Monthly Archives: March 2015

Shaming, past and present

This morning, the governor of my state signed a bill into law that makes it legal for Indiana businesses to refuse services to certain classes of citizens.

Well.  Technically, this was already legal, because there are no federal or state protections for sexual orientation.  But, now that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act is Indiana law, the state has officially endorsed the idea that a business owner can refuse service to an individual who, in the business owner’s eyes, represents a threat to that business owner’s religion.  And that the business owner will be able to use “religious freedom” as an accepted defense in the courtroom.  That’s a big deal.

Those of us who live here know this law exists so that Indiana businesses can now legally deny service to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the name of God.  The Indiana GOP is furious than they cannot uphold the same sex marriage ban anymore–and, with all these homoseckshuls gittin’ hitched, by gum, they might want to have weddings and flowers and cakes and such!  God forbid that finally allowing people their civil rights might improve the economy or anything.  Well. You go, Mike Pence and your fellow whiny manbabies in the statehouse.   You’ve made sure that won’t be happening here any time soon.  There are certainly other groups who can and will be affected by this law.  But the legislature has made no secret of who is the real target here.

This is a shameful day in the history of this state, where we already have more than our fair share of history that deserves shaming.  Back in the 1920s and 1930s, the bigots who controlled our state legislature wore hoods and sheets.  Today’s bigots don’t wear their beds in public.  They’re perfectly happy to show their faces and their crosses while they practice their hatred.  I’m not sure which is worse.

For those of you scrolling down to the comment section to tell me something about #NOTALLCHRISTIANS  or some other nonsense, save yourself the trouble.  If you are a Christian, and you are not standing up with your cross and speaking out against hatred, unconditionally and publicly, then you are part of the problem,  no matter how enlightened you feel you are.

The ball is in your court now.  You need to go speak to your Christian brothers and sisters who believe in hatred, and ask them what the hell is wrong with them.  You need to take your evangelism and your prosthelytizing and turn them inwards, on your own faith community, and you need to fix yourselves.  Don’t waste one second explaining to me about all the different kinds of Christians out there, because I’m quite aware.  Leave me alone and go talk to your co-religionists, because this is your problem, and the rest of us will be over here trying to survive while you pray it out.

Christians are not the only religious people who need to examine their own beliefs, however.  All religion have blind spots, some worse than others.

Sometimes there is right and there is wrong and there is no middle ground.  To continually search for a way to stand with the right while refusing to stand against the wrong is a fool’s game with no end.  You do not have to agree with everyone in the world at the same time, because that is insanity.  A religion that tells its adherents that they must do this is a religion doomed to failure. By presenting every viewpoint as equally valid, such a religion ignores everything that is known and true about humanity, folds over on itself, and becomes meaningless.

Sometimes, like it or not, you have to pick a side.

I have been accused of seeing the world only in black and white and not shades of grey.  Usually, people who tell me this are much less concerned with right and wrong, and much more concerned with not making waves.  To them, “shades of grey” means, “Keep the peace! Keep the peace! Who cares at what price– just for God’s sake, DON’T ROCK THE BOAT!”

These are people who think that steadying the boat on a sea of prejudice to keep the goodwill of bigots is apparently more important than standing up for what is right.

Do not be fooled into assuming that the only people who do this are conservative, or Christian, or members of the Indiana GOP.

The staff of my [former] Unitarian Universalist church did the same thing recently, when they decided that it was okay to use homophobic and sexist materials from an evangelical Christian organization for teen programming.

The minister and other staff who chose this material made it very clear that they intended to change the materials and only use what was “relevant” for us, “leaving out” the bigotry.  I was not satisfied with this explanation for many reasons.   They also joined a “cohort” of other churches using this material. Membership in the cohort costs several thousand dollars.

By doing so, our church is now financially supporting institutionalized homophobia.  The organization that produces these materials specifically states that openly gay people will not be hired, and if they are found to be gay after working there, they can be fired. The organization has many other oppressive beliefs.  But this one should have been enough to give any reasonable person pause.

I did believe that the church staff would not purposely teach homophobia and sexism to our teenagers.  However, I did not know how much I could trust people who not only chose this material, but who lied to co workers and congregation members about it.  The more I found out, the more horrified I was.  This church is now publicly, officially affiliated with a program that openly espouses homophobia in its materials and on its website and in its policies.

Plus, it did not matter how much the church “changed” these materials.  Would the church take materials that said that black or brown people were inferior, say “oh we are leaving out the racism so no biggie!” and then expect that people would be okay with paying money to use them? Why was I attending a church where I would even need to use a comparison like that to explain something?
Why was–is–it ok to ask LGBTQ people to be “patient” and to put up with blatant disregard for their humanity in the name of  tolerance for the intolerant?

I came to understand that the religious freedom of bigots had become more important to my church than supporting and affirming the worth and dignity of every LGBTQ person in our own congregation.

I wrote a letter of complaint to our minister about our church being affiliated with and financially supporting an openly homophobic institution. Nothing happened, except that I was told to step back.  I waited for two months to see if the church would rethink their decision.  They didn’t.  I told other people about the situation.  Uproar on the part of the clergy, staff, and many congregants ensued.  Not because people were upset to realize that our church was using these materials and supporting homophobia in word and deed even if they were not teaching it.

No.  Most people were–and are–upset with me for daring to suggest that this was wrong.  They were, and are, upset with me for taking a stand for what is right, but they are even more upset with me for taking a stand against what is wrong.  You cannot be both right and wrong in this situation.  By choosing the right,  I stood against the wrong.  This was unacceptable.

They were, and are, upset that I refused to back down and that I still haven’t.

It should be clear that I will not do so in the future, either.

I was told in no uncertain terms that I was the one who was intolerant, and that I was wrong.  It was not acceptable for me to notice and draw attention to homophobia, because this meant that I was not assuming “people’s best intentions”. Even though “people” had made a terrible, embarrassing mistake that they refused to undo out of pride and ignorance, I was in the wrong because I refused to pat these people on the head and apologize for noticing their giant clusterfuck.  I was even more wrong for daring to insist that they fix it.

I was so wrong, in fact, that I was told this from the pulpit in a fiery, angry sermon.  The kind of sermon you might expect at a fire and brimstone kind of evangelical Christian church–but nothing like anything you would ever, ever associate with a Unitarian Universalist church.  Well.  That’s what I thought.  Then, it happened to me and a friend.  We were called out from the pulpit.  We were accused of “Christian bashing” among other things.

The message from the pulpit was clear: “Get out”.

And it was underlined by the standing ovation that the congregation gave at the end.

This minister is someone I admired for many, many years.  In the three years I’ve been a member of the church, she became a trusted and much loved friend as well as a minister.  I respected her completely and felt that her integrity and her generous and loving soul were what made our church the amazing place that it is.

To be told to get out by someone like that in front of everyone you know is pretty terrifying.  It isn’t very loving.  And it certainly isn’t very tolerant.
What it mostly is, though, is heartbreaking. Imagine the worst time your heart has ever been broken.  Then, imagine that the place that just broke your heart like that is also the place that in many ways, saved your life.  And that brought you back among the living when you thought that you would never be among them again.

That is the kind of heartbreak that I felt that day.  That I still feel.

My beliefs were no longer acceptable to my church, because I refused to go along with the support of a homophobic organization.  I would not be able to continue attending church, teaching religious education, or taking part in church activities, unless I shut up.  Without my silence, I would become an acceptable, even necessary casualty.

I have become one.

It was and is more important for this church to keep its public affiliation with a homophobic institution than it is to listen to its own congregants.   The church has doubled and tripled down, and they continue to do so.  Since I am no longer welcome there, and since most people will just go along and not rock the boat, the controversy will die down.  Indeed, it is doing so already.

And soon, no one will remember anything except that cool sermon that time that got a standing ovation.  People will conveniently forget, if they ever knew, that what they applauded was the shunning of at least two [formerly] treasured members of the church community, who dared to say that perhaps our church should not stand together and be counted with an institution that believes that LGBTQ people are less than human and who do not deserve equal rights.

The reason I am bringing this up, on today of all days, is because today is a day when I wish I still had my former beloved church community.

Today is a day when the world has become a crueler and harsher place, with hatred no longer afraid to lurk in the shadows.  Today is a day when I almost wish that I had shut up, that I stifled my views, and that I’d just decided to let it go.

But, you see, if I’d done that, I wouldn’t have any right to be outraged and revolted by the actions of the Indiana government today.  To accept hate in one situation, and to denounce it in another, based on personal convenience, both negates the denouncement and encourages further acceptance of the unacceptable.

So, today, when so many of my former fellow UUs are furious about and disgusted by the signing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in our state, I wonder:  How are they  able to reconcile that pain and anger over this blatant injustice with their simultaneous acceptance of their church’s public affiliation with an institution that has the exact same belief system that produced this legislation?

Sometimes, rocking the boat is the only possible response to a situation, even if you risk drowning in the process.

I am still breathing.


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The Returning and also the Visiting

After seven full days of solitude filled with prayer, meditation, self reflection, and mindfulness, I have been catapulted back to reality. The Olds have returned, and, as a special bonus, my sister is visiting. My solace is that she brought her husband with her, plus, now there are people here who know how to put water in the Keurig. The downside is, being alone has lowered my defenses and this can be dangerous when certain people are around.

For example, here is one of my sister’s favorite activities during her visits:
She steals my cell phone and then posts as me, on Facebook. So far she has only done it once this visit.  Usually she manages at least two to three posts a visit, of varying degrees of revoltingosity.  Topics are usually related to bodily functions or sudden, insane political changes of heart. Or both.

The worst part is, the minute she hits “post”, approximately 75 of my closest friends comment “Hi Laura! Guess Wendy hasn’t learned to use a passcode yet! You are the funniest person ever and I am glad you aren’t MY sister! Keep up the good work!”
Or some such nonsense.

This encourages her, and is not helpful. It also means that she is so pleased with herself that she becomes almost unbearable.
My only recourse in these situations is to bond with her husband, who is a lovely, patient man. Very patient. Extremely so. Unbelievably, even.  He enjoys hearing stories of her childhood, for they give him many insights as to how early in life she developed certain character traits. He can then use this information to understand and even tolerate some of her strange behavioral quirks, such as when she insists on wearing one piece of clothing for weeks on end. Otherwise he might not know that she has been doing this kind of thing for a good 30 years.
When she was maybe 4, she developed an attachment to vintage slips from the 50s. No. Do not ask me why we had such items of clothing in a 1980s household, for I know not. I merely accept, and turn it over to Jesus, as one does.  At least Jesus saw fit to supply us with two slips, for she wore one every day, as a dress, for about a year, and this meant that we could wash one while she wore the other.
And, the slips were actually much less startling than the furry hot pink jacket she has been wearing now for a week, both in and outside the house. It looks like it has a fever, which I assume makes it feel even warmer than it is.

As if guarding my phone with my life was not enough, I now also have to deal with the capricious and often petty mood changes of the Olds. I was glad to see them for at least an hour. But then,  one  of them got a little obnoxious while she was washing the greasy roasting pan I cooked a chicken in for a very small dinner party on Friday.  While she scraped the bits of carrot and potato out of the bottom of the pan [along with quite a lot of hardened chicken fat and skin] she continually sighed and muttered to herself. I did not need her negative attitude clouding up my balanced aura and inner peace I achieved last week, and I told her so on my way through the kitchen.
After that, she repeatedly banged together what sounded like the baking sheet from Wednesday night, the pasta and sauce pans from Monday, and the inside of the rice cooker from Thursday as loudly as possible.

I think she may have been doing it on purpose.

Even so, I asked her very nicely to please keep it down because I was going to take a nap next door in the living room.  She did not even have the decency to reply. As I settled down on the couch, though, I am pretty sure that I heard her mumble more words I did not realize were in her lexicon. I have rarely been called things like that, even when I deserved it. But, I am a generous person, so I did not mention her comments when I shouted for quiet from the next room. After all, I had had to get to at the crack of 10am having only had 9 hours of sleep, and I was worn out. I had fed the dog, myself, and watched seven episodes of Criminal Minds so far; was it too much to ask that someone, who had spent the past 8 hours just lounging around in cars and airports and airplanes,  shoulder a part of my burden??

Apparently people who have been traveling since dawn feel like they can just march in the door, drop their suitcases, not bring me a thoughtful thank you gift for all of my help holding down the fort, and proceed to spend the rest of the day lying around sighing about how exhausted THEY are. And of course my sister always takes their side, because she thinks I am horrible and selfish and ungrateful. I have told her that the true glory of humanity is how we are all different and each of us is a different and fascinating assemblage of behaviors and emotions that are all equal in God’s eyes. She said that this would be more convincing if I were not such a godless atheist that I even got kicked out of a Unitarian Universalist church, but I told her that she needed to open her mind to Possibility or some kind of crap like that.

Have just realized that I do not know where my cell phone is. Oh no.

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The Returning

Lo, as I type these very words, the Olds are on their way back home. After an exhausting week of relaxation, sunshine, ocean, eating cake for breakfast and lunch, lounging by the pool, day drinking, evening drinking, night drinking, drunk dialing/texting all of their offspring with blurry photos of what appear to be flamingos and old women in various stages of inebriation, sober-texting me requests not to dispose of rotten produce and helpful housekeeping tips (No. I am not cleaning the caper closet. Assholes), eating at gourmet restaurants while I subsist on dry cereal and peanut butter eaten from a spoon (ran out of milk and bread around Tuesday), and ignoring any of my texts that need answers–
“Out of silverware. Please advise”
“Bread has ended; no spoons, no way to consume peanut butter please send help NOW”
“The dog has been stolen” (Didn’t actually send that–although that one they would have responded to, but there would have been no need to worry, since no one would keep her for more than an hour without paying us to take her back)
–after all of that, they are, right now, traveling from Florida to Indianapolis.

Since I have had the misfortune to make this journey with them in the past, not to mention all of the other trips I have taken with them as a freeloading adult, I would now like to describe what it is like to Travel With the Olds, so that everyone can understand why staying at home, doing laundry, cleaning the refrigerator, and eating bits of leftover stale food for a week is preferable to a week in Florida. For me, at least.

5:00 AM: Oldest Old wakes up in panic. MUST GET TO AIRPORT ASAP!! FLIGHT LEAVES AT 10am!!! HURRY HURRY HURRY! (falls back asleep)
5:32 AM: Oldest Old wakes up again. Hears other Old and her sister, Aunt Old, in other room having coffee, not having the hangovers they deserve, and cackling.
5:33-6:49: General rushing around of all three Olds. Lots of asking each other if have seen this or that while trying to eat all the leftovers in the fridge and putting whatever leftover liquor they have into leftover orange juice which they purchased to drink for breakfast and which has in fact only been used as a mixer all week
6:50: Oldest Old shoos other two Olds out of condo, so he can do a last walkthrough to check for anything they have forgotten.
6:51: Other Olds stand in parking lot giggling and making hurtful but honest observations about the absolute ridiculosity that the Oldest Old thinks he can find ANYTHING.
6:55: Oldest Old reappears and asks why the hell they aren’t in the car yet.
6:56: Aunt Old cunningly says that her coffee has kicked in, and can she have the key for a minute as she has something to attend to.
7:05: Aunt Old opens door of (already running) car, gets in, hands Oldest Old his wallet and iPad, and does not look at the other Old so as to prevent unladylike whoopings of laughter.
7:06: Oldest Old peels out of parking lot and refuses to speak until they reach the airport 30 minutes later.
7:56: After stressful job of returning rental car and having to go back and search it twice, once for his wallet and once for his suitcase, the Oldest Old is once again not speaking to the other Olds, who are positively bursting at the seams with mirth and delight at how unhungover they are, how annoyed the Oldest Old is with everything in general right now, and how so much of that annoyance is directed at them in particular.
8:04: He continues not speaking to them while they check in at the counter. Within seconds, he disappears into a crowd of other Olds all wearing khaki old man sunhats and Blue Blocker sunglasses, who, like him, are racing towards their gates to catch flights which will not leave for several hours yet.  Since he is tall, sometimes his old man hat can be seen bobbing above the crowd, but eventually it is impossible to tell which pastel pink hatband is his in the distance.
8:28: Other Olds arrive, panting and exhausted, at gate, to find Oldest Old calmly reading a newspaper and finishing some kind of delicious breakfast pastry, of which he has pointedly purchased only one. He nods in greeting and stiffly returns to his paper.
8:29: Other Olds take seats near him whispering and giggling, and then ask him loud questions about how long until they are supposed to board and do they have time to get coffee and does he want anything even though he must be full after eating whatever that was that he didn’t share
8:30 Oldest old mumbles something about having plenty of time and turns down offers of anything.
(Fun fact: Flight does not leave til 11:00am, not 10:00 as previously thought. All this means to Other Olds is more time to find a bar serving Bloody Marys before 9:00am)
8:31-10:20 Consumption of Bloody Marys. Approximately 19 trips to bathroom. Continued pouting from Oldest Old. More giggling and whispering from other Olds, punctuated by incredibly loud text alerts from their phones, as they have just discovered how hilarious it is to text each other things about the Oldest Old while sitting right behind him.
10:21 Boarding announced. Oldest Old immediately apparates to the front of the line, while the Other Old and Aunt Old take tearful leave of one another.
10:23  My Olds disappear into plane.   Aunt Old collapses into wild, uncontrollable laughter and goes in search of bar.

Right now, they are still in the air. This means I have approximately 2, maybe 3 hours during which I must clean the entire house, procure groceries I lied about getting two days ago, and also find the dog.

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Team McUseless

Sometimes, when I am bored and there is no one around for me to torment, I have to resort to texting my sister annoying questions.


I do this because I know it infuriates her, and that amuses me.

The reason it infuriates her is because it reminds her of when one of the Olds had knee replacement surgery. The Kneeless Old had (k)needed a (k)new knee for some time, but kept putting it off. Finally, the Kneeful Old and I convinced her that it was time. She could barely walk without extreme pain, and all of her constant complaining and negativity was starting to get on our nerves. Plus, she was having trouble getting around well enough to do all of our errands, and eventually, I had to start going with her to do them. I did not move home to spend my days picking up prescriptions and dry cleaning and purchasing groceries, for Christ’s sake, and I told her so.

Her reply seemed unduly harsh, so I will not reproduce it here.

The prospect of having to rely on me and worse, the Kneeful Old, finally proved to be even more terrifying than the thought of surgery, and so she scheduled it with her surgeon.

It was at that point that the Kneeful Old and I had a sobering realization. Who would be taking care of the Kneeless Old’s normal duties while she was recovering? It would be at least 4 weeks, and possibly 8, until her new knee would be functional enough for her to resume her responsibilities. We asked her what we were supposed to do during that time. Once again, her reply seemed more pointed than the situation required, and contained some words that I had not realized were in her vocabulary.

Yes, she was facing a surgery where basically her lower leg would be almost completely detached, secured only by some skin and a couple of strands of muscle fiber. She would have to remain in the hospital for at least three days, and then would have to spend a week to ten days in a nursing home recovering, while learning to walk again and undergoing physical therapy. Then, when she came home, her activity would be very limited for another couple of weeks, and she would not be able to drive for at least 6 weeks. This all sounded a little stressful, at least for her.

More stressful than that, however, was the idea that the Kneeful Old and I would be left to shift for ourselves for at least a week, and would then be expected to care for the New Knee Old as well.

This meant that for the week she was in the nursing home, we would be left alone in the house with no method of obtaining or preparing food. There was no one to collect spoons, or to make them clean again. The Kneeful Old would surely run out of clean clothes, especially considering that he believes if he wears something for two hours, that it must be washed again before putting it on for another two hours.
Someone would have to remember to let the second floor dog out, and to supply her with food twice a day.
There would be no way to make coffee, since once the water compartment in the Keurig was empty, we would not be able to fill it again. Which probably wouldn’t matter, since when we left our dirty coffee cups in the sink, they would not reappear, clean, in the cupboard.

It was a problem.

Worse, was that when the New Knee Old got home, we would be expected to not only continue living in this slipshod manner, but we would have to add caring for her to our packed schedules. And, unlike those of us who were satisfied to subsist on cereal (until the milk ran out), cold cuts, peanut butter eaten from a spoon, and ice cream, she would require something akin to actual meals with nutritional content, and would probably also insist that these meals be COOKED.
After a short conference during which the Kneeful  Old and I assessed our skills and found them lacking or non-existent, we could come up with only one solution.  There was no way we could handle all of this and stick to our busy work schedules. We work from home, but people do not understand that this means that you never leave the office.  You simply work constantly, until someone reminds you to take a break and eat something before you pass out from sheer industriousness. The kind of dedication we had to our daily tasks simply would not permit us to do justice to the Newly Knee’d Old in her time of need. Also, there was no cable outlet in the room she would be staying in, and we would not be able to watch Criminal Minds in there.

Someone else would have to take over.  Someone who could cook.  Someone who knew how to put water in the Keurig.  Someone who would go to the food store and purchase food.  Someone who would be willing to watch soap operas with the New Knee Old in a non-judgmental and non-ridiculing way. And we knew just the right person for this job.

My sister needed to come and do all of these things so that the Kneeful Old could remain in his office adding to his spoon hoard, and so that I could retreat to my studio and maintain my strict napping and Criminal Minds watching schedules.

We knew that if we asked her, though, that she would think of many unnecessary and inconvenient questions, like “How is it possible for two adults who are not even Republicans to be so incredibly selfish and inconsiderate?” and “Are you serious?” as well as “What the hell is wrong with you assholes?”

So we came up with a cunning plan. We would simply have to appear as helpless and incompetent as possible, and text her lots of idiotic questions while sounding as sincere and stupid as we could, and she would end up so disgusted with us that she would rush home and take over.

It worked perfectly.

Within two days, she appeared, told us to get the hell out of her way and not to speak to her, and fixed everything. That night there was cooked food that included vegetables and protein, and it was served on real plates and not paper ones or eaten directly from containers.
By the next day, we could even take showers again, because now there were clean towels and we had already used all of the paper towels when the real ones ran out.  Plus, the newly knee’d Old could come home and not run the risk of getting a terrible infection, because my sister knew how to clean the bathroom and put clean cloth things on the beds—sheets, she called them! I knew they had a specific name! Plus, we could cut back on our nap schedules, since we could now have coffee again because my sister knew how to put water in the Keurig.

The Kneeful Old and I had to put up with certain indignities like being referred to only as “Team McUseless” and several other unprintable names. Since neither of us have the ability to feel shame, we had to remind each other to look suitably chastened every so often. For the first few days, my sister insisted that we help with tasks that she felt were consistent with our abilities, such as bringing pitchers of ice water upstairs to New Knee Old or taking meal trays back down stairs.  Sometimes, she also thought she should be able to sleep, and this meant that we might have to actually sit in the room with the New Knee Old and talk to her and stuff. Luckily, I remembered that I had three seasons of Criminal Minds on DVD, so this was almost bearable, even though they were bad hair seasons for Dr. Reid.

So, things settled into a kind of routine. The New Knee Old was recovering nicely. My sister was secretly delighted to have two people to boss around, and knew that she was earning endless points towards Number One* status. And the Kneeful Old and I were able to maintain our normal schedules while performing the absolute minimum of help possible. Naturally, this could not last.

In order to make things more fun,  the Kneeful Old and I started keeping a running tally of who did what, and obviously we began to assign certain tasks point values.
Bringing water upstairs: 5 points.
Helping New Knee Old change her bandage: 30 points.
Putting a load of laundry in the dryer: 10 points
Helping New Knee Old bathe: 1000 points.
And so on.
It became fairly involved, and it was becoming difficult for us to keep track of who had how many points.

There was a dry erase board in the New Knee Old’s sickroom. This was where my sister was keeping track of how much water the New Knee Old drank, what exercises she was supposed to do when, and some other stuff that had to do with pain medication that had to be carefully doled out or something.

The Kneeful Old and I realized that we needed some kind of easily updatable score keeping method. Like a dry erase board. So we erased all of the boring charts my sister had carefully created, and replaced her neat, clear handwriting with our wild scrawls.

It wasn’t just the fact that we were keeping score, or even that we erased her charts that caused my sister to ban the Kneeful Old and me from being in her presence during the rest of her visit.  What sealed our fate was when she realized that we were not competing for the most points, but that the winner was the person who earned the fewest points.


Of course I won.
* I have two siblings. I am the oldest, then my brother, and then my sister. We continually jockey for the positions of Number One, Number Two, and Loser. Living with the Olds should earn me constant Number One status, but sadly, it does not.

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Eyes, eyes everywhere.

Sometimes people accuse me of exaggerating when I speak of the Olds.  Usually, those people have never met them.

I submit as evidence the following:


Notice that I did not ask about the fruits and vegetables in various states of decomposition. That’s because I do not wish to be told that any of them are in any way salvageable by people who will not even be here for several more days. I am worried that the sweet potato may be left over from Thanksgiving, but I will not ask.  I am throwing them all away, because I cannot stand to have so many eyes staring at me.

When I lived at home for a year after college, one* of the Olds would become enraged if I left so much as a dirty spoon in the sink. Obviously, sometimes the temptation was too great, and I would purposely leave bowls and plates and cups in there as well.  Until the night I came home exhausted, kicked off my shoes, and flung myself on the bed without pulling back the covers.  Ouch.  There were hard lumps in my bed, and this was a time in my life when my bed was not used to having hard lumps of any kind in it.

The Old had decided to teach me a lesson, and put my dirty dishes IN MY BED.  Now. This was not especially surprising, because when my siblings and I were younger, we would usually come in the front door after school, drop our bookbags and pull off our shoes, and sometimes, it was a little cluttered.  When the clutter became too much, and we forgot to pick up our things, this Old solved the problem by opening the front door and throwing whatever was in his way out in the yard.  Even if it was raining.

I wonder if the potatoes will produce more sprouts after spending the rest of the week under the sheets at the foot of the Olds’ bed. And, if they drunk dial/text me one more time tonight, I’m adding the bananas.




*This Old now keeps spoons and coffee cups in his lair, which he will bring down when no one is around, and leave them in the sink.  Once I counted eleven spoons.

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There’s no way your Friday night lives up to mine.


That is what is going on in my house right now.

Utter, blessed silence.

This is because I am what I refer to as “Oldsfree”. For an entire week.

Here is the exciting thing I do first when the Olds are out of town, which, thanks be to Jesus and all of his little baby animals, they often are:

I clean the refrigerator.

Yes. This is my life. Be jealous.

Cleaning the refrigerator is something I tried to do as infrequently as possible when I lived by myself or with significant others. In fact, I sometimes left disgusting things in the refrigerator on purpose in order to get rid of certain significant others. Usually when I get to that point in a relationship, though, the other is so firmly attached that I would have to leave a severed human head in there, with a sign specifically stating that “Yes! This could be you!!” for it to do any good.

Food is one of the main OldsInterests. Both of them are brilliant cooks, although one of them pretends that he isn’t most of the time so as to avoid having to do it. Both of them have excellent taste and are food snobs. As a friend of the family describes them, they were foodies before foodies were called foodies. We do not eat prepared foods, except for cereal. We shop at farmer’s markets and local butcher shops and the hippie co-op. I take completely for granted the fact that I eat meals daily that are better than you can get in most restaurants. This is because I am thoughtless and ungrateful, but I am due to start working on this with my therapist very soon.

The problem though, is that the Olds lack any sense of how much food is an appropriate amount to keep on hand for three people. If there were three adults and possibly five teenagers and a couple of toddlers on hand, we would have approximately just a little too much food at all times. As it is, we have an enormous refrigerator that holds far too much, and which is so large that we lose things in it. Some of us cannot even reach parts of it without standing on something.

For many years, we had a normal sized refrigerator that was a side by side model. Then, one day, the Olds wandered off for a few hours and came back looking pleased with themselves and slightly guilty. They then stood in the kitchen whispering things like “Well, should we measure it?” “We’ve already ordered it now!” and “I’m pretty sure it will!” “I guess we’ll see” accompanied by giggling and shushing.

Living with them is a lot like living with fourth grade girls, but with more Irish whiskey.

Anyway, it came to light that they had somehow found themselves at a place that sold appliances, and before they knew what had happened, they had ordered an enormous new stainless steel refrigerator, which, naturally, they had not actually measured to see if it would fit in the alcove where the current fridge was located. Of course, it would not have mattered if they HAD measured it, because they had not measured the alcove either. Most people would measure both the space AND the potential fridge before making a purchase.

The Olds are not most people.

The old fridge already held way too much food, as evidenced by the amount of it that always got wasted. The primary food preparing Old claimed that this was because it was too deep and she couldn’t see to the back of the shelves, so things “got lost”. Since the other Old and I prefer to claim complete incompetence in the kitchen so as to avoid having to do anything that seems like cooking, we would just accept this ridiculous excuse. And, when they went away, I would go through it, find the invisible lost food,  and rearrange what was left so that it was accessible and also so that it looked like food.

The new, magnificent fridge, which would PROBABLY fit, would supposedly not have this invisible food problem, because it had a freezer on the bottom and double doors on the top, which opened up to a space the size of a smallish two car garage. I decided I would refrain from comment until it was delivered and supposedly installed.

Naturally, because the Olds are like this, when new fridge was delivered, it was a perfect fit. I think there is some kind of quote about God protecting children and fools. They are not children any more, but still, apparently, under his protection.

Anyway. The problem with the new fridge is, it is enormous on a scale of ginormity that is mindbogglingly huge. I am pretty sure that in New York, it would qualify as a two bedroom apartment because it has a crisper, a cheese drawer, and a wine cooler thing. There are TWO icemakers. The freezer is big enough to hold at least two good sized golden retrievers, or, in our case, at least five gallons of ice cream and fourteen gallons of frozen sweet Indiana corn and probably twenty containers of homemade strawberry jam/frozen daquiris.
[We make both. Sometimes, you can’t tell which is which until you’ve already spread it on your toast. Rum is a little strong in the morning, but you get used to it.]

The invisible food problem, though, is worse. Because now, the top shelf is too high for one of the Olds. And the other Old thinks it is extremely humorous to put things up there and shove them to the back, precisely so that she can’t reach them. I can’t either. And, since the tallest Old cannot even remember if he is wearing pants half the time, the minute he has hilariously hidden something, it no longer exists to him at all.
[No. I do not worry about Alzheimer’s. He has been this way since I have been alive, and probably, long before. I do worry about one or both of them getting dementia, but then again, they may have already had it for years. This would explain a lot of things, actually.]

So, it is Friday night. I have the house to myself. My plans for the evening are set. I have brought the stepladder in from the garage, and things are ramping up.

And I just realized, we are out of garbage bags.




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Ground Rules, part the second


I will never share a television, computer, phone, or any yet to be invented method of technology with the Olds. This does not mean that I am not free to use any of these items that they possess, because indeed, the Olds would not be able to use several of them if I did not turn them on for them first thing in the morning. But: I will never be in any way responsible for their understanding of technology, I will never help them acquire new versions of it, and I most certainly will never be responsible for helping them set up anything more confusing than a blender.

Do not judge me, for you know not my struggle. Yet.

The Olds between them possess:

2 iPhones. They have Verizon. I have AT&T. They believe that iPhones serviced by different companies are entirely different and even though I have one, the way theirs are set up, I really can’t answer questions about their phones.
There are sins worse than lies. Believe me.

An iPad. Maybe two. I know one of them had one, and then he got a new one for Christmas. I do not know what happened to the original iPad. I will not ask, for fear that it will be offered to me, and then I will have to ask questions that can never be answered, such as, what is your Verizon password? What is your Netflix password? Was this once cheese? Why is it stuck to the webcam? And the speaker?

2 landline phones, 1 of which is a dedicated fax line—FAX.


The other landline is attached to several cordless phones. I am not sure how many. It may be nine. It could be four. On the main floor of the house, where I spend a few hours at most per day, I know that there are at least two bases for said phones. This never corresponds properly to the number of handsets. Either there is one, none, or four. Do not ask me questions that no living human can answer. This is just how it is.

There was once an extension of this landline on my floor. Sadly, it broke. It attempted to balance itself on top of a bookshelf, and one day, it threw itself to the floor. I tried to revive it, and succeeded only in accidentally removing the handset from its cord. And then, the poor thing put itself into the trash, and asked to be removed from the house entirely. What could I do, but grant it this last wish? So I did.

On the second floor, where I try to keep my visits as infrequent and short as possible, the handsets are legion and the bases must be invisible. This is not my problem, and may it ever so remain.

Approximately 3 working computers. I think. There are sometimes laptops in places like the garage which seem as though they must not be in use, since one of them has been sitting on an old chair for about two years*.

Each Old has a laptop, and then the primary income generating Old also has a desktop in his lair, aka as his “office”. Actually, he has one that works. There are other parts of what I believe were once computers in there. Most of them are on or strewn around a lovely old antique desk. They seem to be from different generations of technological advancement. I never speak of them, for fear I might be asked to do something with them.

At all costs, I avoid mentioning or doing anything that might cause the Olds to ask me anything about any technology. Ever. Sometimes this means that I must leave the house and pretend that my phone is dead for a few days. Sometimes, I must fake a severe double ear infection. Sometimes, I resort to covering my ears with both hands and shouting “LALALALA I AM NOT LISTENING I AM NOT LISTENING” until their mouths stop moving or I can run away or both. Whatever works.

This rule is the only way that I can continue living here, and the only way that the Olds may survive to operate their technology another day.

I am using the word “operate” in its most general and flexible sense here, for much of what they do with and to technology cannot really be deemed anything but abuse. I include here their interactions with the poor Macbook which lives in the kitchen. This sad little machine is used primarily to check e-mail, look up recipes, hold down cookbooks, open as many browser windows as possible as what I assume must be some kind of game, to check Facebook, (where only one of them has an account, which is in no way connected to my account as this is a subset of the technology ground rule: Absolutely no interaction with me on social media. Ever. For any reason.) and to read the local newspaper, even though the paper copy is usually to be found right next to it. Even though this Mac of course does not have a touchscreen, someone leaves a lot of floury and/or greasy fingerprints on the screen. And sometimes there are crumbs in the keyboard.
Sometimes, those crumbs look like they might be from dog food. I have never checked to see if there are noseprints on the screen. And will not.
I am so sorry, little Macbook.

Included in the technology arsenal of the Olds are also TVs. These will require their own, separate entry, and for me to have calmed down from today’s conversation about such in order to write it.


* Wait.
I just realized. That one belongs to me!! Whoa. I should probably see if it works.

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Ground rules, part one

Before I moved back in with the Olds, I set some ground rules. The first one concerned my future:

Any and all advice from them on what I would do next, including careers and schooling, was forbidden.

This sounds harsh. But it was necessary. So far, I had followed most of their advice* about major decisions my entire life, almost never stopping to differentiate between what they thought was best and what I wanted. Most of the time, this was fine. It is just that the Olds used to be more normal. They have never wanted to stand out from the crowd. They were able to fit in to society pretty easily.  (They are past this now. Whether this is for good or for ill, I cannot say. I just know that it is often disturbing and always hilarious.)

I, on the other hand, have never been someone who just slips into the crowd. Whether I like it or not, I stand out. I’m not sure that I stand out for necessarily positive reasons. But I do, no matter how hard I try to fade in. A therapist once told me I should be proud of that and that it meant I was powerful and charismatic. “Powerful” and “charismatic” were not qualities that helped me succeed in many areas of life, starting with getting kicked out of the Girl Scouts at age 10, and most recently, being kicked out of a church.

Since I admired and respected them as well as loved them, I always listened to the Olds first and myself later. Which was why I was 41 and about to move back in with them. I had failed at pretty much everything I had tried to do, and I kept having the sneaking suspicion that most of the things I had tried to do, were not really what I’d wanted to do anyway. This did not make my failure any less painful; instead it made it worse. I felt stupid for trying things I had never wanted anyway, but that I thought I was supposed to want, like being a homeowner. Most homeowners do things like make improvements to their homes on a regular basis. Some of them even enjoy it. There are libraries of books and entire TV networks devoted to those people. I could not remember to buy lightbulbs, let alone paint walls and replace furnace filters.

At 41, I finally understood that I should have listened to my 18 year old self about what I really wanted, and where my talents were. I sang, acted, played the piano, played the cello at an almost professional level, and had been sewing and creating things since I could hold a needle. I intended to go to Indiana University in my home town, where I knew I could continue doing all of those things, especially playing the cello and acting, while I was in college.

But the Olds convinced me to apply to the Seven Sisters, the Ivy League, and many other exclusive schools. So, I did, mostly under protest. It never occurred to me that I would attend any of them until the day that I walked on to Vassar’s campus on a whirlwind college trip to visit Vassar, Smith, Bryn Mawr, and Barnard. Bryn Mawr was too small. Barnard’s main appeal was the city. The dorm rooms were smaller than my closet at home. Smith was my first choice until I got there. The campus wasn’t as beautiful as IU, and, no one had on Smith t-shirts or sweatshirts. That might seem silly, but growing up only in college towns means that you notice things like that when they aren’t there.

Vassar was the last school we visited. I stepped out of the car behind Main Building, looked around, felt the strangest sense of deja vu, and burst into tears. That was the moment I realized I would not be staying in my hometown, and that I was actually going away to school. There are very few things in the world that have ever made me believe in fate. Stepping on the campus that day at Vassar is one of them. It was the most beautiful campus I had ever seen, and my standards are high. And every second or third student was wearing an oversized grey sweatshirt with VASSAR emblazoned across the front.
[I know now, that’s because they were all out of clean clothes. Many students would simply buy a new shirt in the Vassar store rather than do laundry if possible. Many students. I have heard. Friends of friends. And such. Fine. I graduated with about 14 Vassar t shirts and at least 8 Vassar sweatshirts. Whatever. I didn’t have to buy a grad school wardrobe.]

When I started college that fall, something happened that I hadn’t expected: I fit in. That was the first and probably only time in my life where I was no more outspoken or weird than anyone else. Here were all of the other brilliant drama nerds and musicians and kids from high school who gave no fucks about being valedictorian but many fucks about alternative music, reading Kerouac, developing countries, and being vegan.  I settled in and made friends and got involved in campus life, and I was shocked when I realized I would have to graduate and go back to the real world.

At Vassar, I quit singing, because I didn’t make it into an a capella group the first time I auditioned. After two or three plays, I stopped auditioning for because I was tired of playing old women and witches. I had classmates who were already models and actresses.  Competing with them for roles was too much for my shaky self esteem.  And I dropped my cello lessons after the second one where the teacher informed me that my technique was “all wrong! You must forget EVERYTHING and start from the beginning again!” Since my cello teacher since the 5th grade was a college professor in the IU music school, I knew that this man was full of seven kinds of shit. It did not even occur to me until years later that he probably said that to everyone, and especially to undergraduates who had already studied at one of the greatest music schools in the world. I never would have lasted through the semester with him anyway, because he favored a kind of florid, over-vibrato’d playing style that made me feel like giggling.

I never took a studio art class, because I knew my drawing was laughable and there were no fiber arts classes offered. I had a small sewing basket in my dorm rom closet, with some dolls in various states of creation in it, but I rarely took it out, and even when I did, it was in secret. Only two or three people even knew I could sew.

So, by the time I graduated four years later, I no longer did any of the things that had defined me for the first 18 years of my life. College is a great place to try new things, and I certainly did that. Some of those things are best not mentioned, but that does not make them any less valuable. I discovered political activism, and I worked on a feminist newspaper. I hope there are no surviving copies of it from 1988-1991 other than the ones locked in my ancient filing cabinet. It is not that I am not proud of much of my work on it. It’s just that I took my insufferably self-righteous self so seriously that it hurts to remember it.

The biggest mistake I made at Vassar, though, was thinking that I had a future in the halls of academe. I decided I would get my PhD in history and become a professor. Like one of the Olds. This was a noble goal, and one to which I was fantastically ill-suited. I would go on to waste a good five years pursuing this degree, and then, as a last resort, I found myself in library school. Like the other Old.

I loved Vassar. And I did love parts of being a librarian. But the parts I loved about Vassar had very little to do with academics, and everything to do with political action, event planning, and getting in trouble. Good and necessary trouble, to paraphrase Congressman John Lewis. But trouble. And the thing I loved about being a librarian was helping people find books to read. But being a librarian is all about working in committees and getting along with people, which I am sure is common at most jobs, and I am not particularly good at either.

I was unsuited to both academia and the library profession because of one key reason: I cannot keep my damn mouth shut. Tenure would have eluded me permanently. And there are stereotypes about librarians being mousy and quiet for a reason. I knew that my future career plans would have to take my actual skills and my true personality into consideration, and for that reason, I could not listen to the Olds, because what if I continued to listen to them and not myself?

I was already lacking anything but the most basic human instincts to sleep(all of the time) and eat (when reminded). I could not decide what to have for breakfast. My idea of getting dressed sometimes meant putting on a cleaner shirt over the one I’d had on for three days. I was in no state to make any decisions, and I knew I might take their advice because it was easier. Their suggestions before I moved back had all been well intentioned, but all of them, I knew, would lead me back to the same feeling of having failed at absolutely everything, with no desire to go forward or wash my hair ever again.

I was not going to finish the PhD I never should have started. I was not going to attend nursing school–seriously. Had the Olds been paying NO attention?? My god, if I could not keep from pissing off library directors, how in the world would I be able to work under medical doctors? I would have been impaled on an IV pole my first day of school. I was not going to get a master’s in education and become a school librarian, because  I had already tried that in library school and decided that seeing one teacher slam a 12 year old up against a locker as hard as he could was enough.  Plus becoming a school librarian now is as useful as learning to operate an electric typewriter. Except there are probably more electric typewriters still around.

My sense of humor, which had sustained me through even the worst times before, had all but disappeared. So even jokes about McDonald’s hiring or working in a gas station were not acceptable, because I could not tell if they were jokes, and even if they were, I would then realize that I would screw those things up beyond repair too. This part of the rule was violated a few times, until it was clear that I meant it as evidenced by the fact that I would cry for three days after any such facetious suggestion.

With the first ground rule in place, I was able to move in. Others were to come, but that one was the most serious, and the most important.




*Well, there were exceptions. I’m not going to discuss those now. Or maybe ever. I need to research the statute of limitations for some stuff first.


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Back home in Indiana: 30 steps to moving back in with your Olds

Here is how you end up living with your Olds again:

Establish the following life:

1. Have your dream job in a career that you love and at which you excel.
2. Own a darling little house in a neighborhood you should not be able to afford, but can because it once belonged to a crazy cat lady and you have had the foresight to obtain an extremely handy boyfriend.
3. Be part of a thriving arts culture where you exhibit and teach things that you love even more than your dream job. Be unusually successful at this.
4. Love the city where you live so much that some days, you just drive around it and stop at random places because there is always more to discover.
5. Allow yourself to finally get a puppy, which you have wanted to do for 20 years but always talked yourself out of, because your darling house is only 5 minutes from your dream job, and you can go home for lunch every day to play with the puppy.
6. Marvel at how many amazing friends you have in your chosen career and your artistic life.
7. Spend your time outside of work making things, socializing, raising your puppy, and generally feeling like a truly fulfilled and lucky human being.
8. Do most of this for 10 years.
9. Do all of it for two.
10. Drive to work every day wondering how you got this lucky.
Once you have done all of these things, here are the next steps:

11. Go from excellent reviews, statewide renown, and writing for national journals to being forced to resign from dream job in space of one hour
12. Have nervous breakdown when you realize that you made the wrong person angry, and that your “friends” and your employees have been feeding information to the library director about you, most of which is not true and all of which has been twisted
13. Refuse to believe the above until you are immediately dropped by your dearest friends and colleagues the moment you leave the building after #11
14. When you begin looking for a new position, realize that whoever you enraged must have been someone important, because you are unable to procure even a phone interview at libraries that just a few months ago were delighted to bring you in to train staff and teach workshops
15. Continue having nervous breakdown. Sleep on sofa every night, knit until fall asleep with needles in hands, find knitting before eyes are fully opened in morning, and wake up knitting because otherwise you might start screaming.
16. Discover you are unable to read anything except short magazine articles for several months because reading is related to lost career, and visiting a bookstore gives you panic attacks.  Avoid everywhere with books or anyone you may know from job, which means, do not go much of anywhere. Visit grocery only after 12am.
17. Stop answering phone calls and emails from well meaning friends and family who cannot stop asking what in the world you are going to DO now? And that of course,  even you can’t understand this now, you should look at this as an opportunity to do something even better and it will all turn out for the best!! Because everything happens for a reason!!
18. In response to statements above, snap angrily that you have no fucking clue because only a few weeks ago you had almost everything you had ever wanted, and that they should realize that this question is akin to telling someone with a terminal disease to “Get well soon!” Remind those individuals that yes, things do happen for a reason, and therefore the reason they may feel a brisk slap across their faces is because they will not shut up with their insincere tripe.
19. Find yourself a part time job at a yarn shop. Improve sales by half on days you work.
20. Be promoted to manager when previous manager with facial tattoos is fired for theft.
21. Improve sales enough to keep shop open longer than owners thought possible.
22. Within 9 months discover several unsavory facts about owners especially their unwillingness to remember to pay you, or to reimburse you your part of the shop’s profits which you are owed.
23. Quit, after you realize that the fine Christians who own the shop have no intention of paying you the thousands that they owe you so that they can continue to tithe to their church and drive cars that cost more than your yearly salary.
24. Have another minor breakdown when you realize that the few trusted friends you had left, who were also part time employees or customers of yarn shop, knew that owners had shop for sale entire time you worked there but never told you.
25. Attempt for some months to again seek employment in chosen field.
26. Admit that you are never going to work in it again, and you still do not understand why
27. Consider, seriously, for the first time, parental invitation to move back home.
28. Put darling house on market. Bid farewell to few remaining friends.
29. Leave home, career, friends, self confidence, and ability to trust others in the dust.

30. Do not look back.

And that is how you move back in with your Olds when you are 41.

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Rules of the Universe and Roommates

Rule #1:

No matter how small the jar of capers looks on the shelf, after it falls and bounces off of your foot and smashes into pieces, it will contain an infinite amount of capers.

Rule #2:
Which you will never, ever be able to pick up completely because apparently they breed and multiply and form new prickly caper/glass shard hybrids.
Rule #3:
And, when you look for one of the seventeen different varieties of vacuum cleaners that have entered your house in the past month, you will find precisely ONE, which is as yet un-assembled and lying on various tables and chairs with no instruction booklet to be seen.Next, you will decide to write an informative note to your housemates, who are sleeping the peaceful and innocent sleep of the whiskey-sodden, because while you no longer particularly care if they injure themselves on stray razor-capers, you do still care about the dog.

Rule #4:

Except, of course, in the kind of home where caper bottles are balanced on mustard jars which are stacked on top of expired cans of tomato soup and where cleaning appliances serve primarily as paperweights for a weeks’ worth of newspapers, there is no such thing as paper.

There are, however, paper plates, of which it is necessary to use three in order to convey the needed information that:1. The jar broke
2. The contents have been cleaned up as well as can be expected with the vacuum cleaner in the state that it is not in
3. The dog should not be allowed to lick the delicious caper flavored floor due to the possibility of glass
4. But, the humans should feel free to do so
5. After which, they must vacuum the area and then
6. Remove all glass containers of food items from pantry and place them somewhere where they cannot be precariously balanced on stacks of things that are about to fall off of overstuffed shelves, and then,
7. They should also observe the kitchen counters and note the many glass items which are, as usual, located less than one inch from the edge.
8. They are then requested to ask themselves about the level of clumsiness that they possess, and how that and the laws of gravity could conspire together and cause more events that will necessitate more notes like this one.

By the time most people are my age, which is 46, they probably have a bad roommate story or two or five.

It’s just that usually, roommates like those are not also their 68 year old parents.

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