Monthly Archives: November 2013

Stuffing Kills Family of Five. More at eleven.

It’s funny how the family dynamic can shift and change like sands in the wind. A delightful friend of mine, matron of her family, is experiencing just such a shift this year. We’re going to call this friend Maithair Mhor because…I said so. I asked her to write this post and she gave me the gift of the story, instead.

Mrs. Mohr has been cooking Thanksgiving turkey since she was 18-years-old. Her family is robust and though people have come and gone over the years, those seats around the Thanksgiving table are always filled and then some.

But this year is different. This year, she will have five, maybe six, people in her home for the upcoming holiday, herself included. She’s not sure how to cook a feast for just a handful of heads. Well, and their bodies, too, I assume.

I told her I never have to make the turkey because I was smart enough to ruin it three years running. She bemoaned the fact she  never thought of roasting that bird to a beautiful golden-brown only to leave it raw inside. She probably would not have had to cook 50+ turkeys over the years had she been a little more devious in her youth.
I told her such mischief pays off: I only make my grandmother’s cranberry relish and whatever other side dishes are needed, usually a veggie casserole of some sort. Mrs. Mohr mentioned that her kids and their kids and their kids love Love LOVE the canned cranberries, though she’s never been a fan. Because they’re gross. But this year…this year, she thinks maybe it is high time to make a real, uncanned cranberry dish. Because, after all, there are only 4 people to disappoint and that’s totally easy to live down.

This is where she started getting excited. If she can push the boundaries with cranberries, what about other forbidden foods? Like, say…stuffing?

I know, I know. You’re thinking what I thought, “What? Stuffing? How can that be forbidden? Gluten allergies? But there are alternatives. How can stuffing not be on the table?” Well, you see, years and years ago, there was a warning issued, one that said not to stuff the cavity of the turkeybird with dressing because it would not get thoroughly cooked thus enabling foodborne pathogens to invade the dinner table and next thing you know, everyone dies. Mrs. Mohr eliminated traditional stuffing from the menu and went with the Stove Top Stuffing instead.
I have never been a fan of Stove Top, myself. I think it’s horrifically salty and unstuffingy. But I also think it’s wonderful for anyone who has been told bird-stuffing is dangerous OR who doesn’t know how/doesn’t have time/doesn’t want to go through the effort to make the real thing because, let’s face it, that’s a lot of work. And if you’re like me, it’s also alot of sore and sliced fingers (from crunching up the dried bread manually. Yes, for those who don’t know, traditional bread stuffing has dried bread – no, not toast – as an ingredient)

Peligro! Achtung! Beware of stuffing!

Peligro! Achtung! Beware of stuffing!

This year, Mrs. Mohr is going to make stuffing the old-fashioned way.

Her logic: If she winds up killing everyone with turkey-borne illness, it’s just four people. Who is going to notice? Now is the time to try out new things because IT’S JUST FOUR PEOPLE! I’m beginning to wonder if Mrs. Mohr wasn’t a mad scientist in a past life. Then again, I can’t argue with her. This truly is the perfect time to try new dishes, to experiment, to bring back the traditions of Thanksgiving! Because, really, if you have to have a massacre, it should be small and easy to clean.
However, it’s still a win-win situation. If all goes well, Mrs. Mohr will bring her successes to the next Thanksgiving meal; they’ll become the new traditions. If it’s a disaster, we only have to attend one funeral and the survived-bys will get a family discount. There really is no downside, here.

You may think this sounds morbid, especially on the eve of one of our few actual Made-in-America, For America, By America holidays, but really, it’s joyful. It shows that there are many ways to be grateful and that if you can put a positive spin on everything you do, you’ll be much more open to trying new things. Like cranberry relish and traditional in-the-bird stuffing.

To the family of Mrs. Mohr: I wish you a happy and successful Thanksgiving. Should it go awry, I’ve been asked to sit down and explain the whole thing to the investigating officer. To everyone else who will be celebrating the day of food, the day of football, the first actual day of the Christmas season, the day of thankfulness tomorrow, may it be fruitful, enjoyable, delicious and relatively death-free.

Edit, December 2, 2013

This just in, straight from Mrs. Mohr, herself:

Everyone survived the ordeal. The homemade stuffing was ok but I added too much seasoning.  Stove Top would have been better.

The HIT of the entire day was [your] Grandma’s cranberry sauce.  Everyone loved it!!!!!!! However my children were not in attendance so who know what will happen when they do come for dinner. Will they be rummaging through the pantry looking for a  CAN of cranberry sauce, will they crawl into a corner and cry or will a food fight break out in the dining room????????????????????? 

Stay tuned for another installment of Thanksgiving Drama. See you same time, same place, next year!

You can totally see why I adore this woman, right? She’s awesome.

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Filed under Adventures, Guest stories, In someone else's backyard

On Racism, the subject of which I am completely unqualified to address yet will do so anyhow

I am a horrible person.
I’ve known this about myself for quite awhile. I lack compassion for my fellow human being, I’m mean both intentionally and unintentionally, I annoy the crap out of people in real life and over the internet, I’m opinionated and not always with a reason, and, as it turns out, I’m racist. As I said, I’m a horrible person.

I was driving home one night, listening to NPR’s “Fresh Air” and they were interviewing a Nigerian woman named Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on being black in America but not being  an American Black, which happens to be a subject in her 2013  novel, Americanah. The interview was interesting and I was riveted (honestly, part of my fascination was with her voice; it is gorgeous)  I checked-out the book in question, thinking I would be able to connect to the story, having lived in another country, myself, but more important, hoping that reading about someone who was discovering white vs black racism in America would show me what it is I’m just not grasping, thus enabling me to learn to be a better person. While the story, itself, isn’t as inspiring as I’d hoped, it still made me think, made me ponder how I could rewire my own thinking.
See, I’m one of those white women who is freakishly oblivious. Up until my 20’s, I think I’d only ever known one black person (in elementary school) and I wanted to be friends with her because we had the same sweater. Well, and maybe also a little because she had the hair ties that had two bright marbles that you had to twist around each other in some intricate, sophisticated, non-understandable fashion.

Hair ties

These doohickies. They were far beyond my hairstyling capacity.

Mostly, though, I wanted us to wear our matching sweaters on the same day – Twinsies – but we never got to because we couldn’t be friends. She hung out with and was one of Those Girls, the ones who had impressive collections of Lip Lickers tins. I had one, cherry-flavored I think, that I got in my Christmas stocking until a friend took pity on me and gave me her used bubblegum one because she’d received a duplicate for her birthday. Those Girls, though, they had the double tins and some of them even had all the quadruple tins because their parents could afford such things; it was extravagant. I mean, who needs that much lip gloss?

lip-lickers-package

OMG, remember these? I wanted ALL OF THEM!
To see more, visit http://clickamericana.com/topics/beauty-fashion/lip-lickers-flavored-lip-glosses

I had my one legitimate tin and my second-hand tin and I wasn’t invited to play with those girls so no Twinsies for me. I was jealous of the one black girl even though I had my own set of friends, girls who had fantastic imaginations and weren’t afraid to play in the dirt with the little white trash kid. And now I’m going to say something bad, almost as stupid as “I’m color blind”: It wasn’t that she was black that made me angry at her, it was because she had things I didn’t and I wanted them, namely tins of Lip Lickers and posh little friends.

Not so long ago, I was in grad school and I said horribly offensive things to a classmate because I have that white guilt thing going on and when someone gets defensive about their race, I get defensive about mine. WHY? Because I’m a moron and can’t seem to get out of my weird little brain, to understand the greater problems in society. I say seriously assholey things because, to me, hearing “White Privilege” translates into “You should feel bad about being white” and then I do feel bad but then I get angry that I have to feel bad about my being born with skin when that’s the whole point of the conversation in the first place, to stop making people feel bad about their skin color. But do you see how I turned that all into something about me instead of being sympathetic to everyone who is treated differently because they are not white? It’s almost as if I will acknowledge it happens only if I can be part of it, too. I know what it’s like to be excluded because I’m poor, because I’m a female, because I’m small, because I’m not atheletic, because I’m not religious, but it appears I also want to be excluded for having skin. Again: Moron. That’s what makes me racist, though, my own unwillingness to not get defensive and not come up with reasons, excuses, explanations on why America has not yet progressed beyond racism. That’s my whole problem. It’s not that I’m running around hating on everyone whose skin is darker than olive, no, it’s that I can’t seem to accept that people with skin darker than olive still feel disenfranchised in this country solely because of their skin color. I want to argue with the feelings of an entire group, nevermind the reality of racism actually still existing. That makes me racist and it makes me wrong.
But the worst part is that I think of myself as being fairly open-minded and inclusive and all that crap. In addition, I think I’m pretty special and amazing because I’m the first person in my family to get a college degree and the first in my extended family to get a Masters (though there were several right on my tail) and I bought my own car without having someone else sign for it and I bought a house and I made decisions that kept me out of poverty, away from drugs, and out of jail as well as gainfully employed even though the odds were against me. I know exactly what it’s like to have to fight for what I should be able to just have/do/get – yes, I realize I didn’t have to fight as hard as others because I only had gender and socio-economic status to contend with but that doesn’t mean it was easy, either – and yet I can’t seem to find within me an empathy for the rest of the human race. What is wrong with me?

I don’t know the answer but I may have found a way to stop being so awful. It came about while I was bitching about how I don’t like feminism (see? Bad person!) because of its exclusive nature. What good is it to raise women up to the level of the idea of The Great White Male – I say “idea” because while that guy still exists in abundance, it’s not correct to assume all white men are that guy or that The GWM is always white – when it’s really only going to be decently-educated straight-looking white females above the poverty line who are able-bodied/able-minded and literate who benefit? Yes, that would be me, I would benefit from being promoted to the same status as The GWM but I’m not the one who needs those benefits. I’m doing fine climbing this cliff. I’m making opportunities for myself as I can because I can and I get that. I don’t exactly need a shoulder up yet. It’s when everyone is at the level I’m at that we will all need the last shoulder up, when my husband doesn’t have to worry about being fired because of his bipolar disorder, when my sister doesn’t have to feel losery because she doesn’t have a college degree, when my neighbor feels confident in applying for a job that doesn’t involve cleaning hotel rooms, when my professor doesn’t have to worry about standing in front of a classroom full of people who may be assuming she’s a terrorist because of what she’s wearing, when that guy going through the trash can in front of the gas station looking for something to eat doesn’t have to look for food in gas station trash cans. Shouldn’t we work on getting all of us to the same level, not just women? Not just black Americans? Not just war veterans? Not just children who are addicted to drugs from the time they’re born? Not just people who can’t walk or can’t read or can’t see? It all sounds so Pollyanna, I know, and it will never be possible for everyone to be equal. It cannot happen because the world is populated by humans and humans have this need to stratify, to be better than other humans, to be Sneetches.

The_Sneetches_and_Other_Stories

Remember these guys?

I am sure it’s some sort of biological imperative and it helps keep the strongest of the race alive so that people can keep living on the planet and that’s fine, but it would be nice if stratification were based on a whole bunch of other things, more controllable things, things that don’t allow for such mean groupings. I don’t know what those things are and it would probably end up looking like some dystopian novel anyhow, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still try to get us all to the same place. Right?
There’s a name for this kind of thinking, apparently. It’s called Intersectionality and a patient woman gave me the gift of this term in a comment on someone else’s blog. I’m learning what I can about it and I like what I’m learning. Maybe, if I keep up with it, I will magically become less of a jerk and more of an understanding person, someone who doesn’t take other people’s hardships and try to assimilate them so that I am just as hardshipped. Maybe I will be able to grasp the bigger picture, to know that there is wrongness going on and there will always be wrongness going on but that I can help reduce some of it. And maybe I can find other jerks like me and we can all learn this together?
Here’s hoping.

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Reflections of a bastard: A serious post

Warning: This isn’t one of my amusing posts. It’s a true story, yes, but without the spark of mischief most of my childhood stories seem to involve. Also, there are no pictures.

When I was almost 12, I found out my dad and I weren’t actually biologically related which led  me to believe David Bowie was my father. It made sense to me at the time and sometimes I randomly hope it still turns out to be true because, come on, how cool would it be to have Ziggy Stardust, the Goblin King, as your dad? Pretty freaking cool.

Not long after I found out my dad wasn’t my dad, I had the opportunity to meet my biological father. I spent weeks being nervous. Who was he to me? What would I say when I met him? Was I mad at him? I thought I was but part of my anger was that, round-aboutly because of him, I had to start shaving my legs and I wasn’t ready for that. My dad, whom I now understood was actually my step-dad, was going to adopt me so I had to go to court and speak before the judge. The man who gave his sperm to make me was supposed to show up, as well, to tell the court he was ok with this. Because I was going to court, I had to wear pantyhose instead of my cute child tights and because I was going to wear pantyhose, I had to shave and because I didn’t want Band-Aids to be visible through the hose, I had to learn well in advance how to do this strange female thing without butchering myself (I only wore one Band-Aid for my court date, it was on my ankle bone which is still where it most often appears when I bother mowing down the leg hairs) Because I had an unknown father, I had to grow up sooner than I’d wanted.

So I shaved and wore pantyhose and went to court and spoke politely to the judge and was nervous about meeting my real dad only he didn’t show up and so defaulted his consent to my adoption. I never saw his face. I was hurt. Talk about “I shaved my legs for this?” A few years later, I thought about contacting him, finding him, meeting him, and this plan followed me well into my teen years. Then I just…forgot about him somehow. He was no longer a big deal. I’d gleaned enough information about him from my grandmother, my grandfather, my aunt, and others to know he wouldn’t make a difference in my life anyway.

He came up again shortly after I got married the first time around, as we discussed having children. Yes, I discussed having children once, believe it or not. I’ve got a lot of health problems on my mom’s side of the family but I had no idea what else lurked in my blood and I realized I would have to contact this father of mine for a health history, you know, because that’s good planning. I didn’t try very hard to track the man down, mainly because (as I now know) I was using him as an excuse to put off getting pregnant. Soon enough, it became a moot point because that husband and I divorced and went our separate ways. After that, I knew I didn’t want to have children so as soon as I could, I got spayed and ceased having to worry about what mysteries reside in my DNA to potentially be passed along. I once again forgot about the father I didn’t know. Granted, it comes up from time to time, mostly when talking to Noelle or Alex because it always weirds us out to realize we’re only half-siblings. I used to hold that over them when I was a mean teen and wanted to distance myself from all the people in my family but I don’t think I’ve ever believed the truth of the fact. We’re sisters and brother and that’s that.

Now that I’m old, it’s a bit easier to look at this whole thing objectively. My life was never impacted by not knowing my biological father. It’s been an off-and-on source of curiosity but it certainly hasn’t impeded my progress or success nor has it contributed to any of my failures. I’ve had plenty of male role models in my life, from my grandfather and my uncles to my mom’s current husband. I like to think the self-inflicted shame of being a bastard (self-inflicted because nobody cared in the 80’s; it wasn’t a thing in my community) helped me be scrappier and stronger and more motivated to show the world that I could do whatever I set out to do despite my disadvantage which, as it turned out, wasn’t anything like a disadvantage at all. It’s not like I was denied college entry because I was the product of an unplanned teen pregnancy.

And yet…I sometimes wonder what it would be like to have a child and not know the child, not because the other parent has taken that opportunity from you but because it was a choice you made, yourself. You wouldn’t know it, but I do have a vague and incorrect idea of what it’s like to be a parent; I’ve helped to raise a lot of kids, some of them related and others not. I don’t know what it means to be a mother but I know what it feels like to love someone so much that you would kill someone else to protect her, that you would sacrifice your own life to save his, that you would make hard decisions based on their well-being if you had to. I know that kind love even if the children I feel that way toward did not come from my uterus. I know what it’s like to choose not to have children but I don’t know how it feels to have a child come from me and then to never see it, never acknowledge it, by choice. I know there are plenty of parents out there who are in that exact situation. Do they ever wonder what has become of their kids? Do they grow old and wish they’d have made a connection so that they’d have one more person who will care when they die? Or do those children never appear in their thoughts? Does my father think of me as often – or as little – as I think of him? I guess it’s different for every one of those parents, but it all seems strange to me. The thing my family has taught me is that, even if you hate them, family is everything, it’s vitally important, a cornerstone to your entire being. Luckily, I love my family (most of the time), both the family I was born with and the family that has grown since.

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Filed under Adventures, My Dearly Beloveds, White trash childhood

NaNoWriNO! (Not rhino) (maybe rhino, actually)

I’m writing a book

I know, who isn’t, right?

It’s a young adult novel about witches and stuff and I’ve come upon a…well, it’s not really a problem but it is an obstacle.

See, when I first started my work, now over a year ago, I checked out stories about witches, from compendiums to picture books. There’s a lot of witchery out there and yet it’s never really gone mainstream in the young adult (YA) fantasy world, despite the efforts of Harry Potter and his ilk. For some reason, vampires and werewolves still have the limelight while angels/demons and fae traipse right behind. I’m cool with that but I still wonder: Why not witches? It’s like they’re always the tagalong little sister.

So I started writing, declaring to myself, “I will bring witches to the forefront! Single-handedly! Because I am just that good” and then I stopped writing for a long time. I began again this past summer and found that during my hiatus,  a lot of people were able to get their witch stories out into the world. I’ve since read four different stories that have elements I had incorporated into mine or are, at least, similar. I have five chapters of Part I finished and three chapters of Part II and now I have to go through and change a lot of things because I don’t like thinking the few potential people to read this book of mine will be all, “Oh, she totally stole that from that OTHER book I read” and it will really look that way because everyone will be able to see, via Goodreads, that I read those books before publishing mine.

I’m going to dial back and ask a more broad question: What’s going on with this hive mind think thing? I see it all the time in entertainment but always figured some entertainment guru gives each medium an annual assignment. For instance, Entertainment Guru says to Movie Industry, “We want to see flicks about turn of the century magicians battling a newfound sense of disbelief and cynicism amongst their audiences which, in turn, turns the magicians murderous” and then three movies with that theme all pop up. Think “The Prestige” and “The Illusionist” (Right, that’s only two. I know that) They were out at the same time and about old time magicians. What are the chances? Well, probably pretty good if that’s the assignment the Entertainment Guru gave at the beginning of the year. This also happens with books, it happens with music, with video games. I’ll bet it happens with plays, photography, mixed media art, fashion, paintings, sculpture, and every other form of artistic expression. I’ve always just assumed that someone was putting the idea out there and everyone was picking it up and following but when I had my own ideas and kept them mainly to myself and then I saw them cropping up other places, well, I might have been wrong about the Guru giving out assignments. Maybe it’s a form of hive mind. Maybe we’re connected to others who think like we do, maybe we share a wavelength and the information travels between all of us even if we’ve never met, even if we don’t live in the same city, state, or even country. Maybe that’s why pieces of my story are showing up in other people’s books?

Another explanation of course, is that since I’m playing with witchcraft, magic is involved. When my book goes live, some new writer will read it and go, “Damnation. There goes my great idea. Back to the drawing board,” because that’s how magic works. According to me, at least.

I should wrap this up by saying that I’m NaNoWriMoing my book, that I’m going to spend this month creating a roughly-formed novel that I can then edit to my heart’s content over the next several months. Yeah, no. I’m not doing that. I don’t actually work on my writing for the last three months of the year because all my creativity is channeled elsewhere. When I’m a famous author, that will sound cool and well-rounded instead of like an excuse, as it does now.

But if you are NaNoWriMoing, GET ON IT! Get that idea out and on paper – virtual or literal. You can totally do this! Just, please, don’t take any more of my ideas. I won’t have anything left.

Rhino_5

And here’s a rhino.

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Filed under Adventures, My journey to writerhood, My Opinions on STUFF