The summer of our lives…

I’ve always found the term “midlife crisis” to be a bit of a misrepresentation. Basically it means that you’ve reached a point in your life when you’re suddenly aware of your own mortality and you’d better goddamn well have some fun before you die. Where’s the crisis in that? Thank god you came to this realization before you got too old to do anything about it. At this point in your life, if you’ve followed the conventional path, you’ve probably been working and raising kids and acting like a responsible mature adult for years. Empty-nest syndrome has a lot to do with it as well. One day you discover that the kids are old enough to look after themselves. Then they move out to go to college or start their own lives.

Assuming your relationship has survived the trials and tribulations of raising kids, suddenly you and your significant other find something that was carefully packed away or misplaced for years: Your Lives BC (before children). What to do…what to do? It’s only natural to pick up where you left off. What were your passions and interests when you were younger? What kind of fun did you like to have? Now you have the time and, most likely, the money to do all the things you always wanted to do, but couldn’t afford to, when you were a kid.

In other words, it’s summer time, baby. The season of prolific spring is over and it’s now time to revert at least partially to a child-like state. Play, relax, take that trip, drink too much, buy some kind of over-indulgent grown up toy like a Ferrari, or a sailboat, eat a lot of ice-cream, get a tattoo, take ukulele lessons.

Buy something completely pointless. Like a bubble machine.

A friend of mine recently posted this on facebook:

You know what I’ve always wanted? A bubble machine.
You know what I just bought? A bubble machine.
You know why? Because fuck you, it’s my midlife crisis and I’ll do what I damn well please.
Kidding. I just love bubbles.

This got me thinking about the whole midlife crisis idea. People tend to use it as excuse for doing something crazy and uncharacteristic for a person their age. The thing is that my friend and I are the same age, and we’re hardly middle-aged. I told him that this isn’t a midlife crisis at all. We’re in the summer of our lives, when it finally becomes “okay” to have fun again, to be immature if we want to without having to explain anything. In Sweden we have a saying: “Sommaren är kort.” It means, “summer is short.” Winter is just around the corner so you’d better lap up as much of the summer while you still can. However, I see no reason why we shouldn’t make our summer time last until the very last day of our lives.

So have another drink, put bacon on that sandwich, turn that that music up, stay up all night finishing that book, binge an entire season of Game of Thrones. #YOLO

And yes indeed, buy that bubble machine. Sommaren är kort.


…how you see the world and how you will teach your children to see it, too.

About a month or so ago, Milky said to me “(classmate) says Paris is a dangerous place. There are bad people there.” I did some digging and discovered that she must have heard this after Charlie Hebdo. Her father is an art director for a magazine. It makes sense that her six year-old perspective would be such.

Paris is a special place for me. If you spend 10 years of your life studying a language and a culture of a particular place, the epicenter of said language and culture means something. When Dock and I took our first taxi ride into The City of Lights, I openly wept. Sweden owns my heart. France owns my brain. Knowing that I would soon have a chance to walk around this magical city, the core of it all, was simply too much to process. It was 10 years of studying, six years of using my knowledge at work (albeit intermittently), two weeks of slogging my way through trenches, forts and bunkers in the making. I was excited but overwhelmed. The teachers who never knew they inspired me would likely never know the dream would be realized. And all of those hours spent making a stained glass window in high school would pay off the minute I stood in La Sainte-Chapelle (which also made me cry).

I turned to Milky and said “Paris, like any big city, can be dangerous. It can also be safe. Big cities require big city posture. You and I call that Philly Style, right?” Then, I explained Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher. To a six year-old. To a six year-old Jewish kid. It was arduous work, thinking of how to minimize the fear, especially since Milky will be taken to Paris, at some point. The city is too important to Dock and me for us to keep Milky away.

Towards the end of the conversation, I shared my story of one time when I was in Paris, when in the hunt for cheap lodging, away from tourists, I decided we would stay near La Marais. Being the history fiends that we are, I wanted to inject a little Jewish history into our adventure. I admit, I’m not quite ready to experience anything Holocaust oriented, at this point. My stepfather’s family died in the Holocaust. It’s too painful.

We ended up in a predominately Arabic district in Paris six months after 09.11. The general mood was quite peculiar. The French, as a whole, were thrilled to see Americans returning. One bar owner said “You have been gone too long. We miss you.” which is something I expect from smaller towns and rural areas. It is not something I expect in Paris proper. It’s not something anyone with a lick of sense should expect to hear in any large city (so, kindly refrain from saying Parisians are snotty. They’re not. They’re urbane, just like every denizen of every large metropolis.). We courteously thanked him. He was also gracious enough to speak English to us which is also sort of an anomaly because very few people in France speak English to me. Dock, yes. Me, no. I learned too well and no matter how exhausted I am from a day of translating, no one gives me mercy.

As we wandered around our little temporary neighborhood, it was evident there was an American in one’s midst. Dock felt slightly uncomfortable. I shrugged it off. I shrugged it off to the point where I left Dock and our traveling companion behind one afternoon and took off for a walk by myself. “That’s how dangerous Paris is,” I tell Milky. Mommy, all 63 inches of her, all 130 pounds of her, can go for a walk by herself in a big city and feel just as comfortable as she would in Philly. Or anywhere else. And, being me, I bought souvenirs for friends and candy (it was near Easter and chocolate eggs are ubiquitous) for my colleagues. I also scouted for kebab stands because Dock and I love authentic kebab.

This tangent is important: Dock looks very WASPy and American. He doesn’t dress typically American when he travels but his general appearance is very much American or Scots-Irish. I, on the other hand, am ethnically ambiguous. Thanks to my paternal DNA and the ability to speak more than one language (well enough to survive), it’s hard for the locals to determine where I’m from. Most natives know I’m not from their country but thanks to my table manners, my appearance and a few other factors, they just cannot figure out where I’m from. My father reports the same thing only everyone assumes he’s Middle Eastern (he looks eerily similar to Yasser Arafat).

We arrive at the kebab shop I found earlier and the shop keeper stops us at the door. He looks at me, looks at Dock and then says, in French “No. You can’t come in here. You’re American.” I respond, in French, “Why not? We’re hungry. I speak French quite well. We don’t have proper kebab at home.” He twists his face, pauses and relents “Fine. Come in.” As I’m eyeballing the menu he says “No. Go sit down and I’ll make you something. You’ll like it.” Now, it’s challenge time. Do I accept food that could have expired or do I trust the man? I trust him, grab Dock’s sleeve and sit down. We look around and we’re the only non-Arabic folks in the restaurant. I whisper “Imagine what would happen if he finds out he’s feeding Jews.” in a joking way. For all I know, the shop keeper could love Jews but really hate Americans after 09.11. He had no way of knowing that Dock and I fundamentally disagreed with the Bush Administration. The meal was the best kebab I have ever eaten and neither one of us became sick. We thanked the shop keeper, left a standard, small gratuity as appreciation and went on with our evening.

Another night in Paris. Another night in a beautiful place, brimming with culture and brimming with diversity. Another opportunity to show that not all American tourists are hideous, chest thumping beasts.

I shared that bit with Milky, as well. We all have our implicit biases. Sometimes, it’s up to us to knock down someone else’s wall. Most important, in a post-09.11 world, it was imperative for Americans to not treat all people of Arabic descent like garbage for then we’re the problem.

Paris is not dangerous. Paris is not a scary place. Paris is not rife with evil. Paris is hurting. This year started horrifically for Paris. It appears that it will end horrifically, as well. When Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher happened, I said that Paris shouldn’t be defined by this, that Paris has survived much worse (you think it hasn’t?) and that Paris will recover. 2015 is a very small period of time in a city with a history dating back to the 3rd century…BC.

Today, I ache for Paris. I ache for the world. I ache for my child and children everywhere. Yet, I remain determined and committed to keep moving forward, keep pressing on – for this world can be better. Even if it’s only one kebab at a time.

I think you should…

…fuck off with the “You should…” suggestions.

Over the summer, a galpal of mine and I were sitting at a tapas bar in Durham, unencumbered by daily responsibilities of parenting and work, feasting and chattering about life in general.  This particular friendship is new and genuinely treasured because Galpal reminds me very much of Kate (Yes, I realize the gravity of that statement and I’m trying not to make that Galpal’s burden because that’s a fucking nightmare of a standard to live up to).  Also, she is wise, brave and just emerging from a serious life overhaul.  I, on the other hand, find myself feeling positively clueless, largely afraid of my own shadow and in the midst of watching everything I spent my entire adult life working for crumble around me.  2015 has been anything but kind or fair for me and a lot of my friends.  I may even go so far as to say that 2015 has been even more challenging and painful than the year following Kate’s death, which says quite a lot since I essentially shut down in 2011.  The only difference between now and then is that in 2011, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to shut down.  This year, no such luck.  This year, I had to figure out how to move forward and solve my problems while still managing all that requires management.  Had it not been for Galpal and numerous others (some new faces, some familiar faces), I highly doubt I would have been able to pull it off.  Strong and stubborn as I may be, I’m still very much the person who eyeballs that sofa longingly and fights the urge to crawl beneath it and stay hidden for weeks at a time.  If Milkface didn’t need to get to or from school and if I didn’t have to justify my existence during a re-org, my ass would have been under that sofa with a box of Kleenex and a bottle of benzos.  We all know that to be true.

As we were talking about life, in general, the significant obstacles Galpal has overcome and the hideous list of shit that I have to address, the subject of friendly advice (solicited or not) entered the conversation.  One’s friends and loved ones genuinely mean well.  If you care about someone, it’s painful to watch them struggle.  When you’re emotionally invested in someone, you want to help solve their problems.  Unless, of course, you’re an entirely selfish asshat and then you just let them flounder.  There are those in life who, as I say, like to watch the world burn.  But, the well-intended will always be there for you and that is a genuinely amazing thing.  Whether it’s holding your hand while you’re crying, bringing you bottles of booze, taking you out and giving you a much needed change in scenery, sharing their hard-earned wisdom or just making you laugh, the well-intended are treasures.  I consider myself to be beyond fortunate to have many in my life.  And, of course, because I’m an obsessive perfectionist, I usually feel guilty for not appreciating them enough or acknowledging how much they do for me, how much they mean to me and how much they enrich my life.

The conversation went on and I remember going back to something Galpal said a friend of hers mentioned.  It was a “You should…” statement.  “You should go out and do…”  And there, at the bar, I found myself annoyed.  Annoyed bordering on slightly angry.  “You should…”  What “should” any of us do?  Really.  We’re not talking about a life or death issue.  We’re not talking about managing an illness.  We’re not talking about anything critical in nature.  We’re talking about benign lifestyle choices.  We’re talking about things that could potentially make us happy, right?  But when someone says “You should…” and then follows it up with a suggestion that is more suitable to their personality and their needs, it’s not really a suggestion that is suitable for the person being spoken to.  No, it’s a statement about what makes someone else happy and the assumption is “It makes me happy.  It will make you happy, too.”  Again, a great intent and likely very sincere.  Yet, not remotely applicable.  You can’t tell someone to do something and expect a good outcome if the action doesn’t work for the individual.  I can no more tell someone to write down their feelings if they’re not interested in writing than a rando suggesting that I declutter my house, clean or cook a meal to make myself feel better as I have no interest in doing any of those things.  I also lack the time and the energy.

Giving the “You should…” statements the fair benefit of the doubt, one knows the person saying them means well.  The person genuinely cares.  The person wants to see the other person happy and fulfilled.  “You should…” when it comes to certain lifestyle choices is nothing more than an opinion.  While we value our friends’ input, opinions don’t often solutions make.  Sometimes, the opinion can actually make things worse via making the audience feel badly because if the listener doesn’t follow the “You should…” then there’s a feeling of guilt.  “You should…” brings along a lot of negative implications.

Let’s be honest here, are any of us happy when an order is barked at us?  And isn’t “You should…” an order?  Or…am I that loath to direction that I am interpreting something otherwise innocuous as a command?  Therein lies part of the problem.  Shouldn’t we always speak or write to the level of our audience and consider the interpretation of our message?  If I said “You should consider your message because I think you sound like a fucking asshole when you dole out unsolicited advice.” would you interpret my message as helpful and warm or would you say “Fuck.  I managed to piss off Kang.  Again.  Why is she always so fucking brittle?”

That night, at the tapas bar, I decided I detested the “You should…” sentiment.  A few days later, I texted Galpal and said “I’m striking that from my language.  I feel that strongly about this.  I’m no longer going to say ‘You should…’ to anyone.”  For the most part, I have been successful.  Sometimes, I’ll trot it out in a snarktatstic sense.  Sometimes, I catch myself about to say it and then have to stop, correct myself and think of a more meaningful way to frame advice.  Other times, I have finally embraced the most difficult thing of all – keeping one’s mouth shut and just listening to your friends and offering comfort.  Because, if I have learned anything from this fucktastic shitstain of a year, it’s that I know very little about life and that in spite of your hardest work/efforts, your master plans and your intentions; you’re going to be diverted from your path.  And, oddly enough, those diversions aren’t necessarily the worst thing that could happen, either.  Sure, they’re fraught with pain and fear, but they’re also opportunities to learn, grow and challenge yourself.  You never end up on the losing end if you’re gaining something.  Knowledge is something so…there you be.

So, in summary, “You should…” statements fucking suck.  They’re arrogant.  They imply that the person making the statement knows what is best for you and that isn’t always the case, especially in life’s grey areas.  And, to reference a conversation from this morning with Blitz, it’s high time we all “stop defining stuff for other people and not worry about fitting in anyone else’s fucking box.”  Sometimes, things aren’t going to make fucking sense.  Sometimes, the people you love are going to struggle and there isn’t going to be the magical potion that will make them immediately peaceful and happy.  Sometimes, you’re going to have to watch them sort it out on their own and stand by them as they do.  There will be times when we can’t solve problems for other people (unless the problem is solely financial and one of us has a fuckton of money they can part with).  Most of the time, what makes you happy isn’t going to necessarily satisfy someone else entirely or, dare I say, at all.

No more “You should…” anything.  Unless, of course, it’s “You should stop making these statements.”

Oh, Florida…

…where killing a black man is just fine but fucking on the beach – not so much.

Last July, Jose Caballero and Elissa Alvarez were arrested on Bradenton Beach for having the sinful sex on the sand.  They, being Floridians, presumably, were genetically predisposed to approach this from a very unintelligent and inelegant fashion.  They took that delightful, little diddy, “Afternoon Delight” a little too seriously and knocked da boots on the beach in the middle of the afternoon, in front of other people. Urgh. Classy.

Doubly unfortunate for the frolicking duo, a four-year old child was present.  Also present, someone with a camera.  When the mom of the four-year old asked Caballero to stop, Caballero wasn’t very receptive to the request.  He was confrontational.  Who knows? Maybe he was super-dee-dooper close to the best beach sex climax of his life?  I dunno.  I have never partaken of the old beach sex.  It strikes me as particularly uncomfortable and itchy.  Sex in an old coal furnace, on the other hand…never mind…

Caballero has priors; among those, cocaine trafficking.  So, you know this isn’t going to end well for him.  He’s not getting off (not on the beach and not in court) with a slap on the wrist.  He ended up with a jail sentence of 2.5 years.  A bit draconian, if you ask me.

His partner in crime, Elissa Alvarez, was also found guilty of lewd and lascivious (one of my favorite words) exhibition in front of a child.  Not in front of a child!  For fuck’s sake, think of the children!  The children who, likely, have no fucking idea what they’re witnessing until their parents freak the fuck out and make a giant scene that will remain permanently etched in their memories. “Hey mommy!  Remember that time we were at Bradenton Beach when I was four and we saw those two people fucking in the sand?  I do! Thanks to you and your histrionic reaction.”

This particular charge is a second degree felony and as such, both parties must register as sex offenders.  For fucking on the beach. Something that how many people have done at some point in their lives?  Man, you know the bar is low when you’re popped and nailed with a felony for a cliché.

Here’s the really sad thing – Elissa Alvarez is all of 21 years old.  She was sentenced for time served and is now out of custody.  She is not, however, out of the woods.  She is a registered sex offender and, as such, has a life of no career to look forward to.  Think of all the stupid, youthful indiscretions we engaged in around that age.  As I alluded to earlier, I got busy in an abandoned coal furnace at the tender age of 20 with a belly full of beer. Thank fuck there were no such things as cellphones with cameras or the internet.  Or kids around.  I could have been Elissa Alvarez, easily.  Sex in public places is a rite of passage.  Don’t look at me and act horrified.  Y’all probably have done it once or twice, too.

The sex offender registry is important.  We deserve to know when paedophiles are among us.  That said, when you add people like this to the registry, people who diddle on the beach – how much service is that providing to the community?  I don’t feel that this behavior is overtly dangerous.  I don’t feel that two people are going to drop trou in Agrestic and get busy in the park.  And, if they do, I think a simple “cut it the fuck out” would stop that shit in its tracks.  Even if it didn’t, I wouldn’t want to destroy someone’s life over something as minor as this.  It’s sex.  It’s not rape.  It’s not sex with a child.  It’s consenting adults having sex.  Even if the choice of geography isn’t the best option.

Should we fuck on buses, in shopping centers, public parks full of kids, playgrounds, etc…?  No.  There is a need for decorum.  That’s why I have highly recommended abandoned coal furnaces and have long been a champion of them.  Even if your clothes end up stained and mucky and your hair stinks after.  But still, is any of this worth torpedoing the life of a 21-year-old woman?

No. No, it’s not.

Alas, this happened in Florida.  Florida, the state where killing an unarmed black teen hungry for Skittles is perfectly acceptable but sex on the beach is an affront to mankind. Bugs Bunny had the right idea all along but we have known that since the 2000 election, haven’t we?


Mother’s Day…

…Hallmark’s emotional landmine.

Yeah, I’m going to do what I do best.  I’m going down south to the depths of sadness and despair.  You know, where I shit on the good feels because that is EXACTLY what I do best.  BUT, I do it with such flair and style so it’s okay, right?  I hasten to add the following isn’t coming from an ungrateful or selfish place at all.  It comes from the place where Kang’s heart and brain spends most of its time; in the land of the overlooked and forgotten.  The Island of Misfit Toys, if you please.

Motherhood is something we should celebrate.  If one thinks about the process of falling in and out of love, the manic highs and the soul crushing lows – how the euphoria of being in love makes you feel giddy, drunk and sparkly and the trauma of rejection and a broken heart makes you feel like throwing yourself in front of a train – is so powerful and overwhelming, love cannot touch motherhood with a ten foot pole on the emotional scale.  It is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the best gift a woman can receive.

Or maybe that’s simply my perspective formed after battling infertility for well over a decade.  A battle so consuming it resulted in my locking myself away from all things baby: no baby showers, no visiting new babies, refusing to hold freshly arrived bundles of joy because I knew I would fall apart knowing that I was resigned to a life of not being a mom.  And while I would walk around and try to convince others I was comfortable with my fate, people who barely knew me would, rightfully, tell me otherwise.  I hated them.  After one last futile attempt to procreate, I decided to do what any irrational human would do:  I bought a really expensive car.  Seven months later, I was pregnant without any assistance. As the saying goes “Man plans; God laughs.”  Woman commits to spending an obscene amount of money; Flying Spaghetti Monster says “Oh, I didn’t realize you thought you were rich.  Let me give you something to actually deplete your finances.”

So, there’s landmine number one:  Mother’s Day for the women who can’t [be mothers] but desperately want to.  It’s awful.  If they manage to get out of bed, be kind to them.  If they are crying, don’t ask why.  Just hold them, comfort them and if she has a proclivity for shoes, shiny objects or something material that you deem silly, buy it for her.  Distract her.  Mourn with her.  Support her.  My perspective:  don’t take her out to brunch, lunch or dinner.  There are too many happy (appearing) families outside.  Seeing smiling face upon smiling face enjoying family fun time is akin to being riddled with a billion bullet holes and then having someone try to soothe the wounds with salt.  Just.  Don’t.

Landmine number two:  those who don’t have relationships with their mothers or those who have very difficult relationships with their mothers.

Do not judge for you are not a mental health professional with a full work-up of a patient.  You do not know why a relationship failed.  You do not understand why things could be more difficult for some than others.  Humans are weird, nonsensical and often disappointing.  Alternatively, humans do the best they can with what they have and sometimes, their proverbial tool boxes aren’t fully stocked with all they need to get through life.  The end result is usually a giant ball of pain.  And this ball is like those pink, rubber balls:  you throw it as hard and as far as you can, yet the little bastard always comes back (like the cat in the camp song, if you please) and pegs you squarely in the face.

On a day when people are celebrating, sending flowers and schmaltzy cards to their mothers, there is a group of people out there who aren’t.  Some of them are thinking “Phew!  Bullet dodged!”  Some of them may be thinking “Yeah, this doesn’t feel the greatest.  I wish I had a mommy to talk to when the shitstorm hit and I left my shitstorm umbrella at home.”  There are others who are likely feeling the combination of both.  What do you do on a day when it’s all about mom and you don’t have one?  What do you do when your experiences and memories aren’t those made for maudlin, feel good, family television sitcoms?  It must be a very isolating experience like being alone on Thanksgiving, Christmas or Assholian Valentine’s Day®.  Sure, you can find your substitute moms, those who stepped up and assumed the responsibility out of the kindness of their hearts, but it’s just not the same.  It never is.  It never will be.

Landmine number three:  those whose mothers have died.

This is one I cannot even relate to.  Thank goodness my mother is still here.  Sincerely.  Yes, there may have been times in my adolescence where I have cursed her very existence out of general teenage angst.  There were instances in young adulthood when I didn’t appreciate what I have.  I haven’t lost Carole.  I’m fucking lucky and I know this.  As the years go on, I thank the Great Flying Spaghetti Monster for keeping all of my parents (biological, step, host, Kate’s) on this planet for me to love and take for granted.

I remember when Carole’s mother (my maternal grandmother) passed away quite clearly thanks to my freakish memory which annoys the hell out of everyone.  It was Spring Break of 1992, my last semester of Kolludge.  I had just arrived back in Philly from Beffalo (yes, Beffalo – there was a buffalo/cow hybrid farm down the road from Kolludge) State University full of nothing of substance and a desire to continue chain smoking cigarettes and swilling shit beer.  My mother was in no mood for my inanity which was not unusual.  What was unusual was the reason.

Her mother, who was in her 80s, had fallen ill and was in the hospital.  A flurry of activity was taking place, largely via phone.  My stepfather, ever supportive of mom, was trying to figure out the fastest way to get from Philly to Pittsburgh.  He mentioned chartering a plane for her.  My stepfather’s love for my mother is so strong that if he could figure out a way to build a time machine and preserve everything for her, I have no doubt in my mind that he would do exactly that.  Within a few hours, my grandmother had passed.  And, aside from the recollection of my stepfather’s intense efforts to help mom get to Pittsburgh, my strongest recollection of that night was my mother’s crying in the kitchen and hearing the words “I’m an orphan.”  It may seem that I’m slightly detached from my grandmother’s death as I write this.  I’m not.  It was painful.  That said, through that entire ordeal, there was nothing as painful as seeing my mother cry, hearing those words, watching an accomplished, strong, ferocious woman become a very sad, little girl in our kitchen and knowing there was no possible way I could provide any measure of comfort what-so-ever.

On Mother’s Day, I think of my friends, my family and others who have lost their mothers and can only imagine the pain.  Memories are great but, let’s face it, they’re not the same as holding your mother’s hand, hearing her voice or getting a peck on the head from her.

Landmine number four:  mothers whose children have died.

For what is a Mother’s Day without your child?  Fucking hell.  Anniversary of the death of said child aside, is there a worse day of the year to be a mother than Mother’s Day?

It comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I have handled Kate’s death with the grace and dignity of a three year old who has been told the word “No.”  I will neither apologize nor make excuses for my grief, either.  My best friend, my soul mate is dead. She’s not coming back and there isn’t a fucking thing I can do about it.  And while I try to do one uniquely Kate thing every day to celebrate her, I’m still really fucking angry and hurt.  I don’t know that there will come a day when grief isn’t a dominating force in my life.  The only thing I can say is that I have accepted this and I manage the emotions better than I used to.  That’s the best I can hope for in my particular case.

I look at Milkface and all of the joy he brings me.  How he makes the worst days infinitely better with a hug, a smile, a silly joke or a story about his day.  I think about how lucky I am to be his mother.  My favorite part of the day is when I pick him up from school so I can see him again.  Milkface is definitely my favorite human.

Then, I think of Kate’s parents.

Kate’s parents aren’t just “parents.”  They’re not just two amazing people who did everything right and raised two brilliant, successful, good human beings.  They’re not just accomplished professionals who worked very hard throughout their entire lives.  They’re not simply good pillars in their community.  To me, they’re the model to follow in life.

To think of Kate’s mom on this day of all days gives me a massive case of the sads.  I understand she is not alone – that she’s a member of a shitty club no one wishes to belong to and everyone would reject membership to if remotely possible.  Moms who lost infants, children who were young, adult children – it doesn’t matter.  The pain is the pain. It’s not one I’m sure I’m emotionally sound enough to endure, either.  I’d sooner throw myself on the funeral pyre than outlive my child.  And no, I’m not being dramatic, either.

So, as I find myself doing on most holidays, Hallmark or non/bullshit or legitimate, my mind wanders to those who may not be having the most celebratory of days.  Those who may be feeling a bit lost, certainly blue and in need of a hug (like my bewildered friend in Borås).  And because I’m hopelessly drawn to wanting to fix emotional boo-boos, I get frustrated because I don’t have that particular magic wand that makes everything all better.  I lack that certain magical kiss to make the ouchies go away.  Instead, I hide behind my words and hope that they make their way to the eyes of the right person who needs to know that in spite of the pain and the shittiness and the unfairness that is life, there is someone who gets that this day may not be “all that,” who recognizes that life is a bit messier than we had hoped it would be and happens to have a giant box of Kleenex and a huge pile of stuffed animals for snuggling.

It’s not a condemnation of holidays or celebrations – more so a reminder to be grateful for what it is we have and mindful of those who may not be as fortunate or may be struggling.


Suspend the prose.  Suspend the creative process.  All I can do is get on my soap box (well…box of soap containing bottles of CeraVe) and just look at the world with disbelief. And shock.  And disgust because I’m usually disgusted by humanity.

Hyper Cacher happened.  I started thinking humanity doesn’t deserve religion because we don’t play well with it.

Shortly thereafter, the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz happened.  My feelings about that aren’t any different than any Jew (practicing or non) or any human being with a soul and a shred of decency.

In response to these things, I found myself rooting through my massive piles of jewelry (because all Jews have tons of gold at their disposal – not just sewn in the hems of their clothes) and plucked out a necklace with the Magen David charm and put it on.  Not because I’m a religious Jew but to send a message that I am a Jew, that this Jew is not going anywhere and that this Jew made another Jew who will likely breed at some point. My father, also not observant, had started wearing his Magen David a while ago.  Maybe it’s our way of telling the bigots to fuck off?  Neither my father nor I are random people. We’re deliberate people and, chances are, if we’re doing something – our actions have meaning; we’re sending a message.

For reasons which have no place in this post, I crawled into bed very early last night, pulled the blankets over my head and avoided reality.  I also spent a good amount of time unplugged yesterday.  It was a Mommy-Milkface Day.  I did not see the news until I woke up.  And, before we go any further, because I’m so awesome and American news is anything but, most of my sources for news are foreign.

From Haaretz:

Danish police shoot and kill suspect in fatal attacks on synagogue, cafe

One dead in Copenhagen synagogue shooting, hours after man killed at free speech event; Danish PM condemns ‘cynical act of terror,’ says: ‘When the Jewish community is attacked, all of Denmark is attack.’


The shooting at the synagogue in Copenhagen (one of my most favorite places on Earth) wasn’t the only one.  The precursor was a shooting at a free speech event.

From The Guardian:

Jens Madsen said the killer may have been “inspired by militant Islamist propaganda issued by IS [Islamic State] and other terror organisations”, but it was not yet known whether he had travelled to Iraq or Syria before the attacks.


Honestly, I have no words for this.  None.  I cannot even describe my emotions.

The shit…it needs to stop and it needs to stop now.

A very middle class…

…sort of afternoon.

Let me start by saying that I have an extreme disdain for A Southern Season on the weekend.  For the years that I worked at the hospital, I was able to skitter over to A Southern Season during lunch, snap up what was necessary and get the fuck out without having to deal with the doddering, old people trawling for free samples.  I was able to avoid overhearing the annoying conversations between Bitsy and Tweety about their quilted handbags and their grandchildren.  I didn’t have to dig down deep within myself to find the restraint necessary to avoid grabbing a Wüsthof knife and driving it through the heart of a Junior League member lamenting about how hard it is to find good help these days.  Also, I didn’t have to play dodge the portable oxygen tank.  As I have said previously, that is the must have accessory for a majority of the clientele.

I have long maintained that there should be certain hours set aside for those of us who need to shop for actual groceries so we can get in and out without any irritation.  Call me bougie all you want but there are certain food stuffs that I can only get there or I can pay 50 trillion dollars in shipping to some weird internet shop specializing in French salami and Kalles kaviar (not that I would dare eat that shit).  Also, blame my father for this.  He was the one who foisted this upon me.  I was perfectly fine with a diet of Pop-Tarts and scorched meat (my stepfather, my lovely, learned stepfather…my wonderful stepfather who should not be permitted to touch meat at all) until I moved in with my father.  Then my life turned into “eat like a proper European and like it or starve.”  Also, have some wine with dinner…even if you’re only 9 (ok…even if you’re only 17).

On Christmas, I made a horrible discovery.  We had one jar of lingonsylt (lingon berries) remaining.  There is an Ikea in Charlotte but it’s an Ikea…in Charlotte.  People go there as a tourist destination.  Anyone who needs to get in, get lingonsylt and get the fuck out does not have the time to waste driving two hours only to deal with drop-jawed morons stumbling and bumbling through a low grade furniture store, massacring the names of Scandinavian towns.  Also, there are no meetings for work scheduled in Charlotte in the near future so I have no actual reason to go to Charlotte.  Further complicating my life is the obliteration of Ericsson’s footprint in RTP (thank goodness I left Ericsson for the current job).  Finding Swedish anything at the regular grocery store is no longer a possibility.  No more Ballerina cookies.  No more Felix anything.  My choices for acquiring Swedish foods are now limited to Ikea, the internet, begging for parcels from my friends or going to A Southern Season (or ASS as my husband calls it).  I make köttbullar (Swedish meatballs or shitballs, if you’re my husband) often enough that we must have a reasonable inventory of lingonsylt.  Köttbullar without lingonsylt is like college without beer – why bother?

So, I break the news that Milkface is going to have to run a marginally uninteresting errand with Mommy today.  He was in his fort in the living room and stayed silent in hope that I would forget that I had a child.  I lured him out with the promise of a handsome reward/threat of death.  It never ceases to amaze me that the child who is never tired always seems to come down with chronic fatigue syndrome whenever it’s time to get dressed to run an errand.  I manage to get his limp body into clothes, bundle him up and stuff him in the car.  Then he forces me to listen to Avril Latrine (yeah…Avril Latrine.  When you have to listen to Avril Lavigne over and over and over again until your ears bleed, she becomes Avril Latrine.  And believe me, this is one time I find myself wishing my hearing impairment is way worse than it actually is, too.) ½ way up I-40.  The child, he’s good.  He’s already mastered the art of manipulation from his conniving, scheming and evil mother.

We get to ASS, walk through the doors and Milky inhales.  He immediately recognizes the smell of happiness.  The smell that brings much joy and harmony to the house.  The smell that represents comfort, sanity and security because Mommy isn’t losing her shit over something inconsequential:  coffee.  Milky is intrigued.  Milky is comforted.  Milky is willing to push the cart and cooperate.  We head over to the jam aisle and start our search for lingonsylt.  There were four jars.  We scooped up three.  I always feel guilty taking the entire stock of whatever in the event that there is someone else who is having an emergency.  I would hate to be the asshole that caused distress because I took everything (see, I am considerate!).  Then I noticed the rows and rows of French jams Dock and I fell in love with while on one of our trench hiking holidays so I placed a few of those in the cart.  After that – marmalade because my father loves marmalade.  Examining the cart, I’m thinking we have the equivalent of Milky’s freshman year of college tuition in jam and decide it’s time to move along.  But where to next?  We satisfied the need:  lingonsylt.  We obtained the want:  jam.  Oooooh…bread!  Must have bread for all this glorious jam.  To the bakery, we go.  And now, my ambivalent sloth of a child is getting into the experience.  After a brief discussion, we decide brioche would be better than several croissant so we get a loaf of that.  I think that may have cost more than my boots.

Out of the corner of my eye, I notice Milky drifting towards the left to the case with the desserts.  Of course.  There are two King cakes in the case and Milky loves anything that is sparkly and purple.  The whining begins in earnest.  Lower lip protrudes, eyes well with crocodile tears but I manage to convince him to hold off for a minute.  What Milky doesn’t realize is that ASS has a candy section that is something to behold.  And this is where things get a little weird and where I fail to understand how the brain of a five year old functions at times because five year olds glom on to some really weird shit.

On our way to candy land, we cruise by my mother’s concept of heaven:  cookware and cutlery.  Rows upon rows of knives (which she may or may not wield when I arrive home with another tattoo; not unlike the first time I came home with a tattoo when she waved a chef’s knife at me and was certainly not smiling) twinkling beneath the lights strategically placed to showcase the wares.  Shelf upon shelf of Le Creuset cookware and bakeware.  Milkface notes the lack of purple cookware and wonders if Bubbe can do anything about that (note to mom:  I’m totally serious).  A table display of Scanpans are taunting me.  Then my weird kid fixates on a pie bird.  Of course he reaches for it (what five year old wouldn’t grab something fragile) and demands to know what it is, what it does and, of course, can he have it.  I explain why pie birds are used and that Mommy isn’t big on baking pies but this is irrelevant.  Milky now wants a pie bird.  Oh…and the pie bird should be made by Le Creuset (properly pronounced) and preferably red or purple (because purple is his favorite color and red is the favorite color of his bestie).  Somehow, I’m now finding myself in a lamentation reserved for an Op/Ed piece in The Guardian about Middle Class Shame.  This is all very confusing.  Especially given the fact that I look like something that has been pulled out of a shower drain and dressed in a Ponyville Public Library shirt, jeans and ratty cowgirl boots.

I finally manage to lure the child to the candy section and watch what every parent dreams of, even if they’re unwilling to admit it, a face awash in joy at the sight of endless candy and impending tooth decay.  As is Milky’s wont, he stands still and processes all that he sees before diving in.  Then the “May I have…” begins.  At first, I restrain him much to his chagrin.  I don’t want him loading up the cart with the first thing he sees or stuff he can get anywhere (supply chain toady represent – we do not buy M&Ms at an exorbitant markup).  I want him to explore a bit.  I want him to have the full kid-in-the-candy-store experience.  We cruise the aisles looking at all the things.  He recognizes the goodies Uncle Magnus brings him from Sweden.  He sees lollipops with insects in them.  Then he finds the good stuff…the stuff of infinite possibilities…the bulk candy:  jelly beans, chocolate of endless varieties, gummy this and gummy that, licorice, gumballs, jawbreakers.  Then it’s time to really blow his mind, I put on one of those non-latex gloves, grab a handful of empty bags and tell him he can have whatever he wants.  Who has two thumbs and is mom of the year?  This train wreck.  And load up the bags we did.  The staff smiled.  The other patrons sneered.  Let them.  My kid and I were having a moment, dammit.

Even after we had cleaned out a good bit of the gummy inventory, Milky still had his mind on the bakery and the pie bird.  And, because I have done a stellar job of spoiling the child rotten, I suspected that there was going to be an addition to what was already in the cart.  I managed to distract Milkface from the pie bird by taunting him with stinky cheese.  Then we negotiated a deal – there would be no King cake coming home (it was large, it’s not yet Mardi Gras and I don’t care for holiday creep as it is) but Milky could have petit fours or an individual cake.  He chose sponge cake with strawberry mousse.  And somewhere, the bougie brigade agreed to overlook the fromage foul, grant me a pass on the pile of gummy goodness in the cart and allow me to keep my tastefully muted membership card granting me access to the most exclusive of food and beverage markets provided Milkface partake of ethically sourced foie gras by the end of February.

Once that was all said and done, we left ASS and walked through the remaining shops of University Mall (all four of them – maybe five?) where Milky was additionally rewarded with his first pieces of art glass because a cultured lad is never young enough to start building his own collection.  He selected a plane, a turtle, a heart and an octopus (or maybe I chose that for myself?).

And as I sit here, with Scooby Doo (might I say – I really dislike Scooby Doo) in the background, I’m having a hard time figuring out if today is 2015 and Milky’s childhood or if it’s 1976 and my childhood.  My parents saw nothing wrong with taking me to a gourmet grocery store and feeding me food that grown-ups eat.  They didn’t see anything wrong with allowing an outrageous indulgence now and then.  If there was something random and weird that I wanted and I was well behaved, I could, conceivably, have been rewarded with the random and weird object.  Today, it appears that I gave Milky a little of what was given to me – a little bit of the weird, magical, offbeat childhood that I had that a lot of kids didn’t necessarily experience.  While I may make fun of myself for the excess, I’m also quite proud to pass along the some of the kookiness.  And, maybe there will come a day when Milky is flying solo with a kid of his own, doing the same nonsensical, silly things while thinking about the day that his goofball of a mom did the same with him.  Parenting may feel like a series of really long and really frustrating days but the reality of the situation is that it is a very narrow allocation of time.  The ultimate goal is to raise kids to be self-sufficient and self-actualized adults.  But…who is to say that the process can’t be fun, too?

You load sixteen tons, what do you get…

…Another day older and deeper in debt.

A few years ago, Mat Honan wrote a piece for Gizmodo called Generation X is Sick of Your Bullshit.  Outwardly, we Gen Xers read the article and responded with a nod and “mmhmm.”  Inwardly, most of us were jumping up and down, screaming “Can I get an Amen, brotha man?”  We are sick of your bullshit.  But we have always been sick of your bullshit.  And who is the “you?”  Everyone else who isn’t us.  We are legion.  We are misanthrope.  You are welcome to kiss our asses, get the fuck out or die in a fire.  Your choice.  I don’t care.  Really.  I just don’t care.  Just do it, do it now and preferably without much noise because I have fucking work to do and my stress level is way too fucking high because, thanks to you corporate, soulless baby boomers – pensions are no longer an option.  You may suck my non-existent dick for that.  I love not having financial security.  Really.  Sincerely.  I love not being able to sleep at night knowing that my entire future rides on the backs of people in a largely unregulated industry where malfeasance goes unpunished.  I love that this crushing pressure has reduced me to a rambling idiot who should be locked away in a padded cell for the protection of all mankind.  Thanks for the solid, bitches.

For some time now, we have been hearing about “change” at my current sandbox.  No one knew how this change would manifest itself.  We had our own conspiracy theories but there was no valid inkling as to what lies ahead for us.  Our organization is a shape shifter so most of us ignore the whole “change” warning and continue banging away at our keyboards until we’re told to come to a meeting and meet our new boss.  Then we go back to banging away at our keyboards.  One of my former bosses said during one of these re-orgs that he had been with the company X amount of years and had seven different managers.  I interpreted that message as “Don’t fret about job security.  This is simply our corporate culture.” and I resumed banging away at my keyboard like 100 monkeys on typewriters.

The “change” messages picked up steam shortly after the New Year and there was a different tone to them.  A sense of urgency, maybe?  I couldn’t put my apathetic finger on it but, instinctively, I didn’t like what I was hearing.  I certainly didn’t like what I was feeling in my gut.  Then I started losing some sleep.

Last weekend, I was at lunch with my father.  My father, being of the Silent Generation, understands what it’s like to be overlooked or fucked over on a consistent basis.  He also has keen insight into what I do since he was a supply chain wonk for many years, as well (my following in my father’s swag sneaker footprints was entirely coincidental).  My father appreciates the misery of going to a production meeting, having zero inventory of a necessary part and knowing the line is going to stop because you’re the purchasing manager and you’re responsible for everything – even if you cannot control everything.  He also taught me my most treasured retort in my entire career:  “What do you want me to do?  Eat iron and shit parts?”  Trust me on this one – when you’re the only female manager in the entire ops division and you say that in a production meeting – you turn some fucking heads.

So, Daddy asks “Are you worried about what’s coming?”  I thought for a minute and said “Yes and no?  I’m sort of Zen about the whole thing.  After all, I’m a Gen Xer.  Yes.  I’m terrified I could be made redundant or be laid off for no reason because I’m the primary bread winner and that would mean the family ends up homeless.  Yet, I’m not worried because I have dealt with this level of bullshit my entire career.”  And Gen Xers have.

Back in the glorious, money grabbing 90s, if you worked in RTP and you didn’t like your job or your comp & ben packet, you could walk across the street, announce your presence and say “I would like to work here, make $xx,xxx or $xxx,xxx and have y-amount of paid time off” and you would likely get a job.  Maybe you would luck into some stock options.  You would also have a cafeteria plan for health insurance.  My first job in RTP had a dry cleaning service that came to our floor to pick up and drop off our laundry.  Life was good.  Then the dotcom bubble burst and life was unpleasant.  First the cafeteria plans went away.  Then the value of shares went in the toilet.  Then the email came:  Go to Glittery Pines Conference Room on Wednesday at 3 pm for a mandatory meeting.  Note:  mandatory meetings on Wednesdays means someone is losing his/her job.  Most payrolls close on Wednesdays (or did? I try to avoid the trolls in accounting as they make my life hell with credit holds).

I sat in Glittery Pines Conference Room across from the VP of our department and listened to him go through this rigmarole about how we need to streamline our offerings to better service our internal customers.  Everyone’s eyes widened.  None of us knew what the fuck he was talking about because, again, this was the glorious, money grabbing 90s.  The VP tells us that some people will be losing their jobs.  I remember talking back to him but I don’t remember what I said.  I was in my 20s.  Being in your 20s and being marginally good (ok…in this instance, toot my own horn – really fucking good at what you do) is a potentially lethal combination because…hubris.  I was lucky.  Not only was I not made redundant – I didn’t lose my job for being a blistering asshole in front of a group of people.  My take away from that experience was – time to GTFO and find another job.  I’m not going to deal with this level of insecurity on a daily basis.  So, months later, I was the purchasing manager at a different company.  Stupid, stupid, stupid octopus.

Y2K arrives.  We’re all still spending money like the bubble hadn’t burst.  I’m at the new job.  It’s been a few months and while it wasn’t overly challenging, I was having a rip-roaring good time playing practical jokes on my coworkers.  In between turning offices upside down, developing a procure-to-pay process for the organization and saving some serious cabbage, I noticed another peculiar vibe developing.  Board members started coming in for more frequent meetings.  No one leaned on me to be extra aggressive with cost cutting but I wasn’t making any capital acquisitions, either.  People started huddling and whispering.  I cornered my boss and said “Are we in trouble?  Do I need to send out my CV?”  He said he couldn’t tell me anything.  It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to realize that if an organization’s funding is drying up, the first one out the door is going to be the person who spends the money.  Fortunately, on my way out, one of the board members asked for my resume which is how I ended up on the administrative side of healthcare.

In the course of 12 months, I had been exposed to “right-sizing” and “fuck you!  The doors are locked.”  Fourteen years later, not much has changed, unfortunately.  If anything, the climate has become much, much worse for the worker bee.  Gone are the 50 hour work weeks.  Here are the 55 to 60 hour work weeks and if you happen to have a job, you’re happy to be working those ridiculous hours.  If you’re lucky, you may be able to wrangle a merit increase of 3%.  If you’re really lucky, your organization offers an incentive plan that will provide some sort of reasonable bonus (call me ungrateful but anything under four digits to the left of the decimal point…meh).  You may have a reasonable allocation of paid time off but the likelihood that your workload will allow you to use all of it is not very promising.  Last year, I was so burned out from the previous year, I scheduled shoulder surgery to get some much needed rest.  And I have it good.  Really good.

How good do I have it?  Well, let’s take a look – my job is my dream job.  Years ago, when I was working as a civil servant for a large academic medical center, one of my colleagues knocked on my door and was received by resting-bitch-face-Kang.  I was doing an analysis of a particular vendor’s book of business at our hospital and she said something along the lines of “How do you do that and not go crazy?”  What???  Back then, it was hard for me to determine which provided me with more pleasure:  redlining proposals and pretending I was some sort of legal mastermind or sitting down with thousands of lines of data and trying to figure out where the markup was buried.  Both were favored by me because they afforded me the luxury of not having to interact with people directly.  I could ensconce myself in my office, among all the plants that I grew (including the Venus Flytrap which was there as a message to all vendors – piss me off and I will feed you, bit by bit, to my little pet), stream Swedish radio and just do my fucking work without having to smile, make small talk, deal with office politics or be remotely pleasant if I didn’t feel like being remotely pleasant that day.  I do remember responding to my coworker “No – this is my dream job.  It’s procurement without the bullshit.”

And somehow – a cross between years of really hard work and good timing landed me where I am today:  working from home, playing with spreadsheets, learning all sorts of really neat clinical stuff and not having to worry about who mistakes painful shyness for snobbery.  And yes, I really mean it.  I LOVE my job.  I believe in what it is that I do.  Between the academic medical center and shape shifting corporation, I tried life in a different business and it was awful.  I didn’t feel as if I was making any contribution to the world at all.  In healthcare, in my own little way, I get to make things better.  And – given my Marxist tendencies, extreme disdain for Free Market Capitalism in healthcare, I get to poke little holes in the system each day with every silly little scenario I devise.  One cost saving measure at a time, I’m sticking it to profiteering corporations.  And maybe, just maybe, there’s one less family out on the street because they didn’t lose their home to offset an astronomical medical bill.  Or maybe, just maybe, there’s someone whose life is slightly better because all of these community based, not-for-profit and non-profit hospitals are finally able to sit at the table with the big business bullies and hold their own during negotiations?  Or, maybe I’m delusional (likely a little bit of each)?

Which brings me back to the whole Gen X is sick of your bullshit, I’m Zen about the whole re-org bit yet I’m hyperventilating and sobbing at the same time.  Yesterday was an exercise in epic trolling.  Two meetings.  Both mandatory.  Both involving participation from human resources (people I consider to be just as low as garden variety bill collectors, repo men or Ferguson police officers).  When the words: mandatory and human resources appear in the same meeting invitation, nothing good can come of it.  Nothing.  Before I know it, I’m in tears and texting my mommy “I’m sc-sc-scarrrrrrred” which I genuinely was because, again, I love my job, I know I have it good and I know without this job my family is fucked.  In this instance, Shape Shifters, LLC did what it typically does and pleasantly surprises most of us.  Just like it did the last time this happened when I was given the opportunity to demote myself so I could stay in town and raise my child (something I had wanted) without losing any pay.

Unfortunately, not everyone works for a Shape Shifters, LLC.  Unfortunately, not everyone who wants to work is working.  And no, conservatards, they’re not sitting at home doing nothing with an Escalade parked outside while they collect welfare from your precious tax dollars.  I’m sorry if that offends your delicate sensibilities.  Your mere existence offends mine.

We’re at a weird time and place when people are no longer a valued asset to most organizations.  We’re human capital.  While we have long been viewed as parts of the machinery, it’s now perfectly acceptable to treat us as such instead of as people.  Those of us who have jobs are fairly afraid to speak out about anything that seems unfair because the alternative is pretty harsh (no job at all).  The employed have gone from doing the job of 1.5 people to that of 2 or 3 and the merit increases shrink year over year.  Don’t even get me started on comp & ben packets, either.  What I saw and experienced with Canuckian Telecom was beyond the pale and really showed me that humanity, as a whole, is very disappointing – as in…just lob a giant meteor at the Earth and get it over with disappointing.

By the end of the day, yesterday, I couldn’t speak.  The toll from the emotional roller coaster ride was just too much for me.  I wanted to speak.  There were people I wanted to talk to.  I had things I wanted to do.  I was just too damn worn out from worrying myself (physically) sick.  So, maybe Gen X cares a little bit about something after all?  And maybe there will come a day when Gen X isn’t hovering over a garbage can with a case of the dry heaves in their office, waiting for that fucking mandatory meeting.  And maybe there will come a day when a human being returns to being recognized as such.  In the interim, the fuck if I know what to do other than hope that I have the same job this time next year and that my 401k statement isn’t a photocopied picture of someone’s middle finger.

I do not want…

…your fucking shirt.

Everybody’s talking at me
I don’t hear a word they’re saying
Only the echoes of my mind

People stopping, staring
I can’t see their faces
Only the shadows of their eyes

I’m going where the sun keeps shining
Through the pouring rain
Going where the weather suits my clothes – Harry Nilsson

No, he wasn’t talking about the cacophony emanating from the human race but the lyrics really suit the mood of the day regarding cacophony.  With the pain of the mass murder of the great minds at Charlie Hebdo still fresh, condemnation freely flows.  A good amount of it is justifiable.  From our perspective, no one has the right to silence another because the message may be unsavory.  We have a right to argue.  We have a right to disagree.  We have a right to ignore.  We have no right to kill another human being because we find their particular message distasteful or blasphemous.  This seems to be lost among many (regardless of preferred religion).

Along with the justifiable outrage, sheer terror and tremendous heartbreak, now we get to wade through the sea of bigotry because this is what happens when a subset of a particular group behaves horrendously.  The few become the sole representation of the many and unfairly so.  Being a religious minority myself, I certainly appreciate that special feeling of mortification and understand the dread in anticipation of the backlash.  Each time Israel blunders, I steel myself for the hate speech and look at the computer monitor through splayed fingers with a turning stomach and legs that feel like lead.  Today, tomorrow and, potentially, the following day, decent Muslims will be attacked by the ignorant masses who presume that bad apples represent an entire belief system.  It’s shameful and disgusting.  It’s why so many people looked at Australia with wonder in middle-December when they responded to an attack with love instead of hate via I’ll Ride with You.  The rest of the world seems completely incapable of doing that.  It’s why I have a tendency to get a bit twitchy and bitchy when I hear people say :insert random demographic here: are dangerous/evil/vile/must be wiped off the planet.  It’s why I won’t allow others to besmirch what they do not know or understand – at least in my presence.  It’s very easy to look at something, form an opinion and stick to it when you lack basic facts and knowledge, especially when everyone else appears to be doing the same.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news but that is the very definition of prejudice.   Oh…and you thought you were so very evolved and enlightened, didn’t you?

Alas, this isn’t a tentacle wag at the bigots.  This is actually something a bit different.  The above is actually a rambling aside.

I freely admit that I spent a large portion of my time in my 20s in a drunken stupor or stoned (possibly).  If you’re unmarried, childless, gainfully employed and unencumbered by any other responsibility, your 20s are the appropriate time for fucking around and fuck around I did.  That said, for as drunk as I was, I don’t recall the world being as barking mad as it appears to be today.  Could it have been because I spent ½ of my 20s living outside of the Bible Belt where religion was just one of those things that was a part of life and not the sole point of life?  I really don’t think so.  I lived in predominantly Catholic Western Pennsylvania, went to a state university and for the life of me, I don’t recall the cafeteria feeding us meat on Friday.  It was fish.  Every Friday in Western Pennsylvania was fish and mac and cheese day.  Yet, no one was hounding me to surrender my faith.  Those who even bothered to ask really didn’t care that I wasn’t one of them.  Oh, and I really loved fish and mac and cheese day, too.

Religion didn’t really become an issue for me until I moved to the Bible Belt.  Since then, I have had the joy of experiencing discrimination at every single job I have had.  It’s not pleasant.  But what’s really unpleasant, what’s really the catalyst behind my picking up my ball and going home (reevaluating my entire position on religion, in general) is the incessant attempts at evangelization.  Yes.  I understand that certain groups have instructions to go forth and seed.  And, yes, I have tried to be patient and respectful of this but a person can only stomach so much before it becomes offensive.

As I see it, religion and attempts to shift someone away from their existing ideology to the ideology of another is just madness.  And it’s presumptuous, rude and in very poor taste.  Think about this scenario:

You’re out and about doing whatever it is that you do and someone walks up to you with a shirt in their hands.  They see that you’re already wearing a shirt but that doesn’t really matter to them.  That person thinks their shirt is better than the shirt you’re currently wearing.  They say “Look.  I have a shirt for you.  I think you need to put it on right now.  This very minute, to be exact.”  You tilt your head in confusion.  You point to your shirt.  You tell them that you’re already wearing a shirt that you quite like.  Yet, the person you’re speaking to is neither listening nor caring about the words coming out of your mouth.  Instead, they say “NO.  You must wear THIS shirt.  This shirt.  Right here in my hands.  Wear it.  Wear it now.”  Again, you look at your shirt and the slightly deranged person talking to you and you say “Allow me to iterate, I have a shirt.  I’m wearing a shirt.  It is a comfortable shirt.  No thank you.”  Still in denial, they thrust the shirt in your face and adamantly exclaim “But MY shirt is better than YOUR shirt.  It will save you!”  “Save me?  Save me from what?” you ask “Is it made of Kevlar and thus bullet proof?”  The shirt bearer stares at you like you’re crazy and says “No.”  You ask “Is it impregnated with some sort of anti-bacterial and/or anti-viral substance that will keep me immune from all disease?”  Shirt bearer shakes head no.  “In the event that I’m standing atop a very high building, near the ledge, and someone decides to shove me, will a parachute deploy and will I float safely to the ground?”  The shirt bearer, again, responds “No.”  You follow with “Ok.  Given that there is zero evidence that this particular shirt will save me from three imminent threats (or three terrible traps, three terrible traps, three terrible traps – so terrible!), please tell me how and why you think this shirt can save me.”

Marginally flummoxed, the shirt bearer responds in the only manner they can “Well, it’s because that is what I believe.”  You, finding this data insufficient, tell the person that you disagree with them which prompts the de rigueur “But then you will go to hell.”  Not one to pass up the opportunity to scramble brains, you say “Well, the joke is on you.  I don’t believe hell exists.”  Completely exasperated, the shirt bearer hollers “PUT ON THIS SHIRT!”  You calmly say “Please take your shirt and leave.”  “MY SHIRT IS BETTER THAN YOUR SHIRT!  I WILL NOT BE DENIED” howls the shirt bearer.  You repeat “Please take your shirt and leave.”  “WHY WON’T YOU WEAR MY FUCKING SHIRT?”  Losing patience, you testily snap “Please take your shirt and your very un-pious self and go away.”  “I HATE YOU.  I WILL ONLY LIKE YOU IF YOU WEAR THIS SHIRT. “  Again, “Please take your shirt and leave.”  Shirt bearer snarls “YOU ARE A VILE HUMAN BEING AND I’M GOING TO SPEW HATEFUL WORDS AT YOU, YOU BLASPHEMOUS, SINFUL PIG!”

In that scenario – do you want to put on that shirt?  Do you want to spend time with that shirt bearing freak?  NO.  And now you understand why many of us are growing tired of religion, in general?  Is the popularity of the Flying Spaghetti Monster starting to make sense?

Within the first few months of living in North Carolina, a colleague asked me out to lunch.  I was excited as I thought “Hey!  Friend making time!  Hooray!!!”  And, since we know how much I love putting myself out there and trying to make friends, this was a pretty big deal to me.  On our way to lunch, she played Christian rock which I found peculiar but kept my mouth shut.  At lunch, she openly prayed before eating.  Again, for someone not from the Bible Belt – different but something I was going to have to accept as the cultural norm.  Then she proceeds to talk to me about religion.  She expresses her grave concern for my soul since Jesus is not my savior.  She is very worried that I’m going to hell; so worried that she invited me to lunch to talk to me about where I was going astray.  All I could do was look at her, smile and say “I’m not concerned about hell.  I know you’re praying for me and that should take care of it.”  We never went to lunch together again.

Mind you, all of this isn’t meant as an indictment of Christianity.  Like every family has its crazy relative, each religion has its crazy zealots who taint the rest of the followers.  Each religion has its own issues with thinking it’s the only path (towards what…who the fuck really knows).  Each religion sits in judgment of the next.  Shit – each religion judges itself.  I spent one Rosh Hashanah listening to a Rabbi drone on forever about how horrible the Hasidim are towards those who are less orthodox.  The Rabbi condemned someone in our own faith for condemning us.  It was one of the most fucked up experiences I have ever had.  I wanted to walk out of synagogue but I was too afraid that the Almighty above would smite me for leaving temple in the middle of a High Holy Day.  And don’t even get me started on how fucked up being afraid of something that may or may not exist is.  My attempts to reconcile that one over the past 18 years have proven unsuccessful.

And this is why I sit with a very fatigued brain and heart and wonder if any of this is worth it.  Aside from some inner peace which could, theoretically, be obtained through various other methods, what is humanity getting out of this whole religion thing?  War.  Discrimination.  Murder.  Death.  Women being treated as chattel or worse.  On a good day, we’re lucky if someone is simply offended by hearing their religion used as a verb, it seems.  That’s not sufficient enough for me.  Not anymore.

There are many things I think humans are not capable of handling responsibly, as collectively, we all do a wonderful job of dropping the ball and screwing things up.  I’m starting to wonder if religion is one of those things.  Have we bastardized the whole concept to the point where it is more detrimental than beneficial?  Is religion simply an outmoded technology (a series of laws before there were actual governments)?  I  genuinely do not know.  What I do know is this – I cannot bear another yesterday.  I don’t want to raise my child in a world where yesterdays are not only possible but normal.

Reflection and resolution…

…if you look too closely, will you drown?

Each year I say I’m not going to set any resolutions for myself because I don’t particularly care for failure and I may be the least disciplined person on the planet.  I may have a routine for certain aspects of my life but that’s about it.  My mind changes far too rapidly and I have piles of things dedicated to causes or hobbies that I lost interest in within a span of five minutes or five days.  For the past week or so, I was wondering if I should challenge myself and establish a few things that I’d like to see myself achieve or conquer in the coming year.  The mind remains a jumble.  Please don’t state the obvious:  better structuring of the thoughts because, really, I have been seeing a therapist for fourteen years now and I’m comfortable with the fact that my brain remains a tangled mess of words, thoughts and images.  Furthermore, I fear what would happen if the noise abates.  How could I honestly respond “busy busy busy” when asked some random question by any random person if the clamoring ceased?  And, no, I’m not a Bokononist.  I simply think “busy busy busy” is the most suitably succinct answer to certain questions.

If I decided to challenge myself and set some goals (which I have masterfully avoided doing since the age of sixteen), what would I set for myself?  Would I go with the clichéd but valid lose x amount of weight?  Would I resolve to become more physically active?  Would I resolve to stop putting every single person in my life in front of me which consistently results in a husk of Kang tatters on the floor (not a humble-brag, ‘tis fact)?  Do I eye another rung on the career ladder and decide to climb it?

I have no fucking idea.

And thus therein lies the problem that’s always been.  I have skated through life with no goals.  Financial goals:  none comparable to what I have seen from my friends.  Career goals:  I was in management before the age of 30.  Decided management was not suitable for my temperament on many levels and have avoided it ever since.  Personal goals:  finally, after many years of soul-crushing failure, managed to have a kid.  But none of these were actual goals.  There was no master list I kept where I ticked off my achievements and added additional items to make myself a better person.  I’m just one of those people who gets up, gets out of bed, goes along with what the day has in store and deals with it.  Some days, I manage better than others.  Other days, getting out of bed is enough to merit a gold star.  Basically, I’m like every other fucking person on the planet.  No special snowflake or stardust, here.

What compels us to sit down on the 31st of December and engage in this silly exercise, anyway?  Is it basically peer pressure?  Do we see others sitting around, trying to improve themselves and think “Hmmmm.  Maybe I should get on this bus?”  Where and when was it drilled into our heads that at a specific date and time, we’re supposed to modify all the negative behaviors?  Because, if this is supposed to be a thing, am I not doing that on a weekly, if not daily basis, via self-improvement and general avoidance of being a raging asshole towards the entire world?

If someone barged into my office right now, held a gun to my head and forced me to pick something, I suppose I would opt for:  get back in touch with the writer within.  For two miserable years, I stumbled around with everything bottled up inside presuming that no one gave a single fuck about what was on my mind.  For some misguided reason, I thought my voice had to have a specific audience or someone had to be remotely interested in what I had to say or what I was trying to say (the more important of the two).  Turns out – staying quiet out of fatigue and ambivalence is a pretty stupid way to go through life.  Especially if you’re someone who isn’t quiet by nature.  So, maybe writing more would be something I would resolve to do in 2015.  I cannot say that for certain because the Kang Muffler still looms large and is still very much present.

The only other thing that springs to mind is a passionate resolve to return to Sweden in 2015.  Come January, it’s been seven years since I have been on Swedish soil.  Seven years since I have left American soil.  For a natural wanderer, this is just insane behavior.  Granted, life has changed significantly in that time span but there are relationships that need attention and attention I have not given them.  Not to mention the huge chunk of my soul that has gone un-nurtured for far too long.

Or, maybe, the only resolution I need to make is to get back to being a better version of myself.  The me that includes all I was before Kate died and took a large part of me with her to the grave (as others have observed and told me).  The me that includes the part that had to be put on the shelf because I was no longer just Kang, I became Kang+Milkface which I wouldn’t trade for anything.  There will never come a day when I won’t “think too much” and I remain committed to not surrendering that part of me, no matter how frustrating others may find that trait.  It feels like the only things I can answer are the phone and the door.

So, if I was to actually make a list of goals for 2015, I suppose I would:

  • Write more
  • Visit Sweden (and actually return to the US, solely because I highly doubt we can find a functional equivalent of Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns for Milky anywhere else)
  • Get back in touch with my bad self
  • Not chastise myself in December of 2015 for failing to do any of the above

Oh…and one other thing – stop apologizing for who I am.  I’m really quite over that.

UPDATE:  Courtesy of the Resolution Generator that’s floating around Facebook.  I’m not exactly sure what to think of this one.