Tuesday, November 15, 2016

When All Else Fails, Weep During Trolls and Mainline Oreos

This fall has been challenging, and what I mean by challenging is middle-class, middle-aged, white-woman challenging. While I’m cognizant of my daily advantages and blessings, I lost a client I’ve served for the last two decades, had a painful wrench heaved into my form of meditation: running, “nursed” my dog through urinary incontinence, suffered through countless cups of tepid brown water from a coffeemaker beyond the fritz, and worst of all, witnessed the election of ... The Donald. 

Wait, what?! 

President Trump. 
President Trump. 
President Trump. 
President Trump. 
President Trump. 
President Trump. 
President Trump.
President Tru...  

This has to be some kind of detention punishment. No matter how many times I type, think or dare utter the words, President Trump doesn’t seem real. I mean, for reals, America? If it hasn’t already happened, #WTF? has got to make it into the Oxford Dictionary this year. I mean, for reals. 

I did not see THAT coming. I wrote satire about it. I joked. I sneered. No chance in hell the United States would elect a bigot, a bully, a misogynist, a xenophobic, somebody with no practical experience, somebody with serious conflicts of interest, somebody with multiple pending lawsuits against him, somebody who uses more bronzer than an oompa loompa. I suggested the name “Making Bowling Great Again” for my every-other-Sunday bowling team, because, well, that’s hilarious, right?

I’m not laughing so much this morning, although I’ll say I’m in a brighter place than I was at 12:01 a.m. on November 9, 2016. When I posted on Facebook I spent much of that day crying in sweats, I wasn’t kidding. I shed many genuine tears wrapped within the comfort and safety of my finest pair of draw-string pants. 

Oh, let me assure you, I’m still worried. Still stunned. Still angry. Still sad. Still very much grappling my way toward being one shitty iota gracious about the results of this, our latest and not-so-GREATest presidential election. 

If nothing else, the President-elect, um, President Trump will “Make America Drink Heavily Again.” I predict Zima’s going to make a HUGE comeback. 

Get out of bed.  
Give the yowling inside your head your full attention. 
Brush teeth. 
Hold fetal position for thirty seconds to one hour (approx.).
Pray, chant and/or cross fingers.
Hug your child. 
Stretch in stretchiest of stretch pants. 
Consider reading (or rereading) the classics you may have once insisted were a total waste of time.
Ponder the pros and cons of running a marathon. 
Pet your dog (because she might prefer your petting over your vigorous clinging). 
Revisit your blog, post something pithy about election, use exclamation points with reckless abandon. 
Remind husband how much you adore him. 
Scream aloud, sprinkle in colorful obscenities (only when child is at school). 
Go back to bed. 

See, my will and sense of humor are returning, albeit slowly. Many of us, myself included, are damn lucky because we can at least make out the faint resemblance of a blurry silver lining in the nether regions. The sun will continue to rise. Because we are white. Because we are educated. Because we are middle-class. Because we can chuckle.  

Because we voted for a qualified and smart woman, and she won the popular vote. #WTF?

How much my life will change remains to be seen. My life ... ahem, our lives are in the hands of Trump and the GOP now. (Insert audible gulping.) Thus, I grant myself permission to surrender to the five stages of grief:

1. Denial: Michelle and Barack still have sixty-five days, fourteen hours, fifty-one minutes and sixteen seconds left (approx.). 

2. Anger: Where the fuck did I put my Doc Martens and Rage Against The Machine CDs?!

3. Bargaining: Dear God: Please, please, please for The Love of You, help us return to our regularly scheduled programming. I promise I won’t watch anymore reality TV.

4. Depression: That part in Trolls, when Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick sing “True Colors,” is soooooooooooo sad. (Insert audible sobbing.) (Insert five-year-old consoling you.) 

5. Acceptance: Six kids in my daughter’s class voted chocolate chip. Oreos, America’s supposed favorite cookie, won in a landslide. Despite my preference for chocolate chip, it’s obvious there’s hope for the future. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016


Cross stitch. Because your mom could always use new potholders. 
Line up the tequila shots. When one candidate says CHINA or HUGE or LAW AND ORDER, and the other candidate says something backed by lifelong experience and/or facts, do a shot. Wait, on second thought, DON’T do that. You’ll be soused in five minutes flat. To numb your pain and suffering, consider preparing a large batch of margaritas instead. (Note: for added STAMINA, I recommend on the rocks.) 

Create and play a game based on the suppression of yawning. 

Practice your best roundhouse. Be sure your children are safe in bed and your television isn’t within striking distance. 

Make love, not war. If possible, DO NOT do it in front of the TV screen or any other viewing device, as no matter who you’re rooting for, watching presidential debates can leave you feeling flaccid. 

Read a good piece of political satire. (Shameless plug: May I suggest THIS?)

Text a loved one using only emojis. Think outside of the box. (No “thumbs up” or “smiley face.”) 

Go for a brisk, short walk around your neighborhood. Pay no mind to the political signage adorning the formulaic green lawns.

Pet your cat or dog. It will make you stronger, not to mention lower your blood pressure. (If you don’t have a cat or dog, what the hell is WRONG with you?)

Debate the advantages and disadvantages of fondue with your spouse. (If you don’t have a spouse, there’s absolutely nothing WRONG with you. Debate with your life partner or with the goldfish you coincidentally named Donald.)

Channel surf. Decide which network makes the one candidate look the most orange and the other candidate look the most dignified. 

Take a short break. Watch something else, as long as it isn’t Calliou. (Thirteen minutes of the last episode of Law & Order might be just what the doctor ordered.) 

Because the world is on the verge of going to hell in a hand-basket and nobody seems to give a hoot, fold every last pair of the underwear waiting to be rescued from your dryer.  

Check THIS. (If it’s no longer available, trust me when I say Alec Baldwin nailed it.) 

Try to recall what you were doing and what your life was like during the last presidential debate. Not the one a couple of weeks ago, but any of the ones held in 1992. (If you weren’t among the living, reflect on your youth. Size up your current hopes and dreams.) 

Yawn with reckless abandon! 

Build a wall out of your son or daughter’s Duplos, or the Ramen packages you can’t for the life of you figure out why you stockpiled in your pantry. 

Research the pros and cons of asbestos removal.

Eat an apple. Apples can help you have whiter teeth, avoid Alzheimer’s, ward off Parkinson’s, reduce your risk of certain cancers, decrease the chances you’ll get diabetes, prevent gallstones, improve your heart health, beat diarrhea or constipation, shed pounds and foil hemorrhoids. Watching a presidential debate, in turn, is like the seventh-leading cause of death. (Note: There isn’t a shred of evidence to back the latter claim. Facts, however, are often so immaterial. Whatever you feel in your gut is what counts.) 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Too Soon

I do not know any of the victims. I’ve never met them, yet I can say with total clarity and confidence it was way too soon for any of them. 

Ask my daughter and she would’ve argued no, it was too soon for her best friend’s birthday party to be over. She’d bounced and ran and played skeeball, washed down chocolate cupcakes with pink lemonade, and begrudgingly witnessed the opening of presents that weren’t hers. We’d partied the allotted 150 minutes, gathering ourselves up and out the door only a couple of hours before the shootings began. I’d laughed with the birthday girl’s grandmother. She’d noticed the clock hanging on the wall covered in tiger-striped wallpaper. Its hands erratically raced around and around, as if the expression “time flies” had somehow become our present reality. 

A high school senior and his father, perusing a car lot on an unseasonably warm Saturday night. A former alternative-ed school teacher, and her sister-in-law and best friend. They shared a lot, including the same first name: Mary, derived in part from “beloved.” Another woman who retired after 22 years from Kellogg’s, a brand of cereal many of us stock and take for granted in our cupboards. A fourth woman, described as a sweet, sweet old lady who gave away herbs she grew in her garden. 

Too soon? Words often said after a joke in poor taste. How I wish, fingers crossed, with every beat of my heart, every cell left firing in my brain, that were the case this time. What happened was just some kind of sick joke. Or a horrible, fleeting nightmare. 

Earlier that morning I’d joined several hundred other community members for my church: running. We ran with the sun smiling down on us from a postcard sky; our course a handful of miles away from the apartment complex where one of the survivors lives. In a single week, the temperature had shot up from 2 degrees to 40. That’s Kalamazoo, Michigan for you, where if you stay long enough, too soon the weather will change.

An Uber driver who walked into a gun store earlier that day to buy a type of jacket designed to hide a gun. He had a favorable rating from his previous customers. He took fares before, during and after he began shooting strangers at random. He surrendered to police without incident. Not a moment too soon. 

Is it ever too soon to take up prayer? A church marquee simply reads, “Pray for our city.” My city. Your city. Our city. I admit I’m not one who’s easily swayed by prayer, but I am praying. I hope it isn’t too late.

These two little words, part of the comments a peer scrawled across a story I’d written back in grad school. It’s been a decade and his dismissal of too soon still irks me. My writing may have been premature, perhaps immature is a better word, but I refuse to believe it was too soon for the story itself. Sometimes when you feel, you must write for the sake of the welcome release of what you feel. Timing be damned.

Two other victims who remain alive, one a 14-year-old girl in critical condition. A miracle. She squeezed her mother’s hand. The last a woman enjoying some rare February sunshine on a playground, shot in front of her daughter, a niece and three other children. A hero. She saved the kids by screaming run and throwing her body in front of the gunman. 

I agree. Guns are only part of the tragic equation. In this particular tragic equation, the shooter “liked guns.” Reportedly, he owned 11 of them. He fired at least 30 rounds at his victims with one 9mm semi-automatic gun. According to the CDC, one person in the U.S. is killed by a firearm every 17 minutes. So if you ask me, and even if you don’t, it isn’t too soon to say to hell with our right to bear arms.

My cousin from out of state had arrived for another visit. We went for a beer at a local brewery, out for pizza, my daughter wound up looking like she’d bathed in parmesan cheese, we came home and put her to bed, we watched Indiana take on Purdue in basketball, a heated rivalry (my cousin cares nothing about basketball, but he was a good sport about it), national headlines on our iPhones proclaimed that Trump had won and Hillary had won. I was shocked, not life-and-death shocked, I had no clue who Jason B. Dalton was or what he was doing all that time we went about our happy, oblivious business, but surprised about Bush. He’d suspended his campaign. It seemed too soon to surrender. Now that information seems so worthless.  

Is it too soon to mention the other lives this man has obliterated? Wives, sisters, sons, husbands, daughters, best friends, old classmates, coworkers, neighbors, grandparents, cousins, strangers. He left a wife and two kids to face unimaginable sorrow. I can’t stop myself from thinking about the 17-year-old’s girlfriend, too, both lucky and unlucky to have stayed behind in the car.

While it can be too late to say “I love you,” it can never be too soon. I was born here. I will go on living and loving here.