How a Camel Tried to Eat my Face and Other Reminiscences

When I was three years old, a camel tried to eat my face.  My mom had taken me to the Houston Zoo, and back then they only put glass or tall fences around the obviously dangerous predators– alligators, lions, gorillas, etc.  Camels, apparently, were viewed as docile and tame enough to allow toddlers access (despite their propensity for spitting).  I don’t know if what I experienced is typical of camels or if this particular camel just happened to be an asshole– either way, it traumatized the hell outta me.

My mother stood back with A1 (my first brother) in his blue stroller, and I climbed up on the log pen that prevented the camels from wandering around like free-range douche bags.  Evidently, I found the camel that was creative enough to come up with a way to assault the general public despite his captivity.  As I leaned over the top of the fence, holding on to the top log, a large and rather smelly camel lumbered over to me– and promptly wrapped its entire mouth around my tiny head.  I remember seeing the camel walk towards me, then suddenly being enveloped in very wet darkness.  The next thing I knew, someone’s arms were around me, rescuing me from the camel’s oral embrace.  I was so shocked I didn’t know whether to cry or pass out or poop.  So I just stood there, camel saliva dripping from my face and hair, and stared in dazed astonishment at my mother– who was looking back at me with the same open-mouthed, wide-eyed expression– and then at the stranger who had had the presence of mind to rescue me.  (My mother was remarkably terrible in an emergency; her panic mode kicked into overdrive pretty fast, and then she was useless.  I learned how to handle 911 situations by the time I was ten.  As a result, I am now excellent to have around in a crisis.)

When I got older, and began retelling the story to my friends– because I thought it sounded pretty awesome that I had narrowly escaped being devoured by a large and massively stinky mammal– my mom told the story from her perspective.  She watched in horror, panic making her immobile, as the camel slurped my face into its mouth.  Fortunately, some other mom (who apparently was actually functional in emergency situations) sprinted over and yanked me away.  Hearing that, I was very glad that the camel hadn’t bitten down, or I might have been accidentally beheaded.  Or be-faced.  De-faced?  What’s the word for having your face ripped off?

I eventually developed a fear of the Houston Zoo because bad things tended to happen to me there.  As well as almost being eaten alive by an animal that isn’t supposed to be all that dangerous, I was also sneezed on by an elephant.  I’m pretty sure I’m the reason they started putting double-fences and very deep ditches around even the “safe” animals.  I was riding around in my stroller, probably looking adorable, and my mom wheeled me up to the wire fence that separated the elephants from the spectators.  One elephant turned its trunk straight at me and sneezed with such force that it required a sink bath in the public restroom and a full change of clothes.  In addition, when I went to the zoo with my grandpa as a small child, some weird, older couple grabbed me by both arms and tried to run off with me.  I screamed my head off to alert my grandpa because my parents had instilled in me a specific terror of kidnappers (as most parents did to their children in ’80s).  My grandpa yanked me away from them and, as I recall, said a lot of words to them that would have gotten my mouth washed out with soap had I repeated them.  So between the camel assault, the elephant attack, and the kidnapping attempt, I really disliked the zoo.  (Aside from the hot dogs.  The hot dogs were awesome.)

In fact, my spastic parents helped make me scared of just about everything and everyone.  If they weren’t telling me about kidnappers (which I’m sure was just their misguided way of trying to keep me from running off in public), they were talking about burglars.  There were a couple of times when houses in our neighborhood were robbed– despite living in a really nice area– and I heard a few too many burglar stories.  I was afflicted with insomnia and almost nightly nightmares as a child, so I was awake pretty often in the middle of the night.  I would lie there in bed, listening for the intruder I was positive would eventually come, and the moment I heard the slightest creak or groan of the house settling, I would run wake my dad and tell him to get his gun.  So he would dutifully, and groggily, grab his pistol from the bedside table (because in Texas, in the 80s, lots of dads slept with pistols next to the bed) and walk through the house checking for criminals.  Then he would reassure me, tuck me back in bed, and order me not to wake him up again unless the house was on fire.  But he didn’t understand– my bedroom was the first room in the hallway off the living room!  When the burglars came, they would come to my room first, and they’d probably kidnap me for good measure!  Then they’d send my parents a ransom note, and I would be forced to sleep in a basement with no TV and eat nothing but disgusting vegetables until I was rescued.  (I had a weird idea both of burglars and kidnappers.)

My fear of kidnappers was so severe that I would throw a hysterical fit any time my mom tried to leave me in the car while she filled the gas tank.  And when I went out in public with my dad, he couldn’t use the restroom until he got home because I would insist on going in with him to make sure I was safe.  Once he took me to the circus, and on the way back we had to stop for gas.  He needed to use the facilities and told me to wait right outside the door.  Which I did.  For about ten seconds.  The moment a strange man walked toward the restroom, I burst into the men’s room, screaming my head off, and startled my dad so badly that he peed all up the wall and all down his pants.

I wish I had some profound lesson from all of this (other than “Don’t tell your kids about burglars or kidnappers” and “Don’t get close to elephants”).  But really, what I got out of all of this crap is this 1) There is a fine line between teaching your kids to be cautious and scaring the ever-living-fuckity-fuck out of them and 2) Camels are dicks.  For real.  They are just about the biggest assholes in the animal kingdom.  Followed closely by elephants.

My Youngest Brother is Nuttier Than Squirrel Shit

My baby brother was a runt when he was little.  He was a tiny baby and was always the smallest kid in his class– until he hit high school and suddenly turned into G.I. Joe.  I think it may have been his midget-ness, coupled with the never-ending torture that my middle brother and I put him through, that spawned in him a need to prove himself.  And that he did, in every way possible.

A2 (as I have referred to him in previous posts) was the kind of kid who jumped off the top of the jungle gym and on the way down remembered, “Oh yeah, I have to land…”  He was so absent-minded and non-observant that the house once literally almost burned down around him while he obliviously watched TV.  (My mother got out of the shower and walked into the living room, which had completely filled with smoke from a very burnt turkey in the oven, and A2 looked up at her in complete surprise when she shrieked and asked him how in the hell of all shits he hadn’t noticed.)  And he feared nothing.  That is not a good combination.

A2 got stitched back together more times in the first ten years of his life than his brother and I have in all of our years put together up to this point.  The fact that he would eat virtually anything for money provided no end of amusement to A1 and me over the years.  The father of one of his friends once made the mistake of handing him an unopened box of Milk Bones and offering him a dollar for every one he ate.  He ate all thirty-five.  It was this fearlessness and ability to eat things that would kill a normal person that made him a perfect candidate for the military.  And it prepared him well.

Anyone who knows anything about the military knows that, on bivouac, you get nothing but severely rationed rations.  Basically a square of cardboard meat and flammable, powdered creamer twice a day.  After being in the woods for a week, A2 and his guys wandered back onto their base and passed a dumpster.  On top of the trash in the dumpster was a Papa John’s box, and it called to them like a siren.  Upon opening it, they discovered half an  uneaten pizza.  So A2 and his buddies sat down on the ground next to the dumpster and went Godzilla on the trash pizza.  As they were wolfing it down, their CO walked by and gasped in horror when he realized what they were doing.  “What the hell is wrong with you guys??!” he cried.  “I threw that pizza out yesterday!!”

Once on an open-ocean swim, A2 and his swim buddy stopped to tread water for a moment.  “Damn, man, I’m thirsty,” A2 said.  And no sooner were the words out of his mouth than a half-full bottle of Gatorade floated past.  Not bothering to consider how long it might have been floating, or whether he might contract three kinds of hepatitis, A2 promptly downed part of the bottle, then offered the rest to his swim buddy.  He also once ate candy off the ground on the sidewalk.  Opened candy.  He has the immune system of a cyborg and the stomach of a trash compactor.

His next ocean adventure was a little less fortuitous.  He was doing a polar bear swim with the rest of the guys in his troop, and they made a bet to see who could last longest in the icy water.  A2, of course, won.  As he dragged himself back to the beach triumphantly, he realized that he was getting some funny looks.  Finally, he looked down and realized that there was a large and very alive jellyfish wrapped tightly around his calf.  He was so numb from the cold water that he couldn’t feel it.  Prying it off was the stuff of legends.  And now, among his guys, A2 is the stuff of legends.

I like to think that some of the torture A1 and I exposed him to as children helped prepare him for his life in the military.  He does seem to take everything in stride better than most.  Things that would either make me scream in horror or vomit profusely have no effect on him.  I view it as a excellent argument for the validation of shooting your sibling in the nipples with a BB gun for target practice.  Imagine all the times he found himself in a terrible situation and thought, “Well, at least it’s not as bad as getting tagged in the nips with BBs,” or “At least I’m not being force-fed dog poo (go read my previous posts for the story on that one).”  Yup, sibling torture surely made my youngest brother the G.I. Joe lookalike he is today.  You’re welcome, little bro.  I will be a dick for your well-being any day.

Awesome Convos I’ve Had with my Kids and Things I Never Thought I’d Say or Do Until I Became a Mom

This is a collection of hilarious interactions with my kids and things I’ve said and done as a mother that would’ve seemed very strange– or unthinkable– to me before the birth of my first child.


 

Convo with my daughters, R and G, when they were ages six and three years, respectively:

R: (pointing to a picture of me as a baby) Mom, I look just like you!

Me: Yes, you do, baby.  You look just like Mommy.

G: Do I look like you, Mom?

Me: No, you look more like your dad (referring to my ex).

G: (without missing a beat, loudly and furiously) HEY, I’M NOT BALD!!!!

Me: laughing hysterically


 

My son, age three years, sits down to pee on the toilet at my grandparents’ house where, for some reason, the bathroom is carpeted:

Me: Make sure you point it in the potty.

J: Point what?

Me: Your tallywhacker.

J: What’s a tacky-whacker??

Me: Your penis. Weiner.

J: My penis is named tacky-whacker???!!!


 

The following illustrates more than anything else how very much I love my son:

J was going through a phase where bugs and snakes were the most fascinating things in the world. And I could handle the terrarium with the benign grass snakes in it and the mason jars full of snails (that bred and laid 5,000 eggs and had to be released at our local park before they took over the house) and the caterpillars that we raised to butterflies. But then came the nightmare creature.

My ex and I were up in the Texas Hill Country, which is home to all sorts of horrible bugs and snakes. One morning we found a 6-inch long centipede on the porch, so the ex trapped it in two Styrofoam cups, and we took it home to J. I could hear it skittering around in the cups the whole ride home and was terrified that it would break free and eat us. We put it in yet another plastic terrarium and gave it to J, and he lost his mind over it and named it Slasher. I literally had nightmares about it escaping its cage and munching us all to death with its appalling mandibles. I researched it and found out that it was a common and very aggressive red-headed centipede.  So aggressive, in fact, that it would stand up on its very back legs to snatch bugs from us when we opened the lid to feed it, so we resorted to feeding it with tongs.  Its diet consisted of enormous, green katydids that we caught in the garden.  It occasionally molted and eventually grew to be nearly a foot long– no exaggeration.  It lived for a year in that terrarium, consistently horrifying all of us, except for J, and giving me nightmares on a semi-regular basis.  I’m reasonably certain it was actually spawned by the devil in the deepest bowels of hell.


 

My middle child has always been very independent and insisted on doing everything on her own, frustrating the hell out of herself from time to time.  Potty-training and switching to big-girl underpants was no exception.  I was once interrupted while putting away laundry by the sound of a tiny voice grunting and whining in the hallway.  I peeked around the doorway to see R rolling around on the floor, red-faced and struggling with all her might to pull on a pair of her new undies.  At first I was confused as to why she seemed unable to get them up past her thighs, and she was so furiously pissed off that she was starting to scream in rage.  When I sat down next to her and put my hand on her to get her to quit squirming for a second, I saw that she had actually stuffed one leg is the waistband and was trying to get the leg-hole up around her waist (basically she’d put them on sideways).  When I got her calmed down, I showed her how to find the waistband by looking for the tag.  I will never forget her cute, little self, rolling around on the floor and squealing like a piggy as she tried desperately to get that leg-hole up over her butt.


The following are actual statements I have made (some more than once) since becoming a mother:

  • Don’t ride the cat.
  • Stop licking your armpit.
  • Don’t feed the cat popcorn.
  • Stop farting on your sister.
  • Don’t strip in public.
  • Please stop headbutting me in the tailbone.
  • Please don’t burp like a trucker at family gatherings (this to my seven-year old daughter).
  • Stop throwing bananas.
  • Please stop lifting my shirt in public to look at my tattoos.
  • Quit banging your head on the shopping cart handle.  We’re getting looks.
  • Get your fingers out of your sister’s nose.
  • Please don’t take off your diaper and throw it across the room after you pee in it.
  • Tossing your plate upside down on the floor is not the proper way to tell me you’re done eating.
  • Popsicles are not dinner food.
  • No, you may not go out in public wearing a purple unibrow that you drew on your face with my eye shadow.
  • Please do not ever again sneak into bed with me at 5:00 a.m. to cut my hair.
  • If you ever again fart in yoga class and then blame it on me, I will stop letting you go with me.
  • It’s not okay to call out your great-grandma on her farts in public.  She’s old, and she can’t help it.  She probably doesn’t realize she did it.
  • It is not necessary to name your poop.
  • Farting on command is not a talent– it’s a health hazard.
  • The cat’s tail is not a handle.  Do not use it to carry her around the house.
  • Diapers are not fuel– please don’t take yours off and toss it in the fireplace to make the fire bigger.
  • No, the lemons on the lemon tree in your great-grandparents’ backyard are not yellow because you peed on the tree when you were swimming and didn’t want to dry off to go use the bathroom.  You can’t believe everything your great-grandpa tells you.
  • Yes, girls do have ovaries, but boys do not have “underies.”  Please do not believe– or repeat– anything your uncles tell you.

 

I was once riding in the car with my son, my grandmother, and my aunt.  J was about two years old and was singing “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” to himself as he looked out the window.  After a few verses he sang, “Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O!  And on that farm he had a dick-dick, E-I-E-I-O!  With a dick-dick here and dick-dick there!  Here a dick!  There a dick!  Everywhere a dick-dick!  Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O!”  I glanced at great-grandmother, whose eyes were round with shock, and at my aunt, who was shaking with barely contained laughter, and sighed and closed my eyes.  “Well,” I shrugged, “at least he knows Old MacDonald is a dude.”

 

 

Sometimes Fairy Tales are for Real

I am one of those people who always, always believed in fate and fairy tales and true love.  My husband and I are celebrating our five-year anniversary this week, so I thought I would share the beautiful and amazing story of how we met as children, lost each other for many years, and then reconnected as adults.

When I was a kid, I used to put on my mom’s wedding dress and parade around the house, carrying a bouquet of obviously plastic, yellow roses, pretending that I was marrying some great-looking man who would take care of me forever.  I am a serial monogamist– as my dear friend Sheri once called me– the kind of person who sees love everywhere, in everyone, and lives inside her own head, imagining people to be much better than they actually are.  Every boyfriend, every date, was a potential happily-ever-after (which explains why I became well-aquainted with disappointment by time I hit adulthood).

When I was still very young, and had not yet had the chance to become disillusioned,  I met my future-husband.   I was barely a teenager at the time and had traveled fourteen hours in a van packed full of relations to Salisaw, Oklahoma for our family reunion,  which always takes place on Labor Day weekend in order to coincide with the gathering at Stokes-Smith Stomp Grounds (due to my family being of Indigenous heritage and also wanting to kill two birds with one stone because we’re very  cheap when it comes to hotel rooms and gas).

My family reunion is always held at Sequoyah Home Memorial Park because Sequoyah  (George Gist/Guess, or Ssiquoya, as he spelled it– the man who created the Cherokee syllabary) is home to my family cemetery, as well as the log cabin owned by Sequoyah, which he purchased from one of my ancestors, who built that shit with his bare motherfuckin’ hands.  (I’m an encyclopedia on this shit, ya’ll– I love my family history.)   After attending the obligatory family gathering,  where we ate an obscene amount of barbecue and potato salad (lotsa diabetes there), everyone headed to the stomp grounds to celebrate our fire, the fire that has not ever lost its light, despite being removed from our original homes by the army almost two hundred years ago and deposited on some crappy-ass land that we didn’t want.

So there I was, wandering around the stomp grounds after dancing around the fire for a couple of hours.  I was enjoying myself,  taking in the stars and the chilly, night air, when I happened to look down from the sky for a moment.  My eyes immediately locked with those of the most beautiful man I had ever seen (seriously– this dude was hotter than anything else on earth).  He was staring very intensely into my eyes, like he could see every thought I’d ever had and ever would have.   I was not shy with the boys, but this guy made me quiver like a bowl of still-kinda-liquidy Jell-O.  He had black hair that swept around his waist as he walked toward me and the most sincere eyes I had ever seen.  I stopped mid-step as he passed me and looked down at my little cousin, who was tagging along, and said, “Let’s sit for a minute,” scared that my legs were about to melt right out from under me.

We sat down on a bench about three yards away, and I looked around, hoping to catch another glimpse of this intriguing gentleman.  There he was, walking past me again, still staring at me like he knew everything about me.  I had no idea how to react, so I looked at my feet.  Suddenly, there was a pair of feet directly across from mine, nearly touching my toes.  I slowly brought my head up to see the very mysterious gentleman standing not a foot from me and looking right down into my eyes.  And because we were kids, he said, “What’s up?”  His voice was so deep.  It felt like golden molasses rolling through my ears.  And because I was a very nervous girl, instead of actually responding to his question, I just parroted the “What’s up?” right back at him and immediately felt dumb as a box of rocks.

I knew, in that moment, that my life was going to be impacted forever, that I had taken a fork in the road that couldn’t be reversed.  And though in the years after, when I sought, and imagined I had found, real love in many different places, I never found anyone who made me feel so much with so little effort.  That moment made me believe in love at first sight for much of my life.  Though we had only a few hours together, my future-husband and I made it matter.  We walked up and down the starlit, dirt road, holding hands and talking and just enjoying being near each other.   As I grew to adulthood, it remained one of my fondest memories.   We stayed in touch for about six months, despite living a thousand miles apart, and it broke my heart when we had what I knew would be our last conversation for a long time.  But I always hoped that I would find that amazing, overwhelming feeling again.  I knew it existed because I had experienced it.

Unfortunately,  I grew impatient and impulsive and married someone else,  because I thought if I tried hard enough,  I could will that feeling into existence in any relationship.   We divorced after twelve years, the vast majority of which were quite miserable.   Any kind of hope I had for love or for a fairy tale or a happy ending had died.  I no longer believed that anything was real or lasting, that heartbreak was inevitable and was the only real thing I could depend on. The weekend my first husband moved out, I was digging through the closet, packing up his stuff, when I came across a letter my beautiful gentleman had written me exactly seventeen-and-a-half years earlier.   It was creased and faded and a little torn from all the times I had read it, all the months I had spent carrying it in my pocket.  I remembered taking it out and reading it many, many times a day.  So many times that, nearly two decades later, I still remembered it line-by-line.

I thought, “I wonder what ever happened to that guy?”  And honestly believing that he would not remember me,  I looked for him online.  And I found him.  So I sent him an email to see if he could even guess who I was.  His reply was instantaneous and ecstatic.   I couldn’t have hoped for more.  He was the first person to show me how intense love can be, and that love came back and saved me in the worst moment of my life.   He told me how he had searched for me over the years and had never given up on finding me.  His voice, when he called me, was just as I remembered,  rich and deep, making my heartstrings vibrate.

I will never forget what it was like, walking off a plane in Burbank, and seeing him again after what felt like a literal lifetime– because it really had been.   And he looked the same, as he wrapped his arms around me and held me until my luggage came out on the carousel  (which, if you’ve ever flown, you know takes a good half hour).  I knew then that, though I had not had a choice in letting him go so many years ago, I would never let him go now.  This week we celebrate five years together. Those five years have made me a far better and stronger and wiser person than I ever thought I could be.  We have walked with each other through some real shit, and being together has made the difference.   It’s not always pretty, and that’s okay– life isn’t pretty.   But it’s real, and it’s strong, and it has overcome the very worst life has thrown at us.  That’s something to believe in.

I love him more today than I did five years ago,  more than I did yesterday,  and I will love him more tomorrow.  That’s worth believing in and fighting for.  That’s what I was dreaming about, staggering around the house in my mom’s wedding dress nearly three decades ago– the fairy tale, the true love, the happily-ever-after.   And I got it.

The Time I Totally Saw a For-Real Ghost

Let me preface this by saying that it is exactly what the title implies– an actual encounter I had with a ghost.  This is amazing for two reasons:
1) I was a firm skeptic until it happened, and even after the event, it took me a few months to accept that I hadn’t hallucinated it;
2) I am THE biggest wuss who has ever lived in the history of mankind, except for my dear mother, and the fact that I did not go legally insane or physically die is a miracle in and of itself. 

I used to love historic buildings.  I was the annoying person who would sneak away from the tour group to go investigate areas that were off-limits to the public and later get caught and asked to leave while trying on a trunk of old hats (that did happen).  So when I had the opportunity to stay at a 200-year old plantation in Louisiana, I just about lost my mind with extreme joy.  I was planning to find secret passages and shit, ya’ll.  And maybe buried treasure.  I gleefully packed my “explorer” clothes (all black for being sneaky and kind of old because I didn’t want to get dust and musty smell on my nice stuff) and mapped out my route using the online floorplan.  I knew where the secret passages would likely be located.  And the treasure.

My excitement reached fever pitch as we rounded the dirt road and came up the driveway to the three-story mansion.   It was majestically coated in golden light from the setting sun and was surrounded by small outbuildings and acres of sugar cane.   I was bouncing in my seat like a toddler on cocaine by the time we parked the car, squealing like a piggy.  The only thing that marred my jubilation was a small, niggling feeling of uneasiness in the back of my mind.  I didn’t know what it was or what was causing it, but I was getting a little bit of a weird vibe from the place, as though the ground were vibrating with some sort of energy.  I pushed it to the back of my mind and zipped around the property the way a hummingbird goes after a flower garden.  I looked at every barn, every shed, every old farm implement, every old car and tractor.  I peeked inside every box and trunk I could find.  It was too late to tour the main house, so I explored all the outbuildings instead. 

The only place I didn’t go was our room.  We were staying in a brick building, separate from the main house,  that used to be the kitchen back when kitchens were kept outside in case of fire.  It had been turned into a double bungalow.  We had a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and massive fireplace.   And every time I went inside, I got the motherfucking creeps like nobody’s goddamn business.  I could swear up and down that someone was watching me in there.  Every time I turned my back to the room– to use the sink or turn down the bed– I had to stop every few seconds and glance over my shoulder, so I minimized my time in that area.  As night rolled in, we realized that there was a faint glow of fire all along the horizon behind the house.  They were burning the sugar cane.  It was so beautiful,  no lights except for the stars and the flames in the inky blackness.  After awhile, I grew tired, so we went inside to go to bed.

Because of my growing uneasiness, I made my ex leave the TV on until I fell asleep.   Despite the light and sound from the television, I could hear loud creaks and groans and occasional pops, all of which I assumed to be the old building settling as the cool, night air sank around us.  After about an hour of adjusting and readjusting my position, throwing blankets and pillows all over the place, I finally fell into a fitful sleep.  Sometime after that, my ex turned the TV off, and every sound of the building settling would startle me half-awake. 

I woke up fully at 3:30 in the morning– I remember because the red numbers on the clock next to the bed were the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes.  The numbers looked funny though, as if there were a fog floating in front of them.  I blinked a couple of times, assuming it was my eyes since I had just woken up.  But as I blinked, the fog actually grew denser, and I suddenly realized that it was forming into a shape.  To my complete and utter horror,  the black fog took the shape of a woman in a long dress.  I couldn’t see her features, but I got the distinct impression of a lady in 19th century servant dress with her hair tied up in a scarf.  I didn’t get a feeling of evil from her, but just the fact that I was seeing her at all was enough to scare the living daylights out of me.  I tried to reach over and shake my ex awake when I discovered that I could not, in actuality, move.   I was so terrified that I was completely incapable of exerting any control over my muscles.  I had no idea what to do besides panic (because panicking always helps), so that’s what I did.  It seemed like minutes that I was stuck in that frightened, immobile state, staring at the figure next to the bed, but in reality it was probably only a few seconds.  I blinked and suddenly recovered myself, so I did what any normal adult would do– I punched my ex in the face as hard as I could and screamed at the top of my lungs, “TURN ON THE FUCKING LIGHT FOR FUCK’S SAKE!!!!”  Most people don’t respond well when woken from a sound sleep with a right hook to the face, but in my defense, most people also do not respond well when woken from an unsound sleep by a friggin’ ghost. 

My ex sat bolt upright and turned on the lamp, yelling, “WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON???”  I couldn’t answer.  I just sat there hugging my knees and shaking and sweating profusely like a boxer at a prize fight.  “Just turn on the TV,” I said.   “Why the hell did you punch me in the face to watch TV???!”  He exclaimed in disbelief.   “I HAD A NIGHTMARE!! JUST TURN IT ON!!” I yelled back.  So he huffily grabbed the remote and turned on the television, the light and noise of which enabled me to relax enough to doze a little.  

After tossing and turning the rest of the night, we got up about 6:30 and went to the main house for breakfast.  While we ate, and my ex bitched repeatedly about being absuively awoken in the middle of the night, I tried to explain what I had experienced, which I still didn’t fully understand myself.  After we ate, the caretaker asked if we’d like a tour of the property.  So we followed him around as he took us from the front yard all the way through to the attic, telling us along the way about the many murders, suicides, and executions that had occurred there over the past 200 years.  And the ghost stories.  I began to understand why I had felt so uneasy the whole time we’d been there. 

“Now that you’re about to leave,” he said, “I’ll tell you what happened in your room.”  And he proceeded to tell us how, 170 years earlier, the cook had been poisoned by another servant and had died there in the kitchen where we had spent the night.  He also told us how people often claim to see her in the middle of the night, standing next to the bed or sitting in the chair in the corner of the room.  As he told us this story, I watched my ex’s eyes grow wider and wider, as I’m sure my own were doing, and I felt the blood drain from my face.  My ex turned to me and said, “Tell him about your dream.”  Which is what my ex assumed it was, since he couldn’t believe in anything he hadn’t seen himself because he’s an enormous butthole, but that’s a story for another day.  So, wringing my hands and tripping over my words, I told the guy in detail what had happened.  And the look on the caretaker’s face never changed.  He listened to my story and at the end of it said, “You have no idea how many times I’ve heard that same story.”  Which totally didn’t help because I’d been hoping he’d say something along the lines of, “Ghosts aren’t real.  I just told you all that crap to freak you out, and we drugged you to make you hallucinate your encounter.  You’re a twat for being so gullible.” 

After that night, I became obsessed with finding out more about the paranormal,  thereby better understanding my own experience.  And since that night, I have had more experiences, although none quite so shocking.  I have learned that there is a lot more to the world than I ever thought possible, that it is much bigger and is made up of far more than anything I could imagine.  And that’s pretty fucking cool.  I have also learned that ghosts are dicks, and they seriously should be a little more gentle about making their existence known to people, instead of shocking a perfectly innocent person out of a sound sleep in the middle of the goddamned night.  You, ghost, are an asshole.

Jenny Lawson is my Hero

I was just reading this post by Jenny Lawson  (a.k.a The Bloggess, a.k.a. my absolute hero), and it made me feel like a little less of a freak for a few minutes: http://thebloggess.com/2016/03/every-friday-night-and-saturday-night-and-every-night-basically/
I got to meet Jenny last spring at her most recent book signing, and it was, hands down, one of THE greatest moments of my life. And this is why: Jenny has helped me find the courage to finally share my writing, to keep going when it’s really hard to put one foot in front of the other, and has shown me that I’m not alone, even when I think I am. She helped me by sharing her own fears and weaknesses and problems, and it showed me that there are other people like me– people who are different.

I hate crowds. I hate strangers. I hate loud noises. Those things kick my anxiety into overdrive. When I started reading Jenny’s books and blogs posts, I saw that there are actually names for this, that other people have the same issues, and I felt not alone for the first time in my whole life. People find different ways to treat this, whether it’s medication or therapy or maragaritas. Mine is forcing myself to do something good for me when I really want to isolate. (Today I went to the beach and wore a bikini in front of strangers without a t-shirt over it for the first time in forever, and despite the 2-inch wide strip of sunburn that now encircles my waist like an asteroid belt, I actually relaxed enough to fall asleep mostly naked on the sand in public. That is a HUGE fucking deal for someone who can’t even ride public transportation without an escort.)

Sharing struggles helps other people. Besides being an outlet that keeps me from exploding like a malfunctioning pressure cooker and killing everyone within twenty yards of me, I also really, really hope it helps someone to not feel alone. I also hope it helps them find courage to talk about it. Contrary to how some of these posts might appear, I am not a narcissistic butthole who just likes talking about herself– I have a purpose in mind.

I can be a hard person with which to be friends. I categorically refuse to talk on the phone because it gives me anxiety to have to come up with conversation on the spot. I have to do that shit at work all day– I’ll be damned if I’m going to do it at home. When I get into a dark period, I am impossible to reach for days or weeks. And if you get too close to me and find out too much about my vulnerabilities and who I really am, I will stop speaking to you altogether because now you know too much, and that scares the living shit out of me. I have no illusions about the kind of person I am– I can be a total dick. I don’t intentionally set out to do it, but it does happen.

But ya know what? I’m okay with me. It’s taken 35 years, but I am actually okay with who I am– neuroses and all– for the first time in my life, as far back as I can remember. And that’s a good place in which to find oneself. At least I don’t walk around anymore wishing I was someone else or feeling like no one could ever possibly like me or care about me. I don’t feel shame about my weaknesses anymore– just determination to never let them defeat me. So I’d say that’s a decent improvement.

This is the point, if I have one at all: it’s easy to feel alone in this world where true human connection has become a rarity. That does not mean that you are, in reality, actually alone. It means you need to reach out, as much as you may want to hide in your bed, under the covers, with a bottle of rum and a good book. Sometimes all we need is to be reminded that someone else does get it, even if that person is a fellow introvert-blogger halfway across the country. Knowing that one person understands is often all the encouragement we need to keep ourselves in the real world, rather than going into our own little cocoon of loneliness and alcohol-fueled depression. So next time you feel the need to make an entire blender-ful of margaritas and take it to bed with you, remember that, somewhere, someone else is feeling the exact same way. And then go have your margaritas at a bar instead and toast the other shy, anxious people out there who found the courage today to do the same.

I Suspect my Brothers Might be a Little Bit Immortal

I’m pretty sure that my brothers, if not immortal, at least posses some sort of super power that makes them immune to serious injury and death.  I came to this conclusion after looking back over our childhood and marveling at all the things we did to each other that, reasonably,  should have resulted in hospitalization at the very least.  But the worst thing that ever happened was stitches.  Lots and lots of stitches.

One of the worst whoopins (that’s Texas vernacular for ‘spanking,’ which is something most parents did to their kids when I was growing up) I ever received was the result of me putting my brother’s head through the windshield of our mom’s minivan.  Before you conclude that I was a monstrous demon-child, it’s not as bad as it sounds.  I had two brothers, one three years younger than I and the other six years younger.  For the purpose of this post, we’ll call the older one A-1 and the younger A-2 (as both of their names start with A).  Mom often made the mistake of leaving A-1 and me in the car while she ran inside with A-2 to grab milk or whatever  (preferring the inevitable hysterics we would cause to be kept in the parking lot and knowing that A-2 was unlikely to survive whatever we might do to him).  A-1 was in the front seat– this was before airbags, when no kid over age three rode in a carseat– and was sitting on his knees, leaning forward over the dashboard.   Being the excellent big sister that I was, I reared back and, using all the force my tiny body could muster,  punched A-1 straight in the ass.  I was small, but he was smaller, so his whole body flew forward.  Straight into the windshield.  I watched in horror, and time seemed to slow painfully,  as A-1’s head made contact with the safety glass.  A huge spiderweb of cracks appeared in the glass, radiating from the point of contact across the entire passenger side half of the windshield.  My short life flashed before my eyes, and I will  never ever ever as long as I live forget the look on my mother’s face when she walked up to the minivan.  I have, however, blocked out the actual corporal punishment, which is probably very fortunate.   In fact, I received so very many whoopins that they all just run together like one, big mega-whoopin.  A-1, by the way, came out of the incident completely unscathed and found great amusement in my resulting consequences.

Then there was the time I busted A-2’s head open,  and he had to get what turned out to be one of many sets of stitches.  I used to trip my brothers when we were kids because I was nine, and it was funny.  One day I got tired of wearing glasses, which I didn’t really need anyway (plus I hated the frames because my mom made me get red ones, and I wanted pink), so I decided A-2 would break them for me.  I carefully placed them on my bedroom floor, a little out of the way so A-2 wouldn’t see them, and called my youngest brother into my room.  I told him I wanted to time him and see how many times he could run in a circle around the room in a minute.   So he took off and, of course, stepped on my glasses.  I told him it was no big deal and to keep running, which he did– by then I had a better idea.  In addition to breaking my glasses for me– and I had A-2 do this because he was too young to get in trouble, so I wasn’t an ass all the time– I could derive some entertainment by tripping him.  Usually, when I tripped my brothers, the worst that would happen is that it would piss them off, but they would start laughing when they saw me laughing.   I never intended for A-2 to get hurt, but I was also incapable of forethought at that age.  So A-2 kept running, and I stuck my foot out, and down he went.  Face first into the rocking chair.  He didn’t cry, just turned and looked at me very surprised.  Then I saw the line of blood forming on his forehead.   When the thin line turned into a full-on faucet,  I got concerned and ran to get my mom.  I tried telling her that A-2 had tripped on his own, but he was old enough to speak for himself, so the jig was up almost immediately.   My punishment was that I had to ride in the back seat, holding A-2’s head in my lap as I pressed a bloody rag to his forehead, while our mom drove to the emergency clinic. Plus a whoopin’.

Before you decide that I am just a very terrible human being, bent on fratricide, I wasn’t the only one causing peril to life and limb.  There was also the time that A-1 sliced A-2’s chin open with a machete.  They were eight and five at the time, and before you ask why an eight-year old was playing with a machete, let me explain– because Texas.  If you grew up in Texas before 1995, you most likely knew how to wield a machete, a hunting knife, and a .22 well before puberty.  So my brothers were traipsing through the woods at our grandparents’ ranch, and A-1– being the protective older brother– was clomping through the brush in front of A-2, ineffectually knocking vines and plants out of their path.  A-2, being the most non-observant child I ever met in my life, was staring up at birds and got a little too close to A-1’s wildly-swinging machete arm.  So the machete ended up embedded about half an inch into his chin, resulting in yet more stitches and a funny-looking chin bandage that I made fun off every day for two weeks.   A-2 did not get a whoopin’ because our dad said it was an “accident.”  Pfft.  Technicality.

But A-1 definitely was not an angel, as much as he tried to put out that vibe.  I will never forget the day he knocked down A-2 in the backyard,  sat on his chest, and stuffed dog poo in his mouth.  And when our dad got home and was told what had happened, he made A-1 go pick up a piece of dog poo and put it in his own mouth.  And then my mom yelled at both A-1 and my dad because she said everyone was going to get worms.  I didn’t know what that meant, but it didn’t sound awesome.

There was also the time when A-1 and I were going through a fistfight phase, and our mom had to break up half a dozen fights a day.  And she would make us hug afterward, which we hated.   On one particularly bad day she took us to Walmart, and by the time she pulled into the parking lot, we were whacking the crap out of each other in the back seat.  Our poor mom, out of patience at this point, left us to have it out in the car while she took A-2 into Walmart with her.  She did her shopping and came back out to find both A-1 and me in tears.  We didn’t touch each other for a week.  

I have a thousand other stories like this.  I can’t believe CPS never showed up at our house.   Our childhood sounds a little savage to me now, considering that my kids rarely even call each other butthead, and I’d die before I’d “whoop” any of them.  Simpler times, people.  Simpler times.