For Shelby Marie Johnson~

Today is Shelby Johnson’s 24th birthday. Instead of a party, her family is at her funeral.

I knew Shelby when she was a little girl. I was in a long-term committed relationship with her father more than eleven years ago. I was like a stepmother for a few years.

Shelby was a good kid. She was clever and dressed like a cute little girl. She always had the stripped down, raw, accountable version of the story.

I remember how she looked like a tiny copy of her mother.

Levi was sensitive, and deep. Shelby was pragmatic, but sunshine.

Shelby and I got along well at first. The more her relationship with her father eroded, the more she resented me. I loved her, but we both had a dysfunctional relationship with her neglectful father.

I tried to make him be a good dad. I drove him to see her. I had a home that was a welcome place for her to be. I made him pay his child support. All the reasons Shelby hated him weren’t my fault, but they were among many reasons why I left him.

The last time I tried to talk to Shelby, she called me a “Fucking bitch” as I drove away.

I still loved her. It wasn’t her fault. She was just a kid. She couldn’t know or understand it yet. Eventually, when she got older, I imagined we would run into one another downtown. We would have a cup of  coffee. We would swap perspectives. We would commiserate about her dad. We might even trade Christmas cards again someday. That would have been nice.

I peeked in on her Facebook from time to time. She was so tiny, and she looked so unbreakable. She looked like someone who dared life to take her every day. She gave no fucks and asked for none to be given.

Shelby died September 29th, less than one week from her 24th birthday.

The illness that she died from complications of didn’t begin until after I wasn’t a part of her life. I watched her from a distance. I heard stories from our mutual acquaintances in Lansing. She was close to the son of another good friend of mine. I knew she wanted to see her sisters. I couldn’t let them have a relationship with her until she was well. My friends son eventually, and with much drastic effort, finally healed. Shelby, however, did not.

I was waiting for the sickness stage of her life to end so we could reach out to her. I can only assume that her loved ones felt the same way. She was so much more than the disease that haunted her. She left a scar on his planet.

I’ll have to hold on to the sweet memory of a little girl with blond hair and big eyes. I remember her smiling while I read Harry Potter books to the kids at night. I remember how she hated my homemade fried chicken because it didn’t taste like the box chicken her mom made. I remember what a good big sister she was to Marley. I remember when Dropkick Murphy’s were here favorite band. I remember the day we went to climb the ledges in Grand Ledge. I remember the Christmas’ we spent together. I remember dyeing Easter eggs. I remember a great smile, freckles, and big eyes with the longest, darkest lashes ever blinking up at me.

Carry on Shelby Shockwave. I’ll save that coffee date for another time when we’re both in another place.

Today though, is a very unhappy birthday.

 

 

 

 

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The Worst Club Ever

We never wanted you here.

We hoped you would never come.

But now that you are here,

you can never, ever leave.

 

Members are everywhere;

Presidents, Queens,

a bartender you know.

We can be anyone.

 

Once inside, the other grieving parents

are your sanctuary from a world that still

revolves while ours is all in flames and screaming

as we go on without our babes.

 

When you see your pain reflected again

and again, it has been confirmed.

Nature is indeed random, and cruel,

and you are merely another victim of nature.

 

No one is safe from entering,

but once inside, the collected shards of

experience are yours forever to draw from.

Unconditional understanding unlimited.

 

I wish I never had to join.

But we are members for Life

after a child’s Death

of The Worst Club Ever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

hat revolves

naturally. While ours is in flames,

as we go on without our babes.

 

And to see a reflection of that anguish in

another person validates

that nature is indeed random.

Nature can be this cruel.

 

No one is safe from entering this club, but

once inside, the collected shards of

experience are yours forever to draw from.

Unconditional understanding unlimited.

 

We are members

for Life

after their Death

of The Worst Club Ever.

 

I am so sorry to see you here.

What I’m Shopping For

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While you complained about shopping for diapers,

I was shopping for a gravestone for my son’s grave.

While you were cursing another dose of cold meds,

my sons killer was getting drunk.

While you were annoyed by your kids busting into the bathroom,

my son’s ashes sit in a jar in my living room.

While you were on hold making your kids doctors appointments,

I was filing my son’s death certificate.

While you were resenting your kids other parents visitation time,

I was reliving the last moment I shared with my son while he was alive.

While you were out buying more clothes for your kids to grow out of,

I was staring at my son’s t shirts- wondering if I had the nerve to sew a quilt from them.

While you are over-planning your kids birthday party,

I am packing away pictures from my sons funeral.

While you grumble to a crib at 2a.m.,

I am curled up in the bathroom crying, hoping not to wake anyone.

While you are sick of hearing your kids whining for attention,

I long to hear him say, “I love you, mom” aloud ever again.

Legacy

Not a single one of us was ready to have a kid. My three best friends and I were all pregnant within one year of each other. The men we were pregnant by had no idea what to do next. When the pregnancy test read positive. It said one thing to the doctor and another thing to the person who peed on the stick. To the doctor it read, “Test positive for the medical condition of pregnancy.” I don’t know how a man feels. I don’t know how every woman feels. But for us it meant, “You’ve been chosen. It gets to be your turn.”

We all had established certain ideas, and beliefs, on how a good mother makes choices. There were scattered examples of good parenting all around us. There were examples a plenty of what not to do, as well.

We gave up on our idea of adulthood for a little while. Instead, we formed ideal childhoods for our children to experience. Their birthdays would be bigger. Their experiences would be more vast and intense. Their travels would expound and be rich with culture. All the music would be of the highest, most portentous order. Theater, art, science, would saturate our homes. They would have values, morals, confidence, intellect, and most importantly- engaged parents.

Then they were born. They were so cool. They were so weird. They came with funky allergies and hangups and complications. Paternity never worked out like it was supposed to. Marriages couldn’t be counted on. Jobs, education, houses, cities, persona’s, changed often. But, our commitment to our children, our Legacy, would prevail at all costs.

Somehow, we survived their childhood. We cultivated unique young men and women. They are self-aware; compassionate, cultured, intelligent, wildly talented, empathetic, generous, genuine, and creative young adults. That part of the journey has ended.

The adventure doesn’t end at eighteen though, does it?

The first wedding is this weekend. She was born first, so it seems right. She is marrying a good man. No hang-ups, no complications. Her paternity will work out like it’s supposed to. Her marriage will be one she can count on. Her education, career, lifestyle, have been established and are not going away. Soon, they will buy their first home together. Then another generation will come and continue our Legacy. It is one that I am proud to pass on, and I am relieved that so are they.

The Skinny Bitch

I consider it my responsibility and privilege to discuss topics that no one wants to talk about. I am an American and also a Writer, thus I consider it my right to discuss this topic. Today’s blog is about the problems I have to face, and other slender women have to face, if they are not part of the discriminated majority of women unhappy with their body size. I’m going to bitch about being skinny.

Why do I want you to read this blog? Because I have yet to hear anyone else say it. I’m hoping that people will stop judging their worth, or the worth of anyone, by numbers. That people will see that it’s hard to just be a person. Everyone hates stuff-

I hate trying to shop in a discount store because all of the clothes are only in plus sizes or baby clothes.

I hate it that clothes in my size are only sold in the children’s or young miss section. I have plenty of embroidered and bedazzled options for jeans. Awesome.

By the way, jeans in the young miss section are NOT built for my child bearing hips and ass.

I would love to buy a shirt that didn’t sag with empty feed bags in the front, revealing a cleavage I’m not willing to pretend I have.

My daughter cannot find a bra cup in her size that isn’t a plus size bra.

I hate it that anytime I eat in front of people, all I hear is how everyone wishes they could eat like me and still be so skinny. I’m not eating all the time. I only do it a couple times a day, like a normal healthy person. It’s as if I should be ashamed of eating so recklessly in front of those without the privilege of my skinniness. What a thoughtless bitch I am.

OR, if other people are eating and I’m not particularly hungry; then there must be something wrong.  Everyone can tell I’m getting too skinny. Am I feeling okay? I should start eating more. Why are they judging me?

OR, if a person (especially female) is unhappy with their body size and they are eating in front of me, it will be the first thing they have eaten in six days. It’s a trip down their weight number battlefield, and a gym membership regime resume spanning 12 years. I don’t care. It’s food. It’s good. Let us enjoy sustenance together. It’s not my battle with your feelings about your body size.

With that being said to me enough times, I started to worry. Do I have a body dysmorphoric disorder? My husband thinks I have a rockin’ bod. I don’t feel too fat or too skinny. So I decided to weigh myself and do a little research.

I am 5’5″. I weigh 125 lbs. That means by BMI is 20%. I am perfectly within the middle  of the normal range. My cholesterol levels are perfect. I have the healthiest high amount of good cholesterol and the healthiest low level of bad cholesterol. My pulse and blood pressure are at a super healthy low rate. Even my blood sugar is perfect. So how come if I am an ideal size, weight, and health, am I constantly being told I’m so tiny?

I’m 43. I wear short shorts. Why do I wear them? Because, IT’S REALLY HOT OUTSIDE!

I’m aware of the dimples on the backs of my thighs. I know I have stretch marks on my hips. My abdomen is a war zone. Breasts are post- 3 babies breastfed. I just don’t care. I’m married. My husband thinks I’m sexy. And if I wasn’t married, I still wouldn’t care because it’s not like I had anyone to disappoint but me.

I’ve gone up and down the scale quite a bit because of things like massive weight loss after I was paralyzed, to a massive weight gain from medications, or pregnancy. Along the way, I learned to own whatever space I was consuming. I make it mine. I take care of it. I take pride in it. Self-confidence is the sexiest feature a woman could ever have.

We are complex people, not just cold numbers to be measured, compared and evaluated. Make a point of complimenting other women. When you greet someone, immediately point out one aspect of them that is attractive. Compliment her eyes, hair style, or stylish choice of blouse It lets people know that your are seeing them, not just the shape of them.

Everyone has a thing they have to contend with. Everyone is insecure and desperate for approval- just like you. Just love each other because we are all trying the best we can; and because eventually, everyone dies. Let’s make the best we can with what we have together.

 

How I Won Welfare Warfare

I may be the happiest person to be middle-class that you ever meet.

When I started this blog I was a red-hot mess. I was a full-time returning college student. I was unmarried. I had three children. I was traumatized from my relationship with my daughters’ abusive alcoholic father. It seemed like I was a stereotype statistic waiting to happen, but I knew I would break out. I saw The System for what it was. It wasn’t an occupation or a life goal, but it is an opportunity. The trail out of my Low Income Forest looks like this:

2007- I left the bottom of the barrel in Lansing and moved in with a friend in Pinckney.

I applied for daycare assistance and got a job. The kids and I still utilized food and medical assistance.

2008- I got onto Section 8 rental assistance, and found us a cute house.

2009- Second shift daycare became impossible and I lost my job.

2010- Worked and finished my Associated degree. Still no work.

2011- I went back to the welfare office, applied for cash assistance, and got sent to Michigan Works.

From there, I went to a program that paid me food and cash benefits while I went to vocational school. Section 8 paid for rent.

Vocational school didn’t produce work, so I finished my degree and continued to receive full assistance while in school.

2012- Car died, no more school. No more cash assistance.

2013- Got married. No more food assistance. Rent increases.

2014- Get hired and fired from 3 separate jobs.

2015- Landlord evicted all Section 8 residents. Family is left homeless.

By the time we find a house, it wasn’t approved, and I lost my rental assistance.

2016- I still can’t find work. Sean is drastically underemployed. Ambrose is killed.

By end of year, I start bartending. I get off head-meds. Sean becomes GM at Jet’s Pizza in Hartland.

2017- We no longer qualify for food assistance.

2018- Sean gets a significant raise because he works so hard.

Family no longer qualifies for Medicaid and we are not on low-income assistance of any kind.

We are officially middle-class!

So there. Now, I’m in an adorable little house across the street from a lake. I work as a kick-ass bartender. I write. I volunteer all the time. My children are involved in healthy activities. My husband takes great pride in his role as a strong provider for our family.

The Social Welfare system saved my family. Medical conditions we could have died from, Medicaid kept us alive. During the times I was struggling to keep my kids afloat, EBT made sure they could eat. I was able to raise my kids in a clean, safe home in a family neighborhood because of Section 8. Cash assistance kept water and heat on, and toilet paper on the roll. I made sure the kids had what they needed so they could live as healthy of a life as I could provide. Poverty puts them at the top of the list for every risk factor. There were a lot of resources available to keep the kids safe, so I utilized them all until I could take over and do it myself.

Friends and family cannot be overappreciated in the story. Their contributions and support were at times crucial. The poverty struggle is very real. I worked every day in every way to get us out of it.

This is what the Social Welfare Program was intended to do. There should be a safety net for people. I was on Welfare because I was desperate, not because I was lazy.  Accidents happen. Mistakes get made. Capitalist Economies are only as successful as its lowest ranking citizens. I can’t change the world. I did however change my world, and the world of my family.

Thank you, taxpayers. (Oh, yeah. That’s us now, too!) I’m paying you back with me and my husbands income tax dollars, and with the moral, respectable children I am raising to be valuable contributions to society. You’re welcome.

 

Obituary for Spike “Fat Bastard” Sullivan

Spike “Fat Bastard” Sullivan died peacefully today in the arms of his pride mother Kayla Donaldson at 10:30 a.m. April 14, 2018 in Whitmore Lake, Michigan. Spike had been battling renal kidney failure since his companion, Ambrose Sullivan, passed away September 1, 2016. Spike was born in January 2004 in Lansing, Michigan. He is the son of Tiamat, who is the daughter of Lugosi. He is survived by his remaining family; Kayla Donaldson, Sean Donaldson, Marley Johnson, Mercy Johnson, and Princess Mew.

Spike lived a full life. From his humble beginnings as a Tom Cat in a North Lansing trailer park, to his last days as pampered house cat eating Fancy Feast, Spike has always been an affectionate and respectful member of the family.

The other thing Spike is most well-known for was his vehemonate loathing of all dogs. Once when Spike was about five months old, I took little toddler Marley for a walk and a dog jumped off its porch and barked at her. Spike leaped in between Marley and the dog. He arched his back, and he hissed and spit. He was there to protect his pride. He continued to never fear, and to hate all dogs, for the rest of his days.

Spike could talk. Whenever Ambrose was gone for extended visits with his Papa, Spike could be heard wandering the halls at night howling, “Aaaambrrrooooose? Aaaambrrroooose?” He and his companion were both gifted and divine creatures. They were a perfect match.

Rest in peace forever, Spike. Your greatness is beyond measure, and your companionship beyond compare.

 

Personal Note:

After Spike was sedated, the veterinarian left Spike and I alone for a few moments. Ambrose came into the room and it filled with his light. He came for his cat. I gave Spike every drop of respect he earned over fourteen hard fought years. I knew when he was ready to go. He was ready to be done. I was ready to let him go. Ambrose was ready to take him home.

 

Wonder Woman — Kayla’s Welfare

Someone once said that, “Ginger Rogers could do everything Fred Astaire did; only she did it backwards, and in six-inch heels”. Batman and Superman have dominated since the Golden Age of Comic’s.  There is only one woman who could battle beside them as an equal; even in high heel boots and a strapless bustier.  That one woman is Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman’s character, as created by William Marston, has been turned into a feminist archetype. She serves as a goddess symbol, and ideal woman on many levels. Some of those levels have been criticized for being cruelly exploitative. Some of those levels are aspirations still worthy of today’s woman.  Wonder Woman’s breast revealing bustier could be interpreted as eye-candy for lusty men.  There is also the controversy regarding the multiple bondage scenes in every issue. Then again, she is also longest running heroin comic of all time. Not to mention the fact that she holds the title as the only girl who’s been able to keep up with superheroes like Batman and Superman for nearly 40 years.

Which leads one to debate: is Wonder Woman just another caricature for men’s perverted fantasies? Or is she something more? Is she a representation of the gifts that lay inside every young woman as long as they can resist male domination? Was Wonder Woman’s stoic grace mightier than a perverted pen? Wonder Woman’s inception into comic book media began in the December 1941 issue of DC Comics’ popular All Star Comics.  (St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture). Before she was Wonder Woman, she was the daughter of the Hippolyta who is Queen of the Amazons. The Amazons were refugees of Greece looking to escape a destructive male-dominated society. The women claimed an island in the Bermuda Triangle as their home.  It is surrounded by a magnetic field which hides their location from the rest of the world. Women from this island are trained from birth to be as strong as Hercules, as wise as Athena, and with the competitive drive of Ares and Apollo, all combined with a capacity for love like Aphrodite’s.

The majority of superheroes are usually off-shoots of a science lab gone awry, an alien from another planet, or perhaps a mortal with an inner code of vengeance for some massive injustice. Like the mutant orphan Spiderman’s quest to avenge his Uncle Ben’s death; or Batman’s repressed orphan issue’s, Superman is an orphan also. But unlike her most infamous cohorts, Wonder Woman never had a father figure, or even a male role model. Amazon Queen Hippolyta asked the goddess Aphrodite for a daughter to keep her company. Aphrodite told her to form a child made from clay. Aphrodite blew the breath of life into the clay, and thus was born Princess Diana. Her mother parents are very much alive inside her. This is what makes her wholly feminine approach to every situation so remarkably believable.

Wonder Woman chose to leave her Paradise Island to come to America when American Intelligence officer Steve Trevor accidentally crash landed his plane onto her island. The Princess Diana, as she was named at home, nursed him back to health.  Much like an “English Patient” she fell madly in love with her charge.  Princess Diana is intrigued by America, which is a society dominated by men.  She sneaked her way into a competition to see who could go back to America with the handsome captain.  She entered the competition by using a disguise, and won. Thus she earned a reward- her protective outfit.  This included a lasso that when wrapped around someone they would be forced to tell the truth. She was also given as a reward two bracelets that were stronger than any other substance on Earth. The bracelets were the also a key to Diana’s downfall, i.e., her Achilles heel, her kryptonite. The only time Wonder Woman could lose her power was if the bracelets were chained together. Even this was done with a specific empowering message. In the origin story written by Marston, the Amazon women are saved from the tyranny of Hercules by their goddess Aphrodite, but with only one hitch:  they “must wear wrist bands always to teach [them] the folly of submitting to men’s domination” (Daniels.150).

Most importantly, she was chosen to go back to America with Pilot Steve, and thus began her adventures battling Nazi’s and protecting human rights from tyranny and mad super villains. She integrated herself into society as a nurse. She was a healer of men. She comes to enlighten and protect. Wonder Woman chose to live as a repressed mortal, much like Superman uses his secret identity to include himself in society. Superman’s version of a human man, from his alien perspective is weak, insecure, and awkward. Wonder Woman’s version of a human female is just what ladies needed to see. Diana Prince, her mortal alias, is an educated professional. She is confident, capable, and self-sufficient.  Those are the two most important words for a woman of the WWII era- self-sufficient.

Wonder Woman stands as a testimony to feminine strength. I specify feminine strength as opposed to masculine strength because she used a different, less violent, approach to crime-fighting versus her super-peers. She always used wit, not war, as the means to achieve just ends, not revenge.  “Wonder Woman does not shoot bullets or heat-rays; she deflects them. She does not beat the truth out of captives; she ties them up and lets the properties of her lasso mesmerize the truth from them. She does not hide in darkness, loom over criminals, and attempt to “‘strike terror into their hearts’” because she knows them as “‘a superstitious cowardly lot’” (O’Neil 37). So leave the steroids and the pissing contests to the men. Wonder Woman had a job to do.

Another way that Wonder Woman’s crime-fighting methods differed from her male counterparts was because her methods involved self-actualization, (admitting truth with the magic lasso) and then reform (criminals were sent to Transformation Island).  This was a more productive approach as opposed to the typical stalk then strike method.

There is however, an aspect of the Wonder Woman comic book series that has haunted both me and her critics for many years. After long deliberations on the subject, I now understand the symbolism behind the repetitive bondage theme throughout her history.

William Marston has a very subjective history with women. He was married to an academically successful and talented wife named Elizabeth. He graduated with a BA from Harvard University in 1915; a LLB from Harvard Law School in 1918. He also earned a PhD in Psychology from Harvard University in 1921 and worked as a teacher at the American University. After teaching at American University in Washington D.C. and Tufts University in Medford MA, Marston traveled to Universal Studios in California in 1929, where he spent a year as Director of Public Services. () Olive Byrne was his mistress whom he met when she was a graduate student in the psychology department. Eventually he told his wife about Olive, and she moved in and they lived together quite openly as ménage trios.  He had two daughters by each wife. Elizabeth continued her academic career and Olive stayed home and took care of their daughter’s.

To quote the library of rotton.com, “If he was writing comic books today, Marston would be eaten alive by the morality police.”  This is true considering he was once quoted telling the artist at D.C Comics that for his last wonder woman script he “called for seventy-five panels showing women in bondage” (Daniels 75).

I believe that Wonder Woman’s strengths have endured as a contradiction to what excessive bondage drawings might immediately represent.  William Marston’s symbolism of a powerful woman in sexually submissive positions was admittedly intentional. Marston was even quoted on his motives on writing Wonder Woman. “Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power. Not wanting to be girls, they don’t want to be tender, submissive, and peace-loving as good women are. Women’s strong qualities have become despised because of their weakness. The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with the strength of Superman plus all of the allure of a good and beautiful woman.” If the girls are going to always be represented as the victim, or the weaker species, who would want to be on the losing team?

Girls want to grow up to be strong women. We see the advantages boys have because they are usually faster and stronger. We are conditioned to believe that we cannot protect ourselves because we are inundated with images of women being perpetually saved. The restraints come into psychological balance when one can handle both aspects; the physical strength of a man combined with the mental endurance of a woman. A man’s strength lies in what pain he can inflict. A woman’s strength lies in what pain she can endure.

The majority of these scenes take place with Wonder Woman being tied to large phallic shaped object. The interpretation may be a contradiction to his message. Whenever Wonder Woman was in peril, it was because she was tied down to a penis.  She persevered every time. She has 40 years worth of publication, two television shows, and a movie in the works to be released.

I have always taught my children that violence is what a person resorts to when they are not intelligent enough to work their way through a situation. Wonder Woman represented women at their most brilliant. She was unconditionally a lady. She could be touched, but not held. She was intelligent, resourceful, strong, and consistent in her moral code. Regardless of Marston’s original intentions, or personal life, Wonder Woman stands proudly in pop culture history as the most wondrous woman of our time.

 

Works Cited

Coletta, Charles . Bowling, Beatniks, and Bell-Bottoms: Pop Culture of 20th-Century America. Vol. 3: 1940s-1950s. Detroit: UXL, 2002. p583-585. Character Overview

Daniels, Les. Wonder Woman: The Complete History. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2000

Dietrich, Bryan D. “Queen of Pentacles: archetyping Wonder Woman.” Extrapolation 47.2 (2006): 207+. 13 July 2010.Academic OneFile. Web.

nndb. http://www.nndb.com/people/160/000093878/.web

O’Neil, Dennis, ed. Secret Origins of the Super DC Heroes. New York: Warner Books, 1976.

Pyle, Christian L.  Seduction of the Innocent .St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. Vol. 4. Detroit: St. James Press, 2000. p350-351. Article

Ray, Belinda S.. St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. Vol. 5.  Detroit: St. James Press, 2000.p171-172.Article

Rotten library. http://www.rotten.com/library/bio/mad-science/william_marston/.web

Segura ,Alex.Wonder Woman ditches hot pants for leggings.www.perthnow.com.au/…/wonder-woman…/story-e6frg3gl-1225886662459. 28 June 2010.web

Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Moulton_Marston.web

Wonder Woman History.15hqqv. Charles Moulton’s creation of the perfect woman superhero. http://www.vex.net/~dq711/wonder_woman.htm l.web

© Copyright 2010 Kayla Strangelove (UN: Kayla at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.

Kayla Strangelove has granted Writing.Com, its affiliates and syndicates non-exclusive

Grow up, But Not Until You’re Ready

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I’m being a better parent, by unparenting. I told my girls that it doesn’t look like they’re getting into Oxford, but that I don’t particularly care. I won’t love them based on their academic accomplishments. I don’t care if they go to the right college, or even any college. Why would a parent give their child such reckless advice? Because there is only one thing I need them to be when the grow up- happy.
Whatever makes them happy- find a job that will support that. I never want my kids to feel as though their value is either measurable, comparable, or erodible, because they didn’t perform well enough compared to someone else. Don’t waste precious youth on adult worries, and adult problems. Good morals are instilled young, and reinforced by example and practice.
Of course, I inspire and encourage them to reach for the highest apple on the tree. I want them to love themselves enough to believe they can achieve, and that they deserve, all they wish for. I offer them every opportunity to become whatever their dreams tell them to. I give them navigation skills. Positive choices usually produce positive dividends. Negative choices usually have consequences. Work for what you want. Never count on someone else to give you what you need. Personal accountability is an important trait. Your intelligence level is by choice. My personal favorite is, do the right thing not the easy thing.
Honestly, a person can go to college at any point in their life, but only be young for one brief period of time. So much of youth is spent worrying about how everything you do or don’t do now will affect the rest of your life. Obviously, we can commit heinous undoable crimes, at worst; or make things harder for ourselves, at the very least. There is truth to the proverb, investment now reaps great rewards later. What no one tells us is that we have the rest of our adult lives wide open to work on stuff, learn from bad choices, and finish what we started; or change horses, and go in a new direction.  Goals are important, but if you miss your mark the game isn’t over. Life is about the journey, not the destination.
Please, baby girls, Mama only wants you to be happy when you grow up. The rest is details. Come alive. Don’t just exist.

All the white roses in the world…

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Drawing by Mercy for her deceased brother, Ambrose Sullivan. She thought September was the 10th month

… could never fill this hole inside me.

Today is the six month anniversary of when David Vega killed my son, and left his body in a ditch to rot.

This is six months of screaming in my head that never stops. I am always sobbing, just not always aloud.

For six months; every breath, every lub-dub of my heart, is deliberate and debated.  I have to consciously choose to keep living because I would not dare leave my daughters in this world while they still need me here to raise them. Although, I feel utterly helpless and ineffective.

I have endured six months of questions that have no reasonable answer to them. “Is he still free?” “Why haven’t they arrested him, yet?” “You know he moved the body, right?” “What will the cops charge him with?” “Will you let me know when the trial begins, so that we can be there?” I predict the courtroom will be standing room only.

Each morning, I make my way to his shrine in my living room. I put my hands on either side of the cold, marble urn. I look into my son’s eyes in his photograph. It’s his Senior picture. He was killed just before we could celebrate his graduation. He was killed, and so every celebration we will ever have, or never have, is incomplete. Every day, I lay my trembling hands on his cold urn. I look into his warm, stormy eyes. I talk to him about his cat and his sisters. I talk to him about what is going on in the wake of his killing. I know that my pain is hard for him to watch from the other side without being able to offer me comfort.

“What did you expect, God?!” I wail at the ceiling.

Marley needs her brother more than ever now. She is growing into another version of Ambrose. She is introverted by nature. She is emotionally ambivalent to most things, even though she is also highly sensitive. She is a thinker, not a feeler. She is becoming overwhelmed by being who she is and wondering who she will become. She needs to find an outlet for all the pain and confusion inside her. Her love of anime, music, and books, are all expressions of her brother. So is her insecurity, and her ability to crawl up inside herself and hide there without complaint.

Mercy lets it out in different ways at different times. Sometimes, she’ll draw a picture for him. Most often, she will make playlists of their favorite songs to listen to together. It will always contain, “Heroes” by Bowie, “Particle Man” by They Might Be Giants, and “Heroin” by The Velvet Underground.

Six months now, I have lived in my son’s tomb. For six months, I have started longingly at the basement door, begging for him to walk through it. His arms up stretched over his head, he would walk over to me and give me a big hug and say, “Good morning, mom. I love you” just like he did every day.

As for Ambrose’s friends and family, we are still suffocated by shock. This can’t be processed because a world without Ambrose in it is unacceptable. I don’t know how I got here. I don’t know how a world without Ambrose can come into play for me. I sure as Hell can’t figure out my way here. I’m a wreck. I’m behind in everything. I am so focused on surviving hour to hour I can hardly remember that another day is going to come at me, and  that I might need to prepare for that. I can’t feel a future in front of me. I only exist in this moment. I hate this moment.

Bartending is my only solace. It’s the only time where I can be distracted from myself, and my grief. When the waves come, I can’t cry there. Not being able to cry at work has made my job a sacred place. What’s even more special, are the friends I have there who are holding my shaking hands as I navigate through this Hellscape. The Vega’s are already banned from where I work for stealing money from the waitresses. Yes, there is a special level of Hell waiting with a Vega Family placecard on the table.

To all the people who have reached out to me; Thank you, thank you, thank you. My heart is shattered, but hundreds of hands have been helping me to put the tiny shards back into a place. I will never be whole again, but perhaps functional. I have survived these past six months. Time hasn’t healed anything. Please, quit spreading that vicious rumor.

Some days I feel like I must be indestructible. If this doesn’t end me, no one can.

Other days, I have the mental fortitude of a dixie cup. If I leave my bedroom I might surely perish.

Ambrose isn’t here to share in the improvements. Money isn’t an issue anymore. I’m not crazy anymore. There are other things, too. He deserves to be here.

So, I live in his honor. I will raise his sisters successfully. I will know what to do with Marley because of my experience raising her brother. I understand why her friends on the computer are so important to her, and that they are very real relationships. She isn’t into appearances, and doesn’t want the company of those who are. Mercy has Ambrose’s brazen nature. She has his disregard for public opinion over self-satisfaction. Her joie de vivre is unmatchable, just like her brother. Mercy and Marley are both proud of inheriting their brother’s apex of portention. It is matched only by their compassion for humankind and the suffering of others. Their altruism is awe inspiring.

Obviously, that means he is still here. I am still raising him, in his sisters. I am still engaging him whenever I play music, or read Ender’s Game to Mercy. Mercy adopted Ambrose’s screen name, Ender 42, online. So, he still exists there as well. Marley is another embodiment of her brother. I see his quiet brilliance in everything she does. We will fight through this adventure together until eventually we all get to the other side; where we will inevitably begin a whole new adventure together again.

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My 3 Babies

Valentine’s Day and the Meaning of Love

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Today is the day. The 21st anniversary of the first step on my maternal journey. It began on a grey and dreary Michigan Valentine’s Day of 1996. My best-friend/roommate Tanya and I were arguing again over whether or not I was pregnant. I insisted no. She insisted, equally as stubborn, yes I was. I had already taken a negative pregnancy test over a week ago . She insisted it was wrong. She wouldn’t let it go, so I agreed to come to her first prenatal appointment with her and get tested at her doctor’s office.

While in the waiting room, I chatted with a girl I knew from high school. Tanya went in and I waited for my name to be called. It was. I went through the usual testing process, and then returned to my seat to wait and to see if I passed or failed.

My name was called again. This time, I was led down a pale blue hall with blue-grey carpet. The office had a very warm, mahogany saturated decor. A piece of paper was laid on desk. A nice woman with a bright white coat and a badge walked away and said she would return in two minutes.

I leaned over the desk and saw that the paper was my test results and they were… (da-da-dum) POSITIVE! I was so happy that my entire body elevated and I floated two inches above everything for the rest of the afternoon. Tanya knew as soon as she saw me exactly what the results would be. Heck, she knew before we even got there what the results would be. It was an immeasurable feeling.

The first place I insisted on stopping before we went home was to the library. I checked out every pregnancy and child developmental psychology book I could loan at once. Then I went to my Aunt Bobbie’s house. She was so happy for me. She gave me priceless advice that I’ll never forget receiving and she will never forget sharing.

He was special, I explained to her. I could feel it. I knew that I was going to give birth to this amazing person. I wanted this child. I came back from a coma specifically because I told God that I needed to have this child. Then there was this baby. I was chosen to be this babies Mama. It was the happiest moment in my life.

I couldn’t wait to tell Larry! He had wanted my pregnancy as soon as he met me. I called him up to tell him that I had the best Valentine’s Day gift of all time. We were having a baby together.

“Oh,” he said, in the same way one says, “Oh,” when you tell them their shoe is untied.

“I guess I have to get another job then. I’ll call you back in a couple of days.”

And that was the end of Larry Mims role in our story.

I had an inspired existence with unimaginable potential growing within me. Its very creation was an extension of the best my body had to offer. I was responsible for the heart of this immaculate soul with exponential potential. So, instead of continuing down the self-destructive path that I had so carefully laid out for myself, I was now a vessel for pure innocence. My slate was a mess, but this relationship, this extension of me, was going to come into this world clean. Clean meant free.

That is love. That is purest love. Love that stands for, ‘I will do whatever it takes to keep your best interest a priority’. I knew without hesitation that I was in a relationship that I was willing and ready to invest my entire self into, because I knew without any uncertainty that the rewards would be infinite. My love was righteous because I knew that I was the only one capable of appreciating fully all that was profound about this person. Our bond created a purest level of an amazing love we shared. This human being loved me as its own mother. I was devoted to deserving that love from such an immaculate, and awe-inspiring human. I did not let anyone else define that love or whether or not I deserved it. It was perfect. More than that, though, I truly treasured this love.

“Mother is the name for God on the lips and hearts of children.”

The day I became a mother, Valentine’s Day of 1996, is when I learned the meaning of true love.

 

End the Diagnosis Era

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Is it introvert vs. extrovert, or empath vs. narcissist?

Are you depressed, or does the oversaturation of tragedy you are exposed to everyday make you feel overwhelmed with sadness because you have a heart?

Do you have anxiety, or do you get so nervous you freak out when things get potentially weird quickly?

Are you paranoid; or are are you aware of the fact that you live in a dangerous world, and you should always be alert to protect yourself, especially if you are a female?

I rarely hear a person say, “This is my weakness. I have to try harder than most others to do this.”

I mostly hear, “I have/am (insert label or diagnosis here). I can’t do that.”

Will I make my daughter with Cerebral Palsy in her legs join a kickball team? No, that would be ludicrous. But will I ever tell her she can’t play kickball because of her CP? I definitely would not. Kickball isn’t her strength, so we focus on her horseback riding lessons instead.

My other daughter has always felt uncomfortable in large social groups. She’s not socially impaired, she’s at her best in closer settings. She has the opportunity to be enrolled in an online school and she is excelling there. I learned the bent of my child, and I worked with it.

People are over labeling themselves They are being prejudice not only against the other labels, but also categorizing themselves because of it. I know, because I was diagnosed with bipolar level II, manic depression, anxiety, and PTSD. I was in a car accident when I was 20 that left me in a coma for two weeks and I awoke with traumatic brain injuries.

Even though I healed, I didn’t realize it. Any failure, or misjudgement was because I was brain damaged. Actually, I was just being human with a lot of life challenges. I was advised to not pursue a lot of areas of interest for me because, well, I couldn’t do those things anymore. I missed my job.

My life was very chaotic for a while. I moved around a lot. I quit jobs too easily. I stayed in relationships too long. I had a temper. For all these reasons I was convinced I was emotionally unbalanced. It must be chemical. So, like a good insured American, I went through the pharmaceutical experimental cocktail nightmare.

The light turned on for me that I was mostly doing this to myself when a friend from work noticed that I had become different than when I first started. I used to be full of energy and pretty sharp when I first started a month ago. Now, I was absent minded, and sluggish. She asked if I was put on any medication recently. I was, and kinda a lot. A month before our talk, my son was killed by a hit and run driver when walking home from work. A week later my doctor doubled my dosage on all of my head prescriptions. I started sleeping 12 hours a day and I was a mush brained idiot. My friend’s observation made me do some research. Seroquel does indeed inhibit mental functioning, and that increases over time.

The day after I talked to my friend, I had unexpectedly run out of my Seroquel. The pharmacist said it would be a few days before insurance would cover a refill. Weird, I thought.

I woke up the next morning, one full day off of Seroquel, bright and early. I was awake like I hadn’t been awake in longer than I could remember. I was also in great gastric distress. Withdrawal from Seroquel is physically the same as heroin withdrawal, but it was worth it. Upstairs, I had me back. I could memorize cocktails, names, what was said a moment ago, and bartending was easy again. I was on high energy and upbeat most of the time without most of my medication.

Then I thought about things from a different perspective. What if the reason I couldn’t succeed in Administrative Support was because receptionist is a painfully BORING job? What if  it wasn’t that I couldn’t handle retail because I couldn’t handle people? People are absolutely horrible when it comes to working in retail. It’s a gig that can turn Snow White cannibal.

I’m not spineless. I’m a people pleaser. It’s not because I’m codependent. It’s because I truly enjoy people when they are happy. I’m aware of this tendency in me. I make sure to not hurt myself in the process of helping others. It’s not my job to heal everyone’s hurts, but I will help anyone I can. I will always try to be nice. It’s not as easy to be nice all the time as it is to just be a bitch. Kindness is a powerful strength. I like it that I’m kind.

I still have times where I lay awake crying for hours over everything that ever happened in my son’s life. But it’s not chemical. It is real. There are still dark places in my head that I can  get to. When I thought I would never leave the snake pit in my head, I didn’t. When I gave myself permission to be a human being and make mistakes like everyone else, then I could console myself. I still have some lingering regret, but it doesn’t mean anything is wrong with me. Regret is a there for a reason. It is a true lesson hard won. If we seek revenge on ourselves for the mistakes we’ve made then we will never heal our wounds.

Don’t get me wrong. I still believe in better living through chemistry. I drink coffee every morning. I still use a bit of lamictal to keep the edges smooth. However, using meds to avoid fixing the real problem isn’t healthy. Using diagnosis as excuses only suppresses an otherwise capable person from a self validating experiences.

I decided I definitely wasn’t crazy or brain damaged anymore. My life was crazy, and I reacted accordingly.

I talk too much. I cus too much. I love too quickly. I hate on myself. I scream. I fart. I lust. I freak out. I regret. I cry for hours. I lose sleep. I oversleep. I don’t eat enough. I eat too many sweets. I think too deeply. I care too much. I don’t care enough. I dance in place even when people are watching. I probably wear too much black on top of it all…

Diagnosis? American Woman.

 

Inside-out Christmas

Christmas was barely survived this year. It was vaguely experienced. It was ruefully noticed. Christmas was turned inside out. I have never felt farther removed from my family. My most heartfelt connections were with people I barely know, but we are all members of the Worst Club Ever. We are mothers of Angels. Our children’s lives did not play out in a natural way. Now what is natural feels like a perversion of what should be.

There were more tears than tinsel this time. There were no handcut snowflakes or colored popped corn to string this year.  I’ll let the grief keep this one, this one year’s Christmas.

Yesterday, Nick told me, “I understand the adjustment this year, but please don’t let it stop you from celebrating the holidays like you used to. You were the biggest trumpet for every season. I don’t want the kids, or anyone else, to miss out on your spirit.”

How could I not take the advice of my oldest friend?

I am very independant. I do not appreciate anything having control over me. Therefore this grief cannot have me.

 

“This is the moment. This is exactly what she was born to be;

and this is what she does, and this is what she is.”

 

Next time, Ambrose will be celebrating with us again. We will have a toast to him. We will donate a toy in his name. We will eat big. We will laugh, and sing, and cut out decorations again.

Last year was claimed by grief. I was in a state of mortal depression before the tragedy of Ambrose’s unnatural death. I haven’t been right since I lost my Cattail house, was homeless, moved into a worse situation, my dog died… I had a nice vacation. I caught up on some bills, did some cool community outreach stuff in Detroit, took in an orphan, then BAM!

I’m going to own 2017.

I’m beginning a new career.

I’m going to live without a diagnosis.

I’m going to be everything that Ambrose ever wanted for me.

I will live in peace with myself and the Universe and God.

I will live up to my, POTENTIAL…

Happy New Year.

 

Happy birthday, Ambrose

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Dear Ambrose,

Happy 20th Birthday, son. I have a whole head full of things we were supposed to do today.  We would go out to eat at your favorite restaurant. I would probably have taken us to a Japanese steakhouse. Then we would have gone to Barnes & Noble to pick three new books. We were going to have a Left Handed Presents theme for your birthday party this weekend. It was a death to being a teenager type of year.

My mind is racing through everything we accomplished together last year. We only had 2 more things on our Todo list. You should be driving your car to your friends houses later. You should be listening to that same ‘the day you were born’ story. A lot of remorse for that Todo list.

There is a can of corned beef hash in the pantry. I would have made you a big ol’ breakfast for your birthday with all your favorites; corned beef hash, eggs with garlic, hash browns, and a big glass of Welch’s grape juice to wash it all down. Now, I have one can sitting lonely. I feel as if, like me, it is waiting for it’s purpose to be fulfilled. Sorry.

Mercy broke down crying 20 minutes after she awoke. I had to hold her for a long time until she could go back to her school work. Marley hasn’t said anything. That’s probably how she will be for the rest of the day. Sean woke up grumpy and ornery.

I’m sitting in the living room. Your sisters are supposed to be doing their school work. I am not allowed to grieve yet. I have to wait until Sean comes home so the girls will be distracted while I’m down stairs bawling my eyes out. For this moment, I am the mom who has it all together. This moment is a very long moment.

It’s your birthday. We should be having parties celebrating your existence all week long. We should be…

…but we are not. I am staring at your picture on the wall. It doesn’t answer me. I see the beautiful marble urn Jason picked out. Your body is burned to ashes and your burned up body sits patiently in the corner of my living room. This can’t possibly be a reality.

Reality it is. The morning and afternoon held me down and ran over me.  Your sisters were in top form. They were angry and fighting more than they normally do. There was spit, muffins, and M&M’s everywhere. I cussed and threatened to hit them over the head with random objects. I thought of you, and I tried to take away the seriousness while still being serious. I reflected upon the absurdity of that approach. It’s absurd for them to use aggression as a means of communicating their needs. We’ve always been working on that with them though, haven’t we Chickpea?

It’s like the four of us are threads that complete one whole tapestry. We are different pieces  of the one scene. Sometimes we were slick as silk. Sometimes we were soft and supple like kashmir. Sometimes we were as tenacious as spider webs. But you and me son, we’re not tied to one another. It’s more  a meshing of spiritual space and time and psyche. We are the same thread woven into the fabric of the Universe.

I thought I would lose my mind from missing you. I thought that today would have been more, I don’t know, dramatic. I thought I would die in my sleep. The day is not done yet. Maybe I should have made a party deal of it. That would have been disgusting. I really thought I would have spent the whole day alone with  you.

I always believed our relationship to be beyond mother/child. When you were conceived, I felt a part of me break off. It was the tiniest piece of me, but I felt it separate from my soul. I also felt a tiny wisp of a new spirit it me. You were so very tiny, yet you were so significantly an immaculate portion of myself. At that very moment I knew you existed, son; I devoted my last breath to your well being, so help me every God. You were the most brilliant one to come bless us with your sacred soul. I told that to everyone who asked me about my big round belly. I explained that I was chosen to be the mother of a prodigious child. The best part was that this child chose me to be his mother. I had a pretty big job to live up to.

We moved three times while I was pregnant with you. I worked up to three jobs at one time. A friend of mine sent me a random check for a thousand dollars. I adopted a tiny, long haired, tortoise-shell colored kitten. I named him Hyro. I was also reading the books Diamond Age, and Snow Crash to you in utero. It felt good to be just you and me. Larry had taken off as soon as he was let out of jail. Jason and I were on a good friend level again. It was summer. I had friends, family, and my prodigal son on the way.

Then you came! You came with flags and bells and whistles and banners for only me, you, Jason, and Aunt Bobbie to see. I didn’t want anyone else there during labor. It was the UofM v. MSU game that day. I watched Legend, the Beautiful People video, and the first snowfall of the year while I waited for you to engage in your journey to the other side of my womb.

You wouldn’t fit. My heart nearly exploded but you healed it. Surgically, you were removed from me.

Every single possible little thing that had anything to do with my precious Ambrose had to fall within my exceptionally high personal standards of child rearing. All of it paid off.

You insisted on being held upright, and if so would rarely cry.

When you cried you sounded like a motorboat.

You only cried when you were bored, or if I drank a carbonated beverage before breastfeeding you.

You were a perfect baby.

You were months advanced in everything you did. The older you grew the deeper and more profound your perspectives grew. Everyone was amazed to be near you. Everyone who got to know you at all could see that you had inner grace that would not be choked or restrained.

School was a relentless war everyday. There was a war between me and every school who wouldn’t protect you, or teach you on the level you were learning at. You fought to not fight the other relentless boys. There was fighting over your allergy. There was fighting over bullshit ADD suspicions. We fought them all with our words.

“Violence is what people resort to if they are not intelligent enough to solve a situation.”

Through every war we held our peaceful protest with honor. The more they tried to beat us down, the harder we clung to our sense of humor. We understood the fierce power of music. Ours, yours, was an ineffable inner strength.

We fought everything, son.

We fought to survive on our own.

We fought to be back together with Jason.

We fought to make our way in Ann Arbor.

We fought to recover from a divorce.

We fought our way in and back out of Colorado.

We fought homelessness again. Then I found a room, then a bigger room, then an efficiency, and finally a two bedroom with a balcony, and a kitten.

We fought against Cecil.

We fought open heart surgery while I was pregnant with your sister.

We fought Cecil.

We fought the trailer park.

We fought Cecil some more.

We fought Pinckney bullies.

We fought to survive.

We fought homelessness again.

We fought to accomplish your goals by the time you were 20 years old.

We were 62 days away from winning that goal.

 

 

Deep Inside, I am Full of Wishes

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Today was an okay day. I kept it together. I organized a corner of a room. I got the girls to laugh over something silly. I had several hours all unto myself. It felt like a test. I called my attorney who revealed that it will take at least a year to begin the legal process. He said that it is not unprecedented for people who are guilty of crimes to wait for a year or so before being charged. So, I let go of that hot coal.

I used the time to call the two people I should always call the most- my best friend, and my mom.

I let the disparagement of the case float off and away like incense smoke through a window screen. First, there is a lingering perfume. Then it fades from the air around us and into our olfactory memory banks. In place of anguish, I now have room for peace in my aura. I feel it deep in my soul. It is embedded in me deep as dandelion roots. Like a dandelion, I will keep coming back to reach my sun. I can be chopped down a hundred times and I will always grow back. Deep inside, I am full of wishes.

I feel him with me now. I feel his embrace of warm energy surrounding me. It comforts me. Thank you for all of your prayers.