I am an armchair activist. A slacktivist. I talk a good game, but I can't go out there into the thick of things and try to bring about change. I admire those who can, but I am not brave enough.
I want to go volunteer at Planned Parenthood as an escort, but my fear is that one of the particularly virulent anti-choicers at my church will recognize me. That my picture will somehow end up on the internet and my passionately anti-choice mother will call me in tears, asking me WHY I SUPPORT MURDERING THE INNOCENT.
(This is the same mother, by the way, who told my husband that she would make me go through the whole experience on my own, if for some reason I got pregnant as a teenager and chose to have an abortion. That was the exact moment I became pro-choice.)
I want to go out and march in the Women's March wearing my Susan B. Anthony t-shirt, Ruth Bader Ginsberg socks and the "Feminist" baseball cap I bought at the rock & roll Ralph's in Hollywood at the beginning of this month. I can't handle crowds, so I stay home and come up with excuses that don't involve this crippling fear.
I watched the Republicans in Congress today decide that party loyalty was more important than convicting a guilty man who has never had to pay the consequences in his entire life. I am disgusted. I am saddened and sick.
I see people justify the things that 45 has said and done while evoking Hillary's emails, or calling Michelle Obama a man based on someone's conspiracy theory. They shout about building a wall, crimes of undocumented immigrants, justify children in cages while blaming the parents for seeking a better life.
Fox News has turned our parents into what they feared video games would turn us into. They stare at the screen and blindly watch Sean Hannity or Megyn Kelly; they throw out the insult "libtard" while at the same time saying "special needs" is acceptable, but "retarded" certainly isn't.
Unless, that is, it's directed at someone you disagree with politically, at which point it's not even a problem. Use it as much as you want, obviously someone must have a mental defiency for not blindly supporting the president.
They claim bullying is bad but applaud Fearless Leader as he takes pot shots at an autistic teenager. FLOTUS has an anti-bullying campaign called "Be Best", but she's married to the biggest bully of them all.
The biggest advocate for "family values" was, oddly enough, not the Ivy League educated, Hawaii born, African-American man with a beautiful, intelligent wife and two lovely daughters but instead a "very stable genius" who can't stay off Twitter, has no sense of humor, cries "fake news" and decries the free press as an enemy of the state. The thrice married philanderer, reality star, father of five with three different women, whose statement of "grab them by the pussy" is lauded as the second coming, despite being as un-Christlike as Satan himself.
We have failed, America. We elected a xenophobic, nationalistic bully into the White House. We need to do better. We must do better.
Let's not have there be another failure in November of 2020.
Vote like your life depends on it.
Our pastor is a giant, surprisingly soft-spoken, Dutchman with a long silvery beard that sometimes merits comparisons to Gandalf.
He regularly excommunicates me for bad puns (yet the awful songs my husband spams his Facebook with have not yet gotten *him* excommunicated - riddle me that, Batman) and knowing my dislike for brussel sprouts, liver, and zucchini, will say it's on the menu for our next church supper.
As I grew up in the church, pastors were to be revered - you never referred to them, even outside church, without the "pastor" title.
Rod is not that kind of pastor.
Rod is the kind of pastor that wraps the little kids up in his arms, begins to rock them back and forth while singing "You're in the hugging machine, the hugging machine, the Hugen hugging machine!" (This prompted my friend Jen's son Eli to exclaim "Mom! It's Hugging Machine! Hugging Machine is back!!" after Rod returned from a vacation lasting several weeks.)
He has recognized his past mistakes and is grateful to have been forgiven for them. When he brings them up in a sermon, it's a comforting reminder that he isn't perfect and we aren't, either.
After over forty years married to the same lovely, sweet woman, he regularly extolls "the reasons my wife is awesome" on Facebook at least once a week, complete with a number that seems random but according to him, isn't.
When my husband lost his dad in October of 2018, just over a week after I turned forty (I sometimes still feel sad knowing he was around for my birthday but missed my husband's and mother-in-law's), Rod was the person we called.
He came over to our messy, dog filled house and ignored our grumpy, growling, barking Chihuahua and our "strangers are just friends I haven't met yet" lab-pit bull mix, pulled up a chair at the kitchen table and helped bring some peace to us both on that awful day.
When my father in law was in the hospital with the cancer that would have taken him if his heart hadn't given out first, Rod went to visit him. They became friends, a couple of old guys enjoying each other's company.
My father in law opened up to Rod in ways he didn't to most people. He talked about how proud he was of both of us, and how he wanted to make the most of what time he had left. He knew, somehow, that he didn't have much.
We sang old hymns and classic country songs in the church kitchen one night - my husband's clear tenor, Rod's baritone, my quavery alto in some semblance of harmony. It was magical.
"If the Lord's willing, it doesn't matter if the creek rises or not," he has often told both of us. I carry that with me to work when my client is discouraged about her physical or mental ailments. And I remember it myself in my dark moments, and it helps keep me going.
Thank you, Rod.
I owe you more than I could ever put into words.
No one knew where my uncle was buried until my morbid tendencies kicked in. I figured that with a name like Elva Siler, his final resting place wouldn't be hard to find.
Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills. Also the final resting place of many celebrities, and a large number of normal folks who just happened to have the money to be buried at a place as famous as Forest Lawn Hollywood.
My great aunt and great uncle never had their own children, but they both came from large families. My uncle, my grandmother's brother, was raised by a widow, who had to become a sharecropper and put her children to work in the cotton fields after her husband died, leaving her not only with their eleven chileren, but also the two older ones he'd had with his first wife.
The cemetery is beautiful, set on rolling hills and complete with a gift shop and florist, as well as a funeral office that David Fisher would have coveted.
I buy my flowers (gaudy orange carnations, the cheapest ones in the fragrant shop) and ask the thickly accented woman at the front desk where Elva Siler and Elizabeth Siler are buried. She gives me a map, highlights a path, and might as well have said "may the odds always be in your favor."
I retreat back to the car, flowers and map in hand, and try to direct my husband where we need to go. The map is upside down, so left is right and right is left, and he's in the Moments to Remember section, wherever that is.
Finally, after driving through the cemetery we think we might have found the spot. No celebrities up here, though. Lots of Russians. The view looks down into the San Fernando Valley, and I audibly gasp. Imagine this view for eternity.
The caretaker is polishing the wall behind us, and we finally break down and ask him for help. He knows the exact place. Bingo bango. I lay down the flowers and get on my knees.
"Hi, Uncle Elva," I begin. "I'm Mike's daughter. Ileana's granddaughter. We're here to go to Disneyland but I wanted to visit you first. Remember when we visited you in the hospital in 1995? The prom episode of Friends aired that night..."
On and on I talk. The grass is cool and damp.
I look at his stone.
"E. A. Siler, 1914-1998. A Good Man".
You can't ask for more than that.
Sometimes, someone is so terrible and so evil that by killing them, you're doing the rest of the world a kindness.
That's why we done what we done.
Agnes was a good woman and a good mother. She was also a good wife. The problem was that she chose to be with a man who was pure evil down to his core. If there was any goodness in Henry, God knows we never saw it.
The night she was killed, she'd gotten herself all prettied up and went out to a dance in town. Henry wasn't too happy about this; so you can imagine the fight they had before she left the house that night. He never hit her anywhere that decent folks could see, though. And even if he had, they called it home correction then and nobody raised an eyebrow to it.
She came back a few hours later from that dance, all red cheeked and sparkling through and through. Anyone who had seen her would have known she was deep in the throes of joy. She needed that sort of thing in her life, you see.
Henry had just gotten angrier and angrier while she was gone, and it built up inside him to a fierce climax. So when she looked him square in the eye and said she was done with him, that was the moment that everything changed. He gave her the backhand then and knocked out some of her teeth.
He got up from his chair and he went out back around the house for the ax. I guess she knew that she wasn't going to be able to outrun him, but she tried.
It didn't do any good, though. He hit her with the ax so many times that you couldn't even tell what she looked like. There was nothing left. Her pretty dancin dress was covered in blood and bone and her beautiful face was a pulpy mess.
The sheriff come and arrest him. Ol' Miller sobbed like a baby for poor Aggie after they threw Henry in the hoosegow. Wish they'd lynched his sorry behind or hung him in the town square. No one would have said he didn't deserve it. He deserved that, and he even deserved worse.
God bless it, it took her nigh fifty hours to die. She was in agony the whole time, you know it. The doctor tried what he could to ease some of her suffering but it just wasn't enough. How you can do that to a human being is something that I will never be able to understand as long as I live.
Meanwhile, Henry done found himself a crowbar and broke out of the jail. What he didn't factor in was how all of Aggie's brothers was waiting outside the jail and they was more than ready to do to him what he done to her.
And do that they did.
They killed him almost immediately. He couldn't get far. He tried to run but it didn't do a lick of good. All of those men took turns punishing him for what he did. Then when they killed him, they chopped off his arms and his head with the ax.
Threw 'im in one of those old mines. You know what it's like up there near Wallace, don't you? Of course you do. That area's full of all those old mining towns. Didn't think his body would ever see the light of day again.
Sure enough, it didn't happen for the better part of sixty years. That ol' forensics fellow who was looking at Loveless's corpse thought he'd been killed recently. Guess that ol' mine was good at preserving his body. Then twelve years after that, some little girl walking home from school found his arm.
You say you brought me here to do a DNA test to prove that that corpse is the earthly remains of that goddamned murdering sumbitch Loveless. I'm the only relation that's left. Rest of em all died or moved away. I'll do that so you can get the answers you been looking for, for all this time.
Sometimes bad things happen to good people.
Sometimes good things happen to bad people.
And sometimes, the worst kind of bad people get exactly what they deserve.
I've done a lot of things in my life I regret, but helping to kill that monster who helped create me was not one.
I recently read an article about an one hundred year old headless corpse being identified through a DNA test. The man, Henry Lawless, brutally murdered his common law wife, Agnes, with an ax. For all extents and purposes, he was a career criminal with multiple aliases It took Agnes fifty hours of agony to finally die. After reading that, I knew I had to take a little creative license and write about Loveless for my first Open Topic of this season. - CMW
I had a dream about my current husband before I ever met him.
We were at my family's lake cabin with its familiar outdated furniture; the brown and white flowered couch, the green armchair, the cream loveseat in front of the window, and the old farm table and the series of mismatched chairs.
In my dream, I sat in the white leather chair with the curved back at the table. I remember the blue eyes, the red goatee, the half smile as I went in for a kiss. The way I could look across and see my Aunt Connie's empty squirrel feeder through the kitchen window.
I didn't realize it was him in my dream until our paths collided on a star crossed evening in August of 2006.
Two years later we married. And not long after that, we were at the cabin during the summer. I sat in the white leather chair, the one we'd had (and my cousins and I fought over sitting in) since I was a child.
I smiled into the blue eyed, red bearded face of my beloved and we kiss in front of the window, looking over at the lake beyond. My Aunt Connie's squirrel feeder is still empty.
That dream was my compass.
Eleven years we have been married, and twenty have passed since that dream.
He is my true north.
All my paths led, and will continue to lead, to him.
It waa Super Bowl Sunday 1998 when my daughter just came home with this guy and now she's engaged. That would be great if he were a better person. The problem is, the guy's a bum.
No matter which way you want to look at it, he's twenty years old with no plans, no education past high school, doesn't drive, and still lives at home with his mother. Yet he still thinks he'll be a good provider for my daughter.
She's nineteen though, and she doesn't want to hear it. I try to drop hints, and she doesn't pick up on them. I told her about my cousin's husband - who did nothing play with rocks his whole life - while she worked her tail off as a nurse and raising their family.
I asked him on the first night she brought him over exactly what his goals in life were. He gave me some mumbo-jumbo story about wanting to start a record shop. Who's interested in records? For God's sake, it's almost the 21st century.
She and I always haven't gotten along. I'm a realist, and she's a dreamer. She's always been chaotic and disorganized, lost in her own world, always with a book in hand. the doctors when she was in school thought she had autism. I don't really understand it, so I tell her she's got to staying on task disorder.
I don't understand what that is, either.
I keep hoping that eventually, something's going to click. But it doesn't. She's never been in a serious relationship before. This isn't the right guy to spend the rest of her life with.
And now it's July of 1999 and they're supposed to get married. He still hasn't accomplished anything. They're going to be moving into an attic apartment above his grandfather's house. It's a little bit better than moving in with his mother, I guess.
She is still a few months short of 21 when they get married. I'm still not happy about this, but I walk her down the aisle and give her away. She seems so happy, and I hope I'm wrong about him.
Four years later, it turns out that I wasn't. She leaves a devastated message on our voicemail. He's going to be sentenced to 5 years in prison. We try to encourage her to move back in with us. Maybe she'll finish school. Realize that there's more out there than this life that she's given herself. Divorce him and move forward with a good man, not this feckless asshole.
I just keep hoping and praying every day that she'll make the right choice. And she's still young with plenty of time to move forward.
My hope is that she finally does it.
My client's family is taking her and her boyfriend to Disneyland just before Christmas. But because of her CP, she's began to dread the trip instead of looking forward to it.
"I told my dad I could walk just fine and go on rides with my nieces and nephew, but he is insisting I have a wheelchair," she grouses to me as I drive her to her job, sorting mail at the post office on base.
"And he keeps yelling at me to do my stretches but it hurts," she continues, talking over Sheryl Crow as she sings about cold beer on a Saturday night. Her father, who I met once at the ER, is a mild mannered, easygoing, athletic ex-Marine who is now a PA. She says he's a hard ass, or used to be.
Often she accuses her parents, her boyfriend, other staff, her bosses at work, you name it, of yelling at her. I sense the "yellimg" is more of an forceful tone. But after six months plus working with her, I know which issues to press and which ones to let slide. Dealing with someone who has BPD teaches you this. Quickly.
"I just want to be NORMAL! I miss my old self!" she has exclaimed in frustration, more than once. At least twice a week she nostalgically remembers how she was before getting gastroparesis. How she would go-go-go all the time. And weighed 115 lbs. And didn't have to care about what she ate. No foods were off limits then.
She knows I hate the word "normal". I tell her that's a dryer setting.
I pull up to the Visitor's Center.
She sticks her expensive purse inside her Ed Hardy backpack, which is red and adorned with a drawing of a dog. The dog, if he were human, would chain-smoke and yell about warm beer in a way that would tremendously please Dennis Hopper's character in "Blue Velvet".
I open the hatch and take out her walker. Her boss requires it as a safety measure.
She hates it.
People smile sympathetically at her when she has to use it in public.
"My sisters don't have any disabilities," she has said often. "I'm the broken one."
Hearing this kills me. I also have CP, though not as severe.
She is not broken.
I see the grimace and strain on her face as she lifts a foot onto the sidewalk. Her heel cords are tight. Often her determination to not require assistance causes her to fall or get hurt.
She wishes she could walk like everyone else.
And if she could, there would be no need for the wheelchair on the Disneyland trip.
No "extra time while boarding" needed at the airport.
No stiff and tight heel cords.
No walker needed at work.
No help needed getting onto the sidewalk.
Then all her problems would be solved.
Just by the simple act of being able to walk with no pain and needing no assistance.
I have had anxiety since before I knew what anxiety was.
My stuffed koala was my best friend when I was little. She had black eyes, medium-brown fur, and a little half-smile on her face. I named her Jenny.
And whenever it was bedtime and I couldn't find her, the inevitable panic was spurred. I'd rummage desperately through my toys as I tried to locate my bear. Inevitably one of my parents would come in, find her, and tell me that since I was overreacting, Jenny would sleep with them tonight.
And that's when anxiety coiled it's tendrils into me and refused to let go.
I didn't know why I was so terrified of missing the bus in kindergarten.
I didn't know what was wrong with me when I was, at one minute, contentedly watching TV with my parents, then hysterically realizing I didn't know where my She-Ra action figures were.
I didn't know why I was frantically yelling at my friends in second grade to help me find my mittens because I was afraid I had lost them.
As a teenager, if I babysat on a Friday night and Mom had to work, I'd make sure to call home before she left to tell her I love her *just in case* something happened.
When I was dating my first husband, he once hung up on me without saying he loved me and I was convinced he didn't.
I've picked at the skin on my lips for years and years.
I bite my nails, although less than I used to.
The skin around my thumb nails is usually red and angry looking from where I've picked at it.
In the summer time, I peel the skin off of my feet.
I randomly pull out my eyebrows. Not all the time, and not enough for anyone to really notice.
My parents used "anxious" as a synonym for "eager". Neither of them had anxiety.
None of my brothers did.
They enjoyed their happy go lucky lives full of friends and sports, college football, horseback riding and cross country skiing.
I have been forty-one for almost a month. My anxiety is as much a part of me at this point as my high cheekbones and my strabismus. Or
my love for cooking. Perhaps as much as my Tina Belcher tattoo on my right shoulder, a lasting memory of my sister's visit last November.
It is impossible for me to live without anxiety. I can't do it.
The medication makes it manageable, for which I am thankful. I don't have a panic attack when my dearly loved (yet still an asshole) dog gets out of the yard, or when the sun is directly in my eyes when I'm trying to drive.
It is a part of who I am, as much as my blue eyes and rosacea speckled cheeks.
And I'm okay with that.
Over time, I have begun to realize that my client is a textbook narcissist. She is always either the hero or the victim in every story, and watching it play out is exhausting.
It took me almost six months to reach this realization, and I'm embarrassed to admit that it took as long as it did.
And like all narcissists, she is an expert at weaving a tragic story.
"My ex mother in law used to hit me and pull my hair." (Not likely. Said "mother in law" was DDD's mother of the year once.)
"When I found out I was depressed, my parents yelled at me." (Again, not likely.)
"Our old staff kicked our cat and then lied and said he bit her." (The cat DID bite her. He's an asshole.)
"My old roommate used to kick and hit her dog." (They took the dog away before doing an investigation. She never did that. But she never got the dog back.)
"My boss said she would fire me if I start backsliding again." (Said boss held onto her job for her for over two years when she dealt with health problems, and now said boss is a villain. Right.)
I come in every Monday morning with an unsweetened cold brew (cream, no sugar) from Dunkin Donuts in my hand and she asks me how my weekend was. She hasn't gotten dressed yet and her hair is a rat's nest with badly done highlights. She's wearing the shirt I picked up at Goodwill, featuring a cartoon bird staring at his bill, which is on the ground.
"I went to Whitefish, MT and it was so cold my pecker fell off," says the word bubble above the bird.
I tell her about the minutiae of my weekend. She waits five minutes before rehashing her fight with her boyfriend, who has mild fetal alcohol syndrome and is mentally stuck at the age of nine.
Their fights are always about work, at least they start out that way.
He wants her to work more. She says she's trying.
She says they should do something fun. He doesn't want to.
He says he misses the way she was before she got sick. She says he expects miracles from her, and that she's *trying*.
She says he's taunting her by eating food she can't eat because of her recent IBS diagnosis. (He goes through a 24 can case of Pepsi in a week and a half.)
I try to be encouraging, but I am exhausted. She expects me to play therapist for her as she rehashes this weekend's events again, and again, and again. I provide encouraging comments here and there, while I play Yahtzee or browse Facebook on my phone.
"I told him to hide the knives because he might not like what happens if he doesn't," she says.
I look up, startled. "Do you need me to call someone?" I ask. The number for the crisis line is stuck to the fridge with a magnet. Her mental health team has been checking in with her repeatedly over the last few days.
"Oh, I'm fine," she says matter of factly. "I just wanted him to pay attention to me."
My stomach does a sick lurch.
I wonder how much more of this I can take before I have to move on from here.
How many more punctures it will take before her emotional manipulation has left me permanently exhausted. I promised her six months ago I would stay for the long term. And I am trying. I am trying so hard.
If this job is a new set of tires, I'm a car.
And I am wondering, daily, how much more of this heightened emotional manipulation I can take before all of her nails puncture my tires beyond repair.
But I still come in and smile, with my Dunkin cold brew in hand on Monday morning and say "How was your weekend?" while still dreading the answer at the same time.
I don't mean to alienate people. I really don't. But I guess it's just easier for me to be friends with people who like the same things that I do and believe the same way, too. Because I get really mad when people don't like the same stuff as me.
They should, and for some reason they don't. And it REALLY makes me angry when they feel like they can make fun of stuff I like. Like NASCAR. And Doctor Who. And don't you dare tell me that focaccia is not the same as pizza. And nobody else I know has ever heard of sun tea, either.
Someone once told me that I don't know how to form my own opinions and I really don't think that's true. Just because I depend on my sister to tell me if I'll like or not like something doesn't mean that I can't think for myself. I mean, really. How insulting is that? I'm perfectly capable of forming my own opinions, I just like my sister to watch or read things first and then tell me if I'll like them or not. I can't be the ONLY person who does this.
I met Carissa at work. She didn't really like NASCAR but knew enough about it not to make fun of it because she at least understood the skill it takes to race. Plus, she always brought me leftovers for lunch and she's a REALLY good cook, even though the chili she made for the potluck smelled like cat food.
I didn't mean to hurt her feelings but it did. It just sucks that she heard me. Oh well, I guess.
Eventually I lost my job and got a new one, and Carissa changed departments. Then when I became friends with her on social media I realized how awful she really is. I mean, how can you be Christian and support letting people have abortions?! That's bad enough. Then it turned out she was a LIBERAL and didn't support the president.
And don't get me started about how she wanted to support victims of sexual assault instead of just having them get OVER it. I was raped once. I got over it. It sucked, but I didn't let it ruin my life. Everyone should be able to. Giving people support just lets them rehash it over and over again. In what planet is THAT helpful?
Finally Carissa had it when I said on social media that she and her husband were both very liberal and into some really un-Christian stuff. That was after he called me a Pharisee and a whitewashed tomb for supporting the president. Uh, SORRY. He says he prays for him to be impeached or to be arrested for collusion. That's not very Christian.
Ever since then, I can't stop thinking about her. I shouldn't give her that kind of control over me but I don't know how not to. I guess she's living rent free inside my head. My mom says that's because I probably wasn't a very good friend to her.
That's not it, though. I'm the BEST kind of friend.
As long as your opinions, likes and beliefs are the same as mine, that is.