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Thursday, July 27, 2017

For My Women, My Ladies, My Girls (Also brave and enlightened men, if they wish.)

Recently Trent and I were watching something on tv, a program I can't even remember at this point. It wasn't that it was lousy or boring, it's just that remembering what it was just didn't happen to be very important. As we were watching this scintillating television program, a commercial break arrived, as they inevitably do. One of the commercials was the inevitable feminine hygiene sales pitch.

Now, I wasn't paying very close attention because:
1) I was playing a game on my phone while watching the telly, AKA multi-tasking, and,
2) I have seen and heard way too many crazy feminine hygiene commercials in my lifetime.

You won't be surprised that I could tell you the gist of this advertisement without even looking at the screen. You've heard it too. If you use Brand X Tampons, your life will be full of sunshine, daisies, laughter, and white trousers or skirts. Yes, if you use this brand, you will be able to conquer the world. Seriously, even if you have no desire to do so, you will conquer it because you'll be That Confident.

You will also become a champion-level participant in any number of sports, you'll be smarter, you'll be more social, you'll be awesome. All because you use Awesome Tampons. So get some Awesome Tampons, put on a white swimsuit, and jump off that diving board into the pool at the party. Mm-hmm.

Well, here's the reality as I see it, my Sisters of the Menses. It is certainly a possibility that I might attend your pool party even if it falls during my Moon Time. However, I will not be jumping off the diving board into the pool. Hey, I can't swim. But even if I did, I wouldn't be jumping into the pool on that particular day. I would not be wearing a swimsuit, nor would I be wearing white shorts, skirt, or trousers. 

I would be wearing darker-colored bottoms because they are best at camouflaging leakage. I would be wearing my Awesome Tampon with a Super Pad as backup. In my entire life, despite purchasing numerous brands, I have yet to find tampons that absorb fluid on both sides. I have, however, found many that absorb on one side only, hence the Super Pad for the inevitable leakage. While I am at the pool party, I will be checking the situation Down South every hour at a minimum, and sometimes even more frequently. It is a given that if I laugh heartily, sneeze, walk, eat, or breathe, I will likely need to check sooner.

When I retire for the night, armed with a super-absorbent tampon and a super-long pad affixed to my undergarment (AKA The Bedtime Diaper), I will be restless. The chances are high that when I wake and sit for a moment before rising, I will inadvertently create a crime scene. After taking care of myself, I will be laundering the sheets, my undies, and my jammies. And guess what? It might happen again tomorrow!

I'm actually quite lucky because Trent is very understanding and sympathetic. He knows that he will never fully understand, but he is always willing to listen. And sometimes he surprises me, like he did during the commercial that I completely ignored. He turned to me, and in a voice full of surprise and a bit of disgust, he exclaimed, "There's not a single woman of color in that entire commercial! That's ridiculous! It's not just white women who have periods!"

Yeah, that's my guy. I love him. Maybe together we can conquer the world. Even during Moon Time. 



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The Tip Jar:

As always, I am happy and honored to write for you. It brings me great joy, and I hope that it gives you joy and/or food for thought. If you'd like to support the cause, please visit:

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Friday, July 14, 2017

Freedom Birthday

Yesterday was my birthday. I am not sharing this tidbit in a passive-aggressive bid to have you, my treasured readers, rush to shower me with birthday greetings. That you look at my Ravings at all is a gift that I get to enjoy whenever I put words on the page and you read them. But yesterday being my birthday is a central point of the true tale I am now going to relate. 

I've mentioned my sister Liz on several occasions in my posts, and this story is about Liz, Trent, and The Lunatic. My sister was married for a number of years to a man who was not the best person he could be. He wasn't a drinker or a carouser or a chaser of women. He was a cruel and abusive man. Many people have commented over the years, and likely still do, that the fact that his nickname was Dick was not a mere coincidence. 

I tried to like him because he was my sister's husband, but he made it very difficult. On the day that I met him, he turned the garden hose on her in anger because there was a splat of bird poop on her car. I forgot for many years that on one occasion shortly after I met him, he grabbed my arm very roughly and made it clear that he wanted to physically harm me (Liz was not in the room). By this point, I had been through some severe illness and had been diagnosed with lupus. As I once said to someone else, I had looked death in the face, why should I be afraid of him? I looked at his hand which was squeezing my forearm, looked in his eyes, and very calmly said, "Go ahead and hurt me if you want to. But I have to warn you that I bruise easily, and I will call the police."

He never physically hurt me, buy made it clear on many occasions that I was many variations on a theme which included a certain word that rhymes with ditch. As is common with abusers, he often did whatever he could to keep we sisters apart. And he heaped abuse on her, both verbal and physical, time and time again.

For a very long time I, along with many others who cared about Liz in varying ways, kept thinking that she should "just leave." If life was such misery, why didn't she simply move on? As a child whose abusive father killed her mother, I have always had particularly strong feelings about partner abuse. So it ate at me to think that history could potentially repeat itself.

One day in late winter or early spring of 2016, I had an incredible moment of clarity that hit me out of nowhere. I realized that if I were in Liz's situation, I couldn't "just leave" because I might not have a place to go or the means to do so. I said this to Trent and without even blinking he said, "She'll come live with us." Hey, we're apparently together for good reason. So we took the plunge and I texted Liz, telling her that we were going to make a place for her in our home for whenever she was ready to leave her husband.

Liz began to spend entire days with us, sometimes just sitting quietly stringing beads, or folding laundry for us (something she enjoys and I could gladly live without). From time to time, she would spend the night on the twin-sized pullout bed in the living room, sleeping more peacefully without her abuser at hand. Trent and I were pleased to see the changes in her. Just knowing that she had a place to go seemed to give her an extra bit of strength and confidence.

And then my birthday rolled around. Dick was notorious for making any holiday or birthday miserable for Liz. When any of these special occasions were on the horizon, he'd go out of his way to find some reason to be angry with her. At the very least, there were no birthday or holiday wishes. At the very worst, there was more verbal or physical abuse.

So on my birthday last year, Liz came over to have dinner with us after spending the day at work. We were relaxing in the living room after dinner when he called her in a rage. Even though she had her phone up to her ear, I could hear all of the vile things he was screaming at her. He informed her that when she got home she would have to spend the entire night cleaning the house because it was too dirty. Mind you that Liz has had a hip replacement and had additional surgery on the same hip early last year. She had also worked all day on her feet.  
She told him she couldn't because she had to go to work in the morning. And that's when things began to get even uglier. He said if she wasn't going to clean, she might as well stay with her sister. Then he asked her where she really was, because he knew she wasn't at her sister's. Who was she insert crude terminology for engaging in sexual intercourse with someone-ing? She told him again, truthfully, that she was with me and Trent. I offered to speak with him. When I got on the phone, he started screaming that it wasn't me, it was still Liz talking. So I asked if he wanted to speak with Trent to prove that Liz was with us.

Dick said that yes, he would like to speak with Trent. When Trent got on the phone, Dick started to tell him that he was glad that he could tell him what a horrible person he was married to and what kind of family she came from. My wonderful husband said, "This conversation is over. Katrina is my wife and I love her, and I will not listen to you saying nasty things about her. I'm done." I was overflowing with love and pride for my dear husband!

Liz was again on the phone with her husband. He told her not to bother coming home. She said that she had to come home for her pills and some clothes, and that's when it got even worse. His screaming and threats were insane. He told her that if she came home he would f-ing kill her, using the full word, of course. When she replied that she'd call the police, he said to go ahead - when they saw that the house was dirty, they would be on his side. He also threatened to "just throw all of your stuff outdoors." If she even thought of bringing me or Trent along to keep her safe, he'd throw us out or kill us as well. It was the stuff of a made for television film, only real. And nobody could ever make up something that horrible and insane.

Liz got off the phone and said she had to at least go home and get her pills. We made her promise to park about a block from her house, dial 911, and wait for the police before going into the house. The last thing Liz said through her tears before she left was that she was afraid she would end up like her mother. And then we waited.

At about 10:30 I got a call from a number that I didn't recognize, so I didn't answer. They immediately called back. It was a police officer wanting to get my statement as a witness to the phone call and threats. The officer told me that my statement matched up with the one from Liz, and that Dick was being arrested. He insisted that he would never say anything like what she claimed because he is such a nice old man. He spent that night and another couple of days in jail, while Liz was able to remain safely in the house. A protective order was in place until Liz could see about making it permanent. He showed up to one hearing with a walker, claiming that he couldn't even drive. An hour later, he drove his truck to the doctor's office and arrived fully mobile and without the walker.

A couple of weeks later, Dick's daughter (an apple that did not fall far from the tree) had her friend serve divorce papers to Liz while she was working. Liz had already started packing up her possessions. In true fashion, Dick engaged in lies about what his assets and expenses were, even stating that his monthly grocery/eating expenses per month were equivalent to what Trent and I spend in about four months. In January of this year, Liz moved in with us, the divorce became final, and the house was sold. 

Liz is finally able to breathe freely and spread her wings. She's a grown woman, and as such, she can go where she wishes and see her friends and do as she likes. When she gets home, nobody will scream at her or ask her who she was with or what she was doing or why she's home late. She finally has a chance to live a more normal life.

Last year, before Trent and I went to bed on July 13th, I remarked about the battle zone that was my birthday - happy freaking birthday to me. In retrospect, that weird birthday ended up being a gift. It enabled a woman to end an abusive relationship. It set her free.



A note from The Lunatic: It's no secret that because of my background, I have strong feelings about domestic abuse. If you are being abused, please seek help from any source possible. It could be a trusted friend, a community program, a religious advisor, and most especially your local law enforcement and county government. Liz was given help through the county's victim's advocacy programs. They help with things as varied as no- or low- cost door lock replacements and funding divorce attorneys. There are many people who care and are eager to help you.

If you know someone who is being abused, please do not try to force them to adhere to a timetable that you'd like them to follow. The changes and challenges involved in exiting the relationship can be as stressful as the abuse, and sometimes even more so. Sometimes the best support you can give is just being there. Researching local resources will help both you and your loved one know that help is out there.

Finally, we must always think of the children who may be affected by domestic abuse. Even if they are not abused, they may learn behaviors and expectations based on what they see every day.



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The Tip Jar:

As always, I am happy and honored to write for you. It brings me great joy, and I hope that it gives you joy and/or food for thought. If you'd like to support the cause, please visit:

https://www.paypal.me/TheLunatic

Monday, July 10, 2017

It's a Front

I frequently refer to myself as The Meanest Woman in the World. I can be opinionated and stubborn, and have been known to speak my mind. It's mostly a combination of self-preservation and a cover-up. You see, I'm really very...sensitive. Okay, it's out there, I'm done for.

There's debate in the Psychology/Psychiatry fields over whether personality is something one is born with, or something that comes from learning and environment. I think it's a mixture of both. What's the body of research that has led me to this conclusion? Well, my life and experiences, of course.

Some months ago, we were headed home from an appointment that Trent had at University of Colorado Hospital. It's more formally known as University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, but that's too long and makes it sound like a giant experimental maze full of people looking for cheese. Not delicious and wonderful cheese, mind you, but some ghastly low-fat, low-sodium cheese-reminiscent abomination. So I call it University of Colorado Hospital. I told you I was opinionated!

Anyway, we were headed home and drove past an area beside the highway that is home to a moderately sized colony of prairie dogs. The sight of prairie dogs next to traffic often reminds me of Gram. In this case the memory tumbled around and took me somewhere else. Even though it might be embarrassing, I thought, I need to write about the thing which will briefly be a mystery. I jotted down a note in the terrible printing associated with being in a moving vehicle, and left it to grow in the back of my mind.

This made me think about the fact that I have always been on the sensitive side. That doesn't mean that if someone says something rude to me I will burst into tears. In fact, it's more likely to get me heated up. It just means that I have the ability to be deeply moved by many things, especially the various things suffered by others. It is perhaps a contributing factor to my protective nature. Be rude to me, so what. But be rude to someone else who doesn't deserve it, and you may get an earful from The Lunatic.

One of my few memories from my life in Chicago with my parents and siblings is of a very sensitive moment. Peter Pan was being broadcast on television, and it had gotten to the part where Tinkerbell was possibly dying. When the call came to clap your hands if you believed in fairies, I did so. I did so weeping buckets of tears. I didn't want Tink to die. I didn't want Peter Pan to lose his friend. You get the picture.

The abuse at the hands of the terrifying Alice, along with the war zone that is children and childhood, helped me to learn some ways to cope. Although my tears certainly didn't mean I was weak (a weak person could never have survived some of the things I experienced), they could be viewed as such by the less-sensitive and sometimes more cruel people around me. A bit of emotional detachment can be a great survival tool if you don't want to be eaten alive by the people around you.

A couple of weeks ago Trent and I were at the drive-up ATM waiting for our turn. Trent pointed out the beautiful yellow butterfly that flitted by our car. This is of some personal significance and will be in a blog post on another day. I turned my head and saw something flying around my open window, thinking that maybe it came into the car with us. Sure enough, there was a ladybug sitting on my shoulder. I gently lifted it up and gave it a puff of air to send it flying on its way. (I had to chuckle when I saw what it had left on my shoulder - a teensy little spot of ladybug poo.)

A few days later I told Trent about a memory of Gram and me and a ladybug. A day or two after we had gone to the supermarket, Gram got a head of lettuce out of the refrigerator. As she separated the leaves, she said, "Oh! Look at this!" Nestled in the cold leaves was a beautiful ladybug. Now, I was probably in high school at the time, but I felt so sorry for that poor ladybug. I took her in my warm hand, hoping that she could somehow survive her ordeal. And she began to move sluggishly, starting to recover from the cold she had endured for several days.

I told Gram that I knew ladybugs ate aphids, so I was going to take her out to the rose garden. Of course that wasn't enough for me. I began plucking aphids off the roses and feeding them to the ladybug. She ate slowly at first, but perked up fairly quickly. After eating several bugs, she was feeling much more lively. She walked around on my hand for a bit, and then took to the air. As she flew away, my heart soared with her. Yep. Sensitive.

I've decided just now that the mysterious thing I mentioned earlier is something I no longer want to write about this evening. Suffice it to say it was an expose of greyhound racing training and involved live rabbits. Gram was in the kitchen on the phone when I came into the room weeping.

So that's another piece of The Lunatic's puzzle. I can often sometimes occasionally be trusted to watch emotional videos or read stories about Santa visiting terminally ill children without losing it. Don't expect me to be able to talk about them or read the stories aloud, though, unless there is a handy supply of hankies or tissues or even the bottom of my shirt. I am still the person who can find unbearable beauty in nature or film or writing. I've finished more than one book with my shirt damp from the tears that have rolled off my chin and left evidence of my softness for anyone to see. I am The Lunatic. I am Katrina. I am sensitive. Yes, I claim to be The Meanest Woman in the World. But some of it is a survival mechanism. And some of it is just a front.

Oh! I almost forgot! Why did the prairie dogs remind me of Gram? After I began to drive, I would take Gram, on holidays or special occasions, to visit her daughter's home some 30 miles away in a more rural area. An area that we would drive by happened to have a large prairie dog colony, and still does these many years later. It's just a few minutes' drive from where we now live. On this occasion, we saw a fat and sassy prairie dog getting ready to cross the expanse of the road. What made it delightful and memorable is the way he prepared for his mad dash across multiple lanes. He was literally running in place, his little legs going so fast they were almost a blur. As we drove by, he quit revving his motor and made his move. I'm glad to say that he made it across this busy street unscathed while we had a good laugh at something we'd previously only seen in cartoons. I still think of it after all these years whenever I go by that area, hoping I'll see another prairie dog revving his motor. 



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The Tip Jar:

As always, I am happy and honored to write for you. It brings me great joy, and I hope that it gives you joy and/or food for thought. If you'd like to support the cause, please visit:

https://www.paypal.me/TheLunatic

Monday, July 3, 2017

Hidden Treasures

Trent and I have decided, for various reasons, that when our lease is up at the end of next May, we will be moving to a new apartment. We both hate moving. Every time we have ever done so, we have cursed ourselves for having too much stuff. We vow to get rid of everything so that we will never have to go through the stress of packing and moving too much stuff ever again. Of course, our previous moves have been done on a shorter time schedule than the one we are now planning. Since we have so much time at our disposal, we are embarking on a great adventure called downsizing. We have some things in storage and throughout our home that we will be sorting through and either packing or selling or donating various items.

Part of our work involves a storage unit which we have been renting for quite some time. Naturally, when we started thinking about going through the contents of said storage unit, we couldn't find the right key to unlock it. For quite some time we found ourselves driving over to test every stray key we located by design or by accident, and none of them worked. We finally had to ask the owners to cut and replace the lock so that we could begin purging our excess stuff.

On our first visit, we opened a large plastic bin that contained a few loose items along with a shoebox-sized cardboard box. The cardboard box contained several bottles of fragrances, many of which had begun to leak due to extremes of cold and heat. Very close to the leaky box, I spotted this folded piece of paper.



Amazingly, the paper had not been leaked on by the old perfume bottles. I was stunned to find this old piece of schoolwork from the time I was a child living in Chicago, still intact decades later. I unfolded it to find this piece of first-grade artwork, Adam and Eve in Paradise.


You may notice that Eve was originally drawn with very short legs which my younger self simply lengthened. So what if she looks like she has an extra pair of feet? I will freely admit that this antique piece of artwork is not currently slated for destruction. I've never claimed to be an artist, but this connects me to a time in my childhood and so it stays.

Last week we went back to the storage unit to do another quick attack on the contents. I found several paperback books in two different bags. I thought of perhaps donating them right away but decided i might want to reread one or two of these old friends first. In one of the books, I found some photos of our honeymoon, which was a pleasant surprise. As I took a glance at another bag, I saw a book that reminded me of a very difficult time in my life. When Gram was in the waning weeks of her life, I had purchased the book and stayed up reading it and weeping until the wee hours of the morning. I wasn't sure if I could read it again, but decided to take it home and give it a chance.

When I picked up the book, I could see that there was something stuck in between its pages. I opened it to find this photo.


I have very few photos of myself from my childhood, and this is one of my favorites. It was taken on my first day of sixth grade by our next-door neighbor Mr. Phillips. Standing in the Phillips' back yard are the long-legged Katrina, Elizabeth D, who was in the same grade level as the budding Lunatic and lived two doors down in the other direction, and Lisa Phillips, who was one year younger.

Here's what's really special about finding this photo - just a few days before we went to the storage unit I was thinking about this very photo and wishing I knew where to find it. I even wondered if I could contact Mr. and Mrs. Phillips and ask them to print me another copy after all of these years. And there it was, right where I would be most likely to find it.

What I've written tonight may make it sound as though I (or we) aren't making any progress, but this is simply not the case. It's just that we have found hidden treasures during the winnowing process. Just like with wheat, as we have loosened the chaff we have freed the lovely grains of treasures and memories. And these small things will have a treasured spot in our hearts and homes.

Wishing you many happy memories... 


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The Tip Jar:

As always, I am happy and honored to write for you. It brings me great joy, and I hope that it gives you joy and/or food for thought. If you'd like to support the cause, please visit:

https://www.paypal.me/TheLunatic