There’s Something About Mary

When I was in my early-to-mid twenties, I was pretty entrenched in Mormon culture. I went to church in a singles branch, held various callings, church every Sunday, Family Home Evening on Mondays. Within our singles group, I was part of a smaller friend group. Just a group of early 20-somethings, going to college (or not), living on their own (or not), and trying to make the transition from teenage know-it-alls to adults: Mormon Edition

Kant, Hair, Line, Young Matthew, myself, and Mary.

Mary was an interesting sort. A few years younger than myself. Grew up the second child of 12. She was even my roommate for a spell. Mary and myself were as different as two people could be. She grew up in an intact family in church, my family was broken with just a whiff of Mormonism. My greatest drive was to go to college to get an education and not repeat the same trajectory as my parents. Hers was to find a nice priesthood holder to marry (in the temple) and have a big family much like what she grew up it.

I was jaded, and sarcastic, and fiercely independent. Mary was naive, soft, and hinging her whole life upon having a husband.

Living together only magnified our differences. As much as we got along like vinegar and baking soda, we both brought something to our small friend group. Despite her weaknesses, she had good qualities too. She liked to have fun. She had a smile for everyone. She was always the “young one” in the group, always careful about how she looked. The insufferable flirt, she would go through Peter Priesthoods like water through a sieve. One week, she would meet a guy and fall in love, the next week, she would have prayed about it and learned he was “the One”, and following week, it would be over because he “was a jerk.”

This pattern went on for so long, we started calling her Baskin Robbins with her Flavor of the Week. We didn’t hate her. We just wanted her to realize that she was more than whatever a life of Mormon culture honed her to be. A lot of her behaviors, we surmised, was her need for attention. I imagine that being in a family that large, attention can come in short supply.

Earlier this week, Kant sent me a message that Mary had passed away in her sleep earlier in the week. I had to pull the car over and re-read the message three times so I could understand just what she was saying. Mary dead? She can’t be! For starters, she’s too stubborn. Secondly, she’s too young.

She leaves behind four kids and a husband. My heart breaks for them. Mary may have been a pain in the ass, no one deserves to grow up without their Mommy or their spouse.

After the singles branch was disbanded, people moved away, went on missions, went on in their lives. Kant and I remained close, everyone just sort of drifted away. Mary seemed to be happy, but I don’t know for sure. She married and had kids. Her facebook page is full of “look how charmed my life is” posts. I really hope her life was amazing as she made it sound. I really do.

Her funeral is next week. Hair and I were going to go as we are the only ones left in town of our original group. True, neither of us had talked to her in 15 years or so, but she still belonged to an important part of our lives, however small it was compared the larger picture of our lives.

And we can at least honor that.

Like I said, she was a pain the ass. She liked to push my buttons (and knew exactly which ones to push), but at the end of the day, there was no one quite like her. My memories will always be of her when she was younger. Her on my family canoe trip sampling Rocky Road (i.e. my brother), her cleaning the apartment only when she was expecting a Flavor of the Week over for a visit. Her “Sausage Fondue” that was not fondue…it was a goddamn breakfast casserole. Her oh-so-delicious homemade banana cream pie (I have the recipe). Her almost burning down the apartment building because she didn’t know how a fireplace worked. Her shitty camp outs that I missed but had to hear about from everyone else. Her beautiful red hair, her sparkling blue eyes, and my jealousy because I thought she had it all.

I’ll carry you with me, Mary. You will not be forgotten.

 

 

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TTT: Di$ney on Ice

Every year, Tiny Tyrant’s daycare has a field trip to see Disney on Ice.

This year was the first year that TT could actually go.

Oh sure, I could have taken her before. On our own, but I wondered how much she would get out of it. Even more to the point, would she get bored and have a meltdown because she didn’t want to stay in the same place for that long?

I just decided to wait until she could go and experience it with her classmates. As fortune would have it, I was off that day. So, I could go as well.

Tickets for the show were $20 per person. This is pretty reasonable, I thought, considering that tickets to anything don’t really cost under $20.

The day of, TT is all excited. She knows she is going to go see Disney on Ice. She knows she is going to ride the school bus. Whether or not she understands what that all means, is a different story entirely.

We get to the school. Other parents who are also going are milling around, waiting to ride the school bus. Kids are excited to ride the school bus. The adults are quiet, perhaps having horrible flashbacks of when they rode the school bus.

We all load upon the bus and away we go to the Sprint Center, where there is a shitload of children and parents milling about. Some wearing costumes. I immediately feel points deducted because as a nerd, I should know better to send a child into an environment like this without appropriate cosplay. I vow to do better.

I end up with TT and one of her little friends, who’s mother is my friend, who was unable to make it to the showing due to work. (And she is now known as Dainty Dictator…or DD for short) And also, another of TT’s friends, whom she says is her best friend (Who will now be referred to as Mini Monarch). And her mom. I just go with it because two moms and three kids seem like pretty good odds.

We find our way to our seats, and I see vendors a long the way, selling pretty much everything Disney-related. After the kids are settled, I haul ass to find a bubble wand TT was pining for since we hit the front door. And because I am a softy, and DD didn’t bring extra spending money, I decide I’m going to get her one as well. And because I would look like a dick if I bought for two girls and left one out, I decide to buy three, because they can’t be that expensive, right???? RIGHT????

Sweet baby Jesus. $100.

For plastic wands that light up and blow bubbles. I look at them closely. They don’t vibrate (you know, for the mommies). They come with a 2 year warranty, which I am sure doesn’t cover the cost of your child slamming it on the floor when it runs out of bubbles.

I go back to our seats, clutching these fucking wands as if they were forged in the blood of virgins (because they very well may considering how much they cost) dole them out to the three girls (and thankfully, they are grateful). The show starts, and I spend the majority of it with bubbles in my face. There’s smoke and fireworks, and I swear I’m going to have an asthma attack there in row 8.

Pretty soon our adorable little band of despots start complaining about being hungry and thirsty. The other mommy and I buy snacks. Cotton Candy, popcorn, and a plastic sippy cup with lemonade. $45. DD insists that she gets her own cup of lemonade, and I put my foot down because $15 is too much to pay for shitty lemonade in a cup you can’t put in the dishwasher because it will melt.

The show goes on, and somehow I end up with lemonade all down the front of my shirt. It’s sticky everywhere and I only have so many wet wipes. Here comes the guy with coloring books. $5 each. I get two because the asshole is taking too long to give me my change. DD gets a book. I figure if MM wanted one, her mom could spring for it. She was sitting right there.

You could easily pick out the noob parents from the ones who had been there before. They brought their own wands. And snacks. At one point, the daycare director chucked a Costco-sized bag of Goldfish into the crowd. TT found a bag of Veggie Straws and happily munched on them. All out of cash, and my debit card could be heard sobbing from my wallet, The Bank of GB was officially closed.

After the show, I perused Amazon and found the same wand for less than $10 (and my butthole clenched even tighter), and I told TT that she should plan on taking her bubble wand to college. She patted my arm gently because even she knew I was an idiot for shelling out $150 for one show. To her credit, she sat and watched the whole thing. DD, however, was like a blender with the lid off, and I am pretty confident she will not be able to recall one thing from the show, except the bus ride.

There was a point TT experienced some butthurt because they pulled some lucky kids from the audience and they got to ride around the rink in some sort of submarine looking thing. TT demanded a ride. I didn’t know what to tell her. Was there some sort of VIP experience that you had to take out a second mortgage on your house for? Was it random?? Were these children sold to go work in the sweat mines of Orlando to pay for their privilege of being part of the show??

Dick move, Disney. Dick. Move.

I am told, by persons with knowledge in such matters, is that this is just a taste of the Disney experience. Go to the House of Mouse on either coast, and you can expect have money slip through you fingers like water. Everything costs a premium, even the smallest, most simplest of things. You know, I’ve heard of families saving up money just to go to Worlds of Fun once during the summer. That might sound amusing to some (bordering on condescending for others), but that’s the reality for many. This Disney level of spending goes way beyond. Thousands of dollars. Because much like the ice skating program, you don’t just pay for the ticket, you pay for the experience…and that includes the $12 snow cone.

I don’t know when Disney became of rite of passage for children. The brass ring of childhood experiences. I never entertained the idea when I was a kid because I knew we could never afford it.

My family was one of those saving pennies to go to Worlds of Fun.

 

We All Float Down Here

A friend of ours did a float experience about a year or so ago, and I was interested. We got our own float center in Cowtown shortly after, and I just never got around to investigating further. It wasn’t until I was killing time and looking at day spas closer to home that I found one that offered a float tank.

For those who don’t know, a float tank is usually a big, uh, tank, and it’s filled with water (roughly the same temperature as your own) and it is filled with a buttload of Epsom salts. So much, that you cannot sink. You lay in this tank for an hour or so, sensory deprived or relaxing music piped in, and it’s supposed to relax you, clear your mind, etc. There’s supposed to be all these benefits associated with it.

I decided to go after a particular intense chiropractor visit where my spine and pelvis was trying to do some strange, and painful, circus act. It didn’t hurt that the first float at one particular spa was half off.

Not really knowing what I was getting myself into, I drove to the spa. After completing required paperwork, I was escorted to the pod room. A large, white egg shaped thing dominated the room and an equally large shower was in the corner. I was instructed to shower first to remove any lotions, hair product, etc. Then, get into the tank.

On a normal day, my mind races. I’m always obsessing over dumb stuff. Over stuff I need to do. Stuff I didn’t get done. My family. My friends. My job. My past. My future. What I am going to make for dinner that night.

Once in the water, your brain just slows down. Then, you realize that you forgot to put the ear plugs in. So, you get out, getting salty water everywhere, find the damn ear plugs and shove them into your ear holes and return to the water.

So, you are floating there, with the little purple light on because you like purple and it’s pretty, listening to the sound of your own breathing, until you reach up to scratch your nose and get salty water in your eyes and JESUS, MARY, AND JOSEPH…THAT SHIT BURNS!!! So, you blindly wiggle out of the tank, splashing salty water everywhere, trying not to slip and fall and bust your ass because salty water is very, very slippery. Stagger to the shower to splash clean water into your eyes. Verify that you are not blind, then return to the confines of the float pod.

All is quiet back in the tank and I turn off the purple light and just float in darkness. I let go of conscious thought and just let my mind wander, and it doesn’t wander very far, content to just be still and think of nothing. I’m just floating in 10 inches of warm salty water, drifting in and out of that place between sleep and awake. Time stretches forever until a voice comes over the speaker in the pod to let me know that my float is over.

I gingerly get out of the tub and shuffle to the shower. My back, my hips and knees. Everything feels great. I feel rested. Relaxed. Quiet and content. I shower the salt off and my skin feels amazing. My hair is a hot mess because I forgot to bring a comb. Overall, I feel improved. I’m not worried about anything. I could just sit in a chair and think about nothing until I have to collect Tiny Tyrant from daycare.

I vow to do this once a month. It will be added to my “Living My Best Life” resolution for the new year, which I totally just thought of 5 minutes ago. My actual resolution is more along the lines of “Work on Being My Best Self”.  It’s more than getting a manicure, it’s about enriching relationships that matter and pruning the ones that don’t. It’s about talking about how you think or feel instead of holding it all inside until it explodes later. Taking time to yourself to clear your head and approach life with a clean slate. Even it is means doing it in saltwater for an hour.

Just don’t get it in your eye.

TTT*: The Makings of a Troll

*Tiny Tyrant Tales

By nature, my husband and I possess a decent trolling abilities. Forged in uniquely different fires, and each with our own unique delivery. It also appears genetic. I’m pretty sure I got it from my aunt, who could slyly insult you, only you didn’t figure it out until hours later.

Tiny Tyrant goes to daycare during the week. This affords her the opportunity to play and develop relationships. She learns all kinds of crap she’s supposed to know by the time she reaches kindergarten. (Even though this totally wasn’t a thing when I was her age. You just turned five, and into half-day kindergarten you went. But I digress.)

Now, Tiny Tyrant has gained a reputation of being very bright, very funny, and very very stubborn. Only recently did I have to report to the director’s office because she got mad and head-butted the assistant director.

Mr. Jake is her teacher, or at least he was until this past Friday, which was his last day. No, TT didn’t drive him away. Not that I am aware of.

Mr. Jake works from 8am-5pm. On. The. Dot. As his last day was winding down, he tells his kids that he’s going bye-bye. He will miss them all. And he will pop in once in a while and say hello (he’s engaged to one of the teachers there). The kids all line up to give hugs and tell Mr. Jake good-bye.

Finally, it’s my daughter’s turn.

Mr. Jake beckons to TT, she approaches him quietly. Cautiously. Never breaking eye contact. She stands before Mr. Jake, as he holds out his arms for his hug. This tender moment that teachers look back and remember fondly.

“I pooped.”

The time is 4:59 pm.

 

Tempus Fugit

Tomorrow, Tiny Tyrant moves from the Toddler Room to the “Big Kid Room” at the daycare. Luckily, we found a good daycare that transitions to preschool, we like a lot. So, TT’s movement will be minimal. Just one great, big transition to kindergarten when she turns 5. But we still have a couple more years until that bridge is crossed.

Time moves too damned fast.

It seems like yesterday, she was just stumbling through her first steps. Making her own little chatter than only she understood. Her tiny, baby face gave way to a, while still a small one, face that lost all it’s baby features. The sweet baby smell long gone, replaced by the smell of dirt, crayons, and yogurt. I am the mother of a 3 year old with he own personality; stubborn, charismatic, and hilarious. It’s amazing that she came up with it, all on her own. Her life is one, great adventure, and her Mom and Dad are just along for the ride.

As with every transition, there comes a small degree of sadness. I felt it when I stopped breastfeeding. When I put the outgrown clothes and toys away, their usefulness passed. I’m excited to see the person she grows up to be, but I do miss the tiny baby I once had. How light she felt when I carried her. How she snuggled in such a way that her body just seemed to fit against mine like a perfect puzzle piece.

But it’s not all sad. In place of the baby, I have a girl who is bursting at the seams with energy, and she wants to share it all with Mommy and Daddy. Her animated excitement at her best friends at school. How she has to be the one who makes the introductions of anyone who comes over to the house. How playing in a water sprinkler and having a popcicle on Fridays is the perfect finish to her week.

But still…time moves too damned fast.

At the Center: Fire In Unexpected Places

At the Center, we have volunteers. In the summer is when you see the teenagers. Any other time, it’s typically the older folks. They are generally cheerful, and I feel like the day is improved because they are there.

Around the lunch time hour, the volunteers load up a big cart full of snacks, beverages, and small sack lunches to pass around. All of these things are free for patients.

Now, I understand that nutrition is important when fighting the Big C. I’ve heard of a wide array of diets. All raw foods. Veggies Only. Fish Only. Gluten-free. Etc. At the Center, we didn’t really offer any of those things. It’s snack chips, cookies, Coke, Juice…pretty much a 4th graders absolute dream of a snack cache. Yeah, you could argue that offering these things are counter-intuitive. We can’t really offer fresh fruits or veggies because it would all go to rot before it would get eaten. Gluten-free or the like are just plain gross and the patients want nothing to do with them. My general philosophy is this: if the only thing you can eat and manage to keep down is a bag of Doritos, eat as many of them as you like. Even shitty food is better than no food at all.

We also found out that when we switched over to name brand snacks and soda, patients didn’t seem to mind waiting as much. Coke Classic has magical properties!

A volunteer of ours, a diminutive man with white hair, was pushing the lunch cart around when he happened upon the room I was working in. I stopped whatever it was I was doing to allow him to peddle his wares. My patient perused the offerings and immediately laid into the poor guy about “giving crap to cancer patients”. The tirade lasted a good 2-3 minutes, all about the lack of fresh fruits, and the amount of preservatives and blah, blah, blah. I interjected when I could. It wasn’t like this volunteer was personally responsible for our snack purchases. Finally, the old guy just shrugged.

“I don’t care,” he said, preparing to move his cart to the next room. The patient snorted. I froze. You can always tell when a fight is going to erupt. “I really don’t care.” He repeated.

“You don’t care??” The patient was incredulous. “I’m sure all the people here fighting cancer care!”

Shit. How was I going to diffuse this???

“Well,” the volunteer replied, in his soft-spoke voice, “I have cancer. I still don’t care.”

With that, he moved on. The patient didn’t utter another peep.

It wasn’t until almost a year after I transferred to the center that I discovered that many of our adult volunteers are or were cancer patients themselves. Some were survivors, some were still getting treated. All just wanted an opportunity to give back. I have also discovered, and have warned people about, is that you never fuck around with a cancer patient/survivor. They have been baptized by fire, and no amount of bad shit that has happened in your life will ever, ever compare to what they have endured. They fight with everything they have because they have everything to lose. Mere words cannot describe the amount of respect I have for them. So, because they fight, I also fight.

To be honest, I didn’t even mind the patient having a nutritional axe to grind. It shows a fire in her belly, and a willingness to fight.

And that, is half the battle.

Burn It Down

There are a select few things I hate with the fire of a thousand hot suns. Trump being one. And I wasn’t a bandwagon hater. I’ve detested this man since the 80’s…before it was cool. I am the hipster of Trump Haters. But, I am not here to bash on Trump…today. Not really.  Well, maybe just a little.

Another thing that makes my blood boil are antivaxxers. Before I had Tiny Tyrant, my niece’s mother preached to me how vaccinating was evil and how she had a book for me to read to know the perils of vaccines. I declined the book, knowing full well what I would do with it. I remembered all the times my niece was in the hospital as an infant, earning her immune system the old fashioned way. Thank the gods that she never caught anything that would have killed her.

People wonder what makes antivaxxers so dumb. The doctor who started this hot mess was proved a fraud, his “study” proven a sham to make himself rich, his medical license revoked. Every claim they make, has been debunked thoroughly by actual scientists and doctors. What would make seemingly intelligent people fall for something so easily proved false?

Probably one of the most sound reasons is that these people simply do not know what life is like with polio, or measles, or mumps. Those are illnesses of the older generations, eradicated (for a while at least), the younger generations have enjoyed the immunity that vaccinations have given us, but some of us forgot how we got that immunity. Now, they are terrified of autism, which has been turned into some sort of Boogie Man that is apparently worse than dying from polio.

The only thing I can liken this to is a schizophrenic that stops taking their meds because they feel normal, and decide that they don’t need the meds anymore.

Now that certain illnesses are making a comeback in thanks to many parents who need a swift kick in the ass, we get to experience it all over again. Happy days are here again, people. Hope you got your Iron Lung ready.

It got me thinking about this whole mess with the healthcare debate. And that fucking orange Cheeto stinking up the White House, when he isn’t trying to recruit Boy Scouts for his own Hitler Youth. People are allowing this to happen because they simply have no clue what life was like before The New Deal. No social programs. No infrastructure. No government help. You were pretty much on your own. People lived a lot differently before the 1900’s. If you were homeless, no one cared. If you were hungry, you might be able to find a church that had a soup kitchen. If you were old and sick…that’s too bad.

Maybe these people need to experience how shitty life can be before they can truly appreciate what they have available to them. No more Medicare. No more Social Security (which people will defend that as something they paid into, so they should get that back. Poor people largely view Social Security as their retirement plan, which is why they don’t consider it welfare.). No more SNAP cards, subsidized housing, or free school lunch. All of it…gone.

It’s a direction we’re heading. Some will feel the effects before it reaches other people.  A lot of those “uneducated working ‘Mericans” that Trump loves so much will be the first to be hit. Sure, churches and other organizations will help out, but at the end of the day, it’s not going to be enough.

It easy to care about this, but it’s difficult to stay that way. Maybe we should let the chips fall where they may. Maybe people need to be reminded of the way Americans used to live, before World Wars I and II. Maybe it all needs to be burned to the ground. Maybe then, people will understand and give a shit about their fellow man. Only then can something meaningful can emerge from the ashes.

Some people learn from history. They heed the warnings. They can see when patterns repeat themselves. Others, they ignore all of that. Their great teacher is experience. This is something they are very proud of.

Let them learn.