Naming names…

…or not.

“I will not name the shooter.  I will not give him credit for this horrific act of cowardice.”  John Hanlin, Douglas County Sheriff

And many other peanuts.

There’s a new way to deflect any discussion about gun control after yet another mass shooting.  Rather than actually engage in thoughtful discussion about gun control and, I don’t know, do something about it for once, we’re going to offer up our prayers and tears and recognize those who have fallen, support the families of the victims and deny martyrdom to the criminal who committed the crime.  The mentally ill, white man who shot up this week’s target of choice, a community college in Oregon, shall remain nameless.  So sayeth the sheriff (who did not get shot and certainly not by me who is fundamentally against firearm ownership) and basically everyone else who wants to feel better about themselves but doesn’t want to do much more about the social cancer killing 380 people so far this year and injuring over 1,000.

Nope.  We’re not naming names.

Nope.  We’re not going to change.

Nope.  There is no problem here.

None.  At all.

Except there is.

And we should likely do something about it.

As of today, we have ticked 275 boxes off our calendars.  As of today, there have been 294 mass shootings in the United States.  Is this acceptable?  Can we really sit around and feel comfortable with our ability, as a society, to responsibly manage firearms?

Now, I know those pro-gun types are going to thump their chests and drag out the whole Second Amendment argument.  Very well.  You just won’t ever feel safe in your own homes without your well-regulated militia, will you?  Do you mind if I ask you a very serious question, then?  When is the last time your well-regulated militia assembled to discuss battle strategy?  Are your learning materials coming from Annapolis or West Point?  Who is the General?  Do you have a secret handshake or get to wear a hat like Fred Flintstone’s Loyal Order of the Water Buffalo?  Going bowling with your buddies while secretly wishing you were hanging with The Dude and Donny doesn’t count, either.  I really want to know about your well-regulated militia.  Please leave feedback in the comments below for my edification.  Thank you.

As for the individualists out there looking for an argument – you are not an island.  You are not entirely self-sufficient.  When you drive on the road you built entirely by yourself, live entirely off the grid, rely on no one, then you can moan about your individualistic rights to owning a gun.  Until then, shut your foodholes and accept the fact that you are, indeed, not the sun and Earth does not orbit around you.  You, individualist, may actually have to do something selfless for once in your life.  I know, here’s a hanky.  It’s tough out there for a pimp.  But really, I can empathize.  Shit, I can sympathize.  I used to smoke like a motherfucking chimney and when I had to start huddling under an umbrella in the rain because you didn’t like that my second hand smoke could kill you, I wasn’t upset with you, personally.  I recognized that I had a very dangerous hobby/habit that I needed to surrender.  And I did.  And I’m better for it.  You will be, too.  Trust.

To speak to the naming of the names, the next time there is a mass shooting (because there will be a next time), I think, instead of acting pious and saying “I’m not going to allow the shooter a moment’s glory or let him be a martyr.  Noooooo sirreee, Bob!”  I think we should start naming donors to the NRA.  I think we should start naming the lobbyists.  I think we should start naming the Congressfolk on the take.  If we’re not going to name the perpetrator, let’s name the accomplices, instead.  Maybe, once everyone realizes the blood is on their hands too, they will take a long, hard look in the mirror, man up, put down their inane instruments of death and finally accept the fact that their little toys are dangerously stupid and offer little value to the greater good.

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.

Failure is an option…

…and a viable one, at that.

Content wise, I have been resisting the urge to push links to other stories and articles.  We did that in KangWorld, which was fine, but Random Misanthrope is more about us and less about everyone else. Every now and then, I’ll stumble across a story and think “Hmmm…this needs to be shared” and then nope away from it because it’s not in scope; not what this iteration of Kang’s int4rw3bz fuckery is about.

Today, I’m breaking the law.  I’m washing the dog.  I’m being an editorial rebel because I just (fo realsies and shit) finished reading an article that was like an egg beater to the brain.  A much needed kick in the pants for me, at the very least.  A sorely needed reminder that it’s perfectly fine to fall flat on your face, owning it is good and sharing the failure is even better.

Professional Kang has never had a problem with owning her mistakes. Early in her career, she learned it’s an admirable trait and people appreciate honesty, chutzpah and the willingness to right the wrong. Personal Kang loathes failure.  In fact, she lives in visceral fear of it. Why she cannot apply what works so well for her professionally to her personal life is something she struggles with daily; especially since she knows she really is far too intelligent to have such a significant mental disconnect blocking her on-ramp to Happiness Highway.  :vomits in mouth a little:

With that blather done and addressed, I’ll get to the good stuff:  the article in The Guardian titled “My big fail:  losers come clean on their all-time low.”  I tried looking for a few passages to pull out as a teaser and, really, I don’t think it’s fair to the article to do that. Everything is compelling and to snag a snippet for click-bait would be…meh.  Not to mention, each of the vignettes deserves its full due.  I suppose the only thing I could really carve out and leave as a point to ponder is this:

“A failure isn’t always big. It might just be a realisation that you could be doing better things with your life.”

Ahead of me, tomorrow, is a long drive home to Philly with my ever-present sidekick, the Milkfaced One.  At some point, as we molder on I-95 in Virginia, he will fall asleep and I’ll be left with some quiet time to climb up into my brain and over-think just about everything in my life as I’m wont to do.  I will be revisiting my friend, The Big Bewildered Bunny of Borås.  I will be intensely auditing the past six or seven weeks of the clichéd “new normal.”  I will be wondering how and why it is that I use the right words on the wrong people and what I can do to correct that timesuck.  There’s nothing quite like the breakdown (or epic fail) of a major relationship in your life to get you thinking about all of your relationships with everyone else.  Who is worth the time?  Who isn’t? Now that you find yourself feeling pain, are you inflicting it on others and what the fuck are you going to do about that, sugartits, because that’s not a good way to go through life?

Then, I’m going to do something very bold:  I’m going to ask myself the question “What’s it going to take to make you happy?”  Supremely happy.  Because I have learned two things as I adjust to the “new normal” and they are:

  1. Happiness:  it’s mine for the taking.
  2. Failure:  just a synonym for opportunity.

“There is nothing like puking with somebody…

…to make you into old friends.” – Sylvia Plath

Note:  For Clifton.  For the only person who comes close to understanding.

It’s winter and winter, in my opinion, is a useless season.  It’s boring.  It traps us in the house, it shrouds us in darkness and makes us overeat.  It drives some of us bananas.  For as much as I love Sweden, I don’t know if I could handle living there permanently because the mere thought of very few hours of sunlight a day horrifies me.  And, I don’t think the light box therapy would do much for me, either.  Neither would copious amounts of vitamin D.  Winter just sucks.  It makes my fingers and toes turn bone white if they’re not wrapped up in thick socks and gloves, my skin crack and it gives me cabin fever.  Compared to Kate, I handle winter well.  Kate loathed winter.  It sucked the life out of her – so much so that she lacked the energy to spew a torrent of fury about how much she despised winter.  The most she would say was “I hate winter.  I’m going back to bed.  Wake me when spring comes.”  Maybe she should have been a bear?  Maybe we should all be bears?  I wouldn’t object to hibernating.  I really like to sleep, I don’t care much for the insanity between Thanksgiving and New Years and the only thing I would really miss is post-season football (and, as an Eagles fan, it’s not as if I would be missing much there, either).

To get through the tedium of winter, Kate and I started building little rituals.  For a while, we saw each other over Martin Luther King, Jr weekend.  Were we being servicey?  Nope.  Were we drunk?  Yup.  Did we sit in a lump on the sofa, under a pile of blankets and overdose on carbs, cheese and wine?  Of course!  We would also watch really crappy movies, eat more really crappy food, paint our toenails, lament about guys and life in general and spend money on clothes.  Kate’s mood was usually meh even if she was happy to have company.  I was thrilled to escape the doldrums of daily life and see Kate.  Anytime there is a change in geography, my spirits immediately perk up a little.  My perkiness likely annoyed Kate but she tolerated it.

Spring, though, spring was the time of year where Kate and I would go bananas.  Spring spelled trouble.  We started celebrating Easter together in our own little way.  Our sole observation of Easter, itself, was eating the ears and tails of chocolate bunnies.  Maybe a few jellybeans.  Certainly a lot of bread (ok…so she had her fill of the Body of Christ, I suppose).  Kate was a health nut and carbs were off limits and only to be enjoyed when her less than healthy friend, Kang, would come rolling into town.  Throwing a loaf of freshly baked bread at Kate was like dumping catnip on the floor and watching a trillion cats come streaming out of the woodwork.  Through mouthfuls she would always say “Oh…my…god…this…is…sooooooo…good.  I…cannot…stop.” :chomp gnaw chomp gnaw gulp gulp gulp:  Then she would reach for another loaf and a glass of wine to wash it down.

Do you really think carbs were trouble for us, though?  Really?  Come on, now.

Putting together a renewed Kate and an excitable Kang is like the clichéd putting the two things together in chem lab that results in an explosion which causes the evacuation of an entire school and surrounding neighborhood.  Bad things or potentially scary things happen.  Use of judgment is suspended.  It becomes an exercise in giving zero fucks, albeit not instantaneously.  It takes a while to get the ball rolling.  During my “eulogy” (I really don’t want to call it that but I’m not sure what else one would call it), I explained that Kate and I were yin-yang.  When Kate came alive, there were no limits.  She was bold and she took risks.  Kate could be wild, fun and outgoing.  Meanwhile, she would be dragging along her shy (until certain level of intoxication was achieved) pal who had the proverbial rod up her ass at all times.  You know the type – the woman who would dust off seats before sitting down because she’s a freakish germaphobe;  the woman who worried if the guys we were talking to would try to slip roofies in our drinks.  Why Kate never pulled the rod out of my ass and clubbed me over the head with it remains a mystery but there was one instance where my being a total tight-ass worked in our favor (we may or may not have bogarted someone’s entire stash of weed while camping out at a NASCAR race and they may or may not have expected compensation in forms other than monetary and I may or may not have suggested that we run like the fucking wind to get away only to end up falling into a gully and having Kate standing over me, laughing too hard to help me out of the gully with the worms, snakes, tarantulas, alligators, rodents, scorpions, grizzly bears, wild boar, etc…).

Easter weekend always resulted in several incriminating photos of us (once, she decided we were going line dancing and dressed me in head to toe denim – RED, made me wear ropers with fringe and teased my hair).  One night always ended with our running away from men who thought our game of “let’s see how many free drinks we can get from these weasels” wasn’t a fun game for them.  One of us was usually screaming “OMG!  RUN!  Run faster!”  Alternatively, “Hide here.  They’ll never find us here (the aforementioned gully was not part of the ‘hide here’ plan)!”  Most nights culminated at the Waffle House with a table full of food while we mewled incorrect lyrics to really shitty country songs.  And in our drunken, maudlin stupor, we made plans for our retirement.  No matter where we were in life, no matter what we accomplished, no matter how much money we had, how many husbands we had been through, how many children were involved, Kate and I were going to buy a house somewhere in the South (preferably near water) with a giant porch.  We were going to have 20 million cats, sit on the porch, gum our dinners off of tv trays and gossip about everyone who walked by.  We would also be doing this while wearing all the really nice clothes we had purchased during the daylight hours while we were sober.  And maybe some of the jewelry, too.  Ok…definitely the jewelry and none of that cheap shit for us, either.  Sure, there was a time and a place for paste and there wasn’t anything inherently wrong with wearing costume jewelry but we were ladies and, as such, we demanded the good stuff from the men who would not be permitted to live in our retirement home.  They (the men) were, however, welcome to live a few doors down and come over to fix whatever was broken.  We may have hatched these plans while we were seeing double, stumbling drunk and on our way to throw up the delicious vittles we just stuffed in our faces at the Waffle House but we were always, always pragmatists.

Oh…and did I mention shopping?  Yes, it might seem like something that girlfriends do together but Kate and I have been doing that together since we were fifteen or sixteen years old.  We were exceptionally impatient with each other on our particular snipe hunts for the perfect whatever.  Kate’s sense of style was impeccable – from slutty chic to well put together slob – she could pull it off.  Whereas I was floundering in the finest of corporate attire (something which caused her considerable angst when she saw me in a suit and pearls for the first time).  Kate also possessed this uncanny ability to find the niftiest stuff at second hand shops (again, something I would never dream of doing since…GERMS).  One weekend, I lamented that I didn’t have a decent pair of jeans so Kate took it upon herself to find one for me.  She regretted it from the minute she volunteered.  How did I know she regretted it?  We lost count at pair number 80 (no embellishment).  As she brought pair after pair back to me in the dressing room, she went from knocking on the door and handing them to me to throwing them over the door.  Then the throwing became aggressive with intent to harm.  Probably around pair 90, I decided that I would take two of the same solely because I didn’t want to lose an eye.  But…when you’re with your best friend, even assault by denim and whiffs of pending death are simply signs that you’re loved dearly.

Sundays would eventually come and it would be time for me to load the car.  Usually, at this point, the sisterly aspect of our friendship would manifest itself.  There was a lot of “Oooooh…I love you so very much, I’m so glad you came but…please get the fuck out.” on her part and I would be thinking “Oh…I love you very much.  Thank you for a wonderful weekend.  Please try not to get us killed the next time we get together.”  We would stuff all of my shopping loot in the trunk, pound the trunk shut, exchange hugs and kisses and I would be on my way back to Raleigh where I knew a verbal spanking awaited me for my husband did not view these weekends as fondly as I.  To this day, I remain confused by that.  Granted, I may have spent the equivalent of a mortgage payment or two but it’s not like I was arrested or anything.  It’s not like I came home with a second husband.  And, really, what’s another tattoo, anyhow?  It’s my body; not his.

Whenever spring rolls around now, I wait until the yellow clouds of pollen settle and then I go for a drive on the back roads near the house.  I roll down the windows and open the sunroof as Kate would do.  I’ll play music that Kate would listen to (except the Grateful Dead.  Kate – I’m so, so very sorry but I cannot abide by that shit and you know it) or might like now.  I’ll think of our high jinks and smile a devilish smile.  I’ll choke back a tear or two and remind myself that I’m supposed to be enjoying this moment on her behalf.  Then, I’ll return home and resume life with no one knowing what I have just done because best friends, among many things, are also the keepers of the secrets.  If I’m feeling particularly untethered or lost, I might pull out the hatbox full of the pictures she loved to take and send and go through them.  Or, I’ll go through my closet and look at the clothes I bought during one of our many sprees.  And then, I’ll envision Kate rolling her eyes at me, making a silly face and laughing at me for being the closeted, sentimental fool that I am.  The side of me that only Kate and a very select few ever get to see because, again, secrets.

In real time, it’s the end of January.  MLK Jr weekend has passed.  Easter has yet to arrive.  My fingers and toes are still bone white and totally numb.  I’m in total agreement with Kate about the eternal suckitude that is winter – especially winters that bring only cold rain and no snow.  At least light reflects off of snow and no matter how old you are, you can play in snow.  My hibernation tendencies are high but there are things to be done.  Milky and I need to go find lingonsylt today since the grocery store near our house stopped carrying it.  Much to my surprise, the end of the month of single-momming it finds me upright and marginally pleasant but I believe a lot has to do with the fact that each day, I try to do one thing that Kate would enjoy doing.  One thing to keep Kate’s spirit present.  One thing to keep Kate with me in a way that’s more than just a memory.  Maybe today will be about a freshly baked loaf of bread or maybe it will involve a giant nap?  Maybe I’ll be wild and crazy and do both if Milky allows.  I will certainly do one thing, regardless of Milkface’s plan:  think of spring.

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.

It had to happen…

…eventually.

Being married to a self-proclaimed Evangelical Agnostic and drifting further and further away from my faith, the question loomed large. What are we going to do with the child? Since there is more to being a Jew than the religious aspects, we really were faced with a significant challenge.  The Evangelical Agnostic is not shy about his feelings.  At one point, he said anyone who followed any religion was “stupid.”  I was sitting in the den.  EA was standing in the doorway.  Hanging on the wall, facing me was a plaque that reads “Shalom” (it’s still in the same spot but the den is now Milky’s bedroom).  My house is not outfitted with Judaica but there are bits and pieces here and there.  I collect dreidels.  I have menorot (one via my grandmother and namesake).  There is a mezuzah on the doorpost.  None of these things speak to my level of commitment to my faith, though.  At least not on a conscious level.  They’re more along the lines of “things Kang likes” or “things you just do.”  When you move into a home, you put a mezuzah on the doorpost.  It’s just what is done.  As Milkface grew inside me, I thought of the whole “stupid” comment while sitting in my den, looking at the word “Shalom” and trying to keep the definition and spirit present within and wonder…what do we with the kid?

While I’m of the Reform persuasion, looking back, my upbringing was leaning a bit conservative.  Had it not been an interfaith marriage, I’m pretty sure our family would have been members of the Conservative temple.  For years, my stepfather dragged me to and from shul for Hebrew school (Mondays or Tuesdays), Sunday school and confirmation classes.  My mother would deal with my sullen, unpleasant tween self by forcing me out of bed, into a dress and over to temple for whatever classes were on Saturday and services. I’m a proud member of the Jew Camp Illuminati (credit to Foster Kamer for that brilliance), having gone away to the Poconos for eight glorious summers of shenanigans, kosher food, prayer and the opportunity to not be a minority for at least four to eight weeks a year.  Jewish summer camp is a pretty big deal and I highly recommend reading City Boy: The Adventures of Herbie Bookbinder by Herman Wouk if you’re interested in learning about the long tradition of sending little Jewish kids off to the mountains in the summer since it’s been going on for nearly 100 years.

Ultimately, we decided that, at the very minimum, Milky would be culturally Jewish.  He would identify as a Jew.  Half of his family is Jewish.  Random Yiddish words pop up in conversation so naturally that I’m completely unaware of the occurrence.  My family is delightfully neurotic and prone to self-deprecating humor.  On my part, there is a very strong passion to keep the family folklore alive – from how my father’s family managed to evade a Pogrom, my stepfather’s family experience with the Holocaust and the general immigrant experience that many Jews either had first hand or have heard via tales from their Bubbes and Zaydes.  Then there’s the ugly baggage that comes along with being Jewish (culturally or observant) – bigotry and rampant racism.  If the child is going to be raised as a Jew (practicing or non), we, as parents, are going to have to prepare him for that.  There is no avoiding that.  Not even if you grow up in suburbia with other Jews.  The bigots…they will find you and depending on where you are in life, what your experiences are and how you are adept at managing this bullshit, your life will become a temporary hell.

Now that we consigned Milky to his fate, without his permission (something oft criticized by the EA set), all we needed to do was put the plan in motion.  Here you go, kid.  Have fun with your new identify!  You is J00, now.  You will have latkes, gefilte fish and chopped liver and like them.  You will grow up being told that you will be a doctor and a doctor you will be (Sorry, it’s your father’s fault you were born male).  Your mommy will wreak such havoc with your psyche that all future romantic partners will curse my existence for perpetuity.  And don’t even think about looking at a state college, pal.  It’s Hopkins, MIT or Duke for you.  Fret not, you’ll find other young, Jewish males whose soul has been sucked from them, too. You will sit around bars and basements with them, watch sports and critique the game play at an expert level while being completely unable to play said game yourself because, let’s face it, we’re not exactly athletic people.  You’re welcome.  Really. You should be a little more gracious and appreciative, however.  Mommy had to do an enormous amount of work and sacrifice a great deal of herself to provide you with all of this.  And you won’t even pick up the phone and call…

Since we are not religious and are not practicing anything other than how to not leave the living room looking like a toy tornado ripped through it, religious symbols, holidays and other things haven’t exactly been high on the list of things we discuss.  Sure, we’ll whip out the menorah at Chanukkah and light the candles but we also have the tree and give presents on Christmas.  Dock may not like the concept of religion but he sure as shit loves the concept of presents.  This year, however, things are changing as Milky is in kinderMAPP and is learning *everything* at a pace that defies description.  This includes symbolism.  Last month, it occurred to Milky that the “stars” are ours and the “t’s” belong to everyone else.  Ok.  Time to discuss religion, explain symbolism and tell him that there are many more flavors at the old ice cream parlor.  But the point – Milky knows he is Jewish and he seems pretty down with that.  Kewl.  Let’s hope he doesn’t decide he wants to go to synagogue or have a Bar Mitzvah because I’m not sure I want to deal with that aspect of it for reasons I’ll explain later.

The drawback to Milky’s realization and self-identification is now he knows he’s Jewish and to my point earlier, this privilege comes with a whole lot of unnecessary and unpleasant baggage.  The other day I wrote about my experiences on Rosh Hashanah where the Jews were eating each other.  I don’t want Milky to experience that.  I don’t want Milky to have to listen to ramblings about how Jewish he is because his lineage isn’t 100% Jewish.  I don’t want Milky to be put in the position of questioning his identity as I was when I was a teenager.  That shit hurts!  You think you’re in a safe zone when you’re among your own and it turns out…you’re not!  Scripture is murky and can be interpreted many different ways.  Some may say that certain people aren’t Jewish but others will accept that they are.  People outside the faith make no distinction when it’s time to put us on train cars, though.  So, that’s huge problem number one:  potential discrimination from within the tribe.  I don’t like dealing with that.  Do you think I want to put my child in those crosshairs?  Say what you will about my parenting methods but no one can say that I’m not one hell of a protective mom.

On to problem number two:  discrimination and intimidation from everyone and everywhere else.  I mean, do I really have to cite specific examples?  Is that really necessary?  Were we not paying attention in history class, folks?  Very well – what happened yesterday in Paris? Unsatisfied with the outcome at Charlie Hebdo’s office, the fanatics decided to raise the bar on the berserk scale and go buck wild at a kosher grocery shortly before the start of Sabbath.  Four people were killed.  Why?  Wrong place at the wrong time?  Did they do something offensive?  Did they run over a cute little bunny on their way to work?  Possibly.  Nope.  Nope.  They were killed because they were Jewish. Of course.  Now, France doesn’t have the best track record managing anti-Semitism and I feel fairly comfortable pointing a finger because I did spend time in France and did spend over ten years of my life studying all things French.  So no, I’m not rambling from a knee-jerk perspective, looking for a source to assign blame.  That said, you know it’s bad, you know it’s legitimate when François Hollande flatly declares the attack at Hyper Cacher was anti-Semitic.

Awesome.

I should like to add – as the events of yesterday unfolded and I was jabbering with my family, this came as a surprise to no one.  We all saw this coming.  As soon as the words “kosher market” were said, we knew.  We knew why.  We knew what the outcome would be.  We know these things because we have lived this directly or indirectly.  And, as I mentioned the other day, there will be plenty of commentary stating that the evil, horrible Jews deserved what they got.

Tell me, again, why I chose this life for my child?  Of all the things I could bestow on my kid, I decided to give him a life of managing this? What was I thinking?  Why am I even thinking these things?  I’m not the one with the fucking problem.  Neither is my family. Nor most Jews.  And please, shut the fuck up about Israel.  This is about being Jewish; not Israeli.  Stop linking the two every single time something happens and stop using politics as an excuse to be a fucking racist asshole.  Jews don’t deserve to be targeted because of the actions of a nation they don’t live in.  YES.  It is that simple.  Furthermore, if people keep attacking Jews and killing us, these people are simply enforcing the need for a Jewish state where we nice, minding-our-own-damn-business Jews can go about our lives without having pennies thrown at us, having to endure hate speech, see swastikas, listen to “jokes” or worry about being killed.

My question about whether or not human beings deserve such a privilege as religion may be nearing an answer in my own brain.  I’m beginning to lean towards:  NO.  It’s far too destructive and we do not use the tool/device as we should.  Looking back through history, we haven’t been, either.  My personal perspective – I’m very close to cashing in the old chips and walking out the door with my remaining kitty.  I know I’ll never cease being a cultural Jew and that part I will not relinquish.  That part I will pass along to my child.  As for the religious aspect, I don’t think I am capable of fully relinquishing that, either. There’s too much guilt and fear.  Yet another reason why I wonder if religion is a good thing.  If you think about walking away from it but don’t because you’re guilty or afraid – that isn’t a good thing.  That’s an abusive relationship, is it not?

Another day, more words, continuing frustrations and no answers.  And in due course, I’m going to have to have the conversation that all Jewish parents have with their children. I’m going to have the good fortune of trying to explain why, throughout history, people have been killing us because of religion.  No amount of self-deprecating humor, jokes about the IJC or funny stories about the insane allegations that Mommy is an agent of Mossad will soften the blow, either.

KISS ME

Kiss me
When I least expect it
When I’ve no chance to deflect it
Someplace
Where no one can detect it
Not on the forehead or the chin
But on the mouth
And deep within
Kiss me freely
Nothing pending
Kiss me like
It’s never ending
Kiss me.