Sunday, November 22, 2015

40 is a confusing age in a middle aged woman's life

About a month and a half ago I turned 40. That was a tough pill to swallow. In May I had actually come to terms with it. I was going to start running again and do all kinds of cool, bad ass stuff and rock 40 like no one else in the history of middle-aged women had ever rocked a 40th birthday.

Then, I hurt my ankle when I was in St. Louis with NJ for his mother's funeral. On the porch of a church, no less. Yeah, I know, it's pretty fitting.

It took forever for it to heal, which really got me down, blah excuse, blah excuse, blah excuse and, when I turned 40, I was still flabby. And a little sad.

And a lot freaked out.

I don't know how to be 40. Like, I'm not sure how I'm supposed to act. I'm not exactly young and carefree anymore, but I'm more carefree and feel younger than I have in about 18 years--except for the part where I now have to start getting my cholesterol tested and diabetes screenings thanks to the genetic minefield I call mom and dad. And the part where I have to hunt for my glasses when I'm watching television and someone is reading a text or letter and the print is microscopic.  I'm also really fond of elastic waistbands and comfortable shoes. Not ugly shoes--just comfy ones. Other than that, I'm totally young and carefree.

Yet, I'm not old enough to wear overalls everyday while yelling at kids to get off my lawn (fine, I already do that, but I'm usually in my work clothes and if the kids next door weren't assholes with no manners, I wouldn't prematurely be forced into the role) or spend my day gardening and muttering to myself have it called eccentric. I can't say all the crazy shit exactly as I think it at maximum volume and have people say, "Man, I can't wait until I'm old and can do that!" At 40, you're still just considered an asshole and people give you a pretty wide berth at the Dollar General.

Am I supposed to act like I have my shit together? Am I supposed to want to have roots and be content with spending the rest of my life (or until Grace puts me in a home or throws me in front of a bus) right where I'm at? Or maybe focus on advancing my career?

I feel like this is the mantra of the older ladies who
walk around with words written across their ass.

I don't even know how to fake having my shit together and I'm not sure I ever will. Forty ain't helping. Instead, it's ignited this insane wanderlust. I want to pack Mocho (because I apparently have a death wish) into the Mini Cooper, go on an adventure and write about it. When most people were doing this stuff in their 20s, I was already raising babies, so this is finally my chance to get it out of my system. Except now I have a mortgage and college tuition to help pay. And elderly parents-- although, I do have five older half siblings that can totally have a turn dealing with those two. Plus, a 25-year-old sleeping his car because he's going on a cross country adventure is kind of cool. A 40-year-old doing the same thing is pathetic. And, I drive a Mini, so trying to unfold myself from a night in the car at this age is just asking for it. Hell, it takes me a good five minutes to get up out of he floor when I sit in it now.

My career may be the only thing I actually do have figured out. Well, to a degree. I don't want to be a boss or an executive. I have to make all the decisions at home and that is more than enough for me. Someone else can be the grown-up at work. I don't want to spend the rest of my life writing words that someone else gets to put their name on and get all the praise for. I am grateful for my job and I don't hate what I do, but I'm not doing it forever. I want the credit for the words I write. I want my byline. My name on the cover of a book. The infamy that will come along with writing a book. Based on the feedback my ghostwriting is getting, I've got the talent. And, now I'm also starting to get the connections to get published more--even if I am doing it as a 60-year-old man from Georgia.

So, 40 is a lot. It seems like moving into this decade requires a much bigger adjustment than any I've entered yet. Maybe it's not and it's all in my head. Maybe it's because I no longer have the luxury of thinking I have a really long time to figure everything out and achieve all my goals. Maybe it's because I have the freedom I haven't had in almost two decades (I mean, for the empty nester set, I am pretty young) and I just want to do something.

Or maybe this is actually the beginning of the midlife crisis I thought I was having five years ago.

Crap. A. Chicken. (Is that even okay for a 40-year-old to say?)

Friday, August 21, 2015

Women Can't be Silent Anymore

Yesterday, Texas Monthly ran an article titled "Silence at Baylor" about "much-talked about football player" Sam Ukwuachu, who as early as June of this year was expected to take the field after transferring from Boise State and having sit out last season for "unspecified reasons." Turns out, Sam was indicted on two counts of sexual assault on June 25, 2014 against a female student athlete, also at Baylor. He was convicted yesterday as well and was supposed to be sentenced today. 

I don't know what Art Briles was told by Boise State. I don't know why there were gag orders put in place and there was no transparency regarding this case. I do know the way Baylor, the Waco police and the media handled this case is disturbing. I know that punishing not only this girl, but also another girl who was raped by another Baylor football player by taking away their scholarships and refusing to move them from the classes they had with their attacker(s) is sickening. I know both Baylor and the Waco police blowing off Sam's victim is despicable  I'll let you read the details for yourself here because they make my stomach turn too much to share them. 

But, if any good has come of this, it has started a conversation about what we allow those in positions of prestige and power to get by with and what we teach our girls about dealing with issues of consent. We had a great conversation about it at work today—and it was between a writer (me), a producer and a lady preacher (fine, she's also a writer, but saying that totally didn't make it sound as diverse and I'm trying to make a point here, people). The producer and I lean slightly left of left. The lady preacher is on the right. 

And you know what? We agreed our culture, especially down here, teaches our women to just keep quiet about some stuff. To not make waves and avoid being called "ugly" names. We don't teach our kids what consent is in schools. Down here, we teach abstinence only education. Then the lady preacher referenced a cartoon she saw that illustrated the topic of consent with pie (and we laughed because she said pie and we were talking about sex and, serious as the topic is, the humor of a pie analogy was not lost on us). It was something along the lines of if you ask someone if they want a piece of pie and they say yes. But, you ask them another time and they say no. That doesn't mean yes. It means they don't want pie at the moment, so you don't get to force pie on them. Or, if halfway through a slice of pie they decide they don't want it, you don't get to keep force feeding them. You take the pie away, even if you'd be a lot better off if the pie was finished. It's actually a brilliant analogy if you think about it. 

We also talked about how women are resistant to talk about sexual assault or domestic violence because, if we say it out loud, then we have to admit it's happening and that is more terrifying than you can possibly imagine. 

Or we had to accept that it did happen. 

There is one person at work who knows what happened to me: the lady preacher, because she's read this blog for a long time. Other than that, I keep it under wraps. Even when I was submitting my writing samples for my job, I omitted my story from Violence Unsilenced about my ordeal because I didn't want them to know or make any judgements about me based on the fact I got my ass kicked for two years. I just wanted the job because I could write. 

And because, six years later, I am still ashamed. I forgive him (or at least I tell myself that), but I still fear him. I hate that the ordeal caused something to twist off inside of me that makes me know, without a doubt, I will end the damn life of any other man who hits me because I know the local police won't help me— just like the Waco police didn't help the girl at Baylor. They already proved that to me twice. They don't get a third chance. 

I thought about that girl. I thought about my daughter, who I moved into the dorms to start her freshman year of college last weekend. I thought about the thousands of girls who keep quiet everyday, and I did the bravest thing I've ever done at this job. I said, out loud, in the office with the preacher lady, the producer who barely knows me and the guy in the next office who probably wanted to cut his ear drums out after listening to us talk that I didn't want to say I was getting hit out loud, because if I did, I had to deal with it. So, when it was 100 degrees and I wore long sleeved shirts, I said it was because I was cold and not because I was hiding bruises and no one questioned it because I was so skinny (from the stress causing me to throw up everything I ate) and skinny people get cold all the time. 

Then I admitted it on Facebook, in a reply to comment a friend made about the Texas Monthly sensationalizing the article to sell magazines.

I could say it was a relief or empowering, but that would be a lie. If I could've left work right then, I would have and I did consider deleting the reply to the comment because I didn't want anyone looking at me with pity or feeling bad for me. Or judging me. (And I commend both the producer and the guy in the next office who was forced to listen to our conversation for not asking questions or treating me any differently for the rest of the day.)

Which took me back to those girls. Yeah, the guy who beat on me is from a powerful family in these parts and I constantly worried about retribution from him or them. Hell, I saw a car like the last one I knew he had before he went to prison today on the way home from work, and I threw up a little in my mouth because I know he's out and that could've very well been him. But, I'm a grown ass woman. Imagine being an 18-year-old girl on a college campus where football is a religion and you are the one who took out the star player for sexually assaulting you and you know everyone hates you and blames you—even the administration. We put such an emphasis on power and protecting our sports teams, that those boys begin to believe they are untouchable—and their victims become the criminals for ruining the school's chance at a national championship. 


You know what we're creating when we continue to allow this sort of behavior? 

Serial rapists. 

Serial woman beaters. 

Floyd Mayweathers.

Chis Browns.

Sam Ukwuachus.

We have to change the conversation with our daughters. Silence is no longer an option. We have to tell them to scream at the top of their lungs until someone listens to them, and we have to scream right along beside them because if we get loud enough, they can't ignore us. We can't allow our girls to be paid off to go away quietly and when the police or the university ignore them (or us) we have to make ourselves a burr in their asses until they have no choice to listen. 

Our daughters deserve better.

We deserve better. 

But no one is going to change the current climate for us. 

We have to band together and let the people who blow off our cries in order to protect the powerful know we don't care if they think we are bitches, feminazis, dykes or whatever other "derogatory" term they think can hurl at us to hurt our delicate lady feelings and shut us up. 

We can't be scared. 

And we sure as hell can't be silent anymore. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Broody Hen Chronicles Part One

I currently have a broody hen. For those unfamiliar with the term, it means I have a hen whose biological clock is ticking and she's decided she must hatch some baby chicks immediately. 

Which is kind of a problem on my backyard farm since I don't have a rooster (because they are scary as shit), so my eggs aren't fertilized. 

But, broody hens care not about sex education. All they care about is hatching some babies, so they set up camp in the coop on whatever eggs they have laid and wait patiently for them to hatch. 

 Based on what I've read (because I honestly didn't think this happened without a rooster due to the s-e-x part) (and, I don't even know if egg fertilization is a result of chickens and roosters having s-e-x or if he like pees or something more gross on the eggs after she lays them to be perfectly honest), broody can hens become crazy bitches. I read that some may try to keep the other hens out of the nesting boxes. Some steal the other chickens eggs to sit on. Some growl, puff out their feathers and peck at you if you try to get eggs out from under them. 

A lot of times they can be broken if you put an ice pack under them because it cools off their underside which is all warm to keep their eggs warm for hatching. Unless they are super stubborn. 

Guess who has the one chicken that does all the mean broody hen stuff and spent about a day trying to hatch an ice pack? 


This is a picture of a broody hen. This is not my broody hen.
You know how you want to cut a bitch when you're in
labor and they want to take pictures to remember the beautiful moment?
That is exactly how my hen looks at me every time I open
the coop door. And then she growls. I figured snapping
a picture would result in the loss of my eyeballs and I really
like seeing. A lot.
Photo source:
She currently has the personality of a woman who is nine months pregnant in August in Texas mixed with the personality of one of those crazy women who steals other people's babies because she is so desperate for one of her own. 

It's not a pleasant personality combo. 

I mentioned my broody hen situation on Facebook and my friend Allie mentioned she wished she had a broody hen or duck because she had eggs that needed hatching. So, yesterday we met in a Walmart parking lot and she gave me a dozen duck eggs for my broody girl to sit on and try to hatch.

Does anyone else remember the episode of Beverly Hills 90210 where everyone was trying to go to a rave when Brandon was dating Emily Valentine and at one of the places they stopped to get directions the code was saying you were there to exchange an egg? Every time I say I picked up eggs in a parking lot, that's what I think of. And it really has nothing to do with this post.

All morning I waited and waited for her to come out to get something to eat and drink and take her little dust bath like she's done for the past two days so I could go grab all the eggs she's stealing from the other four girls and put the duck eggs under her. 

I guess she knew the rain from Tropical Storm Bill was coming because she didn't leave the coop and when I opened it to check on her she gave me the side eye (and not just because her eyes are on the side of her head, but the mean kind) and puffed up all big at me. She's already pecked me once which sent me running back into the house screaming about her impending attack that would end me, so I just ran away. 

But, I went back with four duck eggs to see what she would do. I laid them gently beside her and slowly backed away. When I checked on her 10 minutes later, all four eggs were under her and she growled at me while giving me more side eye. 


I've slowly been adding eggs between bouts of rain and my other hens have been trying to protect their eggs when they lay, but before I can get them, she steals those, too. 

Right now, she's sitting on about 10 duck eggs, five chicken eggs and two golf balls. Yeah, she stole those, too, when NJ moved them to a different spot in the coop hoping the girls would lay there since she won't let them in the one spot they all choose to lay in. 

She's an egg hoarder. 

And mean. 

I'd totally be mean if I was sitting on that much shit, too, and I was hot as hell, but I've been trying to help a sister out and take some of it. She just won't move.

Or stop stealing.

Or stop trying to kill me.  

And, as it turns out, the breed I got because they are not very aggressive and I could therefore co-exist with them without pissing my pants every time I walked out the door is also one of the most likely breeds to go broody. 

I have a feeling summer is going to be super fun in my backyard.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A Hodgepodge of College Orientation Thoughts and Tips

I spent two days last week with my lovely, beautiful, smart daughter at her college orientation. This was a fun and exciting experience for her. She made new friends, set up her fall classes, already changed her major, got to stay in the dorms and experience the wonders of the community bathroom (she now clearly understands why I said to pay the extra for a suite where four girls share one bathroom) and learned the school fight song. 

For the parents, it was decidedly less fun. 

I wanted to take notes about my experiences so I could write each night, but I was too busy taking notes about things like the fact a parking pass is almost $500 and not included in her tuition and the dates the tuition is due and then feeling faint from how big (and bouncy) those checks are going to be to write down anything else. 

So, instead here are just a few things that are not at all interconnected and have no rhyme or reason for the most part. You're welcome.

  • Letting a 17-year-old handle the navigation on your trip since she is driving and wants to be grown is probably not always the best plan. You may get a lovely view of many small towns and backroads in three different regions of Texas, though. 
  • If your child is still small and they say they have to pee on a road trip, stop and let them pee. One day they will be the driver and they won't stop to let you pee. For miles and miles and miles. They may also try to cut you off from drinking any more water. Yes, the little angels really are listening when we tell them all that stuff on car trips. They just act like they can't hear us.
  • A little handbook comes in the mail a couple of weeks before orientation. On the back is a checklist of all the things to bring with you when you come. Asking your child over-and-over if they have all the stuff on the list may cause them to become angry with you. They may even yell, "OMG, you act like I'm stupid and can't handle this!" When you arrive at your hotel from your tour around the many regions of Texas, your child may announce they forgot to bring a pillow. Or pillow case. 
  • Then, when you get to campus very first thing the next morning and have hiked up the side of what is possibly a mountain to the building where they are to check-in, they remember they need their picture ID. The one in the car. In the parking garage. From where you just hiked. But if they go get it, they will lose their place in line and miss the first welcome session. Mmmhmm, guess who gets to go retrieve that from he car. 
  • Angry text messages to said child standing in the air conditioned student center as you sweat in places you didn't even know you could sweat going to retrieve the ID are perfectly acceptable. Also, I now think a cramp can remain in your calf for up to three days. 
The student center at Grace's university is located directly
at the top of something similar to this. Only it's boiling hot
with 1000% humidity.
Photo source:

  • There were some kids who didn't get the meningitis vaccination even though the school reminded them numerous times they had to have it before they could register. Their parents were really mad that if they couldn't get it in the student health center or get a waiver, they'd just wasted a trip. And the hike from hell. Grace would've been going to community college if she'd pulled that one. 
  • Every organization on campus was there recruiting. One dude was yelling, "Do you have a husband? Are you ready to start a family?" which promoted me to yell back, "They're only freshmen, so I sure as hell hope not you crazy Duggar!" Grace wasn't mortified at all. 
  • And that was just the first hour. 
  • The screams of, "OMG, this is the worst picture ever and I have to keep it for four years!" upon seeing their student IDs for the first time is way more entertaining as a parent than as the student yelling those exact words. 
  • Best overheard conversation of the two day event: "My hair is a mess in this picture but my face looks really good."
  • Second best overhead conversation: "My mom did that Couch to 5K thing and lost like 10 pounds, but she hurt her back so she's back on the couch. I'm going to do it, though, because you automatically get a six pack when you start running."
  • Both conversations were from the same girl. 
  • There are many one way streets on college campuses. Sometimes there are also live deer. 
  • Having the parent session end four hours before the student session is the worst idea ever. Parents don't want to leave because they don't want to lose their parking spot and/or are scared they will never find their way back to campus or the only parking garage where they can park without getting a ticket, so they camp out in the student center where they a) spend far too much money in the student book store or b) pass smooth out on one of the sofas scattered about in the "quiet areas" designated for student studying.
  • Or, if they are me, they edit the school newspaper and try to get in the rest of their 10,000 steps for the day without venturing too far from the student center for the reasons stated above. If you keep running into the same guy from the student bank while doing either of these things, he's going to stop making eye contact with you. 
  • Also, when the college suggests bringing comfortable shoes because you will be doing a lot of walking, bring the comfortable shoes, even if they look stupid with your outfit. I learned this the hard way during their spring visitor event. I laughed at (and may have mocked) the parents who obviously did not attend said event and chose to wear cute sandals instead of tennis shoes. 
College orientation is long, hot and exhausting. Maybe they do it that way so parents who are struggling with their little birds leaving the nest are decidedly less sad about halfway through the second day. I know I'm not struggling with her leaving, but I will admit I was never happier to get in the car with a 17-year-old behind the wheel as I was by the time it was finally done. And I hate getting in the car when my child is driving.

I was so exhausted I didn't even care if we ended up traveling through three regions of Texas again as long as me, the three t-shirts, three Moleskine mini journals and parent organization membership I purchased out of boredom and the very marked-up university newspaper I spent hours editing finally curled up in my own bed to sleep. 

Thank God I don't have to see that place again until August. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

My child is a major influence on future generations

Sunday, I had the following text exchange with our really good family friend regarding poop, a swallowed tooth and my daughter's role in the resulting circumstances: 

Grace didn't like to get her hands
dirty when she was little. This is
why maybe she didn't think through
her advice so much.
I feel like she should be worried about revenge:

If she should ever reproduce, I'm certain
she should be worried.

There is a very small chance Grace will pursue a career where she will work with children. But as a speech pathologist.

Thank God.