Thursday, January 29, 2009

Strange days

When we got home today, there was a package on the porch sent to my name from Amazon. I knew I hadn't ordered anything, and checked with my son who confirmed that he hadn't, either. I opened the box and checked the packing slip, both the billing and the shipping were in my name, but the bottom of the packing slip read "this completes your gift order". Inside the box was both a Flip Video Camcorder and a corresponding tripod.

Weird, someone must have gotten something wrong. I do lots of freebies and sweepstakes online, but don't remember signing up for that.

I also received in the mail today a priority envelope from my son's father. I was surprised because it was consistently the same time of the month, the third month in a row that I had received something from him. We have no legal agreement for support, his name isn't even on our son's birth certificate although paternity is not an issue. Knowing that he had lost yet another job when he sent a money order in December, I assumed I wouldn't be hearing from him again any time soon.

Before anyone gets upset about what I just said, please understand that there is a huge backstory to this that I haven't written about before now. What we are doing now works for us as much as it can. He lives far away, and has little contact with our son. He had mental illness issues while we were together. When our son was about 5, he was in an serious accident that left him brain damaged. However, as he is stubborn as hell, he refuses to admit it.

He is constantly trying to better himself because he knows what he used to be - brilliant. So he'll go to school and learn a new skill, but then cannot keep down a job in that field. Then he'll go to school for something else, and can't hold down that job, either. I'll tell the whole story at some point, maybe.

I don't hold any animosity toward him, but cannot speak for my son. I've tried to be as honest with my son as I can about our situation, without giving him too much information. I've also tried very hard not to speak badly about his father to him. I figured he would make his own decisions on his own at some point based on what he experienced.

Our son has only met his father three times. He remembers that the last time he saw his father they had a really great time. But his father promised to come back to see him in three weeks or a month, and he never saw him again. His father has only acknowledged his birthday twice, neither in the last 7 years. His father has never acknowledged Christmas before.

About a year ago I told my son's father that he needed to step up to the plate whether he liked it or not - whether he could or not. Putting our son through Catholic high school was going to be the hardest thing I ever had to do and goddammit I needed some help! And he actually started helping more often, as much as he could. Almost every letter he sent with a money order stated that he would try to get online sometime soon; please send an email address he could use, please send letters and pictures. No matter how many times I sent him letters and pictures, he never sent me any emails.

He missed our son's birthday this past year. When he sent money the week of Christmas, he talked about getting our son a Christmas present. In one of the letters he sent, he asked if he could get the boy a cell phone. I let him know the boy already bought his own cell phone, I just provided the minutes. I didn't think anything more about it, other than to feel sad that my son wouldn't even read his father's letters, anymore.

I made sure my son knew that his father sending money the week of Christmas allowed me to provide the presents he opened on Christmas morning. That was the last thought I gave to it until I got the letter and money order, today. It tore my heart out.

"Thank you for the letter. The photographs were great, and he is a very intelligent, tough looking young man. All that hard work paid off, and good schools are not easy.

Am sorry that his XMass present did not come through. I bought him a present on "EBay" and think I got robbed. Am new to that. I had bought him a camcorder, so that he could send me digital photos, or maybe post them on YouTube/Facebook, places like that? All of this is new to me but am now able to work my broke laptop. Will get another email address, and send you email.

I sent you another present, for J, same thing. Please look it over, and tell me if it's ideal/suitable for that use. Thought he could show me pix of the school/his friends, etc.

... am going to school for a few months (6) to get an excellant "welding" diploma. This can get me into the "iron workers" union on the East Coast. There will be a lot of repair work under the Obama administration. This is good, steady work that pays well.

Lost my trucking job because they slowed. Have always sent you what I could. May be some problems down road, but nothing now. Once out of school, will be better off. Am going to visit (sister who lives 2-1/2 hours away), and look forward to seeing you both, if you want. Wanted to go before school, this Spring.

Drop a line. Take care.

Love to the tough guy in the pads, to J."

I told my son he has to write a thank you note, no matter how he feels about it. I also told him that it would be nice if he actually posted a video for his father to see, and include the url link in his thank you note or his email address or something. Who knows if his father will ever actually get online to see it. However, he must have gotten online at some point to use Amazon to send the kid a video camcorder. This was not a cheap toy, I priced it out and with the tripod it was $145.00 before shipping.

I told the boy he has the right to decide whether he wants to see his father (if he actually shows up on the east coast). While he adores this Auntie, his father's sister, she is almost as much of a flake as his father is. I will happily drive him there and/or back, if there is a firm plan that they will actually be there. If my son chooses to do so, I will back him up however I can. If he chooses not to, I will also back him up in any way I can.

It would be nice, for a change, if his father's side of the family didn't let him down.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Totally awkward Tuesday

Continuing a tradition started by Tova Darling, here is my weekly awkward moment. Amazingly, this one wasn't even my fault!

In 1993 I decided to get my first tattoo. My best buddy at the time, who had many tattoos herself, set up an appointment for me with her tattoo artist, The Wizard. He was just setting up a new shop, and I may have been one of his first customers at the new location. The Wizard agreed to open the place off-hours for me so I could have some privacy.

I wanted something discreet, and private. I would know it was there, but no one else would unless I chose to show it to them. I got a small tattoo on my lower abdomen, a little above the hair line on my right pelvic bone. Holy crap, did that hurt!

The Wizard, being a man of few words, waited until after he finished to give me 2 pieces of his wisdom. The first, "That was one of the most painful spots you could have chosen to get a tattoo.". Thanks for waiting until after to share that with me. The second, "Boy are you going to regret that if you ever get pregnant.". No problem, I didn't plan on ever having children. I rocked my bikini after that with my tat showing when I wanted it to!

A year and a half later, I'd gained 80 pounds and my tattoo had stretch marks running through it. My very private tattoo, and a lot of other very private things were all on display for a roomful of people. As I prepared to push an alien with a shoulder circumference of 14 centimeters out of a hole that had only dilated 10 centimeters, the delivering obstetrician decided it would be a good time to pay me a compliment.

Dumbass said, "I like your whale tattoo!"

Mid-contraction, I responded, or possibly screamed, "IT WAS A DOOOOLLLPHIIIINNN!".

The next tattoo I got was on the ankle. No stretch marks there.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


I've been feeling crappy for a couple of days. Luckily, it was the weekend and I was able to take it easy. I decided to go to sleep early so I would be rested to start work on Monday, but around 10:30 PM, my brain started getting the better of me.

For some reason, I woke up thinking about a girl I knew who had been murdered almost 25 years ago. I couldn't even remember her full name, so naturally I had to go pull out my eighth grade yearbook and look her up. Yes, I keep my eighth grade yearbook with my photo albums in a bookcase in the living room. Don't judge me, eighth grade was one of my best years.

Anyway, I doubt I'm going back to sleep any time, soon. I've tried searching for the story on both Google and Yahoo!, but cannot find anything. The biggest paper in the area only has online archives dating back to 1992. I know someone who works for that paper, and just sent them an email asking for assistance.

I haven't thought about this girl in years. Why would I wake up feeling like I need to tell this story? I don't want to half-ass it, and cannot rely on my 14 year old self's memory to tell it correctly.

I'm also extremely curious to find out if her killer made parole. He was my neighbor across the street when I was in eighth grade, and I went to parties at his house. This guy and his wife were pure white trash, entertaining underage kids drinking and smoking pot, while their young children were around. They were probably 15-20 years older than we were. It would be easy to say that the 80's was a permissive time, but I know better, now.

Sometimes talking things out, or in this case writing them out, helps to clarify things in my mind. I often only think about things from my past as I'm reliving them from a parent's point of view. While my son is the same age I was when this girl was murdered, our lives are completely different. I'm making sure of that.

I'm confused, and tired. If I don't hear back from the lady that works at the newspaper, does anyone have an idea how I would go about finding old newspaper articles? Do I sound really stupid? Can I just go to the lie-berry and look stuff up on micro-fiche? Does that stuff even still exist?

My son's old room

I was messing around and found these pictures I had taken of the way my son's room used to look. Bummer, I really liked it...

Our home, part 2

Shortly after we moved in, I decided to fix up my sister Shouf's room. She was in Florida with our mother, and I wanted her to come home to a cheerful bedroom. Although we technically live together, she spends a lot of time with our mother, and hadn't even seen the place. There was wallpaper in her room, but it was cracking and peeling, and I wanted something nicer for her. Again, what a mistake that was! I started removing the wallpaper, and soon found out that there were 3 layers of it. Some of it must have been 100 years old. Underneath that, there was plaster. God, do I hate plaster!

After weeks of my son, my cousin and I scraping off the wallpaper, we painted it a sunshine yellow color. We had to paint it with white Killz first to keep the plaster from sucking up the paint. It actually looks pretty good.

I decided to tackle the bathroom next. I thought maybe if I got it started, it would be easier for the landlord to come in and finish it. Almost like saying, "see, I'm willing to work toward making this place better, come meet me half-way. It will only improve YOUR property value". I spoke with him about it beforehand, as I didn't want to step on any toes by messing with his house. I always clear any project I want to do with the person who owns the house. His attitude was "great", "go ahead". At that point, he told me he would come in and put up wallboard that looks like white tile, similar to what he had in his kitchen and bathroom. He even showed me some extra that he had in his garage. I got excited, and started ripping down the badly eroded wallboard in the bathroom. I left up the one wall where the only outlet literally has electrical wires running to the lighted medicine cabinet. I don't do electricity.

I started scraping the wallpaper off the bathroom walls, but then found that underneath some of it, there is a weird black felt-like substance that I cannot even identify. I wasn't sure how to deal with it, so I let it go. And let it go, and let it go.

I kept pressing the landlord to do something about the bathroom, and late last spring he agreed to have a contractor come in and appraise it. He actually agreed to give the whole bathroom a makeover, including the floor. The sink that is falling off the wall and only held up by one half-rusty pipe would be replaced with a vanity. The contractor he had look at it over the summer suggested the clawfoot tub be taken out and replaced by a stand-up only shower. While I mourned the loss of the tub, I felt that a stand-up shower would open the space up quite a bit! It is an extremely small bathroom, aproximately 5'x7'. You have to open the door all the way, then squeeze by the tub to turn the light on and shut the door.

The next time I asked for a bathroom update, the landlord said that the contractor was going to charge too much. He and his son were going to take care of the cosmetic part of it, while Home Depot was going to come in and replace the sink and the vanity. The clawfoot tub would stay, and a licensed plumber was going to deal with the old piping for the sink, and a licensed electrician would deal with the medicine cabinet. It was scheduled for October when his son had a few days off from school.

I asked the landlord to give me a couple of days heads up so I could clear out the bathroom. I have a couple of of racks and shelves in there that I didn't want to be in the way, nor did I want my clean wash cloths full of remodeling dust. As we reached the weekend I thought the remodeling was going to happen, the landlord finally told me, "Something came up". Nothing was going to happen. I never got a clear answer out of him, and haven't pressed it further.

Here's the thing: I agreed to host a baby shower for my cousin's daughter that takes place in less than a month. I never would have agreed to it if I knew the bathroom would look the way it does. I am mortified. Mortified! I had thought that the bathroom makeover would push me to maybe make some cosmetic improvements to the rest of the house.

Here I am, stuck not just on the bathroom, but I haven't done anything else. There is no money, and I'm running out of time. I figure the rest of the house is going to have to be what it is. None of the people coming to the shower are related to me, so I guess I'm going to have a "who cares" attitude".

Here are some "before" shots of the hideous bathroom. I'm just going to finish scraping off the old wallpaper, and spray everything with white Killz, and hope for the best. The wall with the old paneling and blue sink and electrical wires running from the outlet to the medicine cabinet is going to have to stay as it is, I'm not messing with that!

I had to post pictures because a while ago I told Whiskey Marie that my bathroom was worse than hers.

Help! If you have any handy and cheap ideas, feel free to chime in!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Mr. Mojo Risin'

I'm taking a little break from the house post, because my camera will not upload to my computer. As I reinstalled the software, and used an alternate usb port, I have to assume it is low on battery. So, while I'm charging, please enjoy this post.

When we moved into this house, my son was into all things Asian. The landlord agreed to paint his room Asian red, and I put up an awesome wallpaper border of warriors on horseback with swords, battling. My son had a thing at the time for swords, also. I had no problem with it, because my son is one of the most laid back people you would ever meet. He collected swords the way some people collect stamps. He displayed them, but he was never the kind of kid that actually played with them. I only had to tell him once, "these are your possessions, but if I ever find out that you are not treating them responsibly, I will take them away from you until you are 18". He not only never played with them, he didn't let his friends play with them, either. It just hasn't been an issue.

About six months ago, my son told me he's not into the Asian thing anymore. Bummer, because Nana and I had been putting stuff away for Christmas. Whatever, kids are allowed to change what they like. However, his WHOLE room is based on that theme. He told me recently that he wanted to take down the wallpaper border, to which I replied, "good luck". That bitch took me WEEKS to put up. The walls aren't even, not remotely even, and sometimes it wouldn't even stick! I may or may not have used actual glue at some point instead of wallpaper glue.

My son started trying to take down the wallpaper border this weekend. He gave up pretty quickly when the shit wouldn't come off the walls. He had already taken out most of the Asian from his room before Christmas, and then took the rest of it out when he got his new desk from Santa. Turns out, he had ordered some posters he would rather have on his walls instead.

They came in today, and I was pleasantly surprised. The posters were of Led Zeppelen, Jimi Hendrix, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Killers, and Sublime. I asked, "where are The Doors?" He said that he didn't see any posters that he thought were cool enough, just Jim Morrison mugging it up for the camera. I happen to love Jim Morrison mugging it up for the camera, but am glad my son has his own opinion.

My son is named for my brother, who died about a year and half before my son was born. My brother loved Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and The Doors. It is just a coincidence that my son is starting to love this music.

I will never forget my brother stating, "I am the Lizard King, I can do anything". I know for a fact that he told my sister, Kouf, "if I die, look for me in Mr. Mojo Risin'". I didn't know at the time that it was Jim Morrison's anagram. My brother would write that with a black sharpie anywhere he got the opportunity.

I'm thankful that my son has his own opinions, and views on music. I also thank God that he didn't get a poster with Mr. Mojo Risin' to hang on his wall. That probably would have freaked Auntie Kouf out!

Our home, part 1

The duplex that we rent is extremely affordable. I'm getting that out of the way before the ranting and raving starts. It has 3 bedrooms, a roomy kitchen, decent size dining room and small living room. I have no yard to speak of, but a small brick patio at the end of the driveway to put a table and chairs on. It's on a busy road, but in a decent neighborhood. The landlords live on the other side of the house, and the husband is a pain in the ass. On the upside, they and their children are all hard of hearing, so no one complains if I play the music too loud (except my son, of course). And, the rent includes water.

When we moved here three years ago, I was desperate for a place to go, and desperate to get out of the neighborhood we were in. I was on a string of bad luck, moving from one expensive apartment to another after I had to sell my house. The first apartment we moved to was literally 5 houses up the road from our old house. It was actually pretty roomy, and within walking distance of my son's best buddy. After someone took a shot at the neighbor within 5 minutes of my son and his friend playing in the backyard, however, I decided we needed to move.

At that point, my sister Shouf, and I thought it would be a good idea to combine our resources and move in together. Read about what happened after that here, if you are interested. We only moved a couple of streets over, but it was a better neighborhood. However, less than a year later, the landlords decided to sell the place, and the new owners wanted to live in our apartment.

We took the first place we could find, which was a huge mistake! It was a small third floor walk-up, back in the bad neighborhood we had just left. I didn't feel like I had a whole lot of options. I also didn't let my son out of the house alone after dark after the time he was taking out the garbage and witnessed some kid get his bike stolen out from underneath him by a group of hoodlums.

Yet again, the landlords sold the building. This time, the new owner took the apartment on the second floor, but raised our rent by $175.00 a month! I don't think so! My cousin saw a "for rent" sign on a duplex in her neighborhood and gave me the number. I called, and went to look at the place on my lunch break. It needed a lot of cosmetic work, but was roomy and $50 less a month than what we were paying for a third floor walk-up in the ghetto - before the increase.

I wanted it, and the landlord decided he liked me, didn't show it to anyone else, and didn't run a credit check. The landlord asked me to give him time to fix the place up a little bit, the previous tenant had been there for 8 years, and they hadn't done anything with the place in that time. He asked me what colors I wanted for the bedrooms, and painted two of them for me. I needed to get out of where I was quickly, though, and the previous tenant was dragging his feet getting his stuff out. The day I moved in, the landlord was literally in the kitchen hanging cabinets. He promised me he would get to the bathroom as soon as possible.

I quickly found out that the landlord was not a man of his word. He often doesn't remember things he told me, or promises he made. When I confront him about stuff, his usual refrain is, "if you don't like it, move out". This is usually following a long drawn out lecture during which he turns into my father. Sometimes, there's even yelling.

Considering that we haven't had a lease since the first year, I often don't push the issue. On a month to month "agreement", he can evict me at any time. Although it would take 90 days, it's not something I want to deal with. I'm sick to death of moving, I don't have any plans to move again any time soon, I'm very comfortable here. Even if it is a dump. It is an affordable dump and it is a dump full of our stuff.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Totally awkward Tuesday

Tova Darling started a great new thing called Totally Awkward Tuesday. I have a feeling I am going to excel at this game! Yay, me!

A few years ago, I was totally crushing on a guy at work. His name was Larry. Actually it still is. As I have mentioned previously, I made a decision many years ago not to date any longer. I especially am not going to date someone I work with. Never, ever shit where you eat, people. Never. One of the many reasons I don't date any longer is because I have lousy taste in men. Larry was definitely a bad boy. I can't help an attraction, I can only control how I react to it.

He was a little older, made no effort to hide the fact that he drank too much and loved the weed, had a great sense of humor and a bad temper, wore cowboy boots with faded jeans and a leather belt, and had piercing blue eyes and graying hair. It worked for him, and Boy, Oh, Boy did it work for me.

We enjoyed a work camaraderie, nothing special, and I made certain not to put myself in any situations where I would feel awkward or go out of my way to embarrass myself. No happy hours with the crew for me - I have a child at home, I don't drink and drive. No going to summer parties at co-workers' houses - I don't drive at night. Oh, Larry lives near you, he can take you home - I already have plans, thanks.

Out of the blue on a Saturday afternoon, Larry called my unlisted home number, which I did not give to him. We chatted for a minute about nothing in particular while my mind was racing. How did he get my number, and Why on Earth was he calling me? There was an uncomfortable pause in the conversation, and then it hit me. Oh my god, he was going to ask me out! My mouth got dry and my heart felt like it was in my throat. How was I going to turn him down? Was I going to be able to turn him down? Unbidden thoughts of his ass and long legs in faded Levis flashed in front of my eyes.

He stammered, "Um, I got your number from Janet..." fellow co-worker and friend, "and, um, you know it's just my teenage son and I at my house, and I know you're a single mother...". For fuck's sake, hurry up already and ask me out! "So, um, I was wondering if you would be interested..." yes, go on... "I was wondering if you would be willing to come over once a week and clean our house. I would pay you. I thought you could use the money, and Janet agreed when I asked her for your number. If not, can you recommend someone?"

Awkward for me, at least. Thank goodness he never found out what was really happening on the other end of the phone!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

My imagination runs wild

I'm the kind of person, read asshole, who doesn't answer their phone. I hate talking on the phone, I'm not a big phone talker. I let my machine screen all of my calls. If I'm not otherwise occupied, I will pick up, or I will call you back when I get the message.

I don't usually get a lot of calls on a Sunday. Most of the bill collectors and telemarketers take the day off, although you would be surprised.

For some reason today, I have gotten a lot of hang up calls on my machine. About an hour ago, I got this message:

Loosely translated, that was "blah, blah, blah, I goan fuckin' kill yo ass!".

Since I haven't been in any trouble or caused any trouble in a really long time, I'm assuming this was a wrong number. I even tried to hit *69 to make sure bitch knew she had the wrong number. Unfortunately, *69 doesn't work on cell phones.

What freaks me out is, a person could think that their baby daddy's new girlfriend was at this number, and reverse trace it on the internet to find the address. Then they think that's the address where not only the crack is, but the new bitch they want to kill lives here.

Needless to say, I told my kid not to take the dog out again tonight.

What is our world coming to when I would rather have my dog shit inside my house than have my kid shanked on the front lawn?

I may be overreacting, but would rather be safe than sorry. That message freaked me the fuck out!

Thursday, January 15, 2009


That Damn Expat did a post on December 17, 2008 called, "My Interview". B.E. Earle sent her some personalized questions via email, and then she answered them on her blog. I really liked what she wrote, and I signed up for it. I'm ashamed to admit it has taken me so long to get around to it, but I'm going to try, now.

Here are the rules:
1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me." (Please leave your email addy if I don't already have it or you are not a friend on Facebook)
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

I will only offer to send questions to the first and second commenters that ask for them. I'm not very original or creative, and as many of you may know, I'm horribly behind on my blog reading and commenting because I'm just out of time. I'm sorry, I still love you! I'm really trying to go back and read every post and occasionally comment on it. It would take me months to get around to getting back to you if I had to think up questions for more than one or two people.

Here are the questions Expat gave me:

If you could go back and change something about your life would you do it? Explain.

That is a loaded question to me, because there are so many things I would like to change about my life, not the least of which would be to have been born to different parents. If I started back too far, though, it would change the circumstances that led me to have this wonderful child that I have, and I Would Never Give That Up. Quite honestly, my child is possibly the only thing that I have ever done right. Have you ever seen the movie, "The Butterfly Effect"? If not, you probably should, just saying.

Without too much explanation, I would say that I would never have gotten into the last relationship I had that started about 10 years ago. I was a fool, he turned out to be a sociopath, and I've never been the same since. I almost completely destroyed not only my life, but my son's life, also. I ended up losing my job and having to sell our home before it got foreclosed upon. I think the decision I made to stop dating after that was a good one, considering my lousy taste in men.

What is the one thing you would want your child to learn from you, instead of experiencing it for himself?

Again, only ONE? Tough call, but I'm going to go with: Drugs and Alcohol are BAAAAAAAD! Moderation is not an option when addiction is running through every vein in his body. Stay Away, Poison, Danger!

If I got to choose two and three they would be Education and Abstinence.

If you were a movie character which character would you be?

Hmm, which character as I see myself, or which character I would want to be if I had the choice?

As I see myself, probably a cross between Susanna and Lisa in Girl, Interrupted.

As I would want to be, Francis/Baby from Dirty Dancing. Good upbringing, relatively wealthy parents, young and smart, with options wide open. Also, hot lover that teaches her how to dance and gives her a great first experience. "No one puts Baby in the corner"!

In your opinion, what is your best character trait?

Again, so many to choose from! Just kidding. I would have to say that when my first reactions toward hysteria and drama subside, my sense of humor takes over. My sense of humor has saved me from losing my mind more times than I can count. So I'm going to say more times than 20 because that is the amount of fingers and toes that I have to count on. Math has never been my strong suit.

You are a fellow Harry Potter fan. If you went to Hogwarts which house would you be in? Explain.

I would probably be a Hufflepuff. According to Wikipedia, "Hufflepuff values hard work, loyalty, tolerance, and fair play". That's pretty much me. I don't want to be the center of attention, At All. I have trouble acting normal when I'm nervous (name the song). I would much rather be in the background, making sure everything is working the way it is supposed to, everyone has enough to eat and drink, everyone is having a good time, all is running smoothly. I'm the details girl that you can count on to make sure you don't have to worry about anything while you are in the spotlight. Your spotlight will reflect upon me when I do my very best to make you look good.

Thanks, Expat! Those were awesome, thought provoking questions!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Dysfunctional families

I watched the movie Birds of America recently. It is a very dark dramedy about an extremely dysfunctional family and I really enjoyed it! There were twists and turns that even I didn't see coming. The youngest sibling, Jay, in the movie reminded me so much of my little brother, it was uncanny.

If you haven't spent much time poring over my archives, you don't know that I have five siblings: three older sisters, one older brother who died in 1993, and one much younger brother (by 16 years).

My younger brother was born to my father and his second wife. I don't have much to say about that. What I will say is that I wish he had been born to better parents and that he had been given more of a chance at life. They really fucked him up, and then they turned their backs on him.

I hadn't seen him in about 10 years, but had heard bits and pieces of what was going on in his life. I occasionally got an odd message on my answering machine from him, but never with a number to call him back. Last spring, on a Saturday afternoon, someone knocked on my front door. I yelled up to my son, "J, get down here, there is some weird looking guy on the front porch". I opened the door and took in the white dreads and scruffy beard, baggy clothes and colorful Guatamalen sack not unlike the one my niece uses as a purse, and said, "Can I help you?".

The guy just stood there wearing a goofy, lopsided grin until I realized he was my little brother! I'd know that smile anywhere! He spent the afternoon with J, Shouf and I playing catch-up. It was awkward, at times, but I was so happy to see him. He's gone through so very much in his short life.

He told me he was living a healthy raw vegan life style, and was renting a room in a drug-free home. I was very glad to hear that. Quite honestly he'd never been quite right, but after he overdosed on ketamine he was deemed legally disabled.

I'll tell you one thing, he's not dull. He's very easygoing, and has a tendency to giggle. He has intelligent ideas and opinions, even if they may seem a little wacky. He sometimes has trouble articulating them, but he is interesting. He leads a unique existence, and does not conform to anyone's standards. He has a laptop, but will not watch a television. Loud noise and large amounts of people in a confined space make him extremely uncomfortable, although he is trying slowly to acclimate himself.

He has no need for any material possessions, and doesn't even want pictures because of the chemicals used in printing them. If you invite him to something, he may show up and he may not. I had a hard time with that at first, but he is truly the kind of spirit that cannot be contained. He just doesn't work on a calendar or time schedule.

He does like music, and I let him borrow a bunch of cd's to upload to his laptop, with the promise that I would get them back the next time I saw him.

His visits and phone calls grew less frequent, and before I knew it he had given up both his telephone and his car. Late summer saw him living at the drug free home only sporadically, from what I understood. I was very clear with him that if he started using drugs again, I didn't want him in my life or around my son.

I emailed him the link to our Gram's obituary when she passed away last October. I was surprised when I found out he wanted to attend the memorial service. My sister Kouf brought him, and I could hear the whispers going through the church as they walked to the pew where my son, niece and I were sitting. No one had seen him in over 10 years, but he looked as presentable as could be in a button down shirt and cords, you know with the white dreads, scruffy beard, and newly added plugs in his ear lobes.

He had confided to Kouf that he couldn't remember ever having been in a church before. He sat between Kouf and I, and tried very hard to be on his best behavior. Apparently, he kept leaning over to Kouf and whispering, "The dudes up front in the dresses are tripping me out, man". He tried very hard to keep his giggling to a quiet minimum.

When they announced communion, Kouf and I both felt his body trying to rise. I didn't even look over, just put a hand on his arm, not knowing that Kouf was at the same time restraining his other arm and hissing under her breath, "Don't you dare". My son and niece got up to receive communion, and my brother goes, "Bring me back some Jesus, dudes, tee-hee-hee". I couldn't help but crack up completely at that point. Have you ever laughed hysterically at your grandmother's memorial service, trying to be silent? Maybe the people in the pews behind us thought I was crying.

Afterward, at the reception, he spent most of his time outside. It was extremely crowded, and full of the smell of cooking food, and I was relieved that people just seemed to accept him for who and what he is. After the reception, we were invited back to Gram's apartment to please take whatever we wanted. My aunt wanted to make sure that everyone got the opportunity to take away something of our grandmother's. Plus, there was the Hummel collection.

It was poignant, to me at least, that my brother just didn't want anything, not even one of the Hummels. When my aunt pressed him and asked if there wasn't at least one thing in the kitchen that he could use, he said very simply, "I could use a coffee mug". And he seemed extremely happy that he would remember our Gram every time he used it.

Months have gone by since then, with very little contact. He lives 45 minutes away, he doesn't have a car or a phone, and I don't drive at night. Not to mention I have been insanely busy, lately. He doesn't celebrate holidays, especially the ones that surround the gluttonous eating of cooked foods and animals. Those just happen to be the only ones I do celebrate...

I had just about completely given up on the cd's I let him borrow last June, as he forgot to bring them with him every time I saw him after that. I was a little bummed, as some of them were pretty special to me. Last week I had a dream that I should offer to pay the postage to have him just mail them to me. When I woke up I had every intention of emailing him with that suggestion, and then promptly forgot about it. Two days later, the mail man left them on my front porch under my mail box.

Coincidence? I think not. It's like he has ESPN or something, dude.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Things that make me happy

Some of the most simple things in life make me very happy. Getting a good sale on meat at the grocery store and filling my freezer makes me happy. Getting 2-3 meals out of one purchase makes me happy. Cooking and eating good meals makes me happy. Listening to good music and singing and dancing around my kitchen as I cook or do dishes makes me happy.

Unfortunately, that last part does not make my son very happy, at all. I play my music too loud, I sing too loud, I'm embarrassing him by dancing in the privacy of my own home. Whatever. Anyone who's ever been in my home while I'm cooking knows what I'm going to say next: "Get out of my kitchen".

When we were growing up, there were a lot of us to feed. I learned young how to cook for an army, and have had trouble downsizing since then. Now that it's just me and the boy, and money is tight, I've tried really hard to plan for leftovers in a new way. The boy will not readily enjoy the same exact meal 2 nights in a row, so I have started getting creative, especially as we don't always like the same thing.

I made a pork roast on Saturday, and a roast chicken on Sunday. I cut up the leftovers of both, and froze the pork in 3 different baggies. Out of those 2 dinners, I have made: chicken fettuccini alfredo for the boy, chicken scampi with veggies for me, chicken a la king for the boy, red beans and rice with pork burritos, barbeque pulled pork sandwiches, and I still have pork left over for maybe fried rice.

I only made one other dinner from scratch this week, because I thought my nieces were coming for dinner on Tuesday. A snow storm foiled that plan, but this is one of my favorite recipes and I want to share it with you. I adapted it from a Woman's Day Magazine recipe, and I tweeked it to make it my own. Keep in mind, I am not The Pioneer Woman - there will be no pictures attached or step by step directions. The soundtrack that should be playing is Santana's Supernatural. Again, that makes me very happy, and kind of goes with the cilantro theme.

Chicken Breasts with Cilantro Pesto

6 chicken breasts
2 cups cilantro leaves (one bunch is good - keep in mind leaves only, stalks get tossed!)
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup minced red onion
juice of 2-3 fresh lemons (adjust to how much you like lemon)
1 Tbsp oilive oil
2 cloves garlic (more if you really like garlic)
2 tsp each paprika, curry powder, cumin and salt

*Note: I have never been in possesion of cumin. I've also never noticed it's absence in this recipe. Paprika, curry, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper are my weapons of choice.

Process pesto ingredients in food processor until a smooth paste. (I don't own a food processor. I put the ingredients into my small chopper/mincer thing that I got for less than $10 at a Black & Decker outlet store. I run them through in batches, and them mix them in a bowl. By hand, the old fashioned way.)

Spray roasting pan with cooking spray, add chicken breasts, and then smear the pesto over the top of the breasts. Take a deep breath, boys, we're talking about chicken here, only chicken breasts. Bake one hour at 350 deg.

Here's where I get wacky.

I like to eat the chicken with chunky avocado salsa. This is another recipe in it's own right. And delicious, I might add. I'm going to try to break it down for you in 1-2 serving increments. What you choose to add to it will make the serving size differ. This is good as a very quickly used condiment, larger as a dip served with scoops, or, as my sister Bouf told me, served as a main dish with cooked shrimp mixed in.

Chunky Avocado Salsa

1 avocado
1/8 cup fresh chopped cilantro
1 lime, freshly juiced
1/4 cup minced red onion
sprinkle kosher salt
small fresh tomato, chopped
small jalapeno, minced

Mix and enjoy immediately.

I hope you enjoy this, it was yummy for me, too!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Need advice from my peeps! Part One

I was going to post about two things I'm not quite sure how to react to. However, as I wrote the first one, I realized I couldn't be brief as I had intended. I'm a little long winded, if you haven't already figured that out!

Friday night, after an enjoyable day at the casino, my mother asked me I thought she and I had a good visit. She and I had already discussed in the car on the way home from the casino that she had had a good time, on and on ad nauseam. She cannot stand silence, she has to fill it with chatter. So her asking me this just a fishing trip, the way that I think about it. I answered her honestly by saying that I did enjoy her visit, especially as we get along better a few days at a time.

Later that evening, out of the blue, she asks, "why do you kids hate me?". My reaction was an incredulous, "WHAT?". Where the fuck did that come from? She responded that my sister, Bouf, had said something a couple of years ago, and her daughter Meg always says mean things to her, and that she and I had had a "problem" over the summer, and she wanted to know why we hated her, what was wrong with her. I honestly told her that I do not hate her. I then informed her that I would absolutely not get into it with her and ruin the last night of her visit, nor could I speak for anyone other than myself, anyway! I suggested that maybe I could write her a letter when I would have time to think about what I wanted to say and would be able to articulate myself better. She accepted the brush off and let it go.

Knowing my mother the way that I do, I have to assume that:

A) She really doesn't want to know
B) She will actually forget asking this
C) She'd be happier with her delusions that nothing is wrong
D) I cannot make a leopard change her spots
E) If I actually wrote the letter, And Sent It, she would wonder why I was attacking her

So, looking for advice on problem #1. Should I just write the letter and not send it? Or, should I send it and break an old woman's heart?