Monthly Archives: January 2012

Is anyone in the mood for ham?

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George and I seem to see a lot of strange things when we are in a car. One of the most memorable events happened in July 2011. We were driving U.S. 52 from Indianapolis to Cincinnati. It was a beautiful night and we decided to get off the highway and take a leisurely drive. If you know anything about U.S. 52, it is dotted with small towns every few miles. Very small towns. Mostly farming communities. And none with a dedicated full-time fire department.

As we were driving in the middle of Nowhere (I have decided to call it Nowhere as to not offend anyone from the actual town in which this happened), George noticed a thick column of black smoke several miles ahead of us. Of course, being a firefighter, George got slightly excited and wanted to see what this was all about. And I have to admit, seeing that much black smoke peaked my curiosity. I knew there was something big on fire and I wanted to see what it was.

So we continued east towards the smoke speculating the entire way. As we got closer to our destination we assumed that we would see the smoke change from black to white as the fire department arrived and began to extinguish the fire. The black smoke continued to fill the sky and we could see that things were going from bad to worse. We found a country road that we thought would take us to the fire and made our turn. Jackpot. Less than a mile down the road we found the blaze. WE found the blaze. We were the only ones there. No fire department. No noisy neighbors. No one. Just us and the pigs. Yes, the pigs. Because what we found was a pig barn. On Fire.

We drove in for a closer look and I rolled down my window to snap a few photos. I was not remotely prepared for the blast of heat that hit my face. I can not possibly imagine what firefighters deal with on a regular basis, but if the heat is anything like what I felt, then there is no way they are paid enough money for what they do.

As I snapped a few pictures, George noticed the pigs off to the side along the fence. I didn’t think much about them as we hurried to make our way back to U.S. 52 for fear that when the emergency vehicles arrived, we would be trapped. We made our turn back on to U.S. 52 and immediately George noticed the vehicle coming up on our tail at a high rate of speed. “Here he comes” were George’s words. A young man sped past us in his car and we presumed (rightfully so) that he was a volunteer firefighter making his way to the firehouse. A few moments later the firetrucks sped past us and headed back towards the fire. As they passed we began commenting on the fact that they needn’t rush to the fire. It was completely out of control and roasting wieners and marshmallows was probably the best plan of attack.

As we approached the firehouse, we noticed the young man that had passed us a few moments earlier. Wearing shorts, a red t-shirt and boots. He bolted from his car and began running to the firehouse. His arms pumping feverishly and his legs running as fast as they could in boots. It was an odd run. One that looked awkward and not quite right. And at that moment I realized…this is what a fireman looks like running with a boner!! Oh now don’t go gasping and acting all prudish on me. It was hysterical. And if you give yourself a moment to get the visual, you will chuckle too.

So we continued on our journey towards Cincinnati. And of course the topic of conversation the entire drive home was the fire. It was the source of many jokes and a LOT of laughter. Mostly it was us trying to think of pig jokes.

All I could think of was a bunch of pigs standing around looking at the fire and one of them saying…”hey, has anyone seen Carl?” And another one answering…”no, but does anyone else smell ham?”

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Character

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He is meticulous. Everything he did for you was done as if he were doing it for himself.
He is loyal. He was there when you needed him. No reason needed. No questions asked.
He is loving. Your words are words he would have never spoken about you, someone he loves.
He is intelligent. He knows the things that have been done. The things that have been said.
He is humble. He does not seek praise.
He is honest. He admits his mistakes and takes responsibility for his actions.
He is helpful. Even to strangers.
He is grateful. Even though many of you have turned your backs, he is grateful for all that he still has.
He is talented. His hands and mind can accomplish anything.
He is fierce. He will protect those he loves.
He is eloquent. He speaks lovingly of others.
He is dauntless. Why fear when you can live?
He is discouraged. He never asked you to choose.
He is dependable. He will do anything that needs to be done.
He is critical. He is much too hard on himself.
He is considerate. His needs are never met.
He is confident. He knows everything will be ok.
He is compassionate. He is trying to be a better person.
He is a brother, nephew, uncle, friend, co-worker. I have never heard him speak an unkind work about any of you. It is too bad that you can’t say the same thing about what you have said about him. He has seen your words.
He is human. Do not think for one second that those words did not hurt.

ADVENTURES IN BRA SHOPPING

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Some of you know I lived in China for 3 years (2003-2006). We hoarded a lot of stuff while we were there. Medicines, soap, deodorant, toothpaste, razors, etc. We lived in a fairly rural city and finding western goods was difficult. When we did find things like Crest Toothpaste, it was often in odd flavors such as seaweed and tea. And western goods could also be quite expensive. We picked up extras whenever we traveled to the United States, as well as Singapore or Hong Kong. And one of my bathrooms looked like a Walgreens.

One thing we did not think much about when we moved to China was clothing. My ex-husband is 6’0″ and I am 5’5″ and rather busty. So clothes shopping in China was not much of an option. Although he was able to buy some shirts in a mall in Shanghai. I can honestly say I purchased maybe 3 or 4 items of clothing in China during our tenure as ex-pats. One of the last things on my mind when moving to China was my bra situation. I had 4 good bras when I left for China in September 2003. We did not plan on returning to the United States for 8 months, but I assumed those 4 bras would last at least that long. So imagine my surprise when one-by-one they started to break. Straps, hooks, seams…you name it, it was coming undone. So as my last bra was being held together by one hook and a few safety pins, I decided to I would head out to the local department store and see what I could find. I did not hold out much hope since I was/am a 38F/G and my left leg is bigger than the average chinese woman.

I went to the 4th floor of the Wenfeng Department store and made my way to the bra section. I was able to find a salesperson who spoke a little english and between my broken chinese and her broken english, I was able to tell her that I needed a bra. She giggled and spoke quickly to her co-workers in chinese. I could see that this was going to be quite entertaining for them and they gathered around to see how this was all going to play out. She turned and went away and a few moments later emerged from the back room with a measuring tape. I could see by its length that we were going to be cutting it close. As she stood near me she wrapped her tape around my chest and brought the two ends together. Just barely. Her cheeks were flushed as she looked up at me and laughed. The tape ends barely met together. Yes, I was as big as their measuring tape. I looked down at the size and she proudly exclaimed (rather loudly) that I was a 90!!!!!! Seriously??? A 90??? No American woman wants to be told they are a 90 in anything, unless it is their weight.

After we ALL stopped laughing she looked at me and told me in the little english that she knew, that they had ONE bra in my size. As she hurried to the back again I stood frozen in fear. I imagined the bra sitting on a shelf all its own in the back. That shelf reserved for the “special one-of-a kind bra.” What in the world would this ONE bra look like? I could only imagine it looked like one of my mother’s bras from the 1960’s and I felt myself becoming a little sick inside.

She returned with bra in hand and carefully sat it down on the counter and began to remove the tissue paper which surrounded and protected it. And then I began to see…blue. Light blue. Not my favorite color, but not totally disgusting either. Then bows. Small bows. One in the middle between the cups and one on each strap. And lace. Not too much, just a little around the top of the cups. This was not so bad. And my salesperson and her co-workers must have felt the same way. Because just then, small cheers were starting to erupt. VICTORY!

I eagerly paid my 450 Yuan for my new bra while she re-wrapped it carefully and placed it in a box, then in a carrying bag. My receipt was stamped and I was ready to go. I felt a certain pride as I left the store. I had successfully shopped for a woman’s bra in China. Not just any bra, but a 90.

Seven Words

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During the holidays, a few people asked me about my family. They say I rarely talk about them and wondered how many siblings I actually have. Where do they live? When was the last time we spoke? Well, if you are looking for a heart warming tale of a family who are so close they can finish each other’s thoughts, stop reading now. If you choose to continue to read, let’s just say, I warned you.

I am the last of 5 children. I was born in 1964. I have two older brothers and two older sisters. They were born in 1952, 1953, 1954 and 1955. All within 42 months. All a year apart in school. Fast forward to September 1964 when I was born. Not planned, I was a surprise and according to my parents, a product of a rather raucous New Year’s Eve party. Needless to say, my entry into the world was not particularly a welcome one. I have few memories of my siblings from my childhood. Obviously they were 9, 10, 11 and 12 when I was born. So by the time I began grade school, they, one-by-one, began to enter college. And by the time I was 9, I was an only child. My parents were exhausted and had already raised 4 children. My siblings proximity in age kept my parents busy and burdened financially. And once they were all in college, my parents seemed to run out of steam. They had nothing left for me. So as I watched all my friends and their families behave as, well as families do, I longed for anything that might possibly resemble that for myself.

While not completely out of view just yet, my hope for a “normal” family life disappeared when I realized that my mother, a removed and cold woman, was an alcoholic. I knew my mom was different from other moms, but I never could quite figure out why she was always out late, couldn’t drive me and my friends to activities, why she would make arrangements for me to stay over at a friends house on the weekends or why she would drop me off at various fast food restaurants with enough money for dinner, and leave me there for hours (she was drinking at a bar nearby). As I grew older began to realize what was happening. Although I knew little of alcoholism, I knew that the 7-Up bottle was filled with Vodka, that she hid bottles all over the house, I knew who her drinking friends were and I knew when I saw her car parked at her favorite tavern that it was best to avoid any sort of confrontation with her that night.

This is also when I realized that my father had thrown in the towel when it came to helping my mother. While they stayed married until shortly before her death in 1991, their marriage was over and I lived with two strangers who could barely stand the sight of one another. And there I was. Growing up alone. My brothers and sisters had the good fortune of being born first and they were off living their lives. They were getting married and having children. Buying homes and starting careers. They were moving to various parts of the United States and rarely coming home anymore.

My sad little life continued like this until one day when I was 16. I don’t recall the circumstances surrounding this particular day. I don’t recall what it was that made me decide I was going to stand up to my mother. I have no idea where the courage came from. But sitting at the breakfast table, in what used to be my oldest brother’s chair, I told her everything. I told her how much I loved her, how much I needed her, how much her drinking hurt me, how much I wanted to be a family and how much I hoped she felt the same way too. There. I had said it. My words hung in the air like balloons while I waited for her to throw her arms around me and tell me that she felt the same. That she loved me. And while my existence was not a planned one, it was a happy one. So I waited. A deep breath filled her and then she spoke. But her words were nothing like I imagined. There were no smiles, no hugs, no tears of joy. What she was saying was a blur. Drinking was her only happiness. She was tired. She was unhappy. And then those words…”I wish you had never been born.”

No one should have to endure the gut wrenching pain of a parent saying those words to them. And until recently, I did not know how deeply those words impacted me. And if it weren’t enough that she said those words that day, she continued to say them many times over in the coming years. It seemed to become therapeutic for her. I believe she somehow felt better when she said those words to me. It validated her need to drink and the unhappiness that filled her life. She finally had someone to blame for everything that had gone wrong in her life and marriage.

I spent 30 years with those words resonating through my mind. It penetrated my every thought. I ruined relationships, friendships and family ties because of those seven words. No one was ever able to get close to me. I constantly changed myself for my friends, my boyfriends, my spouses. I was always who they needed me to be. I loved everything they loved. Their music, movies, clothing, values, religion. All because of those seven words. I could never muster the courage to be myself. The authentic me. All because I believed if my mother never loved or wanted me, then no one else could.

The depression that those seven words created was and still is, at times, crippling. It left me weak and tired. But today I am better. I am a little stronger. There are a throng of people that make me strong. Though they may not understand what it is that I feel, they have held me up and carried me when I could not carry myself. They breathe life into me when I can not breathe for myself. And they remind me every day that they love ME.

I am a person worthy of love. Those are my new Seven Words.