Lookbook

I woke up from a nice dream. Rather, movie. I also woke up to an allergy or the beginning of a cold (hope not).

The latter part of the dream felt incredibly lucid, except I was both a viewer and inside one of the major characters. It was a day in the life, except in a montage of moments and memories in the arc of someone else’s life. Someone I know online, actually, a musician.

I know virtually nothing about him, apart from his music and his obsession with K-pop.

But in this dream, I got to live inside his world, look through his eyes and the eyes of the woman he loved and trusted the most. I didn’t know if she was his wife or would become his wife in a few years. I just dropped into their charming courtship, as he chased his dreams.

I felt what she felt. Thought what she thought. I could even feel his long legs draped over the seat next to him, over my lap, as I viewed his life movie through her. She felt happy whenever he touched her, even accidentally. She felt absolutely euphoric when he leaned on her, shared his deepest confidence, and allowed her to go through some harrowing, frustrating adventures together.

He let her work on his Lookbook with him. They tried to get him through the door with this Lookbook. I saw her holding it once in a corporate office while this lawyer stuffed suit type tried to mess with her while her musician boyfriend/husband was in another room. I felt his growing rage and her trying to keep him calm, as they walked out of the office together. He kept repeating, “I won’t punch him,” while she held onto his arm and the Lookbook.

I think all this time, the dreams I’ve been having weren’t necessarily about me, but about these people who wander in. I get to see what they see, feel what they feel, experience what they experience. Some of it’s prophetic, some of it’s empathic.

I came away from this particular dream closer to understanding that I’ve been arrogant about my personal suffering. I act like I’m the only one bad things happen to, when that’s far from the case.

Everybody goes through the same backstabbing shit, the setbacks, the pricks in stuffed suits. Everybody reacts the same to adversity.

I’m no different. I’m not special. There’s a strange comfort in that.

I am a little ashamed that it’s taken me so long to figure this out. I prided myself on my empathy.

Advertisements

Numb

The good news is my husband survived week three of his BCG therapy. One more Monday to go, and then we can breathe a little easier for awhile. He’s also feeling more himself, enough to worry about the recent Parkland high school shooting.

Right after the news hit yesterday, he began researching online high schools for our 16-year-old son.

He’s a bit calmer today, but still unnerved as more news comes out about a potential shooter closer to home. Right around the same time as people were freaking out on Twitter about Parkland’s shooting suspect, 19, a grandmother in Everett alerted the authorities to another potential one, 18, who allegedly planned to take out as many students as possible at ACES Alternative High School, as some sick badge of honor.

Her grandson, can you believe it? That poor woman.

She stumbled upon her grandson’s journal, allegedly detailing the plans. She also found a semi-automatic rifle in his guitar case.

What’s especially chilling is this kid’s plans initially included killing as many students as possible from my son’s high school. Word on the street is, he decided which school to target with a coin toss.

When police investigated, they found more chilling evidence: grenades minus the black powder, and maybe plans for a pressure cooker bomb (I heard that part on KIRO-FM radio).

From his alleged journal, c/o the Feb. 14-15, 2018 Seattle Times: “I’m preparing myself for the school shooting. I can’t wait. My aim has gotten much more accurate… I’ve been thinking a lot… I need to make this shooting/bombing at Kamiak [High School] infamous. I need to get the biggest fatality number I possibly can. I need to make this count. I’ve been reviewing many mass shootings/bombings (and attempted bombings). I’m learning from past shooters/bombers mistakes, so I don’t make the same ones.”

I’m trying not to think what would’ve happened if the coin toss went in Kamiak’s direction. My husband’s already gone there and back. He tends to be overly protective, as if our boy is still in the toddler years.

Maybe I should be freaking out more, I don’t know.

I’m also trying not to think about what happens if cops can’t hold that would-be shooter in custody because of a lack of evidence, aka, catching him in the act. His lawyer already brought it up. “In this country we do not criminalize people for thoughts. We do not punish a teenage boy for venting in his diary. Based on what I have seen, the state has insufficient evidence that Joshua actually intended to act on those musings [CNN],” public defender Rachel Forde said.

According to the latest reports, they haven’t even formally charged him of a crime. Technically, I guess you could say they arrested him in anticipation of his possible intent to commit a crime. I’m thinking of a Tom Cruise movie called “Minority Report…”

Everyone online is fighting over the usual gun control issues. A few are dusting off the same arguments about mental illness. Going nowhere, as usual.

Seems the Florida shooting suspect was a prime candidate for something like this: he was bullied in school, his adoptive mother made sure he got therapy with a counselor, but then she died, leaving him an emotional wreck. I think I even heard somewhere that someone in the mental health system dropped the ball in keeping an eye on him.

That’s another frightening prospect nobody ever considers in the aftermath of these shootings. Almost every single shooter could do with quality mental healthcare. All of us, really, after the two-three years we’ve suffered through.

But the fact of the matter is, quality mental healthcare is pure fallacy. It doesn’t exist. It can’t, not in a money vacuum. We as a nation don’t know how to take care of our people, physically, mentally, and emotionally. We don’t want to put our money where our big mouth is. We’re so good at talking, shooting fish in a barrel, taking the easy way out, but lousy at follow-through.

When’s the last time you checked in on a friend who’s been down in the dumps? Brought a home-cooked meal to a neighbor down the street after an estate sale? Donated to a GoFundMe campaign to help a family in need? Babysat one of those overwhelmed single moms struggling to make ends meet? Done something for someone else that didn’t involve a wine weekend or your own paid gig? Held someone’s hand and let her cry it out, even if you barely know her? Gone outside your family circle and friendly comfort zone for real human contact?

Meant what you said for once?

Read “One Teacher’s Brilliant Strategy to Stop Future School Shootings.”

I know of many cases where the parents of troubled teens have their hands tied. They have no resources. Often, the teens run amok, doing whatever the hell they want, and they know the parents can’t do anything about it. The cops can’t deal with them unless a crime has been committed. There aren’t enough mental health professionals to deal with the overload, and even then, the kid has a lot more power than the parents. Even if the kid is a threat to the rest of the family, there’s very little the parents are allowed to do other than stand by and pray to G-d they can safely, responsibly keep that kid from acting out.

I know of one teen who flat-out told his mom that he can do whatever he pleases and there’s nothing legally that she can do about it. He said that as long as he’s under 18, she is forced to take care of him or be legally found negligent, which could involve prison time.

From what I understand, at least in Washington state, parents can’t even commit their teens to a mental facility to get them help unless they go too far (read: attempted murder). So they are free to beat up their siblings within an inch of their lives, attack their own parents, steal, and destroy property, slander, threaten, etc.

When someone on talk radio brought up the need for a stronger mental health system, like it was as easy as picking up a Big Mac at McDonald’s, I piped up, “What mental health system?” There is a shortage of licensed therapists and psychiatrists, especially the latter. Try finding one under duress, I dare you. Try finding one if you’re not exactly Bill Gates, I double-dog dare you. The few in this state are so overbooked with regular patients they can’t accept any more or you have to wait months if not years for the next opening.

Just think about that.

Washington state is also financially strapped. Legislators here can’t even pay for education, transportation, and the growing homeless population. You seriously think they’re going to get their act together for the mentally ill? A lot of those mentally ill are a part of the homeless population. Then, you throw in the growing population of lower to middle class unable to afford rising home prices and rentals, the mental stress that’s gonna cause… This place is a ticking time bomb.

Nobody cares enough. It’s easier for people to extend “thoughts and prayers,” platitudes and empty gestures, a quick post before returning to their real lives. Nothing that will cost or inconvenience them much.

(Btw, if you’re O-, go to your nearest blood bank. Florida needs your blood type.)

And, I haven’t even gotten to the problem of our two-faced, dismal, government-run educational system. That’s a whole other nightmare. There’s a lot of fancy talk about dealing with bullying, but very little action. Kids continue to bully other kids, and get away with it. Their parents continue to game the system, and the administration/teachers continue to look the other way. I know this because good, decent parents have confided in me.

Good kids are left to their own devices to protect themselves for as long as they’re forced to go to high school. Oftentimes, they feel like they have no other choice than to move, change schools, and hope for a fresh start. I know. I’ve seen this happen. I’ve seen good kids go wrong, because a few too many teachers and administrators play favorites, or worse, unfairly target these kids when they’ve done nothing.

But you’ll never hear these kids say a word about what they’re going through. By the time they hit high school, they know they’re powerless and on their own.

A lot of parents, the majority I daresay, are completely on the school’s side — quick to blame those unruly kids and their lack of parenting, those square pegs refusing to fit in the round holes, quick to make blanket assumptions based on an antiquated educational system from the past that is no longer relevant today. You’d be surprised how different school is from when you went. Most of you wouldn’t last one day. I know I wouldn’t.

My son deserves a Porsche for surviving this long.

For me, life goes on. That means school, too. Unless there’s a practical reason for my son to quit and try online schooling, I will encourage him to hang in there and make the best of a bad situation. Because high school is a microcosm of the world. If he can’t navigate the assholes, bullies, con artists, and mind-boggling bureaucracy there, he won’t have a hope in hell when he graduates.

In the meantime, all I have the energy for is constant prayer, and crying every time I see a photo of one of those kids slain by the shooting suspect in Florida.

That could be my kid. That very nearly was my kid.

Every time he comes home safe and sound, bored out of his mind, maybe, extremely exhausted, definitely, I breathe a little sigh of relief. One more day, he got through one more day. Thank you, Lord.

“Strong people stand up for themselves. But stronger people stand up for others.” -Unknown

I’m struggling right now. On the outside, I’m functioning well, enjoying what I can of the Olympics, going about my day, constantly praying for protection from the outside world and all its ills.

But last night, I could feel myself slipping away, or wanting to. Just, like, it doesn’t matter anymore, I don’t matter anymore. So, I’ll wait until it’s all over. Then I can quietly go away.

I try to explain to my husband, to one or two friends. I can’t seem to find the right words, other than the same ones, over and over, until even I sound pathetic to myself.

She made me feel normal, accepted, loved. She recognized, acknowledged, and valued me, for a time. I honestly thought she was my soul mate, that we were two stubborn, fucked-up anti-social outcasts who had found each other after all, a kind of twisted soul mate.

I don’t know what that’s like. When I got a taste of it, I felt so happy, maybe for the first time in the longest time. I can understand why people gravitate toward popularity, the in crowd, fame, and fortune. They want to belong. It’s the greatest feeling ever, especially for someone who never felt it, who was constantly made to feel the opposite.

After looking in the window, I was inside, basking in the glow. For about two years, I belonged somewhere.

I don’t know where I belong anymore. Starting from scratch, alone again… my son saw the pain in my eyes before I did. It’s what made him cry, knowing that I would be alone again. He tried to blame himself for breaking our friendship up. Even she blamed him, a grown-assed woman, a mother herself, she blamed my child for destroying our friendship. I mean, who does that?

In her eyes, my son was a liar, a fake, a drinker, and the destroyer of all of my friendships. This was the child who begged me through his tears, big, gut-wrenching tears, not to end my friendship with her over an incident with him. He was the one who defended her and her son to the very end, not me.

She forced me to choose between my family and her, the self-admitted outsider who knew best, who knew me better than I knew myself. And I chose my family. In the end, she tried to make me feel wrong and stupid for that choice, for being the best mother I could be to my only son. How am I supposed to recover from that? How am I supposed to ever trust another living soul outside of my family?

I’m wary. When I shared what happened with a few other friends, expecting sympathy, even confusion and outrage — please, poke holes in her story! there are so many holes! — they didn’t offer up much more than the token gestures, if that. One of them made me even more distrustful of friendships by daring to be kind to both our sides.

It’s made me worried that everything I’ve ever done and said will make me a target. I don’t know if other friends also believe and side with Gen, think the worst of me and my parenting, not to mention my son. What if they say nice things to my face, but talk shit about me behind my back?

I never want them to lie. If they know for a fact that something’s wrong, I want them to come to me privately and we can work this out.

I want to give up on people altogether.

There’s one friend who won’t let me. Her name is Sarah. This is what she texted me:

“I understand, I really do. That was a level of betrayal that nobody should have to experience. I hate that it was you. I hate that you have to endure this and absolutely do not deserve it. It will take time to heal. Here’s what I’d like to think I know: 1) people will inevitably disappoint you. You decide what level of disappointment you are willing to put up with, without losing yourself. 2) People will also surprise you. With their unwavering compassion, love, support, and patience. 3) If you retreat and close yourself off from experiencing any disappointment, you’ll also remove the opportunities for the quality interactions and positivity friendship and humanity have to offer. Try to focus on the people who do have your back. The things people do or say that make you feel connected. Start slow. Remember that I am your friend. Please try not to deny me or anyone else the opportunity to be close to you. It’s a delicate balance. I hope you know how incredibly grateful I am for you and that I will do ANYTHING to help you through this or make it better in any way I possibly can. You are not alone. I am also struggling and need to reach out more. Next week, we’re having some quality time!! ❤”

In my own way, I mistreated Sarah. I misjudged her. I said overly judgmental, critical things about her and her family behind her back. She and I were never best friends, but that doesn’t make what I did any less heinous.

One day, I decided to reach out, lay my cards on the table. If Sarah accepted my invitation to talk, then maybe we could find some kind of friendship to salvage. If not, then she proved me right all along, she was never interested in my friendship to begin with (which was my main point of contention).

I told her that I wanted her to cut the life-of-the-party act and be a little more real with me. I apologized for not having her back when she needed me the most, for making huge assumptions based on very few facts.

I asked her if she was willing to try again. When she said yes, and forgave me, I vowed I would never abandon her. Even if we each had bad days, I wouldn’t let that get in the way of our friendship. I would always want the best for her. Even if she moved on and found a million better friends, I’d be happy and relieved for her.

That’s Sarah.

Now, I’m going to study and think about what she texted me. I hope some of her grace will rub off and next time, I’ll be better.

 

Fair-weather Friends

“Stealing gold from the silver they see, but it’s not me.” -Sara Bareilles, “City”

Why is it so easy to think the worst of me? Why is it so hard for them to care about me as much as I care about them?

I don’t understand why it’s so hard for people to offer support, comfort, encouragement. It’s not like I’m incapable of doing it. I’ve done it. I’ve also done so much more.

But it doesn’t seem to matter. Nothing I do or say seems to matter. In the end, they’ll always revert to type, project their hang-ups on me, put words in my mouth, twist things around to suit them, be selfish, self-serving, utterly self-righteous. In the end, it seems I never ever get the benefit of the doubt, while I’m forever giving the same benefit to them without even asking.

I don’t get it. I honestly don’t know what I’ve done wrong. I look back, replay the day’s events, try to find something, anything, to indict me with. I was polite, I was courteous, I was kind, I bent over backwards to accommodate these people, these friends. I did everything I could possibly do. And still it wasn’t enough.

When the going gets rough, they blame me, they make horrible accusations, they think the absolute worst of me. They forget the friend I’ve been to them, and then, they write me off, as if I’ve committed an unforgivable crime against humanity, against them in a trial they came armed and ready for — judge, jury, executioner.

One friend completely flips out. I turn to another, expecting support, comfort, the same volcano of emotions I felt: confusion, bewilderment, frustration, outrage, hurt. I expect some sort of validation, not because I’m perfect. But because I honestly can’t see what I did wrong. I did the best I could in the situation, however blindsided I felt. I did the best I possibly could.

How could they give so little to me in return? How could they not at least find it in their hearts to see what I’m going through? How can they leave me with not one loving word to say, “I’d be angry and hurt, too. This doesn’t make sense. You deserve better. You did the best you could. You. did. nothing. wrong.”

Why do I extend myself when it’s all for nothing?

I can’t believe this. Can’t you people see this whole situation is fucked up? Why is it okay for another person to shit all over me and my family like this, and get away with it? Why is that okay for you? How the hell can you just sit there, like it doesn’t matter? It matters to me.

It feels like I survived a real fire. I’m standing in the middle of the street, my clothes in tatters, still burned to my flesh. I’ve lost everything. And people just walk right by me. Not strangers, people who swore up and down that they were my friends, that they’d always be on my side, that I was a good person, a good mother, a good, decent human being, someone worthy of love.

Why are they walking away? Why are they all walking away?

More to the point: Why did I waste so much time caring for people who are no better than con artists?

I’ve never felt more alone than I do tonight. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to pick up the pieces, to invest in another friendship, to put myself back out there. What for?

Kindness, solace, comfort, real friendships… They’re fairy tales, invented by entrepreneurs and criminals, to sell soap.

Even as I write this, I hear my father — or those fake friends — yelling at me in my head, telling me what a drama queen I am, feeling sorry for myself, I’m so full of shit, acting like I’m some tragic martyr… oh you’re not perfect, yet here you go saying you can’t think of anything you did wrong, uh I guess you’re perfect then after all, aren’t you, dumbass hypocrite full of yourself bitch?

I can’t find the right words to tell you how much pain I’m in over this.

You have to believe me. What happened was wrong. These aren’t friends. A friend wouldn’t do what these people did. I would never do what these people did to me and my family, EVER. I would never leave a hurting friend out to dry with Christian platitudes reserved for the unconverted, this arm’s length bullshit. What the fuck is that about?

Is that worth the time and money I devoted to you and your family? the many times I backed you up against anyone who even looked at you strange? the many times I fought your fucking battles for you?

I deserve you to fight for me, as I fought and would fight for you. I deserve more than a Hallmark card that blesses both me and the friend who hurt me so deeply, a friend you barely knew. I deserve more than this kiss-off, when all I tried to do in the end was the right thing.

I deserve at least one person to recognize what was done to me and to defend my honor, because what happened was so wrong, so hurtful, so heinous.

I stand here waiting for that one person who will NEVER speak up for me. I stand here waiting, while these people go on and on about how much they suffer, how they’ve been abandoned, how they can’t find decent friends who will support, comfort, and love them…

Think. Think. Think. Think back to when I was a child.

If my own parents, my brother couldn’t support me, what makes me think people outside my family could? My first experience with one-sided relationships stemmed from my own family growing up. My parents were the first to blame me for anything that went wrong, even if I had no part in it. My brother was forever blaming me for his own rule-breaking behavior. Because I was the oldest child, the responsible one, the unpopular, serious one who never smiled and wasn’t wouldn’t ever be as beautiful as my mother, ordinary she put it, I took their punishment. I had to take their verbal and physical beatings without any expression on my face, so as not to offend them.

I kept waiting for these beautiful, popular, beloved people to take care of me, have my back, support, care for, and love me. When bullies attacked me, I learned early on to hide their crimes as if their crimes were my own, because early on, my parents showed me what happens when I got myself in trouble by getting in the way of the bullies’ assaults. I didn’t cause the assaults. My parents didn’t care. It was my fault somehow.

Once, I was in the woods above the playground waiting for my friend to show up. Neighborhood bullies came after me, throwing rocks and promising worse, when in terror, I peed my pants. I ran to the nearest neighbor’s house, kind people, who called my parents. They briefly gave me the compassion I sought.

When it was safe, away from prying public eyes, my parents dropped the act and whipped me the rest of the night, finding things that I did wrong in the situation to justify their beating and recrimination. They screamed in my face: Why were you in the woods with boys? That’s what whores do. How could you embarrass us with our friends like that by peeing your pants and not going directly home? What the hell is wrong with you? Why can’t you think straight? You’re so stupid.

The entire time, I wanted to tell them that I was afraid the boys would hurt me, that’s why I peed my pants. I was afraid. I kept waiting for my parents to care about me, to show some sign that I mattered, that I was okay, that I was loved.

Instead, they thought the worst of me, no matter what I did or said. I could’ve been the good girl. I was the good girl. My brother was the trouble-maker. But he could sweet-talk them out of any punishment, then make them think he was the victim.

I was the child who strived to get the good grades, who overcame her learning problems and the distractions on her own, who studied hard, found resources, applied herself on her own, and went to college, majored in journalism, interned, and found a job in her field a year or less after graduation, who worked three-four jobs, plus volunteering, who rode one bus after another almost every night to put herself through a liberal arts degree, who learned about nutrition and exercise, took up jogging, lost weight…

I was. But nothing I did was ever good enough. Certainly not good enough to love, comfort, support, value, believe in.

Nobody in my family ever believed in me. Why should I expect my friends to?

ghosts

First day out walking around my neighborhood. Ah, the sun. I can almost see spring up ahead.

I listened to SMQ_AI while taking it all in.

A.I. taking over our world, just like in that “Terminator” movie. Impossible? Unrealistic? Downright stupid? That’s what I thought about bottled water and ebooks. Now, look. Commonplace brilliance.

Walking around outside, breathing fresh air… There’s nothing like it. The most amazing thoughts come to the surface.

As my friend SMQ’s voice drifted into some of my favorite tunes, I began to wonder if I’d already encountered ghosts. What are ghosts anyway? They’re humans before death. We’re all ghosts-in-waiting.

If you think about it, we’re all going to die, so every single human being we come across will become a kind of ghost for the living. I’m a ghost, just not right now.

I associated ghosts with what SMQ talked about in his recent YouTube video, because a neighbor passed away at Christmas. Her husband died quickly of brain cancer a few years earlier. She held on through a variety of treatments, I’m guessing breast cancer, but ultimately joined him in heaven.

I never really got to know them. That’s my fault. I remember going to their house once, back when my son was very small and starting rec soccer. We were there together to ask if they’d be interested in buying a raffle for my son’s soccer league fundraiser. The husband was extremely soft-spoken and kind. He was the kind of person who smiled from the inside out, from every pore of his being.

Lisa was kind too. They bought a generous amount of raffle tickets, but never won. We never saw them again, although my husband’s probably chatted them up on the way to the mailbox.

My husband saw an estate sale going on at that neighbor’s house this weekend, then saw the daughter outside. He chatted her up, and that’s how he found out.

When I came back from my walk around the bend, I saw lights on in their house and the lovely garden they used to tend together — such a gorgeously landscaped nature retreat — and I began to cry.

I feel stuck inside this hard, brittle shell, unable to move freely, unwilling to go outside of myself to reach out to others before I, too, turn into a ghost.

I can see the end of the human race. Yet, I’m helpless to do anything to make any lasting impression, other than writing useless words here that nobody will read and nobody will care about.

My neighbors were good, kind people. They cared about their children. They cared about the land. They made a home together for the longest time until they couldn’t. Now, they’re gone — from here anyway — and what have I done to make their time on earth better? Nothing.

I’m sorry.

But, taking that walk, the first time in ages since winter set in, felt so refreshing. After I came home, drank my smoothie, and took a shower, I made my husband — on his second day of BCG therapy — a large salad and our son Spam musubi and an egg, bacon sandwich for dinner. I felt productive.

For awhile, my anxieties and fears went away. There was just me out there with my memories and these ghosts who are now free to float in and out of my thoughts. They keep me company until it’s time for me to join them.

That’s okay, I guess.

Unified Basketball: When Silver is Gold

20180210_125113
Congratulations, Kamiak Knights — 2018 Division 1 Unified Basketball Silver Medalists!
20180210_125117
What a season! The Purple Varsity Team finishes with a bang!

“They didn’t win, but they did even better. They played as one.” —Mary Carillo, Winter Olympics 2018

Last year, I didn’t get to watch my son play basketball with his Special Olympics Unified Team, the Kamiak Knights. It was his first time, and unfortunately, he broke a finger playing a Premier Soccer Tournament his second game in. He wore a cast while cheering from the sidelines.

This year, I vowed, would be different. Fortune smiled on us, and I attended every scheduled game, from the practice round-robin and the real thing down in South Seattle, to the exciting game against rival Mariner (Kamiak won by one point, down to the wire!), to this weekend’s Regionals — the tournament that would determine which team would go to State.

My son played with the Purple, or Varsity, Team. As he always does, James amazed me with his rebounding, steals, and ability to pull off plays as one of the guards. He started off learning basketball as a point guard at the Alderwood Boys & Girls Club, back when he was in first or second grade.

I can’t describe what it’s like to watch him on the court, happy and free. I almost like watching him play basketball more than soccer.

For many reasons, he chose to become a Unified Team Partner, playing with special needs students. After his first year, he was hooked. Not on his own glory, but that of his teammates. He went in thinking he was going to help them learn to improve their game, but came out learning more about the pure joy of the game through their eyes. He told me he saw how happy they were to be playing with them in real basketball, with refs, cheerleaders, a scoreboard, and everything.

They came to practices happy, stoked to get out there. Their enthusiasm rubbed off on him. He’d come in fed up and frustrated with his teachers, the homework, the bullshit students navigate in a minefield in high schools all over. His negative attitude evaporated within five minutes of being around them.

I saw for myself what he was talking about at every game. I saw these kids grow stronger, confident, and closer as a team. In the beginning of the season, the Special Olympic athletes would stand in place, wait for the pass, and just shoot. They wouldn’t move. They wouldn’t put their arms up to defend. They just stood there, waiting for the Unified partners to throw them the ball.

At Regionals Saturday, they did a lot more than that. They were moving around, going man to man, stealing and rebounding, passing, and dribbling, blocking out and screening. They were playing as a team, and they were playing hard.

20180210_124246
My boy!

I also saw the Unified partners step up, making sure they gave the players with disabilities the dignity to shine. Unlike some other players from other teams, they didn’t hog the ball, and take all the shots. They refused to step over the special needs athletes just to score a cheap win.

In the finals, when the other team took the game too far, when the ref forgot what he was there for, my son’s team of Unified partners doubled down, continuing to feed their special needs teammates the ball. At halftime, they practiced diligently, patiently, over and over and over. My son kept passing it to this senior — a fantastic three-pointer — until she found her rhythm again. The look in her eyes when she hit one in the second half… man, I’ll never forget it.

The Kamiak Knights would not go to State, losing the last game and finishing with silver medals. But none of that mattered. The Knights played with honor, and that’s what counts.

The partners busted their asses to make sure the special needs athletes caught the passes, made the drives, and took the shots — even if it meant a lot of sweat equity, getting fouls called on them, getting bashed around. They did what it took to play in the spirit of Special Olympics and to give their entire team the game of a lifetime.

They weren’t alone. I saw a lot of other Unified Basketball Teams do the same: Roosevelt, Edmonds-Woodway, Lynnwood… amazing players, amazing heart.

I know why my son does this, and I don’t blame him. For a long time, he lost the pure joy of the sport he loves so much, because of bad middle school coaches and the politics that went along with trying to make the team — whether it’s to represent your high school or to go Premier/Select. He saw great players dismissed, humiliated, and benched, great potential get lost in the shuffle. He saw all that and decided it wasn’t for him.

Until he saw that there could be another way to enjoy the game he loves, through the eyes of kids who never got a chance before to feel normal and accepted, and loved — even it’s through a basketball program.

A lot of kids don’t even think about doing this. Mine did.

Proud doesn’t even begin to describe what I feel.

Congratulations, Kamiak.

20180210_124036

Donate to Special Olympics Washington.

fault

every time I strike out,
my father’s voice beats me down, the same as you
I’ve already read the letter a hundred times before,
locked and loaded, the piss down my right leg,
the boys in the band startled into a kind of raucous laughter, as if, as if they
struck gold at the end of the rainbow at the edge of these woods —
look at the chink in the shit clothes, crying from her cunt

I ran and I ran into the nearest home, these strangers with their Sears lamps, their hot milk, and their open arms, the pretty lady smelled of pikaki and coffee
while they called my parents — don’t, they don’t —
when the coast was clear, behind closed doors, they took turns
beating me from head to toe, mind body spirit, you know the drill
because they could not bear to stomach their fuck for an easy way out, pretend love for a one-way ticket, Dairy Queen & big, fancy American cars

how can I turn
my other cheek?
he is my only child to your 4 on the floor, the lies, the jokes, the diss tapes
I will not curse him with the same family name

the woods are cold at sunset for a seven-year-old girl,
just waiting for a friend

Trying to Reach the 6th Floor

andrew-welch-290679
Photo by andrew welch on Unsplash

I’m trying to remember which floor the Twilight Zone Museum’s on, the one with the strange, scary ride. Two or three strangers are with me. At least I think they’re strangers. Who knows in dreams. People often appear to me in different guises. I know who they are if I spend enough time around them and pick up on their energies.

Every time I’m in this shopping mall which resembles Aiea High School — with condo levels — and a Vancouver suburb, I’m trying to get to the museum. The ride changes every time, but it’s so worth the trouble. It’s like a time machine and life lesson in overdrive.

The last time I made it through, I learned about the Atom bomb and developed a greater appreciation for the jitterbug. Once, I went to the future, not a lot, just enough to follow Sheila through the rubble with a bag of potato chips, as she searched for her friends at the next party. Her friends were her salvation, the one thing keeping her from going over the edge.

“It’s gotta be on the sixth floor,” I said, to no one in particular. “Hit the six button, fast before— ” and we were off. The buildings began flattening, first a shudder then a quake.

I need to go back in time, I thought, as I watched shoppers collapse in a heap with their Louis Vuittons.

Neighbor

alex-munsell-18754
Photo by Alex Munsell on Unsplash
This is a real letter I e-mailed yesterday, in defense of myself. I didn’t hesitate this time. I didn’t rethink, question, doubt, or tip-toe. I just wrote it, from my heart. It hurt me to write, because I know that nobody else would do it, after yet another bloody battle, aka “If you really look back he has cost you more then a couple of friendships over you defending him til the end. I don’t say any of this with the intention to hurt you or with malice but I’m telling you this in hopes that in the future you don’t jump so quickly to believe that he is the one telling the truth. Ultimately he destroyed a great friendship between us that can never be repaired and that’s crushing to me.” It’s the first time I really stood up for myself. It doesn’t change anything. But, I thought I’d share it with you guys, FWIW.

Nancy,

This is a sore subject. She hurt me more deeply than anyone in my life has. I let her in. I gave her all I had. I loved her unconditionally. And in return, she fucked me over very thoroughly, very intentionally, and very thoughtlessly, by going after my only child behind my back, without me present — like another friend did a few years before her, but in a less offensive way.

She didn’t call James a Narcissist to his face; she told him he was fake and wearing a mask, that he may have fooled his parents by drinking at parties and whenever we were gone and he was alone and with his friends over, but he didn’t fool her. She knows what that’s called. She knew about [my ex-friend’s] Narcissism, and how much that hurt me, how I had to scratch and claw my way out of that mental hell, how I almost lost everyone including my marriage for that woman — so I don’t give her a pass because she didn’t use the word, Narcissism. She knew exactly what she was doing. She went for the jugular, like a coward, a bully in the schoolyard, picking on someone not her size, because she couldn’t handle being the adult, being a mom of four who supposedly knows better than me.

I may only have one child. But he’s all I have. G-d didn’t grant me any more. I honored Him by accepting that He gifted me with one miracle baby. I don’t use that word lightly, or facetiously, or as any superficial ego boost.

As my only child, with my own hang-ups and self-doubts, I have made sure to raise him right, even if I’ve been extraordinarily hard on him. I’ve given him the freedom to think for himself when most kids were too young to know which way was up, because he could handle it, and he knew that with freedom (independence), comes responsibility. I’ve watched him make the tough, hard decisions, often at personal cost and against the majority at a time when he’s a teenager, the most vulnerable time for maintaining any sort of integrity. I’ve watched him step up when his father and I have struggled financially, emotionally, and physically in ways that most kids his age wouldn’t be able to. I’ve watched him deal with attacks on his character from other adults in charge who also should’ve known better: an acclaimed, popular reading specialist at an elite private Christian academy who pronounced him developmentally challenged (for the rest of his life) in front of one of his kindergarten classmates and her mom, coaches who lied to his face and treated him like he couldn’t play, teachers who killed the joy out of learning for him, completely. He bore all this quietly, with dignity, and never complained.

He is my life. I live and breathe for him, as I know you do for your children.

All I ever asked when I shared this with others was that they try to imagine what it would feel like if they were me and this happened to them and their children. What they would do. How they would respond. What they would want their friends to say when deep inside they were made to feel sick, lost, ashamed, and utterly abandoned inside by someone they thought was the world, was everything to them, and had their back when nobody else did.

This crushed me. Really crushed me.

That’s why I flew off the handle. As soon as I let it out, pages later, I regretted it, because…, selfishly for once in my fucking life, I don’t need to justify myself to anyone anymore about this incident.

It’s over. She did what she felt she had to do. I did too. In my opinion, she handled it terribly and torched our friendship, our sisterhood for NOTHING… other than to get satisfaction over a 15-year-old child and a bladder cancer survivor still in treatment. Bravo, you hunchbacked bitch. Well done. You can be proud of yourself now. You can rest assured that you gave it your best, now you can turn your back on me with completely conviction.

She’s a piece of shit, I don’t care what anyone says, or how anyone says it. She’s a dumbass, and she’s wrong.

My son tried to hold down a raw egg in a game of dare, then threw up twice, maybe more. He didn’t drink. That would be her son, and not his first time. All James did was watch out for his friend, cover for him, and defend that kid to the very end. To the very end. I don’t have to make up an elaborate story like she did to prove jack shit.

My son told me he didn’t drink, and he’s never taken a drink. I believe him. Case closed…

I have a lot of flaws, as a person, a friend, a mother. But being a rat isn’t one of them. As I mentioned before, what also appalls and sickens me, is that I would NEVER do what she did to James…

I try to be a decent person, especially with children. I say a lot of terrible shit when I’m venting, in the privacy of my own home. But I would never harm a child, in any way. What hurts throughout all this is that I did nothing wrong, yet I was made to feel like I did, like I was the problem. I resent that very much. Call me out, go after me, but a) children are not fair game, and b) but don’t put crimes on me that are not mine.

I didn’t tell you how I grilled him for three straight days, how I absolutely did not “blindly defend him till the very end,” or give him an automatic pass, but honest to god, I shouldn’t have to.

I shouldn’t have had to explain myself at all. My word should’ve been enough. I told a few friends. Only two believed me without me having to campaign for it, as it were. My word was good enough for them, and one of them knew James. The one who knew James laughed her head off at the idea of him drinking behind my back. Her daughter hangs with James all the time and they share the same friends and the same grapevine. It meant the world to me what she said.

As an aside, thinking aloud and in hindsight, I shouldn’t have to beg people to believe me over her. I had a friend who’s known me and James since he was in grade school respond like she was talking to a stranger, arm’s length, polite as hell, and even hoping one day I could repair my friendship. Like, wtf?

She’s going to give the other person the benefit of the doubt, when she’s known me since our kids were in grade school but she only met her a few months ago? I don’t know whether to be insulted or not.

I’m not saying all this to you personally. I’m saying this to explain where my head’s been at after my heart was ripped absolutely to shreds. My heart matters. I matter, too, dammit.

I’m also trying to be as honest with you as I can about how I felt. You were at least kind in the end, and tried to understand, and cared about knowing details. Most of the rest of my “friends” couldn’t be bothered. Whatever. I make the effort with you, because, despite the occasional frustrations, you’re worth the effort, you’re my friend, you’ve made the time you couldn’t afford to be with me, me not some projection, me for me, as boring and ordinary and unglamorous as that is.

If I didn’t care what you thought, I wouldn’t be responding this long, or at all…

On Monday, Ed starts another round of BCG therapy. Every Monday for the month of Feb. Before he starts the first dose, his urologist takes another PSA screening to check his prostate levels. If they continue to be elevated, they must then discuss other exams to be sure (he did not show any enlargement or lumps in the rectal prostate exam in Dec., he had the elevated PSA screening in Jan.), and then, biopsy as a last resort to determine if there’s cancer. One day at a time I tell myself. But I know it’s weighing on him, and James. They try to move on, live and enjoy life, and so I take their lead and am forever inspired by them. They give me hope, they give me the courage I don’t have. They are my heroes.

I don’t know what I would do without them.

I hope you read this with understanding and a little extra compassion I know you may not have right now because your plate is already full. I’m a raving bitch to expect more from you than you can already give. But I need to be honest with a real friend. I needed to let you know. I need you to be on my side, even if you already are. I need to hear it. Just as you need to hear it from me.

-C

Millennials Have Turned into Alexa

andres-urena-470137
Photo by Andres Urena on Unsplash

Millennials have this annoying ‘Net shorthand that goes way over my head. Talk to me, not at me, and talk like you’re a human being, not a Power Point Presentation.

They assume you’re one of them, in the online club, growing your digital network. Uh, don’t I need a receipt? Why is everything online when your online resources are outdated? Would it kill any of you to admit you’re mistaken? Put a fucking smile on your face and do your job, slick.

I’ve noticed this alarming trend the longer I exist on this earth.

One day, I stepped back and realized I’ve become my grandparents and the rest of the world is peopled with kids with their heads stuck in their smart phones and talking to themselves or talking like they’re still in social media with emoticons and acronyms — all without bothering to translate the digital-speak.

That’s well and good for your squad of baes and boos. But if it’s a business and you’re taking my money, that’s utter bullshit.

I don’t care how technologically advanced the world is right now, how we do everything online, including business transactions. You still need to confirm my credit card order, revise your website to reflect your revised policies, clean up the links and update the outdated YouTube videos. You know, professionalism.

This realization came to mind after I experienced a disconnect in basic customer service while helping my teenaged son get his driver’s license via his high school driver’s ed.

Back when I was in high school, we literally took driver’s ed after school, in school. The yearbook advisor/photographer teacher with the one working eye conducted the driver’s ed classes (“ASSUME makes an ass out of u and me“), and with a few other teachers, taught us how to drive in groups after we all trudged into the cafeteria one weekend to take the 100-question written test that nobody passed the first time.

They don’t do that anymore.

Nowadays, kids take driver’s ed on their own dime and time, via a driving school that their high school suggests. The high school isn’t even involved, other than to open up a portable after-hours for the classes given by an instructor from the driving school. Everything’s done online, from pre-registration and registration to course completion and the intermediate driver’s license issued by the DOL/DMV.

You do have to go to a dreaded DMV with the rest of the dregs of humanity to actually process your first driving permit, however. The government is an equal opportunity twat, after all.

Btw, when we did that, the Hungarian-Russian gov. worker behind the counter tried to deny us our permit application, because our son wasn’t 16 — even though Washington state law lets 15-year-olds bypass that part of the deal as long as they’re enrolled in a legitimate driver’s ed course. Yeah, that was a fun Saturday.

Except, with this driving school, there are discrepancies to navigate. The school’s website offers packages for driver’s ed courses and the knowledge written/skills tests, which you can pre-order with your credit card online. I know, I saw it online. Once you register with your teen’s permit #, issued at the time you request one from the DOL before the driver’s ed course, you will receive an email confirmation opening up access to an online list of times/dates/locations of the knowledge and skills tests, blah blah blah.

When my husband tried to pay for a package deal online, he got a spinning ball before logging out. He had no idea if his credit card went through. The next day, he called the main company 1-800 line. The nice person suggested he check his next credit card balance to see if his payment went through. WTF?

Then, he called the actual driving school, where the office manager informed him that they don’t even do online registrations for the written test. You simply walk in the nearest available location at the times (offered in another part of the website) with your permit or any photo ID, pay the fee, fill out a form, and then take the test. Best to arrive 15 minutes prior to check in. Once you pass, you can then schedule the skills test and pay for that.

Then, why pray tell did the main driving test portion of this school’s website offer the online packages to pre-order in the first place?

Nobody knows.

Why did one of their YouTube links show the student driver making sure to show the driving instructor a sheet of paper, some form or document of completion/registration before being allowed to take the skills (driving) test, as a part of the requirements?

I’m not sure what video you’re referring to but as I stated earlier, we do not give any physical confirmation as everything is now electronic with the DOL. We have a screening process for scheduling the appointments as well so BECAUSE he has an appointment lets the examiner know that the office has already verified the customer eligibility to take the Drive test.”

Huh?

In person, this office manager kept her head down, never looked me in the eyes, never smiled, never made small talk, never offered up further information like other businesses would in my experience, and acted like a total automaton hologram.

Motherfuck, I walked into the Blade Runner.

After my son passed his written test, another driving school AI told him his score and sent him on his way. Because he’s my son, he went back to the office manager to ask if there was anything else he’s supposed to do — expecting her to go over our pre-paid package (the credit card did go through, after my husband checked our son’s registration page online). She simply said, “Nope,” then went back to her computer screen, typing away.

If I hadn’t gone in there and specifically known to follow up on the skills test, as well as our package deal, remember?, she wouldn’t have said anything to us. We’d have had to figure it out for ourselves back home, probably dicked around further online, and called her for more of the AI runaround.

I stubbornly persisted:

“How do we go about taking the skills test next?”
“He can take it whenever he’s ready.”
Okay… AAAAND???

I pushed the issue further, pressing my luck, because god knows she wouldn’t have brought it up like a normal person. I asked if we had a preference for instructors, we’d like our son to take his driving skills test with the same guy who taught his driver’s ed course last summer. Would he like to take that test back at his high school? Uh… yeah?

Is this chick for real?

PS. I didn’t see any of this info on their precious website.

So, without any paper confirmation, she glanced at what was presumably his whatchamacallit, online record, and gave us two possible dates. We chose one, and left.

After thinking about the offensive interaction further, I fired off an email asking her more questions, probably putting me permanently on her online shit list (see her response above), pointing out the conflicting YouTube video, “is it old?” what’s the deal with the driver’s manual they’re supposed to study and old information in it that’s no longer relevant (people, you never have to step foot back at the DMV for your driver’s license or to renew it every six years), and almost added another email on top of all that to remind her of our package deal.

Why would I do that? Well, she asked me if we wanted to do the skills test in our car or the company’s car. Why would she ask me that if our order was already processed and online, attached to our son’s permit #/record? She would already knows this.

Plus, I turn into a total asshole if you treat me like one.

“Feel free to contact us with any additional questions or concerns. Thank you!”

Fuck you, Alexa.