Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Adventures of Spider Damma

I know I've talked about fear before. Generally, the things I fear are not tangible... emotions, experiences, conflict... the kinds of things which affect me more on an emotional level. Things I can touch are rarely sources of a realistic or phobic level fear.

Except spiders.

Spiders are scary.

Borrowing this from Allie Broch. A.K.A. Hyperbole and a Half

As Allie so hysterically explains in her post about spiders... they are scary and it's okay to be scared of them. Let's face it... the above is a pretty good description of what many of us see when a spider crosses our path. It's a many-legged death machine packaged in a small body our eyes perceive as being at least 4 times its actual, measurable size.

Before I go any further and tell my own story, here's the reminder:


Also Allie. She has a book. It has no spiders. It's safe to buy.

I don't remember fearing spiders until I was about 7 years old.

The day we moved into our new house in Montgomery, Alabama, I found a spider in the bathtub, sitting happily in the center of a web that spanned the width of the tub. I didn't see the spider until already seated on the toilet in a vulnerable position. It wasn't possible to simply run or cry for someone to come squash it so I kept a wary eye on it until my business was done. I then backed out of the bathroom, never taking my eyes from it until I was certain it couldn't possibly jump on me and deliver a painful death bite to the center of my back where it wouldn't be reached or swatted.

I had a bit of an active imagination as a kid...

The day we moved into that house is also the day one of my brothers teasingly told me alligators lived in the sewers and grew to enormous proportions. It was also the last time I let my butt touch a toilet seat until we moved back to Virginia... but that's an entirely different story.

There were other experiences, from seeing a cheesy horror film about mutated, killer spiders which then spawned another recurring nightmare, to the day when I was 10 and a black widow spider crawled across my bare foot in the garden.

I could tell the stories but there are several and they aren't really the point. The point is that by the time Charlie and I married, I was a true arachnophobe. The tiniest of house spiders was enough to cause genuine panic.

I've fought hard over the years to overcome this fear. First, because I didn't want my kids to share the fear and second, because of necessity. During our years in suburgatory we had two summers during which our garage and yard were completely overrun by brown widows. You couldn't go one minute outside without finding one and I lived in a state of perpetual fear for my kids, the animals and what sanity I had left.

Overcoming my fear of spiders became a matter of survival. Someone had to be brave enough to deal with the poisonous ones and the ones too big to be allowed space in our house. As Charlie worked long hours at the time, that someone needed to be me.

In the last dozen years or so I've reached a point where I can run into the big black house spiders that occupy the eaves and wooden sheds of our region without batting an eyelash. I've grown comfortable allowing the huge black and yellow garden spiders space within my own garden, recognizing they are beneficial and even attractive. It's even possible to walk into a web without doing the "OHShitohshitohshit" dance of terror which you'd think was the traditional dance of my people. I'm not even too afraid to smack one with my hand if a shoe or wad of tissue is not readily available.

To my own amazement, it's no longer a knee-jerk response to kill them on sight.

Live and let live... mostly. Black and brown widows and the brown recluse are exceptions. If it's venomous enough to do real damage, it doesn't make the cut. Period.

Today was flea market day and when we passed by the reptile shop on our way through the inside, Elena asked to go see the snakes, lizards and turtles.

The reptile shop also had an unusual furry surprise today... a pair of enormous black and white bunnies who made me grateful we're currently broke. They were begging to come home with Damma... I know rabbits rarely make noise but they were speaking... "Take us home. You know you want to take... us... home." Who am I to argue when a member of the animal kingdom deigns to speak to me, a mere human?

Don't argue with my delusions. I like them.

Anyway...

For reasons I can't articulate, one of the two rose hair tarantulas on sale also decided today was the day to say something other than "I'll kill you and suck out your innards in the dark of night."

It said "Pick me up. I'm a nice arachnid and much more pleasant to hold than the scorpion in the next tank. He wants you dead."

Without fully thinking it through, and with my last tarantula encounter running through my head, I asked to hold Rosy. (I don't know if that's his name but he is a he and if his name happens to be Rosy it's because of his personality) The proprietor picked him up and placed him in my open hands.

Elena stood in front of me with a look of total fascination on her face. Becka was backed into the lizard display and contemplating escape. The salesman was telling me about rose hairs but I was too focused on the one on my arm to hear him. I don't remember if Becka said I was crazy when I asked her to snap some photos... I only registered the pained groan she made before reluctantly taking a few pictures.


Becka didn't take the above photo as Rosy explored my arm. There's a good chance I won't get the pictures Becka took because she'd have to look at them to send them and that's not likely. She's still annoyed by Elena's desire to hold it too.

The first two responses I received to the tweet were from Krys and Rachel who responded with *runs screaming* and "Why?" respectively. They (as well as Becka, Dan and John) were with me the first time I intentionally touched a spider in effort to face the fear and, afterwards, they had to help keep me on my feet as I stumbled toward the exit trying to stay conscious.

Why did I decide to hold a tarantula today?

Because I've been terrified of spiders the vast majority of my life. Because my fear of spiders has incapacitated me and made me so irrational I once begged Charlie to come home from work just to kill one. Because I've refused to go into entire rooms of a house after seeing a large spider. Because I refused to enter our attic in Durham the last 8 months we were there because a big, furry, brown spider crawled out of one of our storage boxes. Because I once called an exterminator friend and tried to talk him into coming back from his vacation to kill a Carolina Wolf Spider which had survived half a can of Raid and was under the porch where my kids and I liked to spend time. Because, despite my best efforts to be brave in front of my kids, the fear of spiders passed to them.

I decided to hold a giant spider today because I've spent a good chunk of life terrified of one thing or another and fear is an energy, rational thought stealing emotion that's controlled more of my life than it deserves... and if I can face up to any fear and kick it in the huevos then that's what's going to happen.

And I did.

And I'm very proud of myself for taking the chance.

I even liked it.

I might even go visit Rosy again and let Elena hold him too... if I can keep Becka from incurring the "You squash it, you bought it" policy.






Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Bumbling, Babbling, Band of Baboons

So much to tell, so few brain cells available for coherent writing.

There are too many things happening to nail down any one particular thing... and I'm resisting the temptation to have a good rant. It might help but it's family... so it could hurt too and none of us need more of that right now.

The writing in The Crew blog is reaching a particularly tough spot... one I didn't expect to be so painful to revisit.

My body is in rebellion... though I can honestly say I'm fighting it and refusing to give in to sulking in bed.

This is a ridiculous issue but Charlie moved around the computers and the one with my stuff on it is in an uncomfortable location. Also... it's disrupted my routine and evidently, change is still something I resist.

So, it's quiet on these pages for a few days... but there are stories to tell and as soon as I can sweep away some of these brain webs cluttering up my mental space, they'll find their way to words.


In the meantime, here's a picture of ice covered trees from last week's storm.



Sunday, February 16, 2014

Frustration & Fear

I have 3 pages of hour by hour details of the 3 days without power here but it's on a device that died and now refuses a charge. *sighs* You'd have enjoyed it. I came off as a total cold weather wimp. Alas, my lack of short term memory means you'll probably never get to enjoy it.

On the upside, the electricity has been restored. Kentucky electric workers arrives to rescue the South Carolina workers who couldn't seem to get much done after the first 24 hours.

While we woke to power this morning, we also awoke to a message that Charlie's Momma has a mass in her stomach the think is cancerous. She's been transferred from the rehab hospital back to the medical hospital for testing.

Momma is 84, She's spent most of the last 4 years in a wheelchair, living in a place she doesn't want to be. She'd rather be in this nearly condemned house, despite its utter lack of handicap access or maneuverability. Even Charlie has difficulty and he's at least mobile.

That being said, if it turns out Momma does have cancer, she's almost certain to deny lifesaving treatment and let go.

Becka is waiting for her tax return to help cover the cost of a trip to El Paso. I need to call my Mum and Dad today to see if they can help as well. At this point, we NEED to go and as soon as possible.

I'm worried for Charlie. No matter how you try to prepare yourself, it's not easy to let go. He lost his Dad in '95. He's not ready to lose Momma too.

(By the way, this is going to be rambly)

The tablet Charlie picked up for $15 a month is dead... we probably won't be able to replace it. That's a drag because we had hoped to use it to Skype with Krys in Texas so Momma could at least see her other 2 great grand babies in action. She'd so love to see Dora who is a perfect replica of her Mama at that age.

You know those times when nothing seems to go right at all?

Yeah, this is one of those times.

Charlie will be home soon. We have some things to figure out and talk about.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Icy South

I've been writing off & on today about the ice that's left much of the south without power... On paper, like some kind of pioneer woman.
By the time we get power back, there is a distinct chance all you'll find of it is primitive scratchings on my bedroom wall.
Yeah, the stick figure is flipping you the bird.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Flea Market Acervuline

Home of The Peanut Man
I don't think I had ever been to or seen a flea market/swap meet until Charlie and I started going to one in Raleigh, North Carolina back in the late 80's when Krys was a baby. I grew up in a home that valued thrift, hand crafts and opportunities to be around different kinds people. We went a lot of yard sales. We went to a lot of craft shows too, especially when my brother Ben sold his leather work (which was beautiful, by the way). Mum was (and is) a confirmed garage sale-a-holic. As a whole, we were taught to use it up, wear it out and if we didn't need it, to find a new home rather than throw things out.

So, while I may not have gone to flea markets, my upbringing was such that the idea of them inspired curiosity and the intuition that what awaited was a feast for the eyes and my sense of adventure.

I've yet to be disappointed.

Our local flea market has been around since 1981. It was originally located in an around a long wooden warehouse type structure on the grounds of the Exchange Park Fairground. In 1998, a fire destroyed the entire building. It was a devestating loss for the several vendors who had regular shops in the building. In true Lowcountry style, it didn't slow things down for long.

The small town community rallied. The structure was rebuilt even larger with room for hundreds more indoor vendors. Over the years, the outdoor part of the market has extended far afield from the original area with its cement tables for the temporary or one time vendor. The once empty fields of the exchange park where we'd fly kites, shoot off model rockets or watch the local SCA larp* and practice their weapon skills are now crowded with weekend vendors. I'm sure it's not the largest in the southeast but it's the largest in South Carolina and well worth the visit. (As The Fabulous can attest) The Coastal Carolina Flea Market continues to grow and thrive with over 1000 vendors over nearly 50 acres of land.

It's also 5 minutes straight down the road from our house.

I've written about The Peanut Man (who now has his framed photo with our grand daughter, Elena) and our weekly flea market tradition. Over the last few months, I've come to know several of the regular vendors, Vined a couple of the local musicians who occasionally play and become a part of this micro-culture within the community.

The largest Mexican grocery in the area and where we get
our produce each weekend. After seeing The Peanut Man, of course.




In addition to the traditional drinks, they import Coke and Sprite
from Mexican bottling companies. They simply taste better.

Usually the grocer is our last stop. After buying peanuts, we could turn right and straight to the produce... but why would we do that when we can do the whole circuit and see everything?


In the summer, this spot under an old oak is prime real estate.
The last time I set up a booth at the flea market, it was still small enough to get a concrete table between buildings A and B. (This was during the unmentionable Beanie Baby days... which you can still find there) To this day, even if you're stuck in a shadeless part of the field, it's still the best place to take yard sale items. For $10, you're welcome to set up anywhere outside... as long as you respect the absentee vendors who claim their regular spaces with milk crates, pallets and other items attached to the tables with rope or bungee cords. If you're early and a little lucky, a regular vendor may come by and clean you out of books, clothes and movies.

These Red-eared Sliders are 2 for $10 and
why we always have at least one turtle at home.

From vendors selling imported toys and gadgets out of produce boxes to collectable vintage items, antiques and hand crafts, there's always something new to see. For someone like me who loves to watch people but not always engage, this is like a carnival. For the part time treasure hunter, it's Nirvana. On the rare weekends when time and energy aren't a factor, my favorite thing to do is find the spots where things are piled on shelves or in boxes. I'm almost certain to find just the right oddity at just the right price.


SCHMOO! Just above him on the right is Snoopy.

Hillbilly Jim has antiques, vintage glassware & random STUFF.
I'm trading vintage bottles for his collection of blue glass.

This vendor is always in this spot. One day I'll have the money
to talk him out of the Hippies sign.
When I grow bored wearing this flea market
find, I'll repurpose the beads.

You can also find locally grown plants, produce, live animals (We occasionally rescue feeder rats from the snake handler... sorry, reptile and arachnid vendor in building E) and bee products, from honey to exquisite candles. One stop shopping.

Poultry and rabbits are the extent of available livestock.
I want a rooster but the family would rise as one
and dismember me while I slept.

Cast iron everything and old pressure cookers. It's all set up
on an old pontoon boat. Here's where I'll complete my cast iron
cookware collection. He sells things pre-seasoned. Nice.

I'm fairly certain Chinese trinkets are a flea market requirement.

As are pink handcuffs...
And airbrush artists.
Also among the regular finds are anything Rasta, Latin American, African, incense, tobacco and pot related. They've got the best head shops in town.

You can also find licensed sports  and racing memorabilia and the owner of Castle Keep has a better selection of nearly new to vintage video games at better prices than you can find anywhere.


And, of course, Booooots.
From new mattresses to home appliances to used tires. If you need it, you can probably get a good deal at the flea market.

Need retreaded tires?

Real Mexican PiƱatas...

Or, perhaps, a sword? These are replicas. The real knife guy was camera shy.

I stop and listen to this local musician
each time I see him.
Among my favorite flea market purchases are the the handmade items from local artisans. One day, I hope to pick up one of these cool instruments.

Handcrafted guitars and banjos
At least once a month, a Sweetgrass basket weaver will travel from the Mount Pleasant area to offer her distinctly Gullah wares to our area. These palm leaf, sweetgrass and long leaf pine baskets date back to slavery in the lowcountry (and African tribes raided for human property) and are a powerful reminder of a dying culture.

This is a Sweetgrass display from the Charleston Market.
These incredible works of functional art can run in the thousands of dollars.
Yeah, there's quite a lot of the Union Jack flying in these buildings but, honestly, we don't shop with those vendors. It's my personal opinion but the rebel flag is about as honorable a part of our history as the swastika is for Germany. The pirate flag, on the other hand...

Native American souvenirs made by
a member of the local Edisto tribe.
We have a small but very proud Native American tribe in the area and they too are represented in our melting pot of local commerce.

Flea markets and swap meets have gotten a bad rap over the years. There tends to be an assumption it's the lowest common denominator of the retail/re-sale world... a place of illegal or unsavory people and behavior... but I've found it's mostly made up of hard-working people just trying to make a living. Like any group of people, you'll find a few jerks but honor is a big deal with this giant family-like community. People watch their neighbor's wares, gossip around stall corners and make as much fun as is possible when temps are below freezing or over 95. They take care of each other, raise funds to help vendor families in need and get to know the regulars beyond passing familiarity.

When I'm in a place where I have an inventory of my own handcrafts to be worth setting up, I'll be out at the flea market before I open an etsy shop. It's simply more fun.

I could go on but really, it's the kind of thing you have to see for yourself.

If you ever find yourself in the Charleston area, shoot me an email. I'd be happy to give you the tour... and introduce you to The Peanut Man.

* Larp, or LARP stands for Live Action Role Play. Kind of like war re-enactors only with a little more creative and historical flair. Also, Dear Spellcheck: Larp is no longer an acronym... it's a full-fledged word.

Parallels

I'm a little lost right now. Charlie's mom is in the hospital. For the last few days we've been hearing from her sister Momma is likely to die at any moment. The first call, Irma (Charlie's aunt) was in tears telling us Momma is dying.

We've been stressing, trying to figure out how we can come up with the money to travel to El Paso before she passes. Charlie has been through hell... hardly sleeping and barely able to function in his fear and grief.

Then today I spoke with his brother who reminded me how many times we've been through this before... how Irma and Momma are much alike and how everything gets dramatized far behind reason.

After 3 days of talking to Irma, I don't know what to think.

I do believe it would do Momma good to see her son... but if we can find a way to visit her and she recovers, it will bring up questions about why we can find a way to visit but can't cover the expenses to bring her back to South Carolina with us.

Yes, that would actually happen.

When we explained to Momma it would cost a bare minimum of five grand to bring the house to code for a wheelchair bound woman plus the cost to travel, rent a uhaul, stay in a hotel until we pack her things and take all the necessary steps to travel with her, she said "Don't come. You and I can't afford it." In Momma and her sister's thinking, if we can visit... or come for a funeral, we could have found a way to bring her here to live with us.

Over in The Crew there have been recent posts about in-law family drama... it amazes me to still be dealing with it all these years later. 

Now it's Momma's sister telling us we've failed the family, not done our duty, let the matriarch down and left her feeling unloved by the children she's sacrificed for all the she years.

When we had the space and I had the physical ability to care for Momma, she refused to live with us. She chose to live with Charlie's brother to, as she put it, punish him for past personal offenses.

When dementia began setting in, Charlie's younger brother, who is mentally disabled after an aneurysm ruptured in 1994, convinced Momma that Jerry was stealing from her and so she ran away from home.... We couldn't take her in by that point as we no longer had the space or health... So she moved to Texas.

After a year, she wanted to come back... but it's simply not been possible and so the bitterness began again.

You just don't say no to Momma.

But Charlie should see his mom before she dies... whether it's this week or years from now. It feels petty to worry about family drama but I've seen, for all the years we've been married, what it does to my husband... all I want to do is protect him from unnecessary pain. 

Momma won't live forever... but I hate being drawn into the guilt trips and mind games...

My gut says we should get to Texas... but it also says, no matter what happens, Charlie is going to pay a heavy price.

I can't fix or control this situation and I don't know what to do next. 

Where do we go from here?




Thursday, February 6, 2014

Huffington Poop and Dispelling Myths

I was made aware of the following article in a DID discussion group on Google. Please read the article in the link then come back to read the rest of the entry.

Multiple Personality -- Is It Mental Disorder, Myth, or Metaphor?

If this doesn't raise concerns, check out the blog post linked in the article.

All set?

Good.

First, here is the response I submitted to the Comments section that did not make it past the HuffPost moderators:

"This article is but one of many reasons Huffington Post should not be considered a legitimate news organization.

The simple fact the author uses the term MPD rather than the accepted and more accurate DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) shows disrespect and bias.

I'm someone who flailed, floundered and nearly died while being misdiagnosed, over-medicated and shuffled around. I am someone whose recovery and journey toward greater emotional and mental health began after finally being diagnosed with and treated for DID. (Recovered, by the way)

As such, I find this op-ed piece disguised as scientific journalism offensive, to say the very least.

One can only assume the title Professor Emeritus means you long ago lost interest in furthering your studies in the field of psychological medicine and remain convinced of outdated and disproved theories. Given the era of the "knowledge" imparted here, I have to wonder if you believe Autism Spectrum Disorders to be the fault of the mothers, or that any person who engages in self-injurious behavior is automatically diagnosable as having Borderline Personality Disorder as well.

Check your theories, stop dehumanizing survivors in public and, while you're at it, stop trying to convince anyone you're a whistle-blower.

Though, you are undoubtedly blowing something."


Yes, I made personal statements directed at an old fart who dragged his crusty ass and ideas from retirement to spit on what has, in the last 20 years, become better understood than in the hundreds of years since it was first recognized. I could rewrite the comment but, I have so little respect for the site as a news organization, I can't convince myself it's worth kissing moderator ass to make a point. Also, this retired doctor reminds me of Stein and is therefore (in my opinion) a dick not worthy of my respectful comments.

There is an understanding within the majority of the scientific community that DID, like PTSD is a genuine, complex trauma related disorder, rather than a biological or neurochemical issue. It's understood there is more to dissociation that the popularized idea of "Many personalities in one mind". There is dehumanization, derealization, dissociative fugue states and other areas that cross the entire spectrum from the effects of say, a violent mugging, all the way to DID where repeated abusive or traumatizing events in early childhood alter the structure of a person's sense of self in such a way that it can be considered fractured, with all the broken pieces a part of the whole.

*I've let this partial post sit for days because it brings up so much outrage, it's hard to form coherent thoughts.*

More frustrating than the author's insistent usage of MPD is his idea that it's entirely a construct of False Memory Syndrome and bad/untrained therapists.

Here's an idea, douche bag: How about a therapist in training telling me he was sick of dealing with my "inner child nonsense" after sessions where he met two of my others... Then, turning around, taking the memories those "imaginary" inner children shared and leading me to believe my Dad was the culprit?

That's real. That actually happened.

Had we not moved to South Carolina, there's no telling how long I would have continued to see Larry, or how much damage would have been done to me and to my entire family.

There are more than enough events from my childhood for the development of DID.  For that matter, it was the actions of Larry that led to my sitting on the side of a highway and creating a dissociative wall to silence the voices I'd lived with since I was 3. I'd relied on that skill to survive not just the sexual abuse of childhood but the mistreatment by doctors. So in that respect, yes, you could say they contributed to my illness.

Most of my siblings (one of whom is a pediatrician) reacted to my diagnosis with "Wow, that explains a lot." My best childhood friend reacted to hearing I had DID with "Tell Reese I said hi." (That story is here and here)

For 4 years, I struggled with half-formed pictures that made no rational sense. I KNOW my Dad. He's not perfect and there were hard enough memories connected to him that never had to be uncovered. It took 4 years of nightmares, confusion and time actually spent with my Dad to realize that was never something he or any member of family is capable of doing. When I acknowledged Larry was an inexperienced person who fucked up, there was peace... peace on a gut level. (anger came later) When I could admit my vulnerability and confusion at 21 was such that a well-meaning but misguided therapist was able to manipulate my symptoms to fit his understanding of what should have been the cause, the nightmares stopped.

For that reason, I believe FMS is a real thing...

HOWEVER... I'm disinclined to throw the baby out with the bath water as this ridiculous old doctor has done. Because there have been some proven cases of False Memory Syndrome does not mean ritual abuse doesn't occur. (Not all Ritual Abuse involves *gasps* Satan either. Project Bluebird, anyone?) It doesn't mean all recovered memories are false. (I have more good than bad recovered memories because healing allowed room for them... and good or bad, they've been validated by family) It does not, by any reasonable stretch of the imagination, mean DID and related dissociative disorders are automatically bullshit.

What it does prove is that some people prefer a comfortable lie over an inconvenient truth.

Larry found it hard to believe I was sexually assaulted at ages 3, 5, 8, 9, 13 and 15 by total or near strangers without any one in my family picking up on it. It was easier for him to believe a family member had abused me than to consider my childhood bearing and eagerness to be accepted made me a virtual pedophile magnet.

Except, I have every one of those memories. Not one instance of sexual assault/abuse was EVER apart from conscious memory. Even Stein commented how odd it was I could list these events as if I were reading a shopping list. They happened. What didn't happen was the creepy crap Larry encouraged me to construct.

It took years of treatment for Dissociative Identity Disorder with both a psychiatrist and an experienced therapist to get past the fear of being called a liar, and this arrogant bastard gets to call out overyone with a dissociative disorder as the weak-minded, pathetic, mental play-doh of those not as smart as he claims to be. Because if he hasn't seen it, it can't exist, right?

That Huffington Post is allowing this... person (that's about as nice as I can be about him) to spout his opinion as if it is fact infuriates me beyond rational thought. Provide more than the opinions of a few other pariahs. Provide some verifiable data to back up your statements, asshat.

So I'm here, calling him out. (using far less harsh language than I want) I'm here asking those who have the ability to be more rational than I can be to speak out against the perpetuation of the myth that DID is entirely false. Speak out against this person's posts placement in the Science category instead of Opinions/Editorials.

Too many people have known too many of me and others for all of us to be caught up in the hysteria this shit-wit claims is making a comeback. I've seen too much independently validated research that occurred between the so-called Satanic Panic and this former practitioner's choice to play whistle-blower to believe his stilted and either/or words.

Letting it sit eats at me. Ignoring it, for me, isn't an option. Playing the website's game by their rules is something I don't currently have the ability to do.

So please, if you can... speak out. Silence is passive acceptance and that is truly destructive.

***

Because I only just saw this and it's so perfect...



I'm a Geek

Anyone who knows me now probably finds the post title a little obvious and it is... but accepting this has been a weird journey for me.

*I know which of you turkeys are laughing and I won't forget it*

For most of my adult life I've labored under the delusion I lean toward the geek because I married a geek.

When Charlie and I were first married, I brought with me only a small collection of my favorite books. Most of those, young adult fiction, biographies of Helen Keller and only a couple of sci-fi or fantasy titles.

I was a voracious reader who, in my early teens, read entirely through our library's young adult book collection, regularly taking home the limit of 6 books every 2 weeks and sometimes finishing an entire book during our regular visits. When I had read through all their offerings, I went back and reread them as I didn't know any adult authors (except Stephen King) and wasn't keen on taking a chance only to find myself disappointed. I did branch out a little beyond Stephan King, but mostly to titles and authors I recognized from late-late movie titles.

The fantasy book in my collection was Johnathan Livingston Seagull and my sci-fi books were E.T. & Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Compared to Charlie's small collection of entirely sci-fi (mostly Asimov) and technical manuals (I didn't know people kept that stuff), there seemed nothing geeky or different about my reading preferences.

During our first year of marriage, I didn't have a license and the library was too far for a reasonable walk, so I read every one of Charlie's books. I can't say I enjoyed them despite the fact I've spent years trying to find the title of one specific book lost in a 1992 fire that had been the coolest book I'd ever read. But no one seems to recognize "Set in the future where brain transplants are an experimental procedure. A rich old man talks his hot young assistant into allowing his brain to be transplanted in his body upon his death. Shenanigans ensue"... so if the book is still floating around somewhere, I've yet to find it.

Also during our first year of marriage, a new station called FOX announced they were bringing back the Star Trek franchise with a show called Star Trek the Next Generation.

I was excited about the show because of Wil Wheaton (Stand By Me was a movie for the generations) and LeVar Burton (Kunta Kinte, duh!) but not because I was a Trekkie. Sure, I saw every episode of Star Trek in syndication at least five or six times but only because there was nothing better on after school. I was one of those people who thought William Shatner had been brilliant in his SNL sketch calling out the basement dwelling fans. Clearly, I was not among that weird group.


Okay, so I knew all the cast members real names but that's just a freakish gift and not in anyway a fan thing. Let's get that clear now.

Also, my childhood M*A*S*H addiction wasn't a fan girl thing either. That I had a good chunk of 10 years of a series memorized, used M*A*S*H quotes in daily life, had a giant crush on Alan Alda and received the entire action figure set from my parents the night of the series finale didn't make me an obsessive fan girl... But only because fan girl wasn't a term at the time.

Wait, that came out wrong.

I had the complete commemorative boxed set. Stupid fire. It was at least as upsetting as losing my wedding dress.
The fact I sat through Charlie watching Doctor Who on PBS then Danger Mouse on Nickelodeon every single weekday afternoon was merely a testament to my love for Charlie. Not because I enjoyed them. Honestly, The Doctor looked pretty stupid running around in that scarf and wtf is up with that stupid screwdriver thing?

My entire understanding of Geek came from Revenge of the Nerds movies and there was NO way I could ever be compared with nerds. Seriously. I had more in common with Ogre than Skolnick, Lowell or *gags* Booger.

*Strangely enough, I can never remember Curtis Armstrong's name unless I see in it a show's guest star list. He was and will always be Booger in my memory. Weird*

I did think Stargate was the coolest Kurt Russel film I'd ever seen. And it was among one of the first 20 or so movies we purchased on VHS... but still.

Fast Forward a few Star Trek incarnations, Quantum Leap and the birth of the Sci-Fi channel later...

I should have known something was up when I pressured Charlie into adding Showtime to our cable because it was the only way to consistently see a new series based on Stargate. Perhaps my over thinking the irritating changes between film and small screen should have been a clue.

And then came Matrix... and Charlie going into business with a group I called the Three Geeks. The next thing I know, I'm standing in midnight, opening night lines with people dressed as their favorite characters from one franchise or another. Anyone else might look at herself and acknowledge she's taken this fan thing a little far.

Only I could still point to Charlie and say it was because of and in support of him.

By the time I realized purchasing entire seasons of SG-1 on DVD was more for me than Charlie, comprehension was finally sinking in.

And then came Christopher Eccelston and the ninth incarnation of the Doctor on BBC America.

When I started growing jealous of friends going to cons... and referring to them as cons and not Sci-Fi Conventions... it was time for a little self-reflection.

I'd like to take this moment to mention that yes, I saw the original Star Wars trilogy in theaters and enjoyed them... but if I ever had Happy Meal toys or other related memorabilia, it's been blocked from conscious memory never to be retrieved. Also, Luke was only cute in the first movie. After that it was Han all the way. A Third trilogy is criminal.

Where was I?

Oh yeah, still thinking I wasn't a geek.

Somewhere after joining Facebook, my understanding of geek changed. I also noticed that my choice of social circles leaned heavily toward what I was coming to understand as geeks... people who threw themselves into a passion so thoroughly, they could possibly be considered obsessive. It didn't matter if the subject was fiber art (big, big clue) or comic books... erm... graphic novels.

In hindsight, things like John's refusal to wear anything that wasn't Blue's Clues related for a full 3 years and Rachel's rather frightening obsession with all things Barney the creepy dinosaur or our entire family's love of Veggie Tales were indicators of a family of geeks and not a way to convince myself that if we each had our obsessions then we were totally normal... right?

SHUT UP! Wasn't asking YOU.
It's been the 6 years on Facebook with all of its easy linkage and longtime (in at least once case, lifelong) friendships with other geeks that has opened my eyes to reality.

I am a ginormous geek.

My reaction to a trailer for a film from Marvel studios is on par with Elena's reaction to finding out she had a Disney Princess Singing Castle waiting for her at home... or Dora's reaction to seeing her gymnastics coach's floor exercise routine. In short, undisguised glee with possible happy dancing and perhaps a tiny bit of awestruck squealing.

Seriously. Shut. Up. I can hear you laughing from here. You know who you are.

Rachel (Theatre Geek) spends a lot of time on Tumblr... a site I have not really embraced, mostly because it seems entirely peopled with weird fandoms and fanfic. Now, I'm sure there are some places where you can find really well written and interesting fan fiction. As a Mom of kids who are the same age as the actors in the series, the first time I stumbled on Harry Potter fanfic I was scarred for life. All I ever seem to stumble upon is the homoerotic variety and, sorry, that just doesn't do it for me.

Though I will admit I joined Tumblr specifically to keep up with a page called Memos From Fury which I learned about on Facebook, of course.

When memes and fandom got to be a bit much and I was contemplating a serious return to writing, I ventured over to Twitter, where I heard you just had to have an account if you wanted to promote your blog/site/self/stuff. Three years on Twitter and rather than gaining a huge readership to my blog, I've surrounded myself with 2,000 other freaks and geeks of various shades and styles. Twitter is the preferred setting for my snark and anti-social tendencies wrapped in a format best for one liners.

And, apparently, word crafters, poets, hashtag gamers, grammar nazis and people who play competitive Mario Cart.

Now I'm on Google+ and noticed, of the couple of dozen communities I've joined, a full half are essentially fandoms (Marvel, Sherlock, Who, Sci-fi/fantasy and mash-ups of any number of the previous) and two thirds of the remaining groups are for people whose love of art/crafts/upcycling/fiberworks/gardening is what gives them reason for living. You know, people just like me.

Couldn't resist
What really drove the geek point home was a conversation with my Dad a few weeks ago.

It was the most bizarre thing for me because it was the longest comfortable conversation I'd had with Dad in ages. He let me ramble on about the various things going on with the kids and grands.

I explained how we'd come to realize Elena remembers the violent birth father who was out of her life by 14 months, her terrible fear of the "Bad Guy" and how the wonderful heroes of Marvel and DC (mostly Teen Titans & Super Auntie Rae) helped her overcome the fear and the memory. When I told Dad about the weekend Elena spent her flea market money on hair bows and her first comic books, he said "I didn't know those were still around."

Boom, in one sentence I realized the single thing that truly makes me different in my family... I'm a geek. I'm a fangirl in a family of mostly academics.

A study done last year from sampling Twitter posts.
See? It's science!

We started discussing comics, superhero movies, Dan and John's games, Doctor Who and all these other things Dad only understood in the most vague sense... I talked about how science fiction has always been a commentary on present day politics and society... but when I mentioned Matt Smith hails from Mum's hometown and one of my cousins had a teacher who played with him when he was a footballer, Dad's interest was piqued.

It was almost as if Dad sensed the same thing I did. Here in this world he's not really paid attention to is where the South Carolina branch of the family lives and we both saw the potential for common ground. He said he'd seen Doctor Who DVD sets at the bookstore and would explore the show. I'm genuinely interested in his perspective.... even if it turns out he doesn't get it.

I truly don't know how to explain it, but that time spent with Dad on the phone was a revelation for me. My entire family was very athletic but I was the only one who dreamt of the Olympics and was obsessed with gymnastics. Everyone in the family has people they respect and look up to but only I took my adoration for Helen Keller to the extreme of learning braille, the manual alphabet (and eventually sign language) every fact I could of her life and performing a scene from "The Miracle Worker" for an 8th grade English Project.

My parents saw that even then. When we made the trip to Alabama for Michele's college graduation, Mum and Dad made a surprise pre-birthday stop at Ivy Green, where they led me on a tour of my hero's home, fulfilled my dream of seeing the water pump where Helen first learned things have names and secretly purchased the definitive biography of Helen and Annie Sullivan for my actual birthday.

We all have our passions... at least I hope you do. Passion, and not merely the over-exposed sexual version of it, is important. A friend and author, Jaime Wyman wrote about joy today. Like her, I believe joy and passion are things that make life beautiful.

So, yes, I am a geek. It's not about hobbies but about passions. The things that bring me joy, entertainment, escape or cause to think are things I throw myself into because that's part of who I am. It's possibly even written into my genetic code. Who knows?

That whole finding out what it is to be me... to be one person... this is part of it. Learning who I am and accepting it with joy.

And that's a good thing.

Now, excuse me but I missed Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. this week and have to catch up.




Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Privacy

There is always a lot to be found online about privacy.

I know I'm not the only one who finds the topic of online privacy to be at least a little ironic. It's online. There's only so much privacy to be found.

Yeah, this pretty much covers it.
When I was writing before, I tried to keep my diary/blog public. I didn't allow for anonymous comments because trolls are trolls but for the most part, the aim was transparency. For me, the need to be real was more important than anonymity. Besides, with secrets, trying to keep up with them can take up energy I didn't want to waste.

It's the same now.

There were several years when the limited online presence I maintained was not freely accessible unless you had specific talents but it grew wearisome and annoying. It felt confined and smothering and that's not an environment in which I thrive. It's a personal choice.

Some people have real concerns about their safety. They can and should make use of whatever tools available to ensure their privacy to whatever degree they want or need.

Who wants to wake up to this face?
All that said... given the kind of writing it's in my heart to do, I've decided to go back to transparency. My primary email address is available to the public. My cell phone number is available to anyone who friends me on Facebook. My blog talks about the area in which I live with detail. If someone wanted to, it would be entirely possible for them to find my street address.

But...

Honestly, even if you did find our address, you can't see it on Google satellite images and maps give you the wrong directions. If you did somehow make it past all the threatening signs and the Hell Hounds, not a lot of people are willing to get out of their vehicles once they get past the the end of the asphalt. Even the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormons stay away from us.

Sure it's possible someone could decide to cause trouble but I've lived enough of my life on high alert to be willing to do the fear thing on purpose. So, my face, real name, hometown and all kinds of other information is out there.

Plus...

South Carolina has some pretty decent Stand Your Ground/Castle Doctrine laws.

If you happen to be wandering off the beaten path and encounter this sign...


you might want to consider turning back.

Just a thought.



Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Music Lady

Just over 7 months ago, Charlie was wheeled into surgery to receive an ICD. He had been in and out of the hospital for several months... this last visit included nearly 3 weeks in an intesive care unit. For over a year, I had gone to sleep each night secretly terrified he'd drift away before morning.

While he was in surgery, a friend came by and took the kids to the gift shop to give me a little quiet time. It was during that time, hiding out in an empty waiting room, that a hospital volunteer came pushing a snack cart and singing songs from the 1940's. She lifted my heart in a way only music can and I haven't forgotten.

Tonight, I sat next to her at open mic. When they announced her turn, it clicked. MARY: The Music Lady from Trident hospital! I realized why she seemed so familiar (really, those tunics the volunteers wear makes everyone look the same) and all the emotion came rushing back.

When it was my turn, I told about the day I met Mary, thanked her while trying to keep my composure and dedicated my song to her.

Afterwards, we chatted a bit. She told me about her Youtube channel and I told her how I had watched several videos after meeting her because they helped me get through such a rough time. She went out to her car and came back with a paperback.

A few years ago her seniors group decided everyone should write down their memiors while they still had the ability. Mary published hers... a love story about the man to whom she was married for 57 years. Without giving her age, I will mention her Love passed away 10 years ago.

She asked my name, wrote a dedication and gave me her book to read and share with Charlie. A life long love story about two post WWII kids from South Carolina.

I'll fall asleep reading Loves Remembered tonight... but am reminded again... sometimes people come into your life for a moment and they can touch you in a way you did not expect. Mary helped me find the strength not to fall apart while waiting for Charlie in surgery... tonight, I had the privlege of telling others of the gift she gave without knowing how deeply it would be appreciated.

Sometimes full circle is a beautiful path.




Monday, February 3, 2014

Sometimes Life in a Bubble is Tempting

Every parent wants to believe they can protect their kids from harm. It's human nature.

Most every parent realizes at some point they cannot raise their kids in a bubble. In order for kids to grow we have to do a certain amount of letting go.

Letting go means acknowledging you don't have power to control your child's life.

Sometimes things happen you can't prevent.

What they now call acquaintance or date rape is nothing more than trying to add a qualifier to a despicable act. As if it is somehow a different kind of rape than stranger rape.

Rape is rape is rape. There are no degrees or qualifiers that can change that a sexual act performed by force or without consent is a crime. It simply is.

And when one person is abused, the chances of being abused again or going on to abuse another are multiplied.

I did everything I could to protect my kids... but it couldn't save Becka from going through at 14 what happened to me at 16. I can be grateful that what was the last in a long line of sexual assaults for me was, for her, a first and only.

I can't remember the last time it hurt this much to try to write... not physical pain... but it's everything I can do not to fall apart right now.

Becka and Elena we here earlier. Elena was talking about the other day when her she and Mommy watched a friend's baby. There were lots of stories to tell about playing with a baby boy who is only a little older than her cousin in Boston. She had such a grand time playing big sister.

She also had a few moments of being irritated with the baby's 11 year old uncle who wasn't inclined to share his toy cars.

While rambling about her day, Elena mentioned something that happened during the very few minutes she asked for "alone time" and went to sit in the homeowner's bedroom.

"He hugged me and kissed me on the lips and showed me his pee-pee!"

I honestly don't have it in me to go into detail about the couple of hours since. It's enough to say we've talked to Elena about it. Reminded her what is not okay for someone to do or show her and that it. is. not. her. fault.

Becka has talked to her friend and her friend's mother. Sadly, it turns out this kid was abused by an older foster brother. His Mom is going to talk to him again and get him some help because, clearly, he's been affected more than they realized.

What kills me is that Elena had no shame or fear in telling us... until she told us. We both reacted so seriously, as a 3 year old, she instantly knew something was wrong. Being 3, she's still in the magical center of the universe age where she believes anything that happens in her world is connected to her. So, knowing she's been told in the past it's not okay for older people to show off their underwear or private parts, telling us it happened means she did something wrong. She almost instantly recanted the part about being flashed.

I wish we could go back and react a little less emotionally... but it is what it is.

This is a kid who hasn't been exposed to the sexuality in television and movies. Heck, she was grossed out by a shirtless Superman and "Ew"ed when Clark kissed Lois.

Logically, I know this isn't something that has to be an "event" in Elena's life. Because of things in our lives, it's a far bigger deal to Becka and me.

But it happened. It happened to Elena at the same age it first happened to me... and in a similar way.

For the first time in I don't know how many years, I'm overwhelmed with the emotions of long ago wounds in my life. I'm angry about the way abuse leaves a legacy of repetition... and heartbroken this cycle found its way to another 3 year old.

This won't be publicly shared on social networking & am disabling shares... I had to get it out and off my chest somewhere.