. I’m not sure it could’ve gone better, either. My daddy likes him. My stepmomma likes him. My Gaily likes him. Perhaps most amazingly, after three months, still like him.

Blogiversary Number Three!

The trouble with my blogiversary is that it’s actually on my birthday…

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… not that my dad remembers when that is. After I sent the “what’s up?” text, I checked my voicemail to receive his happy birthday wishes.

The man is a parody of himself.

Anyhoo, the blogiversary post is always a tough one to fit in, because I love birthdays. I birthday myself to death. Saturday, I got together with Gaily, Catherine, and Laura. We stuffed ourselves with cookie cake, pizza, and liquor and talked about boys. I told them all about how I drove to Wellston after work on Thursday to see Jake, who made me the boyest and sweetest dinner ever: pork chops and canned peas and corn on paper plates that got soggy before I was finished eating. It was wonderful and he obviously missed me as much as I missed him, so I stayed the night and drove home at 6:00 the next morning.

Monday, Gaily and I drove 40 miles for donuts that aren’t as epic as everyone claims and I illegally downloaded Trainwreck for us to watch while crafting. Last night, Niki brought sushi over and we gorged on leftover cookie cake and caught up on each other’s lives. Tonight, on my actual birthday, I get dinner with my favorite lady in the whole world: my Gramma. Later, I’ll see my work friends at a grown-up arcade. Tomorrow, my guy comes to town for two days to see me and meet Gaily and Terry and then my dad and Lena.

So, if this week is any reflection on how 28 will go, I feel like I’ve come a long way. I started this blog on my 25th birthday, a grad student carefully navigating the dating world, while still coping with a young and tragic divorce. While I’m hoping I’ll get a full time position at the library soon, I’m pretty darned content with my life right now. I have wonderful friends and family, a career I love, and a blog I’ve maintained for three years to the day. I’m excited to see my future entries. It’s not the life I planned at 18. It’s better.

What is it about mothers?

What is it about mothers?

There’s no other relationship that, no matter how abusive or toxic, society tells us we’re obligated to repair. Grandparents are often photographs and maybe a birthday card. Brothers and sisters can live entire lives without crossing paths, once they’ve reached adulthood. Dads are practically optional in American society. We’re not even obligated to our spouses. Mothers, though… mothers are worshiped. It’s really quite beautiful that we demand such respect for women who gave their youth, their bodies, their tears, and their hearts to their children, only to watch them leave. This week, the Humans of New York Facebook page is covered with stories of actual mothers who gave every part of themselves to better their children’s lives. All over the country, people are having Gilmore Girls marathons, ordering flowers, maybe even catching planes… because it’s your mom.

“It’s your mom.”

That’s what they say. That’s what they always say, no matter the time of year, like it excuses everything. They don’t understand that just because I have a mom… it doesn’t mean I have a mom. All of these relationships can be explained away in a sentence or two…

“Oh, I never really knew my grandparents.”
“My siblings and I aren’t really close.”
“I don’t have a dad.”

… but tell someone you won’t be calling your mom on Mother’s Day and you’re lucky if you only get a loaded silence. I, myself, share your sweet memories of school field trips, movie marathons, and birthday pancakes. I smile over remembered arguments about what to wear on picture day, how to fix my hair, and whether or not I could watch that movie. I understand your fondness for your mother, because I remember what it was like to have one. Those memories, however, have long since been overshadowed by the far more recent ones of threats, manipulation, abuse, and abandonment. I didn’t get to debate over the value of Greek life, during my senior year. I got left for an online boyfriend two hours away. I didn’t just argue with my mother over wedding plans. I got to inform her that if she hit me one more time, I’d be pressing charges. I didn’t get pancakes for my last mother/daughter birthday. I got screamed at for suggesting therapy. I got a birthday cookie hurled at my front door.

It’s not that I don’t want to see my mom. It’s that she’s not here, anymore. I miss my birthday pancakes so much it hurts. It hurts a lot more, though, to reconcile and sit across from someone who looks like her and sounds like her, and think I finally have her back… only to end up crying over episodes of That 70’s Show about how I wish Kitty Foreman could be my mom… because that’s what we do. You have lunch and manicures with your mother, with whom your biggest disagreement was a boyfriend or car or apartment. The women whose mothers have been taken by addiction or mental illness… we fantasize about our favorite fictional moms and do our best to get our mothering elsewhere. If we’re lucky, we have caring dads, aunts, friends, to walk us through the hard times… but it’s never enough, because there’s just something about mothers.

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Textersation Tuesday

04-28-15 2We are the cool kids.

04-28-15 1 I’m about 80% sure he didn’t get that pun.

Fifty Inappropriate Comments on Fifty Shades of Grey… Give or Take

My father and I, we have… weird boundaries. I mean, one of my most popular posts was titled Looking at T*ts with My Dad. It’s not that we don’t also have a traditional, supportive daddy/daughter relationship. It’s just that he’s the man who gave me my flare for inappropriate humor and general conversational finesse.

Grandmotherly coworker: “My lips are so dry, they’re sticking together.”
Me: “That’s what she said!”

So, naturally, this led to the worst conversation anyone has ever had.

Me: “I have to go to Hobby Lobby after this to get supplies for my party this weekend. I’m having a Fifty Shades of Grey Goose party. We’re going to drink every time it’s stupid.”
Dad: “Lena and I actually went and saw that the other night.”
Me: “No. Stop talking.”
Dad: “Well, just to see what the big deal was, you know.”
Me: “Well, yeah. That’s why we’re going to watch it: to mercilessly mock it.”
Dad: “Well, you know, honestly, that movie wasn’t half bad.”
Me: “I can’t… unhear this.”

Dad: “All’s I’m saying is, when you watch it, go into it with an open mind.”
Me: “What?!? NO. I’ve read the books. I know the story and it’s awful. I am not watching Fifty Shades of Grey with an open mind… especially not at my dad’s insistence.”
Dad: “Well, Lena’s read the books and she said they were bad, but everyone’s talking about how those books are [air quotes], abusive and [I shit you not, more air quotes] offensive to women, but when he takes her to his playroom, he tells her ‘I’m fifty shades of fucked up.’…”
Me: “I’m pretty sure my ears are bleeding. This is, literally, the worst thing that has ever happened to me, listening to you quote Christian Grey.”

Dad: “… but she signs his contract anyway. The whole thing is between consensual adults. How is that abusive?”
Me: “Dad, the reason people call it abusive isn’t because of the BDSM – which is a term I should never use with my dad, by the way – but because of the way he treats her. At least in the books, he has to know her every move and he’s extremely…”
Dad: “Controlling?”
Me: “Yes.”
Dad: “Yeah, but she allows it.”
Me: “Dad, you seriously just defended all abuse!” 
Dad: “Well… huh… yeah. I guess you’re right.”

Me: “Thanks for lunch, daddy. Next time, I’ll tell you all about my favorite erotica.”

My daddy/daughter relationship is not the only unconventional one in my life.

Gramma: “What’s a flogger?”
Me: “It’s a handle with beaded strings and people hit each other with them, in bed, because it’s sexy to hurt. I bought some cord, pink glitter beads, and decorative tape. Then I hot glued them to wooden dalrods for party favors.”
Gramma: “But what are you guys gonna do with ’em?”
Me: “I don’t know… get drunk and hit each other with them, probably.”
Gramma: “That seems like a lot of effort.”
Me: “Yeah. They’re a lot more involved than I thought they would be. I actually have to get back to making my sex toys, now. I love you Gramma.”
Gramma: “Okay, hon, I love you. Have fun.” 

As for the party, we were all pretty drunk, but I did have the presence of mind to record some of the better comments, between people who were more or less strangers before that night. It’s amazing what Jello shots will do for one’s inhibitions when it comes to homemade Pin the Penis on Christian Grey.

Pin the P
Catherine won Charlie Tango… a four dollar helicopter I spray painted.

Gail: “That’s really classy, Belle.”
Me: “Hey. I am Grace Fucking Kelly.”

::Opening Credits::

Catherine: “What the fuck is up with her bangs?”
Me: :showing photo on phone:
cotc

Me: “Wait. Why does he ask if she’s a Girl Scout? She’s cutting rope. Does he just have really low expectations of The Girl Scouts?”

Catherine: “Yeah, cuz there’s totally a dial tone on a fucking cell phone.”

Reba: “Ew, no! That’s Elliot?”
Gail: “He looks like a 90’s drug dealer.”
Me: “He looks like an extra from The Craft.

::Sex toy Camera pan:: six people raise and shake homemade floggers “FLOGGERS!”
Me: “Shit. Is the window still open?”

Gail: “It’s not lovemaking, if there’s a contract.”

Me: “That… that’s literally a scene from Twilight! They’re even in a meadow!”
Gail: “Are they going to play baseball now?”

Reba: “Wait. Is this the scene where she’s just been running and now they’re gonna have sex?”
Me: “Yeah and she’s just been sitting around in her workout clothes making vaginal cheese.”
Reba: “Ewwwww! NO! BELLE!”
Gail: “It’s like FETA!” 

Gail: “Taking leggings off of yourself isn’t exactly the easiest and sexiest activity.”
Me: “‘It makes me so hot when you put wet clothes on me.'”

Carla: “I wonder if he had to learn to braid hair for this role.”
Me: “Maybe he already knew how, because he has a daughter.”

::Every single sex scene:: “MY DAD SAW THIS MOVIE!!!!!! I CAN’T!!! I JUST CAN’T!!!”
Gail: “What do you think they did after they got home from the movie?”
Me: “I don’t love you anymore, Gail!”

Gail: “I still think the most pressing question of the night is, where in the world was this movie shown in Russian for six minutes, the rest in English, with all the text in Spanish?”

The fun didn’t even stop after everyone went home.

carla chat

Remember the news stories about firemen preparing for an increase in calls from people attempting the dangerous things done in Fifty Shades? I confess. I tried one myself.

Facebook status: I tried to take off my shirt the way Christian Grey does. I got lost and confused. It was terrifying. People don’t undress that way.

For realz, y’all, I nearly removed my own scalp.

party

That’s a decorate-your-own-tie cookie. Obviously. Bee tea double ewe, tough to explain the leftover cookies at work.

Textersation Tuesday

True friends know to cover sadness with humor. 02-17-15

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

Lessons in Parenting from Social Media

I don’t have children. For the time being, I don’t lament that fact. I, however, do work with children and have a bachelor’s degree that required quite a bit of child development and child psychology. As a research-oriented person, a Ravenclaw if you will, it’s a guilty pleasure of mine to read up on the latest case studies and articles on child development, such as the effect of technology on children, effective rewards and punishment strategies, how to deal with bullying, even color psychology. Things get cray up in here on a Friday night.

So, unlike many single twenty-somethings, I really don’t mind the constant Facebook updates from my mom friends. It’s a lucky thing, too, because in Shetland, that uterus has a much earlier sell by date than it would in say, any place that exists in 2014, as opposed to 1964. Fortunately, this allows me access to real time parenting research. As a result, here’s what I’ve learned about parenting from social media.

The names Prezlee, Ecstassi, Vyce, and Rebel will look great on resumes.

If he’s not old enough to drive, he needs to be in a rear facing car seat.

If I vaccinate, my baby will die.

If I don’t vaccinate, all the babies will die.

Walking through the room of a child in possession of Legos is like taking a barefoot stroll through the cobblestone streets of hell.

Leaving an infant alone for any period of time is extremely dangerous… unless it’s with an aggressive breed dog, in which case it’s adorable.

If I don’t breastfeed my baby for one year, they’ll probably die. If they survive, they’ll never truly love me.

If I breastfeed for one year and one day, they’ll picture me on their wedding night.

There are men who intentionally leave their toddlers in cars on a hot day. There are women who snap and drown their babies. Neither of these will compare to the day I call my daughter a princess. Surely, she is now doomed to grow up with no sense of self worth, no goals, no knowledge of the world beyond what her overbearing husband allows her.

God doesn’t know how to make children. I must help him via copious amounts of Photoshop. If no one’s wondering about my child’s glowing blue eyes and porcelain skin, I’m doing it wrong.

My toddler can have a concrete sexual orientation, but only if he’s gay.

If my kid doesn’t get a certificate or trophy, I should have one made, so he’ll feel accomplished, even when he isn’t.

If my child doesn’t have an iPhone by age 8, I’m depriving him of an understanding of modern technology and he’s likely to be kidnapped, because he was unable to call for help.

Teasing is not normal. If someone teases my kid for being short, there should be an assembly, a news story, and possibly a national campaign to ban the word “short.”

If my daughter plays with Barbies, she’ll develop unhealthy and unrealistic standards of beauty. The best way to combat this is by making her feel confident in her sexuality as young as possible.

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