Monday, September 14, 2015

She Works Hard for the Money




I'm trying to decide right now if I'm being a spoiled little brat, a rebel, or a hopeless dreamer. 

This picture of the wonderful George Carlin is all too true. Many years ago I did hate my job, for a long time, and I drank to forget how much I hated my job. 

Well, that's not the full truth. The full truth is that I draaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyynk to forget how much I hated my job. In fact, I drank my bitter sad self all the way to rehab. When I got out of rehab and could see more clearly exactly how much I hated my job (oodles), I promised myself I would never work at a job I hated again.

Hating your job is the worst. You dread the morning. You dread the nighttime because you know the morning is next. You love vacations and weekends with a kind of maniacal desperation so that anything that impedes on them is nothing less than devastating. And you're tired all the time because faking happiness for hours every day is exhausting, the bad kind of exhausting. 

See, there are two types of exhausting. There's the good exhausting that comes after a sweaty muscle-shaking workout, or a marathon sex session, or hauling boxes all day into your dream house.  And then there's the bad exhausting, the kind that comes after endless sobbing because your pet died, or staying up all night to care for a dying relative, or screaming until you're hoarse at your computer because you read the comments after the article even though you swore you'd never, ever, ever do that again.

The good exhausting is good because you wake up knowing you're better for what made you exhausted. And the bad exhausting is bad because it comes from something that keeps you stuck, so you when you wake up, you're still stuck.

It's been many years since rehab, but by now you're probably expecting me to to launch into a rampage to say I hate my job again. But I don't. Not exactly.

Okay, sometimes I do. But I can handle sometimes. Everyone hates their job sometimes because we all have bad days, but the hope is that the suckiness is fleeting. 

What I hate, and what's dragging me down and keeping me bad exhausted, is that I feel like my job is evidence that I'm blowing it. 

I never, ever pictured myself sitting at a desk for the majority of my waking hours, pounding away at a keyboard and answering phones and writing emails. As a teenager, it didn't even occur to me that I would allow such a thing to happen. But guess what I did today? And what I'll do tomorrow? tap tap clickity clickity tap hello thank you for calling have a great day tappity click send tappity delete clickity click fucking tappity tap

Back then, I was well aware that as an adult, I was going to be obligated to sell most of my time to someone else. While that was not how I wanted things to go, there was simply no way out of it. So while I accepted this absurd arrangement, I was determined to sell my time on my own terms and at least try to have a good time doing it. And the world was just so goddamn BIG, and there were so many people and so many things, that there just had to be something out there I enjoyed doing that I could sell. So I would find that thing, I would learn that thing, I would practice that thing, and I would do that thing for someone and they would give me money. 

Holy fucking shit, who knew finding that thing was going to be so fucking hard?



I know many people like me who enjoy doing things they cannot sell. Dancers, actors, photographers, writers, singers, painters...most of us are screwed. We're destined to data entry, table serving, temp gigs, and folding the fall's it skirt on the store-front display. We do these bullshit jobs because we don't have to check our emails on weekends or fly to a conference in Arizona on Saturday. Instead, we can use those evenings and weekends dancing, acting, photographing, writing, singing, or painting. Bullshit jobs also pay bullshit, but we don't care because we're happy creating. It's a balance.

Right?

This is what I've always thought, and it's what I've been clinging to for a long time. But I'm losing my grip now, and I am bad exhausted all the time. (caution: the first person to tell me the answer is to quit gluten gets punched in the throat.) I am wildly jealous of friends who have the drive to just do it, all the time. They divide up an eighteen hour day into bullshit job and fulfilling passion/hobby, and then they get up and do it all over again the next day. What the fuck? (Oh, and you parents out there? You scare me. I will never understand how you do bullshit job and chase children all day and then go write an opera. You are crazy.)

I'm starting to panic. A little. I think my age is starting to affect the way I see my bullshit job, not as just a nuisance, but as actual bullshit. But I am so goddamn lucky to have what I have: my health, a fabulous husband, kick-ass friends and family, a couple bucks in the bank. These are not small benefits. 

Every day that I wake up and realize with a flat dread that it's time to go to my bullshit job, I get a little more restless, a little more panicky, and little more bitter. Because every day is another day that I haven't figured out how to do this. I haven't figured out how to find a way to sell my time that doesn't feel like bullshit. This awareness is making me fragile and sullen. This morning I burst into tears - like, sobbing hiccuping tears - because I lost a receipt. My emotions seem to be shooting out of my mouth and my eyes without prior approval. (I am just a peach to live with right now. My poor hubby.)

So am I a spoiled brat because everyone hates their job like George Carlin says, and I should just suck it up and deal with it and be happy that I even have a fucking job, something many people desperately need right now? Or am I rebel because I refuse to settle and instead demand a job that makes me happy and fulfilled?

Or am I a hopeless dreamer because I think this is within my control?

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Year Seven. Day One.

It's August 14, 2015. It is about 10:15 in the morning. And I think I'm going to die.

I manage the run team for a non-profit organization and this year, we decided to do Ragnar, a 200+ mile, 36-ish-hour relay race for a team of twelve. I decided I couldn't, in good conscience, manage this event as a bystander. I was going to have to run this bastard. 

Each runner on a team runs three legs of the race, and the total mileage for my legs was 16.9 miles, so I'd have to run roughly a 10K three times. Okay. I can do that. It's more running than I'm used to but I can do it. 

The days leading up to the Ragnar were lovely. I kept texting, "Can we order this 68-degree weather for the Ragnar??" to our run coach, thinking that we may just get that lucky. 

The heat index on the first day of Ragnar made headlines. It was so fucking hot that as I waited to start my first leg, I could feel tears of fear pinging behind my eyeballs. Heat and I do not get along. My husband and I never, ever vacation at beaches. I would be more than happy to retire in the Yukon. As a kid, I remember barfing and fainting because I'd get too hot playing outside in South Dakota. I don't know why. Maybe my mom had affair with Frosty the Snowman and heat is actually deadly for me. All I know is, I dread heat the way most people dread death. And now I had to fucking run in it. 

I was terrified. As the first runner triumphantly finished his first leg and slapped the bracelet on my wrist to signify my turn, I was off. I began running through a little town in Wisconsin that happened to be where my husband and I had vacationed only a few months before. The recent happy memories there were enough to distract me from pending doom. As my playlist blasted in my ears, I started to feel good. Bouncy, even. I reminded myself over and over to pace myself, slow down, and save my energy for the miles ahead. My fear receded and was replaced with a calm confidence. 

After I got through the town, the rural fields were laid out in front of me. Barren. Open. Not a cloud in the sky. "Wow," I thought. "It seems to go on....forever." My phone pinged. I looked at the screen: a message from Ragnar Headquarters. Hmm. "WARNING: EXTREME HEAT INDEX. TAKE PRECAUTIONS AND WATCH YOUR RUNNERS....." Great. I plodded on. The heat was starting to sap my energy a little, but no matter. There was a water station coming up....somewhere.....

About 40 minutes into my run, something shifted. I started to feel really, really warm. And then, all of a sudden, I felt HOT. Like, hotter than I've ever felt in my life. I felt like my core body temperature had matched the 105-degree heat index. And that goddamn SUN. It was unrelenting, and I swear it had focused all its sadistic evil heat rays on me. "Holy shit," I thought. "How am I going to get through this.....uh oh...."

And then I got that same feeling I got as a kid. An unsettling light-headedness, and my body said nope. Nope nope nope.  Nope to sun. Nope to running. Nope to everything that was happening. And then my stomach said nope. Nope to water, nope to protein drinks, and I noped that shit out of my stomach and onto the lovely Wisconsin landscape. 

As I stood up and realized I had just up-chucked whatever water was in my stomach, I got a sudden and overwhelming sense of fear. My body was saying no. And I was all by myself. And it was so blasted hot that I was afraid that if I sat down, I'd still have heat stroke and no one would be around to know. 

I walked for about five minutes, trying to talk myself out of this fear. Do I call my team? Do I tell them I can't do this? The thought was devastating. I had been planning this for a year, and I was going to call it quits within the first HOUR? Would that disqualify our team? Would everyone's training be for naught? How could I disappoint everyone and myself so completely, and right at the beginning of the goddamn race??

My brain nope-nope-noped as much as my body did. There was just no way I could stop. I slogged on. Finally, I saw the water station up ahead and for a brief moment believed in miracles and unicorns. I was so happy to pour as much water over my head as much as I did into my mouth. I asked the volunteers how much farther I had to go. "'Bout a mile and a half," was their answer. Beautiful. I can do a mile and a half. 

But about a third of a mile down the road, I realized a mile and a half in this blasted heat may as well have been Mount Everest. Soon I was just as hot as I was pre-puke, and I was truly frightened that I may be in real trouble. 

Just as the fear was paralyzing my brain, I heard a breathless, "Hi there!" from my right. I looked and couldn't believe it. It was a runner from my other team, catching up with me. She looked like a sweaty angel with a water belt. 

"I threw up!" I blurted out. She looked a little stunned and I blathered, "Will you please please please run with me I'm so hot I don't know if I can do this I'm afraid I'm going to have heat stroke and I feel alone oh my god please please please run with me!"

"Sure!" she said, back to her normal cheerful self. "Do you want me to talk, or do you want to concentrarte on running?" 

I wanted to concentrate on running the same way I'd want to concentrate on a kidney stone. "Talk! Yes! Talk about anything! What did you do yesterday?" And off she went, talking about her day, about anything that came to mind. This distraction was better than ice cubes in my bra (although I would have traded my car for that at the moment). After she ran out of things to say, she said, "Do you want me to sing my husband's old camp songs?" 

"YES! Camp songs! Love it! Anything!" I said. And so it went. I think she may have sung the songs twice, I'm not sure. I loved and needed every second of it.

At one point, I puffed, "You know.... today is my seven year sobriety anniversary. And this is my way of celebrating, but I dunno... I think I should have just stuck with cake." 

"That's a big deal!" she said between breaths. "Drunk you could never have done this."

I thought about that between fantasies of popsicles and ice baths. No, drunk me couldn't have done this, or anything else I'd accomplished over the last seven years. And I immediately realized that this anniversary was another reason I couldn't quit, barf or no barf. 

She ran with me (with some walk breaks) the rest of the way, giving me water, talking about happy things, keeping me going. Eventually, we made it to the next check point and I handed off the wrist band to the next runner. Good luck, sucka!




My other two runs went much better (I discovered I really love running at night) and I was able to cross the finish line with the rest of my team - smelly, triumphant, and full of gratitude. Grateful for my sweaty angel with the water belt. Grateful for such a supportive team. Grateful for another year of sobriety that will pave the way for the next year. 




I hope that I will be able to have that same gratitude for my eighth anniversary. With air conditioning and cake. 















Saturday, August 29, 2015

Why Do I Love Murder, She Wrote? It's a Mystery.

I've always felt that my tv watching habits fit outside the norm. When my co-workers sit around at lunchtime and analyze the latest episode of Bachelor/American Idol/Latest Primetime Network Drama/Housewives/Kardashian Barf/Sports Whatever, I have nothing to do but analyze my broccoli. Not only do I not watch these shows, but I have never seen American Idol or Bachelor or Housewives and I often have never heard of Latest Primetime Network Drama, and the day you catch me watching sports you should call the police because it would obviously mean I've been kidnapped and my kidnappers are watching sports. 

To be clear, I am not saying any of this with arrogance because my television habits are not any grander than yours or theirs. My almost constant companion is the Investigation Discovery channel, which is non-stop, twenty-four-hour true crime shows. I discovered this gem when I was unemployed, and I spent a good share of that year writing cover letters and filling out applications at my computer with Investigation Discovery in the background and exclaiming, "No WAY! He did WHAT? With her feet?! What a sicko!" while writing never-ending paragraphs about why I was the best employee ever. 

And as many of my friends know, my one true love is the Golden Girls, which I wake up to every morning and go to sleep with every night. It never gets old, it never feels stale, and it is my comfort blanket that I look forward to at the end of the day. I love my girls. (And I REALLY love my husband, who whole-heartedly supports my GG obsession.)

But there's a new guilty pleasure that has made its way into my living room. When I'm by myself, I close the curtains, I gather my animals and I turn down the lights. I don't watch this when my husband is home. I don't talk about it at work. Because this whole thing started out as a "I'll watch just one episode for funsies!" and turned into a shameful ritual of "I can't wait to get dinner ready so I can watch the next episode of Murder, She Wrote!"

Yup. Angela Lansbury. A silly piano jingle, violins, and lots of tubas for the opening credits. Bad hair. Ridiculous plot lines. Embarrassing fight scenes. 

I'M IN LOVE.

I never watched Murder, She Wrote growing up. My mom thought it was just too far-fetched to believe that wherever Angela Lansbury went, a murder just happened to take place (and it is ridiculous). So I'm not watching this as a trip down memory lane or anything. It's all brand new to me. And I can't get enough.

I can't pinpoint exactly what it is I love so much. I'm terrible at solving mysteries, the writing makes me cringe, and while I adore Angela Lansbury, I don't love her enough to just plop my ass on the couch and watch her for hours if the show is sub-par. And in most ways, MSW is sub-par. 

The acting is terrible (except for Angela Lansbury of course), the writing is lame, and the direction...well, it was the eighties, people. It was awful. 

Of course, there are things that I love about the show (I mean, Angela Lansbury, come ON.). I love that MSW is a Who's Who of all the guest stars from the Golden Girls. I end up yelling, "Hey, that guy was Blanche's gay brother!" or "That's the married dude Dorothy had an affair with!" at least twice every episode. And there are lots of eighties celebrities who made their appearance on MSW (Bruce Jenner, anyone?). I love watching sweet, practical Jessica Fletcher played by Angela Lansbury and knowing that she had a filthy mouth worse than a drunken sailor in real life. But still, this isn't enough to sustain my loyalty. I've been trying to figure out why I find this stupid show so compelling.

But that's the thing, I guess. MSW is so silly, predictable (except for me because, as I mentioned, I'm awful at solving mysteries), and lame that it doesn't require analyzing. I think by the end of the day, I'm tired of asking why, I don't want to think about tomorrow, and I don't want to think about anything that's going to test my emotions. I feel like that's how I spend most of my day, and by the time I sit down to watch MSW, I'm tired of the day.

So I guess it's just nice to sit back and let Jessica Fletcher solve the mystery for me. In shoulder pads.










Saturday, August 8, 2015

Minnesota Nice in Norway

I just got back from a 15-day vacation in Norway. Four years ago, my mom married a man, Leif, who is originally from Norway, and still has a lot of family there so he visits often. This year, my husband and I tagged along for the trip. 

While there, we stayed at Leif's childhood house, now occupied by his cousin and her grown daughter. When we arrived, there was also a guy there. I wasn't quite sure what to make of him. He looked like he was in great physical shape, had the sides of his head shaved, about thirty years old, and he kept looking at the floor with his arms crossed. After introductions, he finally piped up, in perfect English, "I'm from Minnesota."

Ooooh, like us! Fabulous. Someone to talk to, yay! 

Now, being from Minnesota, I'm used to all sorts of niceties, both surface and genuine. The general idea is that in Minnesota, there are lots of "pleases" and "thank-yous," lots of smiles, lots of "Oh-no-you-firsts," and always, always, the last bite of dessert will sit there until it grows legs and can walk away on its own because God forbid you take the last piece. 

In Norway, things are a little different. You'll get a little jostled at the airport. People do not introduce you to their friends. Smiles are rarer, and you better snatch that last waffle if you want it.

Not that people weren't friendly. They absolutely were, and I loved them. But it was just different, and it's always refreshing to run into someone from your home when you're far away from it.

Unless you run into this guy.

I don't remember his name, so let's just call him Douchebag.

Douchebag came to Norway to walk - walk -  from Oslo to Trondheim. He apparently is a friend of a friend in the United States, and this friend sent him to stay with Leif's cousin and her daughter, even though they had never met him. No idea why this friend of a friend thought Leif's cousin and her daughter should be punished. 

We settled down in the living room: Leif, Mom, Leif's cousin, her adult daughter, and Douchebag. Now, I don't remember the last time I sat down and had a conversation with a total asshole. It's been quite a while because after you've been an adult for some time, you figure out how to worm your way out of these situations, or just avoid them altogether. Unless, of course, you're staying at a farmhouse in the middle nowhere, in the middle of Norway. Then you're just fucked.

Being Minnesotan, I am forbidden to speak rudely to anyone, especially someone I've just met. My brain, on the other hand, was born in South Dakota, and South Dakotans can say whatever they want, just usually with terrible grammar. 

So Douchebag sits down with a beer and begins to regale us with stories of why he's so awesome. 

*

DB: "I loved shooting guns. Anyone who's not a fan of guns, I dare them to get behind a machine gun and say it's not fun to shoot guns. They're fucking awesome."

My brain: "Oh my God, I'm in Europe and I'm listening to an American say things that make all of Europe think we're idiots. Please in the name of Elizabeth Warren shut up." 

*

DB: "I'm Norwegian. 100% Norwegian."

My Brain: "Actually, your 100% American and no more exotic than me or any other person who's born in America, but go on."

*

DB: "Thank God I don't have any English or French in me. THANK. GOD."

My Brain: "Way to go, you just insulted my husband, who's of English and French descent. Although I doubt he's actually insulted since he probably stopped listening to you ten minutes ago."

*

DB: "I wouldn't be in anything but the Marines. Like the Army? Army's full of losers and drug addicts. All of them. Every single one of them. EVERY SINGLE ONE."

My Brain: "Huh. I guess he doesn't realize Leif was in the Army......?"

*

DB: "I mean, the Marines are picky. They don't take just anybody."

My Brain: "They took you, so yeah. They do."

*

DB: "Since I'm 100% Norwegian [oh my god quit saying that!], I decided to walk from Oslo to Trondheim."

My Brain: "You're walking because you're an unemployed grown-ass man who doesn't have a car."

*

DB: "I guess, technically, I still live with my parents."

My Brain: "You still live with your parents and your mom does your laundry."



Leif's cousin's daughter asks for a Coke. DB brings her one. She takes a sip and gags.

LCD: "This isn't Coke!"

DB: "Huh?"

LCD: "It has rum in it!"

DB: "Oh... I thought that's what you wanted."

My Brain: "You're trying to get her drunk to get in her pants. I assume you learned that in the Marines?"

*

DB: "I don't really have any plans."

My Brain: "Knock me over with a feather."

*

DB: "That's when I was stationed in Afghanistan where everyone is soooooo stupid. Afghanis are the dumbest people I've ever met. Oh my God, you wouldn't believe how dumb those people are."

My Brain: "Pot, meet Kettle. Do you seriously not notice how the room goes into immediate uncomfortable silence after you talk?"

*

I finally pretended to fall asleep on my husband's shoulder so we could make an excuse about being exhausted and go to bed. Which we did.

After that night, I was relieved to be back in the midst of Norway, and I was a little more appreciative of the jostling, the cool reception, and the waffle snatching. 

Because some of those nice Minnesotans can be such douchebags. 



Thursday, July 9, 2015

In The Long Run

Every year, my sister runs 14 miles on the Fourth Of July. Why? Well, you see....

My sister's crazy. How do I know she's crazy? Because she has four kids under the age of nine and she runs six days a week. Without exception, all year, every year. Even in winter. In Minnesota.

You really don't need further explanation, as far as I'm concerned. 

And as part of her affliction with missing marbles, she goes on this 14-mile-long run around four small lakes as a kind of masochistic endurance test during the holiday weekend. 

And this year, she invited me along.

Well, sort of. She invited me along for the last half because she knows she would be more likely to get me to start an at-home daycare than to run 14 miles at five in the morning. (FIVE in the MORNING, people. On my day off. Sick.)

This year, I'm running RAGNAR (a 200 mile relay with 12 people) in August and I had yet to get in a long practice run (anything longer than four miles is a long run for me), so I knew I couldn't say no and still convince myself I was making an effort to train for RAGNAR. So I called her a total bitch and said I would.

So on my day off, I got up at six so I could meet her at the half-way mark. (Did I mention it was my day off?) The first few miles went smoothly enough, until I looked at my phone and saw that it was indeed ONLY the first few miles, and she broke it to me that I'd met her a little earlier than expected so my seven-mile run was actually going to be an 8 1/2 mile run. I fought the urge to murder my sister and pressed on.

See, my relationship with running is not a good one. I have been running for years, and I hate it hate it hate it. While I prefer exercise such as step aerobics, weights, and interval training, the truth is I really resent all of it: every godawful early morning, every burpee, every mountain climber....oh god, I'm already dreading my next workout as I write this. 

So why do I do it? Why do I drag my ass out of bed while my body is begging to stay under the warm cozy blanket with a kitty on top? We all know the answer to that. 

Because everything worth having will cost you some kind of torture. Want to be a lawyer? Gotta pass the bar exam.  Want healthy teeth? You gotta go to the dentist. Want to have kids? You have to....well, have kids. And if you want to fit into your jeans, you gotta jog your ass around the block. 

Of course, it's not just fitting into jeans. I'm blessed with my dad's powerful legs and arms, but I'm also likely to inherit the heart disease that put him in cardiac arrest at the age of 45, and diet alone isn't going to ward off that curse. And there are tons of other benefits, of course. Exercise will help you fight heart disease, avoid back pain, decrease chances of developing type 2 diabetes/cancer/stroke/depression/arthritis, boost energy, sleep better..... all things worth having. So I run. And I push-up. And I burpee. Because the long run is worth it in the long run.

I finished our holiday run with a non-stop commentary about my misery and an unimpressive 11:37 per mile run time, but I finished. I didn't kill my sister for making me do this and she didn't kill me for being a giant weenie, so I guess we win. 

Until next year. 









Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Crazy Kat Lady

When I hear that one of my favorite bands from my youth is dappling with the idea of reuniting, my first thought is hell, why wouldn't they? I have this idea in my head that they  would have nothing but fun and glory if they got the band back together. I mean, that's what a rock band has on tour, right? Fun and glory? 

I also have this compulsion to start writing/tweeting/stalking them pleading, "Please get back together we're here to support you we love you and want you to succeed you're my heroes sweet jesus pleeeeeease!

So when one of my favorite bands reunited to play in their hometown (also mine), and I hadn't seen them since 1996, I lost my shit.

***

I'm a farmer girl originally. The real kind of farmer girl, where my dad raised cattle and planted acres of stuff you eat. My high school was comprised of roughly 65ish kids. Total. In the whole goddamn school. That means that at every class, from kindergarten until the honey-sweet release of graduation, you are with roughly the same kids. 

So if you're stuck with a class full of the most sexist, racist, homophobic, and cruel assholes on the planet, you are truly screwed because they are there every day, in every class, no matter where you turn.

I was screwed.

The problem with not belonging is that as obvious as it is to you, it's more obvious to everyone else. The problem with the boys in my class is that they were not only sexist, but stupid, and that's a tough combination. (Ever heard the saying, "Sometimes you can win an argument with a smart person, but you'll never win an argument with a stupid person."?) Being achingly chauvinist, they set out to break every female they knew and they did so with bravado. Most girls played the meek card, which meant they wouldn't kiss their ass, but they wouldn't call them out on their bullshit, either. They just tried to fly under the radar. That was their survival code, and it's not a bad one to play in junior high and high school. 

But I had a burning hatred for these guys and everything they loved (sports, Garth Brooks, rape jokes). And they knew it. So they focused all of their below-average-intelligence-fueled emotional dysfunction on me. 

The taunting was relentless. It rarely got physical, although it did a couple times. They would prank call the house, chase me with their cars, trip me in the lunch room, etc. I was their entertainment. 

I had girlfriends, but they couldn't help me. And I lived on a farm, with gravel roads, without internet (it wasn't around yet) and no access to good radio. I was really alone. 

But I did have one weapon: older sisters.

My sister went to college in 1989 and it's weird, but her experience opened up a world for me, a world that held some possibility that I might belong somewhere, where things made more sense. 

And in this world, my sister introduced me to a band called Babes In Toyland.

The lead singer, Kat Bjelland, wore babydoll dresses but looked like she had crawled out of a litter box. And she screamed and swore. A lot. Drummer Lori Barbero, a veteran of the music scene, had long dreadlocks and smiled all the time. And Maureen Herman*, the bassist who oozed cool with her blank stare.

Three women who played dirty. I was in love. 

I always bristle whenever I hear people talk about the Go-Go's as some of the first women of rock. I simply can't put "Vacation" and "Ace of Spades" in the same category. The Go-Go's are pop.

And Babes In Toyland were rock. There was no mistaking these women for ladies. They were loud, raw, unapologetic, and Kat's angry rants were like a transcript of my thoughts. I had comrades! It didn't matter that they had no idea who I was or that they weren't going to walk into my school and rescue me (although I had that fantasy about 20,000 times). They existed. They were real. 

***

As as adult, I still have a low-burning hatred for my old bullies and a powerful affection for Babes In Toyland. So when I heard they were getting together for a concert, there was no hesitation. I didn't care if tickets were a million dollars and I had to run over a pile of children. I had to go. 

Before the concert, an article was written that touched on some of the trauma these women have been through since I last saw them in 1996. Addiction, violent assaults,  and mental illness are just a few of the things they've had to deal with in their years out of the spotlight. I was dismayed to read that life had dragged them through such a pile of shit. I actually felt defensive. How dare bad things happen to my heroes! And they were still my heroes. And I couldn't wait to see them. 

In a recent article, drummer Lori Barbero said she was going to try not to cry at their homecoming concert. Tears at a Babes In Toyland concert? What? That's like getting choked up at porn. Silly.

But the night came. And there they were. Crazy eyes. Wild hair. Screaming. Snarling. Filth and fury.

And I cried. Just a little and only at the beginning. But I did. Because there we all were, having come through to the other side where we belonged. 

And we did. We belonged. 




*After the concert, I bought the very last Babes In Toyland poster and turned around to see Maureen Herman standing there. She signed my poster and was just as cool as I imagined. In an attempt to be cool myself, I refrained from telling her I had named my cat after her in high school.








Monday, June 15, 2015

TGIF

I'm at work and get a text from my husband: 


I think he's teasing. Every time I beg for a kitten, he says, "No. No more." And my broken record response is, "C'mon, ONE MORE!"

I know it's stupid to want another cat. My husband being a veterinarian, we have become the Land Of Misfit Toys. We have two pit bulls, three cats, four snakes, and two fish tanks. We sound like the tenants from hell. It's been years since I've owned a black coat. Barf, fur, poop, anal glands, nail trimmings, morning walks, battle/play scars, ruined furniture and constant begging for attention are part of our daily lives. Why I would want to add to the chaos goes against common sense. 

But I'm a slow learner.

So when I got this text last Friday, I assumed my husband was teasing and didn't take him seriously. I responded with, "YES PLEASE. Can you bring her to the office? I was just thinking I'd rather be playing with a kitten than doing data entry."

After a couple more texts, I realized he wasn't kidding. He was bringing home a kitten for our anniversary. 

We're both slow learners.

I immediately lost my mind and started shrieking and running back and forth, shoving my phone into the faces of my very patient co-workers. I was shaking with anticipation the rest of the afternoon, unable to concentrate, knowing I was going to go home to a kitten, a kitten I had already fallen in love with two weeks before:


I immediately took to Facebook to broadcast our new arrival, while simultaneously chastising ourselves for adding to the anarchy of our house. My announcement was met with resounding congratulations and questions of names and how this came to be. I was absolutely high with glee as I went to pick up a new litter box and some new toys. 

That was three days ago, and I am in kitten bliss. He is just SO cool: wildly affectionate, non-stop purrs, and he fetches. For real. 


video

My bliss is slightly tempered with the knowledge that we will have to introduce him to the other animals, an event that fills me with dread. Watching the hissing, swiping, tail-puffing and back-arching that will go on between the cats as they figure out their territory is a scene I'd rather avoid altogether. I want to live in a world like the one in Snow White, where all the animals smile at each other while you sing to them and help you do the dishes. 

I experienced a couple seconds of self-doubt: Can we handle another cat? What if the animals really don't get along? What if the dogs chase him and he's miserable? What if he scratches the dogs' eyes out (something my own cat almost did a few years ago when they tried to play with her, and she does NOT play because SHE is a PRINCESS, goddammit). 

And I had those couple seconds. Like I said, I expected that doubt from me. But what I didn't expect was some passive, but genuine, disapproval from a couple of friends. 

"You guys are crazy." "I don't get it." *eye roll* "Aren't you breaking the city's code for having too many animals?" "Whatever." *exasperated head shaking with a loud sigh*

Ouch. I may be covered in super-hyper-kitten-play scratches, but that hurt worse. 

I'd love to say that since high school is nearly twenty years behind me, that I've developed the kind of confidence that comes with true ownership over your life. I may still have a couple guilty pleasures that I don't wear on my sleeve, but for the most part, I'm unabashed about my likes and dislikes no matter the unpopularity of them, while respecting those of everyone else (unless they border or live in hatred, bigotry, etc., of course). 

But their doubt fed mine. After all, they aren't strangers. They're my friends. I listen to them, they like me for who I am, and they're telling me they think I'm dumb for doing this. For wanting this. For being happy about this.

geeeeeez.

When my sister called to tell me she was pregnant with her fourth child, she didn't actually do it herself. She had her oldest daughter (then five years old) call to tell me "Mommy's going to have a baby" since my sister was too embarrassed to call me herself because she knew I would think she was nuts for having a fourth. 

And she was right. I did and do think she's nuts. But I also think having a fourth child is great for her, even though I don't understand her motivations for doing so. 

My sister is a natural-born mommy. In the same way some people are born geniuses and can decipher tax language, my sister was born with a raging love of children. If it were possible, I would say she should have ten. She's madly in love with her kids with a stable (but messy) home and relishes her role as a parent. The world needs more kids raised by parents like her. 

She really didn't have to be shy about telling me she was pregnant again. Sure, I thought she was bananas because I can't imagine having one kid, let alone four. But I also knew this is the life she's always wanted. And that she's good at it. How could I not be happy for her?

And this is the life I've always wanted. And I'm good at it. Reminding myself of that helped me shed my doubt and ignore my friends' disapproval. I get it: They can't imagine living my life, and I can't imagine living theirs. Sometimes, I guess, it's just difficult to keep those opinions to ourselves. 

I have named our kitten Friday. Because Fridays are awesome, everyone always looks forward to Friday, and Fridays are full of fun and mischief.

And his addition to our family has made me happy. That, and knowing that even with all our four-legged kids, my house will always be cleaner than my sister's.



Saturday, June 6, 2015

The More You Know

After my third year of college, I decided to drop out. I don't remember exactly what my parents said, but I'm sure it was somewhere along the lines of "What the hell is wrong with you?" (Well, that's what my dad would have said. My mom would have said "What the heck is wrong with you?" And she would have actually stressed the word "heck" as if she was saying "fuck.")

Like a lot of people, I loved the social aspect of college. I had lots of friends. Lots of romantic liaisons that became cringe-worthy memories. Lots of learning that resulted from lots of mistakes. Being from a farm in South Dakota, I was exposed to new things: Gay men (LOVE them!), hangovers (HATE them!), Thai food (love it a little too much), everything delivery (oh my god love it gimme gimme).

But the kind of learning I was supposed to be doing was not what I was being offered, the kind that was going to teach me how to adult when I got out. How do I do my taxes? What's a 401K? What do I do when I get a flat tire on the highway? How do I make ends meet on $17,000 a year? Oh, and insurance - what the hell is up with that?* These things were not being taught to us, and I was frustrated. 

Now, the argument can be made that this is partly a result of my major of choice: theater. (Shut up.) When it was time for me to choose a major, I became a broken record whining, "I don't know what I want to be!" over and over, and the echoing answer I always got was, "You can major in anything. All employers care about is that you have a degree." Well, great! I want to major in theater then because a.) I love plays, musicals, movies, etc. b.) It is the only major that doesn't require a math elective. 

Sign me up. 

So I became a theater major, which is not known for being, um, broad in its worldly knowledge, shall we say. However, I have yet to meet someone who can major in something where they learned all of those everyday things we need to know. I saw this and it drove me nuts. I loved theater! I loved writing! I loved singing! But it was slowly dawning on me that no one was likely to ever pay me a dime for any of those things I loved to do. So what the hell was I doing spending money and time on an education when I could just get started adulting?  

So off I went. 

Now, fifteen years later, the obvious question is: Do I regret it? The answer: Meh.

My husband has the title of "Doctor." I am so proud of him, and endlessly grateful for how much he truly loves his job in veterinary medicine.  But I envy him sometimes, too. He can carry around proof of intelligence on every envelope, name tag, legal document, and table card. And then there's me, who always has to check "High School Diploma" as my highest education achieved. 

I can't say this doesn't bother me sometimes. "So go back to school and quit whining already!" is usually my first thought, and it's probably yours right now, too. But that leads to the next question, which is "What should I major in?"

That's where I get stuck. Because I still love theater. I still love writing. And I still love singing. And the probability that I will get paid for any of those things has not improved in fifteen years. You don't go to a play because the lead actress got her doctorate in theology. You don't see advertising stickers on books that say, "College-Educated Author!" You don't say, "Oh, my God, don't you love her new song? I can't stop dancing to it because she got her master's in elementary education." 

And I come back to what I believe to be true: If I go back to school now, it will just be to feed my ego with a new title. But that goes against everything we're taught, right? A college education is the skeleton key that will open all doors. It will get you out of poverty, prepare you for adulthood, pave your way to a successful career, set you on an even plane of intelligence of everyone else who has their degree. 

To this, I say bullshit. I just don't think a degree is necessary for everyone. Right now, today, I still think it would be a waste of my time and money. I can't see myself on a different career path than the one I'm on now, even if I had a doctorate. I'm right where I want to be, and I like the way the future looks. And I don't feel as though I missed out on a year of hardcore knowledge, either, considering I don't remember anything I learned in college, anyway. (And that class in PowerPoint/Word/Excel is less than useless now.) In our culture, it sounds ridiculous and almost sacrilegious to say that maybe college isn't for everyone, but as crazy-ass expensive as an education is (my husband's four years in veterinary school literally has us hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt), I think it's not only a real option for people to reevaluate the role a degree may have in their own lives. 

But it may be the wise thing to do. 

*1.) You go to www.hrblock.com and start filling in boxes. 2.) It's a retirement savings account usually matched or contributed to by your employer. 3.) Call AAA. 4.) You can't. 5.) Get it, even if you think you don't need it.






Tuesday, June 2, 2015

One Phoebe, One Cup

When I met my now-husband, he was just divorced and living in a friend's basement while attending veterinary school. I was quickly introduced to his collection of animals. Before I came over to see his place, he asked, "Are you afraid of snakes?" I was not. And lucky for us, I also happened to be a fan of pit bulls, because he had two of those as well. Charley, the older female, was a gentle, brown lovey whose demeanor reminds me of what it might be like to share a couch with Florence Henderson.
And Phoebe was what I imagine it must be like to share a couch with Janice Dickinson after she snorts a line of cocaine and crushed Pop Rocks.




Phoebe was a mess. A rescue from a pet hoarding situation, she came into Will's family as an effort to help ease Charley's horrible separation anxiety. The experiment proved successful and Charley stopped trying to eat the door until she bled every time Will left the house. This was great news for Charley, but bad news for Will, since Phoebe's every move was big. What I mean is, if Phoebe wanted to cross a room from one end to the other, she wouldn't walk, or even run. She would pursue this goal with a conviction meant for the Ironman and a grace like a 50-pound toddler on Benadryl. And once she would get to the end of the room, she would quickly forget why she crossed it in the first place, reverse course, and blunder in the other direction, all the while her tongue flailing, her eyes bulging, and despite her batman ears, she would be oblivious to the shrieks coming from Will and me ordering her to Stop! Come! Sit! Fortheloveofgod!


Meanwhile, Will and I were getting close. As is true for everyone in the first stages of dating, I was putting my best face forward and doing my best to hide any physical flaws or character defects, so I would leave it to Will to do all of the disciplining and yelling at Phoebe's manic misbehavior and just watch the anarchy with polite, quiet amusement. (As they always do, my character defects would eventually bubble to the surface and explode like a coke bottle in the freezer and I would contribute my own hollering reprimands: Phoebenooooo don't eat the sofa/piano/windowsill/carpet/shoes/purse/blanket/towels/underwear/vibrator!*)

One night after another one of our wonderful dates that had me falling head over heels for this guy, we came home to an......odor.

There is a feeling of dread that comes with an odor like this. You know it's bad and your mind starts reeling to what degree of bad could it be. Certainly you didn't bury a dead body a week ago, you would remember that. A clogged toilet? Couldn't be. The toilet would have to be the size of a wading pool. Broken sewage pipe? More of a possibility, and yes, that would be bad. But when you add Phoebe in the equation, it's more likely that she's involved in the reason behind your growing alarm. 

And she was.

There was Phoebe. In her crate. Covered. Smothered. Smeared. 

To our horror, we realized she had been in her crate with a bad case of diarrhea. And, being an inquisitive pooch with minimal brain power and an insatiable appetite, she decided to eat this curious delicacy shooting out of her ass. Of course, this bad decision made her sick and she vomited. But after puking, there would be the delicacy again....just begging to be savored.....

So while we were out taking advantage of a beautiful summer night and staring into each other's young lover eyes, Phoebe was home - pooping, eating, puking, over and over, ad nauseam (such an appropriate term right now, don't you think?).

PHOEBEEEEOHMYGOOOOOD is the only thing I remember Will yelling. In the early stages of dating, the last thing you want to do in front of your new girlfriend is strip naked in a panicked frenzy and half-carry, half-drag your squirming, vomit-and-poo-covered dog into the small stand-up shower, coughing and gagging and moaning expletives and curses of disbelief.

But he did. And as I watched him, I knew he was never going to give her up. Not even if she did this a hundred times. He loved her. And I knew that my love for a man who showed that amount of compassion would outweigh my fear of maybe someday living with a dog who would come to be known as Phoebenooooooo.





*Yes, she really did try/succeed to eat all of these things.


Saturday, May 30, 2015

And Now About Sex

Today I’m thinking back about how I learned to date.  And fall in love. And do it all with a little grace, most of my dignity, and ultimately, my sobriety. 

I was never a big dater when I was drinking.  I was terrified of having my heart broken again like it had been in 2005 from a boyfriend who didn’t turn out to be what he advertised.  And as my disease manifested itself I lost all interest in men. 

So as my health – both mental and physical – improved, my interest in the men was rekindled and I began to get honest about what I wanted.

I grew up in a household with what I believe to be one of those marriages that  makes most people point and say “THAT’S what I want.”  My parents were married for 43 years until my father died in 2007 and they were each other’s best friend, rarely apart, and flirted like teenagers. It was simultaneously nauseating and a powerful influence.

Like a lot of people, I saw myself as getting married sometime in my future. But it was scary to admit I may want to be married.  I mean, what if it didn’t happen? What then? What would my life look like if I had to face it alone?

A dear friend’s mom has been living with her alcoholic boyfriend for 24 years.  She  refuses to marry him until he “gets his drinking under control.” Being unemployed and an around-the-clock heavy drinker, he cannot contribute anything to her life and he needs constant care and babysitting. He routinely embarrasses her in public and was recently so intoxicated he fell asleep in his mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving.

So why doesn’t she leave him? WHY?? 

You hear people say “You need to learn to love yourself before anyone can love you.” Great, but what does that mean? I don’t know. But I think I may be on the right track when I can honestly tell you: I’m no longer afraid to grow old alone.

Isn’t that what you always hear?  You never hear people say, “I’m afraid to grow old with a drunk,” or “I’m afraid to grow old with someone who doesn’t respect me,” or “I’m afraid to grow old with someone who cheats on me.”  You always hear “I’m afraid to grow old ALONE.”

My friend’s mom has never vocally expressed that her fear of growing old alone is so crippling that she would rather allow a man to hijack her entire life. But she doesn’t have to. We know she because she makes the decision every day to stay with him. The fear of growing old alone outweighs the fear of babysitting and financially supporting a drunk for the rest of her life.

Since getting sober almost seven years ago, I have faced a lot of fears:  Job interviews, credit checks, making new friends, and lots of apologies to old ones.  But I also had to face it without a spouse to support me through it.  And you know….. it wasn’t so bad.  At all.  Now that I wasn’t a fall-down drunk, I began to enjoy my own company. I began to respect and enjoy this woman I was becoming, who is curious about the world around her and like to try new things. And I realized there are a lot of things I like to do alone. Movies by myself?  Don’t have to share my popcorn.  Concerts by myself?  I don’t have to stay for the encore if the band sucked.  And I still had all my friends, so I could always call them if I was in the mood to share popcorn.


I knew I was ready to start dating when I realized that I really didn’t need to.  And once I realized I really didn’t need to, I became unwilling to settle or pretend I’m something I’m not.  I despise watching professional sports and I’m obsessed with the Golden Girls.  I own a cat stroller and love showtunes. These are not guy-magnet characteristics. Last but not least, I’m an alcoholic who knows her program must come first.  Even before her boyfriend, husband, and family. 

I was no longer afraid to put these things front and center because I was no longer afraid of never finding a guy who would love and accept those things about me.  Because I knew I would never be an old woman, dragging my drunk husband to bed with mashed potatoes on his face. 


I’d be the old woman at the movies with her own popcorn.