Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I Am Woman

After we got rid of my uncle Jim's car, we moved on to the condo and all the mess associated with that. Painting was first on the agenda. I had never painted ceilings before so I was in for a real treat.

On the third day or so, an enormous glop of paint went directly into my left eyeball. It felt like my eye was burning off and I was screaming bloody murder. I don't know how I made it to the bathroom to wash out, and it really took many rinses before I could open my eye or see anything. The feeling of that crap in there was freakish. I kept asking my dad if I was going to go blind and he couldn't help but laugh. It was water based paint and he assured me that it will come out and there was no need to rush to the hospital. I was fine by the end of the day and resumed painting a smaller room, holding the roller quite farther away. I felt like I failed in my remodeling duties and since I was championing this project, I had to save face. I could handle it. My dad didn't want to spend time over there at all, so I became the apprentice carpenter to get this over with.

A lot of the work was genuinely fun. The process of cleaning out and getting rid of and re-building made me feel healthier, positive, and productive. It was incredible to see change that is brought about by effort and hard work. It's therapeutic to have this tangible meaningful success. There were days that were extremely difficult but doing this act of physical labor brings about a lot of good I didn't know I had in me.

The best thing about this whole experience is that for a while, I wasn't as affected by family drama. I had a plan for every day. I woke up knowing what we were setting out to accomplish and we were able to brush off a lot of other garbage to focus here. It felt great. This was finally something I did with the family that felt worth it. Each day when I returned home, my uncle on my mom's side would see me covered in paint and dirt and filth and smelling like a man, and he would laugh. He didn't believe that I would actually do this but once I did, he seemed impressed.

If there is anything I've learned from this experience it's that each project will take at least twice as long as you plan on, and there are always unforeseen complications that may have you re-doing a whole lot. Painting seems like no big deal but the preparation takes a great deal of time. Setting down drop cloths and taping takes forever! And you forget about the little things: walls need to be cleaned of dust and dirt, you must take out and put tape around the ceiling lights, remove molding from the ceilings and floors, you find nails everywhere and rip your fingers open with them by accident, removing light switch covers and outlet covers takes forever, removing doors has to be done first, turning off the power so you don't get electrocuted in the bathroom is necessary, etc.

I learned how to build a wall with 2 x 4s, size cut and install dry wall, remove carpet on stairs, apply real primer (which is a total necessity as we later found out,) remove tile, remove cabinets, re-wire electricity, find out how to size cabinets for a kitchen and who has the better deal, (since we went to 6 places!! One in Wisconsin!) how to recycle an unusable washer and dryer, the proper way to use a saw, using an electrical sander, hand sanding, and the biggest pain in the ass: removing wallpaper. Oh my god that was sheer hell.

A lot of this isn't terribly complicated, just time consuming. It's also hard to prepare for things that will go wrong. And they will.

We wanted to "de-dungeon" the place and make it warm and cheery, so I decided on what was supposed to be a light tangerine color for the living room/dining room area. Unfortunately the large window doesn't get nearly as much light as I had assumed and the room now looks a very serious canary yellow. Oops. How does that happen? It didn't look so bold before we did the whole room. But hey sometimes you've got to be bold in this world, so yellow it is. That and Dad refuses to re-do this even though I lost sleep over it.

The thing about primer is that it covers up all the shit. For example, if your clearly depressed uncle thought that his office should be a hideous charcoal grey/brown/puce/shit color, you need at least two coats of primer to get rid of it. Otherwise, the new beautiful blue won't stick and the shit will run through.

Each time you fix something in a disastrous house, another area instantly becomes glaringly offensive. During this process my friend A asked if there were still traces of my uncle, or if we could feel his presence. I had to say yes, definitely. Fresh paint on walls only illuminates the brown blinds and shades from a smoker, the dust dirt and debris stuck in door frames, the lack of caulk, the dead bugs in the window frames, the feathers in the bathroom exhaust, and general extreme neglect everywhere.

Dad had this whole plan that we were going to take down the kitchen cabinet doors and sand, re-varnish or paint, then simply put them back. Sure, except that the whole kitchen was stupidly laid out in the first place, emitted the smell of obviously rotting wood, and was just plain awful to be in. I didn't want to nag, but I felt that the whole kitchen needed to be gutted. It wasn't until we had re-painted other rooms that he saw it too. And smelled it. And was no longer in denial about it. The kitchen had to go.

Fixing the kitchen ended up being a personal triumph of mine. Many steps were required to figure it out, but we got there. First we pretended to be interested in the two foreclosures down the street and spied on them. One was completely rehabbed and selling for a measly $114. The other had a vintage kitchen and stained carpeting in the bedrooms and selling for a whopping $109. My dad was totally depressed over this and couldn't believe what we got stuck with. He kept moaning that all we will get is $114 and to get that we have to do a ton of labor to compete. But, I felt like hey, we could really make that kitchen amazing. The nice place had a perfect design and to get there we just needed to remove a large stupidly placed cabinet. He said it was impossible because our gas line for the stove was on the opposite side as theirs and we wouldn't have enough room for the counter. Not so. I realized that we could keep most of what we had but merely move everything over a few inches and get rid of a couple things that impeded the space. We would have the same design as that rehabbed condo, but with appliances on opposite sides. We could also add a lazy susan, which would give us only one blind corner instead of two.

He looked thunderstruck when I said this. He started measuring and drawing and soon enough we had a great plan. We compared six places for size, price, and design for the new layout. FYI: Ikea was not the cheapest as expected. Soon enough new gorgeous cabinets were ordered as well as a new built in microwave with an exterior hood above the range, and a dishwasher to replace the non-existant one. All in all it was a major upgrade, and didn't cost a ton. Sometimes it really helps to have another set of eyes.

He kept telling me that the kitchen floor was in good shape and he was going to leave it. I thought it was hideous but I wasn't going to make a problem for him. If he wanted to salvage something here then that's up to him. However, while I was scrubbing the wallpaper glue off the kitchen walls and he was preparing to install the new cabinets, things changed. Out of nowhere I heard an enormous ripping sound. I was in mid-sentence and thought we were in a conversation when I look over and see that my dad had spontaneously ripped out that disgusting linoleum floor. It was like he just couldn't stand looking at it anymore. Talk about therapy.

Removing wallpaper was by far the most disgusting job in our project. Fair warning: if you are putting wallpaper in your home then guess what. You are a fucking idiot. Don't cry to me when you get sick of that stupid design and find it to be filthy and greasy and stained from cooking or your kid's crayon drawings or whatever mess you get on it. I warned you.

The wallpaper in our condo has been there for probably my entire life, or longer. Uncle Jim bought this condo before my parents were married and despite some sort of remodel he did 15 years ago, the wallpaper may have stood the test of time. My dad tried a solvent to get it off, a steamer, water, scraping, etc. We were going to just put up quarter inch dry wall, but after covering all the basement paneling, he was sick of it and thought this would be easier. Ha! He managed to get all the actual paper off, but we were left with the glue. Whomever put that shit up in the first place did a sloppy haphazard job with globs of goo everywhere. Once we found a solvent that worked for this crap it took three entire days to get it off. I was exhausted.

We found a section that had a mural from the 1950's on it. My dad thought it was totally cool and I kind of wanted to keep it, but the wall was in such bad shape it really had to get painted over. We knew we did a good job when we could finally see the mural in its entirety. What an unexpected bonus!

Once the kitchen was finally painted a beautiful pale honey color, my dad finally had something positive to say about this experience: "It's a miracle. My god, I don't believe it. It's a miracle."

I can't believe how much money we saved by doing this ourselves, and I can't believe how satisfying even the smallest change can be. I know that if I didn't help my dad with at least some of this, it could have taken up to a year. While he is still working there on his own, I'm glad I got to help out for a little while. The accomplishments did wonders for my self esteem, especially after being around so many family members that constantly put me down.

I am strong, I am invincible, and I still had time to bake.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Demons

I awoke with huge anxiety yesterday morning, to the point that I had to put my head between my knees and breathe slowly until I could get up. It was nightmares that did it to me, two in a row believe it or not.

The first one was about a trip I was taking with my uncle and grandma. I was driving them home from shopping and we were supposed to catch a boat to Canada, but I missed the exit on the highway and figured we should just go home. Upon arriving home I took packages out of my car and they proceeded to put them back, and an argument ensued on the way in which I locked the doors. I said I needed something from the other side and they started screaming about how I was wasting time and we could still make it to Canada and the only reason they were doing this was because of me and I was ungrateful and Uncle knew the way and why didn't I let him drive.....the screaming was what woke me up finally.

But I fell back asleep and my second dream landed me in a hospital. This time my uncle and my mother were there with me and presumably we were in the hospital because my grandma was in there. I don't remember why my uncle was screaming at me in this setting but he elevated his anger to the point that he hit me in the face, which caused my mom to scream more and also take a swing at me. So I woke up in a total panic attack and had to give up on falling back asleep. I don't know why any of this happened but my intuition is telling me that he blames us for all the trouble Grandma has to go through, and all three of them have severe anger management problems, and they are all disappointed in me.

Ok, so that's my hypothesis on them. But what do the dreams say about me? Something is upsetting me enough to enter my dreams and cause panic at 5am. Is it simply a reminder to stay 2000 miles away? Is it a prediction of what is to come? Or is it just a reflection of what has been on my mind lately due to hearing of all their grievances back home? I definitely spend way too much time worrying about what they all think of me when I really shouldn't care. I shouldn't let their screaming infiltrate my brain and my independence no matter where I am. If people want to scream their heads off insulting you endlessly then you have to decide that it's their problem, not yours. Of course I have not yet been able to do that and have sought help numerous times.

Something I'd like to learn in the next year is how to remove focus of exterior influences and solely concentrate on what I want to do. I felt so tense and achy all day yesterday, the dreams nearly ruined my entire day. I didn't know if I could make it to a yoga class but I forced myself and I was in for a pleasant surprise. It helped to take myself away from all those thoughts and pay attention to my movements. Amazingly a handstand seemed easier than ever before. The pose still needs work but my body gave me this gift today, maybe so that I could spend some time up-side down and gain clarity. The only thing that stopped me before was the brain saying "no don't!" at the last minute. But it wasn't there today. There was no little voice nagging at me this time.

My friend S is a triathlete and when I expressed to her my dislike of running, she said that she used to hate it too. But then her trainer explained that we hate these things because we decided to. We decided to give ourselves a hard time about it and make it impossible to succeed. And then when we try to get past it, it feels like a forceful anger inducing crazed attack on the body. She says these are the demons in our mind telling us how to think of the way we do things. We have to silence them, or brush them away or let the running unfold into something relaxing over time without even thinking about it. I may have finally reached this hurtle today with the handstand and I nearly cried tears of joy right there in class. I couldn't wait to get back home and try again.

Handstands are supposed to have the following benefits: getting over fear, increased clarity, improved digestion, increase of blood circulation, core strength, and greater balance. Since all of these things are destined to bring about sweeter dreams, I am committed to practice handstands. I am feeling pretty lucky to have found the exercise that I love. It improves my quality of life and helps me get rid of exterior influences and demons. I realized yesterday that I started what will be a lifelong practice. I completely forgot about my bad dream for the rest of the day and had a restful sleep last night.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Even the smallest project can take so much longer than you expect.

I started knitting a blanket a year ago, it is still unfinished.

I left the passport agency to pursue school and that is still undecided.

I helped take apart/remodel a condo, and it is still unlivable.

I get very very upset when I feel broke and unaccomplished, and I often dwell on those thoughts way too much. In truth, since 2011 is nearing an end, I know I have accomplished a great deal. It's surprising when I really think about it, and really good to know that I was useful and helpful and gained wisdom and stood up for myself a few times when things got crazy.

I am not proud that I hung up the phone on my grandma that day. I agonized over it for an entire week, and of course I was the one to initiate the first phone call back. However, I knew it was wrong and downright crazy to scream and yell at me like that. She didn't understand the point I was trying to make, or any point I ever try to make, and she went ballistic. It's a common quality on my mom's side of the family to scream whenever they want to say anything. It has come to a point where just being around them sends my entire body into a cringe. I always cower and walk away or argue just to be shot down, and it is never worth it.

Surprisingly one of the best things I have ever done was hang up on her because I learned that I can illuminate the bad behavior that way. It also allowed me to exert control and maintain sanity. It's never a mature response, and I worried that she would be overcome by such disrespect that she wouldn't get why I had to do that. I never in a million years thought that she would apologize to me, but when I finally called her back she did.

When I was back in town for a wedding there was a day where I decided we were getting rid of Uncle Jim's car. Dad had already taken it to a mechanic for an assessment and found it to be a death trap. The damn thing reeked of cigarettes and was so filthy and rusted it was overwhelmingly depressing just to sit in it for a half hour. A high school near my parents have an auto shop for students so we donated.

While my dad and I were in the process of various paperwork signing, my mom called about a hundred times. She and my dad were to meet with a contact at a non-profit about job searching that afternoon. We thought we would get back in time but definitely cut it too close. As we were about to leave I called to tell her where my car keys were so she could get there first. She answered the phone just screaming. SCREAMING about how I fucked her over and this was important to her and now they'll make a bad impression and it was all my fault and on and on and on, without me getting a chance to say anything. So again, my brain said, "turn it off," and I hung up.

I have no regrets about this action. It is ridiculous to let anyone barrage you with insults and abusive behavior. I'm not going to let it happen again. I am especially not going to let it happen when I am helping out in the first place.

I can't help but be reminded of that scene in The Holiday where Kate Winslet's character tells her ex-boyfriend that she's pretty sure she's got gumption, and slams the door in his face. Yes, yes yes.

About a month after all of this I was working for a previous employer in a high stress situation. It was a particularly bad night because we were all over-worked and over-scheduled and dealing with an insane amount of traffic to get where we needed to go. I was coordinating all transportation for a major event and needed to get people to several places all at the same time. Some people involved reacted badly when they found out there were stops along the way to our destination that evening, and refused the service only to wait longer for the next ride. Very stupid. When I finally had a driver available to pick up my boss at the office, she completely freaked out that there were other guests in the car. Furious, she screamed bloody murder at me telling me that this was embarrassing and unprofessional.

She had no idea that people refused to get into a car and caused a delay. She didn't tell us that a guest changed their fight itinerary causing a driver to wait 45 minutes at the airport for nothing that evening. She also didn't know that one of my drivers got lost 3 times and didn't know how to get to the event after she picked up 14 people in her van. She also didn't know that I had just gone from venue to venue to venue to hotel to hotel to event to hotel to event when I realized that I desperately had to pee and I hadn't eaten anything in 7 hours. Yet, despite this terrible schedule and bad planning it was somehow all my fault and I was getting an earful. My shock caused me to do something wildly unexpected. I don't know where I found these words at this very moment, but I said: "I did a great job today. You're welcome. I'm hanging up the phone now." And I hung up.

I was petrified at what I had done. Is it even more unprofessional to point out the insanity of your boss? I sat at a table shaking and barely able to eat what was put in front of me. Our event host talked me down and assured me that I did the right thing because my hands were tied, and there was no way I could have pulled it off better unless I had more staff.

Later that evening he came up to me and asked if I would go down and talk to my boss outside. As soon as I saw her there were tears in her eyes and I felt so bad about it all that we ended up hugging and getting teary together. Even as it started to seriously rain outside she wanted to stay out there and talk and go over everything and insist that there wasn't anything wrong with the schedule, it was that we had to communicate more often. I thought oh my god she really is insane. But honestly, she's a pretty awesome passionate person and I admire how much she can handle. However, I might have been the only person that bothered pointing out to her that we have limitations and some things can't be perfect, period. There comes a point where even the most workaholic managers could display some grace and be grateful for those trying their best to help.

I think we have to remind people and I certainly have to remind myself often that hey, I'm here. I'm in this too. I'm trying to help; I am trying to be of service. I've worked hard to get projects finished. I'm trying my best to accomplish goals and keep my head above water.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Make It Stop

I hung up on my grandma once this summer. It was the day after I arrived back in Seattle after my uncle's funeral. The previous evening I felt a surge of emotion that had me going to her for comfort. It was all too much at once. I couldn't go to my mom because she was generally in a foul mood. She had taken to only screaming rather than talking, and was utterly taken over by fury due to the circumstances of Jim's death and the secrets he hid.

Each day of family being around became too much for me. My dad's other brother came over to Jim's place to "help" with a little cleaning and sorting of documents. For some reason he brought his wife and mother in law who proceeded to rifle through all the kitchen cabinets and park directly in front of the china cabinet. They were clearly staking their claims. They stayed for about an hour looking through things and clearly trying to find something specific. I assume they didn't find it. My cousin took my uncle's hard drive and came back claiming there was nothing on it at all. When he returned he also brought his wife, and asked her what she wanted. I couldn't believe it. I knew they were contemplating divorce, and did in fact divorce about a month after all this, but hey take what you want from the dead guy! It's only my grandmother's heirlooms, but what the hell. Might as well have a free for all.

I couldn't figure out how a dead man's home, which he didn't want anyone inside of in the first place, became a party of sorts. My uncle with his entourage was just going to sweep in and blow us away. Even my aunt was going through old tax documents and claimed that since she used to be an accountant she could help with his late payments. She boasted about how she had to look all of them over and she would have to go to the IRS with it since she believed he stopped paying taxes years ago. Of course when they left the place, she didn't take anything with her and didn't even bother to help with a thing. She just wanted to see the information.

I was sickened. I felt my blood absolutely boil throughout that day. My dad's face was stony and I could tell he could have reached out and strangled his brother if not for all the witnesses. But what could we have done? I've replayed this event in my head over and over and I wish I said hey get the fuck out right now, or only my uncle and my cousin are allowed in here and no one else, or hello? He just died in here a week ago why are there so many people in his place? I didn't invite my relatives from my mom's side over there during this time. I certainly didn't claim to be of use and then walk away. How did I get stuck with family like this? Who the fuck do they think they are?

During the funeral itself I listened to my cousin talk about how he was very close with Jim. I don't know if he wanted to one-up me or what but I got that feeling. He was saying that he intended to come into Chicago for the 4th of July anyway and was going to stay with Jim. Really? He was going to stay with our uncle who could barely walk across his own tiny kitchen, couldn't catch his breath, and was living in filth? They were so close that he didn't know of our uncle's recent hospitalization which had my dad spending the night at the hospital? Come on. I like my cousin, I really do. Or, I want to like him very much. He is my only cousin on planet earth and we do have a great deal in common, but then.....I don't know if I like him at all. We're pretty much strangers. And after listening to him talk about how much he loved Jim and will miss him and how close they were, I really wanted to punch him in the face. At the funeral he endlessly talked about himself and how amazing he is and branding and product recognition and social media marketing and entertaining account managers and blah blah blah. I admire that he is very successful and he is happy with it, but I don't know how to talk to him and I admit that he makes me uncomfortable. I'd rather be cousins with his ex-wife.

We briefly talked about why I gave up on Jim long ago and my aunt and cousin totally didn't believe me. I could see it in their faces. It was a classic case of ignore the problem and it doesn't exist. My cousin did agree that Jim probably just hated women and that was all their was to it. Of course my aunt claimed that he wasn't so bad and she never noticed him treating women badly. In fact, didn't I know that Jim was in love with her sister and wanted to marry her? Oh sure. Of course he did.

I confronted her about not being invited to my cousin's wedding. I was talking about how I didn't understand why we are always the black sheep in this family and why everyone treats my dad so badly. I told her we were pretty shocked about not receiving an invitation. What happened next was pretty beautiful. First she claimed that they did not send any invites and they just called people. She was sure that they called my parents. I told her they didn't. Then she got my cousin and said: she thinks we didn't invite them! He said oh no you were invited. We just didn't have your address. Couldn't you have sent it to my parents? They've been in the same spot for 25 years. We did! We sent them invitations. They didn't get it. Oh well it must be V's fault. She was the one in charge of all that stuff. (V was my cousin's wife) That's it. Blame it on the wife.

And then there was the vase. It was decided that my cousin and I would split everything in the china cabinet between us. Our parents agreed on this, but then my uncle changed his mind. He kept asking my aunt what she would like. She claimed not to want anything but then said that she wanted the crystal paperweight. And she wanted my grandmother's bible, especially since it didn't mean anything to us. Then my uncle wanted porcelain flowers. Then he wanted the vase that the flowers were in.

What? I don't think I am the normally the type to behave this way but as far as I'm concerned all that shit is mine. Mine. I allowed my cousin to take what he wanted but that was the deal. My aunt and uncle already have all the crystal and porcelain and silver they want. I never received any heirloom from my grandparents because guess what. My uncles and aunt STOLE it all after their passing. I didn't get a piece of jewelry or a book or anything that I could have kept for sentimental value.

The way this happened was that after my grandmother passed, my dad was not welcome in his parent's home. My uncles refused to let him inside claiming that he was a bad son and a bad Catholic and he didn't deserve anything. Of course the only uncle left claims that he had no idea about this and wasn't involved with it. It was between my dad and Jim.

This was a bold faced lie. Jim told me that my grandmother didn't have any jewelry and what she did have they gave to the church. Total bullshit, as we knew that she liked amber. Years later he found some old costume earrings and a rosary with marble stones that he gave me. The earrings were total junk. And, about ten years ago before they moved to the west coast, my aunt invited me over saying that she had something to give me. It was a sweater my grandmother hand knitted in the Celtic knot style. She said that she had several and didn't have room for them all but that I could have this one. It was too big for her anyway. She told me that she was going to keep the one my grandma wore the most often for sentimental value. She also showed me a porcelain bird in her china cabinet that she claimed my grandmother asked her to keep safe.

So, everything went to the church except for the things my aunt wanted? Am I to believe that my grandmother would rather her daughter in law have these items over her only granddaughter? Specifically, these very girlie items which could be given to my future family? Is it really because I was some heathen child and should I have been a Catholic she would have cared about me? Once I found out about the sweater and the bird I realized that there might have been several things that were taken from me. Seeing some of them in Jim's place made me territorial. And crazy.

There is no doubt whatsoever that I don't really care for china cabinets or porcelain or crystal. A lot of it is tacky anyway, but I couldn't get over the principle of the whole thing. My aunt and uncle agreed that it was all to be split between my cousin and I, and then they proceeded to lay claim to things. My uncle consulted a lawyer he knows while in town and started making demands of my father in the way to handle things. My dad refused outright and when my uncle tried to become a joint executor of the will, he was shot down due to living in another state. What a shmuck.

So when my uncle had gone back home and called reminding us that he wanted that vase, I went into a fury. It was decided that we would conveniently forget about it, or send him a smaller one. Frankly I did like the vase and would have put it to use, but the vase became this symbol for everything wrong. We started to argue about the stupid vase. My grandma said not to give him the vase. My uncle said that the other uncle will respect me more if I decide that it's mine. My mom said that I should cut him with: "I'm sure Grandma J would have wanted me to have it."

The experience sent me into tears and I went to my grandma to seek help. I just couldn't understand why he would call just for a stupid vase, on my dad's birthday no less, and still make demands. It had me wondering once again how I share DNA with these people. In the end, my dad caved and sent the vase over. And this is what I don't like about my dad: sometimes he can be a doormat. I'd like it if he took a stand more often. There are certainly things worth being entitled about. I can't figure out why he would let his brothers treat him like that all those years ago. Wouldn't you just shove them out of the way? Get into a physical fight? Get a lawyer so you are protected from them? Or never talk to then again, funerals or not? Other times I think he just doesn't like confrontation or doesn't want to be bothered or maybe just doesn't want to sink to such a level over something so stupid. Who really cares about the vase itself? There will be other vases and other knick knacks that might someday end up in a garage sale anyway. I guess it was the turmoil of being around these awful people and drudging up old memories and ugliness. Maybe the best thing to do is wrap up the dirt and send it away.

It was all too much. The day after I hung out with Grandma I was leaving to go back to Seattle. I noticed my mom acting very strangely around me and hugging and kissing me too much and asking if I was ok a hundred times. I drank a few greyhounds in the airport and had a decent sleep on the plane. I called my mom when I arrived and she said that she was worried about me because Grandma said I was hysterical about the vase. What? I was upset about my uncle and what a lousy person he is and all of a sudden I am hysterical? That is ridiculous.

I called Grandma the next day to thank her for her help, and tell her that she shouldn't have told my mom about our conversation. She immediately wanted to talk more about it and argue that she had to tell my mom because I was so miserable. I told her that I cried for maybe two minutes and just wanted to talk, there was no reason to tell my mom I was hysterical. She kept going on and on about it and I got even more upset that I bothered to tell anyone my feelings at all. I told her I didn't want to talk about it anymore and she completely freaked out. She screamed and screamed at me that I was a baby and I couldn't handle anything and I never told her not to share with my mom and I was a baby and didn't I know what a child I was and what kind of a child is 32 years old and on and on. I couldn't get in one word and I pulled the phone away and then she was still going on. Out of nowhere a very clear thought in my brain said: "MAKE IT STOP," and I hung up the phone.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Operation De-Dungeon

After enduring the wildly sexist and ridiculous comments from my uncle, I proceeded to become an apprentice carpenter out of nowhere. We inherited a condo that no one wants and we didn't know what to do with it. While Uncle insisted that he would "work hard" to get the place in order, he never bothered to come over or offer any real help. It fell on my dad and I to do everything and if I didn't help, he would be stuck with this burden alone. Initially he wanted to sell and get rid of it as soon as possible, but naturally with any home ownership unforeseen complications arose everyday.

Problem 1: the place was in horrific condition, especially since my uncle died in there and wasn't found for days.

Problem 2: two others of the exact same condo unit were in foreclosure down the street, and were in better condition

Problem 3: a neighbor that was pre-approved was extremely interested and wanted to buy the place as is for an abysmally low price; too low for my dad

Problem 4: my mother set out a campaign to get me to move in there since at least it's paid off, and she actually believes the value will go up. I am both tempted at times and at other times think it is totally ridiculous/impossible.

Problem 5: emotions/conflicts with the family greatly increased due to this new home ownership, and everyone wanting to get their way with it despite not lifting a finger to help. Various arguments happened throughout the process on topics such as me buying it, (hell no) me moving in, (don't think so) renting it out to make money, (dad is dead set against that one) fixing it up to sell, etc. Screaming matches about money and lawyers and handling this properly, (so we don't get screwed by my dad's other brother) were a daily event. It sucked.

Problem 6: everything costs WAY more than you plan for.

It's really weird when a person's death becomes about everyone else and their desires to make money or acquire stuff. I know this happens to everyone, but this is some major horse shit to deal with. After the funeral my uncle in San Francisco called on my dad's birthday not to wish him a happy birthday, but to be sure and remember that he wanted that Waterford crystal vase.

I escaped all of this for about two months, but came back in town in last August to stand up in a wedding and help with the condo projects. Of course it was way more than I bargained for. My parents weren't dealing well with the circumstances, and by that I mean they were avoiding it, and I felt the need to step in.

In the course of a few weeks I did this: wrote and sent out all thank you cards, arranged for donation crews to come in and take the furniture, got estimates and donation info about his car and eventually got rid of the gross car, got estimates and hired a cleaning crew, (which took 6 ladies 6 hours to do the job) did major drop offs to Salvation Army, viewed the foreclosures down the street to get ideas, decided on the first leg of strategy for remodeling, and designed a new kitchen.

I did this. Me. I did this without help from a man, in fact I did this to help all the men who couldn't handle it/didn't want to. Obviously my dad was involved but I arranged all the pre-remodel events, and then we made remodeling decisions together. I may have pressured him into the remodel at first but later on I heard him say that he couldn't sell it the way it was, and he didn't feel right about showing it at all. There is therapy in this type of work and I think it helped everyone a great deal to see the place transformed.

We called it "Operation De-Dungeon."

Friday, December 2, 2011


Last summer an idea popped into my head to send my uncle Jim the series of His Dark Materials that I recently finished. It was possible that he would have liked it, but since the subject matter could have offended him, I changed my mind. That, and I didn't feel like being so nice.

About three months later, Jim passed away. The death itself had me wondering whether having love and friendship in your life is the secret to good health. If no one loves you, do you simply expire? I felt like it was my fault. Like I killed him.

Of course it's ridiculous. We have to believe that people live their lives the way they want, and if they want to change it is well within their capability. I've convinced myself slowly that I didn't kill him. However, no one had a nice word for Jim. Family flew in from all over and we had a simple service and a lengthy drinking session, but no one said anything nice about him, including myself. My dad couldn't get over the fact that no one even had a nice memory of Jim, and he wondered what would people say about him when it was his turn. It was an incredibly weird and sad experience, and it was the first time I had ever seen my dad sing and and first time I saw him stagger from too much drink.

This death has affected me much more than I would have thought possible. Going into his home and having to deal with an endless mess of messes was unbelievably depressing and shocking and anger building. How could he have lived like that? Was it clearly depression? Couldn't he have reached out to someone?

And yet, he told his neighbors that all his family moved away. He hated us. Going through his paperwork we found that he stole my dad's inheritance by signing the deed to my grandparent's house over to himself. He kept all of their life insurance money to himself and claimed at the time that it was given to him, and not to split between the brothers. This was only a piece of the drama we had yet to uncover. There were other lovely horrifying things to be found in his place, and we had to do all the clean up.

The place was remodeled about ten or fifteen years ago, and seemingly never touched since. There were rolls of dust over nearly everything, especially on the light fixtures. The shades and blinds on the windows were once white but became torn and an eerie shade of brown. The kitchen cabinets emitted a smell of spoiled milk and had areas of obvious rot. A layer of thick grease covered everything in the kitchen, even the floor. The linoleum flooring in the basement had torn and was easily lifted right off. He had piles of paperwork dating back to the 70s and 80s stacked up in closets and on the floor nearly everywhere. This was left for us from a man that ran his finger over our refrigerator to point out the minuscule dust to my mom, and blame her for not keeping up with her home.

I flew back and forth twice to be there for the family and for a friend's wedding. It was the first time in a few years where I thought that Chicago was the place I should be. There was so much to do and if we waited it would have taken a year to fix the place. But the emotional turmoil of it was tremendous. I was grateful to be going back to Seattle in between rounds of organizing, cleaning, moving and fixing.

While in Seattle, my mom's brother came to visit. I call him "Uncle" in real life. He didn't plan this vacation but since he had the time off I suggested that he come out. I've never done anything nice for him really, but he is super nice to me despite his grating personality. He bought me my first bike when I was little, and my first ipod, and to this day he gives me a wad of cash for Chanukah. He loves me.

However, this uncle is also a disastrous pain in the ass. At least he is generally a nice person and is just a little dim-witted. Or, a lot actually. It's possible that Jim's death prompted him to visit me. It was nearing Uncle's 60th birthday and since Jim died at 61 he must have been considering his mortality. Maybe he wanted to get out of town and enjoy himself a little. He is a truck driver for Coca Cola with long hours and a horrific work load. He always takes overtime if they have it, and due to my grandmother's demands and lifestyle, he rarely has time to himself.

We did all the touristy stuff: whale watching tour, Boeing factory tour, WNBA game, Snoqualmie Falls, buying fruit at Pike's Place, and I tried to get him to eat sushi but it was a definite no. I even waited patiently and made suggestions while he tried on shoes. (something I have done for many men, you impatient ungrateful fuckers) It was nice to get at least a little time in beautiful nature after all the stress of the funeral, but Uncle caused me some stress as well.

This uncle is alone and awkward just like Jim was, but he has a job and a gym membership which automatically make him more social and healthy, and slightly easier to be around. Slightly. He is hugely high maintenance. He smacks your arm each time he says an sentence, he doesn't know how to order food off a menu, he doesn't know how to operate a laundry machine, he doesn't know how to book a hotel room, he doesn't know about etickets, he doesn't know how to politely ask for help; he simply makes demands, and he is an extreme chauvinist pig.

We got into an argument regarding Jim and his home. I was telling him of what a mess the place was and how shocked we were that he lived like that for years. His response was simple:

It's because he didn't have no voman.

Are you kidding? If he was married she would have been a slave.

I have dis theory that voman is supposed to do voman's work and a man do man's work.

But if you live alone, it's all your work.

Why he own a home then? Too much for one person.

That doesn't make sense. If he cared he would have taken care of it. Housework is every one's work anyway.

Housework is voman's domain. You can't go into a voman's kitchen and touch anything. Kitchen is for voman. Man is supposed to do jobs like paint the house.

But housework needs to be done every week, you don't paint the house every week! Besides anyone can paint a house, what's the difference!

Come on! Aviva you're not gonna get dirdy. (he laughs)

What are you talking about? I helped Dad paint their place and I'm going to help him with Jim's.

We'll see about dat. I paint something every year, house needs a lotta maintenance. You gotta fix something every year.

Well I agree, but Jim could have done several simple things all the time to avoid living in filth! It's not that hard to get rid of dust or sweep once in a while. Why couldn't a man do that?

He shoulda clean car on weekends. I clean da car. Cleaning car is man's responsibility.

Ok but it doesn't take all day to clean a car.

Oh I can take all day ona car! You should see how nice I fix da car!

With Uncle there always comes a point where a gunshot to the face would be more welcome than continuing a conversation with him. I endured many hours of "men are like this and women are like that" conversations with him over that week, which I can't comprehend. It made me think that people who live their lives without a companion miss out on too much. He either watches too much tv, or spends too much time with my grandma and his brain warped.

At some point he noticed that Seattle is very gay friendly. He argued with me about how two people of the same sex couldn't be proper parents because one person needs to be a mom and one needs to be a dad. This kind of shit makes me want to jump off a building. I tried to explain that I don't believe in many assigned gender roles and he totally didn't get it. I also pointed out that women raise kids alone without a man all the time, and he just thought that was wrong too. I guess you can't get into a head like this.

What you can do is avoid politics if at all possible and talk about weather and food and airplanes and basketball. I feel like I did the right thing overall. He is a lonely awkward guy and at least I took a week out of life to help him have a real vacation.

This was a good lesson for me too. The books I wanted to send Uncle Jim popped into my head for a reason. It was an opportunity to do something nice for someone, even if he might not have appreciated it. I feel like when you get a chance to do something nice you might as well do it, otherwise why did the thought cross your mind at all? It will make you feel better as a person and you never know where either of you will be in a few months anyway.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Funeral

I don't know how a funeral goes from this:

To this:

But it did. I guess the recipe is: take a bunch of women who didn't care for the man who passed away but loved him anyway due to all the men in their lives, stir in the fact that they don't even like each other, and add alcohol. Voila!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my godoh my god oh my godoh my god oh my godoh my god oh my godoh my god oh my godoh my god oh my godoh my god oh my godoh my god oh my godoh my god oh my godoh my god oh my godoh my god oh my godoh my god oh my godoh my god oh my godoh my god oh my godoh my god oh my godoh my god oh my godoh my god oh my godoh my god oh my godoh my god oh my godoh my god oh my godoh my god oh my godoh my god oh my godoh my god oh my godoh my god oh my godoh my god oh my godoh my god oh my godoh my god oh my godoh my god oh my godoh my god oh my godoh my god oh my godoh my god oh my godoh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my godoh my god oh my godoh my god oh my godoh my god oh my godoh my god oh my godoh my god oh my godoh my god oh my godoh my god oh my god oh my god oh my godoh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god

Thursday, September 29, 2011

It's Not The Tailor

A few years ago I had a pair of dress pants shortened. To my dismay, the tailor had made one side longer than the other and I didn't know if I should go back and complain or what. I had already worn them out a few times and didn't notice the difference in legs until I was standing in a full length mirror months after the job was done.

Awareness was something often brought up during my yoga teacher training. It's funny how often conversations with friends lead to the topic of awareness. Most people are not emotionally intelligent or aware of themselves at all. I might as well say that none of us are really. And it's funny that we don't notice things or bother with self observance unless something is pointed out, and then we deny it anyway. Is it really anyone's job to point things out in the first place?

In yoga training we spent every afternoon discussing anatomy. Unfortunately much of the discussion went completely over my head. It felt like we were discussing things better suited for chiropractors and physical therapists. I looked forward to learning about anatomy, but this was really hard and I didn't know how to apply it. I get that we want to be aware of people's injuries and give alternate poses for those in pain, but the specifics of an injury and how to tell if someone has it seemed strange to me.

Each day we did a posture lab in class where the instructor picked out a few students and everyone watched them do a pose. We offered suggestions to make it better then watch the transformation, often times resulting in oooohs and aaahhhhs from the class. A pose I was called up for was Utkatasana, or commonly referred to as chair pose. The problem was that I was going into it with a deep sway in my low back since I thought we were supposed to sort of reach for the sky as we take a deep hamstring stretch. Nope. The torso has to move in one piece and stay in line with the hips. Ah ha. I didn't mind that everyone made a circle around me and commented on what my body was doing, until one comment.

A guy in class said that he could see I was twisted and one arm reached out longer than the other. I had no idea what he was talking about. He asked if he could move my arms while I was in the pose, and I could not believe how much he moved me so that I was "straight," or "aligned," as we like to say. The instructor said that I am a person with a curvature in the spine and that everyone should come look. They all stood behind me and commented on things I couldn't see. I didn't get angry but it was weird. I couldn't get how a bunch of yoga practitioners were determining what was wrong with my body.

Luckily the instructor said that for someone with a curvature like this, it isn't helpful to give them that kind of adjustment. If my arms are being pulled away from where they naturally go, then I automatically move my pelvis creating yet another unhealthy curve. She also had all of us stand in a circle and look at each other's shoulders reminding us that we are all a bit skewed and it's not a big deal.

A few days later we were deep into anatomy and again I had no idea what the hell people were talking about. I was completely lost and zoning out, when a thought occurred to me. If we know all the ins and outs of carpal tunnel, are we supposed to tell someone that they probably should get checked for it? All the manuals say that we are never to diagnose or give advice, but here we are learning all the things that are wrong with people, and learning how to delicately say something. I raised my hand and asked why it would be appropriate for a yoga instructor to point out something about the student's anatomy. I am not comfortable with this. My point was that just coming to yoga itself is an act of wanting to learn about your own body and if injuries or strange occurrences come up, you can then go talk to your doc about it.

The classmate who pointed out my crookedness immediately wanted to know if I was upset by his comments and suggestions. I said that I wasn't but I honestly didn't see how it was useful. So I'm crooked, so what? I told the class that I had a yoga instructor that told me she could see one side of my body was higher than the other in my down dog, and I thought so what? I mean you can see something that someone else doesn't, but what am I supposed to do with that information? Run out and get an MRI? Chiropractor? Freak out?

The discussion then turned from what I was trying to point out to people's emotional health and how we have to be careful of what we say so they don't get angry or hurt. I couldn't believe it. I wasn't trying to attack anyone, I just don't know how helpful it is for someone who isn't a doctor to tell a student: hey you have this going on, did you know? I tried to reiterate but there seemed to be a consensus that yes, it was our job to make people more aware. A yoga teacher has the ability to help people gain awareness of their body and connect the mind to the body, and that it is a cornerstone of this practice.

Well, I'm not telling anyone that they might want to get anything checked out, that is up to them. I feel that the awareness teachers are hoping their students gain will happen by default. The more you challenge your body the more you find out what your limitations are. My motto in teaching yoga is going to be that I won't tell anyone how to live their life.

The weirdest thing in all of this is that I guess I forgot about the spinal curvature. I'm sure my parents have funded a couple years of golf club memberships for my chiropractors and physical therapists. In high school I suffered with extreme back pain, but with a few lifestyle changes I can walk and dance and do yoga and I'm fine. A long time ago, I figured that this was going to be as good as it gets. I don't know what else I'm supposed to do about it now if I don't feel bad.

But don't I feel bad? Sitting in an office all day gives me sharp low back and leg cramps. This doesn't happen on a regular basis to most people I know. I always thought that I just hated sitting all day, but there is an actual physical response. My body is rejecting the position due to the spine's movement. What a lightbulb. I never noticed this before but I lean heavily to my left, and am probably never sitting with both shoulders aligned. Since figuring this out I mindfully push over to my right more so there is less pressure.

Would I have realized this if not for the discussion in yoga? Chances are that I would have over time, but it's good to know. Lately I've been a little upset and paranoid about it, but we are all walking around with things wrong with us. When I have more money I could try rolfing or something to straighten out more. Getting upset about one boob being lower than the other or how I will look as an old lady isn't worth it. I'll just have to take calcium and embrace crookedness. From now on, both pant legs have to be measured instead of using the guide from one. It's not the tailor, it's me.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dear Friends

I know you mean well.

Is it possible that because I talk openly and honestly about myself that you feel like you should give advice?

I don't need it. I am great. Some set-backs have occurred. Several really. I am the broke Bridget Jones. That's fine. She was super adorable in both the book and movie.

It's nice of you to say things because you read some article that you think will help me, or because you had some friend somewhere that had a terrible experience doing something that I wanted to do.

But come on.

The facts are that maybe you didn't know me when there was less confusion and there were solid goals with achievable possibilities. Or maybe you didn't believe in what I was doing then anyway. I tried hard and it didn't work out.

And then I took on other things that I thought would help.

And then I tried to do something completely different because I believed I deserved to be successful somewhere. And then I panicked and was disappointed in the circumstances.

But I will be honest again and say that your discouragement doesn't help either. You may not realize you are discouraging but several of you say things like: "teachers don't make any money." " law school is soooo expensive." "there aren't any jobs for lawyers." "there aren't any jobs for MBAs." "there aren't any jobs for teachers." "journalism is dead." "liberals arts is for yo yos and flakes." "what's the point in more school anyway?" "you shouldn't go into that field unless you're 100% sure you want it." "I wouldn't take anything for less than X amount of money." "there are too many graphic designers now." "there aren't any jobs there aren't any jobs there aren't any jobs."

It may seem like some of these comments are helpful, but no one is ever 100% sure on a decision. There are doubts about everything. Why feed the demons that stop people from giving themselves a chance? And so what if there aren't any jobs that we are finding now? It won't always be that way. And you might have to move or really stretch the original idea out to get paid doing what you want. Or you might have to accept abysmally low pay.

And by the way, guess what else is expensive besides education? EVERYTHING. Everything is stupidly expensive from buying birth control to raising a child. From buying groceries to running a restaurant, it's all ridiculous costs. It's not a good reason to avoid doing what you want. I definitely have learned that one over time.

It's no one's fault but mine that I refuse to accept lousy circumstances for myself and have been unemployed and frustrated many times over. But I am taking chances. Sometimes they end up very bad, but someday they will be very successful. It will have been useful to go through these areas of disaster and growth.

And no, I do not want your help with my resume or LinkedIn. I have a career counselor from which I gain a lot of information. In addition, I recently went to an informational interview with an HR director who gave me opposing information from the career counselor. That would mean that you probably do not know better than I, since no one has the right answer. I think LinkedIn is unhelpful for my current circumstances anyway. This may change, but if I don't want to be an administrative professional, then why would I create a profile saying I am one?

I dare say, most of you are sitting behind a desk possibly getting a fatter ass, and just wondering what it would be like if you gave yourself the chance to do something different, or talking yourself out of it altogether. Or you are reading articles and deciding that you know a lot about a field you are not in, or have not experienced. I don't think it's fair to decide you know something about a friend's road if you haven't traveled it.

I do know people that have gained success in fields that people think are a wasted effort. A friend of mine just landed a role on a network sit com. An acquaintance opened a photography studio six years ago and is now doing better than ever. A travel friend I knew was a dancer in Riverdance. The lawyers and MBAs and teachers and small business owners that I know are doing ok, even if they do things differently from what they intended. And yes I know plenty of people unable to do what they want at all. I don't believe that anything they tried wasn't worth it.

So what is the point of putting down any field or degree or confusion or choice? The job market or the career decision might just be plain luck or good timing. Or it works out because you successfully went after something specific and didn't give up until you got it. If things didn't work out then there is plan B, C, D or whatever you end up on.

If there is anything I learned from temping at an advertising firm this year, it's that there are some incredible salaries out there for people who got their foot in the door of the right place. There are also some stupidly inflated salaries for arbitrary positions in which the value of said position could evaporate in a moment's notice.

I'm sorry to get on the defensive because I know that I whine and am easily disappointed. But it's ok to listen and relate rather than discourage. It's all going to work out anyway.

Yesterday I made an onion tart with apples on top and it turned out unbelievably disgusting. So I threw the whole thing in the garbage and laughed it off. I can make it better next time.

Yes sir.

I am a writer. I am a writer. I am a writer. I am a writer. I am a writer. I am a writer.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Funny Thing

I haven't written much lately because somehow blogger deleted an entire post I had saved in the drafts and I wanted to kill. Oh well whatever, with every loss comes a gain.

I actually love to write about unfortunate events with my self deprecating comedy, or fury in the case of the lawsuit and uncle posts. It's probably a good thing that I can find funny things in these situations after releasing them into writing. But I suppose it's too bad that I haven't written much about the great things. And it's really too bad that friends worry I am suicidal or homicidal or somehow insulted them. I'm not sure if what I should be doing now is posting pictures of a turkey burger I made from scratch or what. I felt like a turkey burger. So I made one. Next week I will make a lentil burger with brown rice. Exciting.

Lately my pot smoking neighbors are stinking up the hallway so much that I wonder if I should say something or just ask them for some. The sound of ambulances passing the window at all hours is nightmarish. And my building manager shared too much of his private life with me and now when I pass him, I see visions of it in my mind. This is exactly why I never wanted to live in large apartment complexes. There are definite benefits which I am learning about, but all these little things make me a little nuts. I like quiet. I like having to deal with only a few people. On the bright side, I never hear the upstairs neighbors, I almost always get laundry done when I need to, and it's easy. I don't worry about safety or maintenance ever. And the dishwasher has changed my life.

I recently found out that I did not get the 3rd job in a row that I really wanted. Of course I am disappointed, but these occurrences have made space for me to take a yoga teacher training program this summer. The funny thing about this is that any financial analyst in their right mind would not advise me to do this now, but there you go. I did it anyway. Somehow I have a feeling that in the long run, this will be a worthwhile investment. I am so done taking advice from anyone I know anyway. I don't want their lives. I still want this one even if it's a little fucked up.

And speaking of these job losses, come on. Were they crazy? Someone was better than me for the job? Impossible. I am awesome. I am a spectacular assistant, tutor, teacher, trainer, admin, etc. What the hell were they thinking not hiring me? I prioritize well at work, I ask for projects when I don't have any, I try to be involved more and assist even in the stupidest shit like carrying equipment or cleaning off some asshole's desk. I'm a riot; even when I am having a bad day I can be funny. And when I can't deal with people, I try not to bother anyone. I am respectful even to those I can't stand, and I am nice to a fault.

The funny thing about my previous experiences and disappointment in them is that I am now certain that I was too nice to everyone. I may not have been the most professional employee until the last two years or so when I finally got it. Over time I became more focused and dedicated and professional. I might not have been the best receptionist or accounts payable person, but I've learned from mistakes. I think. Still, I am sooooooo nice to all the mother fuckers in my life it is ridiculous. And that includes friends, drinking buddies, family, acquaintances, and lovers. I am tooooo nice.

I was harassed nearly every day at a job in Chicago and everyone said that I was lucky to have it. Why? A manager there told me that she received complaints from my co-workers that I was doing too many things at once, and that I shouldn't have been rushing around the office trying to help a customer. I wasn't supposed to rush around the office looking for things. That was what managers do, and I wasn't a manager was I? Did I think I was a manager? Because I wasn't. I wasn't no manager and I shouldn't be thinking I'm better than the ladies who worked there for 20 years. I must have slept with the director of the agency to get the job anyway. I didn't have any talent they needed. Who was I to think I was entitled to a desk?

Yes, I admit to making bad judgement calls and decisions in some cases, but after a lot of speculation I've determined that it's not me, it's them.

It's definitely them. When I get upset or disappointed in a relationship, whether it is personal or professional I immediately think it's all my fault. I did this wrong, I did that wrong, I am the common denominator, I am a total loser, I disappointed the person that got me a job, I disappointed my grandma, I disappointed my friends, etc. Right off the top of my head I can think of 5 people that I am no longer friends with and have agonized over why anyone wouldn't want to be friends with me. I am finished thinking that way. If anyone wants to leave a relationship with me, hallelujah. Either I burned a bridge or they are a dip shit or both. Every ending brings a new beginning.

What kind of moron wouldn't want to be friends with me anyway? How many people do you know that get themselves into the hilarity and hi jinx that I do? Just today I was reminded that I once auditioned for a murder mystery theater for fun. A while ago I was reminded that after listening to the advice of a gay friend, I put an ad up on craigslist requesting the perfect man. This is how he found his husband so surely I would too. Expecting to receive a series of penis pictures, I was pleasantly surprised at how many responses of well wishes I received. "I'm too old for you, but I love what you wrote and I hope you find him."

I posed in the nude for a photographer in Chicago many years ago. We settled on a deal where my head would not be connected to my body in any photo he displayed in a gallery so that the whole me couldn't be seen. It was supposed to be "war like" shots in which all manner of horrors were coming at me. I preferred to pose with classical music on, but he preferred classic rock. Somehow the music choice cheapened the experience for me. I did this twice and never again. Still, he had said that I would be invited to his openings, and I never received the information.

I take it back. I have posed 2 other times for 2 other photographers. One was naked on the beach in Greece and the other was with a friend for a specific project. I was to receive copies of the Greece photos but did not. The other project was just a couple years ago. I drank an entire bottle of wine during the experience and have no idea how my boobs got out, but they did. These photos I own, but have never looked at them.

In high school I kept my weed smoking devices strapped to my bra since my mother was fond of searching my room. I didn't have any place to hide it except on my body and people must have wondered what those lumps were about.

Once I auditioned for a solo piece in a ballet that I really wanted. At the time I was assisting with teaching dance to very little girls, and the bitch Russian instructor thought she should knock me down to size. She had me audition right there in front of all those little girls, when I hadn't really memorized the timing or routine yet. I went into it knowing I was going to fuck up and heard the girls laughing at me throughout, especially when I couldn't hit the grand jete properly.

So you see? People are missing out. I must learn to un-attach myself from embarrassments and disappointments and shit people. Embrace the hilarity and ridiculous and failures. You don't want this in your life? Too bad for you.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


I don't know how this happened but I wrote a ton of shit and it got deleted. What the fuck blogger?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

10/ Dream

I dreamed that I set off pop rocks outside of the apartment entrance, which caused a massive fire all over town. I had to get to work to find out what was going on, but we came to a house on fire and went inside. There my grandma and my boss Lisa were inside, totally unaware of the massive fire eating one side of the house. We decided to keep it cool and not tell them so they wouldn't get scared, but we had to get them out of the house. And once we did that they were shocked but I had to go and couldn't comfort them. The fire raged everywhere and I walked away.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

9/And Then

My Uncle Jim went to the emergency room for congestive heart failure.

Since Elizabeth Taylor had just died days earlier, I figured this was it.

It was also the very same week that my dad had been rejected from 3 jobs, one of which was with a recruiter for the company that laid him off over a year ago. Assholes. He managed to get a job as an election judge in the suburbs when he got the call that Jim needed to be taken to the hospital. He stayed in the hospital with Jim from 11pm to 7am the next day, which was when he was due at this job. Clearly it wasn't going to happen.

Uncle Jim goes to the free hospital for people that don't have health insurance, or are destitute, or in a bad situation, or just a mess. He is all of the above, and despite his staunch conservative stance on everything, he believes he is entitled to free health care. This particular hospital often runs out of beds or out of space altogether. After my dad got back and had a rest, he called there to find out about Jim, but was told he was still in emergency. Dad freaked out, drove all the way back to find Jim was really just resting in the hallway since there were no available rooms.

I was told that Uncle Jim remained in good spirits but would not divulge the true status of his health to my father, despite being listed as his emergency contact. He seemed to think the whole thing was no big deal. My dad asked nurses to explain what was going on but no one was allowed to give him info. He could speak to a doctor, but they were extremely difficult to pin down even for a moment. The nurses were prepping Jim for a bone marrow test which freaked Dad out even more. What was it for? No one would tell him anything.

I think Dad was in a state of shock about the whole thing. He said he couldn't even recognize his own brother. Jim looked like he was 80 years old, but is only 62. Jim could barely walk from one side of the room to the other. And the biggest shock was that Jim had let his teeth go so bad that he recently had the entire bottom set pulled, and had yet to get dentures.

Not one of us understands how Jim lives his life. He is an isolationist that hasn't worked in over 15 years and is a general mother fucker. He had a heart attack in his early forties, despite his rather lean physique. He smoked something like 2 packs a day until he supposedly quit. After the bypass surgeries he refused to return to work, claiming that he couldn't be expected to function normally. He has an addiction to whiskey and chocolate. He hates everyone except Irish Catholics and is therefore impossible to be around. And he has type 2 diabetes. Fun guy.

Uncle Jim is the person I consider the Chief Asshole of the family. He is rude beyond comprehension, racist to the core, and a woman hater on top of everything. He used to call my mother: "Dumb Dora," to her face and run his finger underneath light fixtures to point out the dust. When I was little he came over to my parent's apartment to watch porn since he was too cheap to by his own VCR. My parents caught him one night when he was still there at 3am and told him never to bring that shit over again. My mother only shared that with me years later because I went through a period where I felt terribly sorry for him, thought he must be quite lonely. That was until he let me drink whiskey at his place before turning 21, and asked for "help" with his resume. His computer was in the basement and the so called resume was in a folder filled with porn pics. I freaked and got the hell out of there, thinking oh my god he's drunk and laughing about this and I was just in his basement what the hell.

I never went to his place again, but he would frequent the Italian restaurant where I worked. I gave him freebies now and then until I got worried that the owners would get mad. I also wanted him to go away after a while because he became demanding and blatantly stared at my female co-workers. I could tell he was making a few of them uncomfortable and had no idea what to do. Eventually I told him that nothing off the menu was going to be free, hoping that would deter him. One night he stayed very late at the restaurant, had too many beers, and slammed his drink down with his voice shaking and choking and yelled at me that no one gave a damn about him. No one cared a bit about him and he was alone in this world. He seemed like he might get violent so I stood up to get him some water. My heart raced and I tried to pretend like I could handle it. When I got home I cried and had to call my parents. Dad went over to Jim's place that night and told him to never come near me again and if Jim harassed me in any way, he would kill him.

About a year later, my cousin Brian was killed in a gruesome car wreck and the person to let me know was Uncle Jim. He called my apartment sobbing and sobbing and I was in such shock I didn't believe it was Jim on the line at all. Was it a joke? Didn't he call my dad first? I must have asked if he was serious about a hundred times until he screamed why are you asking me that? I told him not to leave the house and especially not to get into the car, assuming he drank. Then I had to break the news to my parents. Unfortunately I got Mom on the phone first who just started screaming and then I had to tell Dad the whole thing all over again. The weirdest thing about that call was that I had to say: "You know Brian? Brian my cousin/your nephew?" since our family barely speaks at all.

After the funeral in Tuscon I rekindled that "I feel bad/guilty about Jim" feeling. He didn't have anyone to grieve with or fly over there with or have lunch with or share a pint with or anything. It's awful. I don't think he attends a church or has any social life whatsoever. Christmases go by, New Years Eve goes by, and his birthday goes by without even a phone call. Yes, he has another brother but he is Chief Asshole # 2 so I don't think they have much of a relationship either. I started sending Jim Christmas gifts since then. He hasn't ever thanked me but maybe that is because he no longer has my number. I'm ok with that.

I don't know how society makes men like him but I assume it has something to do with religion or general awkwardness socially, which was encouraged by family not fought against. I often thought that my grandmother must have poisoned him with ideas of her oldest son resembling John Wayne in The Quiet Man. My dad told me that Jim's best friend and basketball buddy in high school was Jewish, until my grandmother meddled telling him how awful the Jews are. When I was around 9 years old, I remember Jim asking me what I thought the blacks ever did for this country. I couldn't understand the question at all so I asked my mom why he said that. She explained that my grandmother had very serious prejudices against everyone, so that is how Jim learned to hate as well. She told me never to listen to that kind of garbage and I wasn't allowed around him unsupervised after that. I don't know how on earth a person with those kinds of beliefs gets to live long enough to be treated for congestive heart failure.

As for the awkwardness around women, who will ever know. I've encountered men that I'll never understand how on earth they came to think and behave the way they do. Did something go terribly wrong in their childhood? Did no one ever explain that women are equals? Or that it's ok to get rejected sometimes? I feel awful that Jim is so alone, and sometimes think it isn't all his fault that he is completely fucked up.

Then again, when my dad is sitting in the hospital with Jim who doesn't give a damn and carries expectations of assistance, I have other feelings. Whenever Dad said something very reasonable to Jim like: "You should probably give me a key to your place so that I can check in on you," Jim ignored him, pretending the sentence never happened. You've got to think, FUCK THAT GUY and I did. Instead of concerning myself with Jim's health I only was concerned with the stress of it all on my dad. I felt that if this is it, so be it. Let's let him go.

I imagined what it would have been like if he passed on. How would we deal with the family? Would we be in charge of everything? Does he even have a will? Dad didn't know. Would I go crazy and punch my uncle Tony in the face? Would I tell him what a piece of shit he is?

Jim ended up being released from the hospital a week later and I found myself filled with rage and fury. How dare he put my dad in this situation and not give a shit??? Who wants to take care of a mother fucker that allowed his health to deteriorate to that extent?? I DON'T. I told my mom that she better not go over to his apartment with food. It's his fucking problem. She agreed and said that he will have to get himself a maid or caretaker. (what a lucky person that will be) He is not our problem unless we get another hospital call.

I talked to my grandmother about my feelings and her advice was to call him. What? But he's so mean. I can't. She said something so beautiful I could barely stand it:

Vhen person is very very hard, zhen you be the softehr.

I told her I'd think about it.

But I haven't called and I doubt that I will. Sometimes the softer and nicer you are, the more you become a doormat. I don't know how many more times I can deal with his attitude. The last time I saw him was at my dad's 60th get together and he asked if I was getting fat, which is his standard greeting. My uncle on my mom's side didn't put up with that shit and asked if Jim was getting sickly thin. It didn't go over well.

It's weird when you decide you're ok with someone leaving this world. It will happen eventually and surely it will happen sooner with a person in this condition. Dad said that maybe Jim will outlive us all and I told him to bite his tongue. I also asked if he was certain that they are really brothers. Could one of them have been switched a birth? He laughed but it was obvious that he felt pain. He said that we'll end up finding out from the neighbors if Jim has passed on, and I could tell he has an extreme fear about it. There isn't anything we can do about the way he chooses to live his life.

I've read many articles about how forgiveness is key in these situations. I don't want to dwell or linger on the negatives. My dad always says that the hardest thing to do in this life is accept people the way they are. I just wish all of this was easier on him. TV and movies always have stories about forgiveness and compassion. You end up taking care of the person who has wronged you and become a better person for it. I don't think I could take care of Jim. He has made his choices. I wish him to have less discomfort and to find a way to like himself more. Surely the only reason people self destruct is because they hate themselves.

Friday, April 22, 2011

8/The Shmuck Who Sued Me

4 days later, I had to take part in a two hour arbitration over the phone.

What I've learned from this whole episode is that that our legal system and many of the related jobs involved exist because of what I like to call The Ring of Bullshit. Example: an event occurs, police are called, witnesses give statements, police write up a report, insurance companies examine, insurance companies give estimates, they pay each other whatever they come up with, they allot money for people to get to the doctor, and then we're done....until...

I assume that The Shmuck who sued me defaulted on his mortgage or didn't have health insurance to cover some problems. How could he make some extra money? Well, he did get into that fender bender with Aviva O'Byrne. Maybe if he filed a suit in the last hour of the last day before the statute of limitations was up, he could disrupt my life just enough to make a few thousand.

Only, he didn't ask for a few thousand. He asked for 46 thousand. This fender bender apparently caused him to need a gall bladder surgery.

The events were these: We were stopped at a red light, I was about 4 cars away from the front of the line. The first car in line started to go, but then abruptly stopped, so we all stopped. When we all started to go again, the first car changed his mind again and took a left turn from our middle lane, rather than than the actual turning lane next to us. So, the second car slammed on his brakes which caused the car in front of me to crash into him and since I couldn't see what was going on, I was unable to stop until I saw his car shake and the heard the noise of the crash. Of course I couldn't stop in time and I bumped him.

Police were called, we were all able to get back into our cars and pull into a strip mall parking lot, we all talked. The guy in front of me admitted to the police that he hit the other car before I hit him. We were both issues warnings; not tickets due to the circumstances. I felt that the guy in front of me wanted to intimidate me further. He kept asking me questions about my little Corolla and stated that it was clearly totaled. I said it didn't look that bad to me, but he insisted that due to the age, they were just going to trash my car and offer me the difference. I hoped and prayed that he was wrong but admit that his demeanor made me extremely nervous. I said that I didn't think it was that big of an accident. He said that I hit him pretty hard but not to worry, he won't sue. The guy was being totally inappropriate so I decided to walk away from him and deal only with the police. No ambulance was called, and we all drove away.

The insurance companies took care of everything within a week, and my healthy little Corolla still works to this day. I love that car.

However, since The Shmuck needed to support his lawsuit, he changed the events to suit him, hence the Ring of Bullshit commences. The lawyer took his case on a contingency. My lawyer did not believe that he was going to be able to get away with the gall bladder stuff, but expected us to have to pay him something because of the fact that I did hit him. He bothered to go through with this, therefore he gets money. As if we didn't need more evidence that people are assholes. She expected the case to go to trial since they were unwilling to accept the offers our side gave, but his lawyer must have advised him not to push it. She figured they'd have better luck with an arbitration.

Police reports are not admitted as evidence due to not being done under oath, and the police officer not needing a witness to his own report. The only evidence the lawyers have to go on are the pictures the insurance company took and our statements. Since I gave my deposition 3 years after the accident, I wasn't confident that I made myself clear. My lawyer told me that his claim of the events were that I hit him so hard his enormous minivan was throttled into the car in front of him, despite the bumper to bumper traffic on the road. He had said that the front end of my car was completely underneath his, and that I had totaled his car. He just wasn't willing to give up his car until 2 years later. WHAT? How can he possibly get away with such accusations? No ambulance was called, everyone walked away! His car was totaled 2 years later but it was still my fault? I remember some lights being broken and a little fender damage on his car and that was it.

I asked my lawyer how we accept legal lying, and she said that his lawyer has to believe he is telling the truth. It seemed to me that people in this line of work must know about the lying and coach their client, and they know it's wrong. They want to keep this cycle going so several people have jobs, all based on bullshit. My lawyer was never able to get in touch with the man in the first car that was hit, so we didn't have much to go on. They eventually dropped the gall bladder issue, but kept the money claim high due to lengthy chiropractor visits. I just didn't believe that he was hurt at all, or that he deserved any money. I kept asking why it didn't matter that he never made a medical claim until the very very last minute and just went straight to a lawsuit??? She said it totally didn't matter and he was within his rights, no matter how ridiculous the claim.

She felt the judge would have to be a total idiot to award him a great sum of money. She found out that his chiropractor was not board certified and he had been seeing her for years prior to the accident. He used to be a contractor...hello? he probably was injured on the job quite a lot and the chiropractic visits couldn't have all been related to the accident.

I could have attended court, and I intended to just so the judge would see with his own eyes who the more credible witness was. But, after all the flying and running around I had done in March, I requested that we do it over the phone. I also worried that should I see him, I would surely murder him right there with the power of my thoughts.

The arbitration lasted 2 hours and was officially 5 years after the accident. I had to listen to this asshole and his fantasy story. He said that after the accident he grabbed his yarmulke before exiting his vehicle and I nearly busted out laughing. This guy that I saw in jeans and a Cubs hat all of a sudden found religion in time for court? Thank you Skokie. He said that due to being unemployed for a long period of time.. (hello!)...he recently took on a job as a Shomerim, which are the people who sit with the dead and sing them songs and keep the body company before a funeral. He explained the significance to the judge and five minutes into this whole thing, I realized I would have strangled him right then. What a fucking asshole. Is lying a lesser offense when you're doing it in the name of religion? Is it more legal to lie when you've convinced everyone that you are religious?

He went on with his preposterous story and even claimed that when I got out of the car I was so distraught, that I said, "I can't believe I did this again!" A total fabrication, especially since I had never been in an accident like this. When it was my turn the judge actually asked me if I said that and I was insulted that he would even think it's a worthy question. I wanted to yell out He's Lying! He KNOWS he hit the other car first! I held it in and did as good of a job as I could. His lawyer questioned me about whether I saw the damages to his car and I said that I had, but it was all very minor. She then asked if I was an expert on car value and of course I said no. What a low blow. I nearly yelled: "and neither are you bitch", but I managed to maintain myself in a calm manner.

What ended up happening was that The Shmuck claimed to have never visited the chiropractor before, but my lawyer submitted proof that he had. His lawyer had never seen that evidence and asked for it to be dismissed. (again the ring of bullshit) The judge allowed it, but it was clear that the chiropractor had fixed the dates and information to support The Shmuck's claim. Nevertheless, the judge felt that some of the injuries were related to the fender bender, and a week later The Shmuck was awarded 19 thousand dollars for lying.

I have to admit extreme stress and disappointment on a moral level throughout that whole week. I couldn't believe how easily lying brings rewards, and it's all legal. I couldn't imagine what woud have happened if it was a real accident with real injuries and scary stuff. What would happen then? My mom said not to even think about it. This is what insurance is for anyway. If they have to pay The Shmuck, they have to pay. 19 thousand is pennies to them. It doesn't reflect poorly on you. She said to take heart in the fact that he will get his. Even my grandma weighed in saying that she hopes for every dollar he won in this case, he gets as many warts on his behind. I didn't know she was capable of such evil thoughts.

So, good luck to The Shmuck out there. Surely he is in for it. And surely all this turmoil will make me appreciate the gigantic success I will be someday so much more.