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


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. 

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.


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.