My Favorite Podcast

I love it is real people, telling real stories. Sometimes they are sad, sometimes they are uplifting. Some make you laugh, and some make you cry. They all make you think.

The Moth podcasts are free on iTunes, where they are rationed out at one a week. Check it out!


I Hate Cheerleaders, No, Really

  Jealousy and hatred are powerful emotions. We have all felt them, particularly as teenager when our worlds are so ravaged by hormones and emotions. If someone has found peace, they can let go of these feelings, but I think most of us harbor some weird thing that cuts to our core, past our peace, and rears its ugly head from time to time. I don’t think anyone is entirely free of this emotion because at a weak moment, something will recall painful feelings from a childhood trauma and for no rational reason, we find ourselves seething because someone has something, or is something, that we desperately wanted at some painful time in our life. 

   I credit Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) for teaching me how to get past most of my insecurities. When I was the most sick, I simply did not have the energy to care what people thought or did or were. Once I had tasted life, free of these insatiable fiends in my head, I realized how much more pleasant life was and how it took the teeth out of mean people. You see, when you seek validation in everyone you meet, as I did, it is like handing a light saber to those that enjoy watching you squirm when they show you disdain or condemnation. (My mother in law was a master at making me feel like shit until I figured out her game.)

   It took me a long time to realize that the root of the most powerful negative feelings in my head was, in fact, jealousy. For the most part I have gotten over the things I used to be envious of because they aren’t important to me anymore (thank you again RA). However, despite my best efforts, I have one flash point. Mind you, I do not act on this flash point, I recognize it and rein it in, reducing it to more of a joke or curiosity. Unfortunately, it still lives in the back of my brain like a gremlin, waiting to be fed in a moment of weakness.

  What do I hate for no reason? What makes me jealous in every aspect of its being? What is so powerful that it can make me instantly dislike someone I’ve never met and who, most often, is a mere child? 


There, I said it, I HATE cheerleaders. Don’t get me wrong, I know it is stupid, ridiculous, irrational, and flat out mean, but seeing a cheerleader makes every hurtful feeling that ever assaulted my sensibilities as a vulnerable teenager rush back up like a tidal wave that engulfs me in in its madness. I really should make clear here that I CAN differentiate between this irrational feeling and real people. I know plenty of very nice cheerleaders and former cheerleaders. I was a cheerleader myself for a year and my mother was head cheerleader, homecoming queen, and married the captain of the football team (it didn’t last long, but that is another story.) 

  I won’t go into the long story that spawned these feelings, but suffice it to say, they stem from allowing myself to be the victim of classic Mean Girls. I would like to say these feelings are limited to current cheerleaders, but the really sad thing is, cheerleaders never go away. Some grow out of the catty clique thing, but some don’t, and continue it long past graduation. I’ve watched a group of military wives, all in their 30-40’s, make dreadful fools of themselves by putting on a “dance” routine to entertain everyone at an event, dressed like Madonna in the ’80’s, and doing a dance that I’m pretty sure was choreographed by a head cheerleader 15 years ago. What gags me the most about this is that the last thing in the world I would want to do is be up there with them, and yet, I am eaten up by jealousy. Probably it is partly the attention they were getting (even though I wouldn’t want to be viewed like that), that they were such a cohesive group (why would I even want to BE part of that shallow, silly, meaningless clique), and that their husbands were proud of their wives in their sexy outfits and doing highly suggestive moves (that I would have been embarrassed to do and would have mortified my husband!) Okay, other than wishing my husband was a bit less of a prude, there was nothing I wanted up on that stage. So why did it piss me off that they were up there?

  Want to know something even more sad? While they were prancing around like 16 year old’s, I was on my way to a huge trophy that represented a far greater accomplishment than their silly dance, so I should have been feeling really good about myself. (Hmmm, maybe I’m onto something there. I am jealous of people that get recognition for stupid stuff when people that are doing amazing things go totally unnoticed, but such is the world.)

  Bottom line, I don’t let this ruin my life, they are momentary feelings that I can recognize as stupid and toss away (unless I’m feeling depressed, then I might stew on it for a while). Still, the fact that I feel them at all troubles me; the fact that when I am feeling my worst/lowest, seeing two teenagers walking down the street in their over done hair and matchy-matchy purses that they obviously shopped for together, makes me cross-eyed; or the fact that I can not seem to root this ugliness out of my brain, frustrates me.

Maybe I should see a hypnotist or exorcist…


The Lies our Parents Told Us

     My brother is a musical genius. At the age of two, he spontaneously banged out Mary Had a Little Lamb on a Nicaraguan Miremba and was immediately put up to a piano. By age 10 he could play things that many professionals struggle with and had his own band and at the age of 14, he was sent away to performing arts high school. All through these years he was told over and over again that he would be a rock star. We all believed it. When my brother and I would fight, he would threaten me with cuts to the $100, 000 a week allowance he was going to have to give me so I could survive. I laughed, he was 4 years younger and it was the only weapon he had against me. 

   Unfortunately, it takes a great deal more than talent to be a rock star. You also have to have a level head, stay out of drugs, and get a massive dose of good luck in about 100 different ways, in just the right order. These things did not happen to my brother. He did not get a level head, whether it was because our father had no business sense to pass on, because the women in his life mollycoddled him to make up for the abuse from our father, or because he simply was not born with the resilience gene, I will never know. He also did not avoid drugs. Our childhood was painful, lots of people have painful childhoods, but most people (I don’t think, or at least I hope) aren’t introduced to drugs that wipe away that pain for a few precious hours when they are 14 and their parents are in the middle of a vicious divorce. Needless to say, it became a crutch that he would not give up until he died. 

   Luck did smile on my brother a few times. He had a recording contract, wrote and performed music all over LA. Did spots in TV shows, scored video games, and recorded in one of the most famous studios in the world, but non of it made him a star. It didn’t matter that he could support himself and his family entirely with music. It didn’t matter that he had a wife and two beautiful kids, a home, friends, and family that love him. 

He had been promised all his life, “You will be a rock star!”

When promises and dreams go unfulfilled it is disappointing. If you aren’t strong and don’t have good coping skills, it can eat you up and cause intense bitterness. This is what it did to my brother. He is bitter beyond reason, hating the world for not fulfilling his promise. He rails at God by attacking religion and anyone that has faith of any kind, swearing that they are all stupid for thinking there is anything beyond this life, and then becoming wrapped further in bitterness because it will all end without meaning. It is a tragic thing to see. Watching someone so filled with hate and pushing away happiness with both hands.

  When his wife finally had enough and left, he decided he didn’t care if he lived or died and shot himself full of heroine. He died. His buddy that found him performed CPR until the ambulance got there and began to work on him. He was taken to a good hospital, that admitted him even though he didn’t have insurance, and his family converged on it from all over the world. We sat in the ICU for 3 weeks waiting.

My brother lived. We don’t know how, or why, but he lived. He is clean and sober now and has a new family (amazing how easily that can be replaced these days,) and seems to be doing okay, but the bitterness is still seething below the surface waiting for some small tipping point to release the tide of bile. 

As I look at my children I wonder. Our culture tells them they can be anything they want to be, but it is all a lie. You don’t just get to be a rock star, or an astronaut, or prima ballerina. You can’t be a full time mom AND a high powered corporate executive. I was made promises too. I was going to be rich, win a Nobel Prize, set the world on fire. I’m okay that I haven’t done those things, but often I feel like my life is meaningless because clean toilets and healthy meals don’t really set the world on fire. Sometimes it overwhelms me and I cry.

    None of us talk to our father anymore, but his emotional cancer still eats us up from inside. The last thing he said to me was, “When you are done raising your children, I expect you to do something with your life.” Why were we told to be something amazing instead of being taught to find joy in the small things in life. If I had been told, “You will marry a good man, have a nice home, and raise nice children,” maybe I could be satisfied with my sparkling toilets and the scratch meal in the crock-pot that waits for us to get home from orchestra practice. Do we really help our children by telling them to reach for the stars? Wouldn’t it be better to tell them to reach for the mountain tops and just enjoy looking at the stars from a clear, unpolluted sky?


Being alone

          I think my biggest problem is being desperately lonely. I have two kids, one is grown and out of the house, the other is 15 with a heavy class load and busy life. My husband is a cigar smoker who spends all his time at home sitting in a shed in the yard with his cigar’s. books, and beer. We have been married for 25 years and have very little in common. I’m not sure how that happened, but it is what it is.

         Friendships take time to develop. Like a plant, a seed must be planted (you have to meet), it has to be watered and nurtured (regular contact that provides a chance to interact), before a bud begins, roots must be set down and sunshine gathered, (time spend discussing deep thoughts, sharing feelings and experiences), and then, when the time is right, it blooms (a feeling of friendship, camaraderie, and emotional intimacy.) This is not a process that can be rushed, and how long it takes is different for everyone. Some people are like dandelions, they meet people and become instant friends, finding the common ground and sunshine. For other people, it is a very slow process, more like the Century plant that blooms rarely, but spectacularly. I am one of the later, when I make a true friend, we are friends for life no matter where I live or how long it has been since we last saw each other. The downside is, I don’t get to spend much time with my friends and it is very hard to make friends when, as a military family, we move every couple of years. Online relationships aren’t as satisfying as face to face relationships. 

    My other problem is I prefer the company of men (probably why I joined the military myself at 18). Unfortunately, this is a problem for a married woman in a traditional relationship. You can say it is silly, wrong, neanderthal, whatever, but I can’t have close male friends. I can’t go out to lunch alone with a man other than family, or spend regular time alone with a man such as going for a run, sharing a hobby, dishing about life, or anything else. If I did, I would likely suddenly find this person filling a huge void of emotional intimacy and fall hopelessly in love, and that would be a big problem for my marriage and family. So I keep all men at arm’s length and do not risk friendships with them. 

     Frankly, I need a job, but I can’t seem to find one that would allow me to keep up with my “house wife” job ( and my husband certainly doesn’t want to start grocery shopping, cooking, taxiing the kid, running the errands, sweeping the floors, or doing the laundry, that would require him to change his life that he is happy with,) and allow for the interruptions of rheumatoid arthritis flare ups and medical appointments, give me time off when my husband wants to go on vacation or my daughter’s Cross Country team needs a chaperon for an away meet, and/or pay enough to cover a house keeper, dog groomer/walker and whatever other services I would need to pay for if I wasn’t doing them myself. With no real job skills, I would never make enough to pay for the help I would need. 

   Weirdly, my dream job at the moment that would meet my emotional needs would be to work part time in a running store, talking to people about running, fitting them with shiny new shoes and gear, discussing races and destinations. Unfortunately, I am an American military dependent living in a foreign country so I can’t just waltz into the local running store and expect a job, particularly when I’d be waltzing right back out in 22 months when we move again. I’ve thought about going back to school, but when  you move constantly and don’t know where you are going until a couple of months before you get there, there isn’t much you can accomplish. I have a BA in Humanities because it was the only thing that tied together all the weird credits and accumulated by changing my major every time we moved, and could be finished with on-line classes. A degree in Humanities and $8 will get you a cup of coffee.

   I’m really not looking just to whine, I actually want answers, real answers that are workable or do able. I need someone to toss a rope over the stone walls I seem to be surrounded by and help me pull myself out of this crap empty life I’m living. I’ve been to counseling, all the doctor wanted to do was talk about my husband. I can’t go to counseling now because, as a military dependent on a tiny base, the only psychologist/therapist available works for my husband. Yes, there is that whole doctor-patient confidentiality thing, but if you think that really holds when you live in a tiny, military goldfish bowl, you are either naive or nuts.

  I need people.

Heartfelt Honesty is Dead

   It seems like the only place truth is heard anymore is buried in online posts that no one will ever see because we aren’t allowed to be honest anymore. I’m willing to bet no one will read this if I make a few statements up front.

  1) I am Christian. I don’t choose to be, it is just what I am. I can no more decided not to be Christian than someone can decide not to be gay. I’m not one of those Christians that goes around trying to change people into my image, I’m not affiliated with any organized religion, I do not follow the stereotypes that people try to foist on me because I believe in God. Believe it or not, it is entirely possible to be an independent, free thinker, and believe in a higher power. When people ask my religion, I say Christian Existentialist and wait for the blank stare.

   2) I believe people make their own lives and that we have to live with our bad decisions. I’ve made some really bad decisions and will pay my dues the rest of my life. That does not mean I get to medicate the pain away so don’t suggest I go see a doctor for happy pills. I’ve tried them, they just made it easier to hide the way I feel, but didn’t solve a single problem.

  3) I have a chronic illness, it is genetic, not contagious, not in my head, not easily controlled, and not wiped away with three raisins in a shot of gin or by getting the nightshades out of my diet. I have Rheumatoid Arthritis.

   My life is perfect. I have a nice husband, nice kids, a nice dog, a nice car, live in a safe neighborhood, travel the world, and I don’t have to be gainfully employed. I do all the things I am supposed to do. I have the American Dream, and I hate it.