Saturday, April 28, 2007

Are You on Crack?

Sometimes I say that in response to things people say that I find to be, in some way, preposterous. Sometimes, out of habit, I say that to my uncle when he says something that I find, in some way, preposterous.

"All that hatred down there, all that hatred and misery and love. It's a wonder it doesn't blow the avenue apart."
-Sonny in Sonny's Blues by James Baldwin

I'm at B&N, shaking like a leaf due to excessive caffeine intake. My regular Saturday night homework binge. I just read the above referenced story for my literary analysis class and, like most every piece my teacher assigns, it struck a chord. Now I want to talk. But, I'm alone. Never truly alone, because I have you. You get to hear me talk.

A handful of you know what kind of family I come from, you've heard me talk about it before. For the other handful of you who haven't... I come from white trash. I have no problem with this, I love my family- every stinkin' one of them (and I assure you that some of them do, indeed, stink). My mom is the only of 13 siblings (some half, some step) that actually graduated from high school, the only to go to college. Many have GEDs now, one of the many offerings of the prison system.

Of the 13 siblings, I've grown up close to five of them- four uncles and my aunt. The uncles are shady characters, all have been addicted to some substance nearly their entire lives, two of them have been clean for a good while now. They've all been in and out of prison my entire life, just like my father was.

Since I was old enough to have a favorite, there is one uncle who has always been extremely special to me. He's the one I feel the need to discuss currently.

He's tall, he's good-looking, he's charming. Despite his lack of schooling, he possesses a certain intelligence, one can immediately see he is wise, not book-smart per se. There is something about him that people are drawn to, even though they know better, men and women alike.

He's seven years older than I am. He has always had a gift for being the person that children gravitate toward, as I did as a child. As I see my children doing.

Sometime, probably when I was entering adolescence, I began distancing myself. Alcohol and drugs began to consume his life. Growing up amongst his brothers (he was the youngest), it would be nearly impossible for that not to happen. As it consumed him, he had better things to do than concern himself with me or anyone else who wasn't partying with him.

My first love was a bit of a project. He was nearly three years older than me and deep and depressed. I was wildly attracted to that. He had done nearly every drug there was when I met him and I knew that. My first Christmas with him, about a month into our relationship (I was 15), I brought him to Christmas dinner at my grandparent's house. My uncle recognized him from a party. They bonded over it. My uncle loves to have control and tried to exert such over me by referring, without giving anything away, to things that my boyfriend had done at that party. I began to hate my uncle and worked very hard to "save" my boyfriend to rebel, I think, against my uncle.

That was the last my uncle had an effect on me until I was about 20.

I was working in a factory and he was in prison. One day, my mom called and told me that my uncle had actually been released from prison and was at a halfway house where he would only be able to leave to go to work. He got a job at the factory I was working at, the same line I worked on, same shift. I was to be his transportation.

Try though I may to shut him out, to be politely aloof, he won over everyone there, every single one of my friends (I'm sure he did it on purpose) and, in no time, me. He was my best friend at work, I was proud to be related to him. Even when I knew he was dealing again, I looked the other way. I let him fill the tank in my car, buy me breakfast after a midnight shift, stayed to work overtime when he wanted to stay, anything he wanted. I adored him. I always have. I always will. Despite everything, I knew and still believe that he would kill for me.

He's so incredibly charming.

When I was 21 (he was back home, no longer at the halfway house), the police broke in on him and his girlfriend (now his wife) while they were sleeping. He wasn't doing drugs at that time, but he was making good money off of them as a dealer. That day, when they took him, I was devastated. I didn't look at it like he had done anything wrong, I felt like I lost everything.

That's why this story I read has struck me. It is absolutely astonishing how loving someone with a drug problem can take over everything, no matter how many other good or bad things are happening in one's life. That's what the narrator of the story struggled with.

That day, as soon as I got the news, I drove to Todd's house, practically hysterical. This may have been our first emotional disconnect. I was so devastated. He didn't see that I needed comfort. He said, coldly, "Melissa, you had to see this coming. I don't feel bad for him or you, because you shouldn't have let him affect you this way."

Right or wrong, it's very hard when you love someone, when you let them in and they, in turn, let you down. This happened to me, then, twice in one day.

I pulled myself together, utterly hurt and disappointed by Todd's words. I desparately needed comfort that day and he had no interest in providing it. He said it was my own fault. I don't think I ever showed him that side of me again. I pretended he was right and walked out of his house with a strong facade, immediately breaking down again when I got into the car.

I communicated through letters with my uncle in jail. His apologies. His commitments. I hesitantly believed him. But, after about a year, when he got home, something had been lost. I pretended to be supportive, knowing it would happen again.

When he got out, I was a month away from having Jenna, I was nearly 23. He married his girlfriend and a year later, she gave birth to their first child. When she gave birth, she did it alone. He was addicted to crack and couldn't handle the stress or whatever of his wife giving birth. He left the hospital room to have a cigarette and didn't come back until she was home two days later.

I hated him.

The next year he was in prison again.

Now, he's been out for a year and a half and has been clean, completely- no drugs, no dealing- the entire time.

I read this story and realized that I've let him back in. I didn't plan to, of course, but it has happened. Worse, my kids adore him.

My family is very "tight." We see each other alot. None of them are as special to me as he is.

When I ask him if he's on crack, it's just something I say out of habit. I say it to everyone. I forget that I shouldn't say it to him. He always looks so hurt. Like I should care.

I hope he doesn't do it again.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Secrets: The Good Kind

I wrote this last night but, as there was trouble in the blogosphere, it didn't post.

Perhaps one of the best, most underrated parts of being in a romantic relationship is the secrets. I look forward to having someone to share secrets with.

It's about the things that are said or done that no one else knows of except for two people. Something will trigger a memory and they'll glance at each other slyly because they have a secret. Maybe they'll try to disguise their smiles so they don't have to let anyone else in on it.

It doesn't even have to be something worthy of holding secret. It can be small and insignificant in magnitude but when it's shared only by two people, it takes on greater meaning.

I had a small taste of it today. While I'm not in any type of romantic relationship (as you are all painfully aware), something was said to me publicly that no one else understood but me and him. It kind of set the tone for the remainder of my day.

It felt good to be in on a secret. Even without the romantic relationship aspect of it.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Tootsie Roll Trucks

There is absolutely no point to this blog.  In fact, I may be in danger of losing readers here.  It's just that pointless.

Yesterday I didn't have much time to prepare a delicious, wholesome dinner for my darling children, so I took them through the McDonald's drive thru for Happy Meals and drove down by the river to eat.  They love it when I do this.  They like to watch any freighters that may happen by and "talk" to the ducks.

Quickly, a few facts important to this non-important story.  I've lived in Port Huron my entire life.  Where Lake Huron ends, the St. Clair River picks up.  Across the river is Sarnia, Ontario, Canada.  The Blue Water Bridge (now bridges) connects us.  Most people who have lived here their whole lives do not find anything unique in the freighters that pass daily (more traffic than the Suez and Panama, combined), the Lake, the River, or that Canada is practically arms length from us.  I do.  I love it here mainly for those reasons.  I find beauty in all of them.  Sorry so cheesy.

When we got to the river, there was a freighter passing.  Jenna and I try to take mental note of the names of the freighters we see.  We didn't recall seeing this one before.  This one was especially long and very tall in the back.  She watched, mouth open, as it passed beneath the bridges, sure it was going to hit.  She noticed that my camera was in the car and made me take a picture as it inched away.

That's Canada right across the way.  I don't know why my camera is taking such blurry photos lately.  Perhaps it's the operator.

Anyhow, as I went to put my camera away, I looked up at the bridge and noticed what was, hands down, the coolest semi I had ever seen.  It was a Tootsie Roll truck.  I had to take a picture because I could feel this sweet blog coming on (if you're still reading, it's okay to roll your eyes here).


When you live on a border crossing, you become immune to the trucks.  They're always around in great numbers.  I live damned near right next door to the bridges.  When I go upstairs and look out my bedroom window, that's my view.  The bridge from Canada to the U.S. is closest to my house.  I can look out and see all of the trucks lined up waiting to clear customs.  I've never seen a Tootsie Roll truck before.

I don't even care for Tootsie Rolls to be completely honest.  I'm not much of a candy eater.  But that truck was cool.

As we were buckling up to drive to soccer practice, I looked up again.  The truck was stopped.  In the photo above, the truck was right in the middle of the bridge.  Once it reached a point where it was directly over the American side, it had to stop to get in line for customs.  That was normal.  That's not the interesting part (not that any of this is interesting, really.)  The interesting part is that in the time since I had taken its picture to the time I was reaching over to grab my seat belt, another Tootsie Roll truck had come over.  Now there were not one, but two sweet-ass Tootsie Roll trucks.

Not a great photo, I know.  But you can picture it in your head.  I know you can.

That's it.  My whole story.  What does it mean?  I just spent my evening in class looking at a bunch of poetry through a deconstructionist lens so I'm not much into interpreting the Tootsie Roll trucks right now.

If you've reached the end of this blog, congratulations.  You may message me to claim your prize.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A "B"

I have been in a good mood with absolutely no bad mood lapses for weeks. No drugs either. I've been completely exhausted at times, but really, super duper happy. Right track, all of that good stuff.

And then Jenna brought home her report card. Her first "B."

Logically, it's not a big deal.

But I snapped. Not verbally, thankfully. I didn't tell her I was disappointed or anything like that. I told her that we'd talk about her reading tests later. I told her that it wasn't a bad report card (I should've said it was a great report card), but we'd need to discuss her reading tests.

I did not specify when later would be. Later will be when I gain perspective and know I won't say something stupid.

With my mood having been so great for such a long period of time, I started forgetting that there's a chance it wouldn't last.

Why would something like my 3rd grader bringing home a "B" take it all away? Was my mood destined to shift at that time, at 7 p.m. after her soccer practice, and this just happened to be the thing that happened right before? Had she received all "A's" like usual, would my son having splashed water all over the bathroom floor have been the straw that broke the camel's back?

It's so strange how that works for me (against me).

I've accomplished an ungodly amount of homework/studying today. I've been at the computer much of the day, so naturally I was easily distracted, but I got a lot done. I was feeling really good about it. Alex hasn't been feeling well and spent much of the day lying on the couch covered up, watching movies, allowing me to accomplish all that needed to be accomplished.

And then, the "B." Good mood gone. Accomplishments diminished. Strange.

Now I have to figure out how to discuss it so it won't detract from all of her "A's" but also so she knows that she can do better.

The thing is, it was her reading grade. She almost always gets "C's" on her reading tests. They're 20 question, multiple choice, open book tests. When something is open book and you're the best reader in class, you shouldn't be getting "C's" on the tests. I go over it with her every week and she's very nonchalant about it.

I don't want to be critical but I want her to work harder on these tests.

If she strives for all "A's" as she continues through school and occasionally slips and gets a "B," I don't want her to feel bad about it.

Because my bad mood has returned, I'm very disappointed. Which makes me feel worse. How can a mother feel this way? While I won't say anything to make her feel bad, I'm thinking it. I'm thinking that "B's" are not okay. Yet, they certainly dominate my report cards.

How do I get my good mood back so I don't make any mistakes in discussing this with my daughter? Why is this such a big deal to me?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Taking Up a Collection. For Real, This Involves Specimen

Disclaimer: I understand that my use of the word "specimen" below is arguably incorrect. "Specimen" is, of course, meant to be a sample of the whole, and I am using it to represent the whole. I am completely aware of this, but "specimen" is such a cool word that I'm using it anyway.

Okay, so those of you who know me in my "real life" know that I have some adoration issues. Essentially, there are a handful of people that I encounter occasionally that I wish to kidnap and keep in my basement so that I can dote on them at will.

I hesitate to identify these people as they may not know me well enough to understand my sense of humor and that, while I'm joking, I'm also completely serious.

These people are simply cute. They possess a little something that makes them positively irresistable. It's not sexual. That's why I want to keep them in my basement- where there are plenty of toys with which they can amuse themselves when I am not forcing them to exercise their dimples or do cute tricks.

If it were sexual and, dear readers, that is indeed the case with a couple of you (maybe I know you in "real life" and maybe I don't), I would, of course, keep you in my bedroom. Not at the same time. Actually, maybe at the same time. Hmm... let me get back to you on that one.

What's sparking this particularly strange blog? Through no fault of their own, a couple members of my future collection happened to let one of their hobbies slip. Today, I took this opportunity to inform Treasure (who knows of my sickness) that when I kidnap these individuals, I will have to make sure that the hobby will be provided for.

I don't want the specimen to become sad in their captivity.

Treasure, I swear to whoever is in charge, wherever they are, that if you were to ever, ever, ever identify my future specimen you'd have to find your own ride home from the bar in the future. Also that I wouldn't love you anymore. For real.

I've said enough. I don't want people to be on guard around me. Just know that if you wake up someday in the play room of my basement, make yourself comfortable. Do not be afraid. You will be well fed and adored for all eternity. As long as you look cute when I tell you to.

Except for the couple of you who will wake up someday in my bedroom. In that case, you will be well fed and adored as well, but there will be a whole different set of expectations.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

A Different Kind of Protest

In my local paper today, there was an article about 10 people in my city who are not going to pay their income taxes this year to protest the war. To this end, 10 other people in my city are donating their income tax refunds to both our local library system and a fund to help those who aren't paying their taxes pay their fines and penalties.

Essentially, they are trying to make a statement that they aren't happy that their tax dollars are going to a war they don't support while education continues to see cuts. They're trying to have a say in how their money is spent.

While this is likely to cost these people a whole bunch of money and possibly some criminal charges, I have to say that I'm intrigued.

I doubt that 10 people from Port Huron, MI will "make a difference" in this way, but I'm left wondering if it's being done on a grander scale and my paper just isn't reporting it. Is this something that's being done across the nation? Has anyone heard about this?

I'm guessing that the people who aren't paying their taxes live relatively comfortably or they wouldn't be doing this. Just a guess. Somehow, it seems counterproductive to the cause to set up a fund to pay penalties.

Anyhow, back to my homework...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Crack

I'm chronologically challenged presently. So tired. So very, very tired.

There simply isn't enough time to get it all done. I've been trying to get ahead in my schoolwork as this Saturday is THE Saturday and I have to take my MTTC.

Friday, two of my school friends and I are headed to Flint, where the test is being held, to study all day/night, go forth and test.

I am so worried about these tests. Not in a "test anxiety" sense, but in a "my self-esteem will seriously deteriorate if I don't pass" sense. Test anxiety has never been an issue for me, I'm good at taking tests.

Strangely, my worst case scenario involves actually passing after walking out of there thinking to myself that I only definitively knew the answers to 15 questions. If I pass under those circumstances, it does not mean that I possess the minimum knowledge required to teach that subject area or that I'm "highly qualified" under NCLB. It only means I can take a test. That's sort-of not good enough for me.

I'm on the verge of tears even considering that scenario. Seriously, I'm that tired.

I'm not worried about the English test. It's that blasted history test that's giving me trouble. I feel like a complete idiot.

I will feel even worse if I don't pass when I look at some people who are teachers right now that can barely figure out where to put apostrophes knowing that they passed.

And knowing I've put so much work into preparing for this thing. I'm confident that I've put more work into it than any of my classmates.

But they sort of have me on that whole "I actually paid attention in high school" thing.

I can't wait for this week to be over. Then, I'm gonna need a spa vacation. Just one day, though, 'cause I'll get bored.


Monday, April 2, 2007

The Downside

First day back to school. Always nice to be back. Typically, when I get out as late as I did tonight (9:40), my mom or Todd keep the kids overnight and take Jenna to school so that they aren't up so late waiting for me to take them home and get them to bed.

Tonight, however, was different.

Todd's sister and my three nieces are in from the other side of the state as the kids are on spring break. So, my mother-in-law wanted the kids this evening so the all of the kids could spend time together. She couldn't keep my kids overnight as there isn't room. Which is fine, as it's a special situation.

I went to pick them up after school and it was a rush situation as it was already late and my kids had to get home to bed since Jenna has school in the a.m.

My sister-in-law (the one that's visiting) and I never clicked. We get along, per se, but we don't particularly "get" each other and have never really enjoyed one another's company. I get along famously with her husband as well as Todd's other siblings and their respective spouses. Just not her. Nothing ever happened between us, we just didn't click from day one 14 long years ago.

They don't come often. This is the first time they have been here since before Todd and I officially announced that we were divorcing last August.

In the past, I would go visit when I could so I could see the girls and socialize with the in-laws. I can't do that anymore.

Given the circumstances of the nature of my visit tonight (go in, fetch kids, get out), I'm not sure what I expected. But my sister-in-law was neither welcoming nor unwelcoming and I'm sure I wasn't either warm or cold. We're pretty apathetic with each other.

I haven't seen my nieces since last July and they weren't excited to see me as they have been in the past. The little one (she's three) wouldn't even look at me. This can, of course, be expected. It was past bedtime all around and children can be rather unpredictable with their affection when they haven't seen someone in nine months.

Compounded with the fact, however, that my sister-in-law and I aren't exactly best buds, it really sucked. The hugs were forced and I left feeling incredibly heavy.

It's difficult because the biggest downside to the divorce is the family that I'm losing. His other sister (no children) and his mom are here and I feel confident that I will always have a high comfort level with them. But the others, which include Todd's brother, aforementioned sister, spouses, and five children are on the other side of the state. I don't see them. My relationship with the children will continue to deteriorate until I'm just "Jenna and Alex's mom."

It's a loss for me.

Strangely, I don't feel like it's going to be quite that bad with my brother-in-law because I get along with him and his wife so much better. We actually have things to say to each other and have fun with one another. For some reason, that reassures me.

It shouldn't be about my relationship with my in-laws as much as with my nieces and nephew. Yet, it is an undeniable factor.