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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

American Sniper


So many are going back and forth about the movie, American Sniper. I admit that I haven't yet seen the movie, but I am looking forward to it. I know that it is based on an actual human being. I know that the movie has stirred a lot of debate which is overly simplistic and often overreaching on both sides. Peace, at present, is not an option. So condemning those who fight in this war isn't productive or fair. Conversely, war isn't cool. Violence isn't cool. Every action by every soldier in every situation isn't justified. Soldiers are human beings, and thus, fallible. Looking for a rational middle I repeatedly have one revelation: I don't get to judge soldiers. I have never been to war.

Many soldiers signed up when they saw America attacked on 9/11. It is profound to acknowledge that we actually had a front row seat to this horror in our living rooms and break rooms. All of America, together, witnessed an unbelievable declaration of war. Everyone had their own visceral reaction. I am a peace loving person who always wants a shot at diplomacy. On 9/11? Nope. I knew what happened when the first tower was hit. I looked at Jennifer Cobb, the workmate who will always remain in my memory because of this moment, and went numb. She told me about the first plane. I didn't question if it was an accident, I told her "I know it's Osama bin Laden." I wasn't sure that I was pronouncing his name properly, but that would soon change. No one would live without that name permanently ingrained in the forefront of their minds. That day I wanted war. That day I was glad we had a righty in the White House because I only wanted a hawk in leadership. Any other day, that revelation would be a horror to me. On 9/11? I bore no shame. When the towers fell I told my co-workers, "I hope they use the remaining metal and glass from the towers as shrapnel to blow them up." I knew the name bin Laden. But I knew so little about the Middle East that I thought he led a country. Of course, no country attacked us. We were attacked by a misplaced ideology. Initially we had no understanding of the magnificent, yet simplistic plot or how difficult it would be to find those who had concocted it. As we couldn't go after another country, or their military, we were in a whole new realm of war.

I don't get to judge the soldiers who enlisted in reaction to a genuine driving need to avenge 9/11. They wanted to retaliate for our unprovoked tragedy and protect America. I do, however, get to judge the leaders who exploited the emotional pulse of America and started a war with a country who had absolutely nothing to do with that attack. They used those men and women to battle and die for a cause they didn't sign up for. They invited millionaires to become billionaires by arming our military and rallying Americans behind going to war, any war. It is not the soldiers decision where they go to fight. They signed up under the false assumption that they would be protecting us. Only the leadership could know they were really just making the target on the backs of all Americans larger.

Sadly, a sniper is a very necessary position in today's military, especially considering the groups that attack us. They aren't even countries, let alone bound by the rules of the Geneva Convention. They don't play fair. They don't wear camouflage or have distinctive stripes on their arms. They blend in to their own environment wearing the similar garb of their countrymen. Is it better to have a sniper take out an individual than have a bomb take out an entire neighborhood to get a target? Yes? Then we need snipers. Their targets are hateful, yet creative, motherfuckers who see all Americans (not only soldiers) as targets.

Once in combat the snipers have dangerous people as targets. People talk as if the they are sitting on rooftops taking out all passersby. Of course, that's a pretty dramatic and ignorant assumption. They have very specific targets and objectives. Last night Larry Wilmore had a guest, Sgt. Nicholas Irving, who is a retired sniper. As he talked it occurred to me that it would have to take a very specific mindset to be a sniper. He reiterated the feelings (or lack of) that were attributed to Chris Kyle. He matter-of-factly said that killing is his job and the human being becomes only a target. He didn't regret killing anyone but he regretted not being able to save the comrade who had saved his life. It doesn't make him a monster to say that. It would have to be the perspective of a sniper, right? As a sniper is ultimately a human being with a soul, how else would you have him look at it? Any other perspective would make him crazy. He can't spend time on right vs. wrong, questioning, "How will the targets mother feel? Who will provide for the targets family? Would he carry out his mission if I can't carry out mine?" He can't ask those questions. He has to disassociate to maintain sanity. If he humanized the target he wouldn't be able to do his job.

Snipers have to come back home eventually, right? I can't imagine returning to families and friends and a country who spend so much of their time focusing on first world problems after having seen what they'd seen and done what they'd done. I imagine it's a lot easier to live with themselves and the things they had to do when they are stationed exclusively with people who were living the same experience. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to come home as a hardened soldier who experiences PTSD and be unwilling or unable to talk about the horrors they'd seen with people who are discussing deflated footballs over a BBQ pit.

I can go on for hours about the things I could only imagine about being a sniper or a soldier. That's pretty much my point. I can only imagine. Likewise, any who have watched a movie can only imagine. We can point our fingers at the people who demand that our soldiers fight in places they had no business being or fighting for causes they had no business defending. We can not judge those who were sent and followed orders.

I hate that war exists. Period. I fucking hate it. I hate knowing that it is the fault of our leadership for decades that has made my country and its citizens targets. I hope we never get another reminder of that truth. But we get reminders every week, don't we? We hear about cells that are broken up, attacks in an ally country or even, for fucks sake, Americans who have been brainwashed into joining these movements. Hating war, however, doesn't give me the right to talk shit about the men and women who fight on our behalf. It doesn't escape my consciousness that I watch war from my couch. I don't want to sign up. Do you? No? Then stop bitching. Go out of your way to promote peace and diplomatic politicians. But realize that until we stop being a target, we need our soldiers to be fighting and protecting us. And we will need snipers who have the ability to compartmentalize their thoughts and emotions to enable them to kill people who have vowed to kill you. You. All Americans. You. Your friends. Your family.

I have a lot of opinions about a lot of things. I have a big mouth and will gladly and joyfully debate the issues of the day. This topic is beyond my understanding, though. This topic is beyond any layperson's understanding. People need to be really thoughtful about where they point their contempt. If you have never had to learn to take another life and lived with the emotional aftermath, then you really need to step back, have thoughtful reflection and consider who you're mad at before you talk shit to or about a soldier.


Sunday, January 25, 2015

White Trash


I am always disgusted to hear Woody Allen celebrated. Do we not have enough off-beat comedic talents that we can't spare just one? The fact that he has maintained his career and continues to draw the biggest celebrities to be in his movies is, frankly, disturbing. The charges of molestation were never filed in 1992 by the prosecutor who cited the child accusers potential instability during a trial as cause for concern. I don't need those charges to be true to loathe him, however. I find his lacking morality cause enough to believe the child. Without that accusation, however, I would still find him repulsive.

When he started his affair with Soon-Yi, not only was he supposed to have been her father-figure, but he was in a relationship with her mother. Her mother discovered the affair by finding naked photos of her daughter taken by Allen. Obviously this discovery precipitated the end of their family. That is a lot of weight for any child, but especially an adoptee, to bear. And how long had the relationship been going on? His having had the affair and then advising her to keep their secret is not only a blatant disregard for the family of which they were both members, but overt evidence of grooming techniques attributed to pedophiles. He pillaged the security of Soon-Yi and all of her adopted brothers and sisters. Every role that each of them was supposed to have played in that family was made irrelevant. Whatever bond the family was meant to have had was completely destroyed. Imagine explaining to a child that their sister would now be having the relationship that their mother had had with the man who had been their father-figure, and actual father to one, Ronan. (I'm totally pulling for that Sinatra rumor to be true).

Of course, he reminds everyone that he was neither her legal father nor biological. Right. No, sure. That makes sense. Nevermind the fact that you were the father-figure in her home from the age of 10; or that you knew her as a young, broken and vulnerable child acclimating to a new country, language, home and family. There is no rational way for that familial relationship to ever gravitate into a romantic one. It was your responsibility as a guardian to make her feel safe in her new life.

If society can accept this behavior, adoption should be outlawed because every child's emotional development and stability are at risk. If these are the mindsets of those raising our adopted children, how are they supposed to grow up strong with self-respect; with a feeling of connectedness and security? As best I can tell, the only accessory that never goes out of style in Hollywood is the adopted child. But they line up to kiss his ass. Does no one look at their own family and question what type of monster Allen must be? I believe in the goodness of people. I believe everyone deserves a chance until they give you a reason to question their character. I believe Allen has more than gone out of his way to prove his own repulsive character. As long as Hollywood continues to revere him, they bare their own character, as well.






Published Facts of Allegations

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Limited

My couch has an Angie-shaped dent in it. Aside from three weeks where I went to work in June, I have been unemployed and nearly never left my home for the last eleven months. In the summer I stopped going to bed at night because it seemed futile. I'm laying on the couch with a pillow and blanket already, why move? I struggle between understanding if I'm suffering from resolve of depression and its effects or frustration coupled with laziness. I've always been the victor when life hands me shit. I've always been able to pull myself out of the hard times, especially if someone said I couldn't do it. Whatever "it" was.

When Audrey was a baby I was desperate to make our lives better. My family made me so ashamed for being a single mother on welfare. Society shamed me every time I had to get out my book of food stamps at the register. I never aspired to be on welfare but I quickly found that my lack of a college education and limited work history would only merit me a minimum wage job. I couldn't pay rent and day care in the same month with that if I worked full time, let alone feed and clothe the two of us. I heard that on welfare you can get free day care so when Audrey was six months old I decided I would go to college. I told my case worker that I wanted to go to school. She said I wasn't allowed in the program until I had been on welfare for three years. At that time they would force me to either go to school or get a job. I asked her, "What am I supposed to do for 3 years?" She seemed pissed and told me, "You're supposed to be raising your baby." Fuck you, bitch. I am raising my baby. And I'm doing her no good by delaying our stable future. I went to Columbus State and talked to their financial aid people. They said I qualified for full grants and scholarships to pay for classes and books. I enrolled in courses and applied to the school. Once accepted for aid and as a student, I went to the welfare office and demanded to speak with my case worker's manager. I told him I'm already enrolled and have a full ride. I need child care. He was so nice. He apologized for my case worker trying to deter me from going to school. He said he wished more recipients would have the attitude that I did. He told me they aren't supposed to send people who are new to the system because they need to focus those funds on people who had been in longer. He said he would gladly make an exception because he could see how sincere I was. I pulled myself up.

When Audrey was almost two I had a terrible bout of depression. I had been nervously trying to avoid her abusive father. I had just found and then lost my natural mother, again. I was struggling financially. My family and I were on the outs. Someone in my neighborhood thought it was funny to slit tires in the parking lot and in one quarter of college I had to replace 9 tires. Those used tires combined were worth more than the damned car. Audrey and I twice slept on the floor in the hallway as it was the only area with no windows and on both occasions our windows were actually shot out by some punk in our gang-infested welfare housing project. I was trying to stay on the deans list. It was so important to me that my family, who were so embarrassed of me, would know I was doing well in school. All of these pressures were going on while I was living with the effects of being medicated for a misdiagnosed bipolar disorder. The meds made me like a zombie. I gained 70 pounds in 6 months and had absolutely insane thoughts rush through my mind. I called my dad and begged him to take Audrey so I could be committed. I was in a very dangerous emotional state. He told me this was my problem and I needed to deal with it myself. My dad didn't believe in depression. Not kidding. In his world, which really was a lovely rose hue, depression was just an excuse. I struggled through a terrible dark time coming off of the meds and getting away from the quack counselor I had been seeing. It took about half a year to get my head back together but I did it. It took me a while, but I managed to graduate college. I had fallen off of the deans list through my struggle, but I did graduate with a 3.06 because I'm not a quitter, God-Dammit.

When Audrey was in eighth grade she was in the accelerated classes. They pulled all of the parents of those  kids into a meeting and told us that since the district couldn't raise money, they were not going to be able to offer the children all of the opportunities they had promised. There would be no AP classes, no guidance for college, etc. I was pissed and frustrated. I wasn't convinced her accelerated classes were even challenging her and now she wouldn't even have those? A week later Audrey called me from her classroom to tell me they were on lockdown because a kid had a gun in the hallway outside of her classroom. There were already too many fights reported in the school, but a gun? That night at dinner Audrey asked, "If I'm afraid to walk down the hall in the junior high, what will it be like in the high school?" Without pause I replied, "You'll never know ."

I didn't care what it took, she wasn't going back. We couldn't just move to another school district because I owned my home and it was almost paid off by then. I couldn't send her to a religious school because I am Agnostic and she is Athiest. That would be ridiculous. I would never send her to charter schools, they're an absolute joke in Ohio, probably everywhere else, too. So we had to look at the three non-sectarian schools in town. They're all very elite and very expensive. Audrey ended up applying to and being accepted to both Columbus Academy and Columbus School for Girls. She chose CSG where upper school tuition is around $20k per year. When she was accepted and I heard how much it would cost I emailed my mom in Cincinnati to ask her to contribute. I hadn't talked to her in years because she made me feel small and I didn't need that in my life. But this was an opportunity for her only grandchild to get an amazing education. Her husband was very well off and they lived in a lovely secluded community in a 4 bedroom home with no one to fill that space. She emailed back and explained to me that Audrey and I are not the "type" of people who belong in that kind of school and she would have no part of it. Fortunately, we ended up being awarded partial scholarships every year and the most I ever paid was $6k for her freshman year. Now having never received child support and being woefully underpaid for my magnificence (wink) at work, that was an impossible sum. I did some absolutely ridiculous things to come up with it. I closed out my 401k. I wore size 24 pants with a binder clip to keep them up when I was in a size 12 because I refused to pay for clothes while I was losing my weight. I sold my plasma. I'd have sold a limb if there were a market. My kid was getting this education. Period.

When life gives me a challenge I always take my "Fuck You" attitude and work it out. I've struggled through severe depression, debilitating anxiety attacks and agoraphobia in the last year. I lost my job and am receiving unemployment. I wake up every morning and search for jobs while eating my Cream of Wheat. I have had one telephone interview. That's it. One. I was as charming and adorable as I could be on the phone but have not heard back so I don't think I got it. My unemployment runs out in six weeks. I have no savings. My depression has left me numb and feeling hopeless. I can not even find my bootstraps. Maybe they snapped. This is the time to jump up and prove to the world that I won't lose. I have the smarts. I have the fabulous wardrobe. I just need an opportunity to sit in an interview and let them see how eager and sincere I am. It's coming. I'm a good person and I didn't deserve the catastrophe that was 2014. I am going to use my heart instead of my head while it's slightly out of commission. I absolutely will get the next job I get to interview for in person. Dammit.



Tuesday, January 13, 2015

American Jihadi


The Jihad movement employs the same tactics as far right-wing Christians to collect their followers. They fucker up the religious message and offer people who want something to hate and someone to be superior to a place to point their rage. They are easy to convince because they are simple minded. I am not saying that to be mean, I believe it to be true. A thoughtful, intelligent person would neither require a fabricated group to hate, nor allow the tenets of their belief system to be altered so profoundly. So far, the American faction has only been convinced to rally and vote against their own self interests. Those joining Isis, al-Qaeda and the like are convinced to actually kill human beings and themselves. The leaders of both movements denounce education. I think it's pretty evident why.

Monday, January 12, 2015

No, Thanks.

Adoption, as it existed when I was born at least, is unnatural and cruel. There is this lovely pervasive notion that to have been adopted means one was "chosen." As nice as it must feel for the relayer of the message to simplify and minimize the experience, even a young child knows it's bullshit. Inevitably, upon hearing the news, however delivered, that the parents you know as yours are not naturally yours, a hole is created that can never be filled with nonsensical paradox. To have been chosen by one you must have been given away by another. That is a revelation so personal and so painful that none who have not had the experience could imagine, no matter how empathetic.

My adoption was in January 1973. I was born in October of 72. I was taken from my mother in the hospital and held and loved on (one hopes and assumes) by random nurses until I was deemed healthy and could leave the hospital. I was then placed in a "home" for three months. Obviously I have no memory of that experience. I do know what it should've been, of course, having given birth to and raised a child of my own. I should've been held and sang to and fawned over every day. I should've had a big finger to wrap all of my little fingers around while receiving kiss after kiss and feeling assurances of love and safety. I should've come to recognize the smell and sound and warmth of the person who would dedicate the rest of her life to my health and happiness. Of course, again, I have no idea how much of that I received. But I do know that whatever I received was impermanent. I do know that whatever bond was created in those three months was immediately broken in a moment, as quickly as whatever bond I'd formed with my natural mother in her womb.

To be sure, the majority of adoption stories from that time would then drift into stories of building bonds with permanence. One cannot discount those first three months, though. When I became a mother those months were a revelation to me every day. I was specifically aware of the bonding. The beautiful human being in my arms was immediately comforted by my voice, by my presence. I, too, was comforted by hers. Her coos were the most beautiful sound I had ever heard. They told me I was loving her properly. I wasn't sure I could. (That admission alone proves I was selfish to get pregnant. But at least I can acknowledge it). We were creating a connection every day that would hold and sustain us for a lifetime.

At three months I was given parents. The father was very eager to parent and love a child. I have memories and stories and photographs to support this. Likewise, I have memories and stories to evidence that the mother had no desire or capacity to parent or love a child. She had plenty of time to make this decision, of course. She had to have conversations with her husband and family, take classes at the church, hire an attorney and wait for a child to be born. During all of this time she could've found the selfless strength to speak out and admit she didn't want children. But she never found that strength. To continue on her selfish path, she began an adulterous relationship with a man she knew from the church who was also taking parenting classes to begin the adoption process. He and his wife became good friends with my adoptive parents. When I was two she left my father and I for this other man. She never asked for custody. Thank God.

Being a child and having a father who loved me and wanted to always do the right thing for me, I never knew about the affair or heard a cross word about her second husband, Dave. My stomach still drops when I recall memories of going home to my father after a weekend with my mom and Dave and recounting all I'd done. Dave had a motorcycle and I had my own helmet. He had a pickup truck and I got to go in the back. He played baseball in the backyard with his son (my brother for a brief moment in my life), Matt and I. We would use the large flowerbed as our baseball diamond. My dad never asked me not to tell him about how great Dave was.

Of course, this marriage didn't last long at all. My mother would tell me later that she was only attracted to him because he was a sex addict and it was a phase she was going through. (Charming. As if any part of me would want to know that). I just lost my step-dad, step-brother and Dave's parents who I called Grandma and Grandpa. They were just not my relatives anymore. They were no longer in my life. I was expendable.

My weekends with my mother went to just the two of us. I would cry and beg my dad every time he drove me to Canton to not make me go. I would cry those Sundays the whole ride home. My dad had very rigid beliefs of right and wrong. And it was right to visit my mother. He didn't understand how much it hurt me to be alone with her. She didn't want me around. Ever. She would give me cards to play solitaire or a cross stitch to sit on the couch and work on. I was even allowed to watch rated R movies on cable. She never said I was allowed, of course, but she never came into the living room to see what I was doing, either. I have very specific memories of entering whatever room she was in saying, "Hey mom!," excited to tell her whatever I'd just learned on TV or just thought about. She would always answer with a long and audible sigh, "What Angie..." I would inevitably back out of the room with a "Nevermind."

She soon found a new man and they were quickly married. I wasn't invited to the wedding. I asked my mom why I couldn't come. She said it wasn't really a big deal. Even though I was a kid, I realized that if it was important enough for her parents to fly in from Colorado, it should've been important enough to invite her daughter. I decided then that marriage was stupid and I would never do it. If you can just leave them and forget them later, marriage was obviously not what it was given to be.

I hated her new husband, Carl. He was an asshole. I knew I didn't like him at all. He didn't like kids. After getting married, my mom and Carl promptly moved to Cincinnati. This was good for all involved. As much as my dad wanted her to be in my life, every other weekend was too much for anyone to commit to driving that far. I only had to visit her once in the summer and once over the holidays. And she was often able to come up with a last minute ski trip or something to get out of the latter. We would have an obligatory Sunday night phone call where I never knew what to say to her.

I was very fortunate that my dad remarried the woman that he did when I was 5. She was as attentive and patient with me as could be hoped. I needed her to be patient. I was a shit to her. Not only was I now going to have to share the one person who never let me down and undoubtedly loved me, but I was supposed to believe that this woman, my third to date, wanted to be my mother. I wasn't having it. She would have to prove herself. I wasn't aware of it at the time, of course, but I was awful to her because I didn't trust her to stay.

After I had Audrey, my lifelong series of questions about my natural mother became overwhelming. My mind wouldn't stop wondering about her. My dad understood this and hired a company to find her. Once she was located, they approached her and asked if she would like to meet me. Again, this was a perfect opportunity for reflection before making a profound and life-altering decision. She chose to meet me. She, my natural sister (no one ever told me if she was a full or half sister, but we looked strikingly similar), her husband and others came to Columbus to meet me. It was awkward at first but exhilarating, too. They invited me to visit whenever I was in Alliance and we began a real relationship. I never even anticipated that, I just wanted to ask her all of my questions. The majority of my questions went unanswered. She was evasive and often said something to the effect of "That's my past and I'd like to keep it back there." These answers always struck me because she could've left me back there, too. Did she really think I wouldn't ask these questions? One day she said something that was my last straw. She was never rude or nasty, but she was very thoughtless. We were in her dining room and Audrey was dancing in circles. I said, "Isn't she the cutest thing ever?" My natural mother replied with a saying I had hated all of my life because of the fact that I was adopted. She replied,"Yep, she's a keeper." There was never a hint on her face of what she'd just said or who she'd just said it to. I was done with her. Some part of me found relief that this person didn't keep me. But another part was heart sick. The irrelevance I'd always felt had just been confirmed.

(Un)fortunately, by this time I had built a very tall and thick wall. By this time I had known nine sets of grandparents. I had not only learned that I was expendable, but had subconsciously determined that everyone else was, too. Very few people have been inside my wall. Sadly, people in my life who had figured they were comfortably in my heart would promptly learn that they were not, at all. It terrifies me how easily I dispose of people. My heart that loves the world generically and wants to make it fair and safe, refuses to sincerely love people enough to keep them around. I'm aware now of how broken I am. The revelation was very hard to come by, but it's cure is proving even harder. I'm not convinced that anyone will ever get in again. Ironically, and fortunately, the third woman who was to be my mother has penetrated my walls and continues to fight for her place there. And Audrey. That's it. I let a man in a few years ago by mistake. I'm pretty sure he will have been the last.



Saturday, January 10, 2015

Bubba and Otis


I never wanted to have children. I grew up knowing I never wanted to get married and I never wanted to have children. I didn't understand myself at the time, but I now realize I avoid commitment. It's not healthy, but it's who I am. I don't trust people to stay. Anyway, I never wanted kids. At 19, I got pregnant. I wasn't happy about it. I wasn't sad or angry or nervous. I wasn't anything. At the time I was in a very abusive relationship and that took all of my energy. I quit smoking and drinking and did whatever the doctor told me to, but I wasn't excited to be a mother. Having been adopted, I could never do that. Ever. No part of me would be sent out to the world alone full of questions that no one would ever answer. I believe in abortion 100%. I will fight, rally and scream for the rest of my life for a woman's right to have an abortion. But I knew I couldn't have one. I knew the way my brain worked that I would never be able to let it go. I would torture myself with wondering and lamenting "what if's" for the rest of my life.

Throughout my pregnancy I never thought much about what it would be like to be a parent. Again, I was too busy dealing with the asshole in my life at the time. I was careful to block my belly from his blows but beyond that the thought that my child would soon be there rarely entered my mind. I hated her father. Passionately. When he would touch me or climb into bed I would physically get nauseous. I fucking hated him. But I hated myself, too. I realize that now. I didn't really think enough of myself or I would've never ended up with him in the first place. If I hadn't had Audrey I would probably be with him to this day.

The morning of November 30, 1992 I was scheduled to have a c-section because she was breached. When we got to the hospital I was given a gown to get into. There was a nurse who was helping me get dressed and she saw that my entire left side was bruised and asked what had happened. The truth was I had taken my worst beating until then the night before because I hid the last of my money so I could afford the newborn pictures from the hospital. Matt thought the money would be better spent on alcohol. I have always been, and will always be, stubborn. Motherfucker you aren't taking the rest of my money. So I was beaten terribly. My body was actually thrown into Audrey's crib and broke it. As he beat me I was in a ball protecting my belly. That is why my entire left side was bruised. It was all he could get to. I told the nurse that I didn't know where they came from (he was standing right there). She gave me a look of "yeah, right," and I thought maybe she would tell someone or call the police. But nothing else ever came of it.

That morning they velcroed me to a table like Jesus. I wasn't nervous or afraid. I might have been curious. It didn't seem to take much time at all. The doctors and nurses were talking about their plans for the holidays and then the surgeon asked me "Would you like to see? I can move this mirror for you to see." Matt, who had been watching the whole thing said, "You don't want to see this," with a look of disgust. I'm sure he was right. I declined. The next thing I knew she was out. I was still strapped to the table and couldn't move my arms so the nurse brought her close and laid her on my chest so we could meet. She was beautiful. I know all mothers think their child is the most beautiful who has ever lived, but they're wrong. Mine was. It's a fact. I fell in love in an instant. It overwhelmed me and I began to cry. I loved this person that I had just met. I felt a rush of emotion. I wanted to hold her and never let her go. I don't remember it occurring to me at that moment, but this was the first person I knew who I was biologically related to. The nurse was worried about something and they took her from my chest. They wheeled me into another room that I called "the cold room." It turns out it wasn't. It was me who was cold. They later told me that I was losing too much blood. I found out that day that I am a good bleeder. They kept me in there for hours and I just wanted to go see my baby.



Later that afternoon I got to hold her. She was amazing. She had a full head of black hair and the deepest and most beautiful blue eyes I'd ever seen. I wanted to never let her go. I had read some parenting literature during my pregnancy but never gave much thought to it. I didn't even take Lamaze classes because Matt had already taken them when his first daughter was born (ok, well, if you know what to do, we should be good). I was never allowed to be in a room without him (not kidding) let alone go in public. I guess it's a good thing she was breached. I didn't walk into the hospital that morning having a single idea of what I was getting myself into. But holding her I knew whatever was the "right" thing to do, that was what I'd do. I instantly became a nurturing, protective and loving mother. When the nurse came in and asked if I was going to breast feed, I said I was. Of course, I hadn't learned anything about it so we winged it and figured it out. I was going to keep being thoughtful and making the best decisions for Audrey from then on.

The doctor said I could go home as soon as I could walk to the end of the hall and back. I was willing to do whatever it took to get out of there. Matt was driving me crazy. He wouldn't leave my side for a second and whined repeatedly that he had to sleep in the recliner. Our last night there he tried to convince me it wasn't fair that I had the bed and we should take turns. Yes, having just had surgery and a belly full of stitches and staples, I will gladly sleep on a recliner for you tonight. I stood up to him. That was the first time I did it for a reason other than being stubborn or angry. I stood up to him because I had value. Sadly, I would find out many years later, it's not healthy to see your value as being something beyond your very self. But for now I would use the value I'd found in being Audrey's mother to begin a better life.

Three weeks after Audrey was born we were able to get away from Matt. A lot of things made our life pretty rough. I know if I didn't have Audrey I'd have had no reason to live. I put my focus into creating the best life I could for her and we carried on. We were very close. She was incredibly smart and I found she could learn absolutely anything if you put it to music. I started college when she was 9 months old and most of the time we couldn't afford a car so we would take the bus. We read books to school and back every day for an hour each way. She loved to read and I loved her curiosity. Whatever she found interesting we would explore until she moved on to the next thing. Thanks to her crushes on both Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy (actual crushes), we researched and learned quite a lot about both. We even took a road trip to Lincoln's birth home. We looked into mythology, the rain forest and the Wild West. I was very aware that it was my role as a mother to teach her lessons about the world and about how to carry herself in it. Has she been paying attention? Does she understand what I say to her? Does anything that we share really penetrate? One always hopes they've done a good job, but one never really knows.

When Audrey started kindergarten I found out that she had, in fact, been paying attention. I had deliberately sent her to an alternative school that was strict. I thought I was strict so this would be perfect. Early in the school year her teacher called me because Audrey had been disrespectful. I don't want to call you a liar, lady, but nu'huh. I knew my kid. Every person who had ever had her in daycare would tell you that she was the sweetest and most pleasing little girl they've had. I asked the teacher what Audrey had done. She replied, "She said, 'Yes, ma'am,' when I instructed her." I explained that she says that to me, too. I taught her to be respectful. She told me that she didn't appreciate it. Okay. Whatever. Later in the year I got a call at home in the evening from the teacher. Now what!? She called, this time, for something funny. She told me that the class was singing Mary Had A Little Lamb and Audrey refused to sing. The teacher asked her to join in and Audrey pouted and said that's not how the song goes. The teacher assured her that it was the way she had always heard it. Audrey replied, "Well, that's not how Otis Redding sings it."

Nailed it! For some reason that was a moment of affirmation to me. Beyond being the cutest thing ever, I knew that she was receiving what I was giving her. Obviously I never told her that the way Otis sings a song is the only way (though there really is never a reason for anyone else to ever try, its been done to perfection, thank you), but the day to day life we had was ingrained. I was sure that if she had that steadfast belief in the music I offered her, she was paying attention to the rest, as well.

Audrey and I were always incredibly close. People often envied our relationship. I'm sure we benefitted from being the only two in our family.  When she got into her mid-teens, of course, things started to change. I should've known it was coming. I certainly merited any payback that was to come. But it broke my heart. I loved her wrong. I made her my companion. I had put too much on her. But I didn't see it then. She would have a smart mouth, refuse to clean her room or cat box, and sneak out of the house. I was the wrong kind of upset. I saw it as an affront to me. Of course, it had nothing to do with me. She was a smart-assed teenager, like she was supposed to be. We went back and forth, round and round for years. We never stopped loving one another but our relationship changed. I didn't realize it was supposed to. Somewhere in the middle there she was supposed to stop being the cutest thing in the world that I did everything with and for. I was a little late figuring that one out, too.

As she enters adulthood it is hard to stop telling her about the world with a mothers bias. I keep reminding myself that this is now her world, open to her interpretation. When she has the problems that a young woman in college faces it's equally hard to avoid pointing out why that happened and how to fix it. My opinion is now only necessary upon request. She will have many experiences and many challenges to face and explore. Both will give her opportunities for success or failure. Either, of which, will offer her growth and wisdom. And neither is mine to decide.





Thursday, January 8, 2015

Young Heart

It's funny. (Or not?) I have the worst memory. There are some things I can remember with the most amazing clarity and then others that are just gone. A girlfriend posted pictures on Facebook of a trip our 7th grade class took to Pittsburgh. Apparently I was there. She had pictures of me there in my favorite high-waisted (ha!) Liz Claiborne shorts. It looks like we had a good time. We're all smiling. I don't know. It's gone. The fact that I'd ever been to Pittsburgh is gone. It makes me wonder just how much I've lost.

I have some very specific memories from childhood, though. Some made me realize how different I was. I've always said that if no one had ever told me that I was adopted I'd have figured it out. I looked like I fit. I'd even say I look more like my mom than her natural children. But I never felt like I fit in. I've always been very sensitive. I struggled to deal with bad things that would happen to anyone I loved, or anyone at all, really. I lived a pretty cloistered existence where I rarely knew what was going on in the world. But when I did learn about things I didn't know how to process them. My parents, so far as I knew, had no idea that the world held injustices and if they were ever mentioned I was quickly reminded that these were none of my business. It was hard to deal with the genuine anxiety I had over things when I had no one who would talk to me about them.

In the third grade I remember watching the Jerry Lewis telethon. They would have entertainers perform between stories that introduced you to families who struggled with an MD diagnosis. I had a friend in my class with MD. His brother had it, too. I was very moved by the stories that afternoon and decided I needed to help. I called the number on the screen and pledged $25. I had no idea the true value of money but was pretty sure that was A LOT of money and would really make a difference. I wasn't old enough to donate so I gave them my dads name. If he had seen the show he'd certainly want to do something to help. I didn't have a credit card so they had to mail a pledge card to my dad that he could return with his donation. So I went along in my day and I'm sure I forgot to tell my dad about his generosity by the time he got home from work. Some time later, however, he received his pledge card in the mail. He was not as excited as I'd thought he'd be. He was very mad. At least I thought he was mad. As I look back, many of his emotions looked the same: anger, frustration, stress, nervousness, etc. Whichever he was experiencing, he did not appreciate my giving his name to the charity and promising them money. I was going to have to work at the store shredding papers and doing mailings to earn that money to teach me a lesson. In retrospect, I'm sure I would've done the same to Audrey. But it would've been for a different reason. After I told her how proud of her I was for having such a beautiful heart and caring for others, I would teach her how wonderful it feels working toward a goal; especially when your goal is generosity. It hurt my feelings that he was mad at me and I went to my room to cry.

In the fifth grade we learned about slavery. I have to believe that I knew about it before then? But the lesson from Mrs. Mauzy is the one that I understood and the only one I remember. It was horrific. I was confused. How did people steal other people? How did they get to beat and kill them? How could they possibly OWN them? It was something that hurt me. I kind of even felt guilty for being white. I wanted to hate white people. I got home that day through the back door and entered the kitchen to find my mom ironing and watching the little black and white television on the counter. I told her what I'd learned that day. I was certain she didn't know about it or we would've had long talks about how awful it was and she would have answered the myriad of questions that were now running through my mind. She just told me that she knew. She said it was a long time ago. I know. We learned about that today. It was the 1800s when they were freed. But it was so wrong. And evil. And how could people do such things? My mom has a way of speaking to you that lets you know that it is now time to stop talking about whatever you're saying. It always starts with her clearing her throat and starting a sentence with "Well..." As I recall, that was the end of our conversation. I still struggle to understand how so many people all over the world got (get) away with it.

The hardest memory of my childhood came the following year. As we didn't yet have a VCR, let alone digital movies on command, every Sunday I would head to the living room after dinner to watch The Wonderful World of Disney. You were offered a different Disney movie every week. One evening I was sitting on the ottoman directly in front of the TV crying and my father came in having no idea what could've possibly just happened. I had been waiting for my Disney movie to come on but it hadn't started yet. A news show was still on. They were showing black and white footage of a large hole and a bulldozer shoveling many naked, skin and bone dead bodies into it. I couldn't understand what it could possibly be. I pointed to the TV and asked "What is that?" My dad answered, very matter-of-factly, "That's from the Holocaust." That is a thing? It has a name? "What does that mean?" I asked. He told me to stop watching it if it was making me upset. He didn't understand how desperately I needed to know what it was. I needed to have it explained to me. There had to be an answer that would let me know it wasn't what it looked like. My dad never understood my desperate need to understand things. It just frustrated him. I thought he was mad at me that night. I now realize he was frustrated. A man who lives in a pristine world where little existed outside of the store or the house, and nothing existed outside of Alliance, had no way of understanding that I was genuinely pained by such things. And that I needed to have long talks about them so I could ask every question I could come up with.

As the family was coming into the living room to watch the movie I was unable to stop crying. I was crying harder now (that cry where you can't catch your breath), because I had seen the most horrific thing imaginable and I thought my dad was mad at me. I don't know if they had a secret head nod or a wink but no one asked if I was ok. There was always a general quietness as if an order had come down "Leave her alone. She'll get over it." I went to bed because I wasn't going to sit there and ruin the movie for everyone else. I never fell asleep that night. Eventually I calmed myself down and stopped crying, but I couldn't stop seeing that footage in my head. How did those people get so skinny? Why were they all naked? How did they all die? What happened? What is a holocaust? Hours later, as would happen many times to come for the rest of my years living in his home, I could see my dad coming to my door. There was always light that came under my door from the hallway. I could see shadows of his feet getting closer. He opened the door to see if I had calmed down yet. I told him I wasn't able to sleep. I didn't sleep that entire night. I was afraid of the world now.

There were countless nights in his home when I couldn't sleep. He was confounded by it. He bought me a hypnosis tape with the ocean playing in the background. Didn't work. He would give me NyQuil even if I wasn't sick. Usually that worked but he had a hell of a time getting me to school the next day. He bought me a journal to keep by my bed so I could write down the things I was worried about to revisit the next day. Of course, he didn't understand how my brain worked; one thought would lead to another thought, to another thought, to another. I could write you a book by morning.  I always thought he was mad at me when he came in to find I was still awake. I wish I had realized it was just frustration. I wish he would've realized that I needed an outlet for everything I worried and cared about and telling me not to think about it would never be the answer. I imagine when I leave this world and get to see him again we will have a lot to talk about.



Lincoln Wasn't Happy!

My dad is gone so I will only have supposition in this life. He grew up in a very closed family where everyone had well-defined roles. I don't imagine there was much forgiveness if anyone deviated from their roles. I don't imagine anyone was welcome to have ideas or opinions other than those they were handed. I assume the narrow world my dad grew up in made it hard for him to parent me.

I will readily admit I was a handful. I had a lot of emotional problems. Was it the personality I came with or the place where I ended up? Maybe having been given up at birth and placed in a "home" for my first three important bonding months (a revelation that came every day of my first three months with Audrey), and finally being adopted by a couple whose wife had no desire to be a parent screwed me up. Maybe spending two years with that jackass (women DO have choice and she most certainly had plenty of time on this one) was too much. Or maybe after she left us and I was forced to spend every other weekend with someone who didn't care how obvious it was that she didn't want me around during my formative years left me a hot mess. Maybe I was born with a proclivity toward depression. I've only recently realized that either scenario has brought me to this place and regardless of which, it's mine to work with.

My dad was often frustrated by my inability/unwillingness to easily conform to the role I was supposed to fill. He was not a bad person or a bad parent. Being a parent, I now understand, you do your best with each issue that comes up. I know my dad did his best. But his narrow existence and no understanding of people at a deeper level made it impossible for him to wrap his head around my issues. He sent me to therapy in sixth grade because I had a shitty attitude. The therapist decided that I was suffering from depression and suggested that we have therapy together. He sent me there to get fixed not to offer me a "pity party." He pulled me out of therapy because that was obviously not working. We never discussed depression. I had no idea that it was a real thing. I didn't know they had medicines that could make things better.

The summer going into tenth grade my dad had had enough of my attitude. He took me to court for being unruly. I was sentenced to house arrest, community service and therapy. I was pissed when I visited the new therapist. I knew my dad had already told her I was just a pain in the ass and so I went there every Wednesday after school and took an hour long nap on her couch. She wasn't going to help me. Eventually she was able to convince me that she wanted to talk to me and hear what I had to say. Once I did, she decided that I had severe depression. My dad decided I didn't need to go anymore and that I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself. Again, I didn't really understand what depression meant or that it was something more than being sad.

Around this time, my dad taped a quote to the refrigerator by Abraham Lincoln that read "I reckon people are about as happy as they make their minds up to be." I looked at it several times a day. It pissed me off. Every day. I didn't have the Internet to google it so I assumed that this weakness of mine had been understood for generations and written off by men we were given to admire.

When I was a new mother at 21, I had a series of terrible things happen in quick succession which I had no capacity to deal with. I started therapy and taking medication for depression. I remember being on campus and realizing that the medicines were working. I found a pay phone and called my mom (the one that raised me) at work on the 800# and tried to explain that I could literally feel the springtime. I could smell it, I could feel the sun and I could actually enjoy it. I knew this sounded weird but it felt wonderful. She was the one person I could tell who wouldn't make me feel stupid. Because I was on welfare, once I was diagnosed I was sent to a clinic for follow up on my care and treatment. The new therapist decided on a new diagnosis, bipolar disorder, which every doctor since has assured me was a misdiagnosis. The new treatment helped me find my way to a 300 lb frame and kept me from seeking further treatment for 20 more years.

At 41, I had to get back on anti-depressants. I found myself in the darkest place I could imagine. Every day when I got in the car I hoped a semi would hit my car and kill me on my way to work. I desperately wanted to die but knew if I killed myself my mom and Audrey wouldn't get the life insurance. When it occurred to me how bad things really were and how instantly they would be cured (for everyone, I believed) if I were dead, I stopped drinking (the 3 month experiment of my own cure had failed miserably) and sought real help.

I was lucky to find two therapists and a doctor who really understand me and will call me out on my bullshit, when necessary. They validated my belief that I was a good person. They allowed me to find positive adjectives to describe myself. And they offered me a safe place to be hurt or angry or sad and not feel like I needed to apologize for it. I was able to hear and believe that I suffer from depression. I now know that depression doesn't mean I'm crazy. I was able to believe that the fact that I am a sensitive person isn't a bad thing. In fact, it's quite lovely. I care about people at a very deep level. That's lovely. My friends know they can call me at any hour of the day or night to cry and I will care for them and support them and promptly leave the state to come to them, if needed. That's lovely, too.

Although we always struggled to get along, I genuinely loved and respected my dad. He really was an incredible man. He was the toughest man I've ever known. He truly was a bad ass. In my lifetime he never had a sick day. He was diagnosed with cancer in March of 2008 and given 6 months. He took three years (thank you very much). He had nearly three years of chemo and radiation. He went back to the store every time afterward.

I witnessed the most beautiful tribute of his esteem the night of his calling hours. It was February. It was wicked cold. The line of people who needed to pay their respects wrapped through the funeral home and out the door. I heard no complaints from the people who waited in the winter cold to say goodbye to him. I only heard stories of his grace. The stories were funny. He played ridiculous pranks on the girls that worked at the store back in the day. The stories were heart-warming. He went out of his way to do things for his customers and employees, often secretly needing no attention or praise for his generosity. The stories were revelatory. I met the man that dad was renting grandmas old house to. Dad was always very concerned about having good, respectful tenants who would care for the home my mom grew up in. Dad recently told me he was so happy to have found a good family to rent it. The man was very intent on taking care of the landscaping as grandma had been. He was always on time with his rent and was the best tenant dad could hope for. This man was quietly waiting in line to give condolences to his landlords family. I had no idea who this guy was as he was coming closer to me. I greeted him with a curious smile. He shook my hand and told me what a wonderful man my dad was and that he was the man who was renting my grandmas house. I hope my face didn't show what I was thinking. This tall, bald, intimidating looking man who was wearing a leather jacket and looked like he may very well have come here on his Harley was the man my dad couldn't say enough about? This was a man I couldn't imagine my dad comfortably having a conversation with, let alone allow to move into grandma's house. I had to leave the room to collect myself after I met that man. He showed me that my dad was a more accepting man than I'd thought. Maybe it was age. Or pending death. Maybe it was the many conversations where I cried or yelled and begged him to open up and see beyond his narrow scope. I guess it doesn't matter. He was a great man to me before that night. But he was something much more after.

I don't know... I've spent my life resenting my dad for not understanding my depression. It didn't make me a bad person but it did make me hard to deal with. While he wasn't able to understand or embrace the part of me that was naturally sensitive, I was not able to embrace the part of him that was naturally closed and confused by my  sensitivity. In my adulthood we were able to find acceptance of one another. Sadly, tolerance of someone is a long way from understanding and embracing them.

It's hard to work through my issues with my dad now that he's gone. I don't know what happens when you die. But I believe he can see me. I believe whatever comes after this life offers wisdom. I believe he understands me now and is proud of the parts of me that he never knew about or understood. For some reason believing in his pride allows me to come closer to finding my own. I'm pretty sure that's not healthy.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Thank You Norman Lear

At 5 my family was completed when my dad married the woman I call my mom. She had a daughter who was 3 years older than me and a son who was 5 days older. I had a built-in playmate! It was pretty cool. Sometimes. Having been an only child for the first 5 years I was pretty good at entertaining myself. I was a TV baby, no doubt. I often happily planted myself in front of the television ignoring many sunny days in a row long before it was cool. I knew by heart which night each show came on, who the stars were and could tell you all about each of the characters.

I whole-heartedly believe that I got a lot of my values from these shows. I was lucky to be born just as the civil rights movement was coming to be accepted 4 years after Dr. King was assassinated. I believe a lot of the music, movies and television shows of the time were a resource in helping the movement along. America was finally being introduced to new non-white, not traditional families. I knew and loved the people on my shows. I really did. They were my friends.

I looked forward to Diff'rent Strokes every week. The two sons were adopted! It was the first time I'd ever met anyone else who was adopted. Beyond that interest I was never asked to believe that there was anything funny about this mixed race family. They were getting used to living together and dealing with normal family issues.

I remember learning that some kids are abused by their parents when Penny on Good Times was discovered to have been hiding her bruises. I was confused and I was genuinely sad for her. I was elated when Willona adopted her. She didn't think about it, she stepped up and did what needed to be done so Penny would be safe. And she was adopted, too! Can you stand it? I now knew three people who were also adopted.

I later met Natalie on Facts of Life. She was also adopted. She made me cry. She made me snotty-faced cry. She said the words that I couldn't seem to put together. She felt the same way I did and knew how to explain it. She said that no one knows what it's like to sit in a baseball stadium and search the faces in the stands to see if they could find a face that looked like them. Of all of the friends I made from television, she became and remained my favorite. She knew how I felt and made it okay to cry with her about it. She was beautiful.

I saw families struggle but was never asked to judge them. On Good Times, James was proud. He worked hard, loved his family and took care of them the best that he could. On One Day at a Time I saw a family led by a single mother. She had it rough but she loved her girls. We were never asked to think less of her because she wasn't married. I grew up to be a single mother. My family was flat out embarrassed and ashamed. I had already learned, though, that I could still plug away and be a good mother by myself.

I learned a lot about race from my television friends. Thank God. I remember laughing at Mr. Jefferson whenever he picked on Tom, his white neighbor whose wife, Helen, was black. But we weren't laughing because Mr. Jefferson was being mean, we were laughing because his insults were given to us with his ignorance and small-mindedness being the joke. This show was a spin off from All in the Family, which had Archie Bunker as the moron racist.

I was fortunate to be the ideal age to receive these shows with a child's naïveté. Through my favorite shows I saw the world as it should've been, not as it was. That is, I'm sure, why I am still confused by narrow people to this day. I am living in a place we haven't yet finished creating.




A Positive Truth

I have spent a lot of time in my life lamenting the failures of the adults in my childhood. These failures certainly formed the neurotic adult that I was to become. As I age, am more reflective and contemplative though, it occurs to me that many of those failures were gifts. I grew up in a very secretive family. Absolutely everything was absolutely no ones business. There were never discussions about world events, politics or anything of genuine substance in our home. I have often wondered how I made it to a horrific revelation at age 12 that the Holocaust was a thing without ever having been told by then. Likewise, how did I make it to 5th grade without understanding slavery? I realize now that it was because my home lacked any sincere acknowledgment of anything beyond what affected its members directly.

I am grateful for this neglect. As I grew older and started to understand the world and the opinions of those who shaped mine, I also started to realize that I was given a life opportunity as a curious and thoughtful human being to enter society and seek my own answers. When, in 4th grade, schools on the "other side of town" were closed and its students bussed to our stark white district, I didn't understand why all of the parents in the neighborhood were so upset. And in 5th grade when a new teacher and principal came to my school I wasn't sure why those parents were upset again. I don't know how I missed the fact that they were all black. I'm sure that my mind realized that their skin was black, but I had no reason to interpret that as a negative.

I knew from around the 2nd grade that the N-word was a bad one. I had no understanding of its meaning, however. My brother and I were walking home from school one day and I can still remember the seemingly innocuous event vividly: We were saying bad words back and forth to one another. I don't remember our having been arguing and throwing barbs, it was more of an attempt to show off to one another with no fear of getting in trouble as it was just the two of us. We were in front of the Antenucci's old house and I said the N-word. I didn't know what it meant, but I knew it was bad. Scott turned around quickly and scolded me "No," he said, "That's a really bad one. You can't ever say that." I felt guilty and I wasn't sure what I had done. We were supposed to be saying bad words, right? He explained that this was a word that was worse than bad and it should never be spoken. Although Scott was only 5 days older than myself, he was always more aware of things than I was. He had recently broke the news to me about Santa, as well. He told me that the N-word was a bad word to call a black person. I wondered out loud why black people needed a bad word? And what is a white persons bad word? He didn't have answers for those last two questions but reiterated the importance of the lesson about the word I was never to repeat.

A few years later, armed only with the knowledge of that evil word and with a heart felt love for Michael Jackson, I went to visit my mother who lived in Cincinnati and her latest husband for a two week stay in the summer. I packed my teen fan magazines full of MJ posters and trivia and headed down for what was sure to be a boring visit. Since the walk home with Scott years earlier I hadn't heard the N-word. Carl, my mothers new husband, yelled the word at me when he saw the magazines I was showing my new cousins, his nieces. I had already quickly learned during my visit that when he was done every day with with work, he would have a drink of something kids weren't allowed to have. It was called J&B and it smelled awful. I also came to realize that he drank it all night every night. I wasn't used to seeing people get drunk and had no idea that the drinks were what made him so mean as each night wore on. The day he saw me with my magazines he screamed the N-word at me repeatedly. I wasn't even sure what he was yelling at me for but I knew two things: 1. He was using the word no one was supposed to ever use and 2. He was not my father. (As an aside I will acknowledge here that all adults in my life had attempted to make me a more respectful person and I tried to be whenever possible, but, much to the chagrin of many who have loved me, sometimes I found/find this impossible). Although I didn't understand why he was mad or even what point he was trying to make, I screamed at Carl about how only bad people use that word. I told him he should be ashamed of himself and if he wanted to say awful things like that I didn't want to be at his house. He hated kids. I didn't just give him a threat, I had opened a door that he was happy to shove me through.

I was immediately packed up and sent back to Alliance. I was seething because I was so mad. My dad drove the long trip to get me and I learned a hard lesson that day on the way back to Alliance: My parents, who had never taught me that hate was okay, we're quite serious about the whole "respect your elders" bit. No matter what, apparently. I also learned that my mom in Cincinnati didn't care enough about my feelings to ever say a word in my defense. She just wanted this ridiculous choice for her most recent husband to be happy. (Thank God she never wanted custody of me in the divorce with my dad. But that's another story). My dad told me that I was disrespecting Carl in his home. I was so confused and was too naive and too immature to form the words to explain my frustrations to my dad. Why can anyone say that word? Scott was very adamant about that point. It was the worst of all the bad words and no one should say that one. Why is Carl allowed to yell at me and call me an "N-lover?" As simple as it sounds to work out the meaning of that hyphenated word now, I honestly couldn't that day. So loving black people is bad? And when people are mean and hateful I am supposed to ignore it? I found this unacceptable. I loved my father and I did respect him but this was the first time that I remember being sure that either he didn't understand what had just happened or my father was wrong. Both were hard to come to terms with.