When life hands you lemons, toss them in the trash and eat cake

Archive for the month “May, 2012”

The Bulgarian Princess – Part 3

This is the third and final installment of this story. Read Parts 1 and 2 if you haven’t done so already and want this to make sense. Or maybe you don’t want to read those parts, and that’s fine. OR, maybe you want to read them out-of-order, which is also great. Enjoy!


After more than eight years of marriage, I thought we, including my brother, would have grown to like her. Wishful thinking is a dangerous thing, kind of like chain-smoking Marlboro Reds for 40 years and expecting that the CT scan will reveal the unsullied lungs of a newborn. Their marriage was a mess due to my brother’s recent job loss, a house in foreclosure, and her refusal to seek legitimate employment in lieu of her current money-making hobbies: performing body painting at nudist resorts, chauffeuring my seven-year-old niece to local beauty pageants, and black market trafficking Levis jeans in Eastern Europe. The Bank of My Dad kept them out of a cardboard box and her in designer duds and platinum-blonde hair extensions.

As Fall fell upon us that year, I started to dread the looming holidays. I concluded that I would rather shove a meat thermometer into my eyeball than spend another family gathering drowning in the palpable tension created by two married people who hate each other. (No, I’m not talking about my parents, they might actually like each other, on most days.)

On Turkey Day, they arrived at my parents’ house, the location of the Dad ATM machine. This year, the machine screen displayed “Out of Order.” Perhaps my dad’s spine reappeared because the turkey still had 30 minutes to go and he was two-thirds of the way through a bottle of Bordeaux – or maybe he valued his retirement savings far more than her pedicures and Coach bags.

News of the ATM malfunction did not go over well. Panicked and shocked, they locked themselves in one of the spare bedrooms.

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The Bulgarian Princess – Part 2

Continued from Part 1:

After the fake-marriage divorce was final six months later, my brother proposed. My father’s only comment was “Your brother in store for a lifetime of misery.” That would make a great greeting card, I thought. I must remember to pitch this to the Hallmark people. She asked my dad for $5,000 as an engagement gift. As we would find out during the next several years, gifts for anniversaries, birthdays, Christian and Jewish holidays, Ramadan, Kwanzaa, Festivus, Mother’s Day, and even Arbor Day, involved cash, flashy jewelry or designer handbags per Bulgarian customs dating back thousands of years. Does she think we’re that stupid? said my dad, as he sat hunched over his desk writing another check.

On their wedding day, my mother fainted when the Bulgarian Princess marched down the aisle in a corseted dress with a skirt (and price tag) larger than the Louisiana Purchase. My mom came to with the aid of smelling salts just as my older sister showed up halfway through the homily, teetering down the aisle in stilettos, which hit the marble tiles with a clack clack clack that echoed as far back as the vestibule. She plopped herself down beside me in the pew and whispered, “I guess I got the time wrong,” her breath reeking of bourbon.

As far as we could tell, the Princess had not worked since she arrived in the states; she had met my brother while loitering outside the pharmaceutical lab where he worked. She was attracted to men in white coats like a lion to an innocent, unsuspecting gazelle that had stopped to take a sip from the watering hole. She once told me, “I am not a alone job girl like you, or how you say, career? My most greatest dream is to be mudder and marry American, how do you say, doocter?” Mudder I soon figured out was not a quaint term for a horse-stall mucker or archeologist; she became pregnant two months after the wedding and six days after my brother started medical school. Mudderhood was on the horizon, whether any of us liked it or not.

To be continued…

Hurricane names I’d like to see

Yippeee. It’s Memorial Day. I’m feeling MUCH better than yesterday, due in large part to a friend’s generosity of spirit and the healing power of movement. More about that later this week, as I re-embark on a Pilates regiment, something that worked for me before and that I hope will be one of the next pieces in the puzzle of getting back on track.

So it’s Memorial Day, and you know what that means? Hurricane season is right around the corner – the official start is June 1, but we’ve already seen two named storms: Alberto and now Beryl (which in all honesty sounds like a god-awful ventriloquist act).

LIVE FOR ONE NIGHT ONLY! 6pm at the Knotty Pine Lodge!! Alberto and Beryl play with puppets!!! No COVER CHARGE!!!!!

Sigh. Can we please come up with some better monikers? Names that do justice (or lend irony) to these powerful forces of nature? Growing up in Florida and suffering through more hurricanes than I can count, I know they are killers, destroyers — and if we’re lucky — just minor annoyances. I respect them, we have no control over where they go or their strength. So, if anything, let’s have a little fun with their names, shall we?

To prove my point, here’s a sampling of the crap we have to work with this year, following good ol’ Al and Beryl:

  • Debby: All I can think of is that she does (and hits) Dallas. Nuff said.
  • Florence: As in Henderson. No self-respecting hurricane should remind me of Carol Brady.
  • Kirk: William Shatner, go back to the U.S.S Enterprise, please. Or those creepy Priceline commercials — and stay out of the Caribbean.
  • Patty: Seriously? I have a goldfish named Patty.
  • Tony: Mafia boss or pizzeria name. Inappropriate for any storm with sustained winds of over 39 mph.
  • Valerie: My sister’s name is off limits.

Soooo…drum roll please…here are my suggestions for some hurricane names, in lieu of the lame ones obviously being pulling from TV show credits and/or The Most Popular Baby Names of 1954 book:

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The Bulgarian Princess – Part 1

She charged into our family like a rhino that had broken free from the Barnum and Bailey tent. Problem was, most rhinos on the lam eventually moved to other places, like a nice city park or retention pond. She stayed.

Prior to moving to the States seven years ago, she married an American in order to secure a work Visa or something like that. (Early on, I didn’t pay close attention to the details; I just assumed she would be making a quick drive through the dysfunctional, one-stoplight town called My Family.) She and the American were “fake married” and would soon be divorced, which she proudly shared with us during her first visit to our house; this admission made my mother’s left eye twitch uncontrollably and her arm hair visibly stand up. It was spooky. Not the fake marriage thing, but the hair thing. Anyway, I finally figured out that “Give me money,” “I am much prettier than your ugly sisters,” and “Marry me or I’ll poke holes in your condoms and go off the pill” were the few American phrases she could say with ease, so practiced they flew off her serpentine tongue with the agility of an Olympic gymnast dismounting from the uneven bars. She didn’t, however, have a proper understanding of the English language when someone asked “Have you found a job yet” or “Stop asking my dad for money.”

My brother and the Bulgarian Princess were an item, my old-fashioned dad said with a sad shake of his head. To me, items were groceries that passed by on their conveyer-belt journey to the cashier’s scanner, a I-will-die-if-I-they-don’t-have-these-in-my-size pair of leather motorcycle boots, a mid-century modern armchair upholstered in chocolate brown, a piece of red velvet cake. Two people who made out at the dining room table and blurted out not-so-discreet comments about their sex life during dinner were not items. They were an embarrassment, a fleeting one, I hoped.

Three weeks into their relationship, my brother called me. He never calls me.

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Weddings and divorces and long holiday weekends, oh my

I am way out of sorts today. On the verge of tears, in fact, as I sit in a very public East Side place — surrounded by the ladies who lunch dripping in gold chains and adorned with frosted foot-ball-sized hair — typing this. I hate these long holiday weekends, especially when they back into a four-day work-week where I don’t really have a job anymore. I feel lost. I feel lonely. I feel useless. I feel (stir) crazy. Hopefully the fancy ladies won’t notice the fat girl in the corner sniffling over her bowl of fruit, which she really wishes was a big chocolate cookie.

I know what my problem is but  I don’t know how to fix it. At least not right this moment. So I’m just going to write about it.

Back when lack of a paycheck and job and the imminent doom of government cheese weren’t concerns, I intended to fly out to Northern California this weekend and see a good friend get married. Although I know my decision to not go was a wise, mature one (so unlike me!), I’m sad that I’m not there to see her on one of the most important days of her life. I watched her work her butt off to become a doctor and suffer through her mother’s long illness and subsequent death, and it was about time to see her on a very happy day. Have a blessed, beautiful wedding day, dear Jess. My much happier spirit is there with you. I promise.

As a juxtaposition to that, I found out yesterday — via my sister-in-law’s Facebook status update — that my brother asked her for a divorce on Friday afternoon.

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Anxiety shmanxiety

I was wide awake at 4 a.m. this morning anxious about my anxiety. The Klonopin just wasn’t cutting it last night.

I started thinking about my anxiety and how it all started for me as child: Fear of being abducted, never to return home again. (I often daydreamed as a child about being adopted, and that my kind, loving birth mother would come and take me away one day. Yeah, I know I’m fucked up. And that’s a different kind of abduction than the one I’m about to talk about.)

Anyway, I digress. It was 1981, and Adam Walsh had been abducted and killed in south Florida (not too far from where I lived at the time). His decapitated head was found floating down a river or canal or something. I was 8. I was terrified. Even in my young (crazy) mind, I wondered — with bile frothing in my throat — whether the kidnapper had cut off his head before or after his was dead.

And so started the first shades of anxiety in my life. I did not want to walk to school alone, fearful that I would end up chopped to bits and distributed into individual Ziploc baggies. Yet my mother insisted I walk, deeming the car riders “lazy.” It was not a long journey in retrospect: when I go home to visit, I chuckle at how close my old elementary school is to my house. A third of mile, perhaps? But in the mind of a kidnapper-phobic 8-year-old, it was a 25-mile hike through dark alleys filled with leering men.

Prior to leaving for school each morning, my mother insisted on a good, hearty breakfast. “You can’t have a good day without a good breakfast” was her motto, force-feeding me eggs and cream of wheat, which would end up in piles of barf on the floor. That’s how upsetting my walks to school were: I literally made myself sick in anticipation.

Disturbed by my daily breakfast regurgitation, she took me to several doctors to determine the physical cause.

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Writing classes and swamps

First off, for anyone who has taken a writing workshop or wants to take a writing workshop or is a writer or just wants to laugh, may I suggest Jincy Willet’s novel The Writing Class? I peed my panties within the first 10 pages. Hilarious, and a great mood lifter for my depressed inner artist.

I finished my literal writing class this week and I’m sad to see it end. What a zany group of people whose superlative writing skills humbled me. We spent the last class eating enough sugary treats to send a herd of six-year-olds into tasmanian-devil-like hyperactivity, and took breaks between the gorging to do yoga poses. There wasn’t a lot of talk about writing, it was just a party of sorts. A way to say good-bye to each other, after baring our writing souls to one another for three months.

Our little gaggle of writers was like The Breakfast Club. But instead of jocks, princesses, brains, basket-cases (besides me) and criminals, we had the the hilariously sarcastic I’ll-give-David-Sedaris-a-run-for-his-money-one-day writers (for an example, PLEASE read this gem written by one of my classmates); the serious, pensive writers who wrote gorgeous dialogue or mind-blowing descriptions (or both, which made me insanely jealous); poet-like novelists whose work demanded to be read aloud and those writers who took the stereotypical narrative and threw it upside down on its head; writers of layered prose chock full of similes and metaphors, and the minimalist writers whose economy of words made my jaw drop in awe. And our instructor — a young, recent MFA graduate — created such a relaxed, loose, raise-your-freak-flag-and-you-won’t-be-judged environment. I owe him a lot for getting me to write again and encouraging me, even though some weeks I brought some truly shitty stuff to class. Thank you, Mark.

I have to admit, though, I feel raw post-class for a couple of reasons. I can sit here and write about mental illness and breakups and vaginas without a second thought — safe within a somewhat anonymous blog persona. But…when forced to read my fiction face-to-face in front of a group of artists who are going to offer feedback, I am terrified. Well, rather, was terrified. The band-aid has been ripped off, however, not without some pain.

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Crazypants – Part 2

**Continued from Crazypants Part 1.

Just one month ago, the first sentence on Bea’s first page of a new life was punctuated with happiness. After three years of dating, she and Sam were getting married in just 11 days, on a farm in Vermont. The invitations had been mailed, her organic-farm-appropriate wedding gown altered. Everything was set. They just had to show up and say I do.

Before she met Sam, her friends and family had pretty much written her off as either a lesbian or a spinster.

In the dark ages, Bea’s mother would remind her, an unmarried 35-year-old woman would’ve been burned at the stake by now. Unmarried people at your age were considered to be witches. Or insane.

Bea wasn’t sure what high school her mother had attended, but apparently they used Grimm’s Fairy Tales as history textbooks.

At the urging of a friend, she signed up for one of those online 42,000-points-of-compatibility dating sites and met Sam. He courted her with precision and pursued her relentlessly. She silently swooned but played hard to get. They fell in love, and dated long distance for the course of the entire relationship. Sure, they both brought Samsonite-sized baggage to the table, but Bea was confident that, with time, they could condense the issues into a simple carry-on bag.

He eventually proposed. She said yes, maybe not because it was what she wanted to do but because it was what she was supposed to do. The prospect of being tied to a pile of sticks and set aflame scared the crap out of her.

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Crazypants – Part 1

It is 9 a.m. on Halloween. Bea’s mind is racing with wild thoughts and neurotic indictments that she has been unable to turn off for years. Bea’s sister calls this phenomenon the elves in her head: Santa’s little helpers that hammer and yammer and build toys day and night, regardless of whether it is December or June.

All the elves have indulged in triple espressos this morning. This is not a good thing.

I’m not crazy, Bea thinks. Okay, maybe I’m crazy. Or wait, maybe I’m not: Are truly crazy people even aware of their craziness? Well, I’m aware, so that makes me not crazy, right?

The group is in a circle, seated on uncomfortable folding chairs. Some people are in varying states of psychotropic-drug-induced stupor, while others are nervously rubbing worry stones or picking at their ragged cuticles with the focused intensity of a neurosurgeon digging into a patient’s cerebral cortex. It is Bea’s first day in the outpatient program. She is terrified.

A skeletal brunette sits directly across the circle from Bea. Her eyes are drooping, and she is drooling on herself. Bea watches as the window-shades of her eyelids close. Saliva oozing from the corners of her mouth quickly turns from bubbling brook to white-river rapids.

Okay, so now it’s time for goal-setting, says our perky group therapist, who has impossibly white teeth and a smiley face button pinned to her Easter-egg colored blouse. Not only what you want to get out of the program today, but what you’re going to do when you go home tonight. For those of you who are new today, we do this every morning when you arrive and every afternoon before you go home. Why don’t we start with you? she says loudly, as her eyes turn toward the salivating skeleton.

She awakes with a start. Um, my goal. Um. My goal for what?

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To be or not to be a mother

Happy Mother’s Day, moms! (And a special shout-out to mine, thanks for all the labor pre- and post-birth.) I feel the need to thank you all: You’re creating future doctors, scientists, writers, philosophers, teachers, police, firefighters, politicians who may actually do their jobs and hooligans like the ones who tagged my neighborhood last week and stole four tires from an SUV down the street, leaving it up on concrete blocks.

This day got me thinking about why I’ve never felt the maternal pull. Sure, my body was engineered to create, incubate and birth life, and I won’t lie: I’ve felt the twinge here and there. But whenever I’m feeling this way, I scamper to the nearest Walmart for a reality check. Screaming kids and frustrated, expletive-wielding moms fill the aisles. All it takes is about five minutes and my ovaries have shriveled up like grapes morphing into raisins on a sunny day

However, my overall apathy toward being a mom is not the only reason for my decision. I have several more specific reasons:

#1: I value my vagina.

The definition of episiotomy gives me night terrors. I don’t have a lot of other things going for me physically: I need to lose weight, I’m one large freckle, and if I can find the inventor of a truly effective under-eye-bag-eliminating cream I will lobby for his/her Nobel Prize nomination. My vagina is one of my best features: It is unsullied, uncut. It has never witnessed (and played a vital role in) pushing a bowling ball-sized baby through a very small space. I’d like to keep it that way.

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