Vacation to The Wilderness with the Ricechex

In the car on the way… all bouncing off the walls in happy anticipation of good times on the horizon

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Rose sent me a pic of her kids snoozing in the back… Tom said, point at me and take it on 3. No families were killed in a fiery death in the making of this image

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Me and my love

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Mr. Ricechex, ready for his close up

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The Mens. Step back, ladies, they’re all ours

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My love, doing what he does best, which is TALK

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Mr. Ricechex, doing what he does best, which is look smolderingly handsome

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This man whom I love achingly

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Man-child, who frequently makes me want to tear out my hair and set it on fire on an altar to my ancestor-mothers

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This woman, who seems to understand how my heart beats before I do

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Mrs. Ricechex, my eventual Mexico wife

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Funny CLEAN comedy DOES exist.

Some of the best memories I have growing up is stacking a half dozen Bill Cosby records up and reciting the lines with my sister.

I shared Bill Cosby with my kids as soon as they could talk and I was tickled to see them eventually do the same exact thing… recite the lines together and do that belly-laugh that’s so funny it’s contagious.

Well, except for the record part. They stack them up on the iTunes playlist instead.

I went looking for more clean comedy and I’m so glad I found Tim Hawkins. He’s made his way into their repertoire, which they tend to like to repeat over and over and over and over and… well, you get the gist.

Enjoy!

“These Are The Things You Don’t Say To Your Wife”

Here’s a link for your shopping convenience… [disclaimer: if you click through and buy it, I get, like, half a penny. You know, so I can run right out and get that Spyder I’ve had my eye on.]

Tim Hawkins: Full Range of Motion

Oh, it was worth it. SO worth it.

jackolanternIt was my last Halloween, I was 12 and The Seester was 6. About a week before Halloween my mom had gotten me this totally cool rubber skeleton mask, the kind that goes all the way over your head. It had wiry, white hair bushin’ out all over like an afro. Even I found it little scary; well, I said to my 12-year-old self, not scary but perhaps disturbing.

That night, I snuck the mask and a flashlight into bed with me. I had the top bunk and Tee had the bottom.

I had a plan.

I had an evil, devious plan; and I was laying up there, stifling that stupid giggle. You know, that giggle you make when you’re 12 and you know it’s gonna be really, really funny and you know your mom won’t exactly share your perspective.

I waited until I was pretty sure she had just dozed off.

As quietly as I could, I put the mask on. I sat up, and then hung myself upside down from my bunk, my face about 18″ from her peaceful, dozing, angelic face. I switched the flashlight on and pointed it toward my veddy skeddy skeleton face. In my lowest, scariest voice, I loudly drawled out her name.

Her eyelids fluttered and she opened her eyes. The image before her registered and she made a couple silent fish mouths and then found her voice. And Unholy Sounds, Batman; did she find her voice. She let out this amazing, air-splitting, piercing scream that could have woken the dead and unfortunately did wake my mother.

Busted.

My ass got reamed.

———————————————-

In other news, NaBloPoMo starts tomorrow, God help my sparsely-posting butt. I’ve managed to complete this daunting project in 2007 and 2008; I’m determined to keep it going for 2009. I made a badge to match the ones I made for previous years and I’ll post it tomorrow, pinky swears.

Tell Me Thursday #1

I’m so glad that I saw Tell Me Thursday tweet a reminder. I had thought about participating before, but hadn’t gotten around to it yet.

I was working at the Shelter last night and had all my chores done and everyone was tucked in, so I started flipping through my flickr photostream looking for inspiration. I usually try to come up with a theme each Wordless Wednesday, with 3-6 pictures that go together nicely that can stand on their own, wordless. For whatever reason, I chose just one picture… this one.

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This is Chelsea. She’s a classy old lady. Like most classy old ladies, she’s loudly insistent upon having it her way. She knows she’s earned it.

We got Chelsea a couple weeks before I graduated from high school in 19… *mumbles and trails off* Ok; I’ll admit it… 1991. (That’s me right before I graduated, and a piece of The Girl Beater. Let’s all throw things at him. Like tomatoes. And tranq darts. And pipe bombs.)

11

She’s moved from Coldwater MI to Cedar Rapids IA to St Louis MO.

Chelsea was on my mind.

Why?

I had gotten these emails recently.

————
From: Mom
To: all the family
Sent: Tue 3/17/09 6:07 PM
Subject: Chelsea News

Chelsea had a tumor appear suddenly on her right hind leg. She had surgery, this afternoon, and appears to have come thru it well. The pathology report will tell us if they got all the cancer.

Prayers are appreciated!!

Love,
Mom
————

then…

————
From: Mom
Sent: Wed 3/18/09 7:46 AM
To: all the family
Subject: Chelsea News – Update?

As of late last night, she was awake, eating and drinking. We hope to bring her home today. She’ll have to wear one of those cone collars and won’t be allowed to jump for a while.

Continued prayers are appreciated!

Love,
Mom
———-

then I posted my Wordless Wednesday post starring Miss Chelsea at 2:31 AM.

A few hours later, I got this email…

————
From: Dad
Sent: Wed 3/25/09 9:11 AM
To: all the family
Subject: Chelsea’s prognosis?

Good morning,

Our vet has called me with the results of the pathology tests on Chelsea’s tumor. The tumor was cancerous, and samples from the surgery area indicate that the surgery did not eliminate the cancer. He feels that the tumor may reoccur in the next 6 months.

We do have the choice of chemo and radiation treatments, but the radiation is done in Columbia. That would mean a lot of travel and time away from home for her; she’d have to be there at least twice a week for 9 to 10 weeks. Chemo can be done here in St. Louis. The side effects of chemo woud make her uncomfortable.

I feel that the best choice for her is to stop treatments and just let her live out the rest of her life at home in as much comfort as possible.

Love,

Dad
————

My heart hurts.

I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard or read the word HOPE today.

As I was sitting on the couch snuggled up with Hunky watching the inauguration, I felt it… A glimmer of hope. I felt hope that I could start to believe my government would do the right thing for its citizens. It seemed inconceivable that in one day’s time, my perception could change so dramatically.

But the inaugural activities aren’t the point of this post. As I watched the news coverage of this historic event that will stand in history, the date flashed across the screen. January 20th. Then it hit me. I will always remember January 20th, 2009 as a day of hope. But to me, this was the second January 20th that was filled with a feeling of hope.

January 20, 1993…

A little back-story… after I came home from the Army in November 1992, there wasn’t enough room in my Mom’s house for me, and my Dad had packed up and moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. So I moved in with The Girl Beater and his family. 

I started the day as normal. TGB was getting ready for work, and I was getting him some breakfast. He sat down at the table and started shoveling. In between bites, he said, “What are you going to do today?”

“Look for a better job,” I replied.

He nodded. “Good. You should stop by the Court House and see about getting a marriage license.”

My heart stopped a moment, and I managed to croak, “Why?”

“Well, we should just do it.”

Before I left for Boot Camp at Ft. McClellan, AL, we had discussed that maybe we’d get married in between Boot Camp and my AIT (Advanced Individual Training). What we didn’t see coming is the Army discovering my hearing loss and sending me home one week before Boot Camp graduation, and the marriage discussion had not even come back up in conversation again in the two months since I had returned. 

“We should just DO IT?!” I parroted back, my voice squeaky. This wasn’t exactly the proposal of my dreams.

He stopped eating and looked up at me. “Yeah, sure. If it doesn’t work, we can just get a divorce.”

My heart literally stopped a moment and I struggled to take my next breath.

I didn’t have to worry about formulating a reply, because he wasn’t looking for one. As usual, he made a statement, and I was to submit.

“I’ll see you after work. Make me something good for dinner.”

He left his dishes on the table for me to take care of and hurried out the door.

I turned my head and watched him out the window as he got into his Monte Carlo and sped off. 

I turned my head back and looked down at the old, dark beat-up table. I breathed in, I breathed out. I felt like my life was a movie, and someone had hit the pause button.

I heard his statement inside my head again, echo-y and drawn out, like a 45 record playing at 33 speed. “Yeah, sure. If it doesn’t work, we can just get a divorce.”

What was he thinking?! I couldn’t enter a marriage with that frame of mind! Most of our four and a half year relationship, I had spent grieving for my parent’s divorce. When we met, he was one stable element in my world shaken by the earthquake that was the disillusionment of a marriage. I had told him time and time again, that I would never get divorced; that when I got married, I was determined that it would be forever. 

Again, I heard his statement inside my head. “Yeah, sure. If it doesn’t work, we can just get a divorce.”

In that moment, I felt my whole life shift.

On one side of the moment, I was with him. On the other side of the moment, I left him.  One side; I feared him and the shackles he held me enslaved with. Other side; the chains disintegrated with a small POOF into harmless powder. 

I realized I was going to have to move quickly. I had a lot to do to get out, and I couldn’t risk his father discovering me packing. He’d call TGB for sure.

I wouldn’t be able to stay where he could find me; I didn’t trust either of us. I didn’t trust him to let me go without manipulative speech to wear me down, or physical pain when that didn’t work. I didn’t trust myself to stand up to his physical presence and promises of change that had never been honored in the past.

As quietly and as quickly as I could, I threw everything I owned into black garbage bags. Every time I opened and shut a drawer, it sounded to me like it was amplified through a megaphone, and I nervously listened for the TV volume to go down which would be my warning that his father knew something was up and would think nothing of knocking down the locked bedroom door.

As softly as I could, I opened the rarely used side door, and the old metal creaked a little. I held my stance and my breath simultaneously, and listened.

Nothing.

I put the first bag out, and repeated that shaky maneuver a few more times for the rest of my belongings.

My heart was banging in my chest; I was shaking furiously. 

I went out to the kitchen, held my voice as steady as I possibly could, and called, “Hey, Dad; I’m going to the store for a pop. Want anything?” All the while, praying fervently that he wouldn’t detect a tremor in my voice or God forbid, tell me he was going along.

“No. When will you be back?” I heard his meaning hang in the air. Damn, I had 30 minutes, tops, before he’d call TGB and rat me out.

“I’ll go straight there and straight back. I’m not stopping anywhere else or seeing anyone else.” 

The next few moments felt like an eternity. Finally; “Alright,” he conceded.

I tried not to rush too fast as I left the house. I knew if I was nonchalant enough, and pulled it off right, that it may buy me an extra 15-30 minutes before my absence was reported.

The snow squeaked under my feet and it hurt to breathe, it was so cold; especially since these were frightened, jaggedy breaths. I got in my car and tried to steady my shaking hand as I attempted to meet ignition with key. She started right up. I put her in gear and made sure not to drive too fast out of the driveway. I placed as calm a look on my face as I could muster; I knew it would be observed as I passed the living room window. 

I rounded the corner and passed out of sight of the house. Ok, what’s next, I thought as priorities bounced around in my brain like a dozen racquet balls. There was so much to think about, and the clock was ticking. I had nothing except my wallet and the clothes I was wearing. Who can I get to pick up my stuff, I need gas, where will I go, ohmygod where will I sleep tonight, was Dad suspicious, what the hell am I doing… if he catches me… Gas. To get anywhere I need gas. Shit. I had just gotten paid, but as usual, TGB had taken my signed check and put it in his account but had not yet dispensed my “allowance”. Because I was so stupid with money, you see. 

Once one decision was made, the others fell into restless but somewhat orderly place, like busy kindergardeners in a single-file, indian-style line. 

I drove into town like I had the hounds of hell on my tail. I turned into the driveway of the car dealership where a month before my father had worked, before his entire life changed. I stepped softly into the office and the secretary, Vicki, looked up and smiled at me brightly. “Well, hi there! What a nice surprise!” Her expression changed as the look on my face registered with her.

“I have to leave him. I don’t know where to go. He can’t know where I am, at least for a while. He’ll hurt me. I can’t go to my Mom’s because her house is full, and Dad’s moved, and I’m pretty sure he knows where the domestic violence shelter is.”

“Well, you call your Dad, and we’ll figure it out,” she said as she gave me a reassuring hug. “It’s going to be ok now,” she added.

I dialed my Dad’s new number and hurriedly brought him up to speed. He said, of course, that the safest plan would be for me to drive to Iowa and then decide the next step once I arrived. “One step at a time,” he said. “Ok, put Vicki back on for just a minute, and then as quickly as you can, safely, I want you to go straight to the gas station and then get on the interstate, ok?” 

“Ok, Daddy.” I paused. In a very small voice, I said, “I’m scared.”

His voice took the tone he used to calm me down after I had woken up from a bad dream. “It’s going to be ok now. You just get here.”

“Ok, Daddy. I love you.”

“I love you, too; put Vicki on, ok?”

I handed the phone to Vicki, and less than five minutes later, I had $50 for gas and lunch, and directions written out to get me to my Dad’s. A quick hug from Vicki, and I was out the door.

I got in my car and looked at the clock. Forty-five minutes had passed already. I started shaking again. I was in the danger zone. I decided that I would go straight to the interstate and go as far as I could and then get gas. 

As I went through town, I looked left and right at my surroundings. All the familiar old buildings that made up my town. The Hallmark store, where I had gotten keepsake ornaments. JcPenney, where I had gotten my graduation dress. The silk-screen place where I got band t-shirts, my letter jacket, and senior t-shirts. The jewelry store where I had gotten my class ring. The pharmacy where I had worked for a couple years. It felt surreal. But I knew that that moment, right then, would be a defining moment of my life. 

I reached the interstate and got on I-69 South. I put the cruise on 70, and for the first time since I had sat at the breakfast table, I took a long, deep breath in. And exhaled. Now I had time to think.

I had done it. I was fairly confident that Dad hadn’t called TGB yet. He would, soon. But by the time he called him, and he left work, and started looking for me, I’d be gone. The only people on earth that knew where I was, was my father and Vicki. And they weren’t sayin’ nothin’. 

Then I felt it. 

Hope.

Hope that he would no longer hurt me; physically, sexually, verbally, or emotionally. 

Hope that I could learn to live without him. 

Hope that he had not “institutionalized” me, and that I’d be able to live my own life without someone telling me what I could wear and where I could go and who I could see and what I could buy andwhenandhowandwhy. 

For the first time in almost five years, hope washed down over me like a hard spring rain, and it was unbelievably overwhelming. The tires hummed on the road and the hope-rain cleansed my soul. And as the mile markers flew by, I sobbed. 

The world around me was different. It was like, for five years someone had been slowly turning down the saturation dial of my life; and in three seconds, cranked it all the way up past normal. It was… staggering. Everything around me and inside me was bigger, deeper, heavier, just more.  The snow was whiter. The sky was bluer. My tears were wetter.

A semi-truck passed me; slowly, but he passed me. As he drove ahead, through my tears, I saw on the back side of his trailer cab, CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA. He was going where I was going! Up to that point, I thought of the town as kind of a Never Never Land. But this CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA did exist, and I would follow him there. 

I cried for miles and miles. Emotions that I thought were dead inside of me surfaced, and it was like I had been underwater for too long and had just broken through to the air and I gasped and gulped, drawing it deep within my core. Those emotions were so overpoweringly real, they actually, physically hurt inside my chest, and all I could do was sob and feel.

Righteous indignation.

Relief.

Happiness. 

But most of all… hope.

Hope.

I may have to beat him with his diploma.

When I graduated, I had a party. I had just spent 18 months completing a five semester graphic design program at my local community college to earn my AA. That day, I got up, and Kizzle and I went to The Five Seasons Center to go through the ceremony with 1500ish other graduates.

It was a HUGE deal for me.

I had attempted college about 10 years prior. It wasn’t pretty, people. I did one semester at Kellogg Community College and one semester at Glen Oaks Community College, both in Michigan. Then I moved to Iowa and brought my barely 2.0 GPA with me and transferred it to the community college here. I met Hunky a couple months in, in French class. That semester, I got an A. The next semester we started dating, and I took French II. I got a D. I was working full time, going to school full time, and then later, also planning a wedding. I decided to take a semester or two off because I was just exhausted, and no closer to deciding what I wanted to be when I “grew up”. Fast forward about 10 years and two kids later. I had been separated from my husband for almost a year and bought a house alone. Before I even made the first house payment, my paid-off car died so I had to buy a car and take on another payment. Before I even had a chance to make the first car payment, I got laid off. I knew that there was nowhere else in Cedar Rapids I could make the same amount of money as at the job I had just lost. I decided that 1- I was going to have to go back to school and B- I was going to have to finally decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. I knew it was going to be challenging. My GPA had hit a new low: 1.6. But since then, I had also been diagnosed with ADD and my hearing was degrading much more quickly than I had anticipated. But I had also done a lot of work with a psychiatrist and therapist for coping mechanisms for ADD, and had a bright shiny new hearing aid. It went even better than I thought it would. I had earned all As and had brought that 1.6 kicking, screaming, and crab-walking like Regan in The Exorcist all the way up to a 3.492. The only regret that I had was that I missed wearing honors cords by .008.

Now we’re back to that day, maybe even the best day of my life, my graduation day. I had finished something. I had accomplished something. I had found an occupation that I would have gladly done for fun. It was an amazing day of celebration. Kizzle and I had bought brand new Cons for the occasion; hers bright yellow, mine bright green. Our families would be able to pick us out of the 1500ish graduates in the procession with identical gray mortarboards and robes. My mom, step dad, sister and sister’s best friend had come from Michigan for the occasion.

We went through the graduation ceremony and that night, we all went to my favorite bar and all my friends were there; even one of my professors! It was probably the best night of my life. We ended up closing down the bar and then going to breakfast afterwards. I passed out in the back of my sister’s Durango on a tire iron. I was so passed out, I was laying on a tire iron and could not have moved off of it if it was 1000 degrees and had ten penny nails soldered on spiking out of it. It was hawsum.

When Hunky was just a little ways away from getting his AA, I asked what he wanted to do for his party. To my surprise, and well, intense irritation, his answer was a resounding “Eh.”

Which I met with a sputter-y “What?!”

He explained that he wanted to wait until he got his BA for the, I believe he called it, “rigmarole.” Because this wasn’t really a big deal, you see.

You what to the who now?!

After I gave him the tongue-lashing he was begging for, and he got done backpedaling and reiterating what a ginormous deal it was to earn an AA and how proud he was of me for attaining that achievement, we simply left it at that. The AA would go by quietly, and we would throw him a huge bash when he graduated with his BA. Okfine.

Now he’s announced that he didn’t turn in his application for graduation form by the deadline, but hey, it’s no big deal because we’ll just have a party when he gets his Masters!

Oy, vey. I could just smack him. But with my luck, he’d enjoy it.

His name was Dice.

Today I had to drag my sick, achy ass down to my Iowa Workforce Development office (i.e. unemployment office) to sign a paper about getting my hearing aids. Neither rain nor sleet nor creeping crud was going to keep me from completing this task. But it was hardly the in-and-out-done errand that I anticipated.

I was asked to take a seat at a table a little uncomfortably close to a job counselor and another female client. I can’t eavesdrop on someone’s conversation. I couldn’t hear any of their conversation except one part when she said (had to be loudly because hello, I heard it!) “I can’t leave without my dog!” and sobbed. For a moment, I was sucked back in time.

One reason a woman may refuse to leave an abusive relationship that you may not have thought of before is because they can’t take their pet or don’t have anyone who can take it/them. Do you think if someone is abusing you, that they would hesitate to abuse something/someone near and dear to you, such as your dog or cat? Fluffy or Fido; that’s the first thing on the mind of an abused woman and the last thing on the mind of everyone else. If I leave, what will happen to them?

As this woman cried quietly, I closed my eyes for just a moment and I was back there. Packing quickly, my heart thumping wildly in fear. Since I didn’t even have time to get boxes, I was just throwing things into black garbage bags; breathing so ragged, I was working through a stitchy cramp in my side. I threw all those bags out the back door onto the snow-dusted porch for my step-dad to pick up shortly; I would already be on my way out of town. Before I left, I thought, what will I do with the puppy? I paused a moment and thought, his family won’t let him hurt the puppy, no matter how enraged he was going to be when he found I was not home. We lived with his mom and dad and two brothers, and I felt that they would take care of him until I could send friends for him in a few days.

The wave of crisis rose and fell that weekend. I left. Police were called, tearful conversations were had, promises that had rang empty in the past waived their tattered banners for the final time. This time I had made sure that I didn’t meet him alone while I knew I still couldn’t trust my own judgement. Yet I felt free for the first time in almost five years.

The people who I was staying with had agreed to let me have my puppy with me at their house, and my best friend and his father went out to The Girl Beater’s house to get him. I waited for them to return, still reveling in the rather exhilarating feelings, almost manic, that I hadn’t had in years. As I emptied black bags and put things away, I had a small nagging doubt niggling in the back of my mind, but I batted it away, determined to enjoy my new found lightness of being. I heard the truck rumble up the driveway and I hurried out, anxious to see my pup after five days away from him.

But something was wrong.

My best friend and his dad walked up to the front porch where I had burst out of the door, cold air zinging my lungs.

As they raised their faces yet said nothing, I knew.

It was too late. He was gone.

I shook my head, hard, angry at the tears that were squeezing from my eyes. My best friend’s dad hugged me close and let me cry. “We buried him properly. We’ll take you to say goodbye.” he almost whispered, as my best friend wiped tears from both sides of the top of his nose, guy-style. “I’m so sorry, honey,” he said.

They told me later that The Girl Beater, his mother, his father, and two adult brothers had simply put the puppy in the basement and ceased to provide water and food. You see, those were the “consequences” of my leaving without making arrangements for his care and feeding. Five adults listened to a puppy cry until he couldn’t anymore.

I opened my eyes, the moment over; and was almost surprised at my surroundings, the flashback was so vivid. The woman was still crying quietly. The counselor sat across from her, cool and detached. My guy popped around the corner and said, “Hey, Dory, you ready?”

I got up and on the way back down the hallway, I shook, just a couple jerks, as if I could shake off those old recollections.