Beating the Bullet-Riddled Horse

Among my many memories of my Dad, was him and his gun collection (which is ironic considering that’s how he died, but I digress). He had 5-7 of them, and sometimes he would pull them out and clean them. My brothers and I would sit and watch.He would take them apart, put them back together. Sometimes, he would sand down a stock and refinish it. My father’s guns were beautiful. Pristine. He built one shotgun, made from three different guns. It was a showpiece for certain, and he built it for me. Cherry stock, copper in the middle, and a black barrel. The first time I got to use it was for rabbit hunting.

Through life events, my mother ended up with a majority of Dad’s guns, including the one he made for me. My stepfather loaned my gun to his grown son to go hunting. It was never returned. His son would claim that he “lost”it. Later, we would learn that he pawned the gun for money. My gun was lost forever. I own nothing that was once my father’s. And when I think about it, that there is this thing out in the world that my father built just for me, and I don’t have it, my heart aches.

In light of the shooting in Orlando, I don’t want to get on a soapbox and argue the case for gun control. Firstly, the box is already crowded with much louder voices than mine. Secondly, we lost the argument for control long ago when Second Amendment Fanatics decided that dead children were a price they were okay to pay for their right to own assault rifles. (Apparently, AR-15 are not technically “assault rifles” because that label is  meant for military use guns that are automatic or semi-automatic, but for $299, you can easily convert it to one!)hello-kitty-ar-15-rifle1

There’s so much about this country to be proud of, and we celebrate it often. Yet we have so much to be ashamed of and too full of hubris to know we should be. That we live in a society where mass shootings are common, and the best we can do is blame extremist views that are not Christian and hold candlelight vigils. I look at Sandy Hook. I look at Orlando. I hear the rhetoric of the gun nuts whose only defense of resisting common sense gun laws is, “Bad guys are going to get guns no matter what we do, so we just won’t do anything and keep waiting for that good guy with a gun to come and fix everything.”It breaks my heart, and it makes me ashamed to be an American.

I’m a gun owner. I have a beautiful shotgun my husband gave me for Christmas. My little brother refinished it for me, just like Dad would have done. We also own a handgun. I still lament the loss of the gun my father made for me, and I wish I could have it. But you know, I would gladly give it all up if it meant that I could send my daughter to school, or to the movie theater, or anywhere else and never have to worry if she will be gunned down that day.

Hooray for Last Place!

Per Wikipedia, Papua New Guinea is one-half of an island north of Australia. Home to around 7 million people, with 18% of those people living in urban areas. The rest lives in villages, away from other villages, sometimes not being aware of each other. There are literally hundreds of languages spoken in this country, owing to the different villages, each with their own unique traditions and cultures. Less than 4% of the population is over the age of 65, which should tell you something about their healthcare. And speaking of health, malaria is the main cause of illness and death. A large portion of the population is illiterate. Papua New Guinea is not really a tourist destination, so there really isn’t a wealth of information out there about it.


Coming of age ceremony for the George Jefferson village?

You might be wondering why the brief history lesson? Well, I will tell you. This small, poor country ties with the richest country in LAST PLACE for maternity benefits. Us. We can put a man on the moon. Send a robot to Mars that continues to send us pictures to this day. We can make people untalented people famous. We can make the racist village idiot a candidate for president. But we cannot, or will not, make an effort to provide any kind of benefit for women who just pushed out a brand new human.

This post isn’t going to be a rant about the shitty lack of mandated maternity leave for new moms. I don’t have anything new to add to the argument that hundreds, if not thousands, of people have said before me. We suck. We know we suck. And unless government decides to give a shit (or people wise up and start electing people do), we will continue to suck. Go last place!!!

Anyway, I guess you could say I was incredibly fortunate. I got 12 whole weeks off. Sure, compared to Denmark (whose moms get 52 weeks off, 100% paid) it’s paltry, but some women had to return to work mere days after delivery. Thanks to FMLA, every woman is guaranteed 12 weeks of time off to do the things that new moms do postpartum. More on that later.

At any rate, of my 12 weeks, I bought short-term disability insurance which said it covers 6 weeks, and only 60% of your salary…but only if I upgraded to the 60% benefit. (Had I not elected to do so, the standard would have been 30%.) Even that is a misnomer, because they only pay you for 5 weeks, citing the 6th week is for paperwork processing and you don’t actually get a paycheck. The remaining weeks you have, you have to burn through whatever PTO you have saved up. Which means that prior to going on leave, you have to save every single minute of PTO and use none of it for doctor visits, sick days, or days you can’t come in because you feel like absolute shit your 9th month of pregnancy. Even then, it’s only applicable if your employer even offers vacation time, because the U.S. is one of the few countries that do not mandate paid vacation time. (I think the last statistic was 1 in 4 workers do not get PTO.) Any bills introduced to guarantee PTO fail. Just when you think we can’t suck any harder…we do.

I had managed to accrue enough PTO to cover all but the last 2 weeks of my maternity leave. But because I have an amazeballs husband (who didn’t get diddly squat for any kind of paternity leave, btw), and the survival of our household did not hinge on my paycheck, I was able to take the entire 12 weeks off, and not get any type of paycheck for those last two weeks. But because of FMLA, my job was secure. However, when I returned to work, I basically worked for free for the first month because short-term disability does not pay for insurance premiums, and all my paychecks had to cover those missed premiums.

But what is maternity leave anyway? I can’t speak for the other moms, but for me, it was about a lot of things. It was getting right with how my body changed. Breastfeeding, pumping, trying to sneeze without peeing myself. Healing from pushing a baby out, who ripped Mommy a new one as a parting gift. It’s about trying to figure out childcare for when you do go back to work. It’s also about getting to know the newcomer. Figuring out how this new mom thing worked, worrying yourself into wrinkles because you’re convinced you’re not doing it correctly because everything on the internet tells you that you are a horrible mother, and how could you possibly even bring a baby into the world when you notorious for letting plants die?? Maternity leave is for falling in love with the newcomer, and flexing those maternal instincts when they decide to appear one night as your husband almost rolls over the baby. It’s for thinking about the kind of parent you want to be. The kind of person you would like to raise your child to become. It’s for sleep, for lack of sleep. For tears and giggles. Snuggles and blow-outs. It’s for Moms and Dads and Babies to start (or build upon) the foundation of their family.

What isn’t Maternity Leave? It’s not for selfish, childless lackwits who think that time off is one great big spa retreat where they can sit and think about a better mission statement for their job. I’m not even going to link her article, or mention her name, because I don’t care to add any more traffic to her asinine quest or possible sales to her shitty book. You know, before I ever had a baby, I never begrudged the women who did. I never envied their maternity leaves, and when they returned, I never saw women who were refreshed with a new outlook on their job. I saw women returning with abject sadness of having to leave their babies too soon, the constant worrying if they were okay, bitterness that we live in a country that is perfectly complacent to tie for DEAD LAST with a country where the typical residential dwelling is a hut, and resentment that their employers refuse to go above and beyond what is legally required of them to do right by their new mothers. The only time I ever saw those new moms happy was when it was time to leave, and only because they were going home to their babies.

You want a Meternity Leave? They already exist. It’s called a Sabbatical.

The Corgi Game

So, it was no big secret that Log disliked the old house. Well, not so much as the house itself, but rather where it was located. We were kinda removed from everyone else we knew, babysitting would have been a huge hassle once Lil G arrived, and the commute to and from work that Log made everyday was slowing sucking out his soul.

And one more thing: rascals. Too many damn rascals roaming about. You know them, those little scooters that old people take to using when their children take away the car keys? But in our neck of the woods, it wasn’t just old, carless people on the scooters. It was everything else that would fit, or just barely fit, on the damn things. Log had it.

“If I see 10 rascals, we’re moving!”

So began the Corgi Game.


As with any game, ground rules have to be established before you play.

  1. People on rascals could not be counted if you saw them in close proximity to Walmart. The same goes for nursing homes, assisted living places, and retirement communities. Those places are rascal magnets.
  2.  For it to be counted, the rascal driver (theoretically) would have to be able to make it from their sighted location, to our house, on the existing charge of their battery.
  3. American flags mounted on the back of sighted rascal did not add an extra point. (I had to fight hard for this rule.)
  4. Rascals being towed didn’t count (see rule #2)

What does a Corgi have to do with this? Plenty. You see, for every Corgi sighting, you could deduct one point from the tally. A Corgi sighting meant there was a high probability that there was a hipster nearby. A hipster has the ability to cancel out senior citizens and rednecks.


It’s called Gentrification.

We finally got to ten, but by then we were already planning to move anyway. We have since retired the game because there is virtually no chance of any rascal making it out to our house. We haven’t seen many Corgis either. But they are kinda small, and we do have predatory birds in the area, namely one large, very beautiful, bald eagle.

A bald eagle pretty much trumps anything else.

At the Center: Riding the Short Bus

Life working at The Center has been great. Other than a few minor hiccups, I’m really coming to know what it is to actually like being a nurse and enjoy my work. For the first time, my likes far outnumber my dislikes.

One of which, being the bus situation.

At ACME Hospital, I got to enjoy covered parking. Which was great when the weather was horrible, and it probably extended the life of my car. At The Clinic, I have to park in an uncovered community lot, and take a shuttle the rest of the way. During my little bus rides, I’ve observed the subtle nuances of the drivers.

The Panty Melter: His bus smells like the aftershave he puts on every morning. Boarding his bus, you notice the manly smell, then you notice the smooth R&B playing over the speakers. Luther, Barry, Al, Marvin…all crooning their “make sweet, sweet love to you” tunes. The next thing you notice that the estrogen level is higher. The women are shifting in their seats, glassy-eyed, quiet, and breathing heavily, almost panting. By the time the shuttle reaches The Clinic, the temperature on the bus has risen exponentially. The windows might be steamed up. Any man who rides this bus looks bewildered and confused. The Panty Melter smiles knowingly from the driver’s seat. It’s okay. He’ll get you there one way or another.

Excited to Be Here: He LOVES driving the bus. He LOVES driving the bus over curbs, sidewalks, and almost into other cars. Getting you to your destination is the most important thing, everyone else can piss off. Everyone likes Excited, his excitement is contagious. When you get to your final destination, you are excited, too (not Panty Melter excited). Excited loves to talk to his passengers, and his passengers have collectively decided they want to take Excited home to meet their families.

The Bus Nazi: He scowls at you when you get on his bus. How dare you not be at the bus stop when he gets there! Instead, you made him wait. Except for that one time he kept driving even though he saw you walking towards the bus stop. You 15 minutes late for work because you had to wait for the next bus. Hah hah! That was a great morning!! He seldom smiles, even when you wish him good morning, good day, thank you. Passengers goose step on and off the bus, paying homage to Bus Nazi so he doesn’t drive them to the bad part of town and leave them there. I don’t know why Bus Nazi is so mad. Maybe he’s jealous of the Panty Melter.

The Flash: This guy drives so fast that you time travel. Who knew those buses could go that fast! However, you are still 10 minutes late to clock in.

Irie Man: This guy runs on island time. Everything is okay! Everyone is smiling. Happy steel drum music is coming from the speakers. It’s like the drink and drown tour from your vacation, all that is missing is your rum punch! You’ll get to work eventually, but peace be the journey!


American Dreams…One Manicure at a Time


I used to get my nails done every two weeks. It took me a long time to get comfortable with that habit because of my own guilt for splurging on something so non-practical. Eventually, it was something that I did for myself, and nothing to beashamed of. But I digress…

I used to go to one of those nail salons that have a very basic name like Fancy Nail or Shiny Nail or Glamour Nail. You know the kind of place. Owned and operated by a group of Asian people. They have big thrones for pedicures, rows of tables of people wearing masks while putting on fake nails, day in and day out. Chattering to each other in their native tongue, leaving you to wonder if they aren’t talking about how gross your feet are. At any rate, I liked the place I went to. The people were friendly. The place was clean. And I liked their work.

I never had a regular person I saw there. I usually would just end up with whoever was next on the list to take a client. For the most part, everyone there was young-ish. Casually dressed. But there was this one man, I’d guess in his late 40’s early 50’s. He was always dressed a little more formally than his coworkers. Nice slacks, dress shirt, shiny loafers. He looked like he should have been in an office somewhere, not scrubbing the dead skin off my feet. I never could remember his name, because I am shitty with names in the way the Brad Pitt is shitty with faces.

One Sunday, he gets to working on my manicure, and he starts talking to me. Ugh. I’m not a fan of idle conversation. I stink at communicating. It’s easier for me to be silent than talk to people (and I am working on that). He asks me what I do, and I tell him. Where do I work? I tell him that too. He becomes animated and starts telling me about his son, who is in medical school.

“That’s quite a commitment.” I say

“Yes! Long time! Many years! So expensive!”

The man goes on to talk about cost of books. Cost of school. How hard his son works. Then I realize that this man, this business-dressed man, does manicures and pedicures every day, so his son can be a doctor. Think about that. He came to this country, and he touches some nasty-assed feet, so his son can go to college. What the hell did you do today??

Sometimes, it seems like that sense of sacrifice is lost on Americans today. Everyone is entitled. Everyone gets a trophy for just showing up and converting oxygen into CO2. For every person out there who turns their nose up at a job because it is “beneath them”, there’s a parent out there that take shit jobs so their kids won’t ever have to. Now, we have people who bleat about how immigrants come and “take their jerbs!”only to turn their own noses up at a tomato picking job that pays minimum wage because the work is too hard. For these immigrants, both legal and illegal, no job is too hard if it means their kid gets the chance at a better life.

I still think about that man, who was brave enough to file the dead skin off my feet. I hope that his son succeeds. If his dad’s work ethic is any indication, that boy is going to be an awesome doctor. Maybe even a podiatrist!

This Old House

front view

Late last summer, Log and I moved. On the drive back from a two-week Chicago visit, we discussed, in earnest, what we wanted for our future. Staying in our current house wasn’t ideal. We were quickly outgrowing it. I told him that I liked the idea of having a house on some acreage, room for Lil G to play and grow.

Less than 2 months after that conversation, we were moving into our new country home. What can I say, my husband gets shit done.

What to do with the old house? We toyed with the idea of renting it out, but ultimately decided that neither of us had the time nor patience for that, so we listed it. We took a pretty big hit, but the house was finally closed on this past month.

Before we closed, we cleaned out the house. I made one last trip the say I signed the contract, and sat on the stairs. The same stairs I sat on the day I closed on the house so many years before. I stared into the vacant living room, the same as I did back then.

To be honest, I was sad. This was my first house. That I bought. On my own. I shared it with my dog, Sam, and my cat, George. In this house, I experienced heartbreak and triumph. The joys of home ownership, and the pitfalls of it.

Log moved in, but it wasn’t quite his home. It took me a while to understand that. The pets passed on, the house being the only remnant left of my old life. The life of solitude, and sitting around in the cover of darkness, waiting for something to happen.

And then something did happen. I met someone. Got married. Had a baby. Changed jobs. Opened windows to let the sunlight in.

As I sat there, I thanked the house for being a good house. For being solid while my little family sprouted. For being warm in the winter. Cool in the summer. Dry when it rained. A safe place to bring my baby home to. Allowing me to know what being in a stable house felt like. I wished for the house to have a new owner that would appreciate it and love it just as much as I did. It may sound like a silly thing to some, but when you come from nothing, a good house can mean everything.

After one last glance back, I drove away. Like a new butterfly emerging from the cocoon, I flitted away to my new adventure.

To Boob or Not to Boob…

Breastfeeding. It’s the new-old hotness for all new moms. Back in the day, breastfeeding had a negative stigma. Formula was all the rage. It had everything a baby needed, just add water! Only dirt poor women who couldn’t afford formula breastfed. It almost became a third-world concept. I don’t know a lot of people my age that were breastfed, but then again, it’s not something I go asking about during dinner parties.

I don’t claim to be an authority on breastfeeding, although there are thousands of professional and amateur experts on the matter. I only have my own experience to go on. Mommies are just going to have to make up their own damn mind. If you can’t make up your mind, I’m sure there is a sanctimommy somewhere close that will make up your mind for you.

So, when I was pregnant, I understood breastfeeding on a basic, almost neanderthal level: Boob + Baby = Happily Fed Baby. I didn’t remember a whole lot about it from my nursing school days, so I signed up for a class about it offered at ACME Hospital. It was free, and only demanded a few hours one Saturday morning.

(Log, deciding that this was something he didn’t need a lot of info about, opted not to go. Regret would set in later when I told him about all the naked boobs they had in the video.)

I can’t say that I felt enlightened after the class was over, but I did feel a little more comfortable with the idea. After all, breastfeeding is the only way to go to be a successful mom, right?? If you are don’t breastfeeding your baby, they will grow into sick adults that have the intellect of a Republican Presidential candidate. Right??  Truth be told, I probably felt more pressure after the class than before it.

The pressure to breastfeed is almost borderline ridiculous. I don’t think I ever experienced so much stress since boards. After I had Lil G, my job was to present her boob, and her job was to suck. Turns out, we both were not very good at our responsibilities. Lil G tried to suck my nipple off, to a boob that wasn’t producing much milk. Meanwhile, I’m on a floor where the walls are literally covered with pictures of breastfeeding women from around the globe! There’s even posters in my room in both English and Spanish preaching the merits of breastfeeding. I felt like an absolute failure, and Lil G was barely 24 hours old.

They even had the lactation consultant come in and help. So, this woman I just met, is manhandling my boob, while trying to show me what a successful latch is. All that comes out is a few droplets of precious colostrum, which I am told is all the baby needs. But Lil G’s cries makes me think she’s still hungry.

My milk finally decides to show up 3 days later, but it’s not smooth sailing. My nipples look like bleeding meatballs, and pain that comes with every 2 hour feeding is immense. We bust out the pump to save my anguish and Lil G from having to drink pink milk. Lil G is getting a little nourishment, but she is still loosing weight.

I met with the lactation specialist at my pediatrician’s office. She brought out the Boppy pillow and we had many meetings about being a champion breastfeeder. I’d say that I didn’t get the hang of it until week three. For my lactation specialist, breastfeeding was the ONLY option. I even asked about supplementing with formula, and she strongly vetoed the idea. I even got “the look” for asking.

My pediatrician, however, was a bit more sympathetic. She didn’t subscribe to the Exclusive Boob Club, knowing that every mom is unique in her experience. Some can do it, some can’t, and both are perfectly fine options. She made me feel like less of a failure.

Before birth, my plan was to breastfeed Lil G for at least a year. A full year of my life as a food source. It’s funny how life happens. I threw in the towel, along with the breast pump, at the 3 month mark. At 2 months, Lil G went on a combination of formula and breast milk, with me pumping as much supplemental reserves as I could. I returned to work after 12 weeks, and I knew I realistically couldn’t continue breastfeeding. I barely got a lunch break as it was, how was I going to squeeze in a couple 15 minute pumping sessions???

The switch to formula was seamless. Formula readily available, plus I have a small reserve on hand for sick days when Lil G plays “Pass the Binky” with her daycare cohorts and catches the Germ of the Day.

When I decided to stop pumping, I remember feeling anxiety, and a sense of loss. Which was stupid, but a feeling nonetheless. I had already bonded with my baby, more time on boob was not going to enhance it. She was developing like a normal baby. She was healthy and strong. It wasn’t until I packed away some clothes that she had outgrown that I realized it wasn’t the breastfeeding I would miss, but it was the passing of a milestone that I was mourning. She was growing up. I was experiencing “The Last..”

I don’t begrudge the Mommies who still breastfeed, that is their choice as much as my choice to stop was mine to make. I just wish the pressure wasn’t there. From pre-birth, to birth and recovery, and the months that follow…the pressure is everywhere. From the specialists, both real and imagined. From sanctimommies that look at you like you are some dimwit when you bust out the formula. Screw that noise! My Lil G is happy and healthy, and I wouldn’t change a damn thing about it. Besides, that singular sharp tooth she has sprouted has made me grateful that she is now bottle-fed.

Anyone who judges me for it, will probably get boob-punched.