Magnetic

2805144374_044664be07_z

Is it me? Am I the crazy one? Or is it happenstance? Does everyone else find themselves surrounded by truly unique, bewildering, and sometimes incredibly frustrating individuals? From discussions I’ve had recently, I’m finding that I may have a higher-than-average ratio of strange:ordinary characters running amuck in my life. There is of course, the clusterfuck that is my family. But I’ve included a snippet of the others below. You be the judge.

Abby: She lives for the shock factor, for the attention. Her boss considers her a “visionary” in what she does for homeless kids. My experience with her causes me to question that description. This is a woman in her mid-to-late thirties who has two children of her own. At our place of work, I’d lock eyes with her occasionally as I pass her in the cafeteria with a group of first graders eating lunch and she’d hump the air while fake-grunting with her tongue sticking out. When a child tattles on another, she’d respond “Snitches wind up in ditches.” I come to her with a suggestion on how to improve a process that would help us serve more children and serve them better in the long run, but she responds “Oh, I don’t care about that. I won’t be here any more than 5 years – let’s just leave it as is.” She comes to work often with stories that illustrate what a terrible mother she is, seemingly proud of that fact. She tells us she screams at her 8-year-old daughter and tells her she’s a little bitch. She is “training her son to be gay” because it would be hip for her to have a gay son. I once bought her cheap flowers as her “secret pal” for her birthday and when she saw them, she started yelling on and on about what a cheap bastard her husband is and always has been for getting her cheap, ugly flowers. She also has a Poop Problem that she is oddly proud of. She drinks nothing but coffee and liquor and is quite constipated. However, a nice, hot shower is what can make the magic happen– in the shower. Then, she has to stuff the poo down the drain. Occasionally, there are plumbing issues which terrifies her – she doesn’t want her husband to know. Also, sticking a finger up there and wiggling around is another viable option that works for her, she says. She claims the Poop Problem has given her PTSD. Her Facebook feed is full of close-ups of her face (she’s the selfie queen) and snapshots of a glass of alcohol next to her latest knitting project at a hip bar, with a caption like “Cheers to you, Friday, love of my life.”

Maddy:This is a woman that reports to me, and keeps a regular appointment of rolling around on my office floor at 3:00pm each day to relieve stress or complain. She keeps toys on her desk for stress relief. Her therapist tells her to blow bubbles from a bottle to calm herself. She’s in EA (Eaters Anonymous) and calls herself “sober” and discusses her disease as if she were a drug addict (so eating badly/too much is considered “using”). One of my first experiences with her involved her telling a story to myself and the CEO during a meeting about a boil on her vagina that she cut off while her husband held up a mirror. She feels that everyone in the office treats her poorly/unfairly/rudely, and won’t consider that she may be coming off as abrasive herself.

Boss Lady: This woman hired someone with social work education and background for a social media job, and hired someone who has lost 4 loved ones (one right in front of her) to suicide and is extremely emotional (hasn’t processed her grief fully) for a director-level suicide prevention gig. And when that doesn’t work well, she feels very frustrated. She’s a sorority girl who is a leader of an organization, and focuses her efforts on fun and games and personality tests and parties. She began talking with a man on a phone app game and it led to email exchanges, and when the man’s wife found out, she began harassing her at work and home with threatening calls. Boss Lady says it wasn’t cheating (she’s married herself), but she’s sure her gamer friend would have had an affair with her if had the chance and it felt nice to have the attention. She asked me if this whole fiasco made me feel better about my child brother being a murderer.

Alexis: She slapped me across the face on the first day I met her, apologizing, saying she’d always wanted to do that to someone. She was my best friend throughout high school, and we drifted apart in college. Our friendship mostly consisted of her crying and my trying to figure out what was wrong. She struggled with depression even into her adult life, crying at the office every day and not knowing why.  We’d go dancing and she’d cry because no boys wanted to dance with her, then she’d cry when a boy would dance with her but she couldn’t feel that he had a boner- feeling she wasn’t hot enough for him to get one. Without telling a soul, she started online dating and drove by herself to another state to meet her now-husband for the first time who was living in a basement of someone’s house with a 22-pound cat and stayed the weekend with him, losing her virginity. Now that they’re married, he’s the stay-at-home dad who convinced her that it’s illogical to go to the theater to see a romantic comedy (her favorite). It’s so expensive – you have to see an action flick, otherwise, you’re not getting your money’s worth. She made a huge deal about designing and building their first house, which took over a year. A few months after moving in, she decides she’d like to change things up and move to another state just because she’s bored with her life. She always used to talk condescendingly to me because she comes from a wealthy family, and I come from a poor, broken, dysfunctional family. Knowing how painful my family situation was for me, she’d say things like “Well, the good thing about not really having a family is that you don’t have to waste your vacation time visiting them, right? Isn’t that nice?”

Roberta: This one is far superior to her husband and wants everyone to know that. She repeatedly tells her favorite story to coworkers about how her mother asked her if she was sure about her choice of husband on her wedding day years ago, saying she could do much better. She comes to work each day with a new complaint about something her husband forgot to do or something else he screwed up. She complains constantly about everything. Her mother favors her sister and buys her way more stuff than her mom buys for her. Her smoothie cup went missing at work one day and all hell broke loose. She went nuts for several days – not working- just complaining loudly for all to hear, interrogating suspect coworkers, sending passive aggressive emails, all for her $6 cup. There was a repeat episode when a few of her string cheeses wound up in the garbage. She also comes in and VERY LOUDLY announces that “man, I worked so late last night. And then I worked from home. And then I woke up early and worked before I came to work. Man, I work so much. OMG, more emails in my inbox? ARRRGHHH, they never stop coming! I work so hard! Ah!”

Marva: She is a past supervisor who would always attempt to take credit for my ideas and work. She spent most of her time gossiping with coworkers and “stirring the pot”, sitting back, and watching the drama unfold. She once told me “I don’t think the Receptionist should be introducing herself to people when they walk in. It’s weird and unprofessional.”

What’s the ratio like in your life? Are you also a magnet?

Degrees of Reality

Growing up, my father was abusive and my mother neglectful. Both suffer from mental illness, which has had a profound impact on my life and the lives of my siblings. My father had two loves in his life: himself and his money. He was extremely prideful, and a skilled actor when it came to maintaining appearances. We never knew what would send him into a fit of rage, and he was always sure to make it known that each of us were worthless nothings that he had to waste his money feeding and providing shelter. My mother was suicidal, and often in and out of mental health institutions. My father had this warped view of himself, that he was Job from the bible. That was his reality. The story goes that Job was so faithful, that God allowed Satan to test his faith by taking away every blessing from his life: his family, his home, etc. and still Job praised God. The difference is that my father serves only himself, and the chaos that surrounds him is in big part a result of his own evil actions.

Through all of the trauma we faced regularly, I had found hope through faith. Hope of having a better life one day, hope of experiencing love, and hope of future happiness.   My brothers did not have hope.

Sneaky T, 19, (refer to previous “Crazy” post) is a high school dropout, fresh out of prison, and has two children. Although he continues to struggle with pill-popping, he’s working full-time at a fast food joint. So I would say that he’s doing fairly well, considering. Sneaky C, 16, is fresh out of jail on drug charges and a soon-to-be high school dropout. He struggles with severe depression and occasional suicide attempts, but receives no treatment because of course, that would cost my father money. And Bro 1, 23, is facing life in prison on multiple armed robberies, assault, drug trafficking, etc. Bro 1 also has a beautiful young daughter who is now without a mother or father, as her mother committed suicide at 18. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a teen, but manipulated by my father to believe it was a mistake and never received the needed treatment that could have changed his life.

My heart breaks every day for my three knuckle-head brothers and their families. Close friends ask me why I think my life took such a different path than my brothers. And for me, the answer is simple – hope. I had my faith to get me though, not that it wasn’t incredibly difficult. My brothers had nothing to give them hope. I tried and failed to give them some idea that they could have a better life.

And now, I work with homeless children who experience trauma similar to what my family experienced, but even more severe and compounded by the fact that they don’t know where they’ll sleep at night or if they’ll have dinner. The whole point of what we do for them each day is providing hope. Because hope makes all the difference.

Despite all of this, I am around people who complain about the fact that their spouse makes less money than they do and is too lazy to fix the garage door opener, or that mom bought little sister a boob job for a graduation present and all they got from mom was a nice camera. These people will complain about these things because that is their reality. A group of homeless children will pass by the door, and they’ll pause, smile and wave, and return to their self-proclaimed “first-world problems.”

Parents

We don’t choose our parents and yet our parents have such a profound effect on our development. Our development that shapes our future, which shapes what kind of parents we’ll be.

As a freshman in high school, I was selected to be a state ambassador of music and asked to tour Europe with ambassadors from the U.S. to perform in different countries. What a dream! I was ecstatic and honored. I told my parents about it and my dad stated the obvious, “Well, we’re not paying a dime for it.” Sure, I knew I would have to raise the money. My dad’s eyes lit up and said, to my surprise, that he’d help me. He wanted to start by opening a bank account specifically for our fundraising money. So we went on raising money from friends, family, acquaintances, until we had almost made the few thousand that we needed, while my dad deposited the money and made the payments toward the trip.

Getting closer to the date of my trip, I received a letter in the mail. It said that the deadline had passed, and because they had not received any payments, I no longer have a spot on the trip. I started panicking. I ran to my father with the letter, asking why they’re telling me they received no payments. Please call and tell them they made a mistake- hurry before it’s too late! But I should have known. He told me he hadn’t made any of the payments for my trip because he needed the money to pay for bills and groceries and the roof over my head. He had solicited contributions from neighbors and coworkers in the name of his daughter’s talent and European opportunity, and then spent the money for himself. He lied to everyone. He let me believe that he cared enough to help me reach my goal.

Devastated, I run crying into my mother’s bedroom for some kind of solace. Like for most of my childhood, she was sleeping. It was the middle of the day. I wake her, sobbing, and tell her what had happened. She says in a tired, apathetic voice, “I’m sorry.” And that was it. Either not caring of the hurt that my father had caused or knowing that she was incapable of making it better.

When I was young and my parents would hurt me, I would write notes to my future self in my journal. These notes were what-to-do and what-not-to-do’s for when I had children of my own one day. And though I am sad that I don’t have these journals anymore, many of the ideas and thoughts that they contained have been burned on my heart.

Engaged Against Her Will

My mom once called me in the middle of the night from a bar. She was pretty wasted and it was my 16th birthday. She said that she found me a man at the bar, showed him my picture, and he liked what he saw. He wanted to wish me a happy birthday. Oh, and he also wanted to see if I’d be interested in hooking up. I was 16. This man sounded like he was over 30. But my mom assured me that he was hot and she would give him my number. I was disgusted and sad. She also passed the phone to her girlfriend that she had left us for so she could wish me a happy birthday as well. Memories.

I met up with my mother for coffee the other day. I had recently been thinking a lot about trauma and how traumatic events shape different people in different ways. I knew that she had an unfortunate childhood, but I didn’t know many details. So when we met for coffee I asked about it. The nonchalant way she proceeded to describe horrifying details about years of sexual abuse by many different people surprised me. It was surprising to me because I feel that what happened to her as a child was absolutely devastating, and I feel like that devastation had a profoundly negative effect on the rest of her life. Because she never got the help that she needed, it adversely affected decisions she made as an adult and her role as a mother. For this reason, I bounce back and forth between feeling anger towards her for the poor choices she continues to make, causing more harm to my younger siblings and herself, and making excuses for her behavior.

Toward the end of the conversation, she surprises me with a “Well okay, you’re coming with me next door to meet my fiancé.” What? Your divorce from my father was just finalized last week – you sure you don’t want to give it a little time? Nah. My mom told me that her fiancé, I’ll call her Rita, had asked her a week before Valentine’s Day what she would say in response to a V-Day proposal. My mom responded that she wasn’t ready for anything like that. But Rita is persistent. Come V-Day, she popped the question. With much hesitation, my mom said “Umm… okay…” Let me also tell you that Rita is dying of cancer. She could pass any day. (My mom is currently doing radiation for her cancer.) My mom said she “doesn’t see anything long-term with Rita”… so she agreed to marry her, but refuses to set a date…

Homeless

Working with homeless children is one of the wonderful things that has enhanced my perspective on life. There are over 2,000 homeless children in the city I live in. Yet, when most people think of homelessness, they rarely picture homeless children. I’ve come to learn that homelessness is a cycle, and education is the best way to break this cycle with the children. However, public schools are not equipped to handle the unique needs of homeless children, and many times these kids just slip through the cracks. They can hardly focus on learning in school when they are uncertain if they’ll be fed that night or if they will have a place to sleep. I’ll go into more detail about this in a later post. Still, these kids are joyful and imaginative and full of love.

One day, our receptionist had just recently returned from bereavement leave, as her father had just passed away from cancer. The children adore her, so when she returned, they showered her with handmade sympathy cards. They drew pictures with crayons of her weeping over her dead father in a casket, and of her father being buried into the ground at a funeral. It was extremely touching.

As the children left that day after a swarm of holiday-themed activities, the silliest and most beautiful exchange happened. One little girl felt a special kinship with our receptionist because her father was dying, too. This particular day she was wearing a Santa hat and beard as she walked out to the bus. When she passed the receptionist, she exclaimed in her best Santa voice, ” HO HO HO! I’m gonna bring you a new DAD for Christmas. Just like the old one! To remind you of him.” And she danced out the door, leaving the receptionist in a bit of a shock.

If you met these young kids, you’d notice that there isn’t much that screams that they are homeless. Sure, they might be a little smellier than other kids, or possibly a little dirty. But they are curious, earnest, and beautiful just like other more fortunate children. It’s not their fault that they are homeless, and they deserve a chance to succeed.

Crazy

Family. Geez Louise. I hate when I’m at work or somewhere and people start jabbering on about their “crazy” mom or “crazy” sister or whoever. I feel like “crazy” is a term that is supremely overused. Perhaps your mom would more accurately be described as “annoyingly overbearing” or “cares so damn much about you that she wants to be a part of all areas of your life” or “depressed as shit.” Maybe your sister is “totes jelly of how cool and awesome you are so she steals your clothes and your boyfriends.” None of these fit the specifications that the term “crazy” demands, in my opinion.

As for my family, well… “crazy” is a fitting characterization. Let me elaborate: I have three younger brothers. Bro 1 is the oldest, Bro 2 is the middle child, and Bro 3 is the youngest little turd. Growing up, I always knew there was something seriously wrong with Bro 1. He didn’t ever seem to act “normal” in any given social situation. One day at church camp, Bro 1 had a total mental breakdown that lasted  for months. During this time, he tried to jump out of moving vehicles on the highway, tried to eat chicken bones and when someone tried to remove them, he fought the most epic of battles to keep those chicken bones in his possession, stopped speaking English and spoke a completely made up language, flashed people, acted like he was an amazing guitar player when he had in fact never played and when a nurse brought him a guitar, he confidently serenaded us with the most horrible sounds for hours, and tried to remove invisible swords and demons from his stomach. After being diagnosed as a bit of a schizo, he was released back into the world for more shenanigans.

Bro 2 is not as literally crazy as Bro 1. He’s more of a crazy-ass drug addict who makes many poor life decisions. Bro 2, also known as “Sneaky T”, started drugging it up at the tender age of 11. Sneaky T was always so “cool” among his other druggie friends. He started the crazy fun off with some burglary, drinking and driving, etc. And when he made it to the age of 15, this guy made a baby. Brilliant. At this point, he drops out of school and starts messing with heavier stuff, and robs a convenient store. Finally, at 18 he makes baby number two, and gets caught driving a stolen vehicle carrying loads of meth with the intent to sell. To prison he goes! Crazy.

And here comes Bro 3, known by his peers by the esteemed nickname “Sneaky C.” As you can probably guess, Sneaky C idolizes the remarkably dignified Sneaky T, and wants to be just like him. Prison definitely ups the cool factor of young men these days. Sneaky C’s young life is riddled with emotional Facebook statuses, failed suicide attempts, and drugs. Fortunately, he has not fathered any children as of yet, but he does advertise his sexual exploits and drug selling on social media for all of the world to see. Crazy!

My parents, you ask? Well, stay tuned. I don’t want to frighten you away just yet. I have to slowly unveil the crazy. And myself? You can be the judge.

Cheeseburgers

Back when I lived at home with my parents, I found Bare Minerals make-up in a random drawer one day. I came out of the room all excited and confused. “Look what I found! Some nice, super-expensive make-up! It’s mine now!” As soon as I said it, my dad was up in my face in a panic. Apparently, the make-up was his. Hmm, unexpected. His explanation was that he has Rosacea, and needs make-up to cover it up. Funny thing is that his “rosacea” is hardly noticeable. But he’s so vain that he’d cough up the cash to spend on Bare-Minerals, hide it in a secret place, and wear make-up as a grown-ass man. When he wore it, he looked quite clownish. Therefore, I shall forever refer to him as Ass Clown.

Anyway, back in their early days as newlyweds, Ass Clown was just as ridiculous as he is today. Expecting him home from work any minute, my mom was watering the grass in the front yard. Probably humming to herself a little, maybe some little Janet Jackson number, thinking to herself, Man, I’m getting hungry for dinner. What sounds good? Lasagna perhaps? Or maybe we can go out for a burgWhat the hell?! Interrupting her thoughts, she catches sight of their Mustang parked down the street. Alarmed, she drops the hose and starts marching toward the vehicle. Her heart’s pounding, the voice of Ms. Jackson no longer fills her head. Is he cheating? With a neighbor? That can’t be- it’s too strange! Does he secretly work as a door-to-door insurance salesman on the side? As she gets close, she realizes that Ass Clown in still in the car. And he’s alone. Oh, thank God! However, when she peers into the driver’s side window, she’s astounded by what she sees.

McDonald’s. A big McDonald’s bag is on the passenger seat along with some stray fries. There’s a crumpled burger wrapper or two on the console next to his seat, and he’s scarfing down cheeseburger #3 when he’s startled by her stare. “What the hell are you doing?!” she asks. Ass Clown has no words, no reasonable excuse for his behavior. It turns out that he simply did not want to spend the extra money buying his wife a Happy Meal too- despite the fact that McDonalds burgers were something like 30 cents a pop back then. This sneaky-eating habit of his continued throughout their marriage as he learned from his mistake, and parked a little farther from home the next time.

Surprise!

So, my mom likes women. I found this out when I was in the eighth grade. I came home from school one day excited about our Relay for Life fundraiser that would take place overnight at the high school track. My mom had agreed to chaperone our team for the night, which was weird because she had major anxiety issues around other human beings. I was angry when I found her sick in bed. Of course! I knew she’d let me down. Come to find out, she’d actually overdosed. Tried to check out early. And in case I missed this nugget of information, my father showed up that evening at Relay for Life to inform me that my mom had attempted suicide. Then he left me there. To soak that in. To marinate on that. Great parenting.

Oh yes- my mom being a lesbian. I’m getting to that.

So fast forward a day or so later- my dad comes to me in tears. “Your mom cheated on me… with… another woman!” he blubbers. Surprise! This is news to me. Not so much the cheating part as the lesbian part. How could she have kept that secret from me? I felt a bit hurt. Apparently, her sexual orientation had something to do with why she tried to bite the big one. So my father told her not to come back and changed all the locks, leaving me feeling very sad and confused, and my mom homeless and mentally unstable. Smart move, Dad!

%d bloggers like this: