Archives 2008

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Yes, Dear

My husband has asked me no less than ten times when I'm going to post something, so I figure I should do that before I have to throw him in the wood chipper.

Here's what's going on:

I am in the Dallas airport waiting for my connecting flight to San Francisco. I am in sweats, flip flops and a shirt that's sign language for, "WTF". I forgot the charger for my laptop and some pushy woman tried to sell me one at a kiosk for $140 before I laughed and then realized that bitch was serious. I can't find a food place that sells Dr Pepper and I'M IN TEXAS, HOME OF DR PEPPER, YOU COMMIE PINKO BASTARDS.

Thank you for the compliments on the new design but it was all the work of the incredible Christy over at Ruby & Roja Design/ and she only charged me a gift certificate to Taco Bell and a ceramic frog. Don't ask. The point is, she is super-human and incredibly affordable.

Oh, and Jenn won the contest for the translation of Susan Johnson because she was dead on. There was actually a transcript on the news stations web site because, well, that shit was necessary. But the commentary and attempts kept me in tears for hours and I thank you all for participating.

Now, my battery is flashing at me and I have to go find someone with a Dr Pepper because, although this is my home state, I've been in Memphis long enough to go all POW! Susan Johnson on them because I ain't scurred.

I'll buy a charger in San Francisco. Right after I buy a bottle of Belvedere vodka.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


Contest

This is too good to pass up. I'm giving away a prize to the first person who can decipher Witness #2's (the female) testimony in comments. I'm so proud to live here.

For men: A brand spankin' new Hard cover copy of the book, Sex: How To Do Everything By Em & Lo. It's a wonderfully detailed book and literally has everything in it. It's so good, in fact, that my husband begged to keep it. Sorry, babe. (I said, "spanking" and "hard". Heh)

For women: A Prize Pack with stuff from people who want us to look 28 when we're 50. How can you argue with that?

Ready, set, GO!

Guest Post

Danny Evans took a break from blogging so he and Hot Wife could fulfill a lifelong dream of going to a nudist colony, so I got to Guest Blog with some other incredible people. It's here.

Disclaimer: I'm totally full of shit about the nudist thing. Wink, wink.

Sunday, July 06, 2008


This Is My Holiday Weekend

This is Harmony.






She is the quintessential toddler. Everything is the most fascinating thing she's ever seen, everything must be man-handled while inspecting it and she drinks four Red Bulls and 2 double mocha lattes before we get up every morning. Harmony has discovered Sponge Bob and while I'm not one to encourage my children to sit in front of the tv (at least not until they're teenagers and, then, DUDE. I DON'T CARE IF YOU WATCH A 24 HOUR MARATHON OF GIRLS GONE WILD, JUST QUIT BUGGING THE SHIT OUT OF ME), can I just say that if it were possible, I'd give Sponge Bob a Sponge Job. If you know what I mean.


This is Virginia.





There is a hole in our yard that has been there ever since we moved in. It's where the city, in their infinite wisdom, put in the water thing-a-ma-bob. I imagine that some guy with too much ass crack and a toothpick in his mouth said, "Meh. Whatever. Put it right there." Virginia ran full-tilt-boogie through the yard, landed in the hole and somehow catapulted herself across the sidewalk and into the street. I've never seen anything like it. It was like a Mary Lou Retton routine if Mary Lou was spastic and completely uncoordinated. If Virginia's knees hadn't looked like raw hamburger meat, I would have pissed my pants laughing. As it is, it broke my heart to see how hard she tried to be brave while the blood poured down her legs. Ice cream and Neosporin fixed it.


This is Cooper.






We are dog-sitting for my friend, Erica. Cooper has 3 expressions: confused, nervous and, "Holy shit-olee, where'd ya get that biscuit?" He could be the soundtrack for, "Chris Farley has Sex", but he has been an absolute angel for the 3 1/2 days we've had him. He was initially nervous around Virginia because she insisted he wear a tiara, but after a couple of hours, he was her constant shadow. When she went outside to take the trash out, he sat in the window and whimpered pathetically until she came back. And then he was like most dogs and attacked her with face licks like she'd been gone for weeks.

And while everyone was setting the neighborhood on fire in honor of our country's birthday, I scrapped my proposal and then devoured the five books I purchased on the subject. After the hysterics were over, I started again. And, can I just say, this shit is hard. Harder than writing the book because you have to justify to people why your book is so much better than everyone else's of the same general subject. I'm not that strong in the area of self-confidence, so if my book ever does get published, I will have to give a special thanks to Ben & Jerry's for making Imagine Whirled Peace because, seriously? Only thing I've eaten for the past THREE days. I'll be the lady at BlogHer being transported around on a flat bed trailer and bellowing whale song.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


Wishing

Dear God,

I want these things, in no particular order:

1. I want to take a shower one time without the water running cold. I can get up at 4 a.m., when everyone is asleep with dried spit on their chin, and one of them will inevitably get up and flush the toilet while I'm leaning over, shaving my legs. Ice cold water in your ass crack will dispel any sleepiness, trust me on that.

2. I want people to move the right-hand lane. It's like they have a meeting every morning and make the decision to drive in front of me, blocking both lanes at ten miles under the speed limit. I have 3 kids, a day job and a part-time job. My life is measured in milliseconds and I cherish every one of them. If you continue to torment me, I will stop taking my meds, hunt you down and kill you and then plead temporary insanity and get away with it and do you know why? Because the Judge was late for my hearing due to some jackass driving slow in the left-hand lane. Jackass.

3. I want someone to explain to me why my 8-year-old daughter is channeling a fifteen-year-old asshole. We can't go more than half an hour in our house without having a meltdown of epic proportions.

"Virginia, come eat dinner." Meltdown.
"Virginia, you look nice." Meltdown.
"V, can you get me that book?" Meltdown.

I blame you, Oscar Meyer. Quit pumping all those hormones into your hot dogs (the only thing she will eat these days) because this child is one tear away from landing in boarding school with explicit instructions not to send her back until she's married. Furthermore, it will affect her breast development and, DUDE. NO HELP NECESSARY IN THAT ARENA.

4. Please make strangers stop asking me why I have a band aid on my thumb. I appreciate your need to fill silences with small talk, but, does it really matter what happened? I got hungry, a rabid opossum attacked me in my sleep, prostates have teeth, WHO CARES? Back off my boo-boo, stranger.

____________

As an aside, there are slutty women in my sidebar doing things like sucking seductively on lollipops and giggling. The one I'm captivated by right now swears that her interests are Mediterranean food and poetry. I call bullshit. Methinks her interests are more along the lines of sparkly things and bank accounts.

____________

"Virginia, I have to go to San Francisco. This is kind of a big deal."

"How long will you be gone?"

"Four days."

"Four? Four? Can't you just tell them no? I don't like it when you're gone."

"I don't like to be away from you, either." This is a blatant lie. I love my children immensely but I'm so excited at the idea of four days away that I could just shit.

"Why do you have to be there?"

"Because I'm speaking on what's called a panel. And, you never know. I could run into someone who knows someone who wants to publish my stuff and pay me three billion dollars. And then that pink pony will be mine."

She was not impressed. "Can't you just text message them?"

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


1-800-SUICIDE

I saw this on Postsecret the other day and couldn't post it to my blog from work (can't see the video at work or the link for some reason). Alanna reminded me (thanks, Alanna) and I'm posting it now.

Please go here and watch the video and help save 1-800-SUICIDE from government interference. I've personally called this line and without the understanding, compassion and non-judgmental love of the person who listened to me cry, I don't know what might have happened.

Miss you, B.

The Crazy Chronicles, Part 30: Three Steps Forward

"And the good news is I'm better for the time we spent together
and the bad news is you're gone" - Diamond Rio, "You're Gone"



I pushed Chris away with a ferocity that surprised even me. What had he done, really? He had been supportive, helpful, attentive and my kids loved him. There were small voices arguing inside me: too young, he'll leave, he's the one, give him a chance.

During all of this, my friend, B, counseled me against forging a relationship with Chris. "He's not right for you." I loved B and I valued and respected his opinion immensely, so I listened. Chris and I sporadically talked via messenger every now and then, but for the most part, we were finished. B was blissful. As a matter of fact, his joy made me suspicious.

"Why are you so happy that I'm so miserable?" I snapped one day.

"Because now I have you for myself," he cheerfully answered.

"B, not funny." I didn't have romantic notions toward B, not then, and it bothered me a great deal when he would say things like that. Then he would laugh and make me laugh and we were okay, again.

My days were busy. I worked and when I came home, I had a family to cook for. I spent as much time with Devon as possible, talking, laughing, sharing music or games, but I still felt something was missing. I would lay in bed at night, watching Virginia sleep (I only had a 2 bedroom, so she slept with me) and wonder what this nagging feeling was.

Chris would call from time to time just to see how we were doing. He was often depressed or sick. I tried to be sympathetic, but I was fighting my own battles with B.

"B, you're married. I'm not getting involved with a married man who lives in another state. I'm not that stupid," I said for what seemed like the hundredth time.

"So, you don't love me?" He was pouting.

"Of course I love you, you're my best friend. Just not like that."

"Bullshit. I'm perfect for you."

"You're drunk. Why aren't you going to your AA meetings?"

"Because those people bore me."

Other times B would call, despondent. After hours of talking to him, life called. If I tried to gently break from the conversation, he would threaten to kill himself. In a lot of ways, he held me captive.

One night, I had a conversation with God. I asked him to please help me find what it was that was missing from my life, to please guide me. That night, I dreamt of Chris. When I woke the next morning, I knew what I had to do. I had to tread carefully, though. I had hurt him and discarded him and I knew it would take time to gain his trust, again. I called him and invited him to a movie and we began the fragile process of starting over with each other. I knew in my heart that the decision I had made was the right one. B was furious.

"He's all wrong for you!" he ranted. "You're brilliant! You need someone who can keep up with you!"

"B, he's one of the most intelligent people I've ever known."

"What's the last book he read?"

"Your library and what's in it is not a measure of intelligence," I softly said. I knew he was hurt.

"You'll see. It won't work."

Every day he reminded me that I was making a mistake. Chris tried to ignore the insanely frequent phone calls and the effect they had on me, but it began to wear on him.

"Crystal, why does he call you so much?"

"He's lonely and he's my best friend. He just needs a lot of support right now."

"How can he be your best friend? You've never even met him."

"And? I've never understood that mentality. Have you and Jesus Christ hung out lately? Does that change the way you feel about him?"

The arguments escalated as the months went by. I felt like I was being torn apart. B wanted me away from Chris and Chris wanted me away from B. It was affecting everything around me.

My frustration boiled over one day while B was spitting venom at me, again. "He's from Arkansas, for Christ's sake. His evolution from ape was just a few years ago."

"B, shut up. I won't listen to you tear him down like that. He's the kindest, most generous man alive and he loves me. And I love him. You're drunk, again. I know you don't mean the shit you say."

"I am not drunk."

"So, you're going to lie to me? Is that how we are, now?" My anger was evident. "I'll tell you what. Don't call me again until you're sober and lucid. I'm sick of you making me feel bad and I'm tired of you lying to me."

"I should just kill myself."

"Stop it, B. Stop with that crap. You can't keep doing this to me." And with that, I hung up.

Hours later, I started to feel bad, so I called him back. He wouldn't answer. I tried for days, sending text messages and leaving one frantic voice message after another. "B, please, please answer. Call me back. I love you and you're scaring me."

A few days later, while I was at work, I sent another text message. I'm going to call your wife if you don't call me and let me know you're okay. My phone rang a few minutes later. I recognized the area code as B's, but not the number. I assumed he was just calling from another phone. "Hey!"

"Hello?" I didn't know this voice. A chill went up my spine. "Is this Crystal?"

"Yes," I whispered.

"My name is Alan. I'm B's brother-in-law. Um, listen. B killed himself a couple of days ago. I'm so sorry."

I fell to my knees and wailed. A thousand thoughts went through my head. He's lying, this is another one of his tricks. He's just setting me free. Oh, God, oh God, no. Not B. No.

I had never had someone close to me die. The grief and guilt swallowed me up and I surrendered to the overwhelming confusion and disbelief that followed me in. B was gone.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


Progress

It's been an odd week. First, I received this email from Devon's father:

"Ok I havent had time to read your blog in the last two months and I just now caught up on the Crazy Chronicles,,,, Well I wish I could get on my pedestal and argue, scream and say you lied about me and painted me in a unkind picture but you didnt...you were honest,,,and thats the part that hurts the most, sometimes it is what it is,,,, and I was an asshole,,, but all things happen for a reason."

I spoke with him on the phone about Devon spending a week there this summer and he was gracious, humble and incredibly understanding about the Chronicles. I'm very proud of the effort he's making to change his life and I wish him nothing but happiness.

But I still want to run Vangie over with a forklift.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


AND I Know Where Jimmy Hoffa's Body Is

The other night, we had dinner with some friends from church. My friend,Erica, and I were wandering around their house and going through their underwear drawers (as women are wont to do) (yes. Your underwear has been handled by every female who's ever innocently asked you to use your bathroom. Just accept it and move on) when Erica noticed that the younger daughter's goldfish was swimming upside down. "Look at this crazy fish!" she exclaimed.

"He's constipated," I said. She looked at me like I was insane. "Seriously."

We went back to the living room and I mentioned to the girl's mom that the fish was in trouble. "Really?" she asked. "Constipated?"

"Yeah. You just mush up some green beans - not the shell, just the bean part - and sprinkle a little in the water and, voila! Goldfish laxative."

She looked shocked. "Wow. We just thought he was weird."

Later on that evening, Chris was looking at me speculatively. "Why do you even know stuff like that?"

I knew exactly what he was referring to, so I went with my old standby. "Because my mom didn't breast feed me."

I would rather him think that than know that I was actually an honorary member of the American Goldfish Association. Nothing says, "you're a complete tool", more than that.
Posted by Crystal at Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I Didn't Mean SHE Was A Hussy

EDIT: Just reached $4,100 in less than 48 hours. I am so grateful to each and every person who cared about this enough to hope, pray or donate. I am leaving the button up because anything extra will go to groceries and prescriptions, but I wanted to let you know that their service is paid in full.

You are all heroic to me.

-----------------------------


I just got this email from my aunt Bonnie:

___________________
Crystal,

I read some of the things your fans wrote and I cried…and I’m at work…don’t do that to me..please let them know that we do help Mom and Dad and love them very much. And they will never know how much we appreciate not just their donations but their prayers. Thank you for doing this also…I knew you were always one of my favorites but you did hurt my feelings calling me a hussy…hey…I only have 3 kids…love you bunches. Bonnie

__________________The total is up to $2,500. Four thousand dollars seemed insurmountable, but what's left to come up with? Not now. Not because of all of you. I cannot tell you how much joy you all give me, just to, in some small way, know you and be a part of you life.

My aunt said she will gladly video my dad returning the watch to my granddad on February 22nd and I will immediately post the video.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Will Write For Food

















Edit, #2: if you prefer, the mailing address is:
Buck & Lucy Pool
c/o Bonnie Browning
P O Box 52203
Amarillo, TX 79159-2203

This picture is of my grandparent's holding hands in the hospital. My nanny (what I've always called her. Shut up) was brought in a wheelchair from her room to see my granddad and my aunt caught this on her camera phone. She sent it to my mother who in turn sent it to me.

My grandmother's cancer is back. My grandfather has various health issues. I'm not sad about them approaching death; I do wish it was without suffering.

Grandad is almost 100 and Nanny is not far behind. By my rough calculations, they have been married for over 70 years. They have parented 15+ children (I add the plus because there were more but that's another story and not mine to tell), a whole shit-ton of grandchildren (hi, I'm Crystal. Number 1,842. Really, no need to applaud), great and great-great grandchildren.(And there might be some great-great-great floating around. Shameless hussies, the girls in my family. Hi, Aunt Bonnie! Aunt Judy! Aunt Janet! Aunt ... I lost track. Where was I?)

I am angry for the quality of life they have lost thanks to horribly over-priced medications and a country that doesn't revere their elders and take care of them as we should. I am saddened by what my mom and my uncles and aunts will endure when Nanny & granddad finally succumb and realize, dude, WE'RE OLD. They have worked all of their lives, have lived frugally and without complaint and, seriously, let's just represent: They remember my NAME. That, in itself, deserves some recognition because there's a freaking family forest, not just a family tree.

I am disappointed in myself because it's taken me over a month to write this post and every time I started to publish it, I looked around and saw other's who needed help so I put this on the back burner. I am ashamed. I have this opportunity to help them and I haven't done it because so many people have their hands out these days and I didn't want to abuse the loyalty and friendship and acceptance you have all offered. But I can't sit by any longer. Not after seeing the watch.

My dad came home with it after my mom's last trip to see her parents. He called me and asked me to come pick it up. I went over and he handed me a heavy pocket watch, unremarkable except for the fact that it's over 100 years old and still works perfectly.

"It's Buck's," he told me, using my grandad's nickname. "He bought it from some guy back in the early 1900's. The guy was down on his luck. Your grandad paid him a hundred dollars for that watch to help him out."

"What do I do with it?" I asked.

"I don't know. I told him how you raised money for Kristen, the babies. I thought, maybe..."

I was shocked. My grandparent's have nothing. They don't live in a big house, they live in a tiny, rented trailer in the west Texas heat. Why would my grandad want to give up his watch?

My dad took a deep breath and forged on.

"He doesn't have the money to finish paying for his and Lucy's burial plots. He doesn't want anyone else to be shouldered with that, so he asked me if you could sell it for him," he finished softly.

I looked at the watch that my grandad, soon-to-be father of fifteen children, paid a hundred dollars for in 1932. A hundred dollars. Money that he had earned working one of the most physically demanding jobs in the world: as an oil field roustabout. What he paid was greater than what he earned in a month.

I have looked at that watch a million times in the last month. I have held it and wound it and softly ran my fingers over the etching of the train on the casing. I have wondered how many times since my dad brought it back to Tennessee that my grandad has reached for it and then remembered that it's not there. I wonder what it really cost him, giving that up and asking for help.

I took the watch to a friend of mine who's a jeweler. I had the romantic notion that it would be one of those instances like, "Traveling Antique Show", and he would exclaim and sputter and tell me it was worth one. BILLION. dollars. Instead, he sadly looked at me over the rim of his reading glasses and shook his head. "The craftmanship is invaluable. They don't make them like that any more. But...it's not gold. It's not worth anything."

When I was a little girl, my granddad would buy me a giant box of chocolate Whoppers every Christmas. I would tag along behind him, my cheeks bulging with malt balls, and watch him tend to his vegetable garden and his flowers. Of the hundreds of grandchildren, I was the only one who got a gift. He always spent an extra couple of dollars they didn't have to buy me that box because of what it meant to me. I was a very lonely little girl and he recognized that. He made me feel special because at any other time of the year, I didn't.

That watch is worth something to me. It represents the pride, the love, the dedication to family and the kindness my granddad and Nanny have always shown other people. It reminds me that when I was a little girl, my grandad thought I was pretty great.

I will not sell that watch. I will send it back to him, with a check from me for whatever I can empty out of my medical bill fund and I will hope that it will give him a restful night in the midst of the long nights of worrying that he's endured. That money has been going toward Virginia's medical bills, but, you know what? They can wait. My granddad can't.

The donation button is back up in honor of my grandparent's. If you have ever laughed with me or at me, more importantly, or you think I'm worth a dollar, then I will proudly give it to these two wonderful people who got all busy and made my mom and thus made me.

(If you don't like me and you want payment for having to put up with my shit, the line forms to the left)

Saturday, January 26, 2008


Miko

I was one of those people who said, months ago, "Oh, I don't need a flu shot."

Last week when I was whining and curled up in the fetal position in a doctor's office, hindsight kicked me in the crotch and called me an asshole.

As I battled through the megatons of snot, I had another brilliant idea that I would soon come to regret: "Gee, these regular tissues are really killing my nose. I think I'll use baby wipes. Mmm, soft".

The following day, my skin started sloughing off.

I have no idea how Harmony has any ass left, but I think that's what happened to me as a child. My jeans are forever falling off because I have no butt to stuff into them and it is the direct result of all of what little ass I did have being wiped away with those horrid baby wipes. THANKS, MOM.

My skin was puffy and peeling and scaly. I looked fabulous.

I felt well enough to venture out today to return a gift I had given my dad for Christmas. It is a wine opener with a button. You push the button, this wickedly sharp needle pierces the cork and then air is injected, via the needle, to force the cork to rise out of the bottle. Great for an arthritic man who likes the occasional glass of wine, no?

"Crystal, take this back. Your mother tried to kill me with it."

Right-o.

I walked into Dillard's and began my normal routine. Walk quickly and with purpose, cringe all the way through the cosmetics department, avoid direct eye contact with the sales ladies because THEY WILL EAT YOUR SOUL, scurry to the home decor.

I found a service counter and placed the wine-weapon on the counter .

"Ma'am, this purchase was made over 30 days ago. My manager is going to have to-," the sales lady began.

"My mom tried to use it on my dad's head. Twice."

"Would you like that credited back to your charge card?"

"That would be lovely."

As I purposefully made my way to the front door, I scratched at my irritated skin. I scrunched up my nose and used the palm of my hand to rub away the itch. As I was squinting through my watery eyes, a tiny Asian lady appeared in front of me and blocked my path.

"You need help," she said.

"Umm, no. Thank you. I was just returning an item and-"

"Was not a question. You need help. Come with me."

I was perplexed. As she turned to lead the way, I protested.

"No, really, I don't use many cosmetics-"

"I can see," she calmly said over her shoulder.

"-yeah. Well, I have to go, now."

She rounded on me, eyes narrowed. "Your skin is on the floor."

"What?"

"Skin!" She barked. "On the floor! Falling off! Your skin is falling off, but you don't need me?"

I have been speechless a few times in my life. This was one of them.

"Ma'am, I have no idea what you're talking about," I said.

"Young lady, you rub skin. Fall off. Onto floor. Need help. Come with me, now."

I followed dumbly behind her as she led me to a cosmetics counter. Shiseido.

She began rummaging under the counter, muttering to herself. "Hm. Start with wash. Need balance. And moisture."

I glanced down at my sweat pants.

"Miko? Is it My-ko? Or Mee-ko?" I asked, indicating her name tag.

"Is pronounced 'My'."

"Ok, My-ko. I do need a moisturizer. You're right. My skin is horrible. I promise to leave here and go directly to Wal Mart-"

She paled. "You feed baby out of garbage can? Hmm? This what you do?"

"No. I feed her chicken. Peas. Sometimes she likes-"

"Enough! You no buy moisturizer at grocery store! Your skin is like crusty crocodile! Grocery store will be no help to you and face will fall off!"

"Oh, my God. Crusty crocodile?"

"Worse! Now! You use this wash at night. Wash with cold water, gently. Then, use balancing lotion."

"Does that say forty dollars?" I asked.

"How old you think I am?" she asked.

"Oh. I can't-"

"How old?" she demanded.

"You...I...forty." She smirked. "Forty-five," I burst out.

"I am seventy-eight years old."

I laughed. "You are not seventy-eight."

"Oh, so now I am liar? Miko is a liar?"

She began uttering in her native language. I can only imagine that the next seven generations of McKnob's have been thoroughly cursed.

"I'm so sorry. Of course you're not. I'll take whatever you say I need to not be crusty," I begged. "You'll take a check?"

"You put on Dillard's charge card."

"How did you know I had a charge card?"

"You just told me."

I expect to look like a pre-teen in about 3 months.

Monday, January 21, 2008


Yes, You Should

I was pondering whether or not I should write anything in honor of the day and then I decided not to. I wasn't a part of that struggle and although I greatly admire Dr. King and his strength and bravery in the face of such hatred, I didn't feel it was my place.

At school on Friday, my daughter's class discussed why they had no school on this day, the man they are honoring and the great things he accomplished. Virginia was very moved by his kindness and dedication to a harmonious society.

Later that day, she went along with Chris to an appointment. At some point, she couldn't take it any more and asked about the Lunchable that he had placed in the seat between them.

"I have to take a stress test today," he explained. "I haven't been able to eat since yesterday, so the doctor told me to bring something to eat for afterwards."

"Oh," she quietly answered.

Lunchables are kryptonite to Virginia. I rarely buy them because of their price and nutritional value, so she covets and drools and trembles when she sees them. ALL THAT CRAP IN THAT TINY LITTLE BOX! NO COOKING REQUIRED! OH, JOY, LUNCHABLES IS THY NAME!

Upon finding out the purpose for this Lunchable, however, she bit her lip and looked away. And that was that.

She sat in the waiting room and flipped through a magazine and after the stress test, she asked Chris how he felt.

"Good," he replied. "I'm really not hungry, though."

Her eyes widened almost imperceptibly and her lip twitched. Just once.

"Would you like my Luncha-" he started.

"Yes! Yes, I would! But, only if you don't want it! Because you haven't eaten and I don't want you to get sick and I can always eat the glue I peel off of the door frame and-"

"Virginia, you can have it. I'll get something on the way home."

As she delicately bit the end off of her Oreo, she looked at Chris very thoughtfully.

"Chris?"

"Yes, Virginia?"

And with the utmost seriousness, she said, "Do you realize that you just made a difference?"

"I did?"

"Yes. You gave me something of yours. You gave me something that I didn't really need, just to be nice. That makes a difference," she solemnly finished.

"I guess I didn't think about it that way."

When he told me that story, I laughed and my heart swelled until I thought it would burst. She is a miracle of a child and the love that she has for other people will eventually make a difference, too. A mere gesture such as that made an impression on her and we, as adults, expect so much more that we tend to be disappointed in the small things we are offered.

When I finished a phone call today with an older gentleman calling in from Memphis, he apologized for the noise in the background.

"I have my grandbabies with me today," he explained.

"They sound happy and healthy. Please don't apologize," I answered.

"Thank you, young lady. You continue to have a blessed day."

"And the same to you."

And then he said something that I will never forget.

"One more thing, child," he said.

"Yes, sir?"

"Renew that dream."

And here seems like a good place to start.

I have a dream....

I have a dream that one day we will unite as a country to care for the deserving ones who cannot care for themselves. We will provide health care for our elderly and not force them into poverty with rising pharmaceutical prices for medicines that enable them to simply live.

I have a dream that we will welcome our military home with joy and gratitude and not force our beliefs upon them about a war they fought while we watched it on the news.

I have a dream that one day I will not fear sending my children to a public school.

I have a dream that myself and others like me can speak freely and innocently, with no malice in our hearts, and not be labeled as a person who hates simply because of the words we choose.

I have a dream that people will rise above those words thereby taking away their power to harm.

____________

I am terrible with being tagged. I rarely do it, not because I don't want to, but because it would require me to never sleep. I like sleep.

But I'll ask that you do one thing: continue this on your blog or in an email to your friends or on the back of your car with shoe polish, if you have to. Simply begin with those words and let your heart take over.

Renew the dream.

A. Post

I called Chris last Thursday from my cell phone.

"Chris? Are you busy?"

"Yes."

"We're at the store. Devon needs a copy of Watership Down, but I can't remember the author. Can you Google it?"

"No! Busy!"

"Oh, Google it. It'll take ten seconds."

"Ugh. Hang on."

I hear noises that are mildly disturbing. He finally comes back to the phone.

"Ok. I have the laptop. Water Bottom? What was it?"

"Watership Down."

"Hey, Chris, it has bunnies on it!" Devon cheerfully screams in my ear.

After a moment, I become impatient. "Chris?"

"Yep."

"The author?"

"She has nice boobies, this woman with the bunny ears."

"Christopher."

"Right-o. Book," he says, "Ok. Here it is. It's by A. Naw-velle."

"Gosh, babe, that's a hoot. A. Novel. Hyuck, hyuck. Now, please tell me who wrote it."

"I just did! Some guy named A. Naw-velle!"

"Chris, you can't be serious."

"I have to go now. The paint bucket is getting cranky," he calmly informs me.

"Paint? What? You're painting?" I ask, alarmed. Chris doesn't exercise words like, "Caution", and, "Safety", when painting. We have traveled this road before.

"Priming, right now. Did you know that spiders use their webs like trampolines? They're quite abrocatic. Abro-acro...they like to do flips and shit."

"Chris, hon, do you have a window open?"

"'Course not. Brrrrrr. Cold outside."

"Open a window. Now."

"Silly, Crystal. If I do that, all the balloons will get out. I have to save them for Pearl."

"Who is Pearl?"

"Shhhhhh! Don't say her name! She's shy!"

"Who is she?" I whisper.

"She makes lost sock art. Very creative, that Pearl."

"Chris, I'm coming home. We're going to sit outside and do deep breathing exercises."

"Ok, sugar. Do you think my hair will grow back?"

Saturday, January 19, 2008


I Can Not Even Talk About This

VOODOO WOMAN!

Voodoo!

Let's look at the facts, shall we?

1. I get so overwhelmed with four different projects that I am unable to dedicate myself to the daily emails I send Matt.

2. The very day I find out that he KNOCKED THAT WOMAN UP I am hit with the most debilitating flu virus ever.

Coincidence?

I think not.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


New Ways For Me To Shove My Opinion Up Your Ass

Danny over at Dad Gone Mad has started a message board!

I have not been this excited since WASP announced a reunion tour just as soon as Blackie got used to his new dentures. COME OVER AND TELL US HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT MINI GERKINS! COME ON!

Edit: There are technical difficulties being worked out, but you can register, it just might take a bit for you to get your confirmation email. Make a sandwich.

Monday, January 14, 2008


New Year, New Deductibles to Meet

I broke my toe. The small one. The one on the outer end of your foot, the one that stays snuggled in it's own compartment in socks and shoes because it's shorter and God did that SPECIFICALLY TO KEEP THIS FROM HAPPENING. You can't even paint the toenail on that one, you just kind of swipe some polish over skin to give the impression of a toe nail.

It's that small.

Now, earlier in the evening, as I was trying to go to sleep, Chris rolled the computer toward him and away from the wall so that he could sit on the end of the bed and surf for porn. (Not really, Mr. & Mrs. McKnob! I just like to embarrass him. He was really watching the Broadway musical, "Hairspray".) I mumbled at him to make sure he pushed the desk back so that it was flush with the wall when he was done and he assured me he would. After the tragedy, he vehemently declared his innocence in the matter. So, here's my theory:

Dusty purposely moved the desk out because he's still pissed that I had his balls cut off. The end.

That makes more sense, doesn't it?

As I stumbled to the bathroom in the middle of the night, the corner of my foot encountered the resistance of the metal wheel on the bottom of the desk. I heard an unnatural crunch and then a high, reedy whistling sound. As it turns out, the whistling sound was the my brain informing my toe that it was fuuuuuuucked up.

As I fell to the floor in a fetal position, I wheezed, "But, I don't need more blog material."

Dusty sauntered in and licked my nose.

"Go away, stupid dog," I whispered. "Get out of my room. Go make me a martini. My foot is broken."

It could have been Ambien. But, I swear he laughed, a'la Muttley, and said, "Lock your door, woman. There's more where that came from."

My dog is trying to kill me and frame my husband.

Friday, January 11, 2008


The Only Way I Can Thank You For All You've Done For Me

EDIT: The video is fixed. But you can still follow the link below if you want to see other info.

click here

Thank you for letting me know and being patient!
___________________________________________________________________

Because of the rarity of the bond I feel with my readers , I was extremely hesitant to send an email out last night about something that is very exciting to me. I don't have a lot of confidence in myself, but I have the utmost confidence in this opportunity. I sent out an update asking for mailing addresses because I thought I would just send some information about it and offer more if anyone on my subscription list was interested. What I didn't anticipate was the overwhelming response and the sobering realization that I don't have the manpower it would take to mail everything out.

So, I worried.

It bothers me a great deal to not do exactly what I say I'm going to do. If I tell you I'm going to do something and then realize on the back end that it's not humanly possible, I will exhaust every alternative until there are none left.

As a for instance, a few months ago, I listed my Bumbo seat on Craigslist (this was before the recalls). I received an inquiry from a very sweet girl who lives in the area and had one young toddler and one new baby. After meeting with her and giving her the seat, I chatted with her for a minute. In the course of the conversation, I learned that she and her husband were struggling their way through college while raising their 2 small children. I will never forget the financial hardships I have dealt with or the people who stepped up when I was in dire straits, so I offered to give her anything Harmony had outgrown or had no need for. Her most pressing need was a high chair. Before I thought about it any further, I offered her mine.

"I have another one," I assured her. She graciously accepted.

Chris was flabbergasted. "You have to tell her no. I gave the other high chair away months ago. Just tell her you made a mistake."

"I can't. I gave her my word. They need it."

"And what should we do for a high chair?" he asked.


"We'll have to deal with it," I answered as I carried it out to her car.

I only tell you to clarify the fact that I am a weenie. I am grand poobah of the weenies. I firmly believe that everything you do finds it's way back to you, be it good or bad, and that the best thing I can possibly do in this lifetime is to teach my kids to be kind, generous and to help someone at every opportunity. If they are watching me, looking to me to be their guide, it is my privilege to illustrate to them how lucky and fortunate we are to simply be born in this country; one where we complain about the government and the taxation, yet we go home every day to our Tivo's and our spoiled pets. We don't have to worry about our entire village being murdered or our daughter's being raped for sport. We are American, we are prosperous whether we're living in a million dollar home or a musty apartment and we are lucky. I have to remind myself of that from time to time and it is my duty as a parent to remind them.


My word and my integrity are two things my dad made sure I understood the importance of. They're really all I have any control over.

That being said, when I decided to send out a reply via email with the information I originally intended to mail, I was fretful. I didn't want anyone to think I wasted their time. I didn't want anyone to think I was disingenuous. I DON'T WANT TO LOSE ANY OF YOU. As hokey as that may sound (and for as much as it drives Chris batshit), whenever I have needed help or support or even when I didn't ask for it, you have all rallied around me and, if necessary, bared your pointy fangs and defended me when I couldn't speak for myself. Some of you have been here, commenting and supporting for four and a half years (Shecky, DanjerusKurves, Warcrygirl, to name a few) and you're not a dollar sign to me. You're not a number or a screenname to me. In a world where trust is something that I give out far too easily and have it bite me in the ass, you all have never let me down.
I'm not ashamed of what I'm doing, I'm not embarrassed by the money I'm making, I'm simply fearful to ask others to trust me. Were it not for someone I trust implicitly showing me this and showing me the results and the possibilities, I would never have been involved. I came to my boss 4 1/2 years ago from a temporary service with every intention of being here with his insurance business for some short period of time while I finished school. My resume already read like a phone book, so what was one more? Within 2 months, I had been bowled over by his incredible integrity, brutal honesty and a genuine heart. This was a man who wanted to help me to succeed. He was someone who kicked me in the ass when I needed it and pointed out the flaws that I myself didn't want to admit. I have worked with him side-by-side since then and he and his family are like family to me. There is nothing he could ask me to do that I would even hesitate to question.
It was my lack of confidence in myself that was holding me back. "They read me and they support me, but what if they think I'm crazy?"
Ok, that is not a good analogy.
What if I lose them? What if they think I'm trying to get them to do something shady?
"Are you?" Rod asked me.
"No."
"Then what are you waiting for?"
"I don't know. I just...they're important to me. They believe in me."
A few days ago, I received an email from a girl, Amber, who lives in Florida. She is eighteen, mother to 3-month-old Chris, and drowning. Her request to me was a simple one: "Can you and your readers let me know I'm not alone?"
Of course we can. But helping in a way that you all helped my niece? I couldn't ask you to do that because I don't know her, I can't vouch for her honesty.
I asked a someone else who's opinion I honor and his response was this: "If you can't trust it, you can't ask them to."
I was sick about it.
"So, you won't ask your readers to help her?" Rod asked.
"No. I can't. They're wonderful, giving people and I won't put them in that position."
"You'll drive yourself crazy over it, though?"
"I'll help her. I just can't ask them to."
"And these are the people you're worried won't have faith in what you're doing with Menage?"
I was stunned. He was right. I have this incredible opportunity in my hands. I have seen it work, I continue to see it work, I believe in it, I trust it, I have talked and researched and looked at this from every angle, and the simple fact of the matter is, it's real. It has worked for me. It is something I've shared with my parents, my siblings, my one friend that I actually see sometimes (whom I met through here. HI, AMANDA!) and why would I not share it with you?
So, I tried. I sent out that 2nd email to the subscribers with some information about Menage and I asked for feedback, be it good, bad or neutral. I just asked that no one be mean. And I got silence. I was horrified.
"Oh, shit. Oh, shit shit shit. They hate me, now."
And I know you don't. I don't know if maybe you were shocked, unsure of hurting my feelings or how you felt. But I really do want to know.
I am a Menage Distributor. The company is a year old and this is a ground level opportunity. You will not get rich overnight, but you can if you work it for a couple of years. It is risk-free, debt free and supported by a wonderful bunch of people. I wanted to share that with you because I would rather have 2 awesome people take this journey with me than 100 shitty, dishonest ones.
I have seen the money. I have seen the checks. Some people want to pay off bills and start a college fund for their kids, some people want to buy a pony and Kid Rock. We're all different, but the desire is the same: to succeed. My main motivation is to help my parents retire and move out of their apartment. Yours may be totally different.
But all that I'm asking is that you listen with an open mind. Just listen. And if you have questions or more interest, call me and I will give you a time and date to "meet" me online for more info. My phone number is 901-314-5574. And, yes, I'm that confident in this.


Thursday, January 10, 2008


As "Chariots of Fire" Played Out In My Head

Last night, I asked Devon to please take Dusty out.

Notice the use of the word "take".

Several minutes later, when I found him playing X-Box live (Devon, not Dusty) (but how much would that surprise me, to see Dusty with a headset, mowing shit down in Halo and eating pop tarts with mustard on them? Not one bit), I scanned the perimeter for floppy ears and his Eeyore stare.

"Devon, where's Dusty?"

"Outside. Dude! Get out of the way! You just shot at me!"

"I have not. Yet."

"I'm talking to Frank."

"Who's Frank?"

"XBox, Mom. Gah."

I have a hard time remembering that every night there are several strangers in my home, via the live connection. They plan hostile takeovers and use dirty words when I'm not around and at least one of them is probably a predator, pretending to be a girl and trying to get my son to send him used underwear or something. But, that's not creepy at all.

"Dusty is on his run, Devon?"

"No. You said 'let him out'. Dude! Did you see that? I sniped him!"

"You sniped the dog?"

"Mom, no, I'm talking to-"

"I know what you're doing. I just like aggravating you because you're a complete turd when it comes to that dog. I didn't tell you to 'let' him out, I said to 'take' him out."

"I did. I took him outside and let him go. See? What's the difference?"

"About 3 pounds of partially digested trash from various houses and me having to clean out a crate full of runny poop and, if I'm really lucky? He'll upchuck in there and then roll around in it at 3 a.m. So, score for me! Frank wouldn't do this to me. You twat."

"Dude, my mom just called me a vagina."

I walked outside to begin the whistling, calling, begging, pleading ritual to get Dusty to come home. This also normally involves those horrid fake-bacon dog treats.

I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and glanced across at the neighbor's house. There, partially visible behind the neighbor's truck, was a very, very fat Dusty.

"Oh, my God. He ate a kid."

I started calling for Chris. Devon followed him out to see what all the fuss was about.

"Chris, look at Dusty. What the hell? Is he on his period?"

"That's weird. He doesn't look right," Chris agreed.

I called him several times and he continued to ignore me and inspect the tire with his nose.

"Mom, maybe he's hurt," Devon offered.

"Like what? He had an allergic reaction to the moldy cheese ball he ate out of the garbage? Is that even possible?"

"I don't know," he shrugged.

"Well, go ask Frank. Seriously, I feel like I'm in the twilight zone."

We knew we couldn't approach Dusty because he will run. We had to wait for him to finish discerning the twelve types of urine on the neighbor's tire and come to us. As we were standing around with our thumbs up our collective asses, I heard a familiar jingling noise. I looked to my right and saw a very normal Dusty trotting toward me. I looked across the street and the fat Dusty was still sniffing.

"Whoa. That's not Dusty over there," Chris said.

We all stood and stared at the dopple-dog as it finally rounded the vehicle and moved into the light. This dog had the same markings, color and movements of Dusty, only he was a fat little Bassett with Snoopy ears.


"Oh," I breathed. "I have to have him."

Dusty heard me say this, glared at the dog and ran across the street to eat his face off.

Then a strange thing happened.

He stopped short, they stared at each other for a moment and then they began the curious and disgusting process of inspecting each other's buttholes with tails wagging. Dusty was happy to let this dog inspect him. As an added offer of friendship, he turned around and pooped right there on the grass. The fat dog sniffed delicately at the offering, tail spinning madly in circles and then he looked at Dusty with the most ecstatic and comical expression as if to say, "Top notch, good fellow! Best pile of poop I've ever encountered!"

I was stunned. Dusty hates all other creatures except the ones he lives with, and he mostly just tolerates us because he thoroughly enjoys licking pasta off of Harmony's face after dinner and we allow it because it's faster than bathing her.

"Chris, look. Dusty likes him. That means we have to take him in," I reasoned.

"No. We don't need another dog."

"Besides," Devon interjected, "he has a collar on. He belongs to somebody."

I smacked him across the back of the head. "Hush, boy!"

He narrowed his eyes at me. "Super-crappy nursing home. You just wait. No Jello for you, woman."

I turned my attention back to Chris. "You make me sad in my pants."

He was not fazed. "Whatever."

We all stood and watched a minute longer. Then Chris had the best idea anyone has ever had, EVER.

"I wonder if I can outrun an overweight bassett hound?" he asked of no one in particular.

I was giddy with delight. "Oh, please. Please do. Please. It would make my whole day and that's just the right thing to do."

And before I could say anything else, my husband, the biggest dork in the world, started sprinting toward the pre-occupied dogs. In his pajama pants. With no shoes on. While giggling.

Dusty saw him first and crouched down in the grass, ready to pounce and defend his long-lost brother or new gay lover or whatever the hell was going through his doggy mind. The bassett seemed mildly concerned, and slowly turned his whole sausage body around before taking off at a slow trot. Chris continued his descent upon the unsuspecting dog and picked up speed.

When the dog looked back over his shoulder, his face was priceless. He paused for a moment and he had actually gotten close enough to us for me to see his expression. For as much as a dog can have an expression, his said, "What the hell? Oh, my God. HE MEANS TO EAT ME!" and then his stubby little legs disappeared as he found that extra burst of go-juice and made a blue streak down the road.

It was 10 p.m. and I was the one in my driveway, bent over at the waist, Devon and I holding onto one another to keep our balance because no one has ever laughed that hard.

That dog is probably half-way to Arizona by now.

Monday, January 07, 2008


In No Particular Order of Crazy

I cannot tell you how moved I was by this.

________________

The best word ever coined is the combination of the word "man" and "boobies".

Moobies.

Say it.

Mooooooooobies.

Thank you, Ralphie May.



________________




I have other things to tell you, things that made me stand cross-legged in the driveway and turn purple, but I dozed off just a minute ago and Matthew McConaughey was feeding me strawberries dipped in his sweat, so, DUDE. I'm going back to sleep.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


I Was So Confused By The Coding That I Originally Published This With No Title

My car is dead. My brother loaned me his car.

This is my brother's car:
















This is my car:

















Let me see if I can illustrate this point any further by completely humiliating myself. This is how I feel when I'm in his car:
















This is how I feel when I drive my car:



My car

Now that we're all on the same page, I show you all that to tell you this:

I'm not vain about my Sable. It's comfortable and somewhat econonical and serves my purpose. I have, in teasing, called the Mustang my brother's "mid life crisis" car and the "Penis Pump"because I just can't understand paying that much for a vehicle the size of a bread box.

Since I've slid behind the wheel, I have not been myself. Chris tries to call me.

"Crystal?"

"What?"

"Crystal!"

"What?"

"Turn the stereo down!"

"I can't! It's "Low Rider". The volume has to be at this level for "Low Rider". It says so in the owner's manual!"

"I need to talk to you!"

"Whatever, babe! Get blue! Blue is fine!"

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"You have the gout?"

"WHAT ARE YOU-"

"All - my -friends -know the low riderrrr!"

*click*

So, a couple of things before I go sleep on the hood.

1. I feel the urge to start smoking long, skinny cigarettes and buy tube tops.

2. No, Steve, I have no idea why the starter for my car is taking so long. I ordered it. I did.

3. I don't wear enough hair product. I need more gel or mousse or something to make poofy. I need more poofy.

It's a phase. It will pass.

Besides, there's NO room in that thing. I had to stick Virginia in the trunk.

Oh. Shit.

(P.S. I rarely post pictures because I suck trying to line all this crap up. This took me over an hour.

I have to go, now. The HTML is screaming)

Home

I am home. Thank you for all of your emails and concern. I haven't gotten around to responding to anyone and I'm extremely emotionally and physically drained, but I will.

I saw a comment on a blog that linked to me and the gist of it was that the person was suspicious of me, especially now that I'm a crazy person and I took a bunch of money from you guys for my family through fundraising efforts.

Let me just say this: suffering from depression and anxiety does not make me dishonest. I will gladly provide proof of that money's disbursement to anyone who would like it, but don't question my integrity just because I was overwhelmed and sought help. A lot of people need help but never seek it. That makes me no different than thousands of people, I just chose to seek help and I chose to make it public because I'm not ashamed of that. It is incredibly hard to admit that you're lost.

On a more McKnob note, though, I have enough material for a decade.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Committed

Well, it is inevitable. Anyone who has an "art" has to be a nut job or an addict. I'm just trying to keep up with the Van Goh's.

My husband is writing this for me because I am in a psychiatric facility. I know what brought me to this dark place, but I am not ready to talk about that just yet. Some skeletons have to be let out one limb at a time.

The walls are a color that defies nature, and I don't feel like making a fucking bracelet or key chains, thank - you - very - much, but I think this can only be a positive experience.

For someone.

Hopefully, I will be back in the coming weekend in the land of running - with - scissors, but until then, Mr McKnob will be transcribing.

Now, if you'll excuse me, it's time for charades and pudding.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Unfazed

Ever since Virginia could form the words, she reminds me every night to come tuck her in. Because we haven't done it every evening for the last 6 years. Because she worries that I'm incredibly old and I forget things, sometimes important things, like, coming home from the store without a pony. WHAT KIND OF PERSON FORGETS TO BUY A PONY?

Every once in awhile, I'll throw a curve ball at her to keep her on her toes.

"Mom, time to tuck me in!"

"Ok. Can you help me trap that crocodile in the bathroom, first?"

"It's 8:30. Time to tuck me in, Mom."

"I'm not your Mom. I'm a clever reproduction put here by the little green Martians and Tom Cruise."

"Mommy, come tuck me in."

"In a minute, sweety. I'm giving birth to your new twin brothers."

She will crinkle her face and tilt it to the side, mentally assessing this statement and trying to determine if it is, indeed, true. I mean, one day there was no Harmony and then, BAM! New, pink thing in the house. Anything is possible. After a few moments, she'll shake her head as though I say the darndest things. "Whatever, Mom. Don't forget!" she'll call as she heads to bed.

Last night, my stomach was particularly upset after having burned beef tips. (Devon, watch the beef tips so I can run and pick Chris up from the airport. Ok, Mom. Right after I ignore them and let them burn to a crisp because I'm too busy playing XBox.)

Virginia met me in the hallway as I was heading to the bathroom for the third time.

"Mom, tuck me in."

"Hang on, V, I have to go to the bathroom."

"Can it wait?"

"Not really. I have diarrhea."

And as if I had just told her that I was going to have tea with The Queen, she said, "Ok, Mommy. You go have your diarrhea and then come tuck me in."

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Better Left Unsaid

Occasionally at work, someone will have a birthday.

I know. Talk about thinking outside the box.

In celebration, we buy a cake and a goofy card and we pretend like we don't know that the birthday person knows we have a cake and a card because, HELLO, we do it for everyone. But, it's an excuse to not answer the phone for a few minutes, so we all play along.

Is everyone warm and fuzzy, yet?

In the rare instance that someone says something they immediately regret, have no fear. I am in the room which means that I will top whatever they say by going waaay over the line because I simply cannot keep my friggin' mouth shut. It's a gift I have.

Today was such a day. I brought up farts. Someone really needs to go everywhere with me and carry a roll of duct tape.

"Chris and his Dad were working on the house last night when I came home and my whole house was foul," I said. "Each one was blaming the other and farting the whole time, 'No, it was him, brrrrrrrrrrrp', Chris calls that 'crop dusting', and I swear, I had to light seven candles. And not for the scent but to ward off the evil spirits escaping their ass. They need to change their diet."

My co-worker, Pam, laughed and said, "They need a colonic."

"Have you ever seen those things?" my other co-worker, Deirdre, asked. "They always reminded me of-" she stopped very suddenly and turned a lovely shade of pink.

"What?" I bugged her. "What? What? WHAT? Remind you of what? What? What? What?"

"I can't," she stammered. Her skin continued to bloom as she whispered, "You know. Those things, I was a kid, it was in the shower and I always wondered what it was-"

And, God help me, I screamed, "A douche bag! I know! We had one too! I could not, for the life of me, figure out what the hell that thing was for!"

Deirdre fell on the floor and died and Pam just stared at me. All the men were looking down at their plates and shifting, uncomfortably.

Now, if you know anything about me, then you know that this is the part where I try to fix things and I end up turning a minor incident into a catastrophe.

"Well, that's how they made them back then," I stammered. "And I guess the mom's kept them in the shower."

Silence. Oh, let me break that for you by BEING MYSELF.

"Mom's should really tell their kids that kind of stuff," I continued. "So, you don't, you know, blow on the tube thing like the bag is a weird balloon, because you have no clue."

Pam fell on the floor and died. The new girl coughed.

"Not that I ever did that," I blurted. "Cos' that would be, eww, that would be, that's just gross. I never did that."

Chirp. Chirp. Chirp.

And the piece de resistance?

"Well, at least we all know my mom had a clean hoo haw," I finished.

So. Who wants to hang out with me?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


How Sweet Is My Nanny?

My aunt Bonnie made this and had my Nanny and Granddad sign it for you.

My granddad had a hard time signing his name.

I'm sure you understand.

The total is very close to $6,000.

It sounds like something your Mom would say, but I'm so proud of all of you. Now, come on in the kitchen and I'll make you warm cookies.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


This Is A Test. This Is Only A Test

In my last post, I made light of the storms and tornadoes that tore through the Southern states on Monday. In reality, I am sorrowful for those who suffered losses and selfishly thankful that my family and friends are okay.

I don't watch the news. I don't watch television, really. I was home sick on Monday, and our babysitter and friend, Bev, called to alert me about the coming storm.

"You know you have to pick up Virginia early. They're letting the kids out an hour before the normally scheduled time because of the weather."

Now, Mississippi is far different than any other state I've been in. Where my sister lives, a snowflake will fall and they shut down the town, pass out toilet paper and call in the National Guard. In my neck of the woods, Godzilla can be stomping through what's left of the city and the teachers will tell the kids to assume the position and stay put while the Principal distracts him with something shiny and then kicks his ass. They scare me a little.

When I heard that they were urging parents to pick up their kids early, I paid attention. This falls into the category of, "Unheard Of". There is no makeup work in Mississippi. If your child misses the last part of class and forever more misspells "there", "their" and "they're"? Oh, well. SHOULD HAVE SPLINTED THAT FREAKING LEG AND HOBBLED YOUR ASS TO SCHOOL, SHOULDN'T YA, KID?

I quickly walked down the block to the school and collected Virginia. She was completely unconcerned about the reason for the short day.

Shortly thereafter, Bev brought Harmony home. While the girls played, I turned on the television and watched in horror as the weather man announced that 25, no, 26, 28! tornadoes had been confirmed and were on the ground. This was shaping up to be the one of the deadliest February tornado outbreaks since 1957.

I went to Virginia's room.

"V?" I asked.

She looked up from the game she was playing. "Yes, ma'am?"

"If you hear me say 'Go!', that means one thing. Get in the bathtub immediately and do not question me. Do you understand?"

"Why?"

"Because we might have some bad weather and that's the safest place. I need you to do it without hesitation, okay?"

"Ok."

As I walked outside to look around, she joined me. She put her arm around me and I could feel her trembling. The sky was churning.

"Why are you shaking, baby?" I asked.

"Daddy just called me. He said there are tornadoes. Are we going to die?" Her eyes welled up with tears and I mentally cursed him for inducing her panic.

"No, V. I know what to do. I'm from Texas and this is not my first storm."

She hugged me tighter and a sob escaped her. She looked so small and vulnerable.

"V? Calm down. Listen...do you hear the birds? Singing to one another?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"As long as the birds are singing, nothing is going to happen. Animals know things, crazy things," I whispered to her while waggling my eyebrows. She giggled and wiped her cheeks.

"But, again, if I say go, go right then," I emphasized.

She went back inside and I gave the sky one more worried look before stepping back in. I stayed transfixed by the television until, with a flash outside the window, our power went out.

I stepped outside my front door, again. The birds were gone. The sky was breathless. I had time to see one cloud, peaking at the bottom and reaching for the ground, before I went apeshit in my head.

As I went into action, I saw Dusty at the back window, plastered to the glass and mouthing the words, "LET ME IN, WOMAN". I hate to admit it, but my initial reaction was, "He's a dog. He'll be fine," followed by, "Oh, hell. He weighs 18 pounds and he's attached to a run. I can just see him flying around in the air like the worlds weirdest kite," then, "If Virginia goes out afterwards and finds nothing but a frayed cord and a fat little paw, she will be in therapy for life." I opened the window to let him in. He must have been listening to the news station because he scampered directly to the bathroom.

"Virginia!" I called as I calmly walked the hallway to my bedroom. "Virginia! Go!"

I burst into my room where Harmony was napping. She sat bolt upright, squawked in surprise as I scooped her up and then looked around and blinked in confusion when I unceremoniously deposited her into an empty tub.

Still, no Virginia.

I made a beeline to her room. I had every confidence that she would sense my urgency and follow my instructions. I had time to open her door, take in her ashen face and bark the single syllable, "Go!", before she went rigid, fell on the floor and screamed, "We're all going to DIEEEEE!"

As quickly as I could, I picked her up and carried her to the tub. After leaving her with the baby, I ran back to her room and with one sweeping gesture, knocked all of her stuffed friends to the floor. "Out of my way, you furry bastards." I hauled her mattress to the bathroom and situated it by the tub. I then went in search of a flashlight. As I passed by the window in the living room, I stopped and looked, stunned. The sky was black, except for the white, boiling mess at the bottom of the turmoil.

"Screw this," I muttered as I ran back to the bathroom. I climbed in with the girls and pulled the mattress over the top of us.

This is the only time in my life I wished I were a great, big fat person. How in the hell was I going to cover my girls?

"Mom, are we going to be okay?" Virginia sobbed.

"Yes, V, we'll be fine. Look at Harmony. She's fine. We'll be okay."

Harmony paused in her inspection of the faucet, turned to look back at us, grinned from ear to ear and promptly shit her pants.

"Or not," Virginia wailed as she began to sob, again.

1. Mattress? - $100

2. Blankets?- $40

3. Your baby daughter shitting her pants while you're trying to convince the older child that IT WILL ALL BE OKAY? Priceless.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


I.nfinite R.ending of the S.oul

You can always tell when you're talking to someone who's been audited by the IRS. You mention those three letters and beads of sweat pop out on their brow. Their eyes take on that panicked bulge to them, the look you usually see on sheep right before they mow all of their wool off - the one that says, "You're going to leave me naked and I really don't understand why."

A few days ago, I received a letter informing me that I still owed a balance for a mistake (not my own, but, hey, who cares? It's the IRS!) that was made for the 2005 tax year. The problem was that the amount I presently owe should have been reduced by the incredibly painful check that was cashed by the U.S. Treasury on November 8th in the year of our Lord 2007 holy crap that was a lot of money amen. The notice I received did not reflect that payment or the fact that we ate nothing but dry oatmeal for the next 2 months because of that payment. And I had to sell a kidney.

I called to question the notice, thinking, like the Disney character that I am, it would be a painless procedure.

My son's head was 40 centimeters in circumference. When I started screaming for someone to please kill me with the speculum, the nurse gave me an aspirin and a pat on the head. THAT was less painful.

My daughter, Virginia, came out forehead first, after 30 hours of playing Nintendo up there. That? Not as painful.

I BROKE MY PUBIC BONE ON A MECHANICAL BULL. MILDLY PLEASANT IN COMPARISON.

After answering a series of questions and working around the language barrier (there are 4 people in the free world who could have interpreted her questions and 3 of them are native to her country. Seriously), the representative and I finally ascertained that my payment was "misapplied".

"Well, what does that mean?" I asked.

"I don't know," she answered.

"At least you're honest. What do I do now?"

"I don't know."

"Ok, that won't work on this question, Shiminganay. How do you know it's been misapplied?"

"I don't."

I put the phone down, banged my forehead into the wall four times and and made myself a triple martini. When I returned, Shiminginay was patiently waiting.

"I had to make a drink," I explained.

"I know. Everyone does," she said.

"So! We have no idea where my money is and you have no record of me ever paying that horrid amount. I have a cancelled check right in front of me, but you can't find it."

"That is correct."

"Ok. Transfer me on. You know you don't want to deal with this crap. Just tell your supervisor I became verbally abusive."

"Ok, hold please."

As I sat and listened to the classical music (intended to calm us down and keep us from tearing our own jugular out. I got YOUR number, IRS), I wondered: if money is received at the U.S. Treasury but there's no House Representative who needs a sex change and a blow-up doll at that exact moment, does the money really exist?

According to the supervisor, that would be a resounding "no".

"Mrs. McKnob, I need you to read me the series of numbers on the back of the cancelled check. That will give me exact information as to where the payment went."

"Ok. 65123325339655521422522 and 4511822585225253366555560 and 41552556633336225522511255 and 74447777885577878787844588 and 633115422545585525556 dash 4122525536888596 dash 55541225222365226589554255. And a zero."

"Thank you. One moment."

"You seriously got all of that?"

"Mmm. Searching..." supervisor said.

"What's the square root of 9,451?"

"I have no idea, but I can tell you that 9809 is a stella octangula number."

"You need a whole office just for your head, don't you?" I asked.

"Well, bad news. I can't find it."

"Your head?"

"Your money."

"Oh, God," I groaned. "It was sent to some group in the Panama who study the mating habits of dung beetles, wasn't it? You can tell me. I can take it."

"No clue. You'll have to send a copy of that check to our research department in Georgia," he answered.

"Georgia? No. That's here in the South. You might as well tell me to send it to the Taco Bell on 3rd street. No one in the South is smart, that's why we're all still here. I want you to research it."

"I can't do that, Ma'am."

"But you told me the medula oblongata thing!"

"Stella octangula," supervisor corrected.

"Yes! Exactly! You'll find my money!"

"Do you have a pen to write this address down?"

"What happens if they don't find it?"

"You'll have to pay it, again."

I was flabbergasted.

"But...I paid it," I feebly answered. "I have a cancelled check. I don't have that money, but I have a cancelled check. Money gone."

"I'm sorry, Ma'am."

"And what happens if I won't?"

"We'll put a lien on your assets," supervisor said ominously.

"Ha! I have an old Rush poster, a pair of Converse from 1989 and a stale bag of Fritos! Can I send THAT to Georgia?"

"Seriously. They'll even take your dog if it has any resale value."

"I'd like to see you try!" I chortled and hung up the phone. Georgia, indeed.

Twenty minutes later, a tornado hit my house. The IRS does not play, people.

______________________________

The total as of right now is $5,813. If you were here, I would kiss you. With some tongue. Cos' I roll like that.

My aunts and Nanny are trying to figure out a way to thank you. I figure a Snickers bar and a bottle of cheap Tequila ought to do it, but they keep saying, "Not through you, asshole. Directly to them."

Pfffffft. Whatever.

_______________________________

CREDITS: To whoever caught that footage on tape. It didn't actually hit my house, it went around it. I'm missing 4 shingles. I WANT MY SHINGLES BACK, IRS.

Sunday, February 03, 2008


Generational Gap

Devon is at my mom's house, watching the Superbowl. I turned it on just in time to see the start of the half-time show. As I did, my phone rang.

"Hello?"

"Mom, what are they doing? They did this last year. It's a bunch of old men."

"You shut your blasphemous mouth. This is Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers."

"Well, if I were Tom, I'd be worried about all that equipment interfering with my pacemaker."

I hung up on him. At the start of the second song, he called back.

"What did you say?" he asked. "Tom something and The Heartbreakers?"

"I will cut you, boy. Shut it."

"Well, I'd just like to know who's heart they broke because I was under the impression that everyone from the sixteenth century is dead."

I hung up on him again. And we repeated the process with the 3rd song.

"Devon, are we going to do this through the entire half-time show?"

"How long is this gonna go on? This is torture."

"I don't know. I think they do four songs."

"Well, they need to hustle or the bus back to the old folks home is going to leave them."

Click.

Ring.

"What, child? WHAT?" I demanded.

"Whatcha doing? Reliving the 80's? Loser."

He often baits me like this in fun. I argue the merits of the eighties far more than I ever imagined I would.

"You know what, Devon? You know that band you were listening to earlier? Sublime?"

"Yeah?"

"Uh-huh. He overdosed on heroin in some motel in 1996. They wheeled Tom Petty and his oxygen tank onto the stage at the Superbowl and he rocked the fucking house. Who's the loser, now?"

Click.

I win.

--------------------------------

I just checked the total and it's up to $4,833. I am constantly surprised and humbled by all of you and your kindness. Oh, and to answer a quick question, the reason I chose the 22nd is because that is when my Mom and Dad are making the 18 hour trek to Midland to see my grandparents. My Nanny has been told what's happening and she is awestruck. My granddad ... well, he had a stroke recently and he's kind of fuzzy at the moment.

I will post pictures and/or video. Although someone pointed out that it's a private, family moment and maybe shouldn't be shared...you have been MY family for a while. So, there.

Now, since we're family and all, I'll take that beer if you're not going to drink it.

Saturday, March 29, 2008


Here! Since You All Know Everything About Me, Right Down To My Toilet Paper Preference, Have Some Embarrassing Pictures!

Let's take a momentary break from the Chronicles so we can ridicule my fashion sense, or lack thereof.

I went through some old pictures at my Mom's a few months ago. I ratholed the ones that should have never been viewed by human eyes and they remained in a plastic bag until a couple of days ago. I pulled them out and laughed my ass off and then thought, "Hey! Why not show the readers so THEY can laugh their ass off!" Because, really. In one of them I'm wearing a helmet. Do I need to say anything else?:








I was thirteen in this picture. I thought it was appropriate to match eyeshadow to clothes, so I'm wearing red eyeshadow. I LIVED ON A TROPICAL ISLAND AND I LOOK LIKE I'VE BEEN LOCKED AWAY IN A BASEMENT FOR 3 YEARS. Ugh. Red eyeshadow. My mother let me leave the house like this.


I wanted to go hang gliding. I figured if the wing went down, I could always hold onto this guys moustache and ride the thermals to the ground.













Did anyone else see Ghost that year?

My God, is there SUN in my world?















There are a couple of things I should mention here:

1. This was when I first got back from Reno, where I was homeless. I didn't eat very often.

2. I have never done this with another picture, but I ripped the guy out of this one because he had the worst mullet in history and I didn't want anyone to know I dated him. (And he was a dick)













Does everyone have one of these pictures? I just want to go back in time and beat me to death with one of those ridiculous fucking shoes.















I have more. I just think you need them in small doses or you'll hurt yourself.

Friday, March 28, 2008


The Crazy Chronicles, Part 12: Unfriendly Soil

“Deep down even the most hardened criminal is starving for the same thing that motivates the innocent baby: Love and acceptance." - Lily Fairchilde

And being alone is the best way to be
When I'm by myself it's the best way to be
When I'm all alone it's the best way to be
When I'm by myself nobody else can say goodbye- Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians, "Circle"


Wednesday, 6 a.m.


I found it startling that some of the women in our little family would get up at 5 a.m. to shower and put on makeup. For the rest of us, it was just another day of Ugly on Parade.

I went for my morning coffee, stretching and groaning. That bed was going to kill me. Actually, calling it a bed was an insult to beds everywhere. It was more or less a piece of plywood with some rubber stitched around it. It made a horrible squeaking noise at the merest hint of movement and when all of us were tossing and turning well into the wee hours, it sounded like a colony of bats having an orgy.

I poured my coffee and sat down. Carter nodded at me and went back to his paper.

When Trish joined us, she looked down at Carter's feet and winced. "Carter! What happened to your feet?"

I moved around the table and looked. His feet and ankles were an angry red. They were swollen and cracked and painful to look at.

He waved us off with a dismissive flick of his hand. "Oh, these damned shoes just don't fit right. It's nothing."

"Bullshit, it's nothing," I said. "Can someone in your family bring you some house slippers? My dad wears moccasins and it's the only thing that finds comfortable. You can get them at-"

"I don't have any family, dammit," he grumbled. "Not here. Not ... I'm fine." He stood, his face clearly telling the story of his discomfort, and pushed his walker out the door.

"Well, I guess that's that," Trish remarked. "My, he can be a bitch."

I said nothing. I was watching the way he hobbled as he found a bench to sit and smoke.


Wednesday, 2:00 p.m.


"Well, it seems your husband made some phone calls and wants you to be graduated to the partial program," Dr Sain said. "He was quite...insistent."

"What does that mean?" My heart was hammering.

"If you feel ready, you can go home at night. You'll come every day, just like a job, until I fully discharge you. But, it's entirely up to you. Don't make the decision based on what your husband wants. It's very important that you feel completely ready."

Then, the strangest thing happened. I opened my mouth and the words, "I'll sleep on it", came out.

"Good. I'll be here at 7 a.m. tomorrow. You just let me know," he finished. He closed my file and walked out. What the hell had just happened? I'll sleep on it? 2 days ago I was eyeballing the walls outside, wondering if I could scale them. Now, I was turning away an opportunity to get the fuck out of here?

Amazing, I thought. I just made a decision that was best for me. How odd that feels.


Wednesday, 3 p.m.


"It was mostly a blur after that. I do remember when we were unpacking in the new house, my dad had a seizure and fell in the kitchen. By the time I got there, he was twitching and spasming in a huge pool of blood. I ran next door and, thank God, the woman spoke English. She came over and the first thing she asked was if he was dead. The word, "orphan", just kept going, in constant loop, through my head."

"Obviously, he didn't die," the therapist said.

"No," I said. "He had to get stitched up, but he was fine."

"Where was your brother?"

"He was there. He helped me clean up the blood. And then, later that night, he got a huge kick out of whispering across the hall that some monster was living in my closet. He knew how freaked out I was. Shit head."

She sat, silent. Waiting.

"My mom came home before Christmas that year. She brought me the movie Footloose. I loved that movie."

"The cancer was gone?"

"Yes. They caught it in time. She was weak and tired, but cancer free. It was years before I really believed that she wasn't going to drop over, dead. And then, out of nowhere, we left and came back to the States."

"How long had you been there?"

"Four years. I had a British accent. My clothes consisted of floor length skirts and shirts with high collars. I skipped the fifth grade in Texas and they moved me directly to junior high. I was quite the hit, let me tell you."

"It was lonely?"

"Awful. Made worse by the fact that the teacher's loved me and let everyone know it. I was bookish, quiet, respectful and always did my work. I was an ass-kicking waiting to happen."

"Did you parents try to help you adjust, to fit in?"

"My Mom tried. My Dad was still working overseas, but in Libya, now. My Mom, though...she was kind of ahead of her time when it came to fashion. She bought me pants with swatches of leather on them and convinced me to get my hair highlighted. I looked like I was acting, and in reality, I was. I wasn't really comfortable in my own skin and it was pretty obvious. I was the tallest girl in the whole junior high, I was already wearing a C cup and my face was this awful combination of freckles and eyebrows. It looked like a ferret had died on my forehead."

"I'm sure you weren't that unattractive."

"I was just an ugly duckling, I think. I didn't know how to do makeup and my hair, God, my hair. Add some social anxiety and nervous gas to that and, well, I ate my lunch alone."

"What did you do for fun?"

"You could always find me buried in a book. I was huge into Wilbur Smith and Stephen King, that year. That little factoid shot me off the popularity charts, too."

"You enjoyed living in worlds that others created."

"And I created some of my own. Books and music were the two things that probably saved me."

"And the next turning point?"

I groaned. Ah, shit. "Is this going to be a non-stop trip down "Shitty Memory" lane? Because I can make you a list."

"Yes, it is. List them for me, verbally."

I glared at her and then smiled. "You're evil. Okay. We moved, again, when I was twelve. I was furious. I thought I was in love with this boy who came down for weekends and the summers. I finally felt like someone liked me and we moved to Malta, of all places."

"Why Malta?"

"My Dad didn't want his family living in Libya. It was a compromise. And it was the happiest I've ever been."

"You made friends?"

"Initially, no. My brother got the last spot in the American School, so I had to take correspondence courses through the University of Nebraska. I finished my seventh grade year in three months and spent the rest of the time snorkeling."

She laughed. "I can imagine you did enjoy yourself."

I grinned. "I did. I was lonely, but at least I wasn't being ridiculed every day. I went through a rebellious phase and my Mom took me to have my head shaved. Very Sinead O'Connor. And then one day, my brother brought some friends home to meet me. Karen and Noelle."

"You became friends?"

"Oh, yes. We were inseparable. Without the insecurity of being at school riding on my back, I was able to be myself with them and they liked me. Karen was the foul-mouthed, drinking, smoking, British chick and Noelle was the American Ambassador's daughter. I was right in the middle and we all fit together perfectly." I paused and took a moment to remember their faces. "I miss them. My family left 2 years later and it was back to small-town Texas hell. Ninth grade. And then, I got pregnant."

"At...what? Fourteen?"

"Yes. I just ignored it, at first. Then my Mom started questioning why I hadn't asked her to buy me tampons. When I started getting sick, she took me to a gynecologist in another town."

The therapist scribbled more notes. I thought, She could save me some serious time journaling and just give me her damned notebook.

"How did your Dad react?" she asked.

I cringed. "Poorly. He didn't want to look at me, so he and my Mom carted me off to a home for unwed mothers. I was to place the baby for adoption."

"Were there other girls your age, girls who could relate?"

"There were other girls. They ranged in age from twelve to twenty-five. They were Buckner
girls, though. I went through a different adoption agency."

"You avoided my question."

"I have always been different. No, they didn't relate. To me, at least. The first day I showed up, my Dad was drunk. He tossed a garbage bag full of clothes on my new bed and stumbled out, in front of God and everyone. I was called to the house parent's office later to be chastised about him bringing alcohol in with him. Like I had any fucking choice in the matter." The venom in my voice sounded foreign. "Well, that was it for whatever budding friendships I might have had. The girls were judgmental, even while standing there in the same state of disgrace as me."

"What did you spend your time doing?"

"I kept a diary for the baby. I didn't want him to ever think that I didn't want him. I cried, a lot. And Vicki, my adoption counselor, picked me up on Wednesdays and took me for eggrolls. She was a great friend."

"Did you go home for holidays?"

"No. My Mom came for Christmas. I spent Thanksgiving at a teacher's house. She didn't want me to spend it in that dorm."

"Tomorrow, I want to talk about the baby," she said as she closed her notebook.

I felt like throwing up.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


The Crazy Chronicles, Part 11: D. A. Dog

"That's right, Mr. Martini. There is an Easter Bunny." - McMurphy, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

"Get comfortable, baby. I've got a full tank." - Caro, The Divine Secrets of The Ya Ya Sisterhood


Tuesday, 6 p.m.

I giggled while I painted my plastic dog.

"Who're you making that for?" Linda asked.

"My daughter," I replied as I added another green polka dot. "Look...it's a daily affirmation dog."

My table-mates looked over.

"Daily affirmation dog, am I crazy?" I asked the dog. I bumped his nose with my paint brush and set his bobble head in motion. Up and down, up and down. Trish guffawed. It wasn't that funny.

I looked around at the others. Carol had dismembered her D.A. dog and was methodically dipping his body parts in brown paint.

"Carol? Baby? What'cha doing?" I asked.

"I like weenie dogs," she mumbled as she submerged his torso.

"Right-o."

"Time's up!" RT teacher called.

We cleaned up our supplies and made our way back to the break room. Miss Flora was parked in front of the tv when we came in.

"Y'all hush, now! I'm watching my man, Obama!" she demanded. Normally, pleas for quiet fell on deaf ears. Something about this retired schoolteacher made us all shut up and use our inside voices. Eventually, everyone had migrated to the smoking area outside so they could talk without disturbing Flora. I chose to stay in, where it was warm.

I thought about my session that afternoon. I thought about my kids, how they smelled and how much I missed their ceaseless chatter and then wondered if I would be here through the coming weekend. I glanced up as the new Tyler Perry movie trailer came on.

"Praise Jesus, I'm goin' to tha movies!" Miss Flora screamed. She then placed her hands back under her thighs and fell back into her Obama-stupor.

A thin woman I'd never seen before walked in. "I'm looking for Crystal McKee."

I stood up. "That's me."

She motioned for me to follow her and we made our way to the conference room where she introduced herself. "I'm Julie Flannigan and I work in billing."

I was confused. "Ok."

"Have a seat. Ok," she glanced at her folder, "your insurance covers eighty percent, but you have a three-hundred-dollar co pay and, of course, the other twenty percent. We're estimating your portion to be about two-thousand dollars." She looked up at me, expectantly.

"I'm not sure what you're ... what are you asking me?"

"I just need to find out how you want to take care of the bill."

You could have taken a hundred pictures of my face in the next sixty seconds and they all would have looked exactly the same: dumbfounded. "Are you kidding me?"

"About?"

"I'm here for depression, anxiety and stress and you're seriously sitting her talking to me about the bill while I'm still undergoing treatment? What do you do for the schizophrenic patients? Bring them in here and force them to watch "A Clockwork Orange"? With strobe lights and the sound of screaming for ambiance?"

"Well, we have to do this-"

"My husband is the guarantor for a reason, ma'am. No offense, but you need to talk to him, not me. I'm not exactly keeping up with my online banking in here."

After leaving, I called Chris and told him what had happened.

"Oh, hell no. No, they didn't," he hissed. "You're coming home. If that's the kind of shit they're going to pull, you're coming home."

"Babe, calm down, just-"

"You don't need that crap, Crystal. What kind of practice is that? I'll be making some phone calls tomorrow."

"I'm sure you will," I laughed. My hero.

"Hey, do you have a minute to talk to V? She's been going nuts. Don't forget, she thinks you're in Nashville for training."

I waited for her chirping voice to soothe my soul.

"Mommy?" There was no chirping. Only the sound of repressed tears.

"Oh, baby, don't do that. Please don't cry, please-"

"I miss you," she sobbed. "I want you to come home, now. You need to tuck me in."

"I know, honey. I'll be home really soon."

"When?"

My heart was sore. When, indeed.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


The Crazy Chronicles, Part 10: Digging

"You found hope in hopeless
You made crazy sane
You became the missing link
that helped me break my chains"- Diamond Rio, "You're Gone"

“You're only given a little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it.” - Robin Williams



Tuesday, 3:30 p.m.


"Did you ever confront your cousin?"

I didn't answer.

"Why is this so uncomfortable for you, Crystal?"

"It's...weak. It's selfish. I don't have problems. The babies at St. Jude, they have problems. People who don't have water to drink, food to eat. Countries that force their children to fight in wars. Those people have a reason to be depressed. I do not."

"You don't feel like you have a right to be screwed up?"

"No. I don't. My Mom and Dad love me. My husband and children love me. I have a great job, a great boss - "

"And you and all those other people have the right to have had a great childhood. We're working on the Crystal now, but we're going to have to start with the Crystal then. This didn't start last week. It started from the moment you became aware. Do you like feeling this way?"

"Of course not."

"Then to hell with what you think you should do or how you should feel. If this is what it takes to make all of this stop, are you willing to do it?"

I sighed. I was very tired, all of a sudden. "Yes. I am."

"Then just talk to me. Did you ever confront your cousin?"

"No," I quietly answered. "I wish..."

"What?"

"I wish I would have told someone. If I had, he wouldn't have had a chance to do the same to a bunch of my other cousins and his stepchildren. That's the only thing I regret."

"And to this day, no one knows?"

"My Mom knows. Not details. She asked me when I was thirteen. I think my brother, Steve, always had a suspicion because...well, he and my cousin shared a room. My dad took him in because he had nowhere else to go. My parents clothed him, fed him, gave him money and a car. I wonder, sometimes...I mean, my brother was older and maybe not easily manipulated like I was, but, I wonder if he was abused by him, too. Anyway, I think he finally told my Mom when I was a teen."

"What happened?"

"A lot of phone calls between my Mom and her sisters. A lot of uncomfortable questions that I really didn't want to answer. And...that's it."

"Were you close to your parents when you were little?"

"Yes. I think. I was close to my Dad. He taught me how to catch minnows in my hands and how to identify different snakes. He really encouraged my love of animals." I smiled at the memory.

"But you weren't close to your Mom?"

"No, it's just...my Mom is kind of the stoic one. My Dad is more like me. He cries easily and often. If he's moved by a piece of music or a movie, he weeps, unabashedly. I love that about him. My Mom ... they're both terrific parents."

"What about when they were drunk?"

My head snapped up. "I never said that they drank."

She smiled. It was kind. "You're a textbook hyper-responsible, over-achiever. You're the child of at least one alcoholic, that much I know for sure."

"I have incredible parents. You won't meet a woman sweeter, more giving and kind than my Mom. My Dad, he's brilliant and funny and-"

"Crystal. It's not an insult. I'm not insulting you or them."

"I won't talk about them."

She looked in my eyes and then nodded. "Ok. Maybe another day." She glanced down at her notes. "What's the next thing, looking back, that you considered a turning point or a major upset in your life?"

"When my Mom had cancer. I was nine. In my mind, cancer meant you were going to die, so, I thought she was dying. We had to go back to Kuwait for my Dad's job, so we left and she stayed in the States for chemo."

"So, your Dad took care of you and your brother?"

"Yes and no. He had to work on the rig for days at a time, so he hired a maid to look after us. Her name was Christine. She was working to get her children out of India."

"You liked her?"

"I loved her. She was kind to me and listened to all my bullshit. I taught her how to play Monopoly."

"Where were your friends?"

"She was my friend."

"Did you have any friends your age?"

"No."

"Why do you think that is?"

"Because I wasn't my age."

"What about school?"

"I was the only American at a British school. I said things like, 'fixin' to' and 'y'all'. I was different and kids don't like different."

"Did you do things with your brother?"

"No. He's four years older. He had his own friends."

"So. You were lonely, frightened, thinking your mother was dying on the other side of the world, your only friend was an older Indian woman and your Dad was working days away from home and probably not very...," she chose her words carefully "...accessible when he was home. Who did you talk to about all of this?"

I thought for a moment. "No one."

"Did you keep a diary or a journal?"

A memory flared to life. A baby blue diary with a shabby lock. It smelled like powder. I grinned in disbelief. How could I have forgotten about that? "Yes, I did keep a diary."

"I don't suppose you still have it?"

"I think I might."

"You should find it."

"I should. I will," I answered. I couldn't imagine what good digging out my childhood diary might do, but if this woman had suggested I set my feet on fire and line dance while singing, "Tiptoe Through The Tulips", I would have asked for some matches.

She glanced at her watch. "Ok, time's up for today. We'll pick up where we left off next time. Are you keeping a journal here?"

"Yes. I write as a ...," hobby seemed like the wrong word. I fumbled. "...I love to write."

"Good. I'll see you tomorrow."

I left, found the first chair available and sat down, hard. I wasn't able to meet the therapist's eyes when I talked about my past. I had worked for years to force myself to meet people's eyes. It was something I was secretly proud of, being able to look directly at someone instead of at their feet. Why was I reverting back to that awkward, shy, shamed little girl?

I saw Molly coming down the hall. "Hey, Miss Molly. How's your stomach?"

"Oh, better."

"Did you have a good lunch?"

"Well...no, not really. There wasn't much I could eat."

"Why?"

"Well, I don't have my bottom teeth. The dentist pulled 'em all and I haven't gotten my dentures, yet. I can't eat anything that's not really soft."

"Did you tell the techs? What have you eaten today?"

"Oh, no, it's okay. I had some mashed potatoes."

I was indignant. "You can't live on mashed potatoes. Stay right there." I headed for the front desk, determined to get Molly a steak and a blender. I had a new purpose and now that little girl was a million miles away.

Monday, March 24, 2008


The Crazy Chronicles, Part 9: Beginnings

"I said, 'Hello, I think I'm broken',
and though I was only joking,
it took me by surprise when you agreed - Diamond Rio, "You're Gone"

“Looking back you realize that a very special person passed briefly through your life- and it was you. It is not too late to find that person again.” - Robert Brault


Tuesday, 6 a.m.

I hadn't slept for more than twenty minutes at any given time for the last 3 days. Instead of being exhausted, I felt rejuvenated. I was energized and experiencing a type of clarity I hadn't had since I was a teen. I felt like I was a part of something important here and it was making a difference.

As I sat and sipped my coffee, the nurse yelled for Blayne to come down for his blood pressure check. What came out, however, was, "Bland! Pressure check!" When a couple of minutes went by and he didn't appear, she bellowed again. "Blannnnnnd! Pressure check! Nurse's station!" She breezed by the break room, rubber soles squeaking, and continued bleating as she headed for his room. "Bland! Wake up! Pressure check!"

Carter and I exchanged one knowing look across the table.

The nurse returned with a very green and sweaty boy behind her. "Ok, Bland, sit down and -"

"Blayne," he muttered through clenched teeth.

"Excuse me?"

"My name is BLAYNE. BLAAAAAAAAAAAAAYNE. Not Bland."

"Bland, Bland, whatever," she dismissively answered as she wrapped the cuff around his arm. If looks could kill, she would have been dead before she could administer the first pump.

Molly walked in and sat in the first chair she found, in the corner. I introduced her to everyone in the room and gave her the daily self-inventory sheet.

"This is to write down your goal for the day," I explained, "and what you're working on with your doctor. It's confidential, so don't worry about what you write. You don't have to share it. Did you sleep okay?"

She nodded and smiled, weakly. "I have real bad diarrhea," she softly said. There was no embarrassment, just fact. I loved this woman already.

"If you ask the tech, they'll give you something to settle your stomach," I told her. She glanced uncertainly at the desk and nodded. I realized that this woman was simply too meek and unassuming to ask for anything from anyone. "I tell you what," I said. "You fill out your paperwork and I'll go see what I can do."

I went to Beth and explained the situation. She quietly pulled Molly away, arm around her shoulder, and walked her to the nurse's station while murmuring in her comforting way. I very much admired Beth.

A short while later, we were called to line up for breakfast. The stragglers were always the same people, so we waited while they were rounded up.

Apparently, Blayne's name was quite the tongue twister for some. Sheila, one of the morning tech's, looked around for him and when she didn't see him in line for roll call, she started calling his name.

"Has anyone seen Bland?" she asked.

"Um, it's Blayne, and he's still detoxing," someone answered.

"Hmph. Well, I'm not bringing any trays back," she grumbled. "Bland! Blannnnd! Are you coming for breakfast? No trays coming back!"

As I cringed in anticipation, Blayne busted through his bedroom door and started shrieking, "BLAYNE! BLAYNE! FUCKING BLAYNE! MY NAME IS BLAYNE!"

The tech was unperturbed. "Are you coming for breakfast or not?"

He looked like he was about to cry again. "Jesus. You people are incredible," he mumbled as he turned back into his room and shut the door.

"Welcome to Fieldcrest, hope your name is Bob!"Carter chirped to no one in particular.

"Let's go, people."


Tuesday, 3 p.m.

"What about you, Crystal?" the therapist asked. "You're always very attentive, but you don't say much."

I took a deep breath. I didn't know if I was ready for all of this. It felt pathetic, somehow. Let's see who has the most fucked up stories! "What do you want to know?"

"Look at your childhood as an adult. What's the first thing you would have considered traumatic?"

A memory instantly sprang to mind. I was seven years old. I had found a small bird suffering a head wound from what had probably been a nasty kid with a BB gun. I gently cradled it and took it home where I padded a shoe box with cotton balls. After cleaning the wound as much as I could, I administered water and soft bread with a Q-Tip. My mother didn't mind me tending to my animals as long as I didn't keep them in the house, so I found a warm spot in the barn and secured the lid of the box to make sure the wild cats couldn't get to him. I checked on him obsessively.

We often had relatives at our house. There were bonfires and barbecue's and booze. There was always beer and whiskey.

My uncle teased me mercilessly about the bird. "He's gonna die," he slurred. "It's just a stupid bird. Why are you wasting your time with a bird?"

I was timid and shy and I just tried to stay away from him. I was proud of my bird and his continued survival.

One particularly cold night, a bonfire was going outside. I had checked on Harvey (my bird), changed his bedding and put a blanket over the top of his box to keep him warm. I went back inside to warm up in front of the fire in our living room. I heard a tap on the window and looked over to see my uncle leering in at me from outside. As I watched in horror, he held Harvey up to the window and twisted his head off. I screamed, long and loud, somewhere inside. As he laughed at my expression, I slipped off to my bedroom and buried my head under my pillow to cry.

The therapist was waiting.

"I was raped when I was seven. I guess that was traumatic back then," I finally answered.

"You don't sound so sure," the therapist said, surprised.

"Well, it doesn't affect me, now. It hasn't for a long time. When I think about it, it's with mild revulsion and pity for the girls and boys who fed my cousin's appetite after me, but...everyone's been raped or molested. It's almost commonplace now. I'm not special."

"You don't think that changed the way you handled some aspects of your life? The way you developed relationships with men? The way you felt about yourself?"

"No. Because if it did affect anything I did later in life, then he continued to rape me. He took my innocence and that's enough. He wasn't taking anything else."

"You sound pissed."

"No. Disgusted. He disgusts me."

"Who did you tell?"

"No one."

"Why?"

I hesitated. "I thought I had done something bad."

"So, you told no one because you felt guilt. And, yet, you say it doesn't affect you, now?"

"Right."

"Bullshit."

This was not what I was used to. And it was only beginning.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


The Crazy Chronicles, Part 8: Molly

"Bitch, nobody fucks with crazy." - quote from a reader, suggesting I tell people I was in for a psychotic break to keep them from being judgmental. I'm having this printed on a t-shirt.



Monday, 9 p.m.


It's really hard to watch others come, but it's grueling to watch someone leave. In such a short period of time, you become very attached to the other people in with you. You share so much and they have seen you at your most vulnerable, scraped raw by whatever brought you here to this place.

When Jo left on Monday night, I felt her absence immediately. When another patient, Candace, left the same night, I was shocked to see her crying silently, grimacing in emotional pain by the door. She was a meth addict and had been here for over 30 days. She rarely spoke or participated, but was quick to smile. She didn't feel ready to go home, and as the word spread through the room that she was breaking, we moved quickly and quietly to surround her and offer her one more prayer. She was one of us. That was all that mattered.

Later that evening, over a gripping game of Yahtzee, we all watched in silence as our newest family member, Blayne, bounced into the break room. His grandparents finished signing him in while he jittered and jived and shucked.

"That boy's gonna be feeling some pain in the morning," Carter said without taking his eyes from the Newsweek he was reading.

"What do you mean?" Linda asked.

"Withdrawals," I answered.

I watched him shimmy back into the hallway and only then noticed a tiny woman sitting in the intake chair. I had assumed she was with his family, but they were trying to keep Blayne in one place long enough to say their goodbye's. Meanwhile, she was sitting, hands wringing in her lap, looking very small and lost. Her profile stunned me. It could have been my Nanny, 30 years ago. I got up to go out and take a closer look. I went to my room and on the walk back, I looked at her from the front. Hell, she could have been my Nanny's twin, right down to the way her hair was colored and permed. She met my eyes and then quickly looked away. The frightened, shamed way her eyes darted around was achingly familiar. My God, was that really me, just 2 days ago?

I walked over. "Hi. I'm Crystal."

"I'm Molly," she whispered. Her hands continued their frantic dance in her lap.

"Molly," I repeated. I thought about all of the inspirational things people said when newcomers were hurting. Some of them made me cringe. We hope you enjoy your stay here, one person actually said to another. I thought, Holy shit, are you going to give them a warm towel and a continental breakfast with their d.t.'s? I knew the platitudes came from the best place in the heart, but that wasn't what some needed to hear. So, I said, "Molly, it will never be as bad as it is right now and through this first night." I immediately regretted it. Great, Crystal. Why not give her a fucking Hallmark that says, "Welcome to Hell, now with Lime Jell-o!"
When she favored me with one tentative, heartbroken smile, I thought maybe I wasn't so much of a bumbling moron all of the time.
"Crystal, why don't you show Molly around and then show her to your room." My roommate, Dawn, had been released that morning and beds were in demand. They never stayed vacant for long.
I skipped all the niceties ("and here's the coffee pot! And the magazines! Someone gouged all the eyes out, but there are some good articles if you can fill in the blanks!") and led her straight to the room.
"You look like you could rest, but if you want some company...," I said as I showed her where to put her things. "We'll be in the break room until they turn the t.v. off. Some of us stay in there later. The night owls." I was babbling.
She sat on the edge of the bed and looked at her feet. She was so damned tiny.
"Umm, I keep it really cold," I continued. "The a/c is over there, against the wall. Do you need some more blankets?"
"I'm fine, thank you. You just keep it however you're comfortable."
I went back to the break room and sat, bothered. How the fuck did this happen to so many of us? What went wrong?
"Don't do it, kiddo," Carter said, still reading his magazine.
"What?" I asked.
"You got enough of your own problems without taking on others. You're here to work on you."
I knew he was right. But, I also knew that there were so many people in my life who, with one word, one gesture, had helped me and changed me. If I couldn't try to do the same for someone else, I didn't feel like there was much reason for me even being in existence.
"Shit. Nevermind, then. You're one of those," Carter sighed.
I wadded up my Yahtzee score sheet and threw it at his head. "Shut up, you bitter old fuck."
He laughed and turned his page. "Aww, kiddo, you're keeping me young."
"Yeah. Me and Viagra."
An hour later, Blayne came in and bummed a cigarette. While talking to one of the other guys, he ran his hand through his hair and belatedly realized that the hand he had just used was the one holding his unlit cigarette. It was now broken in two. "Awww, fuck me to death," he whimpered as he started to cry.
I went to bed. Tomorrow, I have to really start sharing, I promised myself. Just as soon as I make sure Molly's okay.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


The Crazy Chronicles, Part 7: The Fastest Hour

"Wow, thanks for helping me make a mug, art therapist! My depression has lifted now that I know how to fire up a kiln and glaze a bowl!" - a quote from a reader who's been there

"Here I am Lord and I’m drowning in Your sea of forgetfulness
The chains of yesterday surround me, I yearn for peace and rest" - Casting Crowns, "East to West"


Monday, 9:00 a.m.

Chris managed to turn the conversation away from the painful subject of my kids.

"Do you need me to bring you anything?"

"Yes," I answered. "Books."

"Ok. What about cigarettes?"

"I don't smoke."

"I thought you might need them to barter or something."

I started giggling through my tears. "Baby, this isn't prison. I don't need to trade some smokes to buy protection so I don't get ass-raped."

We hung up the phone and I went through the day in a fog. I still had not begun to really examine why I was here and what had prompted my falling apart. I had always scowled at those who would blame their past for their present situation. I believed that we can be whomever we choose to be, regardless of where we came from or what others may have done to us.

Simple and naive, yes?

I operated under the firm conviction that you don't have the right to blame all of the crap you've done on your shitty childhood. We were made to rise above it. I still didn't want to accept that maybe my childhood was odd and far from perfect. Maybe my parents were partly to blame for some of the things I did and the way I felt. I was overcome with guilt for ever thinking that. I felt weak. I was never a victim and I didn't want to start being one, now. Besides, I love my parents and I think they did a pretty good job of making me who I am. Flawed, but who's not?

It never occurred to me that I can examine the past and accept that my childhood was not normal without being vindictive or resentful toward my Mom and Dad. They screwed up a lot; so do I. It doesn't make me love them any less fiercely than I do and it doesn't make me think for one second that they were bad parents.

My present situation was brought on by a mix of things from childhood, my teen years and beyond. Everyone's life is a tapestry of experiences, good and bad. I'm not special. My situations were different than others, but no more painful. I never really felt the need to drudge all of that up, but all of these therapists were telling me that digging up the bodies was exactly what I needed to do.

So, here I was. Where did it start? Do I really need to spill my guts to these people? I didn't want sympathy or compassion or advice. I just wanted to understand what makes the overwhelming shroud of despair drop over me at any given moment. What makes me feel so full of rage and grief?

As I sat in groups that day and listened to people share their demons and battles, I resolved to start talking about my life and that, even if I couldn't bring myself to voice some of the things that had shaped me, I would relive them in my head, examine them for clues to the whereabouts of my peace of mind and then put them to rest. They would never be gone from me, but they could be put somewhere quiet and dark, a place where they could do no more harm.

When 6 o'clock finally came, I waited, impatiently, and then threw myself into my husband's arms when he walked in the door. He held me and I breathed into the crook of his neck, basking in the smell of him. We went to a family room and sat down. You basically have no privacy, but when you share everything with the people in your group, there's not a lot that you don't feel comfortable saying with them in the room. Besides, everyone is so wrapped up in their little piece of the outside world that they could care less what you have to say to your spouse.

"I snuck in some contraband," Chris said. He pulled out his IPod and brought up the photo album. There was my baby Harmony, grinning and proudly displaying all eight of her teeth. I had never seen anything so perfect or beautiful. We sat and looked through the rest of the photo's while I quietly regaled him with stories and eagerly drank in every little tidbit of information about my kids.

When the tech poked his head in to let us know that it was time to say our goodbyes, all of my happiness vanished in an instant. I felt my chest constrict and the heat and throb of my heart aching as I pulled him closer to me and whispered, "I want to go home with you. Please don't leave me here."

"Hang in there, baby. You'll be home soon. Use this time to your advantage and do what you need to do to get well."

"I'm fine, damn you! I want to go home!"

His face crumbled and he struggled to keep his composure. "I brought your books," he whispered. "I brought you some more notebooks so you can write. Did you write down the blog you want me to post?"

I pulled out a small square of paper and handed it to him. "There. It's pretty self-explanatory."

"Are you sure you want to do this?" he asked, indicating the paper.

"Yes. I feel like they're my family, too. They've always supported me and they deserve to know what's happening."

"Ok."

"Do I still have a job, by the way?"

"Yes. I talked to your boss and he said your job is waiting and to just concentrate on getting better. He's really supportive."

"Thank you."

I kissed him goodbye and watched him walk down the hall until he turned a corner and I couldn't see him through the window, anymore.

"Crystal?" Kristen called from the desk.

I walked over. "Yes, ma'am?"

"Your husband brought you some things. I just have to rifle through them, you know the drill."

She went through the clothing and looked through the pages of the notebooks. As she was checking everything, I glanced at the stack of books Chris had brought to me. The one on the bottom was larger than the rest and looked very familiar to me, but I couldn't place it. As she began flipping through the pages of the books and moved closer to the bottom one, it hit me.

Oh, God. Oh, no. No he DID NOT. No. No, no, no.

Before I could properly move my mind into a defensive position, Kristen pulled the last book out and we both stared at it.

The Joy of Sex. My husband brought The Joy of Sex to the mental hospital.

Normally, this would be hysterical. When one is vulnerable, subjected to extreme invasions of privacy and treated as though you're a slightly stupid, wayward child, one tends to get embarrassed over things, like, say, your husband bringing The mother-effing Joy of Sex to the loony bin.

Kristen looked up at me and said, "I think this will go in your locker."

In a small voice, I said, "Oh, sure. Is there anything else tucked in there? Some lube? A midget with a twelve-inch wang?"

"Nope. I think that's it."

I walked away and immediately sought out Linda, who's husband brought her a stack of TV guides when she requested reading material. We laughed for an hour over that one. My husband saw his TV guides and raised him one inappropriate book about sexual positions. I had to tell her. It was then that I really noticed the four or five people still sitting in the break room. No one had come to see them. No one had hugged them or told them what was going on at home. Some of them had no-one at home. Some of them had no-one at all.

How lucky I am to have a husband who brings me the wrong books, I thought.

It bothered me all night to think of those people feeling so lost and alone. I wanted to do something to make them feel appreciated, but I didn't know what. As I pondered this into the morning hours and walked the halls in my state of insomnia, I approached the desk to ask the morning techs to give me my face cream and makeup bag. I felt like looking less like a pile of dogshit this morning.

"Good morning, Brenda. May I have my makeup and face cream?"

She looked at me and grinned. "Girl, I've been reading your book."

My eyes widened in horror and the whole group of people standing around erupted in laughter.

I sighed. "Learning anything new?"

"Mmm hmm. Child, there are pictures in there."

"I know. I plan on trying some out with Dr. Sain today."

"Don't make me get the straightjacket out, Crystal."

I perked up. "Now, that, you kinky minx, is an idea. Do you think I can borrow it for about half-an-hour?"

I was starting to feel more and more comfortable and it scared the shit out of me. How would I ever go back to a life that seemed so strange and foreign to me, now?

Friday, March 14, 2008


The Crazy Chronicles, Part 6: Please Don't Feed The Animals

A mighty wind blew night and day
It stole the oak tree’s leaves away
Then snapped its boughs
And pulled its bark
Until the oak was tired and stark.
But still the oak tree held its ground
While other trees fell all around
The weary wind gave up and spoke
“How can you still be standing, Oak?”
The Oak tree said,
“I know that you can break each branch of mine in two,
Carry every leaf away, shake my limbs, and make me sway.
But I have roots stretched in the earth,
Growing stronger since my birth,
You’ll never touch them, for you see,
They are the deepest part of me.
Until today, I wasn’t sure of just how much I could endure
But now I’ve found, with thanks to you,
I’m stronger than I ever knew.” – Johnny Ray Ryder, Jr (thanks, Bob!)




Monday, 6 a.m.

I looked at the clock.

Only 12 hours until Chris comes for visitation. Sweet.

Monday, 6:12 a.m.

Only 11 hours and 48 minutes until he comes.

Monday, 6:30 a.m.

I should probably find something to do.

Monday, 6:48 a.m.

SHIT. SHIT SHIT SHIT. DO THEY LEAVE CLOCKS IN HERE TO DRIVE US CRAZY?

Monday, 7:02 a.m.

I checked the batteries in the clock.

Monday, 8:30 a.m.

After breakfast, I got a phone call from Chris.

"Chris! Hey! I have missed you! Are you coming? You know it's at six, right? You probably need to be here at four just in case they let you come in a little early. Or three. You could come at three and bring a magazine to read until-"

"Babe. I'll be there. Promise. I miss you so much."

"I have to wait all day to see you. Ugh. Is Devon coming?"

"I don't know. Wanna talk to him?"

"Yes!"

Pause. Yelling. Shuffling. Clanking.

"Hey, Mom!"

"Hi, sweety! How are you? Are you okay? Are you mad at me? You know I'm not, like, flinging-my-poo-crazy or anything, I just got a little overwhelmed and exhausted-"

"You get all the caffeine you want in there, huh?"

"Smart ass. I love you."

"I love you, too. And quit worrying. My girlfriend was in there for a little while, over on the adolescents side when she had some depression issues."

"So, does that mean I'm cool, in an emo sort of way?"

"No. You listen to Neil Diamond. But, I love you, anyway."

He put Chris back on the phone.

"How's V? What does she know?" I asked.

"She thinks you're in Nashville for training. She's fine. She misses you."

"And Harmony?"

"Oh. Well..."

"What? Chris, just tell me. I've been worried she's going to forget me and if she's acting like I never existed then I need to know, you need to just be straight with me, because-"

"Babe. Calm down. I just don't want to upset you."

"Tell me. I can handle it."

He sighed. "She's been wagging your bathrobe around with her everywhere. She'll bury her face in it and coo, then she'll play for a bit. Every few minutes, she'll go back to it and smell it, again. She won't let anyone touch it and she sleeps with it."

As it turns out, I couldn't handle it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


The Crazy Chronicles, Part 5: Come Play In My Poppy Garden

Sunday, 6 p.m.

I felt energized when I left the AA meeting. I knew that this was the best place for me to be for a couple of days, but there was no way in hell I was going to make it through another week. It had been less than 24 hours and I was ready to shoot sun beams out of my ass if that's what it took to convince the doctors that I had seen the light.

I went back to the break room and continued reading. I wanted to be close to the patient phone. I had been trying to call Chris all day and still hadn't talked to him. It felt like it had been light years since I had seen him or heard his voice.

Miss Flora and I had the break room to ourselves, for the most part, and she was watching BET. It was extremely loud.

"Miss Flora?" I asked. "Do you mind turning that down just a notch or two? I can't hear the phone if it rings."

"Oh, honey, I love the phone! I love phone calls!" I watched in morbid fascination as she looked around to make sure we weren't being observed and then she dug the remote out of her impressively sized bra. She saw me looking, winked at me conspiratorially and said, "I'm Pam Anderson, baby. Don't tell anybody."

"You were married to Kid Rock?" I asked. Hyuck, hyuck. Good one, Crystal. You dipshit.

"I don't mess with rock, child, I'm here for the research study cos' I'm bi-polar. Girl, I was married to Robert Robertson, his momma named him that, for five years and we had one baby, her name is Stephanie, and then he done went and lost his mind. My baby lives up in Nashville, that's where she goes to-"

The phone rang and someone in the hall picked it up.

"Phone call for Crystal McKee!"

I jumped up. "Sorry, Miss Flora. My husband calling!" I scampered down the hallway and snatched up the phone. "Hey, babe. I've been trying to call you all day-"

"Crystal?" That one word spoke volumes to me about bewilderment and fear and pain.

"Mom? I...how..." I couldn't finish. All the feeling went out of my body and I slid to the floor.

"Sweetheart, what happened? Are you okay? What did you do?"

In the brief period of silence, I remembered a time, years ago, when I first moved here. I was staying with my parents, drinking far too much and trying to figure out what the hell was wrong with me, why I wasn't a person who could be loved. There were times when co-workers would simply leave me, limp and unconscious, in front of my parent's door. I can't even begin to apologize for all the vomit my mother had to clean up. One night, at an all-time low, I told her how much I wished I were dead.

My mother and I have always been at odds, mostly because she doesn't understand me at all and that always frustrated me, but also because I always felt like I wasn't what she wanted in a daughter. Affection was strained and awkward with us and when it came to displays of emotion, we were polar opposites. I cried during the ENTIRE 127 minutes of "The Passion of The Christ", sobbed from the opening scene to the last. My mother sat stoic and refined while I flailed in agony, snotty and slobbering about how unworthy I was to be loved by such a God. Mom ate her popcorn and handed me Kleenex while I vowed to everyone within earshot that I was going to lead a better life.

When I said those words to her, "I wish I were dead", she crumbled. She wrapped me in her arms like she used to when I was little and made me promise that I would never hurt myself. She cried and told me how much she loved me and that if anything happened to me, it would kill her. She went on and on about how beautiful I was and how talented and smart until I was giggling through my tears and telling her to shut up, already, before I proposed.

All of that came back to me in that fleeting moment of quiet, when I was trying to decide how to tell her that I had almost broken my promise.

I took a breath, held it for five seconds and said, "I'm fine, Mom. I'm good. This was basically a huge misunderstanding, but this is good for me. They're changing my medication and I'm getting a ton of rest and I should be home tomorrow or the next day."

"Are you sure? I'm worried about you."

"Mom, I'm fine. How are Nanny and Granddad?"

She chatted for a minute about my grandparents and the family and offered to come home early, if I needed her.

"No, Mom. You need to be there and I need to go. This is the only phone and there's a 10 minute call limit. I love you."

"I love you, too. Take care of yourself and when can I call you back?"

We agreed on a time for the following day and I hung up the phone. I leaned into the wall and reeled for a minute. How the hell did that happen? My parents were out of town and I didn't think to ask my Mom how she found out. I was walking back to the break room when the phone rang, again. I picked it up. "Hello?"

"Crystal?" It was my sister, Lucy.

"Hey. Holy shit. Who told you?"

"Steve, he called and told Mom and then called me and, well, I had to call, are you okay?"

"What did he do, hold a fucking press conference? Make a You Tube video?"

"He said they found opiates in your system. What's going on?"

"Oh, dear God. So everyone thinks I'm here for opiate abuse? That's great. That's just special."

I realized the absurdity of the situation: here I am, in a psych ward for attempted suicide and I'm indignant about being labeled as an opiate addict. Yes, Charlie Brown, there is a hierarchy in the loony bin and I'm Queen Poobah of the blithering idiots.

We spoke briefly, I assured her there was no chance of me killing myself with the mass quantities of Melatonin they were giving me (one a night. That oughta do it) and we hung up. I stood and waited for a second because I figured my second grade teacher ought to be calling soon, followed closely by that guy I kissed once at an office party.

Monday, 3 a.m.

That night, I wandered the halls. My brain was so tired, my body was limp with exhaustion, but after tossing and turning for hours, sleep was never an option.

I walked to the end of my hall and stood staring at the doors that separated us from the West wing. A huge sign mounted above them read, "Warning: High Elopement Risk". I giggled at that because I just imagined two maniacs crawling over the wall, the woman wearing a wedding dress made out of coffee filters and the man trying to keep all the chocolate milk in his pockets and, shit, did that strike me funny. As I stood cackling to myself, I had a horrifying thought: if one of the techs sees me standing here at 3 a.m. in my pj's, laughing and staring at the wall, I might as well have my mail forwarded c/o Fieldgate.

I walked down to the break room where the overnight techs were sitting and talking quietly. Their laughter sounded so strange to me. I felt out of place and I didn't want to intrude, so I turned to go back to my room. As I was walking, the door next to my room opened and Miss Flora came out. She had on her nightgown and no wig. When she saw me, she shrieked, did a 180 and bolted back to her room.

Later, laying in bed and about to finally drift off to sleep, it hit me and I sat up and thought: THAT CRAZY BITCH DIDN'T NEED A DAMNED WHEELCHAIR.

I laid back and smiled, impressed with her acting skills. That smile was the first genuine one to cross my face in a very long time and it was amazing to me how much of a difference 24 hours can make in your life.

24 hours in a place like that is a lifetime.

to be continued

Sunday, March 09, 2008


The Crazy Chronicles, Part 4: Kwazy, Kwazy

I don't know who you are

But you seem very nice

So will you talk to me

Shall I tell you a story

Shall I tell you a dream

They think I'm crazy

But they don't know that I like it here

It's nice in here, I get everything for free - K's Choice, "Everything For Free"



Sunday, 2:00 p.m.

I was summoned by a nurse who informed me that I would be seeing my psychiatrist in a few minutes.

"Dr. Sain will be right with you," she said as she turned to walk away.

"Sane? S-A-N-E?" I called after her.

She turned, a bemused look on her face. "No, S-A-I-N."

"That's just...that's...wow."

When I was escorted in, I was met by a short, kindly-looking Indian man.

"Crystal, my friend. How are you? I'm Dr. Sain and I'm a psychiatrist."

I sat and we talked for a few minutes. His questions were direct, his demeanor respectful.

"Ok," he said after a cursory interview. "Let's get you away from the Ambien since you have a tendency to abuse it. I also want to take you off of the Prozac since it's obviously not providing the desired results. I'll get these orders over to the nurse, we'll wean you off the Prozac and start you on Effexor and Rozerem. I'll be seeing you daily, so I'll talk to you tomorrow."

"Daily? How long will I be here?" I asked. I had been under the impression, after my talk with the doctor at the hospital, that my stay would be no longer than three days.

"I'll probably want you to stay here through next weekend," he answered as he closed my file.

I was devastated. I swallowed my disappointment and walked out. I have never been very good at telling people what I want, especially when I'm in a position of powerlessness.

I wandered into the break room. Some were outside in the courtyard smoking. Others were watching television or reading. I carried a book with me and sat down. As I was reading, a shadow fell over me. I looked up to see Miss Flora. She had on a new wig.

"Good afternoon, Miss Flora. How are you?" I asked.

"I want to watch Oprah," she said.

"Oh. Um. I don't know where the remote is."

She turned her wheelchair away from me and went in search of the elusive remote. I stopped for a minute to take in my surroundings as surreptitiously as I could. There were several men and an equal number of women. The ages and ethnicity varied. There was an older man, Carter, who shuffled around using a walker with tennis balls on the bottom. I was particularly drawn to him because he reminded me of my father. He was currently outside, smoking and solemn.

There were pencils but no pens. A bookshelf in the corner had Checkers, Yahtzee and jigsaw puzzles. The coffee was always brewing and posters about being bi-polar covered the walls.

A technician I had not met approached me. (You don't get a lot of down time when you're committed. Someone always wants to talk with you, check on you or encourage you to go to the hourly groups and therapy)

She smiled and said, "I'm Beth. I understand there was some confusion today in the lunch room."

Shit.

"I didn't know I wasn't supposed to pass the salt."

She sat down. "I want to explain the reasoning to you so that you don't feel like you did anything wrong."

I waited. She took a breath and continued. "I used to work with the adolescents. We try to get you in and out before they come in to have their lunch, but oftentimes, it's just not possible. These children have been abused, most sexually, and have been through incredible trauma. Anything can set them off and basically undo all of the work their therapists have done with them, something as simple as you favoring someone who hurt them. We've had full fights break out over an innocent glance or someone accidentally brushing by one of the kids. We had one kid go berserk when another patient accidentally touched his hand while reaching for a fork. That's why we tell you to act as though they don't exist. It's for their benefit and yours. Does that make sense?"

"Yes, ma'am," I quietly answered. "I didn't know."

"Of course you didn't. I'm here to help you, though. I'm only concerned with you and I don't want you feeling bad about yourself because you were being polite, because you did the right thing. It can just cause harm in that particular environment." She patted my leg and went back to the desk.

Although she was trying to make me feel better, somehow, I felt worse. I was exhausted. I had been taking Ambien nightly for four months, by prescription, and quitting cold turkey was taking it's toll. I stood to go to my room and try to get a nap.

"AA!" Beth yelled.

Son. of. A. BITCH.

As Jo passed by me, I stopped her. "Do I have to attend AA?" I asked.

"Yes, ma'am. Addict or not, they make you attend all things as a group. You're in for a treat." She rolled her eyes and walked on. I followed her to a conference room down the hall.

When we walked in, I was shocked to see that there were about sixty people there waiting.

"AA is open to anyone in any of the programs here, including outpatient," Jo explained.

I sat down and made eye contact with a very intense, bald, black man sitting across the room. He had on a small button that said, "Kwazy, Kwazy!" He inclined his head toward me in a nod and then looked away. I felt vaguely uneasy.

After everyone was seated, he let the silence draw out for a moment before he began.

"Good afternoon," he said. His voice was deep and velvety. "I am your disease. I am depression, alcoholism, addiction, whatever applies to you. I hate you. I want you dead. I want you in misery, broke and begging for death. I want to break up your marriage, make you lose your house, your kids, your job and your dignity. I laugh when you despair. I rejoice when you cry in agony. I despise your higher being and your AA meetings and your wretched twelve steps. I want every part of you, to drag you down until you have nothing left. And then I want some more. I am pleased when you are in pain, I am pleased when you are mere moments away from taking your own life. This is what I thrive on."

The room was silent.

"Now, what do you have to say to me?"

As I sat, speechless, Jo leaned over and said, "Crystal, meet Curtis D. Wall."

I was shocked. Angry. No, I was positively livid. And it felt wonderful.

Fuck you, you horrid disease, I thought. I am ALIVE. And you will take nothing more from me.



to be continued

Saturday, March 08, 2008


The Crazy Chronicles, Part 3: Down The Rabbit Hole

Welcome to nowhere and finding out where it is
And fixing your problems and starting over again - Shinedown, "In Memory"


Sunday, 6 a.m.

"Crystal?"

I opened my eyes and caught my breath. I had forgotten, for a moment, where I was. An unfamiliar face loomed over me.

"I'm Kristen. We need to get a urine sample, your blood pressure and then it's time for breakfast," she said. "I understand you got in pretty late so if you want to come back after breakfast and try to nap, you can."

Kristen left to give me a moment of privacy. I sat on the side of the bed and glanced at my roommate. She was still a lump under the blankets.

I rifled through my clothes to find some socks, slipped on my shoes and turned the light on over the mirror. I looked like I felt: hollowed out and barely there. When I turned away from my reflection, my roommate was standing behind me, looking at me in the strangest way.

"Jennifer...it's Jennifer, right?" I asked.

"Dawn."

"I'm sorry, they told me..." I trailed off, uncertain.

"Jennifer is my first name. I go by Dawn."

"Oh. I tried to be quiet. I'm sorry if I woke you last night."

She stared long enough to make me squirm and then wordlessly walked into the bathroom.

"Well, that was pleasant, Crystal. You'll be a fucking hit by lunch time," I mumbled as I headed for the front desk.

After blood pressure, blood samples and urine specimens, I fell into line and listened to roll call. We shuffled to the cafeteria and I found myself wondering how some of these people could be laughing and having animated discussions. Were their lives not falling apart?

I chose a small portion of powdered eggs and a piece of toast and stood with my tray, looking for an empty chair and feeling like I was back in high school.

"Crystal, come sit down, hon," Jo invited.

Grateful, I sat down next to her and looked at my eggs. What were my kids doing right now? Sleeping, most likely. How would Virginia feel when she woke up to find me gone? How would Chris explain all of this? Would Devon be ashamed of me? I had this irrational fear that Harmony would forget who I was. I choked back tears and tore off pieces of toast, letting them fall back into my plate.

"Can I use the salt?"

I looked to my left and was shocked to see a boy no older than twelve.

"Sure," I answered and passed him the salt shaker. I saw one of the techs start
toward the table and I knew, instinctively, that I had done something wrong. Fabulous.

"Crystal, can you come over here for a second?"

He led me to a corner of the cafeteria.

"I guess no one told you, but we don't talk to the kids," he explained.

"I didn't talk to him, I just-"

"We don't acknowledge their existence or interact with them in any way, including passing them the salt. Don't even make eye contact with them. Clear?"

I felt tears threatening. How can one person be such a screw up? "Yes, sir."

I picked up my tray, dumped my uneaten food and followed the group back to the east wing.

"Group time!" Kristen called from the desk.

I followed everyone into the tv room. I found a chair in the corner and tried to make myself as small as possible. After a few minutes, Jo stood up and began speaking.

"Good morning, everyone. We have a new person here with us, so let's start by going around the room and introducing ourselves," she instructed. "I'll go first. I'm Jo and I'm here for Lortab addiction and depression."

One by one, I watched in awe as people shared their shameful secrets as though we had known each other for decades.

"I'm John and I'm here for alcohol and drug abuse."

"I'm Kay and I'm here for suicidal thoughts and because I was hearing voices."

One frail looking elderly lady introduced herself by saying, "I'm Peggy and I'm here because I'm crazy."

When the introductions had been completed, they all looked at me expectantly.

What is this, I thought. I can't do this. I can't. I don't know these people and I don't belong here. You don't just tell a bunch of strangers how fucked up your head is!

"It's okay, Crystal," Kristen encouraged.

I very quietly said, "I'm Crystal. I'm here for...I was brought here...suicide. I mean, I was thinking about it. Suicidal tendencies, I guess." I had this insane notion that someone would stand up and start screaming the lyrics to "Institutionalized" and then I would start giggling and they would put the straightjacket on me.

Jo immediately launched into the daily goals and moods. When she reached my name on the board, she explained. "You'll do a daily self inventory sheet about your mood and goals and then we go over them here. So, how are you feeling and what is your goal for today?"

Like I want to go home, want to go to work, want to have a cactus shoved up my ass, anything but this!

"Tired," I answered. That word would have to do. Frightened, lonely, confused, angry, sad: tired. "My goal is-," I cleared my throat, "is to learn the rules here."

Some people were very verbal, some were almost catatonic. Looking back, I was such a prick. I truly thought that I was above all of this. If they ask me to hold hands and say the serenity prayer, I will drive this crayola through my brain.

"Ok," Jo finished. "Let's stand and hold hands while Carter leads the serenity prayer."

You have GOT to be shitting me.

She wasn't.
__________

10:00 a.m.

Dawn wandered in looking positively homicidal and I took that as my cue to retreat to the room and have my pity party in private. I did not need to share any of this with anyone. I had always suffered alone and I would continue to do so. As I stood to leave, a very pretty woman walked in and shouted, "RT time! Let's go, people! Let's go!"

I followed along as we left the wing and went outside to the parking lot. The pretty woman told us we could walk for a minute. As everyone moved in a circle, I looked down the hill. There was the Chick-Fil-A that Devon asked for every single Sunday, always forgetting that they're closed. There were people on their way to church or work or loved one's homes and living in the normal. And here we were, walking in a circle, mumbling and drooling and locked away from society. How very strange, I thought as tears coursed down my cheeks. What have I become?

We were moved inside and to a different part of the hospital.

"We're going to the craft room!" someone enthused.

I stopped in my tracks and felt the world swim out of focus. My experience with mental health had been reading One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest a hundred times, but I always thought that the cliche's about mental hospitals were inaccurate. Yet, here we were, filing into a locked room to make key chains out of plastic beads. I backed against the wall and shook my head back and forth. Jo noticed me and came over.

"Crystal, what's wrong?" she asked.

"Are they serious? Are they fucking serious? This won't help me. I can't...Jesus, what's next, electroshock therapy?"

Without a word, she pulled me into an embrace and forced my head down onto her shoulder. I began to cry and mewl like a baby. "I don't know how I got here," I whispered, clinging to her. "How did I get here?"

Sobs shook my body. I was finally accepting the reality of this situation and I didn't like it.

"You have to go in or come back to the ward, but you can't be in the hall!" someone barked.

"We just need a minute," Jo said.

She led me to the craft room and I sat down and watched the other women chat and laugh and make key chains and I wanted to hold my baby, Harmony. I wanted to smell her hair and kiss her fat, warm cheeks and see her smile, a grin so open and innocent that it always makes my world better.

Yeah, my inner voice scoffed. If you love her and your other kids so much, what were you thinking the other night?

That they would be better off without me as a mom, dammit. I'm not a good mom. I'm not a good person.

Why? the voice asked. Because you had too much pressure on you and you cracked? Because you're normal?

I can't be what everyone wants me to be. I can't be this person.

Then be someone else. Be who you are and believe that she's good enough.

I can't. I don't know how.

Learn. These people you're looking down on can share so much wisdom. Suck in your bottom lip, quit being a cry-baby and learn from them.

I'll try. I can try.

The education I was about to receive was more important, more profound and worthy than any college class or book I had ever read. It was also the most difficult because it meant I would have to be honest about who I really am and how I got here.

I would have to look inward and admit that I was a product of several chapters in my past, chapters that I diligently kept locked away.

It was time to blow the dust off and open that book.

to be continued

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


The Crazy Chronicles, Part 2: Flora Is Bi-Polar

The way it is now, the asylums can hold the sane people but if we tried to shut up the insane we would run out of building materials. - Mark Twain



Saturday, 10:00 p.m.


"Chris, tell them I want to go home," I begged.

"I'll get the nurse," he softly said.

He had already made quite the name for himself at the hospital earlier that evening.

"What do you mean they haven't given you anything to eat all day?"

"Chris, I'm fine. I'm really not hungry anyw-"

"Bullshit. You need to eat." Then he lowered his head like a bull about to charge and disappeared down the hallway. He returned in record time with a tray of food like some weird, culinary genie.

I had every faith that he would take me home, away from all of this invasive crap. He returned with a harried looking nurse in tow.

"Can I help you?" she asked.

"I'm ready to go home," I said.

"Ma'am, that's not possible. I know it's been a long wait, but the ambulance will be here any minute."

"What if we just leave?" Chris asked.

"We'll have to call the police," the nurse answered.

She left and I felt the first tendrils of panic beginning to take hold.

"Chris, I'm scared."

"I know, baby. I'm here with you. Don't be scared."

"I want to go home. I want to go home. Why won't they let me go home?" Big, fat tear drops were staining his shoulder. I felt so weak and confused.

"Crystal, you tried to hurt yourself. They're just trying to help you to get better."

"I was just tired and upset. I'm fine, now. Tell them I'm okay. Why are you doing this to me?"

He looked at me and his eyes were full of so much pain. "Because I love you."

A nurse walked in. "Crystal, are you sure that all you took was Ambien and Prozac?"

"Yes."

"You tested positive for opiates."

"Chris had a prescription last week. He gave me one for back pain."

"Ok. Just making sure."

When we were alone again, I looked at my husband's hands. I rubbed the wedding band on his finger. How did this happen? How did it get this bad, this quickly? Last night I was talking with a friend, laughing. A few short hours later, I was being led from my house by the police and paramedics. Maybe I am crazy, I thought.

As if on cue, a paramedic poked his head into the room.

"Mrs. McKee? We're your transport to Fieldcrest. I'm John and this is Debra," he nodded at the tall, black woman standing next to him. She looked like she could break me in half and not spill a drop of her coffee. I meekly followed behind them and felt, for the thousandth time that day, shame burn my face. I was being forcibly taken to a psychiatric facility. Never say never, I thought.

When we reached the back of the ambulance, I clung tightly to Chris's hand. "Please don't leave me," I whispered.

"I'm sorry," John said. "You can't ride with her, but you can follow us."

Chris kissed me gently on the lips and reassured me that he would be right behind us.

I stepped into the ambulance and took the seat that John motioned me to. I spent the next half-hour staring at my hospital bracelet and wondering how many pathetic souls these two had transported. I was seeing blurry images and flashes of light. I don't have my contacts in, I thought. I don't remember taking them out. I don't remember much of anything.

We arrived and I took one anxious look at the parking lot, searching for my car and my husband. I didn't see either.

The paramedics spoke with the sleepy attendant and I was instructed to sit in one of the waiting room chairs. An older man and a young boy were seated to my left. They stared at the floor, not talking.

"Where is my husband?" I asked of no-one in particular.

"I don't know, ma'am. We'll let him in when he gets here."

"He said he would be right behind us." I was nearing panic, again.

"He probably was. We just drove a little faster," John assured me.

I scanned the parking lot through the windows. I could feel my heart sinking. What if he left me? Would I blame him? As the tears began falling, again, he walked through the door. I hugged him to me and we sat down. I put my head in his lap and cried like a lost child. He stroked my hair and murmured quietly to me until we were called by an intake person.

"I'm Dave," the intake person said as he stuck his hand out to me. I dumbly looked down at it. Was I here for a job interview or because I'm fucking insane? Chris quickly grabbed his hand and pumped it once.

Dave led us down a corridor full of locked doors. "We have to go to a conference room and fill out some paperwork," he explained. Once in the room, the talk of money and insurance and logistics began. I tuned them out and watched in detachment as the forms were signed and my fate was sealed.

When he left to go make copies ("in triplicate!"), I wondered if we could just get up and walk out. We could go to the car and drive home and cuddle and wake up and have eggs. This was a nightmare and I had to get out of it.

Before I could make my escape, Dave returned. He led us down another corridor and stopped outside a set of double doors. He inserted a key into the wall, punched in a code and opened the door, motioning for us to go ahead of him.

I walked in and the first thing I thought was, "What is that color? Is that green? Blue? Is that even a color?"

I was led to a chair and Dave bid me farewell, apologizing and insisting that Chris had to leave as well. I wearily hugged him and swallowed the lump in my throat. I would just pretend this was a spa and I was here for some much needed rest. Chris left and I sat down in the chair.

The woman behind the desk smiled at me. It looked strange and out of place.

"I'm Sandy, one of the technicians and I'm here until 7 a.m. Don't be scared, baby girl. You'll be just fine." She nodded to my suitcase. "I have to go through that."

As I watched in horror, she held up my underwear, my bra's, everything for inspection. She took my face cream. "I have to keep this here because it's glass. I'll put it in your locker."

She handed me a sheaf of papers. No paper clips. No staples.

"These are the rules," she explained. "You can't have shoe laces and deodorant has to be kept up here. You can't have razors, for obvious reasons, but we'll give you a disposable if you need one. You have to bring it back as soon as you're done. Breakfast is at 7 and we'll be checking you every fifteen minutes because you're on suicide watch. You can keep a maximum of twenty dollars in cash with you. Do you smoke?"

"No," I mumbled.

"Good. Now, look up."

I looked up and was met with a flash in my eyes. The polaroid dutifully spit out my picture and it was attached to my file. I looked like the walking dead.

"Just let me finish the last of this and I'll get you some baby shampoo and a some towels. I'll give you a basket for your clothes and-"

"Phone!" Someone screamed behind me, making me jump. "Let me use the damned phone!"

Sandy wasn't fazed. "Miss Flora, you know the rules. You can't use the phone after 10:30."

I looked behind me and watched as a large, black woman furiously pumped her wheelchair toward us. I cringed against the wall. She came to a halt in front of me and looked me up and down. Her wig was canted at a crazy angle on her head. Then, haughtily, "I'm Flora B. Perkins*, and I am bi-polar. I'm here for the research study and they have been giving me four mystery pills, three times a day, for the last twelve days. I am a school-teacher, retired, and they won't let me use the phone."

I looked to Sandy for help.

"LET ME USE THE PHONE!" Flora roared.

"No, Miss Flora. You'll just have to make one of your signs," Sandy answered, never once looking up from her paperwork.

Miss Flora hastily turned herself around, wheeled toward the break room, ran into the doorframe and threw her hands up in the air. "Lawd, Jesus, I'm going manic!" she screamed.

A short, heavy woman with her hair up in a ponytail walked toward Flora. "You don't know how to drive that damned thing," she chided. She righted the wheelchair and moved Flora in front of the television. She gave her a piece of paper and a marker and Miss Flora wrote the date, time and, I AM BI-POLAR, across the paper. Flora placed it on her chest and closed her eyes. Incredibly, she started snoring.

The woman with the ponytail turned to me, smiling. Seeing the stricken look on my face, she walked over.

"Don't worry, she's harmless," she assured me. "I'm Josephine, but I go by Jo." She held her hand out and I burst into tears. Jo hugged me and patted my back. "It's okay, sweety, it's okay. We're all scared on our first night. Everything will be fine."

I was given a laundry basket and led to my room. There were two beds, a nightstand, an armoire and a desk. There was also a vague, shadowy lump under the blankets in the bed closest to the window.

"Do you like it cold?" Sandy asked from behind me.

I nodded.

"Good, cos' Miss Leann likes it cold in here," she explained while pointing to the lump in the other bed.

She left and I put my basket down. I quietly slid in between the thin sheet and the blanket and winced as the bed springs groaned against the plastic mattress. I looked at the ceiling and tried to take deep breaths because I wanted to sleep this away and make it go by as quickly as possible. I closed my eyes. A few seconds later, my roommate started howling in her sleep and speaking in tongues. I put the blanket over my face and thought, "Holy shit. She's going to kill me and eat my brain." Moving the blanket so that just my eyes were visible, I planned. I just have to stay awake and make sure she doesn't get me. Within a few minutes, I fell into a troubled sleep, where nightmares were eagerly waiting to greet me.





to be continued



*names and other identifying information have been changed to protect the anonymity of those involved

The Crazy Chronicles, Part 1: I Hate Tapioca, But I Make A Mean Pot-Holder

Have you ever felt lost inside, so unloved within that you almost died?
Have you ever stepped out of the light and realized there's a stranger inside?
Shinedown, "Stranger Inside"

Saturday, 3:00 a.m.

"Crystal? Sweety? Open your eyes."

No, I think. Why won't these fucking people just let me sleep?

"Open up. I'm not leaving until you open your eyes for me."

I thought briefly about sitting up, bugging my eyes out at her and screaming, "Boo!", but I didn't think that would help my situation. I opened my eyes.

"There you are!" the nurse chirped. "I need a urine sample."

"You woke me up to pee?"

"Yep."

"I don't have to pee. Go away."

"Ok. I'll just slide the urinal under you and you pee when you can."

Have you ever tried to sleep with a urinal crammed under your lower back? No? Trust me, just pee.

I slept again.

_________________

6:00 a.m.

"Crystal? Can you talk to me for a minute, please?"

I opened one eye and blearily peered at the woman making the request. "I want to go home. At home I can pee when I want to."

"I know. My name is Sandra Schilling and I'm a psychiatrist. I need to ask you some questions."

"I'm not angry with my father and I don't hear voices."

"That's a start. Let's talk about what happened last night."

No. I'm not talking about that. It sounds so silly to anyone but me. It sounds....crazy. From the first time I saw Dusty, I felt a kinship with him. Those dark eyes looking out at me from the picture spoke of abandonment, eagerness to be loved and, incredibly, hope. I have never been that drawn to an animal. I'm not talking about that.

"Crystal?" Dr. Schilling persisted.

"I want to go home. Where's my husband?"

"He'll be back shortly. He went to get you some things."

After switching tactics and asking a series of perfunctory questions, she scribbled on her clipboard and then asked a question that would ultimately change my life. "Would you go willingly if I recommend that you be treated at Fieldcrest?"

How odd, I thought. Fieldcrest. My son and I drove by the facility the other day and he asked me, Mom, what kind of hospital is that?

That's where all the nutjobs go to eat Tapioca and make pot holders, I answered.

Would I go willingly? If she meant would I think about it and do some "soul searching" based on her recommendation, sure. I later found out that she was really asking if I would go without being put in a straightjacket. The clipboard she held would be passed to someone who would then call for an ambulance to transport me to a place that I would grow to hate and love and fear. A place that would save my life and my sanity.
To be continued

The Crazy Chronicles, Part 21: Ugliness in Such A Place of Beauty

“People who are homeless are not social inadequates. They are people without homes.” - Sheila McKechnie

“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” - Maya Angelou



The closer we got to Reno, the more I started to feel like I had been used for my car and my money. Kelly refused to help drive, so I chugged coffee and attempted to make conversation. He sat sullenly in the passenger seat and became less friendly with every passing mile. I wanted to stop and stretch my legs and see some of the unique things we passed (who can just drive past a giant ball of twine? NO ONE) but his attitude went from aggravated to outright hostile in a matter of hours. I still tried to write it off as exhaustion and when we finally stopped for the night at a small hotel in the middle of nowhere, I looked forward to an evening of relaxation and reconnection.
After lugging our things up the stairs to the room, I sat down on the bed, exhausted. I peeled my clothes off and took a hot shower, emerging renewed. Kelly was watching tv when I climbed onto the bed and put my head on his chest. "Your hair is wet," he snapped.
"I'm sorry," I said as I sat up. "Hey, do you feel like watching a movie?"
"No. I'm tired."
From what? I thought. You slept almost the entire way.
"Ok," I said, grinning. "How about a pillow fight? Or, I could put a raisin in my bellybutton and walk around naked, but you have to call me 'Sugar Cookie'." I picked up a small pillow and gently whacked him on his hip.
He glared at me, the disgust evident. "How old are you?"
I bit my lip and blinked back tears as I turned over and curled the pillow up under my head. I knew in my heart I had made a huge mistake but I was determined to make it work. I was always determined to make the ones who hurt me the most love me.
_______________

The next morning, I drove through Death Valley. I was terrified every inch of the way because of the lack of snow tires and the treacherous cliffs. Kelly insisted on telling me how to drive through miles of it until I finally lashed out and told him to shut his fucking mouth if he had no intention of helping me drive. He sulked through the rest of the trip and I was just glad for the silence while I concentrated on not getting us both killed.
When we finally arrived in Reno, I was falling asleep on my feet. He directed me to a casino hotel and told me to wait in the car. "I know a guy here who can hook us up with a cheap room," he claimed. I gave him the last of our money and dozed while he went inside. Some time later, I woke and looked at the clock. It had been almost an hour. I went inside and looked around. There weren't that many people out at this hour and Kelly was easy to spot. He was gambling. I approached him and put my hand on his shoulder. "Are you nuts? That's the last of our money!"
He shrugged my hand off. "My friend's not working and you have to gamble if you want them to give you a room. That's the way this works, Crystal."
"Kelly, we could have bought a room for what you have placed on that one bet!"
When he turned, the absolute hate in his eyes made me lose all train of thought. "Do you want a nice room or a dump?" he hissed. Upon seeing my shock, he continued. "Good. Then go back to the car and shut the fuck up."
I complied. I tried not to panic. I can get a job anywhere, I thought. I can make more money. It's a stupid thing to fight about, money is.
When he finally came to get me and we went up to the room, I praised him for his idea. What a simple, child-like moron I was. I believed in love at first sight, unicorns and happily ever after and it was what made me an easy target.
_______________

The following day, we drove around to see some of Kelly's acquaintances. Ostensibly, this was to establish contacts for a job search and maybe a place to stay until we could find more solid ground. In reality, it was aimless. Our first encounter was with an older, ex-Navy Seal who was as crazy as a shithouse rat. He loaded up a plethora of weapons and we drove to the desert where he generously offered to help me fire a semi-automatic, a Glock and the biggest fucking gun I've ever seen that wasn't clutched in the fist of Dirty Harry while he schooled some punk.
After that, we drove to another man's house. Neither of us had eaten in two days so when the man's very soft-spoken, Asian wife offered to make dinner, we eagerly accepted. As I sat and perused a magazine while the men talked, I became confused. The magazine was full of holes. Our host noticed my look of puzzlement. "My wife, she don't like ads with other women in 'em. She cuts 'em out. Eyes, bodies, anything to do with another female. Heh."
I glanced at his wife. She smiled at me and said something in her native tongue as she lifted the cleaver and decapitated the chicken she was preparing. I stared at my hands for the rest of the evening.
Our next stop was some younger people who were very deeply involved in a game of Mortal Kombat. They offered up a bong and Kelly got high and jumped into the game with them. I watched for hours before begging him to please tell me what we were supposed to do. I was exhausted. "I dunno," he answered. "I guess get a room somewhere."
He pointed and I drove. We ended up in a questionable part of town and he pointed to a run-down motel. "That's about all we can afford."
He made the arrangements and paid the woman for a week. He told her we would be staying indefinitely, much to my horror. I spent the first night hiding in the middle of the bed, watching things scurry to and fro. I finally turned the light on and slept in the chair, under the lamp.
The following morning, he asked me what I had to pawn.
"I don't know," I answered. I had already given away much of what I owned and left my jewelry with his Mom. The only thing I had that was worth anything was a leather jacket, handmade and stitched in Denmark. It had been a gift from my parents before my Dad lost his job. We both looked at it. "I can't. It's ... it's the only thing I have left."
"We'll get it back, as soon as I start working."
I had my doubts. We pawned it and he pocketed the money. While we were there, I filled out an application at the casino across the street. "Do you have a gaming card?" the woman asked me.
"No, I just moved here-"
"You hafta have one. Across the street. The brown building."
I went across the street and waited in line at some sort of government office. When I reached the front of the line after almost an hour, I handed the woman my paperwork and my license. She processed it and looked up at me, expectantly.
I stared back, unsure what she wanted.
"It's ten dollars, sweety."
I gaped at her. Kelly had the money and my car. I had no idea where he was or when he would be back. I looked around in panic. People were getting impatient behind me.
"Do you have ten dollars?" the woman asked, again.
I looked at her, my eyes wet with tears. I was so humiliated and hungry and tired. I shook my head no and picked up my license to leave. She put her hand over mine. "Wait. I'll loan you the money. You pay me back when you get it, promise?"
I nodded, dumbstruck by this unexpected offer of trust. She handed me my card and I walked outside, hopeful. At least I was legal to work in the casinos. I went back to the human resources office and presented my card. "Ok. Start tomorrow at six." Just like that, I had a job.
_______________
When Kelly finally picked me up, I shared my good news with him. He seemed more like his old self and laughed with me. "I have a surprise for you, too!" he said. I felt wonderful.
When we arrived at the motel and walked in, I smelled something familiar. Dog shit. "Kelly...why does it smell like poop in here?"
He grinned and nodded to a space behind the chair. I walked over and looked. Peeking out at me from the small space between the chair and the wall was a Shepherd-mix puppy. I was enchanted and immediately felt a kinship with this animal. He was obviously scared to death. As I kneeled down and stroked his matted fur, I asked, "Where did you find him?"
"The shelter."
I looked up, confused. "They adopt for free, here?"
"No. I had to pay the fee. Isn't he cute?"
I stood. "Kelly, you used the money from the jacket I pawned to get a puppy?"
"Not all of it."
I was sick. We lived in a motel and couldn't even afford to feed ourselves, much less this poor creature. I had no idea what was going on in this man's head. "We have to take him back. We're in no shape to take on a puppy."
"We'll be fine. I'll go get a job tomorrow, you already have a job...we'll be fine!" He seemed so happy, so sure of himself that I found it infectious.
I took the puppy outside for a walk and discovered a problem. He was terrified of everything. He would run from corner to corner and sit there in the dark, shaking, until I coaxed him out with the leash. Once out of the corner, he would bolt in spastic directions, yelping when he reached the end of the leash and then turning in another direction and running, again. I took him to the back side of the motel where it was quiet and sat on the ground with him, holding him and murmuring to calm him down. When his shakes finally subsided, I just sat with him and let him take in his surroundings. He never acted as though he was quite ready for the walk, so I picked him up and carried him back inside. He ran for the space behind the chair and stayed there. Oh, well, I thought. He can't damage this carpet any more than it already is.
The following evening, I took the car with me since I had no idea what time I would get off and Kelly and I had no means of communication. I was pointed to the wardrobe section and walked there to get my cocktail uniform. The tiny, beautiful Asian woman behind the counter gave me my uniform and told to change and come back. "We look, see if need adjustment," she explained.
I went and changed and looked at myself in the mirror. There was barely any skirt and my cleavage was hanging out. I returned to the woman. "Umm, I think I need some cheerleader panties and do you have any safety pins?"
"You no wear panties?"
"Yes, I have my own, but I'm talking about the kind that go under a cheerleader skirt. This is too short."
She laughed and shook her head. "Is supposed to be short." She tugged at the shirt. I tugged back. "You no like to show skin?"
"No, I don't. Can I please have some safety pins?"
She clucked her tongue at me. "You no make money, no show skin. Here. Go." She gave me a handful of pins and I headed back to the changing room. I pinned the shirt up to my comfort zone and went in search of the head cocktail. I found her and asked her what I needed to do.
"Cocktail, honey. You get the penny and nickel machines."
"Um, is that just because I'm new?"
"Yes. And you'll be new for a while, so get used to it."
I walked the machines. What I saw appalled me. There was a strict policy in place about shoes, so some of the people at the machines had wrapped their feet in rags just to have a "shoe" of some sort. This allowed them to sit at the machines and play a few coins every hour while getting free, watered-down drinks.
At the end of the first night, I had made almost thirty dollars. My feet were killing me. A security guard walked me to my car and I went back to the motel.
Kelly was already asleep and Killer (my name for him) was hiding in his usual spot, peeking out at me and shaking. I took him outside and we sat in the back again. When I thought he might be calm enough, I gently slid the collar off of him. "I'll trust you. Go handle your business."
He ran full-tilt-boogie into the mobile home lot next door and hid under a trailer. I spent thirty minutes climbing around on gravel to get him out and take him inside. I was covered in scratches and tired when I came inside. Kelly was up and playing Nintendo.
"Where did we get a Nintendo?"
He ignored this. "You woke me up."
"Sorry. Killer needed to go out." I changed the subject. "I made thirty dollars tonight!"
He looked over at me. "That's it?"
"Yeah, you don't get the good parts of the floor right away. I picked up a shift tomorrow. The Temptations. Ought to be decent money."
He shrugged and went back to Duck Hunt. I took a shower and climbed into bed with him, naked. I rubbed his back and leaned over, kissing him along the nape of his neck. He paused the game and turned to me. I smiled and leaned in to kiss him. He put his hand over my face. "What the fuck are you doing?"
I sat back, shocked. "I...I just thought..."
"I'm doing something. Do you know how rude that is?"
"You haven't touched me since we left Midland. What's wrong?"
"I just don't feel like it."
"You readily accept blowjobs! But you won't touch me! What's wrong with me?"
He ignored me and turned the light out. As if on cue, the neighbors on the other side of the headboard wall began what would be their nightly routine. She moans, moaning becomes louder, pounding becomes more pronounced, he starts begging her to come, she screams in ecstasy, he screams in ecstasy, everyone is happy.
I looked at Killer. He looked back, squatted and peed on the floor. What a life.
_______________
Things began to rapidly deteriorate. I went to the food bank, taking Killer with me, to get what supplies we could keep in the room. That amounted to bread, peanut butter and fruit cups. Killer became violently car sick, so I spent the rest of the day cleaning vomit out of my car. As I was finishing up, Kelly opened the door and came out, Killer in tow. He was dragging him.
"Kelly! You can't do that! Someone's obviously beat him, you have to-"
"I know what I'm doing. He needs to know who's boss."
I followed them, wringing my hands. Killer kept looking back at me and coughing on his leash. "Kelly, please. You're choking him."
He ignored me and continued forward. Suddenly, Killer went ballistic and began bucking against the leash. He thrashed and snapped and yelped. I was rooting for him when Kelly drew his foot back and kicked the puppy, hard, in the stomach. He howled and hit the ground, head low, tail and feet tucked in. "See?" he asked me, breathing hard. "Needed to know who's boss."
"You ignorant fuck." I snatched the leash out of his hand. "Don't touch him, again."
"He's my dog-"
"No, he's mine, you broke bastard. My jacket paid for him, so don't touch him, again!" I roared.
We went inside and I sat on the floor with Killer, trying to cuddle with him. He wanted nothing to do with me. He only wanted to get back behind the chair. I let him go and sat, talking to him. I decided to take him back to the shelter the next day. Being here wasn't helping him one bit.
_______________
I got up the next morning and got Killer's leash on him.
"What are you doing?"
"Taking him back. I can't take care of a dog and you sure as hell don't need one."
"Put the leash down."
I spun to face him, my eyes spitting fire. "Make me." He looked unsure. "Come on, make me, Kelly. You're so fucking in control, here, make me do what you want me to do. COME ON! MAKE ME!" I couldn't stop. I wanted him to attack me. And he finally obliged.
When all was said and done, we were all the worse for wear. I was scratched and bleeding from protecting my face, Kelly was scratched and bleeding from Killer jumping on him from behind and trying to eat his face off and Killer was sporting one, new lump to the head.
I stood up. I picked up the leash from the floor and left. I took Killer back to the shelter, apologizing to the woman and explaining that he was just too wounded and I couldn't dedicate the time and energy he needed to heal. She refunded the adoption fee to me and I pocketed it. On the drive back, I made a decision. I was going home.
I arrived back at the motel, optimistic and feeling good about my decision. I opened the door and felt the wrongness before I realized what it was. Kelly was gone. Gone with him were most of my belongings, including my checkbook and keyboard, and the money I had given him the night before. I had forty dollars, a quarter of a tank of gas and four more days before rent was due again.

News. And Begging. But, Mostly News.

edit: I was just kidding. I get 2 copies of the book. I'm sorry for any sleep you may have lost over the injustice of it all, you crazy kids.

I'm in this! Look! LOOK!




_______________


For publicity contact:
Christine Fugate
Tel. 949.376.7664
cfugate@verizon.net
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 26, 2008

Real Moms Write about Motherhood in Debut Collection

"If motherhood did come with a manual, this would be it.” -Coast Kids Magazine

LAGUNA BEACH, CA, APR. 26 – The Mothering Heights Manual for Motherhood, Volume 1: What we wish we knew before we became short order cook, shuttle driver, laundress Mother, a hilarious and poignant collection of essays on motherhood, debuts next month in time for Mother’s Day and summer reading. The book is a culmination of the 2nd Annual Mother’s Day Essay Contest held by Christine Fugate, the popular writer of the Mothering Heights column and blog. Twenty-nine essays and four poems were chosen from over one hundred entries from Israel, Germany, Australia, and thirty U.S. states.

“I wanted this to be a celebration of motherhood – and for readers to laugh,” says Fugate, editor of Manual for Motherhood. “But some of the essays were so powerful, they had to be included. While we moms need to laugh, we can also use a good cry.” The essays and poems offer stories, contemplations and advice about what it means to be a mother. Highlights include the mommy drive-by, not making meatloaf, and parenting with a coffee can. Serious topics such as finding an adoptive child’s birth mother, raising a Down syndrome child and recovering from post-partum depression are also featured.

Among the contributors are Us Weekly’s film critic Thelma Adams and novelists Patti Callahan Henry and Patty Friedmann. Fugate, a film and television Producer, is excited to also include writers who have never been published. “I started writing my column in an attempt to understand motherhood. I wanted to publish women who are not professional writers –they write because they want to make sense of motherhood.” Additional essays submitted to the essay contest are featured online in a Mother’s Day Anthology at MotheringHeights.net.

Mothering Heights Manual for Motherhood, Volume 1: What we wish we knew before we became a short order cook, shuttle driver, laundress Mother, edited by Christine Fugate (trade paperback, $12.95 Mothering Heights Press, 2008) will be available May 11th at MotheringHeights.net and June 15th at Amazon.com and bookstores.

###



_______________



GO BUY IT! I'M GOING TO BE RICH! RICH, I SAY! I'M GOING TO SWIM IN CAVIAR AND ... (What? I'm not getting any of the proceeds? Who negotiated this crap? Oh. Nevermind)


You should buy it, anyway, simply because it's going to be fabulous. And can someone send me a copy? Cos' I'm broke.

_______________

Speaking of being broke, does anyone have a sofa near or in San Francisco that I can sleep on the nights of July 17th, 18th and 19th? Even if it's in the yard and covered in cat hair, I'll take it. And then I might be able to afford to go to BlogHer. Seriously, how are you ladies funding this, cos, dayyyyyum. I tried to volunteer for a research study but they got all picky about me having a vagina. Stupid erectile dysfunction people.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


The Crazy Chronicles, Part 20: Touching The Face Of God

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of—wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air....
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark nor even eagle flew—
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
- John Gillespie Magee, Jr., "High Flight"





Weekends became a game of cat and mouse. If Adam and Vangie had plans and needed a babysitter, they would be home when I arrived to pick Devon up. Most of the time they weren't home.

The first time this happened, I called the police. When they arrived and I presented my documentation, the officer looked at me as though I were filth. "He has custody?"

"Yes," I tersely answered. It would be the first of many times that I would be judged in the blink of an eye.

His demeanor immediately changed. "Well, we can't help you. You have to take him back to court and sue him for contempt."

"I can't afford that! I'm barely making ends meet with the support I'm paying. So, you're telling me that if I have Devon and I refuse to give him back when it's time for Adam to pick him up, there's nothing you can do?"

"That's different. He's the custodial parent."

"Why is this different? The judge said he has to have him back at a certain time and he also said I get him from this time to that, so why is this any different?"

"Ma'am, we don't write these laws-"

"Apparently, you don't enforce them, either. Nevermind. I don't know why I wasted my time."

Being a non-custodial parent, especially a woman, means you must have been a horrible person. Being a non-custodial parent means that, while you have rights on paper, you might as well wipe your ass with the orders because no one is willing to stand up for you or those "rights". If I stopped paying child support, the attorney General of Texas would act on Adam's behalf and sue me, at no cost to Adam. If, however, I wasn't getting the visitation ordered by the courts, I needed to hire an attorney. I could barely make rent. Adam was making $20 an hour at a union job. I was making about $200 per week.

My weekends alone were horrible. I tried to distract myself by reading, but there was only so much I could take of being alone in my apartment.

One day at work, a co-worker and I were casually talking about things we would like to do when the subject of skydiving came up. Of course, most people will say, "Ooh, I've always wanted to try that." I didn't want to be one of those people, so when Phil suggested we go, and that he would pay for it, I immediately said yes. We called and made the arrangements and early that Saturday morning, we headed for Eagles Nest Drop Zone. I was quiet on the ride over. I had gone to pick Devon up at 6 p.m. the night before, only to find an empty apartment. Empty of furniture, empty of life. They had moved.

_______________


That day, under the canopy of a parachute and floating in the beautiful morning air, I found a freedom. The drop zone became my second home and the other skydivers my new family. I was the only female jumper so I was treated like a little sister by most of them. I was able to smile and sometimes laugh out loud, but when I was freefalling or floating down to the ground, I talked to God about Devon. I asked Him why it had to be this way, why my life was so empty and meaningless. He never answered me, but looking at the horizon as the sun set over the edge of the world or opening my parachute at altitude so that I could float through the clouds, I always felt Him with me. It was the only thing that kept me from cutting my main parachute away and letting gravity take care of the rest.

_______________


Adam and Vangie moved a lot. They never paid their bills, so it was a matter of survival to them. Somewhere along the way, the new baby was born and life moved on for everyone. I was called upon several times to pay an electric bill or buy groceries to keep Devon fed and warm. I could never say no, even though I was still being treated like trash and not able to see my son very often. His needs came first, regardless of how much I despised the rest of that family. I pitied this new baby, knowing what life he was being born into, this gypsy existence.

One night at the drop zone, a new face appeared. Jim came over from a neighboring d.z. and I was intrigued. He was well-read, well-spoken, funny and covered head to toe in tattoos. After working with him on several freefalling maneuvers, a friendship developed into something more. When he unexpectedly lost his job due to lay-offs, I didn't hesitate to open my home to him. He moved his things in, made Devon squeal with giggles on the infrequent occasions he saw him, and he loved to cook. Things were okay for a while.

As time went on and depression settled over Jim, our lives became chaotic. I was struggling to pay bills and maintain my sanity and he was sleeping a lot and becoming less productive in the house. One night, during a particularly nasty argument, I resorted to pleading. "Jim," I said. "I need a man-"

That was all he heard. The coke cup that had been in his hand went whizzing by my head and splattered all over the living room wall. "I am a man, goddammit! Don't you ever question that!"

I was speechless. I had no idea that there were more than a handful of men who could be violent and I seemed to have picked three in a row. "I was going to say that I need a man who shows me affection once in a while."

We didn't speak for days. I thought long and hard about our current situation and tried to find a way to tell him that I thought it was best we not live together. That opportunity presented itself one frigid night at the drop zone.

It was the owner's birthday and we were throwing a surprise party. We were all inside, lights out and waiting for him to show up, when Jim began an obnoxious monologue. He had been drinking since early that afternoon and the more he drank, the louder he became. After the owner arrived, I stepped outside to get away from Jim. I was embarrassed and still struggling to find a way to end this relationship. He stepped outside as I was filling my cup with beer from the keg.

"You trying to get away from me?"

I gritted my teeth. "Yes, incidentally. Jim, listen...it's not working. Us living together is a mistake. I think you should move out this weekend."

This immediately sparked a debate over money. He began giving me calculations about what I owed him before he could move out. I sighed and said, "Fine. I don't care, anymore. Tell me what you think is fair and we'll work it out."

"No, I want the money now."

"You're incredible."

"Fuck you."

"No, fuck you, Jim. I opened my home and my heart to you and-"

Before I could finish, a beer cup hit me in the chest and cold, foamy liquid covered me. Without thinking, I took aim and lobbed my cup back at him. When it hit him in the stomach, he balled his fists and began striding toward me. I backed away and my foot slipped off the edge of the deck right as he threw the first punch. Because I was falling backward, his fist only grazed my lip. I hit the ground and the wind was knocked out of me. He stood over me, on the deck, and as I moved my hands to protect my face and mentally steeled myself for the beating that was coming, hands reached out and grabbed him from behind. He was dragged away by the other jumpers and I was lifted off the ground by their wives. As they led me away to help me clean up, I heard the owner tell Jim to get in his car, leave and never come back to this drop zone. I was floored. They had been friends for years. Why would he do such a thing for me? I felt guilty and angry and incredibly sad, all at the same time.

That night, I stayed at Ernie's house. When I went home the next day, Jim was gone. He came back later that week to get the rest of his belongings and we were cordial to one another. I was relieved when he was gone, but being alone again was killing me inside. I felt undesirable, unlovable. I measured my existence by whether or not what Adam had told me was true. Would anyone ever love me?

_______________


The first time Adam and Vangie took me back to court to increase child support, I caught a glimpse of Devon in the hallway. I tried to tell the Judge presiding that I still wasn't being allowed the ordered visitation, but he didn't seem to care. Time and again, I was instructed to sue him for contempt. No one would do anything much more than that.

Vangie refused to work outside the home. I was paying for that and the money I did send never seemed to get used for anything responsible. Devon's clothes were threadbare and I was still being asked to cover bills from time to time. I began to subconsciously withdraw emotionally from my son and the guilt and bafflement I felt was all consuming. One day, when Adam knocked on my door holding Devon in his arms, I stood on the other side and made no noise as the tears rolled silently down my face. When they left, I collapsed on the floor and hated my very existence. What the hell was happening to me?

_______________


I was aware of every day passing by and the intense hatred of the person I was becoming. I wanted to crawl out of my own skin and leave that shell behind. I wanted to be reborn. I wanted to be the idealistic, romantic child I had been before life had become ugly and hard.

One afternoon, I was under my car changing the oil. I was having trouble getting the plug off and cursing, loudly, when a pair of feet appeared by my head. "Do you need some help?"

I slid from under the car and shielded my eyes from the sun. He was tall and dark and beautiful. He smiled and it was dazzling. "I...yes. I can't get the plug off."

A month later, he and his brother decided to move to Reno and he asked me to go with them. I wasn't a mother. I wasn't a wife. I wasn't anything here but a friend to Ernie. I gave away what wouldn't fit in my car and we left on our journey. I had no idea what was in store, but I figured anything had to be better than measuring each day by the number of breaths you drew in.

Kelly had no car, so we took mine. He had no money, so I carefully planned our trip with what I had in my account.

We arrived in his hometown in New Mexico and stayed at his mother's house while he and his brother took care of some business. It was during these lonely afternoons in the back room of a hostile house that I learned John was not really his brother and that most of what Kelly had told me was bullshit. I made excuses for him and day dreamed about my new life in a new state.

When Kelly was thrown in jail for an outstanding warrant and I had to bail him out, it left us short the money we needed to make it to Reno. While I was digging through my belongings looking for my small pieces of jewelry to give his mother as collateral for a small loan, I found a piece of paper that didn't look familiar to me. I opened it, surprised to find a letter from Ernie.

Dear Crystal,

I'm writing this because if I try to tell you, I'll start crying, again.

The letter went on to tell me how much he loved me and worried for me. The closing paragraph stopped my breath.

Please, please ... when you're giving yourself away to every person who's nice to you, please save some for yourself. Don't leave yourself empty, again.

I wept when I read that. I wish I had listened.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


The Crazy Chronicles, Part 19: Alone, Again

I measure every grief I meet
With analytic eyes;
I wonder if it weighs like mine,
Or has an easier size.

I wonder if they bore it long,
Or did it just begin?
I could not tell the date of mine,
It feels so old a pain.

I wonder if it hurts to live,
And if they have to try,
And whether, could they choose between,
They would not rather die.

I wonder if when years have piled
-- Some thousands--
on the cause Of early hurt,
if such a lapse Could give them any pause;

Or would they go on aching still
Through centuries above,
Enlightened to a larger pain
By contrast with the love.

The grieved are many, I am told;
The reason deeper lies,
-- Death is but one and comes but once
And only nails the eyes.

There's grief of want, and grief of cold,
-- A sort they call 'despair,'
There's banishment from native eyes,
In sight of native air.

And though I may not guess the kind
Correctly yet to me
A piercing comfort it affords
In passing Calvary,

To note the fashions of the cross
Of those that stand alone
Still fascinated to presume
That some are like my own. - Emily Dickinson, "I Measure Every Grief"





Jason busted into the women's bathroom where I was crabbing on the floor and screaming for everyone to stop touching me. "She just left. She just packed up her stuff and left, that bitch," he said to no one.

"Who?" Wanda, the secretary, asked.

"That piece of shit attorney. Crystal's in shock and grieving and she just leaves like she's late for lunch."

My Mom was kneeling down and trying to stroke my hair. I swiped at her and rolled farther away.

Wanda came over and grabbed me by my forearm. "Up, girl. Get up off that filthy floor. You have to pull your shit together because your first visitation starts in less than four hours."

I looked at her like she had lost her mind. "Visitation? Are you fucking crazy? I just lost my son!" I screamed.

"You still have visitation from six to eight. If you want to have any chance of appealing this, you cannot miss a single visit."

I sighed and sat up. "I can't appeal it. I don't have any money left. I don't have anything left. I just want to die." I started mewling, again.

Wanda looked from my Mom to Jason. "Can you make sure she's there if I arrange it?"

"Oh, yeah. I can," my Mom said.

"Ok. I'll go talk to that horrible man." She left and I sat and thought about my future. I thought about missed birthdays and nighttime kisses and every other weekend. It hurt too much to even contemplate right now. I shut those thoughts away in the back of my mind and tried to think about nothing. It was all but impossible when my chest was aching with hurt and my heart was dying.

Wanda returned. "Ok. His Mom is going to meet her at a park right next to the apartments. She has to be there at 4 p.m. on the dot," she emphasized. My Mom nodded. Wanda leaned down to me. "Crystal, have him back at the park at six. Don't do anything stupid, do you understand? If you do, you'll ruin any chance you may have to appeal this."

I glared at her. "I've already told you...I don't have any money to appeal."

She acted as if she hadn't heard me. "So, get her home and calmed down," she said to my Mom. She turned back to me. "Crystal, call me, even if you just need to talk. I think you should seek some counseling, too, but we'll talk about that, later."

I insisted on waiting to leave until Adam and his family were gone. When we left, the building was as quiet as a tomb. Since all the life had gone out of me, I felt it very appropriate.

_______________


I went to the park alone. I crossed the playground and Adam's mother got out of her car. She leaned in to unstrap Devon and as soon as he saw me over her shoulder, he grinned and reached for me. "Mama!"

I took him from her arms and turned to leave without speaking. She bristled. "Crystal, you don't have to be ugly with me."

I spun around. Mindful of the baby I was carrying, I hissed, "You lied. They asked you who the better parent was and you lied. I saw it all over your face. You helped take my baby from me."

I continued walking away, ignoring her calls to me that she just did what she thought was best for Devon. She did what she thought was best for her son, not mine.

_______________

My life became very lonely. I wasn't very pleasant to be around, so most of my work friends stopped talking to me. I had one friend during that time, Ernie, who never left my side. He listened and sympathized and held me when I cried. I spent a lot of my time in tears.

I tried to go to counseling, but when the therapist sat and made paper-clip art while I was desperately working to control my grief, I decided not to go back. They never called to ask why I started missing appointments. That just made it worse, somehow. I couldn't even pay someone to give a shit.

My work schedule varied from week to week and my visitation with Devon was difficult. Adam wouldn't budge from the visitation schedule and my boss wouldn't hear of me being off for an entire weekend, so I saw him less and less. I began to feel like more of a babysitter and less like his Mom.

I came back to my apartment one weekend after Devon and I had been out at the park playing and walked in to a scene out of Cheech & Chong. My roommate, her boyfriend and several people I didn't know were sitting in the living room and passing around a bong. The air was thick with the stench. I covered Devon's mouth and nose and retreated the way I had come in. When I went back several hours later, I told Cindy that I was moving out. "Why?" she asked.

"Are you kidding me, Bob Marley? I don't like that shit in the house and you know it. I have a baby to think about."

I'm sure a part of her was greatly relieved. They thought I was overreacting ("It's just a little pot!") and I thought they were careless and inconsiderate for not keeping it out of my home.

A week later, I found an apartment in the same complex that Ernie lived in. It was within walking distance to work and it was mine. I had a tv, a donated sofa, my mattress on the floor and some mustard.

Shortly after I moved in, my old truck blew it's engine. I drove onto a car lot, smoke billowing and left within 2 hours with a Geo Metro and a car payment I couldn't afford. I could walk to work, but I couldn't walk the ten miles in the West Texas heat to pick up my son and carry him back. I had to get a second job. I found a part time job delivering flowers and my only time off was Wednesday evening. I spent two hours a week with my son and I gave up hope a little more each time he left for another week. I would look around at the vastness of the desert, the tumbleweeds and the smell of crude oil in the air and wish that God would strike me dead. This was not living. This was existing.

_______________

Shortly before Devon's first birthday, I quit working at the Mexican restaurant and got a job at an upscale restaurant in the downtown area. My hours at the florist and the restaurant were so close together that I received four speeding tickets the first six months, but the managers were women and mothers and much more understanding of my need to have every other weekend off. I was seeing Devon more and feeling some spark of life glowing within me.

Adam called one day to inform me of his plan for Devon's first birthday. "It will be at the apartment, for the family, and of course you're invited." Of course I was. I bit my tongue and bought a gift and arrived on time. When I walked in, Adam beamed and introduced me to the tall, dark-haired woman to his right. "This is my girlfriend, Vangie."

I was immediately defensive. "Can I talk to you for a minute, privately?"

We stepped into the kitchen where she could still very clearly hear us. "Don't you think it's a bit presumptuous to ask a new girlfriend to what could be a very tense and uncomfortable occasion? You said this was for family."

"Jealous?" he leered.

I made a gagging noise. "I'm sympathetic, asshole."

He laughed. "Oh, come on. She's nice and she loves Devon. She doesn't have any kids of her own, can't have 'em, so she just dotes on him."

Telling me this was like pouring salt on an open wound and he knew this. I walked out and sat down on the sofa to wait for everyone else to show up. Devon was coming with Adam's mother.

Vangie approached me. "I have to go get ice cream," she said. "Do you want to ride with me?" I smiled at her and declined. She hesitated and then left. I initially felt bad and hoped that I had not hurt her feelings, but this was an incredibly awkward moment for me and I just wanted to see my son.

A couple of hours later, Devon was in bed full of cake and ice cream and I was alone with Vangie and Adam. "Can I talk to you for a few minutes, in private?" I asked, again. He glanced at Vangie. She went into the kitchen. We sat at the dining room table and rehashed our custody agreement. I begged for more time, he refused. I asked him to reconsider and he tried to steer the conversation to the 'good old days'. In the interest of having more time with Devon, I let him prattle on about all the great memories and how much fun we had when remember when? I felt my stomach churning as the minutes passed by and Vangie continued to sit on the kitchen counter, taking in every word. When he began to cross the line from reminiscing to flirting, I stood to leave. Now, I was angry for her. She had been very gracious during the party, standing back and allowing me to hover around Devon and she didn't deserve this man's bullshit.

Before I left, I tried one more time. "I'm supposed to go to Austin for a week with my Mom," I explained. "My brother has never seen Devon and he just got home from the Marines. Please let me take him with me. Please."

He asked me for the exact dates and I told him. "Ok, you can take him."

I was ecstatic. In less than a month, I would get to spend an entire week with my baby boy. The day couldn't come fast enough.

_______________

The night before we left for Austin, I drove to pick Devon up. I was singing, the air was relatively fresh that day and I was going to have Devon for seven days in a row. I was genuinely happy for the first time in months.

I climbed the stairs and wasn't surprised when Vangie answered the door. She was becoming a fixture at the apartment and although we were still wary of each other, I felt optimistic that this, too, would work itself out. I smiled at her and then felt it fall off of my face when Adam poked his head over her shoulder and she backed away. "What's up, Crystal Loo?" This had been his pet name for me and I hated it.

"We're leaving for Austin in the morning? Remember? I've reminded you a dozen times," I laughed, nervous.

"Oh, that. Yeah, I need to talk to you about that. Come in."

I walked in. Devon was nowhere in sight. My stomach started to churn. "What's there to talk about, Adam? We've had this worked out for a month. Where is he?"

"I just don't know if I feel comfortable with you taking him for a whole week."

My face was hot with rage. "Don't do this. Don't you fucking do this. You said I could take him."

"Well, I changed my mind. I don't think you'd really know how to take care of him for that long."

My jaw worked and my pulse was pounding in my head. "Are you high? Drunk?" Then it hit me. "Oh, Jesus. What did you tell her?" I cocked a finger in Vangie's direction. "That you were the doting father and I was, what? Gone? How much did you distort the story in your favor? Did you tell her about the time you drank up all his formula money and I had to listen to him scream for 2 hours until I asked a complete stranger to go get him some food? Or what about the time he had no diapers and I had to use dishtowels because you were passed out-"

"You can leave now," Vangie said from behind me.

I turned and took a breath. "This is between us, Vangie. This is about our son and it has nothing to do with you."

"Well, this is my home, now, and I'm about to be his stepmom, so it does concern me. Get out."

I gaped at her. "You've known him a month. And you've moved in? Look, congratulations and all of that, but you moving in doesn't change the fact that this is none of your business." I turned back to Adam. "Keep your word. For once in your miserable life, keep your word."

He said nothing. Instead, Vangie piped up, again. "I think I told you to get out. And you can take these with you." She pushed a portrait into my hand. It was a picture my Mom had made for Christmas. I was holding Devon on my lap.

"This goes in his nursery," I dumbly replied.

"I'm not comfortable with it in the house. And you aren't allowed inside anymore. You can come when you're allowed visitation and wait outside. Now, Devon is not going with you today and if you don't leave, I will call the police."

I stared at her, the hatred and anger boiling over. "I will have a restraining order placed against you if you even think about interfering with my relationship with my son. My son, Vangie. Not yours. I know you can't have children and I'm sure that-"

"Oh, I can have kids, honey. I'm having one in about seven months. So, you can just forget the restraining order. This is my home, now."

My mind was working. I was in hell. After a few choice words and the promise that I would kill Adam the first chance I got, I was thrown out on my ass.

For years, I thought that Adam was the cruelest, most evil creature I could ever encounter. I was about to find out just how wrong I was.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Choices

If you really want to see some of the more interesting characters in life, have a yard sale in Mississippi on the first beautiful spring weekend. While most people are out gardening and enjoying the weather, the serious bargain shoppers are daring to dream and scouring the neighborhoods for that fifty cent toaster that cannot be passed up.

My yard sale on Saturday was not a huge success. The handicrapper sat forlornly at the edge of the driveway and every so often, I would mark it down by fifty cents in the hopes that someone would buy it. They never did.

I had a wonderful time, though. I went and picked up Carter (my little old man that I adopted from the crazy place) and we sat in the carport and watched Harmony marvel over all of the crap in the bins. Each thing she pulled out was new and wondrous to her, every toy, every CD, every potholder. She would raise them reverently to the sky as if to show the world the magical thing she had discovered while she squealed in delight and triumph. We laughed a lot.

My friend, Amanda (hi, Amanda!), came to help and brought her kids (Hi, kids!) and then her husband came, as well (hi, Brandon!). My other friend, Tracie, stopped by to help and it was a day of peace and relaxation and laughter for me. All of my friends were with me and I was making money, a quarter at a time. Even the old ladies who fought over the velvet Elvis didn't faze me.

Today, I decided to donate what was left. I packaged it all neatly in Tupperware bins and placed it down by the curb. It had not been there 10 minutes when a small car pulled up. I was sweeping the driveway when a sweet-faced Hispanic woman got out and timidly asked me if the things on the curb were garbage.

"Oh, no. I was going to donate them, but if you see anything you like, you're welcome to it! I do want to keep the bins so take one to put your stuff in, but would you mind leaving the rest?"

She smiled and began rummaging. I went back to sweeping.

A couple of minutes later, a new car arrived. The window rolled down and the black man inside smiled at me. "You had a yard sale!" he exclaimed.

I smiled back. "Yeah, I did. I didn't sell as much as I thought I would."

"Well, are you selling this stuff here on the curb?"

"Oh, no, I'm just trying to get rid of it. If you'd like to take some of it-"

He threw the door open and got out. And then another guy got out and another and another and another. I was astounded, mostly because the car was a 2-door compact. They began relaying bins back to the car before I could give him my spiel about taking the contents and leaving the bins. As I was about to call to him, the passenger door of the other car flew open and a shriveled, old woman hopped out. She quickly scurried over to the younger, Hispanic woman and began chattering at her in Spanish. As I stood in bemused silence, the old woman grabbed a bin, contents unseen, and lugged it to the car. She fussed at the kids in the back seat and they scooted over to the sides. The younger woman looked the black guy dead in the face and I could hear the theme to "Chariots of Fire" begin. All of a sudden, it became a race to see who could shove the most crap in their cars. Somewhere in the chaos, the old-Yoda-woman pulled a busted tv out of their car and set it on the curb to make more room for bins. They disappeared in a flurry of kids and bins and Spanish and the black man looked at the tv. "Is that yours?" he asked.

"No," I mumbled. "I think Yoda left it."

"Cletus!" he screamed. "Cletus! Put this on the hood o' the car!"

Cletus came back around and picked up the tv. He put it on the car and turned to the driver. "How we goin' to get it to stay?"

"You ride on the hood with it. You other boys ride on the trunk to keep the totes from falling out."

When he readied himself to leave, I wished, for the hundredth time that I had a camera phone. There was one man on the hood, holding the tv, and 2 sitting on the lid of the trunk to keep it down. One man was still standing outside the vehicle. "What am I gonna do?" he asked.

And I swear, God as my witness, the driver looked at him and said, "Nigga, you goan' have to walk," before driving off.

I held it together until the guy walking was down the block and out of sight before calling Chris and, through my weezing and thigh squeezing (to keep from pissing my pants), relayed the story to him.

"Wow," he said. "They took everything?"

I looked over and sighed. "Shit. Everything but the handicrapper."

Friday, April 18, 2008


A Change For A Minute

Tomorrow, I am stupid enough to be having another garage sale. I have received various "donations" from people wanting to get rid of crap and I haphazardly placed them outside. This was my pathetic attempt to organize so that the more expensive things are closer to where I will be sitting. I had a whole tub full of cd's stolen last year and it will not happen again. NAY! YOU WILL NOT TAKE MY SANDWICH MAKER WITHOUT PAYING ME MY TWO DOLLARS, YOU SOULLESS WRETCH!

My husband has been recuperating from surgery this week so he's been hiding in the bedroom and cuddling with his enormous bottle of pain killers while I try to run the house. (This basically means I lock the kids in the closet with a box of goldfish crackers, but, whatever. I had to work to get those kids in there. They bite)

We haven't had a chance to talk this week, so this morning when he decided he felt well enough to return to work, I gave him a quick kiss and ran from the house dragging a sleepy toddler behind me. On the way to work, I received this voicemail and I saved it. I have listened to it several times and I wish I knew how to post the actual audio here instead of transcribing it, because it would make you laugh, too.

"Hey, babe. I was just wondering if you knew that we have a bedside, walker-shitter thing in the carport. One of those handicrappers. That's just weird."

I called him and told him I had no idea what he was talking about.

Does anyone need a handicrapper? Barely used, five bucks? Anyone?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


The Crazy Chronicles, Part 18: Shattered

"When the day is long and the night, the night is yours alone,
When you're sure you've had enough of this life, well hang on.
Don't let yourself go, everybody cries and everybody hurts sometimes
" - R.E.M. "Everybody Hurts"


"You know I've heard about people like me
But I never made the connection
They walk one road to set them free
Then find they've gone the wrong direction" - Don McLean, "Crossroads"



When I realized what was happening, I panicked. I called Adam and begged. "Please. Please give me my son."

He laughed. "You can have him any time you want him. Come home."

My blood ran cold. "I am home, you sonofabitch."

"He means that much to you?"

"He's my son. He's everything to me."

"No, I meant your boyfriend," he sneered.

I was so weary. "He has nothing to do with any of this."

He chuckled and hung up the phone. I got in my car and drove to his apartment, knocked and then took a calming breath while I waited. I was not looking forward to this confrontation with a man who now made my skin crawl.

He opened the door and looked me up and down. "What?"

"You can't ... you don't know where his babysitter lives. You don't know how to soothe him. You work nights-"

"I got a different job."

I was stunned. Why had he changed jobs? I would find out later that his attorney had carefully orchestrated this whole maneuver to ensure that his client would be victorious in the courtroom. I had no knowledge of the inner workings of a custody suit. I only knew that my life was not worth living without Devon.

I tried, again. "Well, his babysitter doesn't know you-"

"I have a babysitter. I hired her yesterday."

"Devon doesn't know her! You can't just change him to someone he doesn't know! Did you check her references? Does she know infant CPR? How can you-"

"Get off my porch or I'll call the police."

I could smell the bourbon and he was slurring. "Call them. I'm not leaving without my son."

He slammed the door in my face and I sat and waited. A few minutes later, two patrol cars pulled up and the good old boys expected to handle this dispute conferred for a minute while I stood by. They came complete with ten gallon hats. Viva la West Texas, I thought. Finally, they turned to me and asked me what the problem was.

"My son is up there," I pointed to Adam's apartment. "His father won't give him back to me. He's seven months old, he still wakes up at night and Adam is drunk. I know him. He passes out and he won't hear Devon when he wakes. Please. Help me."

They looked at each other and then up at the apartment. "Wait here, ma'am. We'll go talk to him."

I paced and tried to hear the conversation taking place upstairs. Adam had turned on the charm and I could hear the laughter from where I stood. I was not feeling good about this. I was holding my breath when they came back down.

"Well, he's obviously intoxicated," the first deputy said. I felt a small glimmer of hope. "But, the baby's fine. He's asleep. No reason to disturb him. And since neither of you have legal custody, yet, we can't remove him from the home unless he's in immediate danger."

My jaw fell open. "Are you kidding me? You just said yourself that he's drunk!"

"No, ma'am, I said intoxicated. There is a difference." He made eye contact with the other deputy and they both laughed. I felt like screaming.

As I stood in stupefied silence, they left me. This is not happening, I thought. Not happening. They're supposed to protect us from people like him. I am having a nightmare. I will wake up.

I looked up to find Adam watching me from the top of the stairs. He lit a cigarette and gestured to it. "I'm smoking outside, now. All those studies about second-hand smoke...bad for kids."

If someone had given me a gun at that moment, I would have killed Adam without a word, stepped over his body and taken my son to Mexico.

I left and prayed to God that he would watch over my baby. I also prayed that I would find the means to hire a decent attorney. I no longer trusted the judicial system. It had failed me twice.


_______________


I sold everything I had with any value, which was next to nothing. I asked for extra shifts and begged for money from relatives I hadn't seen since I was a toddler. I had no shame when it came to begging for the sake of reputable counsel. That "reputable" counsel came in the form of Vern Martin.

Tip #1: Never hire an attorney named Vern who operates out of a strip mall.

Vern was confident. Vern had a decent hairpiece. Vern told me not to worry, that for a $1500 retainer, he could almost guarantee my win in court. I gave him everything I had and worked out a payment plan for the rest. "Now, there will be more fees and there could be incidentals, so this isn't the whole bill," he informed me. I didn't care. I just wanted someone to fight for me, for once.

My relationship with Jason quickly deteriorated. Because he had been privy to the violent outbursts of my ex-boyfriend as well as the manipulative tactics used to turn my life upside down, Vern asked him to be a witness. He readily agreed. I was also asked to call on one other potential witness. I asked my Mom and she said no.

"Mom, I don't understand. Why? Why won't you stand up for me?"

"It has nothing to do with you," she answered. "I don't want to be in the middle of this and you don't really need me. No judge in his right mind is going to give that man custody."

My Mom has always been a non-confrontational person, but this was extreme in my estimation.

"You've seen him hurt me, while I was holding Devon!" Adam had grabbed me by the throat and slammed me up against her living room wall, all while a very newborn Devon rested in my arms.

"And he's not welcome in my home, anymore," she said. "But, I don't need to be involved in this. You're not going to lose."

Although I was devastated by this unexpected resistance, I had to act fast. On Vern's advice, I asked the only other person who knew anything about my life: my roommate.

And then we waited.

_______________

Our court date was three months later. In that time, I was allowed very brief, supervised visitation with Devon as I was considered a "flight" risk.

I met with Vern twice during in that interim. He never met with either of my witnesses but instead had his secretary, Wanda, call and interview them. I was nervous about his methods but I was reassured by him, time and again, that he had been doing this for decades and was quite capable.

One particularly frigid night, a co-worker had a party at his house. Jason and I went together despite the fact that conversation and warmth between us had all but ceased to exist. Our biggest argument always revolved around my Mom and her unwillingness to testify on my behalf. Jason said some ugly things and I lashed out in her defense. No matter what, she was my Mother and I loved her fiercely.

When we arrived at the party, we went our separate ways. I mingled with some of the girls and looked for him every now and then. Each time I did, he was deeply involved in a conversation with one of the other bartenders from work. I wandered from room to room, bored, until someone started cutting out lines of cocaine on the kitchen table. I went to find Jason.

"Time to go, sweety."

He looked over, annoyed. "What's up?"

"I can't be here. I need to go."

"Okay, give me ten minutes. We're in the middle of a conversation."

I didn't have time to explain to him my deep-seated loathing of drug use or point out that I was in the middle of a custody dispute. I turned to Jamie, the other bartender. "Can you give him a ride home?"

"Sure, no problem."

"Is that okay?" I asked Jason.

"Sure."

I went to Jason's house and watched tv. I thought about my baby and wondered how my life had gotten so out of control so quickly.

When Jason got home about an hour later, he went straight to the bedroom. I followed him in, puzzled by his indifference toward me. He was laying on the bed with a pillow over his eyes. The lights were off and I could barely make him out by the light coming from the kitchen.

"Jason? Babe? What's wrong?"

"You're a bitch, that's what's wrong."

I was shocked. He had never really spoken unkindly to me, at least not like this.

"What did I do?"

"You knew I didn't want to be at that party! You left me the second we got there and then fucking left and had Jamie drive me home!"

I was speechless.

"You know I don't like those fucking people! I only work with them because I have to!" he spat.

"You were talking to Jamie, you were-"

"I was trying to find something to do!"

"But, when I asked you to-"

"Go home." His voice was low and dangerous. I hesitated but then decided that I wanted to make this right. When I walked over to him, my intention was to forcibly remove the pillow from his face and have him look in my eyes. I wanted him to know that I was sincere and making eye contact was still a very hard thing for me. It meant something to me to initiate it. As I reached for the pillow in the dark, he moved it away and my hooked fingers ended up catching him in the nose and eyes.

"Oh, God, Jason, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean-"

He flew up off the bed and grabbed me by the upper arm. "Get the fuck out!" He dragged me into the living room where I pleaded with him to please let me explain. "Get the fuck out, you fucking bitch! Out!" He continued dragging me until he was able to open the door and physically push me out into the breezeway.

"Jason, no, I was trying to get the pillow!"

He slammed the door. The walls shook with the force of it. I sat down and began sobbing. I was scared, lonely and broke. I was confused and hurt and now convinced that Adam had been right. No one would ever want me.

The door was thrown open and I saw a flash of silver before my keys hit me in the chest. The keychain my Mother had given me broke and slid under the stairwell.

"And another fucking thing," Jason screamed. "My quarters! Those aren't for you to call your fucking attorney! I use those to call my kids in California! You come over here and use all my quarters and drink all my Sprite and then leave me at a party? Fuck you! Don't you ever come back!"

I sobbed harder. I had used a handful of his quarters to call my attorney, but when Jason was hospitalized in the VA for an inflamed knee, I had driven back and forth to Amarillo every other day to take care of him. Doing so had cost me a fortune in lost wages and gas, not to mention the expense of a motel and food. I still had some pride and had asked him for the use of those coins because I had no money left.

I sat for a minute and then picked myself up off the ground. I walked over and retrieved the broken keychain and saw that it was irreparable. I was holding it and praying when someone spoke behind me.

"Excuse me?"

I turned, startled, to see a guy that I recognized. He lived upstairs.

"It's none of my business, but if you need somewhere to go...when he does that, umm..." he trailed off, uncertain. "I can hear him and the way he talks to you and it's not right. And I think tonight he did more than attack you verbally, am I right?"

I simply stared at him, my eyes welling over. I must have looked like a whipped dog.

"Do you need help?" he asked, enunciating each word as though I were simple-minded.

I finally found my voice. "No. Yes. But not a place to stay. I have my own place. This ," I indicated the door of Jason's apartment, " is over. Thank you, though. It means a lot to me that you noticed."

I walked away and made one more trip back. I put a roll of quarters and three 2-liter bottles of Sprite on Jason's doorstep, knocked and walked away.

Jason and I still had to work together and when he saw the horrific bruises on my arms, he apologized profusely. We maintained an amicable working relationship and he still planned to testify on my behalf, but our relationship was over.

Adam had won that round.

_______________

Two days before our court appearance, I received a phone call from Wanda, Vern's secretary. "Crystal, Vern had to go to Florida. His associate, Sarah Specter, is going to court with you and she needs to meet with you to go over some things."

"Our hearing is in two days!"

"I know, honey. Can you come in today?"

I met Sarah and immediately began to panic. She was so young. "Have you been at a lot of custody hearings?"

She smiled. "This will be my first."

She asked me some basic questions that had already been answered and declared our meeting over after less than half an hour. I was not optimistic, but I tried to be.

On the morning of our hearing, I picked Jason and my Mother up and hoped for the best. I should have known better.

"Are you sure, Mom? Can you reconsider?"

"Crystal, you don't need me!"

"She wouldn't be asking if she didn't think she needed you," Jason snapped.

"Jason. This is between us," I said. "Mom, his attorney is expensive. His parents hired him and from what I understand, he's the best in this area."

"You're the mother, Crystal. They always give the baby to the mother."

"You should be ashamed of yourself," Jason snarled.

"I can't help her!" My Mom fired back. "I get nervous in front of other people!"

"Please, stop. Both of you. Please."

In hindsight, I truly believe that my Mother was completely confident in the court's ability to decide who was the more capable parent. She was simply unable to bring herself to speak in such a high pressure situation. I would finally come to this realization years later, after so many bridges had been burned and our relationship had been strained to the breaking point.

We walked into the lobby and I saw Devon. I walked to him, picked him up and kissed his cheek. He smiled his crooked smile and softly said, "Mama".

Jason and my Mother sat on the opposite side, away from Adam and his family. His sisters were snickering and making very audible, rude comments about Jason. It was hard to believe that a few months ago, these women had considered me family. I made eye contact with Adam's mother. Her expression was that of someone who's just smelled something gone bad. I held her gaze until she looked away. I would not be ashamed of leaving her son or the consequences of that action.

"I'll take him," Dianne said. She pulled Devon away from me and went back to her seat.

I looked around for Cindy, my roommate. "She's not here."

"Who?" My Mom asked.

"Cindy. Mom, if she doesn't show up, you have to help me and testify."

She gave no response.

The doors of the courtroom opened and we were ushered inside. I took my place at the seat indicated by Sarah and waited for the outcome of the most important day of my life. She slid a legal pad to me. "If you have anything to add during testimony or any questions, you can not ask out loud. Write it down here."

"Cindy's not here," I whispered.

"Who's Cindy?"

I somehow knew, at that moment, that this was going to end badly. "My roommate. One of my two witnesses?"

"Oh, yeah. Well, if she's not here in a minute, we'll...umm...we'll figure something out."

Very comforting, I thought.

I still had no idea who Adam was using to testify.

As the courtroom settled, Cindy hurried in. She mouthed the word "Sorry" and sat down.

When the Judge entered the room, I practically leapt out of my chair to stand. I was so unsure of how to behave. As we were instructed about the protocol of the courtroom, I glanced over at Adam. He had shaved and was wearing a new suit. His attorney was very intimidating. Sarah was shuffling through papers and looking lost.

"I need all the witnesses to leave the room and wait in the lobby until called," the Judge ordered. I looked back to see Adam's mother leaving. She's testifying against me? I was stunned, but hopeful. I knew there was nothing bad she could say about me because I had never done anything wrong. I wasn't surprised to see his sister go, too.

The first person called to testify on my behalf was Jason. The questions asked of him were mostly innocuous. Adam's attorney asked about our relationship. "Were you sexually active in front of the child?" I felt heat in my face. What the hell kind of things had Adam lied about? Who would do such a thing?

"Of course not," Jason answered. "Devon was always priority for Crystal."

When Sarah questioned him, she asked about the things he had witnessed Adam doing. He was concise and well-spoken and I felt a little bit of confidence for the first time that day.

The second person called was Adam's sister. Her testimony was unremarkable and mostly her opinion about what kind of mother she believed me to be.

My roommate was called next. Adam's attorney was becoming more and more vicious.

"Isn't it true that when Adam picked the child up on September 12, 1993, there was feces literally caked on the backside of the baby from going so long without a diaper change?"

My roommate hesitated. I bit my palm to keep from screaming at her. "Well, he had a dirty diaper, but it wasn't caked on. He had been sitting in his walker and having fun."

"How long had it been since you changed his diaper?"

She thought for a moment. "I don't know."

"An hour? Two? Five?"

"No...no more than four hours."

Four hours? I wanted to shriek. Oh, my God. That was almost my entire shift!

I grabbed the legal pad. Ask her about me changing my number two times, the harrassment. Ask her about him spying on me and making my life hell, I wrote.

Sarah glanced at it and looked away.

Ask her how many times he came to pick Devon up. That time was the first! I underlined it and passed it over. She never even looked down.

When Sarah got up to interview Cindy, she asked her one question. "Do you think Crystal is a good Mom?"

"Yes, I do," Cindy answered.

That's fucking beautiful coming from someone who let Devon go four hours without a diaper change, I thought. Your credibility on the subject matter is solid, you stupid bitch.

I sat and bit my tongue.

Adam's mother testified next. Her testimony was mostly harmless and irrelevant. Adam's attorney asked the same question, again. "Do you think she's a good mother?"

She looked over at me. "I used to. Until all of this started. She never sent him with food or diapers."

I scribbled furiously on the pad. She got Devon after Adam had him. ASK HER WHO HAD DEVON IMMEDIATELY BEFORE SHE GOT HIM. I gave Vern a bunch of receipts I saved for the coupons on the back from grocery shopping. Almost everything I bought was for the baby. Do you have those?

She looked down at the pad and shook her head.

I continued writing. No, you don't have them? Why?

She ignored me. I sat back and tried to breathe.

I was finally called to testify. I was shaking. I walked over, swore my oath and sat down. My attorney stood and began. The questions ranged from my work hours to my family. I waited for her to ask about the abuse.

"Mrs. Dickson, how old were you the first time you had sex with Mr. Dickson?"

I stared at her in shock. "My name is Ross. My last name is Ross. I was never married to him."

She looked down at her notes and quickly corrected herself. "Oh, I'm sorry. Ms. Ross."

She doesn't even know my name, I realized. She doesn't care one bit about any of this.

"Ms. Ross?" she repeated.

"Fifteen. I was fifteen."

"And how old was he?"

"Eighteen." I was puzzled. Where was she going with this? Our sex was consentual. Adam was writing something down and his attorney was reading along.

She looked very satisfied with herself. "No more questions."

I almost stood up. She had never asked about the abuse, the drugs, the complete apathy toward our baby from the very beginning. What was she doing?

Adam's attorney launched. "So, Ms. Ross, you were fifteen and he eighteen when you first had sex, correct?"

"Yes," I numbly replied.

"And had you not just had a baby that you placed for adoption?"

I couldn't answer for a moment. The implication was clear. How could he use that against me? I lifted my chin and proudly said, "Yes. Yes, I did."

"And isn't it true that you had several other questionable sexual relationships?"

"I don't understand."

"Did you ever have sex with other women?"

The stenographer actually stopped and looked at me. I felt like a bug under a microscope.

"Yes, but it was because he wanted-"

"Just a 'yes' or 'no' will do, please."

My whole life was being laid out to look like a debaucherous orgy. I didn't know what to do. I looked to my attorney for direction. She was looking at her paperwork.

"Your Honor, please direct the witness to answer."

"Answer the question, Ms. Ross."

I had nowhere to go. I looked around at all the people listening, judging me. I had given my word to God that I would be honest. "Yes."

"Nothing further."

I walked back to the desk and sat down, humiliated. Only one thing gave me hope: Adam's testimony.

His attorney painted him in a positive light. He asked questions about his new job and the wonderful hours and benefits. I wrote lines upon lines of rebuttal. Drugs, abuse, mismanagement of money leading to an inability to provide the most basic of needs such as diapers and formula for our son.

When Sarah questioned Adam, she faltered and stumbled. I sank lower and lower into my chair. "Mr. Dickson, did you ever hit Ms. Ross?"

I sat up.

He looked concerned and apologetic. "I may have slapped her once."

LIAR! My heart screamed. Filthy LIAR!

And just like that, it was over. We sat and waited for the Judge's decision and I held onto the hope that he would see through Adam's facade. When he returned, he asked us to stand.

"This is never an easy decision. Ms. Ross, I suggest that you spend less time dating and more time finding adequate care for your child."

I was reeling. I had dated one person and was no longer involved with him. I made the mistake of trusting someone who came with glowing references to keep my child while I worked. Why was I being treated like filth?

"Additionally, it seems to me that since you're trying to work and attend night classes, you can't very well be an involved full-time parent for the child."

My heart started beating faster. What was this man saying to me?

"If you worked more normal hours and had your evenings free, my decision might have been different."

More normal hours? Eight to five? I was already struggling to keep from sinking into poverty and proud of myself for never seeking government assistance. What was I supposed to do? I wanted a better life for my son and me and eight to five only paid minimum wages. Why had no one told me that these things were strikes against me? All of Adam's sudden life changes made sense to me, now.

"Since you haven't presented me with any evidence showing Mr. Dickson to be a danger to the child, I see no reason to remove him from a home he's spent the last three months acclimating to. In the matter of Devon Ross, I am awarding sole custody to the father, Adam Richards."

I thought about a time, a month before, when a friend of mine called me. She was a bartender at a local place. "Crystal, your ex is here and he is totally fucked up. I heard him say something about picking Devon up at his brother's house. He intends to drive with that baby in the car."

I got there moments too late and then drove to Adam's brother's house. "He just left."

I went back to the bar. "Show me his tab, Laura." I cried when I saw it.

This was the man being chosen to raise my baby.

"You are ordered to pay child support in the amount of $30 per week..."

It was real. This was happening. My son was lost to me. I slid to the floor and began to wail. I was carried out, the sound of Adam's family celebrating following me down the hall.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Contest Pics Are Up

..if you'd like to go vote. Over here.

They make me happy in my pants.

Friday, April 11, 2008


The Crazy Chronicles, Part 17: Strange, New World

"Let Freedom ring
Let the white dove sing
Let the whole world know that today is a day of reckoning
Let the weak be strong
Let the right be wrong
Roll the stone away
Let the guilty pay
It's Independence Day" - Martina McBride, "Independence Day"



"I need you to knock. He won't open the door if he sees me." I opened the car door.

Justine looked over at me and assessed my face. "I wouldn't if I was him."

She knocked and I stood to the side. Randy, sensing something was not quite right when he saw someone he had only met once or twice, called through from the other side. "What's up?"

"Open the door, dude. I need to talk to you," Justine called back.

A few moments passed. When the lock was finally disengaged and he opened the door, Justine fluidly stepped to the side and I barged through. "You bastard," I growled, advancing on him.

He had taken precautionary measures and was wielding a tennis racket. "Get out of my house!'

"Not until I have a go at her." I pointed to Sheri who was cowering in the corner. "Give me two minutes with the whore and I'll be out of your life."

"I'm not a whore!" Sheri squealed. This infuriated me even further.

"Shut the fuck up. I have a brand new baby at home who could be infected with God-knows-what because the two of you," I gestured with the bat, "have no morals or decency. You're a spineless prick and she's a filthy whore. You deserve each other."

"I'm not a whore!" Sheri parroted again.

"You're right!" I shot back. "Whores at least have the wherewithal to charge for their services. I guess you're demoted to stupid tramp."

"Heh," Justine laughed behind me.

Randy swung the tennis racket at my head. "Get out of my house, now! Get out before I call the police!"

I stared at him and the hate emanated from me. "How could you do that? My son is innocent. How could you be such trash?"

"Get OUT!" he roared.

I leveled my gaze at Sheri. "He won't be around to protect you forever."

Randy pushed me out the door and slammed it in my face. I felt deflated and tired. "Can you just take me home, Justine?"

"Sure, girl."

I walked in the door, put the bat down and hit my knees. I prayed to God to please show me a way out of this, for my son, for the future I might have left. I needed to raise him to be better than his Dad.

I heard and felt his answer.

You have to do this. I've gotten you this far, now you have to stand up and be accountable for where you go from here. Open the gates of this prison and leave, child. You've always had the key.

_______________

The following day, I went to Justine's and made phone calls.

When Adam came home, I was packing my clothes. I left the nursery as it was and only packed the diapers, Devon's play pen and his walker.

"Randy called me," Adam said.

"That's nice." I ignored him and continued my task.

"Eight-months-pregnant doesn't really do it for me, ya know?" He chuckled.

I turned and looked him from top to bottom. My God, what had I been blinded by all these years? "I'm leaving. I'm moving in with Cindy. I don't want anything, just the few things I have here. You can keep the furniture and I don't want anything from you, either. Just leave us be."

"Are you sure this is what you want to do?"

"Yes. I've never been more sure of anything in my life."

"Well, you might as well know...the girl in the restaurant that night? The one who was acting funny and you asked me why? She gave me a blowjob a few nights before, at Randy's."

I almost laughed. "Oh, my God, are you confessing? Are you hoping this will ... what, heal me? I'll have some great epiphany about what an honest soul you are? Good God. How difficult that must have been for you, to tell the truth!" I mocked. "She was, what? Fifteen? Sixteen? I'm so impressed with you right now I could just get a tattoo."

He said nothing. I finished packing my things and waited for Cindy's boyfriend, Brian, to pick us up. When he arrived, he came upstairs to help me with my things.

"Who the fuck are you?" Adam demanded.

I rolled my eyes. Oh, the irony. "Bryan, Adam, Adam, Bryan...my roommate's boyfriend."

Adam stood by and watched us leave. He made no attempt to see the baby before we left and he didn't ask for any sort of visitation.

As we pulled away, I looked back to see him standing there at the top of the stairs and I felt pity overwhelm me. What a sad life he will lead, I thought. What a sad person. And then, Oh, God. I'm free. We're free!

_______________


I took the most unlikely job possible for a mouse like me: I was going to be a waitress. This meant I had to communicate with people and try to be friendly without spilling enchiladas in their lap, but it was a job and we needed the money.

My parents gave me an old beat up truck that used to belong to my brother who was now in the Marines and I had a mattress on the floor. It was the most beautiful room I had ever seen because it was ours. Mine and Devon's. My roommate, Cindy, kept Devon while I worked and then she went to work when I came home. I spent a lot of time alone with my new baby and he grew quickly. He was soon scooting around in his walker and I was fascinated by watching him learn new things.

I had developed an unexpected friendship with the bartender at work and one night, he asked me to come over for dinner. "I'll cook. I make an incredible steak." I had grown accustomed to eating the one free meal a day from the restaurant and my stomach rumbled at the mention of a steak.

The timing was perfect. Adam had moved back in with his parents and started asking for Devon and he was supposed to have him that night. With Adam's mother and sister in attendance when the baby was over for the night, I didn't worry about his well-being as much. I was happy to not have to feel like I needed to keep my son from his father and I still prayed that they would have a great relationship, regardless of our past.

My first real date since I was fifteen was awkward and wonderful. We ate and laughed and talked about music and kids (he had two) and bad relationships. When our date was over, he kissed me goodnight and walked me to my truck, never pressuring me for more. At that point, I would have easily given in as I was so desperate for human companionship. Jason seemed to sense that about me and he was patient and kind. We started spending a lot of time together and I introduced him to Devon. I was learning to let my guard down and believe that maybe I had something to offer.

I woke up one morning and smiled, still half-asleep. I had the day off and Jason and I were supposed to take Devon to an indoor play-gym. I stretched and looked up through the slight part in the blinds above me. I screamed and my blood ran cold when I saw Adam's eyes peering in.

_______________

"Leave. I've already had my number changed, twice. What does it take to make you realize I don't want anything to do with you?" I was livid.

"Dianne said she saw you with some guy. I just wanted to see if you were shacking up, yet."

I swore and took Devon in to Cindy. "Can you watch him for a second?"

When I came back, I launched. "What business is it of yours or your sister's what I do? You have people spying on me, now?"

"She lives in the same complex. She saw you leaving with him. She said he's ugly." He smiled.

"Go. Now. Just go." I forcibly pushed him toward the door.

"I miss you, Crystal. I love you. We need to work on our family."

I wanted to vomit. "If I catch you pulling this shit again, I'll call the police."

_______________

Jason and I had an exhausting and thoroughly satisfying day with Devon and then went to get something to eat. While we sat in the restaurant, I filled him in on the morning's events. He looked worried.

"So, are you gonna dump me?" I teased.

"Crystal, it's not funny. You have to do something about this."

I sighed. "What can I do? I've changed my number, I can't change roommates that easily and I can't change jobs. There aren't any other jobs out here, Jason."

I fed Devon a piece of cheese and gazed out the window. My eyes focused on one car. "Oh, my God."

"What?" Jason asked, looking around.

"He's in the parking lot. He's right there."

"Let's go."

We paid and quickly gathered our things. As we walked to Jason's car, Adam started taunting us.

"Hey! How's it feel to have sloppy seconds? Actually, if you want to count every guy she's been with-"

I spun around. "Shut up! Why can't you just leave me alone!"

He grinned. "Because it's too much fun to fuck with you. Are you guys sleeping together, yet?"

"Let's just go, Crystal." Jason took me by the hand and pulled me in the direction of the car.

"Has she sucked your dick, yet? I bet she did on the first night, she did with me. Did she tell you she occasionally likes girls?"

I had told Jason about some of my past, including Adam's insistence that we bring other people into our bed, but my face still burned with shame.

"You met her parents?" He was now idling and slowly driving alongside us. "Boy, they're great, her Dad's a drun-"

"Stop it!" I screamed. Devon began to cry. "Stop it, you horrible, evil man!"

Jason stepped forward. "Man, I have no fight with you, but this is nuts. You need to leave her alone."

Adam jumped on the opportunity. He threw the door open and leapt out, striding quickly over to put his face in Jason's. "You want a piece of me, man? Huh? I'll beat you like a bitch."

Jason's fists curled and uncurled. "I have no fight with you, Adam." He turned, took my hand, once more, and led me to the car. Once inside, I looked back. Adam was gone.

The drive to my house was very quiet. I knew I was already losing Jason. Adam was going to take everything good in my life.

_______________

I was at work one day when Adam walked in with Devon. He wasn't scheduled to have him until the following day. Something slimy skittered across my spine.

I met him in the front of the restaurant. "What do you need, Adam?"

"I'm hungry." He asked the hostess to seat him in my section and she ignored my look that begged her to do otherwise.

I stood at the table and kissed Devon while I tore open a package of crackers for him. "What do you want to eat?" I asked Adam with my back still turned to him.

"By the way, I picked up Devon today and his diaper was so full of shit, it was up his back."

I took a deep breath. "Yes, babies poop. Sometimes a lot."

"It was hard as a rock."

"Adam, Cindy loves him. He doesn't have a diaper rash, you can tell he's clean and perfectly healthy, so that argument holds no water."

"Are you still screwing that Jason guy?"

"I think you should leave."

"I will. After I eat."

He left no tip.

_______________

The following day, Jason and I were leaving his apartment to go eat when I saw Adam's sister strapping Devon into her car. I debated going over and then decided against it. There was no love lost between us and I didn't need another awkward situation. I turned and got into my truck. Jason got in and as he was buckling his seat belt, I rolled the windows down to let in the hot, Texas breeze. As soon as I did, Adam's mother appeared at my window.

"Where is that baby's food, Crystal? Where's his food?" She was screaming and not making any sense. I sat for a moment, shocked by her behavior. She leaned across me and snatched the keys from the ignition. "Shame on you!" she screamed. "Shame!"

I got out. "What is going on, Peggy? What's happened?"

She was holding Devon and he was reaching for me. I leaned forward to take him and she tightened her grip on his arms. "Peggy, you're hurting him and he's scared. Please let go." I pulled him from her arms and started walking away, anywhere, with him. Dianne followed me. "Give him to me, Crystal. You and mom need to talk."

"What is happening, Dianne?"

"Mom's been keeping Devon while Adam works. He said you never bring Devon food or clothes or diapers, that you're spending it all on your new boyfriend. He also said your roommate doesn't take care of him."

I laughed. "And you all believe him."

"I don't know what to believe."

I was sick of it. "Right. Ok."

Dianne took Devon from my arms and handed me my keys. "Don't worry about it. I'll talk to her."

I didn't know what to do, anymore. I left. The next day, I was served with custody papers. I never got Devon on my terms, again.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


The Crazy Chronicles, Part 16: A New Life To Save Mine

"Over and over
I felt so small
But one day I'll be stronger
And you better watch out" - Within Temptation, "Overcome"


"I'd rather die than give you control" - NIN, "Head Like A Hole"



That day is the the first time I have ever encountered the walking dead. They came with uniforms on and guns at their side.

When they arrived after the 911 call was disconnected, they talked to me outside. My voice was a croak and my throat felt like it was bleeding on the inside.

"The apartment is in his name," the officer said. "You don't have children so we can't take you to the shelter. Is there somewhere you can go until he cools off?"

"Cools off?" I asked, numbly. "I don't want to make up. I want to go to my parents!"

"Well, do you have any money? We can take you to the bus stop."

"He controls the bank account. I don't even know what we have."

They looked at me, unblinking.

"Ok," I said. "I'm seventeen. He's my legal guardian, so call it child abuse. Can you arrest him?"

"Yes, but here's the thing...you can't stay here. You said yourself that you have nowhere to go."

I was stunned. These officers, these protectors of the people and upholders of the law, were telling me to basically give Adam time to cool off and go back as if nothing had happened. My shoulders slumped in defeat. "Nevermind. I'm sorry I wasted your time."

Something happened to me that day. I stopped believing that my life was worth anything more than what had been offered to me. I gritted my teeth and went back to the arms of the monster.

_______________


I have often heard people wonder aloud, "How can a woman stay with a man who beats her?" If there is one thing I've learned in my life, it's to never, ever judge another person. Inevitably, I will end up walking a mile in their shoes and regretting whatever self-righteous thing I said in the first place.

The abuse became as natural to us as breathing. Adam picked up his cocaine habit, again, and this seemed to ignite his rage faster than anything else. The creativity with which he abused me was what he strove for. On the nights when I would stand naked against a wall while he spat his disgust at me and told me over and over again how repugnant I was, I simply accepted that this was my lot in life and moved on. What I saw in the mirror only reaffirmed the things he told me. My legs were too long and skinny. My hips were too round. The gentle, almost imperceptible swell of stomach below my navel, where my beautiful son had stretched my womb as he grew, was hideous. My face was that of a boy's. No one else would ever want me and I was lucky to have him.

I told no one about what was happening because I was ashamed of my weakness.

Time marched on. We moved to West Texas and I was closer to my parents who were still struggling to get their life back together. We were also closer to Adam's parents and I marveled at how two incredibly kind and sensitive people could have a son so evil.

Our dog, Cricket, began to have incontinence issues because she had birthed a litter of fifteen puppies. One day, we arrived home to our apartment and when the door was opened, I cringed because I could smell the latest of her accidents. Cricket was sitting meekly, pleading with us through her soft brown eyes and wagging her tail sporadically as if unable to stop that sign of her incredible spirit. As I walked to the kitchen to get the paper towels and carpet cleaner, I saw Adam ball up his fist and draw back. Without thinking, I turned and charged, lowering my head and rounding my shoulders. I heard a guttural, primal roar, and realized an instant later that the noise was coming from me. As his fist made contact with this loving, innocent animal and she screamed, I also made contact with his body. He was thrown backward by the impact and when he hit the floor and looked up at me, I knew I would be dead within a few minutes. Furthermore, I didn't care. I just wanted this to end.

He stood up and we faced each other, both panting.

"You shouldn't have done that," he hissed.

"Eat me, you cowardly piece of shit." I dug my feet and and braced myself for the hit that would come.

His face registered shock and uncertainty and then a veil dropped over it. His eyes went blank. "I'm going to bed. Clean that up."

And, for a time, there was peace.

_______________


I caught Adam having an affair with his employee, Jody, and he told me she had meant more to him in four days than I had in four years. I found out the next day that I was pregnant. For some reason unknown to even me, I decided to try to give this "family" one more shot. I begged him to break off the affair and make this work with me. He continued to see her, flaunting it in my face and twisting the knife as much as possible. The night before we were to have an ultrasound, she arrived on our doorstep feigning illness and asking Adam to take her to the hospital. I stepped to the door, fed up and tired. "Leave," I begged. "You're engaged, for God's sakes. Why are you here? We're having a baby. Why are you doing this to me?"

She looked right through me. "Adam, are you taking me?"

"No, he is not." I attempted to shut the door in her face and was stopped by his hand.

"Let her in."

"Are you kidding me?" I asked. "Adam, we have an ultrasound in six hours and I need sleep, she-"

"Just let me talk to her for a minute and I'll have her go home."

She came in and they went upstairs. I followed them up, unsure of what to do and feeling very awkward. I was appalled that anyone could be this heartless and brazen. They went to our large walk-in bathroom and shut the door. I heard the lock engage.

"No!" I yelled. I banged on the door. "Open the door! Open it!" When my request went ignored, I went downstairs and found a screwdriver. I went back up and disengaged the lock, flinging the door open in time to see them quickly part from each other. I saw red. "Get out of my house, you bitch, or I will kill you and I will do it with my bare hands."

Something in my face must have convinced her because she scurried for the front door. When I closed it behind her and turned, I saw the murderous look in his eyes and ran for my life. He easily caught me.

_______________

I woke up and tasted dirt. My face was pressed into the carpet. My glasses were gone. I looked up, confused, and saw blinking red lights coming toward the front door. Ambulance? I wondered. Did he hurt me? Is the baby okay?

I squinted and realized that it was his truck backing up. I could clearly make out the camper on the back. As I was puzzling over this new development, he opened the driver's side door and stepped out. I quickly sat up and crawled into a corner, wary. He stepped inside and looked at me as if I were some strange bug. "I thought you were dead."

His intentions became clear. "You thought you killed me?" I whispered. "You were ... what? Going to dump my body?"

He leaned down and spoke inches from my face. I could smell the bourbon on his breath. "If you so much as go near her, ever, I will kill your Dad. I will peel his fucking skull and bury him where no one will ever find him. Do you understand me?"

"Adam...I'm pregnant. With your baby. Our baby."

"If you are, I hope you and the little bastard rot in hell."

I simply stared at him. What world was this that I was in? What kind of nightmare was I living?

He stood up. "I'm getting some things and going to Jody's. Be gone when I get back."

He left carrying his favorite pillow. I watched as his taillights faded. I thanked God for my life and that of my baby and I walked.

_______________

I went to work the next day and asked that I be moved away from the fryers of grease. I couldn't stand the smell. My boss called me into his office. "I'm going to put you on a register," he said. "But I want you to tell me something."

"Ok."

"Where are your glasses?"

Odd question, I thought. "They're broken. Last night. They broke."

His face was grim. "Against what? Your face?"

I paled. "I...what?"

"You have a bruise, a nice one, across the bridge of your nose. You have bruises on your neck and your wrists. It's none of my business, Crystal, but if you need me to testify, if you need me to go with you to the police station, I will. This is bullshit."

I swallowed, hard. "Thank you. It's over. I'm fine."

I went to my parents at night and slept on the floor in their one bedroom apartment. I hadn't told anyone, yet, that I was pregnant. I didn't know if I could.

_______________


By the time I was six months pregnant, Adam had convinced me to come back. We moved into a different apartment and he promised to change.

I was so fucking naive.

I spent my nights at the apartment, reading. We didn't have cable or a phone and I had no vehicle. When Adam would come home in the wee hours, smelling like a bar, it was always the same story. "I needed to wind down after work." I simply chose to believe him.

Shortly after Devon was born, I was at home when Jack and Tara showed up. Jack was a friend of Adam's and he and Tara had a new baby the same age as Devon.

"Adam's passed out," I apologized.

"It's okay," Tara said. They were both acting strange. "So, how are things?"

"Good," I smiled. "Adam just loves Devon."

"Is he helping you a lot?" Jack asked.

I hesitated. "Well, he works weird hours and he's tired a lot, so...well, no." They exchanged a look between them. "It's okay, though!" I quickly added. "I'm not working right now, so, it really should be up to me."

Jack looked at Tara. "Just fucking tell her. This makes me sick."

"Tell me what?" I waited, anxious.

Tara looked at me and the pity in her eyes made me squirm. "Crystal, why do you defend him? He's a dick. He's...he lies to you, he treats you like shit. And..."

"Do you remember the night you called everyone, looking for Adam at, like, three in the morning?" Jack interjected.

I had walked to a neighbor's house to use their phone. I had been eight months pregnant and frantic with thoughts of car accidents or worse. "Yes. I remember."

"He told you what? Something about Sheri's car breaking down?"

"Yes." Sheri was Randy's girlfriend. She was a skinny, whiny stripper with a nose that had been broken at least three times. Randy was Adam's best friend.

My heart was pounding in my chest. I felt hot.

"Yeah, bullshit," Jack spat. "He was having a threesome with them. He fucking bragged about it to everyone."

"With...who?" The world was swimming out of focus.

"Randy and Sheri," Tara said. "Crystal, it wasn't the first time. And you know damned well he didn't use protection."

My mind was reeling. "I defended her. When everyone called her a whore because she's a stripper, I defended her. I tried to be her friend. I was nice to her, and, Randy? I've known Randy longer than she has. He was going to be Devon's godfather. I've ... oh, my God. The track marks."

Jack looked at the floor.

"She has track marks. She was a junkie. Oh, Jesus." I stood up. "I need you to leave. I need...please, leave. Thank you, thank you for having the balls to tell me this, but...I have something I have to do."

I showed them out and then went to the nursery, where my newborn son slept and dreamed of angels. I stood and looked down at him for what seemed like a very long time. Then I went into my bedroom and stood looking down at his father, the man who could have effectively ended both of our lives by being a damned fool.

I got the baseball bat out of the closet and walked to Justine's house. She opened the door, surprised by my late visit. "Crystal?"

"I need you to drive me to Randy's. When I'm done there, I need you to come back to my apartment with me."

She glanced at the bat. "Cool. Let's go."

Friday, May 30, 2008


Things I've Learned In Year 2 of Marriage

1. A man knows how to find four things in the grocery store: charcoal, toilet paper, beer and olives.

Exhibit A: Last Night's Shopping Trip

Chris will often disappear while I'm perusing the pasta aisle. I don't worry about him very much. He's usually accosting the little old ladies who are giving out free taste samples.

Last night, he wandered back over to the basket holding a jar of olives.

"Oh, babe, glad you reminded me," I said. "Can you please go get me a can of mushrooms?"

He looked confused. "I ... I don't know where those are."

I stopped and turned. "Sweetheart...what is that in your hand?"

He looked down and smiled sheepishly. "I know they're not on the list, but..."

"Not my point, Chris. Where did you get them?"

Again, he looked confused. And nervous. I expected him to start doing the pee-pee dance any second. "I don't know."

"Are you here with me? Right now? Are we conversing in real time? Or is this one of those things you'll play back later, like, while you're pooping?" Again, confused. "You're still at home, on the couch, playing Call of Duty, aren't you?"

He grinned. "I've come up with this great strategy. We're gonna beat the brakes off of those kids next game." Then he glowered. "Little bastards."

"How old are they?"

"I don't know."

"Give me a guess."

"Virginia's age, maybe."

"She's eight." I turned around and went to get the mushrooms. (FOR MY MARRIED MEN: THEY'RE ON THE SAME AISLE AS THE OLIVES)

For the rest of the trip, he scurried behind me, bottom lip poking out and occasionally throwing a bewildered, "What?", my way.

2. No time is ever a bad time for sex.

Exhibit B: A Wedding for My Friend and Co-Worker, Deirdre

"Hey. Have you ever had sex at a wedding?" Chris asked. He was leering. There was much leering.

"No. Actually, this is the only wedding I've ever been invited to. I wonder what that's about?"

He wagged his eyebrows at me. "So...?"

"So, what? Are you serious? You cannot be serious. Chris, I have to work with these people. And this is Deirdre's day. Everyone should be talking about her, not the two horny people who got caught screwing in the coat closet."

"I was thinking more like the bathroom."

"Eww. How would you have felt if someone had been screwing in the bathroom at our wedding?"

"Pride, with a dash of envy."

3. Farting is the funniest thing going, but it's especially uproarious is you fart while the water is cascading down your butt in the shower, causing a Donald Duck like noise

Exhibit C:

The baby monitor sitting beside me at full volume while my husband showers. The sporadic, uncontrollable giggling.

4. Although cruel and unusual, withholding the monkey is extremely effective

Exhibit D: My freshly cut back yard.

("Monkey" is slang for "hoo haw" for those of you not in the know)

5. He will never know as much as he thinks he does
"Are you mad at me?"
"Nope."
"You're plotting, Crystal. I can see it in your eyes. I can see what you're thinking."
"We have not been married long enough for you to be able to 'see' what I'm thinking."
"Pfft. Whatever."
"Really? If that was the case, you would know that I sold your raggedy ass football jersey in my yard sale last summer."
"You did not."
"Can't you see it in my eyes?"
(for the record, I did no such thing. Even so, he can't find shit in his side of the closet so I could have. AND I WOULD HAVE GOTTEN AWAY WITH IT, TOO)

That's all I have for right now.

The Crazy Chronicles, Part 26: What I Thought I'd Never Hear

"Now most every morning
I stare out the window and
I think about where you might be
I've written you letters that I'd like to send
If you would just send one to me"- Randy Vanwarmer, "Just When I Needed You Most"



My job at the office came with an apartment, so Virginia and I moved and began our new life together.

I tried several times to call Devon but I always met with resistance.

"Vangie, can I speak to Devon?"

"He's not here."

I sighed. "I'll call back. When should I try?"

"I don't know."

"Ok, he's eight. Are his whereabouts a mystery? Is he out getting a tattoo and picking up Chinese food?"

"I don't know why you call. He was miserable while he was there."

"He was not."

"You sent him back fat. And he said all he did was sit on the couch and watch t.v."

"Ok, if you need a reference for 'fat', find a mirror. He is not fat, and we did a lot of things-" I cut myself off. "I don't need to explain shit to you."

"Then don't call back."

She hung up and I threw the phone at the wall. I threw a lot of things after speaking with her. Refusing to give up, I called back later that evening. She answered on the first ring, as though she had been waiting for my call so that she could bait me, again.

"May I please speak with Devon?" There was nothing I wouldn't do to talk to him, including begging.

She paused. "He doesn't want to talk to you."

I boiled over. "Listen, you morally bankrupt asshole. He is my son, do you get me? Mine. Nothing, not you, not Adam, no one will ever change that. You can say all you want to say, but until I hear it from him, I'm calling bullshit."

She laughed in that smug, infuriating way of hers. "Devon? Do you want to talk to Crystal?"

I could hear him in the background. A quiet, "No", but it was enough to make my heart seize up.
"A little louder, son. I don't think she heard you," Vangie prompted.

"I don't ever want to talk to her, again!" he shouted.

My world ended.

_______________

How much does your child hate you to never want to talk to you again? What do you have to do to cause that reaction? How horrible of a person must you be?

As much as I wanted to crawl into bed and die, I had another child depending on me. Virginia was only a toddler and couldn't understand why I was so sad all of the time, but I look back on those years and cringe. She had a shell of a mother, a robot going through the motions. I was terrified that I would lose her, too. I always had emotional barriers in place, even with my own daughter, and I can only imagine what a bewildered, lonely little girl she must have been. I hate myself for that, for not being strong enough to give her what she most needed and what every child deserves.

As time went on, my drinking became a habit. I drank to sleep. I drank to cope with the day to day stress of being a single mother. I drank to forget the things I had done when I was drunk. I drank because it was in my blood. I drank to forget the beautiful green eyes and the charming dimples of one little boy. I drank to be happier for my daughter.

I never once faced the truth: I was a drunk because I chose to be.

_______________

I had been fired from two jobs because of my inability to act like a normal, responsible adult. I was staying with my brother and my sister-in-law who had also been kind enough to take in my parents while they were in transition. There were five adults and two children under one roof and I sometimes sat in my Nissan Altima for hours because it seemed like a gigantic space in comparison.

My car's engine had been disabled by my finance company for non-payment. I was riding a borrowed bicycle to my job a local gas station that specialized in fried chicken. All I needed was some welfare hair, a meth habit and a stint in a Tennessee drug treatment and my descent into white trash would have been complete.

I was standing behind my register one day and finalizing a sale of cigarettes to a customer.

"I just need your date of birth, please," I asked the man. Hand poised over my register to enter the required information, I was shocked when he snarled at me.

"What the fuck you need that 'fer?"

"Sir, I have to enter it in the register or else it won't allow me to sell-"

"I'm old goddamned-enough to buy whatever I want to and if you don't believe me than I don't want the fucking things!" He finished this eloquent rebuttal by flinging the box in my general direction. It bounced off of my plastic name tag and hit the floor. I stood for a moment, unable to process the ridiculousness of the exchange and then I had an epiphany.

I am twenty-nine years old. I am working in a gas station that specializes in FRIED CHICKEN AND GIANT FRENCH FRIES CALLED 'JOJO'S. The unfortunate woman working next to me has a full beard and eight illegitimate children and she's slowly killing herself and clinging to the ray of hope that one day they might offer her a management position. I haven't seen a full set of teeth today and I've taken eight payments in change straight out of women's bra's. What the hell has happened to my life?

My father raised me to firmly believe one thing: I could be anything I wanted to be, no matter what that thing was. If I worked hard enough and believed strongly enough, the world was my oyster. I had spent too many of my years accepting was was given to me. I had too long been lying to myself and others by claiming that these were the cards I was dealt. I was sick of "accepting" things, sick of hurting others, sick of hurting myself. I deserved better, I was better, I could be better. I just needed to find the right path.

The following day, I sent my resume to temporary agencies and was pleasantly surprised when I quickly received a phone call. "We have a client who needs someone ASAP. He's had a hard time keeping a person in the office, so can you come interview with him tomorrow?"

"Absolutely. This is a temporary position, correct?" I had also made the decision to go back to school so I wasn't looking for anything that might interfere with that.

"Well, temp to perm. But, he will take someone on a temporary basis, if you're right for the job."

If you're lucky in your life, you will meet someone who will force you to accept responsibility for who and what you've become. That person will drive you to reach a higher place and when you reach it, they will congratulate you and then tell you to get your ass in gear because the next summit is waiting. You will not make excuses to this person because excuses are for the weak. They will see something in you that maybe even you aren't aware of and they will gently but firmly direct you and challenge you until you see that thing, too.

If you're really lucky, that person will grow to love you and consider you a part of their family. And if you're incredibly lucky, this person will even give you a paycheck.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Just In Time For...Whatever Obscure Holiday Comes Next!

Okay, so you can go here:

http://www.cafepress.com/mcknob (to see the image in full size, click "view larger" and then click "zoom in on image")

and buy a t-shirt if you want to. No pressure. You might have tons of t-shirts.

...Of course, this one has original artwork on it, courtesy of Mr. McKnob's good friend, Jamie Wilson, (such a talented woman. Beautiful, artistic, wrote an incredible book and SHE'S REALLY NICE. If I find out she can sing, so help me God, I'm having her killed) but I'm sure it wouldn't bother her a bit if no one wanted a shirt with her blood, sweat and tears on it. She wouldn't feel like going all "Thelma & Louise" and kidnapping me for a cross-country crime spree, complete with Brad Pitt in nothing but his sweaty, muscled, ...

what the hell was I talking about?

Oh, and the other one, the Knobhead t-shirt is the work of Mr. McKnob. He shed a tear when he presented it to me. He worked long into the night, out in the snow, with no shoes on. And he had nothing to eat but moldy bread. And a spoonful of water.

OH, THE HUMANITY!

(All proceeds will send me to BlogHer, where I will be mildly uncomfortable until the cocktail party and then I'll get all liquored up, steal the microphone and try to sing, "I Touch Myself" while running from security. Amanda, hold my wine)

Saturday, May 24, 2008


I Can Sing, "Fire", Elmer Fudd Style

...and write about being nuts and that about sums up my personal talent. But, the nice ladies at BlogHer have asked me to speak on a panel this year and I want to go. Do any of you have any idea how one would approach a company about sponsorship? (Bossy I'm looking at you).

Please email me if you have any suggestions. (and just in case there's a Lear jet exec reading this, I can have a whole plane tattooed on one boob. Impressive, no?)

EDIT: So as not to be misleading, BlogHer is reimbursing up to a certain amount. I'm just trying to find sponsorship to offset the other costs associated (2 days missed work, mostly) because hooking down on Elvis Presley boulevard only made me eight dollars. And a set of false teeth.

Oh, and I'm on the panel about Parenting and Privacy.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


The Crazy Chronicles, Part 25: One More Day

"You may delay, but time will not, and lost time is never found again." - Benjamin Franklin


The drive was difficult. Walking into the restaurant where Adam and I agreed to meet was horrible. Even though I knew I'd done nothing wrong, I could feel all eyes upon me. It was as though everyone knew I was the NON-CUSTODIAL PARENT.

I stood inside the door and took a calming breath. Then I saw him and the world stopped. He was coloring, clutching his crayon tightly. The tip of his tongue was poking out in concentration and his hair was mussed, per the little boy dress code. The last time I saw him, we had engaged in a heart-breaking conversation about why Vangie had taught him to call me "Crystal" instead of "Mommy". "I like having 2 mommies," he had sobbed. "And you should, you're very lucky," I had responded, all the while mentally wishing her pain and suffering. Now, here he was. His skin was browned from the sun and he had a scab on one knee. He was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. As though he felt me, he looked up and met my eyes. I waited, nervous about his reaction. Would he recognize me? Would he scowl and tell me he didn't want to come to Tennessee? In an instant, his face split into a sunny, gap-toothed grin and Adam turned around in his chair. I walked over and sat down. Devon continued to smile at me, goofy and lovestruck. I mimicked his expression. We must have looked utterly ridiculous and I didn't care. Adam was talking and I didn't care about that, either.

"So, Crystal-Lou, how are you?" He smiled. I could clearly picture him with horns and a pitchfork. I tried not to rock the boat. Not yet.

"Good."

Short and simple was better.

"The boy is growing, isn't he?"

I hope your ass falls off. "Yeah, he sure is." I ran my hands through Devon's hair. He needed a trim.

Adam lit a cigarette. "So, what do you have planned for the summer?"

Hunting you down and running you over. And then backing up. And then running you over, again. Then, to Mexico with my son. "Oh, swimming, camping. We'll stay busy."

"You gonna take some time off work?"

I wish I could. Unfortunately, I pay a ridiculous amount in child support every month that I'm assuming goes to buying hay bales and salt licks for that beast of a woman you bred with. "Umm, I don't know. I just started a new job."

"He loves water parks."

Really? Eat shit and die, asshole. I might be able to afford a slip n' slide. "Mmm, we'll see."

I turned my attention to Devon and spent the rest of the time asking him questions and answering his. He finished his picture and ate his hot dog. I gently insisted we get going. "It's a long drive, buddy."

The check arrived and Adam made no attempt to reach for it. After an uncomfortable moment, I knew he expected me to pay for it. I sighed. Anything to get out of here.

Devon said his goodbyes at the car. "I love you, Dad."

"I love you, too, kiddo. Be good for your Mom."

"The whole summer, right? He doesn't go back to school until the first week of August?" I asked. I wanted a stated agreement. I don't know why it meant something to me. Honesty and integrity were never Adam's strong points.

"Yeah, we'll talk. I'll call later in the week, see how everything's going."

Oh, how I will pine for that. Hopefully, you'll be too busy re-shoeing Vangie to remember.

Devon and I spent the first few minutes in an awkward state of stilted conversation. There was so much I wanted to say to him, to explain to him. Then he reached across and took my hand. "I'm glad you came to get me, Mom."

He loved me. No explanations were necessary.

_______________

We laughed a lot that summer. I encouraged his love of Harry Potter and it segued into reading. He played with his baby sister and she hung from his neck while he tried to beat my score on Mario Brothers. I bought him two fish and he asked me to help name them. "How about Sushi for that one?" I asked. He laughed, my heart soared and we had one new family member.

"What about the other one, Mom?"

Virginia toddled over and looked up at the fish. She pointed and breathed, "Ooooh weeeee!" in her baby delight.

I looked at Devon. He smiled. "Oohwee," he declared.

"Sushi and Oohwee, I now declare you official family members. You get dishes on Monday and take the trash out on Thursdays. We'll discuss allowance later," I told them.

Devon spent most of his time in the pool while I worked. My job was in the apartment office, so I could watch him, have lunch with him and spend as much time as possible being near him. He made friends with a group of children who were being fostered and their bond was strong. I think they felt they had a great deal in common. I learned to bake and cook his favorite dishes and we went to the drive-in movie once or twice a month.

Although my time with him was invaluable, I felt something looming over me. I knew that at the end of the summer, he might very well disappear again. I was determined not to let that happen, but I didn't know how to go about it. Adam and Vangie had broken up at the beginning of the summer and that was the only reason I had Devon with me, now. Adam wasn't equipped to be a single parent. Their break-ups were frequent, according to reliable sources, so it was only a matter of time before she was in control, again.

One afternoon, my phone rang. It was Adam. "Hey, Crystal-Lou. How's the boy?"

I gritted my teeth. "He's good. He's eating lunch."

"Ok. Well, listen. We need to talk about how we're going to get him back to Texas."

"No problem. I figured I would bring him the first week of August-"

"That's a problem. I need us to plan it for this weekend."

"I have three more weeks! He's only been here half the summer!"

"Well, we miss him and Vangie wants him home, so..."

I was livid. "Well, tell her I said she can blow it out her mammoth ass. He'll be there-"

The phone was transferred and Vangie cut me off. "If you don't have him home this weekend, we will call the police and you will never see him again. Is that clear?"

The poison that was eating at my heart was killing me. I wanted to kill her, rip her, stomp her into the ground and then set her on fire. I have never hated another human being the way I hated her. It was alive because it was so strong.

"Why do you do this? Why do you make him suffer, and me? Why do you hate me so much?" I asked for the hundredth time since I'd known her.

"Have him home on Saturday. We have plans on Sunday."

"You're an awful person. Do you know how evil you are?"

She laughed. "Well, at least I'm a mother."

I bit. "What the fuck is that supposed to mean?" By now, I had stepped outside. I knew this was about to turn ugly.

"You aren't his mother. You don't kiss his boo-boo's and get up with him in the middle of the night when he's had a bad dream. You don't go to his school functions-"

"Do you know what I would give to have that honor?!" I shrieked. "Do you have any idea how much it hurts me to go so long without seeing him? You did this! You and Adam!"

She softly laughed, again. "You've had opportunities to see him."

"If I paid you. If I paid your rent and your electric bill and whatever other bill you couldn't pay. You held him hostage and that was the ransom. I didn't have it, you stupid bitch. I was paying child support. You did the same thing to my mother."

"Well, what you pay isn't enough."

"That's because you pushed out another two kids and you don't want to work, you cow! Get a fucking job like the rest of us and maybe-"

I was talking to dead air. She had won, again.

_______________

The night before I had to drive Devon home, Jess and I took the kids to eat. On the way back to the apartment, we got into one of our daily arguments. Jess was never the kind to raise his voice, so the arguments were always civil, but brutal, nonetheless. The kids were asleep in the backseat. We picked at each other, we ended in mutual disgust and remained silent for the rest of the drive. I cried quietly and swiped at the tears, angry at them.

When we parked in the lot and woke Virginia, Devon whispered, "Mom, look in your seat when you get up," before he quickly got out of the car and ran upstairs. I stood and retrieved a small, folded piece of paper that he must have placed behind my head. I opened it, and in his careful, first-grade print, he had written, I just want you to be happy.

An eight-year-old boy broke the cycle of abusive, neglectful and destructive relationships in my life that night. Two weeks after he wrote me that note, I took Virginia and left Jess. From that point forward, whenever I would consider dating someone, I would ask myself: Would Devon approve? Most of the time, he did not.

_______________

I bought him a Gameboy for the drive to Austin. It was quiet in the car. He played his games and retreated into his thoughts and left me to mine. I wanted to turn around. I wanted to drive to another place and change our names and start over. Virginia cooed in the backseat. I came back to reality.

We arrived and I gave him his disposable cameras. "One has the pictures of us, the ones you took this summer and one is blank. Send me lots of pictures, okay?"

He nodded and walked inside. I followed him to say goodbye and he was immediately corralled into Vangie's world. I stood for a minute, very much an outsider, and watched them continue as though I weren't there. He was instructed to take his stuff to his room. I waited, but he never came back out. Since I wasn't welcome inside the home, I left without saying goodbye. I wouldn't see him again for three years.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Sorry, Christina, I Forgot! And sorry all those kids depending on me I forgot this, too, and I AM SECURING MY SPOT IN HELL

So. My good friend, Kel, has the book I'm in over here for sale (and if you're just dying to know a little about how I got Devon back, it's in here. And I didn't even plan it that way, but Kel called me an evil marketing genius and I'm kind of tickled by that, so I'm pretending I did) and it would make a spiffy gift for any Moms you know.

Also, this charity is near and dear to me because it was founded by my brother-in-law, Chad, and he is married to my sister, the formidible Leslie, and that leaves me in awe of him. Leslie used to use the Vulcan death grip on me when we were kids and she is not one to be trifled with, yo. (and the singer, Brad Paisley, almost single-handedly shut this charity down because of his greed and indifference to kids in need, but I'll tell you about that another day)

Anyway, all these kids are hoping to go to camp, and they really need this camp, but the funding is short. So, if you're looking for a place to put all that extra money that you just don't know what to do with, I have saved the day, once again!

EDIT: nope, I'm not holding the Devon story hostage. I don't make anything off of the book, I was just honored to be included. I will finish the Crazy Chronicles, I just meant for those who don't want to wait!

The Crazy Chronicles, Part 24: Fugue

So here it is, another chance
Wide awake you face the day
Your dream is over...or has it just begun? - Queensryche, "Silent Lucidity"

She doesn't own a dress,
her hair is always a mess
If you catch her stealing, she won't confess
She's beautiful
She smokes a pack a day,
oh wait, that's me but anyway
She doesn't care a thing about that, hey,
She thinks I'm beautiful
Meet Virginia - Train, "Meet Virginia"


During my self-imposed abstinence from all things relating to emotion of any kind, I somehow ended up with several male friends. In hindsight, I realize that they were only there for the challenge, but, at the time, I was glad for them. Being friends with them without the complications of physical intimacy gave me great insight into the inner workings of the male mind. I found out that it's composed of 5 parts sex, one part food, one part sleep and one part bodily functions.

One of these friends, Mike, asked me to go to a party with him at some girls house. I went along, against my better judgment. He ran with a rough crowd and his friends were much younger than me, but I was trying to meet people in this area and I trusted him. I sat with a group of kids not quite old enough to drink and listened to their banter. Mike went in search of something to hump.

Some time later, I was spectating during an intense debate about the medicinal properties of ecstasy when I heard voices raised in anger. I craned around from my side of the table and saw Mike and a girl yelling at each other. He was walking toward me as she continued to verbally beat him from behind. He reached the table and scowled at me. "You ready?"

"Yep."

As I stood to make my way around the table, the girl Mike had been arguing with rounded on me. "And you need to leave, too, bitch!"

I laughed at her. "Splendid idea!"

As we were walking out the door and down the steps, she continued to harangue Mike. It was during this exchange that it became obvious she was an ex-girlfriend and the hostess of the party. I made a mental note to kick Mike in the ass later on.

When they finished hurling insults at each other, he stormed in front of me and toward my car. I turned to follow him and that's when the scorned woman screeched, "Don't forget your trash!", and shoved me from behind.

I spun to face her and that's when my memory goes spotty. I threw my keys in one direction and the glass I was holding in another. I launched myself at her and all of the pain and rage I had been carrying for so many years spilled out of me and into my fists. She wrapped her hand into my hair and began pulling. I heard myself screaming Let go of my fucking hair! Each word was punctuated by the sickly sound of my fist pounding her in the face. That sound will always haunt me. At one point, I remember her being able to get her feet up to my chest. She thrust me off of her and I scrambled through the grass on my hands and knees to pounce on her again. I was possessed and primal.

I don't remember the first attempt to pull me away from her. I probably don't remember the second or the third. Finally, a group of people grabbed me and began hauling me away. It was then that I realized the girl I had been beating wasn't moving.

"Crystal!" Mike furiously whispered. "Get up, sweety, come on! The cops are on their way!"

He pushed the others away from me and helped me to my feet. He had my shoes in his hand. I didn't even realize they had come off. I looked around at the people who had been watching us. They were quiet, staring at me, wary. A couple of people helped the girl up and began walking her inside. Her face was covered in blood.

"Crystal, come on, girl," Mike insisted. "She'll be okay. You don't want to spend the night at 201 Poplar, believe that."

We hurried to my car and climbed in. I had to drive because my car was a standard and Mike couldn't. I drove less than a block and pulled over. I was shaking, violently. "What just happened back there?"

"You fucked that girl up, that's what happened. Damn, girl. Her own momma ain't gonna recognize her-"

"Shut up. Shut up. It's not funny. I just...my God. I hurt her."

He looked at me in shock. "You ain't never been in a fight before?"

"No."

"Crystal, it's okay. You defended yourself."

"I did?" Then, "I did. But...she didn't deserve that. She didn't deserve the anger for all those people."

"What the fuck are you talking about?"

"Nevermind."

We drove the rest of the way in silence. My hand was throbbing and turning purple. When I got back to my parents, I walked in and went straight to my father. He was in his recliner. I climbed into his lap like I used to when I was small and put my face in his neck. He smelled like Old Spice. I cried until my mother gently washed my face and helped me to bed. We never spoke of it, again.

_______________

Bartending was agony. I couldn't turn the bottles up or do my job properly. After a week, I finally asked Mike to drive me to the ER where the doctor confirmed that my hand was broken. He gave me a shot of demerol, rebroke the bone and casted my arm. I now had a constant reminder of what I had done to another human being.

_______________

I started meeting people via Yahoo personals and other dating sites. I was eager to find a place where I may fit in. Most of my dating experiences were forgettable, some were horrific and a few helped me to develop friendships that I very much needed.

I was drinking constantly and self-destructive in every sense of the word. I played pool in bars at every opportunity and I was belligerent when someone refused to honor their bet against me. I picked fights with an off-duty police officer, an attorney and several people wearing camouflage, which should have been my first clue that they carried guns in their big, ol' pickup trucks. I had no fear because I felt I had nothing to lose. I carried on like this until 1999 and that is when God answered my prayers in the most unexpected way.

_______________

I took a job bartending at a hole-in-the-wall. I had been fired from my previous job and I was desperate for work. The people who gave me the job were kind and loving and it wasn't long before they considered me part of their family. I started to feel like I belonged and that maybe my life could be better.

Jess was the other bartender. He was charismatic and fun and I was starting to feel more like my old self. After one brief encounter, Virginia was conceived. I had been asking God to please send me someone who would love me as much as I loved them. I had no idea how much a child could love their mother until she came into my life.

Virginia was a quiet baby. She loved to be held, but she was also content to lie on the floor and play with her toes. As she got older and began speaking, her questions were endless. At times, I marveled that she was able to sleep without a talking through it. Because she had no siblings and I refused to put her in daycare, she had no choice but to turn toward her imagination for playmates. I was never very good at play. I simply didn't know how and had never been much of a child myself.

Jess and I tried to build a relationship around this beautiful creature, but we struggled. There were simply too many differences.

One summer, out of the blue, I got a phone call from Adam, Devon's father. I had kept the same number for years in the hopes that one day a call like this might come in. "Hey, do you want Devon for the summer?"

I tried to breathe. He would be eight. I hadn't caught a glimpse of him in almost four years. "Yes. Of course. What..how?"

"Meet me in Dallas on Saturday."

"The whole summer? Really?"

He laughed. "Yeah. Why not?"

I never asked why. I should have.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Do You Understand the Words That Are Coming Out of My Mouth?

When I started "The Crazy Chronicles", I thought it would be a good way to let some of the pressure out of my head. It was so hard trying to decipher and process everything I had experienced and learned. I grew up as one hell of a lonely kid. Because of that, I fantasized a lot. I developed characters and stories about everyday happenings and they became my friends and my world, one that I created. As a result, I tend to notice everything. I take in the smallest of details and sometimes it will branch off into it's own story; otherwise, it just hangs there. I had too much in there from all of the people I met and their stories. I had too much of my past begging to be let loose and examined. I had no idea that it would impact anyone but me and maybe my husband.

If you start from the beginning and read through, you'll notice that I go from the occasional light-hearted observation about my cell mates to the gritty and sometimes disturbing story of my past. I never intended to go any further than Devon and how that affected my life, but as I got more and more emails from people who were hurting and experiencing a lot of the things I was writing about, I changed my mind. It was not an easy decision; I can be hurt very easily. You can leave a comment here and make me cry. You can say things about me in other forums and I'll eventually find them or someone will call them to my attention and it will ruin my whole day, possibly my whole week. I'll be short with my husband, despondent with my kids and unable to focus on my day job. "But, Crystal, don't share it if you can't handle the criticism," some have said, and, in a way, you're right. I can handle criticism and I can answer questions that some might find invasive or inflammatory, but what baffles me is the complete and utter lack of respect that we human beings dump on each other.

If someone asks for my help, I will give it. I will give you everything I have, to my detriment, if you say you need it. This includes sharing my past with the entire world and opening myself up to ridicule and hurt. I sure as hell don't do it for the money (my husband has begged me to stop sharing the Chronicles and, instead, try to publish them. I told him and I'm telling you that money is NEVER what this was about. It's a bullshit reason to hand over your soul, if you ask me) and for those of you who've questioned the donate button? I make an average of $25 a month, thanks to the generosity of some of my readers. They choose to donate here and there and I'm grateful for it, but, again, I don't expect it. I pay my Bravenet service bill with it, my dot.coms if they're due and it helps to pay for other things that are blog associated, sometimes the giveaways on the other blog. I was asked, numerous times, to put it up, so I did. If you were under the impression that I'm rubbing my diamond-encrusted hands together and cackling from my mansion on the hill while I wipe my ass with $100 bills, I'm sorry to disappoint. My husband and I are drowning in medical debt right now and even though it's stressful, it won't kill me. I've lived with money and without and guess what? I've LIVED. So, you can put your fears to rest that I'm shirking the entire reading audience out of their gas money.

I don't do it for the comments, either. I love hearing from you, I love your emails and hearing how this may have helped you, but I am turning comments off from now on (for the cc's, anyway) because all that can be said has been said very well and with amazing compassion. I know you're there and I also know that if you want to say something very badly, you will email me (and I'll email you back sometime in the year of our Lord 2008, I swear) and that it can just be between us. I will open them for the last chapter only.

I don't have to explain anything, but I am. I want to. All of you who's faces I've never seen, who's lives I know little to nothing about, you mean something to me. You're the acceptance and friendship I've never had. I agonize when people are fucked up to one another. I'm naive and trusting and that's gotten me kicked in the ass more times than I care to count, but I LIKE WHO I AM. I cannot fathom why people are needlessly cruel to someone else for no good reason. As an example, I point you to the commenters at So Very Alone ... the big debate is whether or not he's real. I firmly believe that he is, but if he's not, he's a great story teller and a great writer. A lot of people don't and they never hesitate to rip each of his posts to shreds. I'm appalled by that. Regardless of who he is, HE IS. He's a person, he reached out to find some sort of connection in this world and this is how we react? If aliens sent a message from space asking for a sign of friendship, would we send a message back asking them to send us a glowy finger to prove they're real? Would we pick apart their grammatical errors and lives and leave them wishing they had just blown us to fuckdom come in the first place? Seriously...what have we become that we are so cynical and angry and ready to verbally lash out at someone we haven't even ever met?

People used to be respectful. You could disagree with someone, strongly, and still do it with respect. Now, it seems like too many people get off on being snide, hurtful little trolls.

I have no clue where I was going with this. I hate it when that happens. Grab someone's hand and sing Kum Bah Ya, for fuck's sake.

(Oh, and to the person who said I'm "fucked up beyond belief" and that I made "colossally bad choices"? Really? Ya think? Maybe that's why I didn't call this series the "Normal Chronicles" or the "Really Well Adjusted Chronicles". Nothing gets past you, 007!)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Wii Don't Need No Steenkin' Waistline

(Jenny is having a contest over here. I am going for it for 2 reasons: One, I need some sunshine up my ass. All this crazy is making me twitch. Two, because I like Jenny.)

My love/hate relationship with exercise began after Virginia was born.

"Mom...what is that?" I was standing in front of a full-length mirror at a department store and trying on bikini's. I should have just thrown myself face-first into a wood chipper. Unless you are that bitch Denise Austin, you are not allowed to wear a bikini after having your third child.

"What?" She pulled her glasses down from her head and placed them on the end of her nose. "Your ass?"

"No, Mom. I can see my ass. The whole northern hemisphere can see my ass. That. Right there."

She leaned in for a closer look and wrinkled her nose in concentration. I prayed to the God's of dressing room's that the attendant wouldn't choose that second to open the door. What would I say? Just a sniff test! Minty clean ass and all that!

"That?" She poked at my right butt cheek. "It's a dimple."

I stared at her in horror. "No," I breathed. "No. No. NO. Look again. It could be a ... tumor. Maybe it's a tumor."

"You would rather have a tumor than a dimple?"

"Yes. No! I ... it can't ... don't they make cream for this?"

"No, but they make those little skirts that go around the bathing suit. Want me to go get you one?"

I sat down and whimpered. "Shit. Why don't you just get me a mu mu and a bucket of fried chicken while you're at it."

"Oh, suck it up. Exercise."

For years, I had been in the restaurant business. I was on my feet for ten to eighteen hours a day, sprinting up and down stairs and eating next to nothing. Sitting behind a desk had depressed my ass, in more ways than one.

My first thought was that I would join all the other crazy people who jog at unGodly hours. I made it through a quarter of a mile before my boobs jumped off my chest and went home. I found them in the kitchen, eating icing from the container and drinking boxed wine.

My second bright idea was Tai Bo. I made it 3 days before I cursed Billy Blanks and his shiny, bald head to hell and back. I limped outside and gave the CD to the pot bellied pig. I sat drinking a Dr Pepper and watching her delicately chew the edges off. I might have been giggling.

I finally decided that I probably wouldn't do anything about the crater in my butt if I wasn't held accountable, so I opened a phonebook.

"Hardbodies, how can I help you?"

"I have a dimple on my cheek. My right one."

"I assume you don't mean your face."

"Help me."

She explained the process to me as succinctly as possible. Basically, for the low, low price of HOLY SHIT YOU PEOPLE ARE KOOOOOKY I could pick a body out of a magazine and they would get me there. The fourth time I asked her to repeat the fee, I demanded it come with a bodybuilder to ride around in my trunk and keep me pepped up. "A body builder wearing a super-hero costume. Blue tights. I like blue." She hung up on me.

My next call was to a fitness boot camp. When he screamed at me with so much enthusiasm that I smelled his breath over the phone, I quietly disconnected the call and then ripped the phone out of the wall for good measure.

Finally, I found Melanie. Melanie worked at a local fitness club and was delivered to our planet from a solar system three-hundred-trillion light years away. She was sent here to destroy us.

Melanie was happy to be up and stretching at four in the morning and wearing makeup. I was one, "Whoo! Feel that burn!", away from bludgeoning her to death with my 2 pound dumbbell.

Melanie called my dimples, "problem areas". I called Melanie calfs "Mr. & Mrs. Beefcake".

Every morning, we would begin our workout the same way. She would stand outside my car window and beg me to open the door and I would cry and tell her to go make me a sandwich. All in all, we had a good relationship.

I ran and stretched and pivoted and climbed and burned and burned and burned. I squeezed and pictured the thin me and portioned my food and drank water, that's right, I DRANK WATER, MOM, AND IT DIDN'T DO SQUAT FOR MY SKIN. (And I know that bubble gum doesn't stick to your ribs, either, you sadist)

Sadly, Melanie and I had to part ways when she couldn't handle the crying any more. I will always remember that three days fondly and I'm sure she will forever remember me since I sent her flowers for a month for firing me.

So, now, I'm ready to try, again. I buy Lean Cuisines and stick them in the freezer here at work and that's half the battle, I think. (I don't actually eat them, but I buy them. Baby steps, people. Baby steps) I've heard great things about the Wii and I think I could really make a go of it. I only need to know one thing: it comes with a cupholder for my beer, right?

Monday, May 05, 2008


The Crazy Chronicles, Part 23: Gone Fishing

"And it's been awhile
Since I could hold my head up high
And it's been awhile since I first saw you
And it's been awhile since I could stand on my own two feet again
And it's been awhile since I could call you" - Staind, "It's Been Awhile"


When I crossed the state line from New Mexico to Texas, I parked and got out of the car. I stretched, took a deep breath and then got on my hands and knees and kissed the asphalt. I have never been happier to be home.

I stayed overnight with Ernie and we talked about everything that had happened. The following morning, I made the four-hour drive to my new home in Horseshoe Bay, Texas, a small lake community an hour from Austin. I would be staying with my parents until I could figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I immediately got a job waiting tables and bartending and I threw myself into working whenever I could. I had been home about a week when my Mom said I had a phone call.

"Crystal? It's Brett! I've been trying to reach you for weeks!"

I was stunned. I never really expected to hear from him, again. "Where are you?" There was a great deal of noise in the background.

"I'm at a pay phone. I want to see you."

"I can come to San Antonio on Sunday. Would that be okay?"

He began to say something and we were cut off. I waited by the phone for over an hour, but he never called back. That was the last time I spoke with him.

_______________



Dating and all that went with it was really the last thing on my mind. I worked at a lakeside bar and grill, so I saw plenty of men my age, but I was never invited out. At the time, I simply felt like I was just unattractive. I projected insecurity and neediness and that was enough to keep any potential suitors at bay.

Every other weekend, I drove the four hours back to Midland to pick Devon up. Vangi was very amused by the process. I would pick him up at six o'clock (and I wasn't granted visitation a minute before) and we would make the drive home. I would spend all day Saturday with him and then we would return to Midland on Sunday afternoon as I was required to have him back by six p.m.

When she tired of this, they moved, again. I continued with what had become my distraction: work.

_______________



Every once in awhile, some charming young man would make an obscene reference to my breasts. When this would happen, I would feel like garbage and my sweet, Scottish boss, Mo, would lead them out of the bar by their ear. I began to detest the men that hit on me, even if it was sincere, though it rarely happened.

In the interest of herding my parents into the 21st century, I arranged to have a satellite dish mounted on the house they were renting. When I went in to make the arrangements, the clerk was not what I expected. He was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, had a shaved head and an earring. He was professional and knowledgeable, though, and I was happy with my experience.

A few days later, he was at my bar with a friend of his. He was a bit reserved and I found myself staring because his mannerisms were so unlike the typical golf pros and spoiled, rich kids that I catered to.

In the course of chit chat with his friend, I was introduced to him properly. His name was Kris. They extended an offhand, non-threatening invitation to a neighboring bar for a day later in the week, and because I wanted to know more about this man, I went.

That was the beginning of a tumultuous, 2-year relationship that would end with abandonment and my next excuse to run to another state.

_______________

Kris was married, but separated when I started dating him. We lived in a small town where quite a few people knew his young, pregnant wife, Jackie, so it wasn't surprising to me when my car got keyed or his house was ransacked and every personal effect I had given him was stolen. My things were simply destroyed. I felt a great deal of empathy for his estranged wife, this girl not even out of her teens, and I struggled with the conflict that my involvement was creating. Kris was torn between doing the right thing and being with the person he loved. His mother harangued him to work on his marriage and his father pressured him to finalize the divorce. Ultimately, he chose to try to make his marriage work one more time and I was asked to step out of the way. The interim was excruciating. I was in love, again, and this time there was nothing I could do to make this better.

When it was finally decided that the two of them were incompatible, Jackie reluctantly left, again, and we tentatively picked up where we left off. It was doomed from the beginning and I was too stubborn to see it. His wife refused to let go, his mother refused to accept me as anything but a home-wrecking whore and Kris was caught in the middle. When their son was born, Jackie effectively used the baby to drive the wedge further between us. Visitations were hostile and brief if he didn't entertain her desire to reconcile. I became a secret among him and his family, something shameful and explosive. I would sit in the bedroom, crying, while he talked on the phone with her and ended conversations with, "I love you, too." As our fights became more bitter and the trust started to die, I withdrew from Kris. We were living together, but I began to move in the opposite direction and forge friendships and past times that didn't involve him.

During the beginning of our end, I was working at a restaurant unlike any I had ever seen. The employee numbers were incredible and when you get that many varying personalities together, the potential for fun was impressive. Every waiter, bartender and restaurant manager I have ever known was slightly mad in one way or another and some of my closest bonds were formed there. I had no choice but to exit my comfortable shell and interact with all the other crazies. We were sweaty, exhausted, young and having the time of our lives. We drank too much and slept to little and my memories of that time are always enough to make me wish I could go back.

I first noticed one of my managers, Michael, because he carried himself much like Kris did. He was genuinely friendly, confident but reserved and exuded intelligence. I used to watch him work and imagine that he was very much the type of man that artists use for the cover of romance novels. He had thick, black locks framing his strong jaw and blue/green eyes that could stop the breath in my chest. He was tall and muscular and the girls I worked with would stop whatever they were doing to watch him when he went by. What impressed me most about him was that he either didn't notice, or didn't care.

Out of concern for our safety, Michael would walk the female waitstaff to their cars at night. The parking lot for employees was several hundred yards away, so there was usually ample time to make light conversation. Our first few walks were wired with tension, my attraction to him a living, breathing thing. As our conversations became more easy and less formal, we developed into a rhythm that I looked forward to. It evolved, and before I knew what was happening, I was opening up to him about Devon, Kris and the most painful parts of my life. He, in turn, shared with me that his marriage was in limbo because his wife's infidelity had led her to a crossroads and her choice between her husband and this other man was unclear. We were both confused and lonely and rejected. It only seemed natural that one day we were co-workers and the next, we were spiralling out of control, falling into a love that had the odds stacked against it.

It wasn't long before I realized how much I cherished this man and wanted to be with him. To say I was in love with him was an understatement. I worshipped him, felt gray without him. It was the first time in my life I had been treated so tenderly, loved so completely and completed so lovingly. I broke off the already dead relationship with Kris and moved closer to work. For a while, things were progressing in such a way that I truly believed my life had finally taken a turn down the right path. Then Kris began a last ditch effort to salvage whatever we may have had left and, simultaneously, Michael's wife began to initiate changes in their lives that would lead us away from one another. In a moment, everything I had nurtured and rebuilt was gone. Michael mistakenly thought that cauterizing the wound would be easiest for me, so he enacted a series of incidents that would leave me angry, puzzled and broken.

In my confusion and hurt, I accepted Kris' offer of reconciliation and left the restaurant job. Michael moved to California to begin a new life with his wife, and Kris disappeared to Idaho, ostensibly for a work assignment that would last a couple of months. I left my meager belongings in storage and made the trip to Tennessee to see my parents during his absence. Our understanding was that he would finish his assignment and we would both return to Austin to start over. He never contacted me, again. I had fought for the love of two men and lost them both. I had battled for my son and now had two boys that were lost to me. I had nothing, I was nothing, I became nothing.

That summer, in 1998, was a season of black for me. I drank to become someone I wasn't. I drank in hopes that I would die and leave all of this guilt, pain and anger behind. I shied away from the most innocent of contact with another human being and I became frigid and distant. In a weird turn of events, when I was physically and emotionally unable to thaw for anyone, the front door at my parents was constantly filled with men, eager to court me. I was derisive and cynical and self-loathing. I was everything I hated and trapped with a soul that I couldn't understand.

I would not be saved.

Friday, May 02, 2008


The Crazy Chronicles, Part 22: Home

"How I wish, how I wish you were here
We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl
year after year." - Pink Floyd, "Wish You Were Here"

I went outside to use the one thing I had left, my calling card. I called Ernie.

"Sweety, don't cry," he begged. "Just come home."
I sobbed harder. "I can't. I don't even have the gas money to get home."

As he talked and I cried, the wind blew colder. I wrapped my sweatshirt around me a little tighter, and as the snot was drying to my face and my eyes were leaking, a man came around the corner. He saw me and turned to leave, paused, then turned back around. "Excuse me, I'm in room 412. Can you knock on my door when you're finished so I can use the phone?"

"Sure," I answered.

A few minutes later, my calling card was running out so Ernie and I finished up our conversation. "Where will you go?" he asked.

"I have my car. I'll sleep there."

"Without it running, you'll freeze. And to run it, you need gas-"

"Ernie, I know. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. Right now, I just want to sleep and forget that I've not eaten in days. I love you."

I knocked on room 412 and turned to go. It opened behind me and he called, "Wait!"

I turned around and looked at his feet. "Look at me, sweety. My eyes are up here."

I looked up and met crystal-blue eyes. They were kind and wrinkled at the corners from a lot of time spent laughing. "I'm Brett. You hungry?"

He invited me in and watched me carefully as I devoured the sandwiches and soup he made for me. "I ain't gonna take it from you, darlin'."
We talked for hours. He was from San Antonio, very close to my home, and he was here trying to help his teenaged daughter. He made me laugh and didn't promise me anything and I appreciated that.
After a while, we sat in a comfortable silence. "Aren't you hot with all those jackets on?"
I removed three of them, one by one, painfully aware of his eyes on me. "You know, it's funny," he said. "When I saw you sitting out there, I thought you were this cute, little chubby girl. You had so many clothes on."
"I don't have the right attire for this weather."
"You're barely there. You couldn't weigh more than a hundred pounds."
For some odd reason, that made me cry.
"Oh, honey, no. I'm sorry...I didn't mean anything by it."
"It's not ... that wasn't-" I couldn't explain to him that this was the closest anyone had come to complimenting me in such a long time.
He leaned over and pulled me into his arms. With the snow and wind howling outside and my stomach full of warm food, we comforted each other in the most primal way. I barely knew this man, had just met him hours before, but I needed him, needed his body against mine, his arms around me. I fell asleep with him murmuring, "Jesus. You were hiding this body under all of that?" in my ear. I fell asleep smiling.
_______________

Brett spent the first few days shoving food in my face at every opportunity.
"Are you trying to fatten me up? I know there has to be something seriously wrong with you, that's how I roll, but I was hoping it wasn't cannibalism."
"You're not healthy. Eat."
I obsessed over Kelly and his theft. I called my bank in Texas and was reassured that my account was closed so I didn't need to worry.
One night, shortly before I had to leave, there was a knock on my door at the motel. I was just out of the shower and assumed it was Brett, so I opened without thinking. A woman I had never seen before was standing there. "I'm Carla. I live...well, I'm staying next door?" She pointed to the place next door where I heard such lively sexual escapades. I blushed. She just grinned even wider. "Yeah, that one. Listen, we're grilling and I thought you might want to come out? We'll be here for a while and I guess I ought to get to know my neighbor." She had no one on the other side of her.
"I'd love to."
"And invite your friend."
"Oh...he left."
"I don't mean that one. I mean the one you've been with lately. The good-looking one." She smiled again and left.
"Great," I mused. "I'm in the middle of nowhere, homeless, fucking a guy I barely know and the horny neighbor wants to have a meet and greet to assess us for a group orgy."
I was somewhat cynical.
As it turned out, she and her husband were newlyweds. Why they were staying in this dump was a topic that never surfaced because we were all too busy laughing. We relaxed and fell into easy conversation and that night I was almost able to see my life being normal again.
Brett left the next morning to go back to Texas.
_______________

"Just go with me," he begged.
"I can't. I have unfinished business here."
"Tell me what it is, I'll help you."
"Thank you. No. Be careful and thank you...for everything."
I gave him my parents number, told him I planned on being there in a couple of weeks and we parted ways. A couple of hours later, after dark, I packed up what I could fit in my car and went in search of a place to sleep.

_______________

The routine became almost unbearable. I worked, made enough money to eat and sometimes get gas and slept in my car. I was informed that shelters, especially for a woman on her own, were a bad idea. On the days I didn't even have enough money for gas, the Catholic church gave me gas vouchers.
"I'm not Catholic," I mumbled the first time.
"I don't imagine God much cares what denomination you are," the Sister replied.
I talked to Ernie when I could. He heard the loneliness and fear in my voice and harangued me to get in my car and drive home.
"Ernie, I can't. At this rate, I'll never have enough to get home."
"Then call your family, damn you! You can't keep doing this!"
After 2 more months, I had had enough. I couldn't stand one more cold water sponge bath in a truck stop, one more hour of watching my clothes spin at the laundry and trying to sleep while I was in a warm place. I finally called my brother. He wired me three hundred dollars and I made three trips before leaving town.
The first was to the pawn shop to pick up my jacket. The second was to the bureau to give the money back to the lady who had been kind enough to help me when I needed it. Unfortunately, I couldn't remember her name.
"She was blonde, about this tall-"
"Ma'am, we have a lot of employees. Maybe you could come back tomorrow. Or you can just leave it here."
I left, sick with regret. I have still never paid her back, nor have I ever forgotten.
My third stop was to the place I knew Kelly was living. When you're without a home, you have nothing but time. I used my time to find him.
_______________
He was staying with the group of people who got high and played Mortal Kombat all day. I wasn't surprised.
I knocked on the door and waited. I expected to be kept waiting. After a while, a girl I recognized from our meeting here three months ago opened the door.
"I don't want any trouble," I told her. "I just want my things back. Specifically, my keyboard."
She disappeared without a word and returned in a few minutes with my instrument in hand. She gave it to me and I turned to go. I had almost reached my car when Kelly came trotting up behind me.
"Hey! Wait!"
I ignored him and put the keyboard in the back of my car. As I was getting into the driver's seat, he stood by and waited. I put the car in reverse and he knocked on the window. Morbid curiosity won. I rolled it down. "Yes?"
"How've you been?"
"At the risk of sounding pessimistic, I've been better."
"I'm sorry about leaving."
"You stole from me."
"No! I think..." he struggled "...some of our stuff got mixed up together."
I nodded. "Yeah, that explains it. Did you leave lipstick in my purse? Because that's where my checkbook was."
"I talked to my Mom."
"Tell her to expect me in a couple of days. I want my jewelry back."
"But...we owe her money."
"Correction. You owe her money."
"She said she and my Dad had problems like this when they first got together. Maybe, ...."
I started laughing. "Oh, wow. Isn't this grand? Are you broke? Need my help? Kelly, when you left, you left behind a letter to your girlfriend in Texas. Is she here, yet? You planned this whole thing and were just waiting for an opportunity to ditch me and give her the green light. Are you for fucking real?"
"Well, you weren't being very nice."
"Yeah, I'm usually not very pleasant to people who abuse me, steal from me and bully puppies. I'm okay with kicking orphans, though."
"Do you want to come in?"
"I would rather set myself on fire. Have a great life."
I left and felt more free, more confident than ever before. I knew I was stronger and that no one would abuse me or my trust again.
I rolled my window down and screamed, "Fuck off, Reno! I'm going home!"
And I did.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


Progress

It's been an odd week. First, I received this email from Devon's father:

"Ok I havent had time to read your blog in the last two months and I just now caught up on the Crazy Chronicles,,,, Well I wish I could get on my pedestal and argue, scream and say you lied about me and painted me in a unkind picture but you didnt...you were honest,,,and thats the part that hurts the most, sometimes it is what it is,,,, and I was an asshole,,, but all things happen for a reason."

I spoke with him on the phone about Devon spending a week there this summer and he was gracious, humble and incredibly understanding about the Chronicles. I'm very proud of the effort he's making to change his life and I wish him nothing but happiness.

But I still want to run Vangie over with a forklift.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


AND I Know Where Jimmy Hoffa's Body Is

The other night, we had dinner with some friends from church. My friend,Erica, and I were wandering around their house and going through their underwear drawers (as women are wont to do) (yes. Your underwear has been handled by every female who's ever innocently asked you to use your bathroom. Just accept it and move on) when Erica noticed that the younger daughter's goldfish was swimming upside down. "Look at this crazy fish!" she exclaimed.

"He's constipated," I said. She looked at me like I was insane. "Seriously."

We went back to the living room and I mentioned to the girl's mom that the fish was in trouble. "Really?" she asked. "Constipated?"

"Yeah. You just mush up some green beans - not the shell, just the bean part - and sprinkle a little in the water and, voila! Goldfish laxative."

She looked shocked. "Wow. We just thought he was weird."

Later on that evening, Chris was looking at me speculatively. "Why do you even know stuff like that?"

I knew exactly what he was referring to, so I went with my old standby. "Because my mom didn't breast feed me."

I would rather him think that than know that I was actually an honorary member of the American Goldfish Association. Nothing says, "you're a complete tool", more than that.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Curious About The "Injuries" In My Title?

Summer arrived and Virginia had a friend spend the night and I had the bright idea to buy a Slip N' Slide. I have no idea why I do these things.

I filled the baby pool so that Harmony could play alongside the older girls and then I began the process of wetting down the new toy. Virginia and her friend, Kayla, danced around and giggled with nervous excitement. Neither of them had ever been on a Slip N' Slide so the anticipation was palpable.

"Ok," I instructed. "You run a couple of feet onto the thing and then launch yourself forward onto your stomach. The water will make it slick enough for you to slide."

Kayla went first. She did as instructed and sailed to the end of the slide, where a water filled barrier stopped her. She jumped up, smiling, and ran over to stand behind Virginia and wait her next turn. Virginia ran forward, stepped onto the mat and fell to her knees. She squealed in agony because she already had scabs from her last endeavor into the land of the coordinated. "I can't dooooo itttttt!" she wailed.

"Virginia, what the hell?" I asked. "I didn't say 'drop to your knees'. Launch yourself onto your stomach, child. Try it, again."

Harmony was watching all of this with intense interest while sucking the water out of her baby doll's hair.

Kayla demonstrated again and smoothly sailed to the end of the slide. Virginia, looking more confident, ran forward, stepped onto the mat and fell to her knees, again. In her defense, she did try to slide this time. More squealing and wailing and gnashing of teeth. "BAAAAH! I can't do itttttt!"

I stood and assessed the situation. Virginia has a tendency to give up on things if she can't perfect it the first time and I wanted her to learn that perseverance was key. Kayla, trying to be empathetic, said, "Virginia, my knees are hurting, too."

"I have an idea," I said. (If you're with me and you ever me say that, clock me over the head with the nearest heavy object and subdue me by any means necessary. Nothing good ever comes of my ideas) I went inside and rifled through Devon's closet to find some of his socks. I chose the quitters (socks with no elastic) and cut the toes out of them. I went back outside and gave a pair to each girl. "Put these on."

Virginia was the first to object. "Mom, these socks don't have any toes."

"There's a reason for that. Put them on. Trust me." (If you're ever with me and I say that, run for your life. Shriek for good measure)

She wiggled into them and she and Kayla inspected one another while giggling. Their knee caps were now covered with socks, though, so, yay me.

"This is great," I said. "Now, start running in place and repeat after me: She's a maniac, maaaaaniac on the floor! And she's dancing like she's never danced before! She's a maniac, maaaaniac-"

"Can we go slide, now?" Kayla asked. Virginia was simply staring at me like I had just pooped in my hand and rubbed it all over my face.

"Meh. Whatever. Kill joys."

They went back to the slide and tried again. Virginia had the same results. She simply couldn't slide. She walked over to Kayla and morosely said, "Go ahead, Kayla. I'm just a loser."

I was aghast. "Virginia! Don't say things like that! You are not a loser!"

"Then why can't I do this?"

"You're just not doing it correctly, sweety."

"Then show me."

Now, here's the part where I really should have just swallowed my pride and listed all of the reasons that pudgy, middle-aged people should never try to propel themselves down a slickened tarp in broad daylight. Instead, I bit. "Okay, I will."

I lined up my intended path, lowered my head and ran (ran! with running! Look, Ma, no brains!) forward to the slide, determined to show Virginia that this could be done. I stepped three paces onto the slide and launched myself as I had instructed my daughter. The only problem was that I never quite got down low enough to move forward. Instead, I dove into thin air, hovered long enough to squawk and realize that this shit was going to hurt like hell and then I dropped like a rock onto the mat. The air whooshed out of me and Harmony doubled over in hysterics. I have tried puppets, funny faces, tickling and extreme swinging and nothing has ever made that child laugh like seeing her Mom face-plant into that freaking slip n' slide.

I gingerly felt for broken ribs and tried to roll over. I had grass up my nose. I laid on my back, panting, and Virginia stood over me with a disgusted look on her face. "It's not even worth saying 'I told you so'," she said before flouncing off to pout some more. I got to my knees and struggled to stand while Harmony was wiping tears of mirth off of her face. She pointed at me and babbled in her baby-language as if to say that she sure did enjoy the hell out of that and could I please do it again?

"Virginia!" I roared. She reluctantly came over. "YOU WILL NOT QUIT. I just broke four ribs trying to help you out and you will try this, again. Oh, yes. You will."

She studied my expression and decided I wasn't messing around. "Fine." She tried again, only to have the same result. She slid on her knees for about 2 inches before falling over onto her face. Harmony cracked up, again. You couldn't pay for this kind of toddler entertainment.

"I have another idea," I threatened. I went inside and tore the house apart looking for baby oil. Since we don't actually use baby oil, my search was in vain. In desperation, I grabbed the next best thing and stalked back outside. I squirted the entire bottle over the slide and then demanded that Virginia give it one more heart-felt try. Kayla went first and slid past the end of the slide and onto the grass. Virginia's slide was extended by about four inches before she fell on her face, again. Harmony was seated directly in front of the slip n' slide now, cackling like the world's smallest crazy person. "Screw it," I mumbled. "I give up."

Chris had come home from work and was standing behind me, surveying the scene before him. "What is she doing?" he asked, indicating Virginia. "She needs slip n' slide special ed."

"Oh, shut up," I grumbled, turning to go inside.

Chris glanced down. "What the hell are you doing with the lube?"

"Coming to terms with the fact that the Wright brothers I am not." I walked inside without another word. Nothing surprises him much, any more.

Monday, June 16, 2008


The Crazy Chronicles, Part 29: Overcome

Notes: These are the hardest to write. It's honestly been fairly easy writing about the abuse and the neglect and the hurts compared to these, because at this point I had to see firsthand what had been done to my child and I had to watch him struggle to find his way with a new family, a new home, a new life.

I'm leaving comments open on this one because I want him to see them. Note that: I want him to see them. If you sound off like an idiot, I'll delete it, so don't even bother.

There have been many arguments lately about the rights and privacy of our children and I acknowledge that some of the points are valid. I do want it to be known, however, that Devon and I have talked at length about these entries and what he was comfortable with me sharing. He is fifteen and wiser than many people I've known who are decades older...and I've known a lot of people. He has whole-heartedly endorsed these entries and not because he feels he has to, but because he trusts me and he knows that there are people being helped by these. That means something to him, to know that what he's been through may help someone.

So shut the fuck up about me violating his rights, m'kay? - Crystal

_______________


"Everybody wants to be understood
Well I can hear you
Everybody wants to be loved
Don’t give up
Because you are loved
Don’t give up
It’s just the hurt
That you hide
When you’re lost inside,
I’ll be there to find you"- Josh Groban, "Don't Give Up (You Are Loved)"



There were tears and a lot of them. Telling this boy, this child with such an old soul, what his father had done to me and how his life had been shaped because of petty spite and vengeance was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I left nothing out because he deserved the truth, as brutal as it was. When it was over, I was spent. I felt hollow but whole, all of that poison now released and unable to hurt either of us, any longer.

"Are you okay?" I wanted to hold him, but his body language suggested the he needed to process this on his own.

"I guess I always knew that you didn't just give up on me. I hoped that you loved me."

He swiped at a tear, angry at himself for being vulnerable. I grabbed his hand and stilled it. "Look at me, Devon." He struggled to meet my eyes. Finally, resolved, his hopeful green eyes bore through me. "I have loved you from the moment I found out I was pregnant. I love you more than life."

I pulled him to me, then. We would heal together.

_______________

We had a few more talks on those steps and then Devon chose to put those things in the past and let them die, where they belonged. When I found out about the things that Vangie had done to him, the abuse he had suffered, I vowed to inflict massive amounts of pain on that horrible bitch if I ever had the misfortune to encounter her, again. She would live to regret hurting my child.

My child.

_______________

Moving day arrived. I took Devon over to show him his new room. He stood there, silent, looking around. I waited behind him.

"Well?" I asked uncertainly. "What do you think?"

Tracie and my sister-in-law, Penny, had helped me find some second-hand furniture and we set his room up with what we had to work with. He had an old futon for a bed and a beat-to-hell dresser, but it was our home.

"I've never had a room to myself," he breathed. He walked in an sat on the futon. His grin made my heart hurt with love. "I love it!"

Through all of it, my new friend, Chris, was there to help. He was the only one who helped us move and he was the only one who saw me cry when Devon unpacked his small box of belongings and proudly placed them on his dresser. We had been on a few dates and my kids loved him, but I still kept a wall between us. He was young. I would not be devastated by his change of heart when he grew tired of playing house with us.

One night, I gently probed Devon for information about his things. "Honey, whatever happened to the Gameboy I bought you the last time I saw you? I mean, I know it was four years ago, but..."

"Dad pawned it," he flatly answered. "He pawned most of my things. I would get stuff, but I knew I wouldn't have it very long. He even pawned my bike."

Another evening, we sat and went through the things I had. His baby pictures, thousands of them, gifts for him that had nowhere to be sent, his baby book with his tiny i.d. bracelet carefully wrapped up and stored away. We were learning about each other, patching the wounds and the broken hearts that had controlled our lives and our minds. We were filling those voids with love and affection.

"Mom, what do you want me to do?" he would frequently ask me. "I know how to cook and do laundry and-"

"You have chores, but you're not my slave, baby. You'll get allowance and you'll enjoy your summer. You'll be a kid."

He eventually became comfortable enough to play without worrying about me berating him. He still plucked at his clothes and had little confidence, but that was a journey that took time.

With his first allowance money, he walked to the local Dollar General and bought me ceramic frogs. "I know you love frogs," he said.

"Honey, that money is for you, to buy things that you want," I quietly said as I held the precious objects to my heart.

"I like buying you things. I love you, Mom."

The second allowance payment was spent on cinnamon candy and art supplies. I arrived home from work on that day to find a giant heart in the middle of my living room, made out of red candy, and a card he had made instructing me to follow the trail to my next surprise. When I reached the end, I was met with another card and a porcelain doll that played, "Edelweiss".

Other times, he would buy things for his little sister. He never spent the money on himself. I marveled at how such a miserable life had produced such a beautiful child. His generosity and sweetness constantly moved me to tears.

My child.

_______________

As summer moved on and Devon settled in, Chris and I grew apart. I pushed him away and with force, but he continued to make an effort to be my friend, and Devon's.

When he asked me if he could take Devon hunting, my maternal instinct reared it's head. "Don't you use my children to get closer to me," I growled. "Especially not Devon. Not him."

His face was ashen. "Crystal, I wouldn't do that. I like Devon. I just want to do things with him."

I relented. "But don't let him kill anything."

He rolled his eyes at me. "Quit mothering him for a minute."

That one statement infuriated me and sealed the rift between us. "You have no clue what you just said."

"I didn't mean it like that, I just-"

But I wasn't listening. I didn't listen for a long time and by then, it was almost too late.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Living In Our House

Chris and I were sitting in public the other day and I was ogling a baby. "I miss those days."

"Whazzat?"

"The mooshy baby days. When you could violate their personal space and heap so much affection on them they'll end up a serial killer. And they were helpless to do anything but give you that look."

He raised his eyebrows in question.

"You know. The one that says, 'Oh, sure. I fart and you make shoo-ee noises and wrinkle your nose, but you can slobber all over me without so much as a tic-tac and I'm supposed eat that shit up'. You know the one."

He grunted his understanding.

"Harmony was like that just a few short months ago." I sighed, and my ovaries patted me consolingly on the back.

He looked thoughtful for a moment. "Yeah. Now she's more like a foreign exchange student."

I don't think there's an appropriate response to that.

Saturday, June 07, 2008


The Crazy Chronicles, Part 28: Revelations

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free - John, 8:32



On the ride home, Devon and I sometimes had bursts of conversation followed by comfortable silences. We stopped to eat lunch and I watched him, drinking in every movement, every expression, every like and dislike. He was eager to please me and I him, so our relationship in the beginning was one of mutual scrutiny. He asked questions about his new baby sister, my parents, my brother and his cousin, what we would do this summer. He never asked the hard questions. I knew those would come later.

Several times, I encouraged him to lay his seat back and sleep. "No, Mom. You're tired. I'd rather sit and keep you company so you have something to do." Hearing him call me "Mom" was a gift. I couldn't hear it enough. Knowing already that he was sensitive and compassionate, I swelled with pride. This was my baby boy.

When we finally arrived in Memphis late in the afternoon, I refrained from taking him to my parents right away. I didn't want him to be overwhelmed, so we went by my friend, Tracie's, first. There, we had a small celebration and he spent some time with Tracie's son. They were both shy and Devon was reluctant to let me out of his sight, so it wasn't long before we headed home to my parents. "I live with them right now," I told him, "but I'm already working on getting us our own apartment." He looked at me and smiled. I didn't realize it until later, but that smile was one of his "humoring" smiles. He had been promised so many things by so many people and had learned to never believe any of it. It became my goal to change that, and the first thing I did was promise him that I never, ever break my word. If I doubt that I can do something, I simply don't offer it. He was skeptical, but I knew that time would make him a believer.

For the first few days, we spent every available moment together. I had to work, but when I did, he stayed with my Dad. Dad regaled him with dirty limericks and clever riddles and Devon was captivated. He loved his Pop immediately.

Chris and I were still chatting via messenger and he was moved by my joy. "He's so handsome! And sweet!" I gushed. "I swear this is the greatest kid in history!"

"That's so great. I'd like to meet both of you," he replied.

I was hesitant. How would my son feel about going on a blind date with me? How weird would that be?

"It doesn't have to be a date," Chris assured me. "I can just take you guys to dinner."

I broached the subject with Devon and he was supportive. "Sure, Mom. It might be fun."

I also asked the opinion of my friend, B. "I don't know. Maybe not such a good idea." B was a little jealous and that made me laugh. We were internet friends, but I felt closer to him than a lot of people I saw every day.

Eventually, we decided to go for it. We were to meet at Chili's.

"Mom...what should I wear?"

"Whatever you're comfortable in, honey. Let's see what you have."

When he showed me his available selections, I burned with rage. He had nothing. What he did have barely fit him and was threadbare and worn. He had been living in the swim suit I'd bought him and going to the pool a lot, so we hadn't yet addressed his clothing, or lack thereof.

"I tell you what. Let's go get Tracie and go shopping. We'll get you a few things."

His face fell. "Ok."

"Baby, what's wrong?"

"I just...I don't like buying clothes. I'm fat."

"Devon, you are not fat. You're perfect. Perfect. We'll get you something you like and feel comfortable in, okay?"

I pooled what little cash I had and we went to pick up Tracie. "We can hit the thrift stores and get him a lot of good stuff," she advised.

"Ok, but I want to buy him at least one new outfit."

At the end of the day, I had to bite my tongue in half. Devon preferred clothes that were three sizes too big for him and I knew it was all about how he viewed himself and his appearance. "I can't change that in one day, Tracie," I said, "but it's something I'll just have to help him work on. Right now, I just want him to be comfortable."

We dressed for the evening and he plucked at his clothes, trying to pull them away from his body so that his shape was indiscernible. "You look really good," I softly said.

He looked up and forced a smile. "So do you."

"If you don't want to go, I'll cancel. Right now, I'll cancel. You're more important than anything else."

"No, I want to go. Come on."

We arrived a bit early and stood huddled in the corner, away from the crowd waiting to be seated. I checked my watch a thousand times and Devon continued to pluck at his clothes.

We were a mess.

Just as I was about to grab Devon's hand and bolt, a tall, bear of a man walked through the door and stood before me, confident and solid. His eyes were a beautiful, deep brown and when he smiled, he was transformed. He had the kindest face I had ever seen. "I'm Chris," he said, offering his hand. I shook it and introduced him to Devon. "Hey, man. It's nice to meet you. Your Mom never shuts up about you." Devon blushed and looked pleased. I protectively put my arm around his shoulder and we were escorted to our table.

Dinner was awkward at first. Chris did a terrific job of including Devon and I watched them interact, trying to determine if he was genuinely interested in my son or just playing a part to impress me. Devon started to seem uncomfortable with all of the attention, so I gently patted his knee and changed the subject. "So, you're from Arkansas?"

"Yeah, I moved down here, bought a house and got married."

I was shocked. "You've been married?"

He looked embarrassed. "Yeah. It didn't work out."

"I'm sorry. How long..?"

"We've been divorced about...a few months."

Red flags shot up in my head. Shut up, Crystal. This is a dinner between friends.

"Any kids?" I asked.

He looked wistful. "No. I've always wanted kids, but...it wasn't a good idea for us."

We made small talk for the rest of the dinner and when we said goodnight, he surprised me, again. "Can we go out again? Or maybe I could take Devon to do something?"

I balked. "Call me."

Devon was quiet on the drive home. I tried to draw him out. "So, do you think you'd want to go do something with him? Movie or whatever?"

"I like him."

"Me, too."

We readied ourselves for bed and I stepped outside for a cigarette before retiring. Devon followed me out and sat on the steps while I smoked. "Mom...?"

"Yeah, babe?"

"Where were you? For all those years?"

I crushed my cigarette out. Finally, here were the questions. "I was a lot of places. I moved around a lot."

"Did you ever try to see me?"

I exhaled forcefully. "A lot of times. A lot." He looked thoughtful and I pressed on. "What were you told, Devon?"

He met my eyes. "That you didn't want me."

I swallowed the tears that threatened. "Do you believe that?"

His answer was without hesitation. "No. Vangie said you didn't want me and that if you did, you'd pay your child support and see me."

"I did pay child support. I still am! You never saw that money and that doesn't surprise me."

"What about custody? Did you fight for me?"

"Oh, God, honey. Yes. As a matter of fact, I'll be happy to get you the court documents, the whole thing, so you can read for yourself what happened."

"You would?"

"Absolutely. I have nothing to hide."

"Dad said you didn't try. That you gave me to him."

I laughed in disgust. "Oh, Devon. That is such bullshit."

"Then tell me. Tell me everything."

I studied his face, his eyes. This was not a child. "Are you sure? Everything?"

"Yes. I need to know."

I lit another cigarette. And then I told him what he needed to hear. I told him everything.

Thursday, June 05, 2008


Why The Hell Not?

I don't usually do meme's, and not because I'm too good for them, but because there really isn't a lot about me that you all don't already know. That, and I'm always a little fearful that I'll disappoint the tagger. (I know, I know, and that's why I take medication and talk to myself in the mirror. I'm special and people like me!)

(I don't really do that. Creepy)

(Anymore)

(Ok, I don't do it on Sundays)

So, the lovely Lori tagged me with this and I thought I would give it a shot.

1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning of the post.
2. Each player answers the questions about themselves in their post.
3. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5-6 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog.
4. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.


Questions:

1. What was I doing ten years ago?

That was the year I moved to Memphis, so I'm pretty sure I was passed out until noon, reeking of booze and occasionally peeking out from underneath my pillow-cocoon to wail, "No, Mom! NO! I DO NOT WANT ANY BACON OR BOO-BERRY CEREAL!"

2. What are five things on my list to do today?

1. To plan out a budget. This has been on my 'to-do' list for the last seven years. I'm always broke and I have jack and shit to show for it, but my kids have lots of crap. There is something wrong with that.
2. To buy some Alka Seltzer Cold & Sinus and actually drink the shit instead of carrying it around in my purse and giving it away to everyone else who is sick. I need to stop being such a baby about medicine.
3. To get the information needed to find out how much damage the devil & his wife have done to my son's credit.
4. To press charges for the above. To request that someone large, hairy and angry be in charge of the case.
5. To make sure each of my kids know how incredible they are. I'll start by eating Harmony's cheeks until she laughs so hard she can't breathe. That does wonders for the soul.

3. Snacks I enjoy?

Carrot sticks and edemame beans.

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! Oh, shit, I kill me. Calm down, Mom, I'm still unhealthy.

Judging by the way my skirt is hugging my waist, everything. Seriously, I've been on a pudding kick lately, but only butterscotch. I love beef jerky, but I can't afford it because my kids like milk and that shit is twelve dollars a gallon. I'm STILL eating all the Bovril sent to me (and I can't thank you enough, Dan!) Annnnd, the lady at World Market always laughs at me because I go in there and buy 10 packs of Fruit Gums at a time because those morsels of heaven are my crack.

4. Things I Would Do If I Were A Billionnaire?

Oh, man. This could take a while. First, my Mom would retire. I'd build them a house somewhere my Dad could fish and smoke and cuss and pee in the grass without the neighbor's calling the cops.

I'd build a church for Faithpoint. It breaks my heart to see my Pastor struggle to keep his flock together and have nowhere for us to meet. He's opened his home, but his mother is ill and is living with him right now and it upsets her to have so many people there. I would love to see that happen because he is truly the most genuine servant of God I have ever met.

I would donate a huge ol' chunk to the psychiatric facility I was in and tell them to buy actual beds. Holy shit, it was like sleeping on a piece of plywood with a sheet thrown over it. Oh, and buy some puzzles THAT HAVE ALL THE PIECES. And more pudding.

I would round up all my women friends and fly us to Greece. Greek men, beaches, oil, endless supply of drinks. Oh, the secrets we would keep.

I'd give enough to my boss so he could retire. And then I would have to take care of my co-workers since I put them out of a job.

Husband = boat, motorcycle, toys, toys, toys.

I'd be the brokest damned billionaire EVER.

5. Three of my bad habits?

I pick at my cuticles until they bleed. But, I don't smoke anymore. Lesser of the two evils and all that.

I don't know that it's a bad habit, but I rock myself to sleep. I have since I was a baby (Love you, Aunt Bonnie!) and my aunt used to rock me all the time. It's very soothing, but man does my hair look like a coughed-up furball in the mornings.

When my throat itches, I make a horrible noise to scratch it and I don't care where I am. People have tried to give me the Heimlich, before. Chris says it sounds like someone set a duck on fire and is stomping it out, but, whatever. It works.

6. Five places I have lived?

Malta, Kuwait, my car, Texas and here in the fat-assed state of M-eye-ess-ess-eye-ess-ess-eye-pee-pee-eye.

(Oh, and Lori? Booger Hollow? I laughed like a crazy person and then realized you were SERIOUS. What are people thinking when they name shit? We have a house here at 6969 Morning Wood. I want that house)

7. Five jobs I've had?

Every time we go eat somewhere, my son will ask, "Have you worked here, too?" My resume is a tome. As far as places other people will know, Chili's, BookStar, I took a job as a cocktail waitress at a strip joint here when I was desperate, but I never went in because I knew I'd deck the first person who got all ass-grabby with me, Joe's Crabshack and Fuddrucker's.

8. How did you name your blog?

I get asked this a lot and it's really not that interesting, but I'll try to explain. When I sat down and started a blog, I didn't think the name would matter because I honestly thought no one but me and a few of my friends might read it. Oh, how I rue the day, because I am considered "Adult themed" and therefore restricted by the military and several large companies, all because of the "Boobs" part. And you should see some of the sick search terms that bring people here.

Anyway, I work better when I go with my first instinct, so I thought, "What three things define me?", and this is what I came up with. That's really sad. Really.

Now for the tagging part: Phaedrous, because the way he writes is like floating on the ocean looking up at a stormy sky. I have done that, and his blog makes me feel it, again. Todd, because he frequently makes me snicker. I don't do a lot of snickering, but Todd can bring it out. Tiger Lamb Girl (I didn't think you would want me to use your name), because I love her and I want to know more about her. Used*to*be*me, because she doesn't pull any punches, and, Leesa, because I haven't heard from her and she's not posted in months and I'm worried about her. WHERE ARE YOU?

Chop! Chop!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


The Crazy Chronicles, Part 27: The Best Men

"Hallelujah, Grace like rain falls down on me" - Todd Agnew, "Grace Like Rain"


In 2004, four things happened that changed my life.

The first was my new boss. He believed in me, he encouraged my capabilities and he rewarded my effort and work. As trivial as that may sound to some, think about the last time you worked for someone who did all three of those things...yeah, me neither.

We mutually decided that we worked well together and I knew I would be an idiot to pass up such an ideal job & boss, so I stayed. Staying meant I had to get my shit together and I did just that. I was still staying with my parents, but I wasn't drinking myself to death, anymore. I didn't want my daughter to be like me.

I had continued an online dating ad through Yahoo for years. It was a great way to make friends, and I found that I enjoyed getting to "know" someone before actually meeting them. Additionally, it gave me a chance to weed out the illiterate ("their", "they're" and "there". Holy shit, y'all), the over-sexed and the people who struck me as being anything like my previous romantic partners.

In the spring of that year, I was contacted by a man who lived locally. He wrote that he enjoyed the simple things in life and loved children. I looked at his attached picture and the first thing that went through my head was, "Too young. Waaay too young." He had a sweet and handsome face and looked to be about twenty. We talked via messenger several times and I found out that he was twenty-four, six years my junior. He made me laugh and seemed genuine about getting to know me, so we continued our friendship. His name was Chris.

Days later, I received a phone call that knocked the breath out of me. I would have been less surprised to get a call from Ghandi. "Adam cheated on me, again. I kicked him out. You need to do whatever you can to get Devon because he doesn't need to be with that man."

No shit, Sherlock.

"Can you tell me where he is, Vangie?"

"I can help you get him. I'll tell Adam I want him for the weekend and you can come pick him up.".

I waited for the catch. This woman had tortured me for years, tortured my son and I doubted that she had found God and begun making amends to those she had hurt. But, I hoped.

"This weekend?"

"It will have to be. I have to get out of the house...we don't have any money. I don't know where me and the boys will be."

"What will you do?"

"Well...maybe we could come stay with you for awhile? I can help you get Devon and you can help us out for a couple of months. My family won't help me."

My heart was torn. I wanted my son. I needed him. I wanted her children to be okay. I have never turned down a person in need and I didn't know how to start, now. I did the unthinkable. "Ok. I'll help you."

We began making tentative arrangements and I pressed for her to give me more information about Devon's whereabouts. At this point, I was spending most of my free time at the home of my best friend, Tracie, and she was completely aghast at the developments. "Have you lost your fucking mind?"

"I can get my son back."

"Crystal, sweety, I know you want your son, but you will not invite that...woman to invade your home and take advantage of you any longer. If she has a shadow of a scruple left in her, she'll help you get Devon without asking you to take her in so she can bleed you dry."

I looked at her, silent. Scruples? Had she been paying attention?

She sighed. "Shit. Crystal, you can't. You can't."

"I have to. I can't just let her kids be on the streets."

She glared at me. "Tell me, when will your efforts to help someone be aimed inward?"

I couldn't answer her. I didn't know what to say.

_______________

That night and the following day, Vangie called me relentlessly. She wanted affirmation, dates, times, directions. She insisted that I give her specifics, that I sign over my soul. The more pressure she put on me, the more I resisted.

"Because you know this is crap," Tracie told me. "She's playing you. Ugh, tell that woman to go fuck herself."

At some point later that evening, I finally cracked. "Vangie, wait. I ... I just don't think this is necessarily a good idea."

"What?" She bristled. "Are you gonna help me or not? Because if not, I need to start making other arrangements." Her voice was cold.

"I just don't think it would work. But, maybe I can-"

She laughed in that eerie, wicked way of hers. "I don't need your help. Nevermind." She hung up on me and I panicked. I called back, again and again, but she wouldn't answer or call me back.

I cried for days. I had just blown my chance to get my son.

_______________


I was at work the next week when my cell phone rang. It was a number I didn't recognize. "Hello?"

"Hey, Crystal-Lou!" Adam chirped.

"Where's Devon? Is he okay? Where are you?"

"I take it you've talked to Vangie. That crazy bitch."

"Adam, where's Devon?"

"He's fine, but that's what I need to talk to you about. I don't have a place to go right now and I'm in between jobs, so..."

I waited, holding my breath.

"I may need him to stay with you for the summer, cos' I just don't have the money for a kid."

"When? Where can I pick him up?"

"Tomorrow. Austin." He gave me the address.

I tentatively approached my new boss to ask for the following day off. When I gave him the condensed version of my story, he quickly urged me out of the office. "Crystal, you go get your son!"

I never slept that night as I prepared to make the twelve hour trip to Austin to pick up an 11-year-old boy that I knew nothing about. I knew he shared my blood and that I was his Mom. I knew that he needed my help and that would have to be enough for now. Unable to sleep, I went to the grocery store and bought things I thought a boy would like. I had fifteen frozen pizzas, a box of Pop-Tarts and four boxes of Cap‘n Crunch. The cashier was incredulous.

“I don‘t know what to get,” I mumbled as tears threatened to overwhelm me. “I don’t even know what he eats.”

She quietly bagged my purchases as I fought to regain control of myself.

A few hours later, I drove in silence as the sun rose and I littered the seat of my car with Red Bull cans. I nervously practiced what I would say to Devon and fretted about whether or not I should hug him or let him come to me. I imagined what his voice might be like and hoped that he would be able to mask his feelings toward me. I knew he had been taught to hate me, or what he had been told I was.

When I parked in front of the run down motel, my heart sank. What kind of place was this for a child?

I got out of my car and walked toward the lobby. As I neared the door, I steeled myself for my for this long awaited encounter with my son, this young man I didn‘t know. I was resolved that no matter how much he loathed the Mom he had been led to believe I was, I would love him and nurture him and do everything I could to undo the hurts and disappointments he had suffered in his young life. I opened the door and saw him sitting on a chair and he made eye contact with me. I stopped in my tracks and held my breath. I felt a rush of love and dread and hope. I waited and we looked at each other uncertainly.

And then something miraculous happened.

This boy, this child who had been discarded so callously by his father and treated as a meal ticket for so many years, looked at me with the same wonder and trust I had witnessed all those years ago when I had gazed upon his newborn face. He shyly moved forward and enveloped me in his arms, exposing his vulnerability and his incredible tenderness. As I cradled him like the baby I had held so long ago and the years of self loathing and doubt melted away, I realized that although I had set out to save him, my son had instead saved me.

_______________

Adam insisted that we go eat. I was exhausted from driving and no sleep, but Devon was dancing from foot to foot in excitement, so I agreed.

We ate and Devon raptly watched our faces as we made small talk. I gave him some money for video games and he went to play, but my eyes never left him. Oddly enough, I could feel Adam's eyes on me. "I'm sorry, Crystal. I know you hate me."

I looked at him. "I can forgive you all of it, Adam. The abuse, the infidelity, all the things you did. But, I don't know that I can ever forgive you taking him from me."

That night, I slept, fully clothed, on the second bed in the motel room. Adam had propositioned me earlier while Devon was out getting ice. The memory made my skin crawl.

The following morning, I woke early and told Devon to say goodbye to his Dad. We were going.

"Hey, Crystal?"

I turned. "Yeah, Adam."

"Well, um, buying dinner last night for all of us really strapped me. Do you have twenty or thirty bucks I can borrow?"

Devon was watching me intently. I chose my words very carefully and bit back what I really wanted to say. "Unfortunately, I only have enough money to get us home. I'm sorry." The look on Devon's face was killing me. I dug in my purse and handed Adam a five dollar bill. "It's really all I can spare."

Devon put his small box of belongings in the trunk. "Is that all you brought?" I asked. He looked at me and quietly answered, "It's all I have."

We began our journey home.

Monday, June 02, 2008


Stuff

For those interested, there's a really cute tank top added to the line-up, designed by my friend, Erica Jordan, who probably doesn't want her name on here, but, whoops and shit.

That's what Hallmarks and martini lunches are for. The proper way to say you're sorry.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


ALMOST Crossing The Line. But, Not Quite

While I type, my funny, funny husband is standing, horrified, behind me. "You're not really blogging that, are you?" Now, he sounds like a politician. "I don't approve. I don't approve. I DO NOT APPROVE."

Earlier, while he was trying to cajole me into more amorous activities, he actually said the following:

"You're like a sex pinata. I'm gonna beat you with my stick until candy comes out."

No woman would be immune to that.


(he finally relented. There was much begging and bartering, but he is okay with this so shaddup)

Your Call

EDIT: The whole, "You Suck, So What's The Difference" thing was a joke. Someone left that for me as a comment in the poll, insulting ME and I was trying to make a funny. I guess I do suck.
I'll attempt brevity for now, but this would not be happening were it not for this incredible woman or Danny.

Stefanie, who didn't even know me, made phonecalls and sent emails until, in the same day, an agent called me and has been working with me for the last couple of weeks. She humbly says that she just wanted to "pay it forward" because of the help she received when she wrote her first book. I'm sending her a tiara and one of my kids.

Danny has been encouraging and supporting me for months in my endeavor to put some sort of proposal together, and without his enthusiasm and his offer to wholly endorse my work, I probably would have packed it in. I have willed my collection of My Little Pony's to him.

And, of course, you. Thank you. My gift to you is to refrain from posting a picture of the goofy, shit-eating grin that's been plastered on my face for the last week.




No "Other" Category For You, Troll. HAH!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


I Can't Believe This Is Happening

....but it is.

Can you help me out by answering a yes or no question? Thank you guys.

A Free Survey That Doesn't Suck You In And Then Charge You A Mortgage Payment To Keep It Going

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Sound Advice and Some Photos

You know, I'm not the least bit surprised that my Dad is feeling better today after the response from all of you. He has been diagnosed with a kidney infection and a bowel obstruction and they are pumping him full of mystery stuff and waiting to see what happens and if he needs surgery. In the meantime, he has a Buddha belly from all the trapped gas and gets morphine on demand. I went to see him this afternoon at lunch. "You know, the internet is praying for you and sending you good vibes."

"Who?" he asked.

"The internet."

"Why?"

"Because I asked them to." He absorbed this, looking confused and then slightly surprised. "Do you have anything you want to tell them?" I asked, gently.

"Yes," he declared.

I took out my notebook and pen, shocked. "Go for it."

"Never take a fart for granted."

And there you have it.

______________________

This, umm, instructional thing somehow ended up in my carry-on bag, and when I'm feeling a little bit blue, I look at this guy with the porn 'stache:




See? Isn't the effect AMAZING?

_________________________

I have a short recap of BlogHer if anyone gives a shit and then I won't bug you about it, anymore.

First, I'd like to thank you all for helping me get there, both emotionally and otherwise. I said, in my panel, that I have the best bunch of readers and I mean that.

Secondly, I'd like to give a special thanks to Dan & Joyce, who took my friend, Amanda, and me to an incredible lunch on Fisherman's Wharf. It cost him around ten thousand dollars and, honestly? We could have been on a bench, watching the seagulls shit on everyone and still have had a complete blast. He is incredible and so is his fiance and I cannot thank them enough for leaving us with such a special memory of such a magical city. Oh, and then today, these show up:



That is the real deal, yo. We joked that Dan is like my drug dealer and in a way, he is. IT'S MADE WITH REAL SUGAR AND YOU CAN'T JUST BUY THIS IN THE STORE. He knows what I need. Just a taste. To take the edge off.

San Francisco, thank you. You take such pride in your city (as you should) and it shows in every tiny detail. The beauty all around us and the kindness that was shown to us was refreshing after living in such a racially charged, rapidly declining city. We had to be sedated and carried onto the plane. It was too much to face coming back after seeing that, oh MY GOD. Even the homeless people try to make a living by passing out their newsletter. Here, they just pop out a fake eyeball and follow you around until you give them a dollar to stop grossing you the fuck out by screaming, "Lookit the little pussy on muh face!" (Yes. Really)

BlogHer, all of you, thank you. You put on one hell of an event and how you got Macy's to shut the place down, give us red wine and allow us to slobber all over each other amidst white, thousand-dollar shoes and handbags is a miracle.

I will now tell you of my entrance to The Slide. The Slide is a San Francisco night club and the party was generously hosted by Silicon Valley Moms. This place was a speakeasy in the 20's and the only way to get in was down a wooden slide. They still have the slide and a staircase around it, for the less adventurous, but I told everyone who would listen that I wasn't going to San Francisco and going into a JEN!!-YOU!!-WINE!! SPEAKEASY and not go down the mother-humping slide! (I would like to thank the academy for my nomination as the spastic twat of the year) Amanda had the good sense to go down the stairs. I watched a few women slide down, leap off the end, land very daintily on their toes and then do a pirouette. Seemed easy enough, so I pulled my boots off, listened carefully as the girl instructed me to tuck my arms in so I didn't take the skin off on the way down and I sat my chunky ass in the opening. For a moment, I was comforted by the fact that I didn't have to sign a waiver (as was the case with the drunken, mechanical bull-riding, broken vagina incident) and then I grinned at Amanda and slid into the tube. The only thing I could think of as I rocketed through the slide was that someone had gotten a very large sample of jelly from our sponsors, KY, it had broken on their turn and now I was cutting a fucking blue streak through a wooden slide because I was seriously moving. Like, rolled in crisco moving. I had time to stick my elbows out (because I didn't want to drop my boots. Oh, no. They might get scuffed. The horror.), hum one bar of the "Hokey Pokey" and then all I saw was the panic-stricken face of the bouncer at the bottom. As I jettisoned past him and he lunged for my elbow, I had time to realize that I was still fucking airborn, y'all, and then he fell on top of me and Amanda had a snorting, stomping, gut-busting conniption while I wondered if my tail-bone was broken. Hello, everyone. I'm Crystal. The bouncer pulled himself up, muttered something under his breath and walked away. If you look closely, you can see the skin that used to reside on my elbows:




They now have a sign up that says, "No Fat Chicks Down The Slide". Swear.

I now want to thank some more people and give you my impressions of them and then I'll leave it alone because I think everyone else has done a tremendous job of reliving it and doing it justice.

Yvonne and SJ, thank you so much for inviting us to the hamburger party. When you said you were getting 100 cheeseburgers and having a party, I thought it was a metaphor that I just didn't get. Then I spent all day and night Friday evacuating every vital organ and nutrient and ounce of moisture out of every orifice and I probably wouldn't have been a hit when, instead of making a "bag" hat, I shit into it. We were in Chinatown when it hit me the hardest and I think Amanda had to buy about a hundred packs of gum so I didn't defecate or vomit on the street. "Bafroom fo customuh onry!"

Bossy was on a mission to meet as many people as possible and I think she talked to all thousand women. Twice. I kept seeing her trademark scarf weaving through the crowd and I chased her for awhile but then I was distracted by a guy with vodka.

We met a man who was so nice and so sweet and such a good listener that there was no way he could be straight and then he showed us pictures of his pregnant fiance . You will be a very loved Daddy, Brian. Thank you for your kindness to us.

Dawn! Totally not the crazy, axe-in-my-handbag psycho-mom I imagined you might be (and with that many kids, I would not have blamed you if you had hacked my head off and used it to make jam tarts or some shit). You're so great in person that I felt immediately at ease with you.

You are unforgettable. And the conversation we had and what you said to me will live in my heart forever as one of the sweetest moments of my life.

Good God, Jenn. I don't know where you store all that energy and vitality, but remind me to never try to outdrink you. The sight of you outside that hotel, furiously puffing on an unlit cigarette with dogged determination, like your sheer will to smoke that damned thing would make it fire up, was funny enough. But then after ten minutes of talking and randomly trying to inhale something from it, you finally looked down and said, "Meh. Fuck it. Everyone's bitching at me to quit, anyway," before you threw it in the trash and some homeless man dove in to find it. How I laughed. Thank you for understanding, with no judgment, that I was overwhelmed and unable to fulfill my part of the agreement. It means so much to me to know that you don't think less of me for being one of those who can't say no.

Shino Tanaka (you brought me water so I didn't puke on anyone in the audience. I wanted to cuddle with you and talk about our dreams, but, alas, you were gone), Dana!, Michelle, Shannon, Carrie, Nelly, Amy, Lisa, Caroline, Liz, Kristin, Fausta, Mary, Kim, Armen (who has an incredible project..go check it out), Linda, Chris, Gwendomama, Tanya; you all played a role in helping me and Amanda feel welcome and I am grateful to have met you. If I didn't list you here, it's not because you weren't memorable, it's only because I didn't get your business card. (And I suck, but I think everyone knows that by now)

A special thank you to the bitch from the buckle (hah! nickname!) for manning up and trying the raw-bacon-caper-lettuce-cheese shit with me.

Another incredibly heartfelt thank you to Stefanie who probably thinks I should just shut the fuck up, already, but, wow. What you did.

And last, but most certainly not least, to Tanis. I said your name and you were there, like some foul-mouthed, Canadian fairy godmother. I can't explain how much it meant to me, what you said, but know that it's mutual and it physically hurts to meet someone like you who lives so far away because I know that you're one of those rare people I can be around all the time and never tire of. I hope you didn't catch the herpes.

(I'm sorry for being cryptic. I just don't want to splash other people's private words to me all over the place...I trust you, but I can't assume they'd be okay with it. Hope that's alright)

I wrote last year about BlogHer and how I felt on the fringe, isolated and unnoticed. I realize, now, that most if not all of that was me and my inner demons. I can't expect everyone to approach me and break the ice, nor can I blame them if I appear uncomfortable and thereby give off the impression that I don't want to be approached. I was very impressed by the story I read on the way to San Francisco of a man who elected not to speak for seventeen years. He said he learned more by listening to people, by watching them. I watched and tried to listen this particular weekend. I saw some of you, uncomfortable but doing a good job of hiding it and some of you who just went to have some good, clean fun. (And then some of you were straight up freaks, but, whatever, it's San Francisco, live and let live, no?) But what I did see more of this year than last was people going outside their comfort zones to interact with others. I don't know if that was because more of you wanted to network this year, there was more empathy, more relaxation or what it was. I do know there were some people there, not many, who were completely and utterly full of shit, but the vast majority seemed to be genuine and kind and what a difference that made for the overall atmosphere.

Hurrah, ladies and gentleman. Good show.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


A Quick Hello

I have many things to talk about, but my Dad is in the hospital and I spent the day there with him. The sight of him yesterday knocked the breath out of me. In the span of a few days, he had gone from my dad to some shrunken, gray and vacant-eyed man that I did not recognize. The tears started when he refused to let me take him to the hospital, so I did the hardest thing I have ever done with him: I convinced him that I would only take him to a local doctor and then I drove him to the ER against his will. It sucked.

There is no official diagnosis yet, but his color was more normal and he was at last able to rest comfortably after they administered morphine. While he was sleeping, my mother and I walked to the cafeteria. When we returned, I sat and memorized his face. He looked so small and fragile in that bed. As if he sensed me watching, he opened his eyes. "Is the food good?"

My mom shrugged. "Yeah, it was pretty good."

"I bet it's better than what they give the patients," my dad lamented. "Although, they gave me a steak with gravy on it one time and that was pretty good." He paused for a moment and I watched the faraway look as he remembered that meal. "Yep. Had a smothered snake."

"Snake, daddy?" For those who are new or don't remember, my father tends to hallucinate when given morphine.

He looked at me as if I were a small, retarded child. "Steak. Snake." Then he giggled. "Hell, maybe it was a snake, who knows?"

Hearing his infectious laugh got me started laughing and I couldn't stop. The relief of seeing him act normal (for as normal as my wonderful father can be) and pain-free for a moment convinced me that maybe, if I'm lucky, I'll have my precious daddy for a little while longer.

From my lips to God's ear.

I love you, Dad. Sleep. Dream. Harass the staff and try to convince us that there are pink bunnies roaming the hallways with nurses caps on, but please don't leave me, yet. I'm not ready.





Thursday, July 17, 2008


Yes, Dear

My husband has asked me no less than ten times when I'm going to post something, so I figure I should do that before I have to throw him in the wood chipper.

Here's what's going on:

I am in the Dallas airport waiting for my connecting flight to San Francisco. I am in sweats, flip flops and a shirt that's sign language for, "WTF". I forgot the charger for my laptop and some pushy woman tried to sell me one at a kiosk for $140 before I laughed and then realized that bitch was serious. I can't find a food place that sells Dr Pepper and I'M IN TEXAS, HOME OF DR PEPPER, YOU COMMIE PINKO BASTARDS.

Thank you for the compliments on the new design but it was all the work of the incredible Christy over at Ruby & Roja Design/ and she only charged me a gift certificate to Taco Bell and a ceramic frog. Don't ask. The point is, she is super-human and incredibly affordable.

Oh, and Jenn won the contest for the translation of Susan Johnson because she was dead on. There was actually a transcript on the news stations web site because, well, that shit was necessary. But the commentary and attempts kept me in tears for hours and I thank you all for participating.

Now, my battery is flashing at me and I have to go find someone with a Dr Pepper because, although this is my home state, I've been in Memphis long enough to go all POW! Susan Johnson on them because I ain't scurred.

I'll buy a charger in San Francisco. Right after I buy a bottle of Belvedere vodka.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


Contest

This is too good to pass up. I'm giving away a prize to the first person who can decipher Witness #2's (the female) testimony in comments. I'm so proud to live here.

For men: A brand spankin' new Hard cover copy of the book, Sex: How To Do Everything By Em & Lo. It's a wonderfully detailed book and literally has everything in it. It's so good, in fact, that my husband begged to keep it. Sorry, babe. (I said, "spanking" and "hard". Heh)

For women: A Prize Pack with stuff from people who want us to look 28 when we're 50. How can you argue with that?

Ready, set, GO!

Guest Post

Danny Evans took a break from blogging so he and Hot Wife could fulfill a lifelong dream of going to a nudist colony, so I got to Guest Blog with some other incredible people. It's here.

Disclaimer: I'm totally full of shit about the nudist thing. Wink, wink.

Sunday, July 06, 2008


This Is My Holiday Weekend

This is Harmony.






She is the quintessential toddler. Everything is the most fascinating thing she's ever seen, everything must be man-handled while inspecting it and she drinks four Red Bulls and 2 double mocha lattes before we get up every morning. Harmony has discovered Sponge Bob and while I'm not one to encourage my children to sit in front of the tv (at least not until they're teenagers and, then, DUDE. I DON'T CARE IF YOU WATCH A 24 HOUR MARATHON OF GIRLS GONE WILD, JUST QUIT BUGGING THE SHIT OUT OF ME), can I just say that if it were possible, I'd give Sponge Bob a Sponge Job. If you know what I mean.


This is Virginia.





There is a hole in our yard that has been there ever since we moved in. It's where the city, in their infinite wisdom, put in the water thing-a-ma-bob. I imagine that some guy with too much ass crack and a toothpick in his mouth said, "Meh. Whatever. Put it right there." Virginia ran full-tilt-boogie through the yard, landed in the hole and somehow catapulted herself across the sidewalk and into the street. I've never seen anything like it. It was like a Mary Lou Retton routine if Mary Lou was spastic and completely uncoordinated. If Virginia's knees hadn't looked like raw hamburger meat, I would have pissed my pants laughing. As it is, it broke my heart to see how hard she tried to be brave while the blood poured down her legs. Ice cream and Neosporin fixed it.


This is Cooper.






We are dog-sitting for my friend, Erica. Cooper has 3 expressions: confused, nervous and, "Holy shit-olee, where'd ya get that biscuit?" He could be the soundtrack for, "Chris Farley has Sex", but he has been an absolute angel for the 3 1/2 days we've had him. He was initially nervous around Virginia because she insisted he wear a tiara, but after a couple of hours, he was her constant shadow. When she went outside to take the trash out, he sat in the window and whimpered pathetically until she came back. And then he was like most dogs and attacked her with face licks like she'd been gone for weeks.

And while everyone was setting the neighborhood on fire in honor of our country's birthday, I scrapped my proposal and then devoured the five books I purchased on the subject. After the hysterics were over, I started again. And, can I just say, this shit is hard. Harder than writing the book because you have to justify to people why your book is so much better than everyone else's of the same general subject. I'm not that strong in the area of self-confidence, so if my book ever does get published, I will have to give a special thanks to Ben & Jerry's for making Imagine Whirled Peace because, seriously? Only thing I've eaten for the past THREE days. I'll be the lady at BlogHer being transported around on a flat bed trailer and bellowing whale song.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


Wishing

Dear God,

I want these things, in no particular order:

1. I want to take a shower one time without the water running cold. I can get up at 4 a.m., when everyone is asleep with dried spit on their chin, and one of them will inevitably get up and flush the toilet while I'm leaning over, shaving my legs. Ice cold water in your ass crack will dispel any sleepiness, trust me on that.

2. I want people to move the right-hand lane. It's like they have a meeting every morning and make the decision to drive in front of me, blocking both lanes at ten miles under the speed limit. I have 3 kids, a day job and a part-time job. My life is measured in milliseconds and I cherish every one of them. If you continue to torment me, I will stop taking my meds, hunt you down and kill you and then plead temporary insanity and get away with it and do you know why? Because the Judge was late for my hearing due to some jackass driving slow in the left-hand lane. Jackass.

3. I want someone to explain to me why my 8-year-old daughter is channeling a fifteen-year-old asshole. We can't go more than half an hour in our house without having a meltdown of epic proportions.

"Virginia, come eat dinner." Meltdown.
"Virginia, you look nice." Meltdown.
"V, can you get me that book?" Meltdown.

I blame you, Oscar Meyer. Quit pumping all those hormones into your hot dogs (the only thing she will eat these days) because this child is one tear away from landing in boarding school with explicit instructions not to send her back until she's married. Furthermore, it will affect her breast development and, DUDE. NO HELP NECESSARY IN THAT ARENA.

4. Please make strangers stop asking me why I have a band aid on my thumb. I appreciate your need to fill silences with small talk, but, does it really matter what happened? I got hungry, a rabid opossum attacked me in my sleep, prostates have teeth, WHO CARES? Back off my boo-boo, stranger.

____________

As an aside, there are slutty women in my sidebar doing things like sucking seductively on lollipops and giggling. The one I'm captivated by right now swears that her interests are Mediterranean food and poetry. I call bullshit. Methinks her interests are more along the lines of sparkly things and bank accounts.

____________

"Virginia, I have to go to San Francisco. This is kind of a big deal."

"How long will you be gone?"

"Four days."

"Four? Four? Can't you just tell them no? I don't like it when you're gone."

"I don't like to be away from you, either." This is a blatant lie. I love my children immensely but I'm so excited at the idea of four days away that I could just shit.

"Why do you have to be there?"

"Because I'm speaking on what's called a panel. And, you never know. I could run into someone who knows someone who wants to publish my stuff and pay me three billion dollars. And then that pink pony will be mine."

She was not impressed. "Can't you just text message them?"

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


1-800-SUICIDE

I saw this on Postsecret the other day and couldn't post it to my blog from work (can't see the video at work or the link for some reason). Alanna reminded me (thanks, Alanna) and I'm posting it now.

Please go here and watch the video and help save 1-800-SUICIDE from government interference. I've personally called this line and without the understanding, compassion and non-judgmental love of the person who listened to me cry, I don't know what might have happened.

Miss you, B.

The Crazy Chronicles, Part 30: Three Steps Forward

"And the good news is I'm better for the time we spent together
and the bad news is you're gone" - Diamond Rio, "You're Gone"



I pushed Chris away with a ferocity that surprised even me. What had he done, really? He had been supportive, helpful, attentive and my kids loved him. There were small voices arguing inside me: too young, he'll leave, he's the one, give him a chance.

During all of this, my friend, B, counseled me against forging a relationship with Chris. "He's not right for you." I loved B and I valued and respected his opinion immensely, so I listened. Chris and I sporadically talked via messenger every now and then, but for the most part, we were finished. B was blissful. As a matter of fact, his joy made me suspicious.

"Why are you so happy that I'm so miserable?" I snapped one day.

"Because now I have you for myself," he cheerfully answered.

"B, not funny." I didn't have romantic notions toward B, not then, and it bothered me a great deal when he would say things like that. Then he would laugh and make me laugh and we were okay, again.

My days were busy. I worked and when I came home, I had a family to cook for. I spent as much time with Devon as possible, talking, laughing, sharing music or games, but I still felt something was missing. I would lay in bed at night, watching Virginia sleep (I only had a 2 bedroom, so she slept with me) and wonder what this nagging feeling was.

Chris would call from time to time just to see how we were doing. He was often depressed or sick. I tried to be sympathetic, but I was fighting my own battles with B.

"B, you're married. I'm not getting involved with a married man who lives in another state. I'm not that stupid," I said for what seemed like the hundredth time.

"So, you don't love me?" He was pouting.

"Of course I love you, you're my best friend. Just not like that."

"Bullshit. I'm perfect for you."

"You're drunk. Why aren't you going to your AA meetings?"

"Because those people bore me."

Other times B would call, despondent. After hours of talking to him, life called. If I tried to gently break from the conversation, he would threaten to kill himself. In a lot of ways, he held me captive.

One night, I had a conversation with God. I asked him to please help me find what it was that was missing from my life, to please guide me. That night, I dreamt of Chris. When I woke the next morning, I knew what I had to do. I had to tread carefully, though. I had hurt him and discarded him and I knew it would take time to gain his trust, again. I called him and invited him to a movie and we began the fragile process of starting over with each other. I knew in my heart that the decision I had made was the right one. B was furious.

"He's all wrong for you!" he ranted. "You're brilliant! You need someone who can keep up with you!"

"B, he's one of the most intelligent people I've ever known."

"What's the last book he read?"

"Your library and what's in it is not a measure of intelligence," I softly said. I knew he was hurt.

"You'll see. It won't work."

Every day he reminded me that I was making a mistake. Chris tried to ignore the insanely frequent phone calls and the effect they had on me, but it began to wear on him.

"Crystal, why does he call you so much?"

"He's lonely and he's my best friend. He just needs a lot of support right now."

"How can he be your best friend? You've never even met him."

"And? I've never understood that mentality. Have you and Jesus Christ hung out lately? Does that change the way you feel about him?"

The arguments escalated as the months went by. I felt like I was being torn apart. B wanted me away from Chris and Chris wanted me away from B. It was affecting everything around me.

My frustration boiled over one day while B was spitting venom at me, again. "He's from Arkansas, for Christ's sake. His evolution from ape was just a few years ago."

"B, shut up. I won't listen to you tear him down like that. He's the kindest, most generous man alive and he loves me. And I love him. You're drunk, again. I know you don't mean the shit you say."

"I am not drunk."

"So, you're going to lie to me? Is that how we are, now?" My anger was evident. "I'll tell you what. Don't call me again until you're sober and lucid. I'm sick of you making me feel bad and I'm tired of you lying to me."

"I should just kill myself."

"Stop it, B. Stop with that crap. You can't keep doing this to me." And with that, I hung up.

Hours later, I started to feel bad, so I called him back. He wouldn't answer. I tried for days, sending text messages and leaving one frantic voice message after another. "B, please, please answer. Call me back. I love you and you're scaring me."

A few days later, while I was at work, I sent another text message. I'm going to call your wife if you don't call me and let me know you're okay. My phone rang a few minutes later. I recognized the area code as B's, but not the number. I assumed he was just calling from another phone. "Hey!"

"Hello?" I didn't know this voice. A chill went up my spine. "Is this Crystal?"

"Yes," I whispered.

"My name is Alan. I'm B's brother-in-law. Um, listen. B killed himself a couple of days ago. I'm so sorry."

I fell to my knees and wailed. A thousand thoughts went through my head. He's lying, this is another one of his tricks. He's just setting me free. Oh, God, oh God, no. Not B. No.

I had never had someone close to me die. The grief and guilt swallowed me up and I surrendered to the overwhelming confusion and disbelief that followed me in. B was gone.

Sunday, August 31, 2008


Seriously?

No one? No one at all in this area or Odessa? Big Springs? Gah. No meeting new people for me.

Oh, and if you do live in this area and you know people, get the name Christopher Glenn out. He's about 19 and he's a dirty, fucking nasty thief. He broke into my cousin's house (and he's my cousin, too. How sad is that) and stole the last of the money my Nanny had saved for her headstone. He also stole her rings, so she'll be buried without them. He cut his house arrest monitor off last night and is on the run. If you know him, run him over and then call me. Seriously, call the police or call someone. This isn't that big of an area.

Friday, August 29, 2008


Travel

I'm leaving at 6 a.m. to return to Midland, Texas. My birthplace. It offers poisonous tap water, huge oil reserves and a plethora of meth labs. But, it is where my family is and I would be lying if I said I wasn't excited to be seeing them all, again...even though the circumstances are bleak.

For those of you who have asked, I'm not really sure how my Grandad is. The last I heard, he was weeping. He is understandably lost without his sole companion for the last 73 years. He married her when she was fourteen, barely out of childhood, and she spent her life in dedication to him and her children. He had hoped to go first. He loves her beyond what any of you and I know about love.

If any of you live in the area and want to have a drink (or seven), let me know. I'll need it.

(No, really. I'm serious. Email me. I'll be the one perched precariously on top of a telephone post with tinfoil in my teeth and a coathanger sticking out of my laptop because I saw that on the Flintstones and I actually believe it may work to get reception in the desert)

Goodbye for Now

A few short weeks ago, my Nanny & Grandad celebrated being married for three quarters of a century. A few short hours ago, the matriarch of the Pool family slipped from this life and into the hands of God. She is free from pain and seeing her reward for a life filled with faith, grace, dedication and humility.

G'bye Nanny. Love you.

Lucy Pool
1921 - 2008

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Confusion

I just spent my last seven dollars on Ben & Jerry's Cinnamon Buns ice cream. I walked to the checkout and the incredibly obese cashier smiled at me. I first thought she was in a wheelchair until she heaved herself up and I saw the stool she had been sitting on. She looked at my purchase. "Cinnamon buns, eh? Any good?"

Her tightly permed wig was pulled too far forward. It looked like rabid, Puerto Rican pubic hair had invaded her forehead.

"It's incredible. A thing of beauty," I answered, smiling back.

"I eat a lot of strawberry yogurt."

I looked at my ice cream. "Maybe I should put this back."

"Oh, no, honey. If it's been one of those days, eat up, I say."

I thanked her, hugged my ice cream and went to my car. As I turned on the ignition, the song, "I'm Only Happy When It Rains", began. How appropriate.

My phone rang. "Hi, Daddy."

"Hi, honey. Mom told me what happened. Are you okay?"

"You guys have the most amazing network. Am I wired?"

"We're just worried about you."

My eyes began to water. "I'm fine. Just disappointed. Confused."

"Don't let it stop you. You're brilliant and motivated. Just keep at 'em. You know there will be people who say no."

"Oh, I know. I'm okay with that. It's just really hard to hear that something that means so much to you isn't good enough for someone else. I'm just being weepy. I'll be fine."

"You've never believed in yourself."

"It's hard. I've never been good at anything."

"Well, you're good at this. Don't let anyone tell you differently."

"Thanks, Dad."

"Baby?"

"Yes?"

"I believe in you."

"You're contractually obligated, Dad. I'm your kid."

"No, not because you're my daughter. Because you inspire me."

I've waited my entire life to hear that and I never knew it until that moment.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


One of the 1st 25

One of my readers lives locally and she nominated her son. When she stopped by to pick up a package she won eons ago (she was the one who deciphered the rant that the lady with one earring went on), I met her and the son she nominated, but didn't realize who she was. A couple of days later when I put 2 and 2 together, I was thrilled. I was so impressed by her son and I was more than happy to be giving him a DS on behalf of all of you.

She's given me permission to share the picture taken after Virginia gave him the system, so I definitely wanted you to see it:




This is what you're doing. Give yourself a hug.

(10 minutes after this picture was taken, Virginia, fresh from a bath, demanded to know if this boy, Chris, liked her as a girlfriend. He was brilliantly noncommital and she is sprung. Watch your bunny, Chris)

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Emails

The emails have flooded in, so I made a decision. Instead of posting every single one, I'll post random emails for a few days.
New total? Over $3,500. So very close to buying one for every single child. We now only need enough to buy 10 more, maybe less than that. I cannot thank you all enough.



---------------
Email:

Crystal & Virginia
I know that it has been a week since you started receiving e mails and it has taken me that long to get up the nerve to ask you to consider my son. I am a single mom like most moms out there and I have 2 sons. I work for a nonprofit agency that provides care to children that need foster care and other services. As you may know working for a non profit the pay is minimal. I do love my work though helping children without parents gives you a great feeling but that feeling doesn’t help me give my children the things that they want. My youngest son is 6 years old and a lot of the kids in his class have a DS and he is always asking if he can have one. He even asked Santa for one last Christmas but Santa just didn’t have enough to give Chris one. My son even as young as he is said he understood that there was another little boy who needed one more than him and that Santa might bring him one next year. (Chris is the kind of child that takes extra snack to school just in case somebody doesn’t have one. He even gave a pair of old spider man shoes to a little boy who didn’t have a pair. When I asked him why he was giving his shoes away he said he had another pair and he knew the other boy only had flip flop shoes and everybody should have spider man running shoes. ) I felt so bad because even though he was let down he thought of someone else and how happy they were. I know that I am rambling but I get emotional when I think of generous Chris is. If you can find it possible to choose him I know that he would be grateful and I would be indebted to you always. I just want you to know you have great kids! And I know from experience it is all because of what a great MOM they have. Remember you have taught them everything they know. Good luck with this difficult choice.

---------------
Email:

Dear Virginia,
My daughter's name is Kelly, and she turned seven years old this last April. She is starting second grade next week and will have to ride the bus by herself. She loves to read, loves arts and crafts of all kinds, but she really doesn't have many friends. She has an older sister who is almost twelve, and together they listen to music and play Webkins on the computer. Kelly has a baby brother who is almost five months old. He screeches and drools a lot. She was the baby in the family, so when her brother was born she felt kind of left out.
I went on maternity leave right before he was born, and so when her birthday came in April, we didn't have a lot of money for a party. She was allowed to invite a few friends from school to watch a movie and sleep over. Only one girl came to the party. I knew Kelly was sad, but she didn't talk about it much. We told her that she would get a few small presents then and a bigger present later, but because of money issues, we haven't been able to get her anything special yet. She used to have a Gameboy Advance which she LOVED, but it was used and we didn't have a charger, so when it lost power, I put it away and forgot about it.
She thinks there are monsters under her bad, but she bravely sleeps there anyways. Her favorite job is checking the mail, and she always asks if there is anything for her. She eats salad and hates jelly on her peanut butter sandwich. She is a great fantastic big sister, daughter, and friend. I would love to show her that she is appreciated, and loved, and that surprises can come in the mail when she very leasts expects it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Typical

My husband is watching the Olympics, only to ogle Misty May's ass.

As I'm watching with him to see the wonder of her glutes (he has talked non-stop about them for two days), I notice other things. "She has a cool tattoo on the inside of her wrist."

"She has arms?"

I'm going to bed.

Paul Has Lost His Beautiful Mind

...and donated $1,000 in addition to the DS that arrived today with 3 games and a backpack. I love him to pieces, but he shouldn't be shouldering this himself. He feels responsible for sparking off something that he thinks is causing me stress and anguish and, although I've tried to tell him that this is a beautiful thing he and Vince and Virginia have inspired, he is determined to do whatever it takes to ensure that each and every one of these kids receives a game system...including sacrificing his savings and everything he has.

That cannot happen. Tell him. And then call your rich uncle, Herb.

Kung Fu Mama

You never react the way you think you will when faced with potential danger.

I have often had waking nightmares about someone kidnapping my children or trying to hurt them. In my head, I go all ninja on the perpetrator, acting out my maternal instincts by busting open a can o' whoop ass on their heads. After turning the injured criminal over to the police, I hug my children tightly and then disappear into the night as a giant spotlight shaped like a boob pierces the cloud cover above us. I am wearing leather. When I sweat, it's sexy.

In reality, I am a complete tool.

Tuesday morning at 2 a.m., I heard my bedroom door open. I have an irrational fear about sleeping with my bedroom door unlocked (because serial killers can't get through those cheap doorknob locks that you buy at Lowe's for $2.87. For real), but I do it because I don't want my 8-year-old to have a nightmare and encounter a locked door when she's trying to get away from the boogey man. Because of this, she has scared at least ten years off of my life by breathing quietly, two inches from my face, until I wake up and piss myself screaming.

I digress.

The door opened and I woke, disoriented. I had gone to bed well before Chris but I thought I remembered him coming to bed. I looked to my right and there he was, my own, personal Darth Vader.

I leaned up a little and saw someone standing over Harmony's bed. This is where my thought process became erratic.

That is definitely a person. I don't think I'm having a nightmare, but I've had these before. This has to be a nightmare. Who the hell would just walk in and take my baby? Is Devon here? No. He's at Mimi's. Why would he come get her, anyway? It's not like he has a sudden hankering to change a pissy diaper. Virginia? I think that's too big to be Virginia, but I don't have my contacts in. What does she want with Harmony? Oh, shit. Maybe she's still mad about Harmony biting her on the leg. It's not like she can get revenge, I mean, really, what can she do? Put her bra in the freezer? Did I tell Chris about Harmony trying to wear my bra? God, that was hysterical. She looked like she had a Viking under each armpit. Did I shave my pits?

All of this blurred through my head in a matter of seconds. As the intruder stood up, Harmony in their arms, I prepared myself to spring into action. I was drawing in a breath to unleash my war cry and mentally noting reason #2,988 not to sleep in the nude, when the person carrying Harmony murmured to her and I realized it was Chris' sister, Hannah. The shriek died in my chest and I exhaled, forcefully. Hannah glanced over. "You scared the absolute shit out of me," I whispered.

"Sorry!"

She works weird hours and had made arrangements with Chris to come pick Harmony up and keep her the following day. Harmony sleeps through this entire ordeal, so it's harmless, UNLESS YOU FORGET TO TELL THE MOTHER UNIT.

Later that morning after my alarm went off, I stifled another scream of horror as I glanced at the empty baby bed. The events of the wee hours came flooding back and my breathing was returning to normal when Chris appeared behind me. "What's wrong, babe?"

I turned and smacked him across the chest.

"Ow! What was that for?" he wailed.

"You had a bug. Right there."

"Well, you could have given me some warning!"

"My thoughts, exactly."

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Emails 7 & 8 and PayPal Update

I transferred $1,300 out today and this is the total as of right now:




You have donated over $2,000 and I feel like I should have a picture of each of you in my wallet so I can make strangers look at all my kids. I'm so proud of each and every one of you.

There are some really nice emails coming in and I'll get permission to share those when this is all finished, because they're really thanking all of you.

If you haven't received an email from me asking for your address, please don't lose heart. We're doing everything we can and I'm still waiting (and will be for a couple of weeks, probably) to hear from Nintendo.

One more thing and then I'll post 2 more emails...someone made the comparison that, while my heart is in the right place, giving a child a DS is equivalent to giving them cancer. At first, I was shocked and hurt. Then I doubted myself and what we're doing. And, finally, I was pissed. Especially since some of the children getting these DS's are battling cancer. I know that not everyone is going to agree with this or think like I do, but, please, don't try to rain on this. Please. I'll never delete your comments unless they're directed at my kids, but, PLEASE, be respectful. You can call me whatever you choose, but the people who trusted me with their stories don't need that shit, and regardless of what you may think, if it makes a child happy for a few hours or days or weeks, then it's worth it. Period.

I'm going to tell you later on about how I got the shit scared out of me (literally) at 2 a.m., but for now, emails 7 & 8.

_______________
Email #7

Hi Crystal and Virginia! I know this is late, but I'm gonna try anyway: Please meet Gail & John. They have three children, Mark (7), Matthew (5), and Bella (1-1/2). John is a hard-working man here in Texas trying to support his stay-at-home wife with 3 children. They have known each other since they were 16 and have been married for 10 years. They are 35 years old. John has cancer and has no insurance. They are trying right now to find out some way (sans insurance) whether his cancer has metastasized to his lymph nodes. Their cars are broken down right now and John is having to ride a bus or catch a ride when he can to get to work. Gail is devastated. She is an active member in the church and is reaching for any hope that she can find. I want to restore some of that hope. I'd like to remain anonymous if you and Virginia choose them. In closing, if this is the family or child(ren) you choose, please contact (name removed) at (church) and ask for their information. Thank you and bless your kindness. I know you have a difficult decision.

_______________
Email #8

Hey Virginia, It is so wonderful to see a child who is so giving! May you continue to see the good in the world and in the people around you! If you are interested in passing on the Nintendo to a child who otherwise would never have one, I have a suggestion for you: my son. My son is 12 years old, and LOVES computer games (what kid doesn't?) But, there is no way he's going to get one of those game-boy type things, unless a miracle happens. (who knows, maybe you are that miracle). We live in Israel, and kids here are pretty much the same as kids in the United States. (except they have less stuff, because stuff here is WAY more expensive, and homes are smaller, so there is no where to put all that stuff anyway) My son likes computers, soccer, playing with LEGO, drawing, and playing with his friends, and playing with his sisters. Oh, yeah, and he loves reading (especially fantasy: Harry Potter, Anamorphs, School for Dragon Slayers, etc). He is a good kid. He works hard at school, and tries really hard to behave well. His mom (that would be me) has cancer. It is not so easy to have a mom with cancer. Especially when the cancer is not going to go away. My son has to do a lot of extra chores around the house. All the kids in our family have to help a LOT, because I do not have the energy. My son would love to have something like the Nintendo, to play with when he's done with his homework and chores. And his sisters would love sharing it with him. You can ask me any questions, if you want. You and your family should always be healthy and have lots of fun together!

Monday, August 18, 2008


My New Favorite Video and Emails 5 & 6

I am buying and sending out 9 DS's this week. In return, I'm hoping to post pictures, even if they're altered to blur out faces. If you nominated a child, check your email as I'll be needing addresses. Obviously, this is not enough to cover every child, but we're getting there! Thank you to every donor!
_______________
Email #5
Virginia, I think that you are doing an incredible thing by offering your Nintendo DS to another kid who wouldn't have one. On that note, I'd like to nominate my son, Michael. Michael is 10 years old and is in the 5th grade. He is also the oldest of my 4 boys. He works very hard to help me and his stepdad around the house and with his younger brothers. His step dad works normal hours - Monday - Friday 8-5, but I work 5pm until midnight or 2am Tuesday through Saturday. We don't get to see each other alot during the week, but I know that I can count on him to help us out. I am so lucky to have him as my son. He sometimes gets frustrated, but he helps anyways. For Christmas last year the only thing that he asked for was a Nintendo DS, and I had planned on buying him one. But I had also counted on his real father paying his child support before Christmas so I could buy him one. Sadly, his real dad didn't and I wasn't able to afford one. Then, I was going to save to buy him one sometime after Christmas. My husband lost his job in early January so instead of a Nintendo DS, I had to use what money I made to pay bills instead. I told Michael that I couldn't afford a Nintendo DS for Christmas, but I didn't tell him why because I did not want to say anything bad about his dad. He was upset that he didn't get one, but he understood. I never told him that I was planning on trying to get him one after Christmas, and I'm glad that I didn't. I did not want to disappoint him again, and I have had to do that so many times this year. He deserves so much better than that.. My husband has finally gotten a new job, but we are having to catch up on things that had to be put off for 6 months while he was out of work. Michael is a good kid, and I would love to see his face if he were to receive one. He is the type of kid to return the favor down the road once we are on our feet better. Whomever you choose Virginia, know that this paying it forward is going to bless you tenfold! You are awesome!
_______________
Email #6
I debate on whether or not to tell our story and nominate my son as deserving for the DS because I'm sure there are other kids that need it more but.... My son Jason is turning 9 years old next month. He is the oldest of our four children with the other three being 2 year old triplets (2 boys and 1 girl). The triplets constantly terrorize him by taking and ruining his toys, video games and books. They don't mean him any harm- they are just toddlers doing what toddlers do. Recently, they figured out how to turn door knobs and keep going into his room to mess with even more of his things. He deals with his little brothers and sister in a fairly normal way- by screaming at them- but he loves them and understands to the best of his ability. What makes this more impressive is that his little sister, Lily, has medical problems related to being severely premature and weighing in at 1 lb,6 ozs at birth. She has a tracheostomy and a feeding tube and has been hospitalized over 20 times in the last two years. Jason went from being an only child to dealing with his parents frequently staying in the hospital with his sister after an ambulance picked her up. He has confided in me that he is afraid she is going to die every time she goes to the hospital. It hasn't been easy for him to adjust but when I see him reading to his little siblings and protecting them, I realize being a big brother is less of a burden than I feared. Because we have four kids, one income and three toddlers still in diapers, birthdays aren't always easy around here and they are not extravagant. Jason asked for a Nintendo DS but we can't afford one for him. If Virginia chose to pay it forward to him, I would find a way to pay it forward to another child in some way. I think this is an incredible thing your family is doing whether or not we are chosen, thank you for doing this.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Email 4

I wanted to give you a running total and say a couple of things before I post email 4.

The reaction to this has been 99% positive and only about 1% negative. For those of you who are worried about me getting hurt in all of this, I don't count you in the negative because you're looking out for me and I appreciate that - your heart is in the right place.



Some of you are concerned about the kids getting these gifts and then someone pawning them, stealing them, etc. This was never about the item. It's about hope. Long after the DS's are gone or broken, these kids will remember that a bunch of strangers cared about them. They'll carry that with them forever and it can make a huge difference in the decisions they make later on in life. One of the reasons I don't dwell on the negative aspects of this is because, a. I know that the overall impact is the important part and, b. people gave me hope in my darkest hours and I have carried that with me all these years. It's the reason I believe that people are ultimately good, especially the people that gravitate here. I won't choose to give hope to one child and not another. No child is more deserving of that than the next...they all deserve it equally. For that reason, I'm sharing the emails so that you can see who this hope is going to, but I ask that you respect the people who wrote them and give them the benefit of the doubt. They're readers here and I believe them and believe in them. Please leave your comments with that in mind. I don't want anyone's feelings hurt and it's an especially sensitive subject when you're talking about these kids.


Ok. Lecture over. Now! Check this out:







This does not include the work that Vince is doing on his own nor Paul's generous offer OR the DS's that have been shipped here directly by donors. All of this in 48 HOURS. This is going to happen and you're making sure of that. If you can help spread the word, I would appreciate it.



Now, on to emails:

_______________


Email #4 (I am just going to change the names from now on so it's not so awkward to read)

I am writing to nominate very special 10 year old boy named Cody. He is one of 14 children and lives in (location). His father killed himself last Thanksgiving. His father was very determined to help all his children grow up and have a better life than he had. Several of his children went to optional schools, and Cody's father rode the bus to drop his children off and pick them up after school. He worked nights and did the best to take care of his children. It is suspected that he was under a lot of stress because at every turn, dhs would disqualify them from getting benefits because he lived in the household and often they would make a few dollars over the limit to receive benefits. Dhs makes it very hard for you to try to help yourself. His mother has been doing people's hair in her home to make whatever money she can. This allows her to take care of the children who are not school age. If she got a job, any money would be eaten up by child care. I found out about Cody, the boy, from a friend who is very close to his family. A few weeks ago, Cody turned 10. That day, their utilities were turned off. There was no celebration. Imagine, your tenth birthday. No presents, no cake, no air conditioning or fans, and it's 100 degrees. Cody's family has their utilities on now, and have been told they will receive social security, but who knows when they will get a check. They were able to get some school supplies from a church in (location), and several people I know and I contributed what we could (I am on disability myself, so I couldn't contribute much). Cody's birthday was lost in the shuffle. I am going to give my friend some money when I get my next check so she can take Cody out for lunch to McDonald's, and also give him $11 (ten items plus tax) so he can go wild at dollar tree. I was told Cody has a some learning difficulties but he has a very sweet disposition and dearly loves his family. On his birthday, his concern wasn't for himself but for his family. He didn't want his mother or brothers and sisters to get hot. He never mentioned his birthday. I think he would be a great recipient for the nintendo game. I can assure you that it would be a gift not only for him but also for his 13 brothers and sisters, because he loves to share. He is very unselfish and has a smile for every one. Even if he doesn't get the votes for the game, please save a place in your prayers for Cody. I hadn't prayed for a while but I find myself now praying for Cody and his family, even though I have never met them. Now I have someone else to cry for besides just myself! Please tell Virginia she is a very wonderful and caring little girl. She has character and integrity, as well as huge heart!

"Ralphie! Help me, Ralphie, I Can't Get Up!"

"What is she hollering about?"

"She wants to wear her pajamas."

"Then put her in her pajamas so she'll stop screeching."

"No, she wants to wear all her pajamas."







Friday, August 15, 2008


First 2 Nominees

NOTE: THE DONATE BUTTON IS IN THE LEFT HAND SIDEBAR! THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO HAS DONATED!

I'm posting all of the emails sent to me since we're trying to take care of every one of these kids. There's no need to vote...I just wanted you to see where your prayers, donations and positive thoughts will be going.

____________

Email #1

Well I've been sitting here trying to decide if I should submit or not. I'm a rather new reader to your blog but have been taken in my your honestly and genuine good will towards others even after all you have lived though.

Our family is a foster family, we have 5 kids here right now, 2 1/2 are our legal ones (we are in the process of adopting our youngest son) and 2 foster daughters. In the last 2 years we have had over 30 kids come though our home. Some stay for a night, some stay for while but they always touch my heart. My foster daughter (name removed) is 11 and in the 5th grade, she has been with us since last January and honestly will probably age out of the system. She has been tossed around from home to home, state to state and now is in state's custody. She came to us frightened of men, lying and stealing and full of bravado. She has become to dear to me, she still stuggles but don't we all. She is a typical girl obsessed with Hannah Montana and Camp Rock and just wants to be accepted in a family. She now calls me mom and is scared to go home as I am for her. She's not a kid who has ever been handed things, she's a kid that a Nintendo would mean as much to as it did for your Virgina.

I've learned a lot in the last few years, I've learned that sometimes you have to let go of your pride and accept help, whether it be hand-me-downs, extra food or maybe a new nintendo. There are so many kids that are deserving, but I thought I would throw (name removed) name in the hat. She's an awesome kid who has been dealt a crappy lot in life but I can see it in her, she is a survivor also.

Thanks for letting me tell you about my girl, I'm so glad that things worked out for Virgina. You have some great kids.

____________

Email #2

I have a 7 year old stepdaughter, (name removed). She lives with her mom who is definitely not the best mom. She lost her job several months ago, because of heavy drug use she slept through her alarm one too many times and they fired her. She hasn't taken the time to find a job since then, so they were forced to move out of the place they called home because they couldn't pay the rent, and moved into a tiny two bedroom apartment with another family of 3, who also had several other people staying with them. When they were kicked out of that place, they came to stay here (my husband's ex wife, her 3 kids, plus her younger sister), but I couldn't let them stay long because of my landlord so they had to move back into the tiny apartment they had been staying at previously. A couple months later they were kicked out of there yet again and had to go stay in a one room cabin that a friend of their's owned (an alcoholic pervert). One room means there was a sink, a non-working toilet right beside the sink (so yes, they went to the bathroom outside, or else had to deal with the perv), and mattresses covering the floor where everyone slept. Recently a couple from their church offered to let them stay in their home and help to get them back on their feet. That's where they are now. I'm not trying to tear down her mother, but this little girl and her brother's have been through so much, we can't afford to help them out so they don't have much of anything. It breaks my heart to see them go through this, and I know for her to get a gift like this would put a smile on her face. I would do anything to help these kids see the better part of life instead of just the bad. Paul sounds like a wonderful person!

Thursday, August 14, 2008


What An Opportunity

BY REQUEST: There is a PAYPAL account set up specifically for this and Vince has access, too, so you know that your donations are going where they're supposed to go! It's here and over in the sidebar, as well:










This is just getting more and more amazing. Paul (and he will kill me for saying this, probably. He's humble) offered to help buy the four out of the top five that didn't win. His enthusiasm is contagious. He said, "What a concept...a foundation run by children that helps other children. Adults provide the funds and some guidance, but the kids decide how,and who, to help. Ooooh! That may be a bit much. But I can dream, can't I??" I don't think that's such an unattainable dream.

Just a little while ago, my favorite GM in history, Vince, called. He read the blog and the first words out of his mouth were, "I want to help." He's going to try to rally some people he knows to get Nintendo DS's for all of these children submitted to the "payitforward" email and I'm going to try to help fill in whatever gaps there may be. He also had the idea to make Saturday, the 23rd (the day of the party here), a national or global event to raise money to get whatever DS's we can't provide ourselves. We have a group of children, all of them deserving, and I think this is a very realistic goal. Additionally, it would be great if we could deliver some to St. Jude or the Ronald McDonald house for those kids, as well.

If you work for a company that would like to help sponsor one of these kids or you know someone who can help at all, please email payingitforward2008@gmail.com. And if you're one of the people who nominated and you don't want me to share your email, please let me know. Otherwise, I will start posting two emails a day (without pics and identifying information...I know that is privileged).

So...what do you think? LET'S DO THIS!

So Far

I have just spent the last 30 minutes reading the emails before Virginia does and I am so sad that I can't help each and every one of these children. Virginia is going to have a hard time narrowing it down to just five. It pains me that there are so many good, deserving kids in unfortunate circumstances, but I want to thank you all for sharing their stories and nominating them. Some of you felt uncomfortable with nominating your own children and you shouldn't. I've been that parent and I know how difficult it is to have a kid that deserves everything in the world and no way to give them even the smallest of rewards for their kind hearts.

I am going to contact Nintendo (at the urging of my sweet, beautiful husband) and see if we can't help more than one child. Wish me luck!

EDIT: I just got this from a blogger and I want to help her spread the word. Go check it out if you can!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Forward

So...after talking with Paul (the incredibly sweet man who sent Virginia a Nintendo DS), he only wanted V to do what she wanted with the game he sent and does not want it back. Virginia wants very much to give it to someone who might otherwise never have one, so here's what we came up with:

1. If you know of a child who would be deserving, please email me at payingitforward2008@gmail.com and tell us about them.

2. Virginia will pick 5 entries (and Paul, if you'd like to help select, just let me know)

3. I will post those here and let you vote for a winner.

Let me know if you can think of anything that I might not be covering (other than the fact that Paul deserves a great, big, sloppy kiss from the internet)

Wow

I will be the very first to admit that I'm a complete asshole for posting that email before giving Red Robin a chance to respond, because, damn.

Virginia answered the door a few minutes ago:





(and Vince, who is the manager, didn't give me permission to post his picture, so I hope this is okay)

Not only did they replace her stuff, they gave her a $100 Circuit City gift card and a $100 Red Robin gift card. She is walking on air.

And I want you all to know that when I explained to her how many of you were wishing her well and offering to help, she burst into tears. When I asked what was wrong, she said, "If I hadn't lost my stuff, they wouldn't feel bad and feel like they have to do something for me."

She is one of a kind and Red Robin has the most loyal, devout 8-year-old customer on the planet.

(and can I just say that hey, nice lady in the Red Robin suit? I am so sorry for you because I know you were sweating balls in there. And, no, Virginia is not allowed to read my blog, so don't worry)

Pleasantly Surprised

I have to admit that sometimes I'm very jaded when it comes to a corporations customer relations. I, like all of you, have been burned by several companies in my life and offered feedback only to be ignored. There is only one company that tried to make things right and that was Autozone. Now, I can cheerfully add Red Robin Restaurants to that list.

This morning at 7 a.m., I received a call from Kevin Schaeffer, the regional manager. He was incredibly nice, extremely apologetic and assured me that Red Robin would do whatever it took to make this up to Virginia. A few minutes later, I got another call, this time from the Director of Guest Relations, Mike. Red Robin is throwing Virginia a party next Saturday to help her feel better about what happened. She has been invited to bring friends, but we're keeping it a secret to surprise her. Apparently, the general manager of my local restaurant wasn't even aware that any of this happened, so he was very eager to make this as right as possible, including wanting to bring Virginia a new Gameboy, a new backpack and some games. I'm not telling her, just yet, because I don't want to get her hopes up in case something goes awry, but this morning, she put on a brave face and waved at me as she walked into school. She looks so fragile and tiny and my heart ached as it does when any of my children hurt.

So, thank you, Paul. Her hard work and dedication to saving $5 a week will not be in vain. Thank you, lovely readers. You always rally around me and I've never felt less alone in my life. Thank you, Mr. Schaeffer. You responded so quickly that I'm still shocked. Thank you, Mike. I appreciate your concern for Virginia and your empathy. I'm so excited about seeing Virginia's reaction to the party you're throwing her. And thank you, Jennifer at Guest Relations. I think you sent my email to everyone in the free world and the entire Red Robin database, judging the length of the cc's in your email to me.

It's truly refreshing to find that not every corporation ignores their customers, especially the little ones.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


No, Not Upset. LIVID.

EDIT: A member of our US Army just emailed me. He shipped Virginia a Nintendo DS. I am constantly humbled by the generosity and kindness of you all (several of you offered to PayPal funds or buy one and send it to her) and I can't thank you enough for the gift you've given me. I sometimes have felt at a loss when I watch the news or read the paper and start to wonder if there are good people left and then I think of you all. That is the God's honest truth. You are my anchor and I am so blessed to know you, even if it's virtually. Thank you for making my heart that much more free.

An email to Red Robin Restaurants today:

------
I am extremely disappointed and saddened by my recent experience with your store. My children and I came in for a rare lunch together. We ordered and received good service, but I had eaten several bites of my hamburger before I realized that it was bleeding all over the bun. I signaled William and he took it back, offering to bring me another (which I declined). After he took it off the bill, I was surprised that a manager or supervisor never stopped by our table, but I figured it was an oversight and we left.

A couple of hours later, my 8 year old daughter, Virginia, realized she had left her GameBoy and GameBoy backpack. I immediately called the store and spoke with Lexi, who was very pleasant. She told me that she did, indeed, have the backpack. I asked if it would be okay to get it when I came to work (I live 40 miles away, but work in Collierville) or if I needed to come get it then. She said that, no, it could wait and that the managers lock up lost & found items, so not to worry.

I went in today to pick up my item and Lexi reluctantly informed me that it was gone. I was stunned. Not only did someone at your establishment steal the hard-earned toy of an 8 year old girl, a manager didn't even bother to approach me and try to pacify me. Lexi tried very hard to apologize but I was insulted that, twice, I didn't warrant the attention of a manager.

I used to be a restaurant manager for years. I managed one of the (Ugh, I can't even cop to this) in town before they closed and I managed several restaurants in Texas. If a customer had the experience I just had, I would be mortified. I would be contrite on behalf of my cooks for the bloody burger and I would be shamed on behalf of my staff for the obvious theft. I would have offered at least my sincere apology if unable to replace the Gameboy. As I type, my sweet, generous daughter is softly crying on the sofa. She feels bad FOR ME because she knows that it was hard for us to afford the lunch outing and we can't replace the Gameboy. She is more crushed, however, that someone stole from her. What a terrific lesson for a child who bought that Gameboy with her own money.

I will not be back. I will not hesitate to tell every one of my readers how poorly we were treated by your company, and that is something I don't like doing. I normally enjoy doing product reviews for companies. However, I have an audience that may be influenced by my opinions and I think it only fair to let them know just how little Red Robin cares about it's customers.

Crystal McKnob
------

WHAT THE HELL KIND OF JACKASS STEALS A CHILD'S GAMEBOY? I hope that person gets boils inside their nose, in the soft parts, where it takes months to heal and it hurts like a mad bastard. And if any of you eat at Red Robin's, you suck.

(Ok, well you don't suck, but I'm very, very disappointed in you, mister)



Monday, August 11, 2008


Update and General Crap

Ah, the first day of school. Mere days after I beat down some old lady over the last box of no. 2 pencils, it's time for the kids to get up before noon. Virginia was her usual enthusiastic self. She has been talking non-stop about the wonders of 3rd grade and the fact that she will now be going to an "intermediate" school. "I'm a grown up, now," she proclaimed.

"Awesome," I said. "Mortgage is due on the 1st of the month, but I'll let you slide until the 4th. We'll split it in thirds. It's your turn to buy milk."

She favored me with one of her signature scowls. "I don't have any money."

"Sure you do. In your virtual bank."

"That money is for my Nintendo DS! I've been working for weeks!"

"Such is the sacrifice of being an adult. Food or Nintendo DS? Choices, my love."

She thought long and hard for a minute. Then, hopefully, "Can it be chocolate milk?"

_______________

My dad is out of the hospital, finally. He got significantly worse and had to be helped to do most things. At some point, he barely made it to the handicrapper before losing all strength in his legs. Unable to reach the call button for the nurse, he did the only thing he could think of.

"I called information from my cell phone, called the front desk and asked 'em to get someone down here to help me."

If that isn't a cell phone commercial, I don't know what is.

Thursday, August 07, 2008


I'm Leaving Chris

For this guy.

Janice, you just don't know what you lost, lady.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


Sometimes, He's The Only Thing That Can Make Me Laugh

(...well, him and the show, Wipeout. Watching grown men and women try to bounce across a pool on giant, red, rubber balls NEVER GETS OLD)

I thought I'd share a couple of the emails that Chris and I have exchanged recently.

From Chris:

"The Setting:

Brian- a movie/television/blu-ray buff. Technologically illiterate.

Charles- a guy that has the latest technology but no fucking clue on how to use it. Also thinks shrimp have testicles coming out of their head.

Charles was asking if I knew that hd movies could be rented from the iTunes store. Brian hearing the words "HD" and "movie" in the same sentence stopped to listen in. I was telling Charles that he could buy movies from there, too, because the rented ones only last 30 days or 24hrs after the start of the movie, whichever comes first. Brian asked what I was talking about and I told him that he really didn't need to ask me because I would just confuse him. Charles, thinking I was trying to belittle Brian, piped up and said "Yeah main, that's too much technique for you."

Maybe he should run for president."


I found this absurdly funny because Charles is always using the weirdest words in the wrong context...this is the same man who was excited to be staying at a hotel that offered a "confidential" breakfast.

Yesterday, I received this one:

Subject Line: FYI URGENT

IT'S BEEN 5 DAYS.

I immediately picked up the phone and called him. "Hey, you."

"Hey. Did you get my message?"

"Yeah."

"Did you understand it?"

"Yes. I can't help it that I'm indisposed right now."

He sounded puzzled. "Indisposed?"

I lowered my voice. "On my period," I whispered.

There was silence for a minute and then he started laughing. "No! That's not what I meant!"

My face grew hot. "Oh. Well, what did you mean?"

"I meant you haven't blogged in five days. But I'm going to write this down."

"Why?"

"Complete role reversal. You were the one thinking about sex and I was the one thinking about your blog."

"What does that say about us?"

"That I need a motorcycle?" He offered hopefully.

"Ugh, shut it about a motorcycle. They're dangerous and it's not a-"

"Ouch!"

"What? What happened?"

"Your PMS just smacked me upside the head."

Then again, sometimes? Not so funny.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Red Tape

I had to visit the doctor today because my back has been making me seriously contemplate cutting off my own breasts with a hacksaw. Since my cleavage provides all manners of unexpected snacks and they're perfect little pillows for Harmony, I chose the less violent route.

"Ok," the doctor said. "Put your leg straight out. Mmm hmm. Now the other one. Hmm. Okay, lift your arm and twist slightly to the left. Uh huh."

"Is this where I do the hokey pokey and I turn myself around?"

He was not amused. "Let's get some urine."

The nurse gave me my sample cup and I went to the restroom. Now, not many people know this, but I'm quite proud of my urine specimen skills. Since I've been pregnant four times and I have a rebellious cervix, I've peed in more cups than Pete Doherty. I've perfected the art of aiming without looking and it's a totally different ball game when you're dealing with a vagina. We can't just stick it in the cup and let fly. We have to strategically position the cup so that our unruly stream at least hits the side and runs down or we could be looking at soggy panties. Combined with the effort of hovering over the toilet (because you don't want to sit down and try to put the cup in place, you might touch the water in the toilet and then, eww, cut my whole fucking arm off, please) and keeping your skirt from getting in the line of fire and you have one delicate operation that takes skill, my friends.

I hiked my skirt, lowered my panties and placed the cup in the go zone. Even though I'm certain I'm in the right spot, I slowly begin to pee just in case. To my horror, I felt the warmth as the pee hit my hand. "Shit!" I clenched, stopped the flow of pee and readjusted the cup. "Must be a different size than I'm used to, that's all," I told myself. After making some minor corrections, I relaxed and started peeing, again. More warmth hit my hand. "Son of A BITCH." Is my urethra kinked? Can that even happen, like a water hose? I tried a third time, adjusting the cup where it seemed that the pee was coming from. This time, there was no stopping and I gritted my teeth in disgust as I pissed all over my hand, the toilet seat and the floor. When I was finished, I sat down on the toilet and brought the cup up to see if any urine had made it inside. That would have proven rather difficult since I never took the fucking lid off to begin with.

"Oh, dear God."

As I marveled over what an idiot I am, I noticed that the label on the bottle was paper. Fabulous. Any other time, it was written directly on the bottle with a Sharpie. Not this time.

I tried to wash the bottle and willed my bladder to produce more pee. The label saturated and then began to peel off. My name wasn't even legible any longer.

I threw the bottle in the trash and washed my hands with scalding water. After cleaning the seat and floor and washing my hands, again, I opened the door and motioned for the nurse.

"Yes?"

"Um, I need another urine bottle."

"What happened?"

"I...I sat on this one. Broke it."

She looked skeptical. "You sat on it?"

"Yep. Snapped in half."

"Ok. Just give me the broken one and I'll get you another."

"I can't. I threw it away."

"Oh, well I'll just come in and -"

"Why?"

"We have to account for all medical supplies. I just need to document it."

"So, write it down. This isn't a drug test. I just need another bottle."

"Well, if you could just-"

"I pissed all over it and tried to wash it off and now it's ruined CAN I JUST HAVE ANOTHER BOTTLE?"

"Oh. Yes, ma'am."

There is no pee cup count. She just wanted to make me admit it.

Friday, September 26, 2008


That Damned Charity Blog

EDIT 2: If you should want to send a note or card, please send it to Baby Lipe, c/o Arkansas Childrens Hospital. Claire has been transferred there and is waiting for a heart transplant.

EDIT: I left some stuff out. This is "Bee Bee"'s (Harmony's sitter, but she's so much more than that) grandbaby. So, it's close to home.

This is baby Claire:



That lovely woman holding her is her fiercely protective Mom, Jen. I'm asking that you please pray or send positive thoughts or chant or meditate or whatever you do... or even send a card to Le Bonheur, c/o Baby Lipe because this precious infant is fighting for her life at less than a month old. She has already had one open heart surgery and is facing a second. Jen has been through so much this year and she is a shining example of what a mother should be, so Claire is one lucky little girl to have her as a Mom. But Claire needs to go home and be a baby, loved and nurtured, instead of confused after being thrust into a world that hurts all the time.
Please.

(I think I got my mojo back. A post is coming later this evening, but right now, this is far more important)

Monday, September 22, 2008


Just So You Know...

I read every comment. Every single one. I read every email, but I have to admit defeat when it comes to answering them. I try, but I fail. Miserably.

You have all taught me so much and there have been many times that you have saved me. I just wanted you to know that.

I Want To Tell You A Story That Won't Be In The Book

Carter was released from the hospital the same day I was. I was worried about him since he had no family nearby and a roommate who was using him, so I gave him my phone number. A few days later, he called me. I thought he might be drunk, but I wasn't sure, so I kept my fears to myself and we had a nice conversation. A week later, he called again. He sounded drunk, of that I was almost sure, but if someone wants help, they have to ask for it or they'll never admit that it's their fault and in their control.

Suddenly, weeks went by without a word from him and I panicked. I wasn't sure where he lived and his phone number had been deleted from my caller i.d. so I tried to find him via every source available with no luck. I was sick about not being able to reach him.

One night, out of the blue, a man called me. He said that he was a friend of Carter's. "He needs help. Can you help him?" I answered yes without hesitation. I got the address and drove over to his apartment. He lives in a complex that makes the news at least twice a week but I tried to ignore my reluctance and I walked like I belonged there. Me. White, mom to three and I work in insurance. I'm sure I fit right in.

When I walked into his apartment, I was horrified. He was handicapped because of a blown-out knee, he had received no medical attention and he was living on his bed. There were empty bottles of bourbon, cigarette packs and overflowing ashtrays sharing his comforter. His bathroom was a biohazard and there were suspicious brown stains on the floor. His eyes were bloodshot and he needed a shave. An old Bette Davis movie was blaring on the television. I turned it off. "Carter...what happened?"

"Oh, I'm drunk. I fell and messed up my knee, again." He started sobbing and I went to hug him. "I've been a mess since my brother died," he continued. "You know how it is when you're a drunk."

"I do. Have you eaten anything?"

"No. Not today. I think I may have eaten something yesterday. What day is it?"

"Friday."

"Oh. Then I guess it's been a few days."

"Ok. I'm gonna go get you something to eat and when I get back, we'll figure all of this out. Ok?"

"Thank you," he quietly mumbled. "Will you stay and talk with me? No one talks to me, any more."

"Of course I will."

I left and went to the nearest fast food place to buy him a sandwich. When I returned, his tv was face down on the floor and he was now lying across the bed. "Carter! Are you okay?"

"No. Dammit. I tried to get to the bathroom and fell. I went to grab onto the dresser and knocked the tv off."

I helped him get back under his blankets, holding my breath against the smell. When I righted the tv and tried to turn it on, it gave one feeble blink and then died. "Shit," I mumbled.

"Oh, no. Oh, no no no. Don't tell me it's broken. I ... don't tell me...," he dissolved into sobs, again.

"Carter, it's okay. I'll find a tv for you. Calm down and eat something, okay?"

"I have money!" He began shuffling through the various papers and trash on his bed. "It's here somewhere. Can you buy me a new one? Let me just find my money!"

There were a few crumpled dollar bills that I could see. "Don't worry, okay? Eat."

He ate and I sat in silence, watching him. He washed it down with Ambien and a swig of bourbon and before I knew it, he was asleep. I went home and packed up Devon's tv. "I'll get you another one," I promised him.

"We'll go with you," he said, indicating him and his best friend, Julio.

They went with me and I explained to them what to be prepared for. They both nodded and carried the tv inside. Carter was elated to have guests.

"Carter, this is my son, Devon, and his best friend, Julio."

"Hey! It's so good to see you boys!" He laughed and clapped his hands like a child. "Do you like baseball?"

"Not really," my son answered.

"No, sir, but we do play football," Julio said.

Whey they had placed the new tv on his dresser, he grabbed Devon by the hand. "Thank you," he said as he sobbed. He pulled Devon into an embrace and we watched with some discomfort as Devon gently hugged him back.

"Boys, can you carry that old tv into the living room?"

When they left, I approached Carter. "I have to go, but I'll come by and check on you in the morning. Will you be okay?"

"I'm fine! You're coming tomorrow?" he asked hopefully.

"Tomorrow, I promise."

"Okay, okay." He laid back on his pillows and slept. I gathered what trash I could and put it in the overflowing trash can. As I was pulling the bag out to take it with me, a very large man emerged from the second bedroom. He studied me for a moment. "I'm Crystal. I'm a friend of Carter's."

"Dan. I'm his roommate."

"Nice to meet you," I said.

He left without replying.

_______________________

The following morning, I found Carter on the floor covered in shit, piss and vomit. I struggled to get him back in bed and went in search of clean towels and a washcloth. I sponge bathed him while he went in and out of consciousness. "Please don't call the ambulance," he kept repeating. "I can't go back there." I knew exactly how he felt.

After stripping his sheets and blankets and putting them in the washer, I grabbed a crocheted blanket from the sofa and laid it across him.

I then filled a bucket with soapy water and cleaned up as much of the carpet as I could. I moved to the bathroom and cleaned the toilet rim before succumbing to the spasms of my stomach. I ran outside and gagged by the bushes.

"You okay?" someone asked behind me.

"Yeah." I turned to the man. He was black, in his thirties and looked to be leaving for work. "Just...not feeling well."

"Are you his daughter?" he wagged his thumb in the direction of Carter's apartment.

"No. Just a friend."

"Oh. Well, I check up on him from time to time. How's he doing?"

"Not well."

"That's too bad. Can I take that garbage for you?" He indicated the bag outside the front door.

"Oh, no, it's okay, but can you do me a favor?"

"Sure. I'll do what I can. I work three jobs."

"If I give you my number, can you call me if anything happens? I can be here in minutes."

"Yeah, I can do that."

I wrote my number down and checked on Carter once more before I went home. When I knocked on the front door, Chris opened it and looked at me, confused. "Why are you knocking?"

"Tell the kids to go to their bedrooms."

"Why?"

"Just do it!" I snapped. "Babe, please, just do as I ask," I said, softly this time.

He herded the kids to their bedrooms and came back to the front door. "What's going on?"

"I'm covered in shit. Can you get me a trash bag?" I began removing my clothes.

"Babe, it's broad daylight."

"I don't care."

"What do you mean your covered in shit? What's on you?"

"Shit! Poop! Crap! Literally! Trashbag, please?"

After stripping and walking to the bathroom naked, I stood under the scalding water and wept.
_______________________

"How are you feeling?" I asked.

"Like hell," Carter answered. "Who's tv is that?"

"It was my son's."

"Where's mine?"

"You broke it. You don't remember?"

"No."

"Do you remember me coming here at all?"

"No. Was I drunk?"

"Yes."

"Oh."

"Is it okay if I bring my friend, Tracie, over? We're going to clean."

"Sure, sure, but you don't want to deal with this awful mess."

"Yes, I do. We have to go get some things. Do you need anything?"

"Can you get me a bottle of whiskey? I have money." He began rummaging on the bed, again.

"Carter, please don't ask me to do that."

"Please? Please? Just one. I'm begging. Please?"

I sighed. "One. And only because I don't want you to go into dt's and die on me, you old bastard."

Tracie and I went shopping for cleaning supplies at the dollar store. We bought him some cups and trash bags and other things we couldn't find in his apartment. I loaded up on laundry detergent because I knew I would be washing everything in his house. I stopped at the grocery store and bought food I knew he liked. On a whim, I picked up some ice cream sandwiches.

"What's with those?" Tracie asked.

"We always ran out at the hospital. He loved them."

We cleaned for over twelve hours. I rented a steam cleaner and fought a battle with the carpet until I won. The water I changed out every 10 minutes was indescribable. The human waste I scrubbed away was everywhere.

When the sheets were dry, Carter and I struggled to get him off the bed and back on the fresh linen. I made him some food and he chewed thoughtfully while watching us disinfect his bedroom.

Finally, exhausted, Tracie and I organized things in his pantry so that he could reach them and then I went to the car and brought in a portable toilet.

"What's that?" Carter asked.

"I lovingly refer to it as a handicrapper. I got it from a co-worker." I placed it by his bed. "Do you think you can manage that until your knee gets better?"

He looked doubtful. "I can try," he finally said. "Thank you, both of you, for all you've done. This place hasn't been this clean since I moved in! I'm normally a very clean person, I promise."

"That's obvious in the kitchen. If you weren't, we would have encountered...creatures." I shuddered at the thought. "I'll be back in the morning. Sleep!" I ordered.

_______________________

The next morning, I simply stood and watched him sleep for a minute. He had run out of whiskey in the night and had moved to mouthwash. The empty bottle was in his hand and he snored softly, oblivious to the turmoil inside of me. You're wasting your time, Chris had told me. He's an alcoholic. You can't fix him.

What if this is the one time he needs someone to care? I replied. What if he does try to change because someone gives a shit? He has no one. I'm not just going to abandon him.

We need you HERE.

I am here. But what kind of example am I for my kids if I don't help someone in need?

I justified my actions and I continued to care for Carter. I paid his electric bill, then his phone bill, cable and loan company, all with the explicit understanding that he would pay me back in installments when he could. When I had a garage sale and cookout to help fund some of his needs, I carted him over to our house, sober, and invited him into my family. I loved him and I was thrilled when he left three beers in his fridge and said he was quitting. He asked me to throw them out and I did, with glee. I continued to be a friend to him and help him as much as I could, to my detriment. My bills fell behind but I wasn't going to let him go without necessities.

"Cable is not a necessity," Chris argued.

"He can't get out of bed without help! What else is he supposed to do?"

Chris finally gave up, knowing how stubborn I am when I've found a cause.

This story does not have a happy ending. When he got his next disability check, he spent it getting drunk. I never got any of my sizeable "loan" back and I had to do some serious budgeting to keep my shit from being terminated. I now understand why his kids don't speak to him, but that doesn't stop me from hurting with him when he talked about his granddaughters and he cried. He keeps a picture on his wall of the ranch that he used to own and it is breathtaking. When I asked him what happened to it, he replied, "I got divorced and then I drank it away."

That was the hardest lesson in learning to say no that I have ever had and it was essential to my survival that I learn it. But that doesn't mean that I have to turn my back on everyone.

I have received dozens of emails from people asking me for help. Some have even asked me to ask YOU to donate to them to help them out. I can't, for obvious reasons and I never would. I have personally loaned out money to readers and you all probably think I'm a moron for doing that. I'm not rich, not by far, and the money I make from advertising supplements my income, but even with that, I'm still struggling to afford gas money, and not because we live beyond our means. As a matter of fact, (and she'll probably kill me for telling you all this), Dawn from Mom2My6Pack sent me $100 via paypal to help cover the unexpected cost of flying to Midland to attend my grandmother's funeral and I met her once, for less than five minutes. I will pay her back, but she doesn't expect it. I didn't ask for a loan but she offered because she wanted to help. How beautiful, how amazing and miraculous this circle of blogs is. How much good can be done if we banded together?

If someone asks me to pass along a call for helpful suggestions, where is the harm in that? Where is the evil in making some kids happy? If you aren't interested, close your browser and don't think another thing of it. You don't see a lot of my typical writing lately because I CAN'T WRITE. I'm completely blocked and if that is cause for you to move on, then good luck and thanks for being here. I'm not angry, though I am hurt. I appreciate Britni being honest (and the only person in the whole fucking blogosphere who has ever used their real sign-in instead of 'anonymous') and I know that a lot of you are leaving. I get an email every time someone drops off the subscription list and it bothers me. Not because my numbers are dropping, I could seriously give a shit about that, but because I wonder what I've done to run someone off.

I can not, in good conscience, have the ability to reach such a widespread and diverse group of people and not use it for more than exposure, sometimes. It's not who I am and if you want to call this blog a charity blog, knock yourself out. I don't do it that often and for almost 4 years of baring my soul to entertain, I don't think it's asking that much to skip past it, if it bothers you.

I used to go to a church that I loved. I spoke of my pastor, Ken, and how he has been the only one, since I was twelve, to move me and make me believe, without a doubt, his complete and utmost sincerity when it came to following God. He had some tremendous burdens fall on him and he's been unable to minister for a few months, so I haven't talked to him in weeks. And then, this morning, before I read the comments and my day went south, he emailed me and said:


"I've not read your blog in months. This afternoon I thought about ya'll
and went to the site. I'm sorry about the passing of your grandmother
but I'm incredibly happy that your life intersected with such a great lady.


Also, if I might be so bold as to give you some encouragement - even
prodding. You are never as much like Jesus as when you show love to
this person and yet ache in your heart because you aren't able to fix
the person standing next to him/her. Think about how nice it must have
felt for Him to forgive the woman caught in the very act of
adultery.....while the religious zealots walked away from Him with
hatred in their hearts. Or, having raised Lazarus from the grip of
death.....and having he throng of 'mourners' scatter out as if nothing
major had happened.


There is always tension in ministry. When I help one and not help two,
three or four --- I open myself to defeat, self-ridicule, and an
overwhelming sense of failure. Don't buy into the lie that you're Super
Woman. Do what you can - as often as you can - with all the gusto that
you can. And, when you hear the voices of accusation and belittlings
you'll know that they are from the Accuser and NOT from the Savior."


I don't think it's a coincidence that he sent that, last night, before the comments turned ugly. I don't think it's a coincidence that he sent it before I received another email that ruined my day. And I sure as hell don't think it's a coincidence that he sent it right as I was contemplating shutting the blog down completely.

If you leave, I don't think you're a minion of satan, but I do think that you've missed me all these years. You haven't learned who I am and that's okay, because I'm kind of hard to figure out. But this blog has it's own heartbeat and I'll continue to go wherever it leads me, regardless of what anyone else thinks. I owe that to ME.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


The Power of Kindness

I want to post an email from a reader and ask that if you guys know of any options, please email her at: jessica.hulse@gmail.com

Oh, and Paul just shipped me 10 DS's to send out. There is no end to the size of his heart.

__________________________

Hi, I am a long time reader from Colorado. I am reaching out to you after a long and exhausting week.

I am a mentor/advocate at a shelter for women who have no other place to go and they are pregnant. I have befriended one of the most amazing women I have met there and she has come on tough, tough times. She was engaged to her partner of 4 years in San Diego when they became pregnant. He wanted her to abort the baby, she would not. He set up surprise meetings with adoption counselors for when she would get home from school. She would take the meeting and then tell her fiancee that this baby was theirs. He told her to leave. She came to Colorado to be with a family member. Her family member let her live on her couch for approx. 2 weeks before asking her to leave because the apartment felt crowded. That is how she came to live at the shelter.

She is a citizen of the US now while she was born in Brazil. Her mom is still in Brazil and her father died when she was 2.

Her daughter is now 2 months old and yesterday morning I saw her off on her journey back to San Diego where she has 2 more months of school at a cosmetology school and a donated $300 to her name. After that she plans on visiting her mom for a couple of months and making a life in Los Angeles.This is where the difficult part comes in. She had arranged to live with a friend during her two months in San Diego. Her friend has a 2 bedroom apt. and she offered one room to my friend. She arrived in CA today to find out that the second bedroom is now occupied. This gives her the couch in the living room for her and her 2 month old. It also gives her room to live out of her suitcase as all of their moving boxes occupy the living room and hallways of the small apartment. Yesterday was a trip to hell and back trying to figure out an alternative living arrangement while trying to talk to her as she is simply exhausted from sleep deprivation. It is hard to not be with her and know that she doesn't have any types of friends who will just go sit with her daughter so that she might close her eyes for a second. She was able to contact an old friend who has a larger living room that she can sleep in. This gives her room to open her suitcase. But, even this arrangement can only be held until the 30th.

I know, she has a roof over her head. However, a couch in the middle of somebody's living room is not the ideal way to finish out school while caring for your infant. I am writing to you to see if you know of any people that open up their homes free of charge to single moms in San Diego or LA as there are school locations in each city. I have contacted TANF, United Way, various churches, Section 8 housing, 211, and there are wait lists or people don't know of people who open their homes. I hope I don't sound like a crazy woman coming at you through the Internet, but I am at my last ropes trying to find people who like to help. You like to help, but you don't live in CA, so I am reaching around with eyes shut here.

Do you have any direction?

Friday, September 19, 2008


Shiny, Happy Faces

EDIT: If you are one of the unfortunate people who got hit by the neverending, annoying, duplicating customer service email from the deepest pits of hell, please accept my apology. It is a legitimate software company that I've done business with and somehow, me and everyone I've replied to on Sept. 11th got caught in this vicious automated cycle of responses. I've FINALLY been able to contact someone from their company and they are doing whatever it takes to stop them. I am so very sorry.


Hi, all. So, here are some of the priceless pictures of these children who received their DS's. Obviously, not every person was able to send a pic of a kid, but almost 30 of them went out and that should make you very proud because you all did a wonderful thing. We still have some children who are waiting and I promised myself that I would go to bat for each and every one of them, so I'm begging, again. The donate button is still up in the sidebar and will remain until all of these children have a little piece of this magic. I will be purchasing some myself when this land sells and I vowed that I'll buy one out of every paycheck I get until the end of time if that's what it takes. Thank you so much for letting me be a part of this, thank you for reading, supporting and believing in this and most of all for caring. You are such an incredible group of people and I am honored to know you.


"I don't know what was shining brighter that day, the sun or my baby girls face!!!"


"Her favorite job is checking the mail, and she always asks if there is anything for her." (author note: and there was this time!)


"(name removed) wishing she could hug y'all when she realized how she ended up with a DS!"





I have on in my work email that I can't get to, but I'll post them as I get them. This will probably be my last "fundraising" effort. Not because I don't enjoy it or anything, but simply because it grieves me tremendously to have to leave anyone out. I received an email from a wonderful woman who has worked her ass off for nursing school and raised a daughter on her own and she was facing eviction. I couldn't help her and it killed me. I lost sleep, I cried, I worried and I still do (I don't know where she ended up) and it affects me in ways that make me less here for my kids. I want to help, but I want to make sure every single person gets that help and when that's not a reality, I die inside. My sweet husband picked up a hitchiker the other day. He was an older man who had fled from the hurricanes and was trying to get back home. He was a native to New Orleans and lost his whole life to that bitch, Katrina. As I watched him talk about his life and saw the loss and desperation in his eyes, I thought about how incredibly lucky I am to have a home and a good job. He summed it up best when he said, "There are so many people who are one paycheck away from being me."

I am thankful.

Memorial

For those of you who prayed and donated so generously for my Grandparents burial, here is my Nanny's memorial page. I thought you might want to see who you helped and maybe read a little about her life.

(Pictures that I've received of shit-eating grins and the beautiful kids attached to them are going up tonight. I know. I'm like lightning with the quickness, aren't I?)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Mr. Mom

My husband gets off earlier than I do, so he waits for V to get home and then they go pick the baby up. It has become more stressful, lately, because Harmony is the very epitome of a 2-year-old. She is horrified at the mere mention of clothes, and when we do convince her that she has to wear them, she insists on picking them out - which normally results in her wearing 2 shirts. One for her torso and one for her legs, and she will cut you if you try to correct her - and she asks for a hundred things out of the fridge only to take one bite and then throw it in the garbage. She refuses her afternoon nap and shrieks the house down until we give up and let her out, only to watch her stumble around like a drunk in a bar, whining about everything and babbling in a language we aren't familiar with. She uses the word, "no", at least 300 times a day and she changes her mind minute-by-minute about whether she wants to watch Bob Bob (Sponge Bob) or Ora the Ora (I'll let you figure that one out). If you sneeze, breathe, clear your throat or blink in her presence, she will whack the shit out of you, throw herself on the floor and begin headbanging until you're quite sure she's damaged her brain. So, yeah, typical toddler.

This evening I got home and eavesdropped while Chris spoke to his mother. I could barely make out what she was saying, but it went something like this:

"I'm exhausted. Harmony's just...."

"A toddler?" his mom replied.

"She crapped her pants today and then took the diaper off and smeared it all over her legs."

"You did that when you were her age."

"No, I did not," Chris said.

"Yes, you did. Well, did you wipe her down?"

"No, I put her ass in the shower and pressure washed her."

I am laughing silently, completely at peace with the world and how it always smacks you in the face with I TOLD YOU SO.

"Actually," Chris continued, "I stuck her in a tub first because I wasn't thinking. Then when I looked down, there were all these floaties in there. Corn and what looked like oatmeal and-"

I imagine his mother cut him off or he was tired of us laughing because he hung up.


____________________________

Is it just me, or does anyone else watch America's Got Talent and see a giant block of cheese every time they pan to the Hoff? I can't even watch him speak, he's so oogey.

"You know what's crazy?" Chris observed.

"What?"

"He's had the same hair for, like, thirty years. Knight Rider, Baywatch and that awful German video he did, all the same hair."

"You know what's even worse?"

"What?"

"That you have seen that video."

___________________________

I can't help but think it's hilarious that the Rogers Springs owners association has a big banner across their website that reads: BEST POA IN TENNESSEE!

I think you'll only get that if you were an eighties child.

Answers

Some of you have expressed dismay over my decision to sell my land, some of you want to know more about it and some of you are toting guns and I'll answer whatever you need answered, Mr. Nice Gun Toting Man.

Here is a link that has directions and more about Rogers Springs POA.

Here is a link to Tennessee gun laws for the one who asked. And may I say that you look especially splendid this morning?

And my reasons? Well, we're like family here, so I'll tell you what's happening. It started with a lawn mower.

I live in a shitty neighborhood. When Chris bought the house, he did so because it was a "starter home" area and our house is within walking distance of the elementary and middle schools. He's always wanted children, so that was a selling point for him. We hadn't even met, yet.

As time has gone by, the prices of the houses in our area have dropped because we are lumped in with another neighborhood in our city that has a horrible crime problem, even though we are just NEAR that neighborhood, not in it. As the prices have dropped, homes around us have been turned into Section 8 housing and the crime has followed.

(Now, before you get your panties in a bunch - and you know who you are - I'm not saying that people who don't have much money are criminals. I don't have much money and the most criminal thing I do is encourage my son to steal newspapers when he has a school project due.
And, really? That was a life lesson so that doesn't count)

The reality of life is that less affluent neighborhoods have more crime. Period.

We listed our home for sale and I really thought it would get snatched up because of all the work we have done on the interior with our tax returns. I love the house and if I could pick it up and move it to a better neighborhood, I would. When we got not one offer, we lowered the price. And then again. We have been looking for a new house for almost 2 years and in addition to our house not selling, we couldn't agree on any of the houses we looked at.

When I first moved in, someone stole our lawnmower from our carport in broad daylight. Here's how you know you live in a shitty neighborhood: someone loads up a lawnmower that doesn't belong to them, or even better, they roll the motherfucker to THEIR house and no one sees a damned thing. That was straw number one. Straw number two was when I found out that we have several sex offenders (the kind that like kids under 12) within a 1 mile radius. Straw number three was the knowledge that I'm spending over $600 a month on gas because I live 40 miles from work. But the absolute final incident was some kid threatening to urinate on my daughter and having another kid - his white trash, buck toothed, asshole counterpart - scream in my face, "Fuck you, lady!" while throwing up his middle finger at me. It was all I could do not to break that finger off and stuff it up his ass.

So, I prayed. Hard. A couple of days later (just last weekend), I was looking up a house that I was doing a quote for when I stumbled upon a house for sale that seemed too good to be true. The more I learned about it, the more apparent it became that this house was PERFECT. It's within our price range (we can't afford much more in payments), great neighborhood and enough room for our family. It's small, but lovely. When Chris and I went in the middle of the night to look at it (because he couldn't wait), the neighbor came out and within minutes, he and Chris were armwrestling and talking Dallas Cowboys. MEANT TO BE.

Now, here's the meaty part. My husband's first wife ruined him financially. I have worked my ass off to improve my credit rating, a rating that was essentially destroyed by identity theft (Hi, Vangie! I hope your vagina falls off!) and past relationships. But I was planning for the day I would buy a home for me and my children. Of course that plan now includes my husband, but I didn't know that at the time. However, life has a way of kicking the shit out of your dreams, sometimes, so between medical bills for V, the birth of Harmony and my hospitalization, we have maxed out my credit. When I applied for a home loan, I was basically told that I didn't qualify for cardboard box until I get my DTI in line. Hence the sale of my land. Possessions aren't a big deal to me, but my kids are.

I thank you all for your concerns. It does so much good for my heart to know that you care, but I have to get my children out of that neighborhood before I kill someone or they kill me, or worse.

______________________

I have to tell you this: My co-worker ordered a cake from a place I won't name (but is sounds like Ball Fart) and told them not to put a name on it since it was for several clients who were having birthdays this month. When he went to pick up the cake, it said (and I'm not even kidding) in blue icing, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY NO NAME".

______________________

Oh, and as for the voting thing? Please don't vote for me and vote for this lady or this one because they're giving the proceeds to a really great charity .

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Cabin In The Woods

If anyone wants to buy a piece of property that I'm practically giving away, they can do so here.

It's as nice as it sounds, but I have to sell it. So, if you buy it and you move here and build a dream cabin, invite me up to roast weenies, okay?

Monday, September 15, 2008


Divine Intervention

I'm having kind of a crappy day. One of those where everyone hates you (at least it seems that way in your head) and songs about homeless people make you want to slice your wrists with that Starbucks gift card. Then I see this. I was flattered, so I go over and that's when I notice that I have one vote.

HELP SAVE ME FROM ANOTHER TUB OF BEN & JERRY'S. HELP.



Friday, September 12, 2008


I Wonder If They Finance?



(thank you, Tammy...and, yes, only in Memphis)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


The Crazy Chronicles, Part 31: Fly

"If you love me got to know for sure
Cos it takes something more this time
Than sweet sweet lies
Before I open up my arms and fall"
David Gray, This Years Love


After the initial shock had worn off, I was resigned to the reality: B was gone. He was dead and by his own hand. The details were grim. He died alone and left no note to say goodbye to his wife or his child. In the following weeks, I would speak with his wife, Shelby, several times. What started as a ferocious and hurtful fight between us slowly changed into something else as she uncovered the startling secrets her husband had kept. There were many and the indignities she suffered were horrible. As it turned out, the B I had known was a façade. He wanted a life that was only available in his imagination and with me, he painted it into reality. Most of what I knew about him – his childhood, his education, even simple, inconsequential things - was a lie or embellished to some degree, but one thing remained true: he was a lost and damaged man.

Chris tended to me while I resumed normalcy. When I would cry for no outward reason, he didn’t ask why. He simply held me and murmured assurances that I was not to blame. Later, when I could talk about it, he made a confession. “The day you found out about B…I was coming over to break things off with you,” he said.

I sniffed and wiped my nose. “I was wondering when you were going to get sick of my shit.”

He laughed. “Not you…your relationship with him. I couldn’t share you, anymore. It wasn’t right.”

There’s no easy way to say that I was relieved that my relationship with Chris had remained intact. In death, B had done what he couldn’t bring himself to do for me in life: he cemented the love between Chris and me. I was grateful for that, even though I wished the circumstances had been different.

“So, can we start again?” I timidly asked.

He grinned. “Sweet! Does this mean we get to sneak quickies and blowjobs until you introduce me to the kids?”

“Why am I seeing you, again?”

We spent long nights together, as a family. Chris continued developing his relationship with the kids and they manipulated him into buying them shit. I watched from the sidelines as we grew into a family and I marveled at how my life had changed.

“You should move in with me,” Chris chided. “We would both save money and we can make hot monkey love all over the house.”

I rolled my eyes. “We already have.”

“I’ll help you buy a car.”

“I don’t need you to help me buy a car. I’m not moving in with you. Your sister lives with you and two strong-willed women in the same house means your life would be hell.”

“I can handle it. Move in with me.”

The argument continued for the next few weeks. “I have a daughter, Chris. I owe it to her to be an example. I want her to have some old-fashioned values.”

“You had her out of wedlock.”

“Ugh. She doesn’t know that. She still thinks you have to be married or it’s physically impossible to have the baby. I love her delusions.”

We were having dinner one night at our favorite restaurant when the subject came up, again.

“You know,” he said, “if you lived with me, you wouldn’t have those neighbors upstairs with that demonic child.”

I wrinkled my nose. “I think he would follow me via the toilet or wherever creatures from the underworld emerge. “ I put my fork down. “Please, Chris, not this, again. Not tonight.”

He sighed. “Ok.”

When we reached the car after dinner, he came around to open my door and stopped in his tracks. Without warning, he crouched. He was sweating.

“Chris? What’s wrong? Babe?”

“I don’t feel well.”

“Um, okay. Let’s skip going downtown. Are you going to be okay? Should I drive?”

“No, I just need a second.” He leaned on one knee and looked up. I followed his gaze and saw the birds diving from the top of the neighboring building.

“Look at them,” I remarked, watching them. “Skydiving. And planning to shit on our heads. Let’s get in the car.” When I looked down, he had tears in his eyes. “Chris…what’s wrong? You’re scaring me.” He’s dumping me, I thought. I won’t move in with him and he’s dumping me. Fabulous. He’ll say something clichéd like, it’s not you, it’s me! And then a giant blob of crap will land in my hair to top the evening off.

I…,” he stammered. “I just…I love you.”

“I love you, too.” Where the hell is this going? Is he dying? Fuck. The hammer is falling.

“And you and the kids mean so much to me.”

Dying. Gay. Wanted in three states. Spit it out, boy.

He thrust his hand forward and for a split second, I imagined he was going to kill me and take me home to dress me up like his mother. I was not very optimistic back then. Instead, he shoved a ring in my hand and blurted, “Will you marry me?”

No one had ever asked that of me. With the birds targeting us and the sounds of the music next door floating to us on the summer wind, I softly whispered, “Yes.”

I was wanted and my soul took flight with the birds.

Monday, September 08, 2008


When Every Post Needs A Disclaimer

Good grief. Let's start over, shall we?

There are three things I don't discuss: politics, religion and pro-life/pro-choice. They're volatile subjects and I have my opinions and you have yours. They're all valid and I'll respect anything you have to say, but, honestly? I'm not well enough informed about any of those three subjects to be arguing about them. I've done some reading and I know some things, but I'm by no means an expert. While some would say I don't need to be, on this blog, I do. I think it's irresponsible of me to tell anyone anything that may, just MAY (in some bizarre world), influence someones decision or stand one way or another. I'll discuss it with my husband because it won't lead to bloodshed. I'll discuss it with my children because, although they have their own minds and opinions, I try to lead them down a path I think is right and good and moral because I think that's part of my job. But I don't pretend to know what's going to happen, I don't pretend to understand the intricacies of political workings and my ideas and thoughts may be complete and utter bullshit. I would be remiss in sharing any of that here because I have this incredible gift you've given me, which is a far-reaching voice. My only responsibility is to vote if I want to make a difference. Period.

I prefer to use this blog as a means to help people, not influence them one way or another (unless I'm bitching at you to be a bone marrow donor or give blood or whatever cause I have up my ass that week).

Yes, it's my blog. Yes, I'm entitled to my opinion. But you have all given me this tremendous support and readership and I owe it to you to keep my big mouth shut when it comes to affairs like this because that's not what this blog has ever been about.

That is all.

Next up: Back to the funny stuff. This shit is wearing me out.

Sunday, September 07, 2008


You're All In Time Out!

I took it down. It's moot since he's been caught. He stole someone's car, so maybe prison will reform him.

I don't mind any of you disagreeing with me, but when you start battling amongst yourselves, it bothers me.

Seriously. Don't make me stop this car.

Friday, September 05, 2008


Airports

I am home and I just have one thing to say:

1. Unless you have been featured on the cover of People magazines "Sexiest" issues, please wear pants that fit. There's nothing quite as disconcerting as watching a man remove his belt, at six o'clock in the morning, to go through security and then being helpless to look away as his pants fall off. THEY FELL THE FUCK OFF. He was wearing briefs. I hadn't had my Starbucks yet and I wept without reservation. Furthermore, he was completely nonchalant about it. There were several of us starting a support group in the corner and he went about retrieving his things before pulling his pants up.

2. Ok, two things. You know you have an incredibly large family when you're at your grandmother's viewing and people you are closely related to walk by to go to the viewing down the hall. Because they're related to that person down the hall.

3. I have one more thing to say about the post regarding my cousin and then I'll drop it. I post sometimes when I'm angry or generally upset. I read all of your comments and, sometimes, I agree with you when I've had the chance to reflect. I have deleted posts because of things readers have said to me. This is not one of those instances. Share your opinion with me when you've experienced this. Until then, please keep your self-righteous, anonymous bullshit where it belongs: In your narrow mind. I might dignify your crap if you weren't cowardly about it. If you disagree with me respectfully, I've proven several times that there's no need to use anonymity. I will treat you with the same respect and nobody's going to e-beat you. Because you do use anonymity, that tells me 2 things: you don't read here enough to know anything about me and you're spineless. Neither of those categories inspires me to give a shit.

4. So, I lied. I have 4 things to say. I have some awesome pictures of kids cheesing when they got their DS systems and I'll post them as soon as I get the okay from the senders.

5. Tiny bottles of liquor make the world go 'round.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Guest Post #2

I won't use her name because she's has some stalking problems, but this nice lady is one hell of a writer and I would hate to be on the business end of her venom. She also has the most unique blog design I've ever seen. Thank you, nice anonymous lady, for your help. I skeered of you.

_________________

Crystal's Post

Ya know how sometimes, you find out that someone who you really admire actually reads your blog and then you’re like, Holy shit! He/She reads my blog?!!! Yeah, me either. Seriously though, to say I was honored when Crystal asked me to write a guest post while she takes a little break would be an understatement. I will admit that at first I was all gung ho about posting over here and I felt flattered. Then, as the clock started to tick away, as the time got closer, the more nervous I began to feel. That made me start thinking. What’s so hard about posting on someone else’s blog? I mean, aside from the fact that you don’t know the audience as well as you know your own readers; You don’t really know if the audience will “get you;’ you don’t know if they’ll understand when you say your husband is a retard fickle bitch or you have a fat ass or oh by the way, I beat my kids with sticks for fun.

Much like inviting a stranger into your house, that is kinda what you get when you ask someone to do a guest post. What if they suck? What if the guest post isn’t nearly as good as the stuff they put on their own blog? What if this and what if that? I say who gives a shit. If you read a blog, it is because you’ve made something of a connection with that blogger. You must have some things in common. Things that connect the two of you. I have made a list of the things that make Crystal and I the same but different:

Crystal went to BlogHer and I want to go to BlogHer.

Crystal is married to Chris and I’d like to be married to Chris for two days (What? I have house projects that need done.)

I am convinced that Virginia and my daughter 8 were separated at birth because both subject to nuclear meltdowns when faced with average things like brushing their teeth, doing their homework and the all important breathing.

Devon and my brother have both been subject to the importance of safe sex via little finger condoms.

Crystal works in insurance. I work for life sucking attorneys who do insurance defense.

Crystal has been known to pee when she sneezes. I have been known to point and laugh.

Harmony has cheeks we all want to kiss right off her face and I have cheeks that don’t get nearly enough kissin.
Crystal wrote her guts out in her chronicles and I cried mine out reading them.

So you see, sometimes, we run across a blogger who makes us say out loud, I KNEW I was adopted and my real family is out there somewhere! Have a nice break Crystal and thanks for letting me grace your blog.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Guest Post #1

Tanya, aka Warcrygirl, was one of the first people to leave me a comment. I followed her over to her place and fell in love. She is uproariously funny, supportive and she's one of my favorite people in the blogging world. Thank you for helping me out, Tanya. I owe you one.

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Dropped Me Brain

Nobody move! I’ve dropped me brain.

I was asked by the wonderful Crystal to guest blog. It’ll be nice to post at a place that has more than 3 readers. Wow, look at all you guys! *waves* I’m writing about this particular subject because in the past you’ve been objective with Crystal’s sensitive posts. Now mind you, this is small potatoes compared to what she’s blogged but it’s a big deal to me. Be gentle, it’s my first time.

I am a substitute teacher. I work in the local graded school district here in WarcryTown. There are certain rules a sub must follow, some of them are very basic rules. Some of them are unwritten and can be bent if the teacher you’re subbing for is okay with it. In some classes there is a lot of downtime; the kids go to lunch, the kids go to Resource. Unless you’ve got a wicked-difficult lesson plan to teach (laid out by the teacher, of course) you’ve got your downtime. If you think ahead and bring a book to read then good on you; if you forget your book and you’ve got a lenient teacher she’ll leave her computer on and you can surf news sites or play solitaire. Sometimes this works, sometimes (especially if you’re me) you fuck up on a level that can only be described as spectacular.

One of the schools on my availability list is the local pre-school; one of the teachers I’ve subbed for was Jr’s teacher back in the day and by ‘back in the day’ I mean ‘back in the day the kid wouldn’t talk’. At age 3 he was put into a program to increase his speech, bring it up to an age-appropriate level and figure out if all the well meaning “friends” were right (Maybe he’s autistic! Maybe he’s retarded! Maybe you all need to get hit by a bus!). For years she had a wonderful assistant; she has since left and a new lady is working in her place. She seemed nice enough and we worked together fairly well. Now at the preschool level you don’t really have lesson plans, per se, and in this particular class it’s even simpler. The way the human brain is wired is amazing; some of the things we learn when our brains are properly wired are taken for granted. With kids like Jr you have to redirect their learning. For instance, the reason you see kids’ toys with color patterns is because pattern recognition is an early reading skill. Think about it: what is reading but a pattern of letters? The sooner kids can recognize and repeat certain color patterns the sooner they can begin to learn to recognize letter patterns and then learn to read. Some of the kids at this level need to learn acceptable social skills, some of them need to learn some motor skills. Each child is different and this teacher is wonderful at addressing each child and their strengths and weaknesses.

And now I get to the meat of this now long and drawn out blog entry: I fucked up. These kids fell under a federal program funded by the Leave No Child Behind program. These kids have detailed records kept by the teachers who work with them. I know this, having had a child in the program. When I’ve subbed for this teacher her assistant would log me onto her computer so I could play solitaire while the kids slept. Because some kids wouldn’t settle down immediately for naptime it would be extended for an hour. Two hours of sleeping kids, that’s a lot of downtime.

Mistake #1: I took a long lunch. At the elementary schools I essentially get an hour for lunch because I don’t need a planning period. There are no lesson plans for me to do so I take the full hour. Teachers don’t get an hour for lunch and the preschool expected me to be back after 30 minutes. When I did get back one of the other teachers gave a spectacular stage whisper saying ‘she’s back’. When my assistant got back she was confused as to why the teacher would act like that. In the email I got I was told that my assistant was basically abandoned and she had to ask the other teachers for help. The assistant told me they came in uninvited and offered their help. Who’s the liar? That’s not for me to worry about, at least not anymore. Mistake? Or brainfart?

Mistake #2: When I got back I tried to let the assistant for the other class know that if she needed to leave that she could, I was back and could take over. I was whispering because I didn’t want to wake the kids and the cd they had playing was a bit loud (presumably to block out the sounds of the kids from the other classes, who don’t get to sleep a full two hours). She told the teacher I was subbing for that I tried to ask her if I could leave early.

WHAT????

When I got the email I pointed out that I’ve NEVER asked to leave early, that she had definitely misunderstood me. I have no idea if this made any difference as I have not followed up on it. It was pointless to do so.

Mistake #3: I left the assistant in the room alone with the kids. Yeah, I sure did…for a whopping 30 seconds. This was the second day I subbed and I returned the cd that was borrowed for the first day’s naptime. The class was calm, the kids were happy at their centers and my assistant said it was okay if I went two doors down. In my defense, my assistant walked one of our students down to the other end of the school (it’s an incredibly small building, she was gone maybe two minutes?) immediately after recess. The kids were amped up, I was trying to get them washed up and ready for lunch. WHAT’S THE FUCKING DIFFERENCE? I didn’t relate this to the teacher I subbed for as again I felt it was pointless and it made me look like I was pointing my finger and saying “but she did it tooooooo!!!!” Good lord, they get enough of that from the kids. I don’t know if this was pointed out to the teacher I subbed for or not or if my assistant was reprimanded about it. Did I fuck up? Yes. Was it enough to blast me in an email? I don’t think so.

Mistake #4: This is the big one, kiddies. I used her computer without her knowledge or permission. Apparently, she keeps all her federally protected files on the kids on her computer. First of all, I didn’t know that. Secondly, I never once though “Hey! Let’s rifle though her computer and see what she’s got on here!” Seriously, what the hell would I do with that information? All I need to know (as a sub) is who the biters are, who the runners are and who’s still potting training in cotton underpants (“You may not want to have him on your lap for too long”.) I understand completely the breach of trust but on the other hand after knowing me for SEVEN years you’d think she’d know that I’d never read any file that wasn’t meant for my eyes. In my defense, she should have known someone was on her computer all those other times I subbed for her; I mean there were web sites in her history that weren’t hers. On the other hand, yeah, I fucked up. MAJORLY. To the point that I will never be called to sub at the preschool again. I apologized for my actions, defended myself on the ones that I could (I’m not telling her about her former assistant letting me on her computer and giving me her password as she’s no longer around to defend herself). So now I’m just waiting for the hammer to fall. Will I get a call from the central office, telling me that my name has been removed from the sub list altogether? Will word of mouth get out to the other schools so that my phone will never ring again? One way I’ll know: I have several days, one a month through to January, where I am subbing a half day for a teacher so she can attend a workshop on campus. If I get a call saying that I won’t be needed for those days I’ll know I’ll need to start checking the want ads.

In the meantime I get to attend church with this teacher, plus a few other teachers from the preschool. Almost half of the congregation of my church works in the school system in some capacity. WORD WILL GET OUT. Fortunately, the teacher I subbed for does not gossip. She does not hold grudges and was able to hold very short conversations with me and my kids at church this Sunday, which made it easy on me. It hurts me to no end that I did something so careless, so “unprofessional” that someone who’s known me for years would feel that I was a risk in her classroom and yeah, it hurts that I damaged my own reputation and I’ll be losing income because of it. I can always get another job but I’ll never regain that level of trust again.

Oh hey, look! My calendar is wide open. Want to do lunch?

Monday, October 27, 2008


I'm Very Advanced For My Age!

While dressing for work this morning, Harmony followed me around, chattering away in Harmonese. When I was taking care of my feminine issues, she paused, puzzled. "Whazzat, Mama?"

Unsure how to explain a sanitary napkin to a toddler, I opted to go with something she would understand. "This is Mommy's diaper."

She nodded. "Oh. Dapper."

I stood, adjusted my skirt and turning, flushed the toilet. When I faced her again, she was beaming at me in pride. "Good gawl, Mama. Good gawl!"

She's taking me to Chuck E. Cheese to celebrate.

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I won an all-expenses paid trip to the Bahamas, courtesy of Bud Light. Chris and I leave on Friday. I'm going to be a vegetable for a few days, so some of my favorite people have graciously offered their services to keep you entertained while I kill as many brain cells as possible in less than four days. Please mind your manners, show them where the bathroom is and don't snoop through their stuff. Keep your face clean, remember "yes, ma'am" and "no, sir" and eat your vegetables. I love you and I'll see you soon.

Yes, I'll bring you something back.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


2 Quick Things

I posted a review over here.

One of the readers here is in a photography contest. Go see! Vote!

Vote for my photo!vote

I believe some of you have been getting buggy things and maybe even hit in the face with some porn when you try to access my site. I don't know what's happening, but I'm eliminating what I think might be the culprit, so let me know if you have any more issues. I'm all for some porn, but, dude. Not here with the lights on!

Carry on.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Hard Times

Devon and I were discussing the move to the new house while we drove home.

"So, we are getting it? Or we're not?" He asked.

"I don't know," I sighed. "We need a down payment and as of October 1st, there's no more down payment assistance available."

"I thought we were selling the house we're in now? Won't there be money from that?"

"If someone buys it. There won't be much left, if any at all. We're losing our ass on that after all the money and work we put into it."

He was quiet for a moment. Then, optimistically, "Well, we'll figure it out and come up with the money."

It always amuses me when he puts himself on my payroll. "Really? How? Sell Harmony on Ebay?"

"No way! I like Harmony. We'll sell V."

"Devon, that's awful."

"I'm just kidding. I wouldn't sell V."

"Good."

"I'd rent her out."

Saturday, October 18, 2008


VINDICATED!

The first car I owned and had for over eight years was a red Geo Metro, affectionately known as "The Strawberry". I actually had a cop lower the speed limit on a ticket because he said, and I quote, "There's no way in hell you coulda been goin' that fast."

Take THAT, copper!

Friday, October 17, 2008


Cha CHING!

I am completely addicted to this site. So far, I have found lots of little money for people I know and love and one great, big check for someone close to me. To the tune of $23,000. I'm thinking a finder's fee. It's only fair.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Again

(edit: You'll notice I changed the donate button. I thought it appropriate)

When Harmony was born and they told us something was amiss with her heart, the world around me stood still. I don't think I took a full breath until the cardiologist came in the following day and told us that it was a very common occurrence, one that she would probably outgrow. Regardless of her diagnosis, I made dozens of midnight tippy-toe trips to her crib to put my hand on her chest to assure myself that she was breathing.

Imagine giving birth to your first sweet baby and never being able to take her home. Imagine a world where your newborn - this tiny, innocent gift from God - is in constant pain and then imagine the agony you share with her every time she voices a pitiful mewl because of that pain. Imagine the feeling of helplessness as a doctor tells you that her heart isn't able to support her and she will need a new one. Imagine living in a hospital, sleeping on a chair and watching doctors poke her and prod her and cause her more discomfort only to tell you that she has an extremely rare heart condition that will require extensive care. And then, the unimaginable...being told that in order for your child to have any quality of life, she will have to live in the hospital for 2 years until she's grown enough to perform a very delicate heart surgery.

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Harmony's babysitter, Miss B.B., was an answered prayer. We had no one to keep Harmony when our babysitter quit and I was trying to decide which brand of duct tape to buy to put her on my office wall while I worked. Chris' sister talked to B.B. and she agreed to keep Harmony temporarily until we found someone else. We had never met her, but I trusted Chris' sister's judgment implicitly when it came to care for my daughter. Within days, Harmony and B.B. fell madly in love with each other and a temporary situation became long term. B.B. has been like a grandmother to Harmony, as well as a teacher. She raised four kids of her own and sacrificed a lot of things in her life to be able to stay home and teach them herself. It paid off. Her children are kind with a loving and open nature and they understand the meaning of 'family'. They love Harmony as though she has always been a part of their lives and they have opened their arms to my other kids, as well.

When B.B's only daughter, Jen, was planning her wedding, she found out she was pregnant. Thrilled, but nervous, she carried on with the wedding plans, making adjustments as needed for the well-being of the baby. Three days before the wedding, her fiance bailed. He left her humiliated and broken and facing a pregnancy alone. She moved forward and concentrated solely on the coming baby and did not wallow in her grief. When little Claire Capri was born on August 30th, 2008, it changed Jen's life forever...but the battles to come were all uphill and now she needs help.

She needs prayers: she is living in a hospital, hundreds of miles from her family and friends and her faith is the only thing keeping her going.

She needs to know who's rooting for her and Claire: if you can drop her a postcard and tell her you're praying for the two of them, it can be sent here:

Attn: The Claire Goode Family
CVICU
800 Marshall Street
Little Rock, AR 72202

There are 2 different fundraisers and they need things to auction/sell: I know some of you are business owners and I know everyone is struggling right now, but if you can donate something to help, please contact me via my email or contact AJ Harris here xscreamingsilencex@yahoo.com or call him at 901.949.3795 (yard sale benefit) or contact Stephanie at 901.218.6667 (poker run benefit).

And, last but certainly not least, the reality is that they need money...money to cover the cost of her healthcare, to find Jen a place to sleep instead of a chair in the hospital (the Ronald McDonald house is full and has a waiting list for months), money for food and the basics of life. She obviously can't work while this is happening. Please just move along if this bothers you, but if you leave one nasty remark in comments, I"ll just delete them. If you have healthy children, you are blessed. I realize this and my way of giving thanks to God is trying to help those who haven't been so fortunate. That doesn't mean you have to feel the same way. If you'd like to donate or read more about Claire and her mommy, you can go here.




Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Pillow Talk

"Does your sister like puppies?" I asked Chris.

"I don't know. Given the way she feels about dogs, I wouldn't think so."

"Even squishy, sleepy, warm puppies?"

"Why are you asking me this?"

"I don't know. I just don't think I can trust someone who doesn't like dogs, especially puppies. And she doesn't just dislike them, like, she wouldn't own one but she'd feed one if it were starving kind of dislike. She despises them. How can you hate something so sweet?"

"Maybe she was bitten in the face by a dog when she was a kid."

"That's horrible! When did that happen?"

"It didn't. I'm just saying she has her reasons, I guess."

"Like what? What could a dog do to make you hate it?" I paused for a moment and then in my best Meryl Streep I cried, "The dingos ate my baby!"

There was silence for a few minutes and then it was broken by what sounded like a battle tank running over an elephant.

"My God! Was that a fart?"

"Yeah."

"You're so nonchalant about that! You have the weirdest sounding farts I've ever heard!"

"Mm hmm. Crystal, go to sleep."

"That makes me jealous."

He sighed. "Why?"

"Because you do it so exuberantly. That has to feel wonderful."

"That is the most ridiculous statement I've ever heard."

"Our marriage is young, Chris. So young."

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


More Stuff For You To Read. To Hell With Work.

Eons ago, I did an interview for the lovely Jennifer New that she intended for the publication she was working with. Shortly thereafter, life tried to flush her down the toilet and she had to put everything on hold while she fought her way back up. Rather than toss my incoherent babbling into her "dipshit" file, she used it. It's here and I think it's wonderful. And she's wonderful. And so are you all. All of you. Y'all.

I think I've been inhaling too much sharpie.

Monday, October 06, 2008


Some More Smiles

(I have received pictures at my work email and I cannot open them, so if you sent them to that email and don't see them posted, PLEASE resend them to my skydive1973cdr@gmail.com and I'll get them up!)

I hereby declare project DS a rousing success. I only have eight more kids left, and there were over fifty of them. 42 DS systems have gone out...some to neighboring states, some to Canada, some as far as Israel. None of it would have been possible without your help and a HUGE thank you to Paul. He personally bought almost half of these systems and his enthusiasm and selflessness is humbling.

I accepted every email that came and my reasons are simple: nobody went over the top. No one sounded ''fake", I guess, and I had other people read these, so it's not just my big, fat, marshmallow heart involved. These are just people who truly believe that their son/daughter/niece/grandchild/neighbors kid/sister/brother is a great kid, and I think they're right. A few of them were sick...a few of them have recently lost parents. Some of them just needed a break, a kind gesture, some hope that not everything is as shitty as it seems, sometimes. I wished that a lot when I was a kid, that someone would give me that hope and to be able to be a part of this has been an experience I will cherish.

I read it somewhere today and I can't remember who said it or where, but I thought it was perfect: "I'd rather be known as generous and naive than judgmental and hard."

I couldn't have said it any better.






Thursday, October 02, 2008


Good Grief


My husband thinks this is the funniest thing since I pooped my pants in that Chinese restaurant when I was pregnant AND WOULD NOT SHUT UP ABOUT ME POSTING IT.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Pucker Up!

EDIT:

Ok, then! Let me point out a few things:

1. this is not about needing validation or approval from either of these women and it's not about stooping to anyone's level. I have neither become so oblivious to reality that I've used my daughter as a pawn in an unwinnable war, nor have I said nasty, hateful things to everyone except the subject of said hate. I'm saying it right out here in the great, big, ole' internet! See how that works?

2. I am setting an example for my kids. The moral of this story is: "Don't let anyone poop on your parade". For too long I have allowed myself to be a doormat and I'm simply unwilling to to that any longer. It doesn't mean that I'm gonna kill kittens or anything like that. I'm still the same person, only with less emotional baggage.

3. I don't need a break. I just had one and, quite frankly, I feel better than I have in years. But, thank you for your concern and I mean that sincerely.

4. Someone gently pointed out that I've been saying I have stories to tell and I never get around to telling them and she's right. And I'm sorry. I've been letting everything affect me in a negative manner and I've neglected you. Chris has been riding my ass for months about the Hannah Montana party at Red Robin and telling you all about it. As a matter of fact, I'll just get that out of the way:

Imagine being in a barrel full of cracked out, screeching, giggling monkeys who are all hopped up on soda and cake. Are you there? Good. You might as well have been in attendance!

Seriously, they did an incredible job and I think what I'm going to have to do is just post a trillion pictures to Shutterfly because it would take me light years to get them all on here.

5. Updates were requested: I'm still shy about 8 kids as far as the DS situation. I'm working on that. Baby Claire is the same and her Mom is hanging in like a trooper. Right now, that's all it can be: a waiting game. For those of you who sent cards, prayers and donations, you'll never know how it touched her and her family. I literally beam when I talk about all of you because you're like the five thousand mini-me children I don't have. You make me proud.

Oh, I did get one really cool story about the DS's. . . one family was nominated anonymously. One night, the oldest boy, after presenting a report card with straight A's, shyly asked his mom if he could ever get a DS. She sadly told him that they couldn't afford anything like that, but to pray about it as God does indeed perform miracles. The DS was delivered to his front porch the very next morning. How's THAT for inspirational?

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The wind has shifted and brought about change. I turned 35 a few days ago, and instead of New Year's resolutions, I normally try to do something different for each year that I'm alive. This year, I decided that I'm enacting the 'zero tolerance' policy for bullshit. To wit, I have some people to address.

Crazy Neighbor Lady: Get a grip. Despise me to your hearts content, but don't make our daughter's suffer the loss of a childhood friendship because you imagined some evil trespass that I never committed. If I understand correctly, you claim to be a Christian. See Matthew 22: 36-40, please. And then kiss my ass.

Self-Righteous, Hypocritical, Judgmental, Spoiled, Sister-In-Law: Go away. I have been kind to you, helped you when you needed it, opened my heart to you and you continue to make assumptions about me - baseless, I might add - and shit on me at every opportunity. No more. You are not welcome in my home and I want none of your poisonous influence upon my children. You also claim to be a Christian. See Luke 6:37. And then you can wait in line to kiss my ass.

Anyone else who wants to act like a giant asshole in a season of peace: See John 8:7. And then take a number.

And to all of you...I have internet, finally. And I have so much to say. But first, please add some more people to the line. Who can kiss yours this year?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dee-Ohh-Ennn-Eee

My bullshit meter for this week is maxed out and I simply cannot tolerate one more person being a dickhead to me or accept any more bad news.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have plans to run naked through the streets, pooping on all my neighbor's lawns so I can just go ahead and make sure that everyone thinks I'm the devil.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

I'm not Dead

Last edit: I'm taking comments down and closing them. I don't know the first thing about my neighbor's wife other than that she's been very hurt by this and some of the comments here aren't helping. I personally would like to have friends in the neighborhood because friendship is something that's very hard for me and they both seem like very nice people. She has been upset and no one can argue about her feelings. They're hers and they're valid. The only reason he allowed us to piggyback off of his internet for a brief time is so that we could check emails that neither of us can access from work and I thoughtlessly put this out there without considering how it would affect her. For that, I'm incredibly, deeply sorry.

Just moved. Stealing internet from neighbor but I think it all evens out because he saw me completely naked. Injured. I know you're shocked. Must hurry. Signal sucks ass. Will be back.

EDIT: Apparently, I have upset my neighbor's wife and that certainly was not my intent. I was showing pictures of our trip to the Bahamas to a friend of mine and scrolling through them when, lo and behold, my loving husband had forgotten to edit out some pictures of me exercising in the buff when I was pregnant (that he took, unbeknownst to me). All that was visible was part of my ginormous ass and a thigh. There were five people in the room when this took place and it was completely innocent, but that is what I do here: I write and I find the humor in the most embarrassing and ridiculous situations and then I share all that with the entire world. My sincere apologies to anyone who might have been hurt by this.

EDIT 2: It really wasn't anything appealing. As a matter of fact, even though he quickly looked away (and my friend almost fell off the chair in hysterics) he's probably scarred for life. Eww. No one ever needed to see that. Really bad. Ugly. Gross. Blech.

EDIT 3: I am the only person on the face of the planet who could alienate her neighbor before ever even meeting her. I am Queen of the Suck.

EDIT 4: It's my birthday. So far, it sucks.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Guest Post #5

Todd writes over here here and he is one of the wittiest people I know. I started reading him when he lived in Las Vegas and followed him on his move home to Kentucky. He is controversial, intelligent and brutally honest and those are all qualities I admire. This is the last guest post and then it's back to my drivel.
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I'm very happy to be guest posting on Crystal's blog. She's been one of my favorite bloggers for over three years now. To put that in perspective, the first time I read Crystal's blog Lindsay Lohan had body fat and a normal septum.

Crystal doesn't talk a lot of politics on her blog, so neither will I. However, I do want to talk about race.

Hey...wait! Where is everyone going? Get your asses back here and read what a white guy from Kentucky has to say about race. That's better...

Don't worry, I'm not some crazy racist like the guy who played "Kramer" on Seinfeld. And I'm not going to try to sell you a bill of goods about how we're all perfect creatures powered by puppy dog kisses. Racism is stupid because of one simple fact:

WE'RE ALL ANNOYING!!

Due to a horrible career plan (I never had one), I'm forced to work retail; and let me tell you, I've been annoyed by every racial, ethnic, and socio-economic group on the planet. Yes, of course this includes white people! White people annoy me most of all. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a reverse racist, it's just that the majority of people I have to deal with are white, so naturally they're the ones who most often bug the piss out of me.

Not to get all Plessey v. Ferguson on you guys, but separate but equal does apply when it comes to the races and the way they irritate me. For instance, while a white guy might have a crippling sense of entitlement that makes me want to punch him in the throat, he's not likely to try to pay his bill with currency made of dried goat dung. Differently, but equally, annoying.

I think racists can be rehabilitated, though it sometimes takes extreme measures. Growing up, I had a friend whose father was extremely racist. He even owned racist country music cassettes that he ordered from the back of a magazine only available at truck stops. Since I didn't subscribe to his intolerant views, he started calling me "(n-word) lover". Of course, he said the actual word. Seriously. And the guy liked me. It was a term of endearment to the sick fuck, as in "Merry Christmas, (n-word) lover" or "Hey (n-word) lover, we're grillin' out. Come on over and get yourself a burger."

He'd call me that name when he saw me out in public. Once he said it at the A & P in front of my mom!

"What did that man say to you?"

"Uh, something about Nicaragua. He's a Central America enthusiast."

He called me that until I moved out of the neighborhood at age twenty. Whenever I'd protest, he'd just laugh and smack me hard on top of the head.

A few years after I moved away I was back in the old neighborhood to visit a friend. The A & P had become a Pic Pac, and I saw my friend's racist dad walking down the frozen food aisle, pushing a carriage that held his bi-racial grandson. He saw me, and called me "Todd".

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Guest Post #4

Most of you probably know of Steven. His blog is hugely popular, and for good reason. Not very many people could make blood and guts funny (and how he has time to write is beyond me) and I envy the lyrical rhythm of his stories. Since I injure myself a lot, I can only hope that the EMT's in my future are just like him.
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Nerve Wracking

Howdy folks, Ambulance Driver here. When Crystal first approached me with the offer to guest post on her blog while she and Chris got some much-needed R&R, I was flattered. I mean, when one of your favorite bloggers gives you the opportunity to post for her legion of adoring fans, how do you turn that down?

Then, I got nervous. I pored through my drafts folder. I searched my archives for inspiration. I asked myself, “What Would Cystal McKnob Do?”

[side note: That would make for some cool bracelets, wouldn’t it? Imagine a little rubber bracelet emblazoned with “WWCMD?” bracketed by a big Dr. Pepper jug and an even larger set of boobs. You’d be the coolest kid in the neighborhood.]

Answer: Crystal McKnob would post some embarrassing but funny shit about her family, and say “fuck” a lot.

Well hell, I already do that on my blog, and I’m not going to try to out-Crystal Crystal on her blog, if you know what I mean.

So I decided to do what I normally do, which is just divert something originally meant for somewhere else. That strategy hasn’t been well-received by the Mastercard people, but I’m hoping you’ll be more forgiving.

Enjoy.

**********

"...came in with anemia and a lower GI bleed, and basically just tanked from there," the nurse tells me. "Now he's got it all; renal failure, ARDS, skin breakdowns, sepsis, liver enzymes are for shit..."
"Wonderful," I groan. "So basically you're telling me he's got Multiple Organ Dysfunction Syndrome, with one foot in the grave and another on a banana peel, is that it?"
"That's pretty much it," he replies apologetically, then snaps his fingers as if he's just remembering something. "Oh, and DIC. Did I mention that? We're pretty sure he's got DIC."
"How sure is 'pretty sure'?" I want to know.
"He got a couple units of platelets and his platelet count was still only 5,400. He's on his third unit of platelets and fresh frozen plasma right now."
"Great," I groan. I peek into the room, and my guy has a frankly positive Spaghetti Sign. He's got way too many tubes and wires and shit leading to too many machines. I look at the vent settings, and groan again."Uh, Terry?" I ask the ICU nurse, "This guy's on 100% oxygen on the vent, and his saturation is only 86%? Do we have any reasonable expectation of this guy surviving the trip? We're about to be on the road for four hours in an ambulance, dude."
By way of reply, Terry just shrugs and smiles tiredly.
Wonderful. Well, it could be worse, I suppose. He could have a Swan-Ganz catheter and intracranial pressure monitoring, too.
What he already has is bad enough, especially when I'm in a crackerbox gravel truck for the remainder of the shift. Our regular CCT rig, a wide-bodied new Ford with all the bells and whistles, is in the shop. Again. This time it's the electrical system. Last time it was the air-ride suspension. The time before that it was out TattleTale Box refusing to shut up even when we were driving within parameters. The time before that, it was either the transmission or the rear end making a Godawful roaring sound. I never did find out which, because the Shop Drones couldn't figure it out, either.
No doubt about it, CCT 326 is starting to look like the garage queen of The Borg fleet, despite the protestations of the Shop Drones. It's less than six months old, and it has spent more time in the shop than it has on the street.
I can't figure out whether we need to shoot our Shop Drones and assimilate new ones, or have the corporate weenies from Headquarters Hive lean on Ford to replace the unit.
So right now, I'm in a rig powered by an engine that was probably worked on by Rudolf Diesel himself, with a ride like a Sherman tank, and a functional work area that measures a whopping 96 inches by 56 inches. Somewhere in that 96x56 space, I've got to shoehorn a stretcher, myself, a portable ventilator, a cardiac monitor, and five IV pumps, and find AC outlet plugs for them all.
It's gonna be tight.
"We've only got 1000 psi in our main tank," BP points out. "Is that gonna last us for four hours on 100% oxygen?"
"Shit," I sigh, "probably not. We'll have to go change out the main before we can take the transfer."
"I'll go do that," she offers. "You can stay up here and get all this...crap sorted out." She gestures broadly to the patient and the room full of equipment behind me, and the ICU nurse who wanted us there right then, even though he'd be another thirty minutes completing the requisite paperwork.
Thankfully, the nurse misses the jibe.
While he laboriously charts with all the diligence (and speed) of a monk transcribing an ancient papyrus scroll, I duck into the patient's room and start jotting notes on my EMS Palm Pilot - otherwise known as the back of my gloved hand.
Okay, Diprivan at 5, insulin drip at 15...holy shit, is that Neo-Synephrine? And his pressure's only...what, 84/32? Sheeeeit, this guy ain't gonna survive this trip. Vancomycin and Cleocin antibiotic drips, plus the plasma and platelets...damn, that's seven IV pumps. There's no room for them all.
"Uh, Terry?" I ask hopefully, poking my head outside the room once again, "Has the doc discussed a DNR with his family?"
More to the point, have they signed one?
"No such luck," Terry shakes his head. "They want everything done. He's only fifty, AD."
"Yeah," I snort, "and right now his age is higher than his mean arterial pressure. Not exactly a good prognostic indicator, Terry."
Terry says nothing, just looks at me patiently.
"He's circling the drain, man!" I whine. "Why are they even bothering to transfer him? He can die right here just as easily as he can in my ambulance!"
"And he can just as easily die close to home, surrounded by his family," Terry counters levelly. "They requested the transfer, AD. Are you saying we shouldn't give them that?"
"I'm saying that they should know that he's probably gonna die before he gets there," I argue. "Jesus Christ, man...you don't have to ride in that cramped little fucking rig and handle all of it yourself! I mean, you have no idea - "
"Are you telling me you're refusing the transfer?" Terry interrupts tiredly, but with an edge to his voice. "Tell me now, and we can both save ourselves the drama."
I stare at him incredulously for several moments, and he simply holds my gaze, looking at me expectantly.
"I'm being a dick head, aren't I?" I realize, ashamed.
"Just a little," he grins, "but if you button your collar a little higher, it should keep your foreskin from showing."
"Okay, you win," I chuckle. "But I want to talk to the family before we go. They at least need some realistic expectations. Deal?"
"Give 'em the lowdown," he agrees. "Maybe you'll have better success than we did."
I busy myself for the next fifteen minutes sorting out the unholy tangle of IV lines, monitoring cable and ventilator tubing, prepping my patient for loading upon my stretcher. It's not as easy as it may seem; kinda like knitting a sweater, in reverse.
While you're wearing the sweater.
A quick look tells me that the blood products will be through infusing in less than fifteen minutes, and the antibiotics will only run for another hour or so. That leaves only three drips, although arguably the most important three.
I push the stand holding the blood pumps closer to the bed, and delicately sort out those lines, tracing them to one lumen of a triple-lumen subclavian line jutting out just above the guy's right c collarbone. Both of them are already wound several times around the other lines and the ventilator tubing. Moving the IV poles around just results in more tubing tangled in new places, so I am forced to pick up the entire unwieldy setup - pumps, pole and swaying IV bags - and delicately thread it through the maze. Next comes the vent, and the hooting of alarms when I disconnect the patient circuit brings the respiratory therapist running.
"False alarm," I call out reassuringly as I move the IV pole back behind the ventilator and reconnect the patient circuit. When the time comes to move the patient, we can just disconnect those IV lines and toss them to the side - they'll be through infusing anyway.
The RT pokes her head in the door and looks at me suspiciously for a moment, and then her expression fades to relief when she realizes why I'm here. I'm about to take this train wreck off her hands. I'm her new best friend.
"I've been in here half the shift," she groans. "If it's not him bucking the vent, it's pressure alarms every five minutes. Or saturation alarms. He's got ARDS, and it's all I can do to keep his sats in the eighties. I can't give him any more oxygen than he's already getting."
"So I've noticed," I grunt, tracing the Vanc and Cleo lines to a PICC in his right arm. I gently unwind those and move the pole to the right side of the bed. "Have you increased his PEEP?"
"Tried," she shrugs. "Right now it's at 10, but every time we try to increase his Positive End Expiratory Pressure above that, his blood pressure craps out. And they can't -"
" - give him much more fluids, because he's in renal failure," I finish. "Hence the Neo drip, which isn't doing his kidneys and other organs any favors."
"Everything you try to improve makes something else worse," she agrees. "It's a juggling act."
Yeah, like juggling chainsaws.
"Let me know when you're ready to move him," she offers. "I'll come help."
"Will do, thanks."
I position my stretcher on the left side of the patient's bed, set up my triple-channel IV pump and clamp it to the stretcher's telescoping IV pole. I quickly plug in the numbers for the insulin, Neo Synephrine and Diprivan drips and go about swapping out tubing. The Diprivan gives me trouble.
Diprivan always gives me trouble.
The CCT medics call it Milk of Amnesia. It's not something we typically use in the field, preferring to do our patient sedation with less-tricky drugs, but Diprivan has its benefits. For one thing, if you don't like what it's doing, simply shut it off; the effects are usually gone in less than five minutes.
On the other hand, five minutes can be quite a long time when the patient's BP has dropped to 60/patent-pending with just a miniscule increase in Diprivan dosage. Plus, it doesn't seem to like my IV pump, requiring me to flush, clear air bubbles, check for occlusion, clear more air bubbles, flush some more, ad nauseum damned near every time I give it.
It reminds me of the Ford Courier I drove in high school; damned hard to start, but very reliable once you finally get it running.The Courier was even a milky shade of white, too.
By the time Bitchy Partner reappears, we're ready to move the patient. I've got my vent hanging from the stretcher rail, my cardiac monitor hanging next to it, my IV pump clamped to its pole, and all the lines carefully sorted and laid out across the sheets. I'm organized.
Of course, that's only gonna last as long as it takes to chant "one, two, three" and shift the patient over to my stretcher, at which point every piece of spaghetti will become hopelessly tangled once again.
When it comes to ambulances and multiple IV lines, disorder is the natural order of things.
I pause a moment to discontinue the platelet and plasma lines and toss those out of the way, and we manage to get the guy moved to our stretcher and secured. Paperwork signed and squared away, and IV pumps clamped to every available rail, we head for the elevator. The stretcher almost doesn't fit through the doors, what with all the machinery hanging off either side.
Outside, in the ambulance bay, there are two women nervously smoking cigarettes. When they see us wheel through the doors, they both rush the stretcher. One of them chokes back a sob.
"Oh, my baby!" the older one cries in anguish. His mother, no doubt. The other woman, probably in her forties, has tears in her eyes, but hangs back. She introduces both of them to BP as his sister and mother. We learn his name, and the parts of his medical history that weren't included in his chart.
Like, for example, his lifelong history of alcoholism and substance abuse. And the havoc his addiction has wreaked upon his family.
They don't have to tell us that part. It's visibly etched in the grief on their faces.
Both of them want to ride with us, and BP automatically vetoes the request. I shoot her a warning glance that she ignores, and then overrule her right in front of the family.
"One of you can ride with us," I say firmly, staring right at BP. "It'd be best if one of you followed in your car, though. No sense both of you being stranded in a strange city without transportation."
"Houston is our home," the sister protests, "and we have cousins that can pick up Mama's car here at the hospital."
"Let's talk about that after we get your brother loaded in the rig, and not here in the parking lot," I suggest.
BP shoots daggers at me with her eyes, but says nothing as we laboriously, delicately, load the stretcher. Screw her anyway. It's time she figured out who's in charge on this bus. She stalks off in a huff and climbs into the driver's seat, not even bothering to help me get the pumps plugged in and all the equipment secured for transport.
Grumbling to myself, I plug the vent and cardiac monitor into their respective power supplies, switch the oxygen to our main tank, and search in vain for an open AC outlet for the IV pump. The Vanc and the Cleo are the odd drips out, but they'll be completed before the pump batteries die. Hopefully, that is. If not, I'll have to do more rearranging.
Once I have everything secured, I motion Mom and Sister to a spot on the squad bench beside me. "As you can see," I gesture at the cramped surroundings, "there's not much room. I'm going to be sitting in that seat right up there, and if one of you rides in the back, there will be no place to even put your feet down. Plus, if I have to do CPR, you'll be in the way."
"CPR? Why?"
I sigh and look levelly at both of them. There's no way to do this other than to be blunt. "I'm sure the doctors have already spoken to you about his condition," I begin gently, to accompanying nods. "Basically, his entire body is failing. There is a very real chance he will not survive this trip. Right now, my partner is on the phone with our dispatcher, getting phone numbers and directions to every hospital between here and Houston."
From the looks on their faces, I can see they still don't understand. "If something bad happens and we have to divert, all three of you will be stranded at a hospital somewhere between here and Houston. If he dies on the way, we'll divert to the closest hospital we can find," I explain. "And right now it looks like he might die on the way. The only question is how much do you want me to try resuscitating him."
"I want everything done," the mother says flatly. "Doctor said he ain't brain dead."
"Understood," I sigh. "But his body is failing, and even if they get him stabilized, there's a very good chance he'll spend the rest of his life as a functioning brain trapped in a useless body. He'll be confined to a bed, and he'll be in pain. Is that what you want for him?"
They don't reply directly, but Mother and Sister confer briefly, and decide that Mom should ride in the front of the ambulance, and Sister should follow along behind. After giving the sister my standard spiel about leaving her hazard lights off and not trying to keep up with the ambulance, we head out.
Forty miles into the trip, the pig trail that masquerades as Interstate 10 proves to be too much stimulus for my patient's nervous system. His heart rate shoots up, and he begins to move around on the stretcher. He's not in danger of pulling loose any of his lines or extubating himself, but the added exertion is causing his oxygen saturation to drop. After double-checking and triple-checking my probe, I decide that 50% is indeed his true oxygen saturation. The pulse rate matches the cardiac monitor, and the tube is still at the proper depth, and the capnograph waveform still looks good, although it's starting to take on the shark fin appearance of bronchospasm.
So, I deliver an in-line nebulizer treatment to help reverse the bronchospasm. I turn down the lights, and call up front and tell BP to drive as smoothly as she can, hoping that the reduction in stimulus will help calm my patient down.
No such luck. Ten minutes later, he's even livelier, and the sats still suck. If anything, BP's driving gets even rougher. I don't think she's purposely seeking out the potholes - not with a family member up front - but the ride certainly hasn't improved.
Sigh. Time for more of Mother's Milk.
I turn up the Diprivan drip, just a wee bit. Five milligrams might have been enough to keep him sedated in a quiet ICU, but not in the back of my Ford meatwagon.
In ten minutes, I am rewarded by seeing less spontaneous movement, and his oxygen saturation slowly rises to 80% and tops out there.
That's better than it was, although better in this context is like saying your shit sandwich tastes better with spicy mustard. It's still a shit sandwich.
Of course, the downside is, his pressure has dropped.
To 68/30. Yeah.
That means, either turn down the Diprivan, or turn up the Neo Synephrine. And if I turn down the Diprivan, he'll get agitated, and his sats will fall again. And my only other option for treating that is to increase the PEEP settings on the vent, which will undoubtedly crap out his blood pressure again.
So I opt for dialing back the Diprivan.
Ten minutes later, his pressure is back to 86/40, but he's flopping like a fish, bucking the vent, and his sats are down to 50% again. The capnograph looks like a chorus line of shark fins.
So I crank back up the Diprivan, increase the vent PEEP settings to 12, and dial up the Neo while I'm at it. For good measure, I throw another albuterol and Atrovent nebulizer treatment into the mix.
What the hell. In for a penny, in for a pound.
Then the alarms start going off. Peak pressure alarm on the ventilator, another alarm on the cardiac monitor, and the IV pumps are beeping for some reason.
Damn. Why didn't I listen to my high school guidance counselors and seek a rewarding career in fast food management?
The cardiac monitor alarm turns out to be nothing more than the battery indicator, a problem easily remedied by plugging it back into its power supply. Apparently I accidentally unplugged it somehow.
The pump alarm on the Vancomycin keeps flashing UPSTREAM OCCLUSION, and I stupidly fiddle with it for several minutes before I realize that the bag is empty. Apparently whoever programmed the pump thought there was more fluid in the bag than was actually there. Sighing with relief, I press the OFF button on the pump.
The damned thing refuses to turn off.
After cursing at it for several minutes, I figure out that the pump obstinately refuses to turn off until the alarms are silenced, no doubt a safety feature designed to keep those lazy health care professionals from turning off Grandma's Life Sustaining Medications just because that pesky alarm keeps interrupting the hospital gossip session.
Or something like that.
Pump alarms finally silenced, I turn my attention to the ventilator. The peak pressure alarm apparently triggered on one of those breaths, probably while he was still fighting the vent. The pressures are consistently lower now, so I silence the alarm. His oxygen saturation has crept up to 86%, though. I'm happy with it.
I sit back and look at my watch.
We've only been on the road for an hour, with three more to go. I suppress a whimper, and pray for a little respite for the next 180 minutes. A perfectly reasonable request, I think.
It was not to be.
The rest of the trip can best be described as one long, screeching alarm, muttered curses, and me rocking back and forth to break the suction my ass had taken on the bench seat. By the time we arrived at Houston's Absurdly Large Medical Center, I was a wreck.
I had stood up, sat down, bent over, stood back up, knelt down, stood up and sat back down so many times that I felt like a lifelong Baptist after his first Catholic mass; physically worn out, and more than a little bewildered.
In the elevator, after we dropped off our patient in the ICU, Bitchy Partner had the nerve to complain, "Oh. My. God. That bitch would not stop talking. She wouldn't shut up for the entire trip! I figured if I let her choose the radio station, she might shut up, but then she picked some freakin' oldies station! I had to listen to, like, some old 80s shit from groups I never even heard of. That shit wore me out!"
"I know the feeling, " I groaned.
"You?" she sneered. "What did you do that was so stressful? All you had to do was sit in the back and babysit a bunch of machines."
And she wonders how she got her nickname.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Guest Post #3

This is Claire. I haven't met any of the other guest bloggers, but in Claire's case, I actually met her before I even knew what a blog was. In a short time, I found out that she's pretty much the perfect woman. She's attractive, petite, educated, well-spoken, mature and she loves sports. I not only like her, I respect her immensely (even if she is a crazy, overzealous backseat driver).

__________________________


A funny story, really. I was deathly afraid of needles. Was. So you know how this story ends. I am a 32 year old female. Educated. (mostly) Rational. Self-sufficient. And up until my freshman year of college (that would be 19*cousomethingsomethinggh *), I practically had to be held down to be given a shot. Forget having blood drawn. Well, actually had to be held down when I was younger. There were doors locked and barred, APBs pre-typed for potential disappearances.

So extreme was my fear of needles that I had a tooth extracted without any pain killer. I refused to inhale the nitrous to make me relax, because by golly they were NOT getting over on ME. All this, rather than endure the momentary sting of a needle in my mouth. A pre-molar, but IT HAD A ROOT that didn't come out with the tooth. Which, you know, probably didn't ease my dislike of the dentist either. So neurotic was I that after that traumatic first round of shots, I furiously calculated the years between primary vaccinations and boosters and if I really needed to have them and sold my logical reasoning to my mother with the fervor of a southern evangelist. She didn't buy it, but the good news was that it would be at least half a decade before I needed more.

Boys are different. My brothers are still some of the most fearless people I know. If stupidly so. The middle child remembered to my mother --with some amusement on both sides, not mine-- of the time it took five people to hold me still for some sort childhood vaccine. I had not completely forgotten the sideshow production, but had instead projected it upon one of the neighborhood children. These are the same boys who jumped from the tree house using the end of saplings to slow their descent. Who could do the backflips with twists without fear even though they had already scraped some joint on the end of the diving board. Who scoffed in the face of pointy objects that brought fleeting pain, because frankly they had already done worse things to themselves.

What changed for me? The youngest child.
To complete the already god-awful experience of college entry exams and essays, there is the indignity of a whole new battery of vaccinations to be endured. For whatever reason that day, my youngest brother tagged along. We chugged along in the family van, his legs not reaching the floor of the van and me already worked halfway up to what promised to be a fantastic display of fireworks. I can't say it was a conscious decision, not freaking out. But I looked down at him from the perch of our pediatrician's exam table and decided that I would be damned if he saw me cry. The slightly wolfpack nature of my upbringing (weakness is fatal) made me stiffen my resolve look the other way and take that measles shot right in the arm... and OMIGAWD... heeeeeeey,that wasn't SO bad.

From then on, I didn't pre-plan ways to avoid boosters and other necessary vaccinations. I even started branching out by giving blood and if my attendant is competent then the experience as a whole is tolerable. Practice has taught me though to warn them: distract me by talking about anything else, DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE LET ME WATCH and you only get one try. I do not allow any more than one needles stick per eight weeks (despite the fact that I may or may not come in when I have scheduled an appt, because you have to work up to these things PEOPLE).

Nevertheless, they still call me at 8 weeks on the dot and the day following my missed appointments. So either I have some kick ass blood, or they really are that desperate to deal with the whinings of a 30 year old needlephobe.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Ya, Mon

I'm back. I'm still on my "break", but I had no internet service while on the cruise (at least none that didn't cost twenty-three dollars a second), so I couldn't post the rest of the guest posts. I will be doing that this week and then I'll tell you about my trip. And it was one hell of a trip, complete with pictures of celebrities and naked women. So, stay tuned.

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