In Mourning

I woke up last Tuesday morning to a quiet home and a dark street. I had to be at the church across the way in one hour to help set up our voting precinct’s polling place. Nine of us would set up the voting and ballot-creating machines and spend the next fourteen-odd hours making sure the registered voters of Rose Creek precinct were able to select their candidates smoothly, quickly, and without conflict or interruption.

You see, I’m a smart bunny. I know what’s up. I know that there’s a good portion of the country who, ideally, would only like white people to vote. Hell, I’m pretty sure those people are also pretty fuckin’ bitter that the suffragettes won the right to vote in 1920. They would rather only white men voted. So, they make it difficult with gerrymandering and voter ID laws and Jim Crow-esque regulations. And those are the same people who swagger into our precinct and loudly proclaim, “IT’S MY SON’S FIRST TIME VOTIN’! HE’S 18! BUT, A’COURSE, HE AIN’T VOTIN’ THE RIGHT WAY!” So, let’s amend this that there’s a demographic who wishes only white, English-speaking men, probably 35 and older, had the right to vote.

Now, I also know there’s also a whole other cross-section of the country who wants EVERYONE to vote. Particularly those who aren’t citizens. Oh, they pay taxes, so they should be able to vote! It doesn’t matter that they come here in a less-than-honest manner, let’s give ’em all voter access! Let ’em vote! No matter that only UK/Commonwealth/Irish citizens can vote in UK elections. No matter that Mexico, France, Poland, Singapore, and Brazil require IDs when voting to establish citizenship. HERE, IN THE STATES, WE LET EVERYONE VOTE!!!

I get all of this. I absorb it. And I know that, as a Georgia poll worker, I have to follow certain regulations and rules. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to allow anyone to make it difficult for anyone else to vote. And so, I got ready.

But, I didn’t wear the usual red, white, and blue. No, that day, I had a statement to make. I wasn’t allowed to wear an elephant or a donkey, a candidate button or t-shirt, so instead I chose the only thing I could choose.

All. Black.

I donned my uniform of mourning. Black skirt and shirt. Black boots and jacket. When I arrived at the church, I stuck out like a sore thumb. Everyone else was in their festive red, white, and blue, all matchy-matchy with the precinct decor. And there I sat, behind my Express Poll station, in my emo black. I joked to everyone who asked that, with my purple hair, I was the outcast of the group. What I didn’t say was that I was in mourning for my country.

And still am.

I am sad that the only two major candidates our country could offer was a criminal and a sexist, bigoted, racist loudmouth. I am sad that lip service is only given to two candidates at a time. I am sad that moderate candidates are ignored and tossed aside like yesterday’s trash. I am sad that the pervasiveness of racism and sexism in this country is on the rise. I am sad that Democrats look down their noses at the very people they once proclaimed to defend. I am sad that Republican have worked on a policy of obstruction and not on a policy of doing any actual work. I am sad that evangelical Christians have hijacked the Republican party. I am sad that our news media is no journalism and all entertainment, catering to one extreme or the other, and in turn, filling our heads with partisan excess. I am sad that a presidential election is treated as though it were a Super Bowl. I am sad that even in this contentious an election, 50 million American citizens couldn’t find the time, energy, or inspiration to vote. I am sad that social media has allowed us to become armchair activists, giving us license to spread pretentious views that are empty of any substance, yet make us feel like we’ve actually done something.

To say that I went to bed on Tuesday, November 8th pissed at everyone would be an understatement. To say I woke up the next morning pissed and sad? Another understatement. I was so disappointed and crushed and, just, tired. Tired that people still think it’s OK to treat women like pieces of meat especially since their president-elect told them he does it. Tired that people think it’s acceptable to break federal laws and still run for the highest office in the land. Tired that people think #alllivesmatter is an acceptable answer to #blacklivesmatter instead of asking why we have to have that second hashtag in the first place? Tired that people think a wall dividing us is perfectly acceptable, but figuring out a way to give people an opportunity to live and work here legally isn’t. Tired that people think a third party is a waste of a vote, even when that third party has the only rational people on the ticket. Tired that one side is extremely pretentious and unyielding, calling the other “uneducated.” Tired that the other side is extremely rigid, unbending, and unwilling to admit that we. need. to. do. something. for our brothers and sisters of color/other-religions-not-Christianity. Tired that if I walk through Woodstock, Georgia, Bible Belt USA, in an “I’m an Atheist, Ask Me Anything!” t-shirt, that I’ll be more reviled and more distrusted than a convicted felon. Tired that my daughter will have to grow up wary of all men as I did. Tired that the children of my black friends may not live past their 30th birthday because of the violence perpetrated on them by society. My society. Tired that my sons may have to listen to their friends demean a girl simply because she exists.

I’m in mourning. For all of us. For all of our actions and inactions. I’ve decided, right now, that I’m stepping outside my privilege and making sure I’m fully educated. But don’t expect me to live up to anyone’s expectations but my own. I will continue to be a safe harbor for anyone who needs me. I will continue to learn and try my best to understand. I will continue to try and make people laugh. I will continue voting third-party and anti-incumbent in the hopes that my children will one day walk into a polling place and see more than two choices on the ballot. I will continue to teach my children to be good people, who treat everyone equally and with respect, and to not be pretentious asshats.

I. Will. Be. Me.

And I will one day be proud of my country again.

Stopped in My Tracks

img_9370Tyler bought me a monitor for my notebook, so that when I’m sitting at my desk I don’t have to squint.

Some husbands buy flowers, chocolate, and lingerie. Mine buys electronic things. This is one of the many reasons why I picked him. But, I digress.

I set about getting my desk organized with the behemoth which meant I needed to pilfer through the basement detritus for a mouse and keyboard.

(By the way, that’s the other great thing about Tyler. Our basement is like a Circuit City/Best Buy/CompUSA/Apple store all rolled into one room with bunches of cardboard boxes full of cable and cords and keyboards and computer cards and on and on. I’m pretty sure we could cable the neighborhood and take care of their electronic needs for the next year.)

As I walked by a bookcase of old CDs, I found an interesting stack of paper I hadn’t previously seen. I took a closer look and was so overcome I had to set down my electronic treasures. It was a stack of papers that had been saved by my Uncle Curtis, that had probably been in a box, most likely found by Tyler, and set aside for me to peruse.

The stack, a small portion of which is in the picture above, was full of bits of things Uncle Curtis had saved: letters and cards from me, newspaper clippings about me, my research paper, pictures of my father, my honor roll certificates, his Camera Club ribbons, and on and on. It wasn’t like I was excited to read these old letters and newspaper clippings. What touched me and stopped me was that he saved all of this as if he were my parent, which he pretty much was. He was my third parent. He was my way-cool uncle who listened to me, took a huge interest in my life, spoiled me, and held me tight. He was the absolute best uncle a girl could have ever hoped for. My parents were and are awesome, but my Uncle Curtis was something special. When I went through that stack yesterday, I didn’t smile over the memories of writing those cards or receiving those accolades. I smiled and remembered my times with him, those special moments we shared.

One of the items in the stack was a sheet of paper containing my Uncle Romie’s thoughts about his brother Curtis, read at Curtis’s funeral. Some of Uncle Romie’s thoughts about Uncle Curtis included:

When Curtis started grade school, Mom had him ride the garbage truck home (about 2 miles).

Curtis was a very generous person who would give you the shirt off his back.

We lived in Maryland on the Eastern Shore where there are no mountains. One night he looked out the window and became a little disoriented. He said he wondered why the sky was so “low.” Being from West Virginia, he said he was used to looking up to see the sky.

As I look back on Curtis’ life, I see a very generous man who will be missed very much. Our children loved him and will miss one of their favorite uncles.

Uncle Curtis (and Uncle Romie and my father) are missed every day, still, after all of these years. I am thankful for finding that small stack of papers so that he was next to me again, even if only for a little while.

Balancing

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NOT Cooper Gap, but still pretty. Image credit: artageclub.com

As I came upon mile four in my 10k race this weekend, I noticed I was completely on my own. I couldn’t see the runner behind me and the runner ahead had rounded a corner. There seemed to be no one and Cooper Gap Road appeared to stretch upward, forever. This place is a beautiful, quiet stretch of North Georgia country where you always hear water running nearby and you might see a bear, watching the annual race. But for me, it was just an endless stretch of pavement with the wind in the trees, and that double yellow line taunting me.

Since I had the road all to myself, I decided to race right down the middle of it. I shifted from the right to the yellow line and decided that to keep myself occupied, I would use that line like a tightrope, no going left or right. I had to stay right there. I had to balance on the straight and narrow and not fall into the black on either side.

Those last two miles were pretty much a metaphor of my life. There’s this constant balance between motherhood and Heatherhood, responsibility and freedom, work and relaxation. On the days that I get work done and am on top of everything, I feel so powerful, so in-control. On the days when I get nothing done, when I park my butt on the couch and watch TV while the kids are at school, I feel like such an utter failure. For example, I sit here writing this post because I know I need to write more, I enjoy it and need the practice, but I feel guilty that I’m not upstairs folding the bathroom towels that have been sitting in a laundry basket all weekend.

I get it. I’m too hard on myself. I always have been. It’s hard to teach a 44-year-old woman new mental gymnastics. In the last year, thanks to Zoloft, my anxiety and mood-swings are mostly gone and calmed, but I still have a hard time finding that balance and acknowledging that I’m allowed to have balance, that it’s OK to have the busy days and the lazy days, the mom days and the Heather days, the laundry days and the writing days.

While I ran down that double yellow line, I took two miles, about 22 minutes, to think about my life and how there were so many things I wanted to do with so little time to do it all. Life, after all, waits for no one’s Oh, I’ll give it a go tomorrow. Life plods forward, with or without us. I know I need to hit that double yellow line more often than not, but I also know that it’s OK if I veer off to the shoulder to take a pause and a few deep breaths, look up the hill, and plot my next steps.

Because even though life and time both move inexorably forward, I need a shoulder moment every now and then and that double yellow line can wait.

The Blink of an Eye

img_9200I remember lying in my hospital bed, a mother for just seven short hours. My twin babies were in the NICU and I was full of anxiety. I couldn’t sleep, I wanted to see them but wasn’t allowed because of the danger of seizures, I was worried I wouldn’t know how to breastfeed them, and my blood pressure was so high that I was mainlining magnesium sulfate through an IV pump I had affectionately named “George.” The doctor had ordered a “nightcap” for my IV (read: something to finally knock out the psycho mother in room 15) and I was just drifting off to sleep as my breastfeeding consultant walked in the room.

See, I was absolutely freaked that the twins wouldn’t get enough breastmilk. If I gave them a bottle, then I would know how much they drank. The ounces would be clearly marked on the side and with a little simple subtraction, I could know how much they were eating. Breasts, unfortunately, don’t come with those ounce marks. Plus, writing down the amount of poop and pee they created each day just seemed a bit too much like flying by the seat of my pants which, as we all know, I DO NOT DO.

So, there she was, this tired “Breast Milk is Best” advocate who was there to calm me down and give me advice.

In the middle of her instructions, her phone rang. It was her newly-minted 13-year-old daughter who was asking if she could have more minutes on her phone. You see, September 16th was her birthday, too. And she had just received a shiny, new cell phone for that 13th birthday. But, she had used all the monthly minutes to set it up and call all her friends to say, “HEY! CHECK IT OUT! I HAVE A NEW PHONE!”

4961_85634273231_4642627_nEven through my drug-addled, anxiety-ridden, sleepy brain, I could hear the mom’s/breastfeeding nurse’s voice become more terse and frustrated as the conversation went on.

“No. You cannot have more minutes.”

“You’ll get more minutes on October 1st. Those are the rules.”

“It’s not my fault you used up all of September’s minutes in just a matter of hours.”

“You should have paid attention to what you’re doing.”

“I know it’s your birthday, but deal with it.”

When she finally hung up, she apologized, explained what had happened, and as she spoke, gestured to me and the pictures of my new babies, and said, “This? Hon? This is easy. All you have to do is feed them, change their diapers, and love them. When they get to be 13? That’s the hard part. Trust me.”

Of course, I didn’t believe her. I was convinced that trying to guesstimate breastfeeding quantities was going to be the hardest thing I had EVER done in my ENTIRE life. (Postpartum anxiety is a total bitch, yo.)

Eleven years later, and here we are on the cusp of that cell phone moment. There are many days when I can see the beginnings of the teen years with mood swings and attitude. It’s no fun being the mom who takes away the iPad and tells them “NO!” while their tears fall as if it’s the end of the world. I can tell you that even though I know I’m doing the right thing, I still feel like the most awful mom in the world.

Somewhere out there is a 24-year-old woman, celebrating her birthday. She most likely pays for her own phone, and she may have her own children. I doubt she recalls that conversation with her mother, but I remember it as if it were only yesterday. I can remember rolling my eyes and thinking, “The teen years are SO FAR AWAY!”

And yet, they aren’t. They’re staring me in the face. I sometimes wish I could go back to the easy days of baby giggles, diapers, and fuzzy breastmilk consumption math, because she was right, those days were SO much more simple.

But, even though these days are no longer easy, they are certainly more interesting. I’m never bored. I see children who are forming ideas about the world, learning constantly, loving those around them, laughing freely, crying, arguing, questioning, and becoming really cool people. They make me feel more alive and more tired, all at the same time. I know the next eleven years will pass as quickly as these have and before I know it, I’ll have adults in place of the babies I once knew.

And I’ll long for these difficult days of the pre-teen years.

Happy 11th birthday, Amelia and Heath! I love you so very much!

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Digging up Dirt

IMG_7729Spring is my second-favorite time of the year. I’m a fall girl, through and through, but there’s something about spring that’s nice. The green is brand-new, almost neon in its shading. The rain comes and symbolically washes away the grime of winter, while the colors from the myriad of flowers nearly blind me in their intensity. I like to sit on my pollen-laden porch with my afternoon mug of coffee, and think about life. Or read. Or breathe.

As a child and teen, I spent many evenings swinging on our neighbors’, Goldie and Clyde, front porch. The adults would talk and catch up on the day. Clyde would regale us with stories of his time in the Navy during World War II and sometimes, he’d pull out a couple of spoons and play them on his knee. One of my favorite evenings was when he accompanied me as I played my dulcimer. As people walked up and down the street, Goldie would whisper,

Oh, my. There goes soandso. I heard her daddy got arrested last week. Yes, indeed! He was down in Jefferson at one o’ them dancin’ clubs. Got inta a huge fight. Cops came out and had to break it up! It was terrible!

If you wanted to know what was going on on Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana Streets in the greater Spring Hill area, then you parked your carcass on Goldie’s front porch swing. The last time I had the honor of sitting there was summer, 2006. I drove the twins to West Virginia for a visit and never returned. Clyde and Goldie both passed last year.

I always wanted a front porch big enough to accommodate a swing, chairs, and enough people to keep the conversation flowing. I am nosy by nature, but that’s because of my father’s influence. As a police patrolman, he taught me to be aware of my surroundings, so I liked hiding in the tree in our front yard and watching the comings and goings of the people living around us. Tyler and I had nothing but a concrete footing at the front door of our first house in Cumming and, until 10 years ago, had just a brick stoop here in Woodstock. After we added a porch cover and I could leave the kids in the house to their own devices, I started sitting outside more and more. Many times, they join me with their homework or books. And we’ll sit and listen and breathe. We’ll watch the neighbors come and go and talk about the birdsong, their days, their friends.

Unlike my time in West Virginia, I’ve grown more and more introverted. I have my friends, but I’m most content when it’s quiet and I’m alone. I seek out my friendships when I need to reconnect and recharge. The rest of the time, I read, think, write, and so on. If it weren’t for our kids, I wouldn’t know anyone in this neighborhood. Luckily, the parents of the children our kids play with are all awesome people. And they get me. But we don’t socialize with anyone else. From what I can tell, from where I sit on my front porch, and from the furtive whispers I hear when I’m out and about, I’m glad we aren’t “out and about.” Because the gossip is rampant. And it’s causing one of my friends to move away.

Tyler and I bought this house 16 years ago because it was a steal and it’s located in a great school district. What I’ve learned over the last 10 years, since entering the local school system, is that many residents of this area think rather highly of themselves. So highly, in fact, that they will put aside their own failings to cast aspersions upon others. I used to feel guilty for not socializing at neighborhood functions or school carnivals. But now? I’m glad I don’t. I’m happy I only know seven families out of the 168 in this neighborhood. I’m proud to say that I rarely make conversation with the other parents in my childrens’ classrooms. I’m thrilled that my brick stoop is the home of quiet contemplation and reflection and not gossip and wasteful talk. To see one of those seven so hurt that they feel they have to move to an entirely different neighborhood is uncalled for.

Tyler and I decided 16 years ago that this would be the home where we raise our family. And once they grow up and start lives of their own, we will say goodbye to this place and find our home that will give us solace in our golden years. And I hope, on that future day, when I lock this front door for the last time, that the neighbors will ask one another Who lived there? I’m not sure. They were there for a long time. But I didn’t know them. And that will be for the best.

First World Problems


(Aka A blog post in which I whine about inconsequential things that I probably shouldn’t whine about. But where’s the fun in that?)

  • Target – What the Hell, guys? I go in there for a damned pack of deli ham and I come out with solar walkway lights, an outdoor chair (with cushion), kids’ pajamas, three packs of coffee, and friggin’ lemon poppyseed scones? I mean, I nearly ended up with fairy lights to hang in the Japanese maple. I just can’t even with you anymore.
  • iPhone – The Home button is sticking. Apocalypse.
  • Pollen – My black minivan is now yellow. Pine trees are raping my car.
  • Instagram – There is no longer an option to log out. Between this and the Home button, I’m just going to burn my phone. Or run it over with my “yellow” car.
  • The Martian – Andy Weir needs to get on the stick and write another book. Because I keep staring at the cover of The Martian and pining. Not that I don’t already have a stack of books I could be reading. It’s just easier to sulk about books that haven’t yet been written.
  • Sirius XM 80s on 8 – THE 80s HAD MORE GROUPS THAN CULTURE CLUB AND MORE MUSIC THAN KARMA CHAMELEON!!!! JUST STOP! PLEASE!!! AND TAKE THAT JOURNEY NONSENSE AND SHOVE IT!
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – July, ya’ll. WE HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL JULY FOR THIS!!
  • Converse – They need to be in every single color known to man. And in my closet. Because one pair of black and one pair of denim blue will never be enough.

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Screen Shot 2016-03-25 at 4.03.03 PMYou* were always there. It was never a question. Every chance we got, we spent time together. Didn’t matter the months or the miles, we would always take every opportunity to be in each other’s presence. We would breathe the same air, look into each other’s eyes as we spoke and caught up, and re-establish that friendship that meant so much.

But lately? I’ve noticed a pattern. You’ve been here, but not here. To find out second, or third-hand that you’ve been near, driven by, around, and yet haven’t seen fit to actually be here, it hurts.

I think it all started two years ago when I announced my atheism. Even Tyler noticed it, the drifting away, seeing you less and less. I remember figuring out that when I posted on my old blog about my decision to be public with my atheism, I lost a family member on social media. It wasn’t unexpected, but it gave me a twinge. You, on the other hand, stayed.

But really, you haven’t. This is worse. You comment on my posts, you send a message every now and then, but that’s it. We haven’t seen you, even though you’ve been so very close. I get that life intrudes, work gets busy, family comes first. But, we can tell that you’ve specifically removed yourselves physically from our lives.

And this quiet, drifting away is more painful than the immediate severing.

So, this is just me, telling you, that I see what’s happening. It’s very clear to me. To us. And it hurts.

*If you see yourself in this post, I’m not saying that, yes, it’s you. But maybe, if there’s a reflection here of you and your actions, then maybe you need to reach out. And we’ll talk. Or continue to drift. Your choice.

One Million Seconds

I need a martini.

I probably need a martini.

It’s been two weeks since I unceremoniously left you guys.

Social media has been a boon for me and it’s also been a curse. On the one hand, I get to share my craziness with you all. The stupid stuff that rambles through my head makes me giggle, so why not share it? But, on the other hand, I also feel the need to constantly share my drama. Which, let’s be honest, no one really needs to see any of that. We all have drama, right? And why pile my drama on top of yours?

I had lately noticed that my life revolved around Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I need to check on so-and-so’s account. What are they up to? Did anyone read my Tweet? How many people liked my picture? OH! That thing that just happened to me was funny! I need to tell everyone! How dare that person support that candidate! I won’t say anything, but I’ll steam about it for a couple of hours. And on and on.

To say that all of you preoccupied my day is an understatement. And when Friday dawned, two weeks ago, and Tyler and I had had a disagreement, I was done. Finished. In addition to walking a thin line each day in which I want to just rail against everything (and don’t) and realizing that my days were filled with the lives of other people rather than my own, I had to step away. Honestly, for that first day, my finger hovered over the Deactivate your account button and I seriously thought about just disappearing completely. But, I reconsidered. Since welcoming all of you into my life, I couldn’t just unceremoniously boot you all out the front door. So, I went silent instead. I walked out of the party and found a quiet spot in the back garden, where I could recharge and have my beer alone.

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Them Nazis never saw us coming, Grant.

The first week was pretty tough. I would, literally, jump on each morning to check notifications, and then close the Facebook app as if it had burned me. And then I would sit and stare at my phone and wonder What now? I purposefully logged into Twitter and Instagram as Paranormal Georgia so that there would be less temptation. I caught up on my reading, dabbled a bit in writing, talked with an old friend (Love you, Jude!), fought the Nazis with Grant, cherished a beautiful card from my favorite Pittsburgher, was interviewed for the most out-there article ever, and investigated the paranormal. And most of all, I focused on my children. During quiet moments, I just sat rather than jumping on Instagram to obsessively check pictures or Facebook to greedily count notifications.

And it’s been a revelation. I love all of you, but I have become consumed by your thoughts, opinions, activities, and such. I have 389 Facebook friends. That’s 389 people crowded onto my screen each and every day. 389 people talking and conversing and shouting and whispering and sharing and taking up my thoughts. Let’s be honest, I have a hard time just talking to the neighbor up the street. I don’t think my brain is capable of handling all of that information, on a daily basis, any longer. I hate to be the party pooper, but I need to be selfish. I need to acknowledge that I’m spending too much time on social media and that I’m allowing all the things you all say to each other affect me negatively.

I’m not going to deactivate my accounts because I’m hoping to blog every now and then and maybe interact with you that way. I also have my paranormal group’s account to maintain. But I also want to remind you all that even if I do exercise the nuclear option and disappear from Facebook, I’m not gone. There’s still email. There’s still snail mail. And I’ll always be here, in the cul-de-sac. It’s my thing, you know?

Mad Cow

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Paraphrased…

Her: How are you feeling?

Me: OK, I guess. I don’t know. I just feel like there’s nothing there. No emotion. I’m just… here. You know? I don’t know if I like this. I don’t feel like me.

Her: But, Heather. Think about this. You were on a rampage for so long. Maybe this is what normal is supposed to feel like? The other you? That wasn’t healthy.

Me: Yeah, you’re probably right.

Her: Give it time, Der.

There are moments when your friends put everything into perspective. I don’t think I’ve probably ever felt truly even-keeled. I think most of my life has been just me on a tear and now that I’m balancing out, calming down, what feels out-of-sorts for me is actually what life is SUPPOSED to feel like.

It’s weird. Pre-Zoloft/Klonopin me was just angry all the time. As well as sad. And now that I’ve stepped back and can see that me from outside… wow. Just, wow. What a hot-ass mess. But, while I’m examining this, I’ve also been mourning. For some strange reason, I’ve been saddened because that old me is going away. And even though that me is batshit crazy, I kind of miss her. Don’t get me wrong. The sarcasm is still there. The opinions are still there. The emotions are still there. They’re just not bubbling on the surface, waiting to splatter all over the place like hot bacon grease. They’re all functioning in proper order, waiting for the proper moment, quietly biding their time.

Does any of that make sense?

I’ve been a mad, daft cow for quite some time. While watching an old Boston Legal tonight where Denny Crane decides he doesn’t have Alzheimer’s but instead suffers from Mad Cow, I made an off-handed comment about how the dog probably calls me that in her head. “Oh, look. There goes that Mad Cow again.” And then, I thought, maybe that’s how a lot of people have seen me over the last decade or so. I really have been quite mad. Every time I talk to my friends about my mother or post some nonsense on Facebook or when the neighbor saw me lose my shit over the garden hose this summer (quelle horreur) that’s been sad, angry-at-the-world me.

Mad cow.

I’m sorry, everybody. I really, truly had no idea, until just now, how bad I’ve been.