The Oral Report

Standing up in front of the class was never so much fun!

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Location: River City, United States

The rantings and ravings of a mom of three wonderful girls as she finds new love while working like a dog and shaking her fist at the system. You know. Pretty much like everybody else.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Maternal Rantings

I alluded to something going on in my life in my last post, but didn't know if I wanted to get into it. But, well, I've decided that this is where I come to vent and I'm hopeful that if anyone reads this thing and has any advice to offer, it may be of help. So, I'm not gonna stew on it (and drive a few other people nuts in the interim), I'm gonna dump it here instead.

Hard to explain some of this without going into a lot of details about the break up of my marriage, I just want to say that we were married a little over 17 years, and over the course of that 17 years (before we met, actually), my ex had a serious dependency problem. We met when I was 20 and, at the time, it wasn't a thing for me. I wasn't the most naive thing in the world, but I suppose I'd never really had any experience with someone who could not control their demons to that extent. And while things were pretty good in the beginning, there's only so many times that someone can lie to you, or actively deceive you, before the relationship starts taking hit points. Add on that significant problems with the extended family kept impacting our family and...well...that's a lot for anyone to overlook. I lost alot of respect for him because of the way he refused to minimize the damage to our own family. Despite me telling him that this was a big problem and that if he continued to treat it as nothing it was going to continue to deteriorate our relationship, he seemed to believe that I'd overlook it, just as I had so many other things for years before. It was a roll of the dice, I suppose.

Things had changed, though. I had been working on taking control of my life. Trying to regain some long lost self-respect. And tiring, quickly, of having him spew hateful hurtful things at me on a regular basis. And so, I opted to leave.

We actually had been seeing a marriage counselor. But we weren't making much progress. When he lied to me, yet again, that was it. I was done. We'd actually discussed the possibility long beforehand, and I'd told him that if he did it again, I expected him to move out. To leave the girls and I in the house and not uproot us. He didn't respond. And when the inevitable happened, he refused to leave. Saying that it was 'my fault' that the marriage was ending and I could be the one to leave. That there was "no way he'd ever let me keep that house." Hateful, spiteful vitriol because he could no longer control me. But it was always only directed at me. I never thought he'd turn it on the girls.

He had just stopped smoking pot and was suffering badly with our situation. When his repeated begging for me to stay and give him yet another One More Chance wasn't changing my mind, he suggested to me, because he genuinely loves his kids, that we share custody. Knowing his youngest brother and the whole "child support" thing, I figured that I made enough to support myself and do okay by the kids part time, but that he needed them through this time. And they needed him. And so, when he suggested it, I didn't fight it. I wasn't doing this to hurt anyone. I simply couldn't take another hit to my self-respect. I just couldn't. It wasn't about money or things.

From the beginning, the two-week on, two-week off custody schedule was difficult. Prior to his first time with the kids, I had gone over first aid training with him. I'd written out several recipes that the kids liked (he'd done little or no cooking in the previous 17 years, so we weren't sure how this would go, but he was making an effort to cook for the kids, I was glad to help). I gave him lessons on how to do hair. In 17 years, he'd never been to a parent/teacher conference. Never signed a report card. Picked up kids from the daycare or taken them to the doctor only a handful of times. And despite me asking REPEATEDLY, had never gotten up with them in the mornings to get them off to school. All of this would have to change. They were not to have a noticeable change with him taking the lead for two weeks a month. And, given his lack of experience with most of this, I wasn't sure how it would work.

My oldest daughter resisted from the get go. She'd been exposed to more. Seen how he treated me. Seen how little he'd done around the house and with them. And had little or no respect for him. But I'd gently nudge her towards giving him a shot. Telling her that he was making the effort because he loved them. Explaining that he was new at these things and needed a little time. She'd cry and beg me not to go. Time and time again. And it was so difficult to send her anyway. I'd tell my ex about it. Beg him to work on his relationship with his daughters. And he'd tell me I didn't know what I was talking about. He was hurt and didn't want to give me any credit for anything. But I kept trying. Hoping, at some point, he'd put his own pain aside to better his relationship with the children he loved.

Over the last 14 months, I've gotten so many calls from my girls about problems with their dad, I can't count them. I have a two paged list, because I've been keeping track. Just in case. And in each case, I've tried to talk to them (and to him) about finding a way to work things out together. I've suggested counseling to him, to help deal with his anger management issues, but he insists that I'm the one in need of anger management counseling because of his mother. He believes I have a problem with his mother. See, my anger management would be to control my outbursts and inappropriate behavior towards his mother. Whom I've seen once in the last 14 months, and didn't say anything remotely angry to her at that time. He, on the other hand, has upset ALL of my girls numerous times. Gee, clearly I'm the one with the problem. I suppose telling his girlfriends that I have mental problems because I didn't like his mother calling our house at all hours and cussing us out for helping her. Yep, I'm a loon.

A month ago, he called my house and asked to speak to my oldest daughter. He was calm and friendly and I never suspected that he was getting ready to blow. But I was wrong. He was demanding and threatening to her over the phone and when they were done arguing, she insisted that she was not going back. He called back and talked to me. Also demanding and threatening that if I didn't help him better control her and put her right back up under his thumb, it wouldn't be pleasant for me either. I told him he couldn't talk to me that way and ended the conversation. He then tried again, got daughter #2 and next thing I knew, I heard her raising her voice to him in response to the same.

I'm not lying, or exaggerating in the least, when I say that these things never happen in reverse. My girls never complain to their dad about problems with me. Never cry when they have to come back to me. Never beg him to do something to change things. To help them. So, he has no idea how this feels. But I do. I've felt it far too many times in 14 months. And so, when both of my older girls said this is enough and we want to make changes, I called him again. And I told him that I'd offered him as many suggestions and chances to make it work as I could have reasonably been expected to, but that I could not stand by and watch my girls suffer at his expense any more. And that I hoped he understood, would get the professional help he needed, and that I was going to help them the best way that I could.

He was, as you'd expect, furious. And, in fact, has accused me of 'not having his back' because I refuse to continue to ignore the pleas of my children. Better, he says that I have an attitude. Me? Attitude? Okay, I probably do. But I've gone above and beyond what 99% of ex-spouses do in this situation. I did it for all of them. For my kids and for him. And he doesn't believe that I could have had a better deal in the beginning if I'd fought harder for it. But he couldn't be more wrong. A newly recovering life-long drug addict with little experience parenting his own children, getting divorced because of a long history of drug abuse and verbal and emotional abuse. Please.

But, see, when you make brand new friends after the divorce and those folks don't know the whole (or real) story, you can tell them anything you want. You can leave out little gems like "I never wanted to get up with my kids on Christmas morning. You was just another day to sleep in for me." or "Whenever my wife asked me to do something around the house, I'd ask her what she was doing and why she couldn't take care of it herself." You know. Gems like that. But judges understand those things. And I have no problem believing that I did him a HUGE favor. And I always will, no matter how he wants to spin it for himself. And, sorry, but my older girls know the truth, too.

And so, I met with an attorney and I was advised that the older girls should have no problem getting the very reasonable changes they are requesting, for no reason other than that they are tired of moving back and forth. Add on the fact that he doesn't trust or respect them and that they are tired of his verbal and emotional abuse and that they don't feel he helps keep up with school things very well, and I'm sure she's right. My six year old would be a different problem. But for the following exchange that still chills me.

When I was talking to my older two about the changes they'd requested, after I'd met with the attorney, I explained to them that I wasn't sure what we would be able to do with their baby sister. Daughter #2 tentatively questioned, "would she be alone with dad part of the time?" And I said, "it's possible." The two girls exchanged a very telling glance, and began to discuss options between them that would put one of them at my ex's with their baby sister at all times. I said "is there a problem I need to know about?" And daughter #1 said "Dad screams at Amy and makes her cry." Daughter #2 confirmed that she had been put in a position to stop her dad from emotionally abusing my six year old more than once in recent history. All of this was news to me. And when they told me tales of him screaming at her for "not coloring right"...a kindergartner...the blood just ran out of my face and I got mad.

Mad at myself. For ever agreeing to this deal in the first place. For getting out myself and leaving my children in harms way. I honestly didn't believe I was, but I should have known better.

So, we're proceeding. Full steam ahead. He says he's fighting it. Insists that he's as good a parent as I am and that all of this is "my fault". My fault for continuing to give the kids an apron to run under for every "little thing". What kind of mother am I??? At the end of the day, this is gonna be a long, costly venture. But there is nothing more important that I can spend my money on than helping my children.

The fact that he doesn't see how badly he is hurting their feelings by insisting on fighting them on this, or the long term damage that he will most assuredly do to his relationship with them, only reinforces what a selfish man he is. I've thought, long and hard, how I would feel in his shoes. And honestly, I'm pretty sure I'd be angry. And more than a little hurt. But, I would not stand in my kids' way. I wouldn't want to make it more stressful on them in the short term, and I'd never want to make a future relationship with them strained in the long term.

He just refuses to acknowledge any of that. To do so would be to acknowledge even the possibility of fault in his marriage and it's much better for him if he can continue to proclaim that he did everything he could to keep the marriage together and I was the one who left. Nice story, when you can get someone to believe it. But I get the real ex, not the pretend face he puts on for others. And my kids get the real one, too. And we're tired of it. And we're not going to take it anymore. It's my job to protect them and to do whatever I can to make their lives better. And that's exactly what I'm going to do.

I just wish we weren't going to have to give thousands of dollars to attorneys to put our kids through the further trauma of testifying in open court about how he has treated them. I've talked to them about whether they're up to it, and they say they are. His own girlfriend has children the same ages as my oldest two and when they don't want to go to spend time with their dad, they aren't forced to go. But it's appropriate for me to force mine to? So many double little time.

Okay, that feels better. Thanks, once again, guys, for letting me rant. And if you have any to spare, please send a little positive energy to my girls, they're going to need it. Thankfully, we all have the ever supportive Highlander, too. Not sure what we'd do without him sometimes.

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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Random House

A few 'Random Things' from the last few days at my house. I'm gonna go bake some cookies in a few minutes, but had a few things I wanted to share. Nothing worthy of a post in itself (well, some of them I could have gone on about for days, but won't), but a few blurbs to get 'em out of my system.

* A Curt update of sorts. My kids came home yesterday. Bearing the latest tales of their youngest uncle. His mother fell at WalMart a couple weeks ago and on the day she was released from the hospital (and returned to her nursing home facility), Curt felt it was an opportunity he couldn't pass on. He tried to use her injury as an excuse to "visit" her after hours. Unfortunately, for Curt, the doors accessing the corridors to the guest rooms automatically lock after visiting hours end. Not to be outdone, he made a scene bullying the nurses and other staff (who are all abundantly familiar with Curt and his antics) until he was finally able to get to see his aunt (his mother's sister), who is also a resident at this nursing home facility. His attempts to get money from her were met with a big "get out!". And so ends another tale of Curt.

* Many moons ago, I mentioned to Highlander that I thought, given his loving nature, that he would make a great dad someday, he scoffed...repeatedly, in fact...and disagreed vehemently. After ten months around my kids, I would like to say a big "I told you so" in public. I often wish I were younger, or that it wouldn't be such a risk, because I would greatly love to give this man a child of his own. But, that is just not to be. Which is sad. Because to see him with my girls brings such a smile to my face.

Right now, he's trying to get my youngest to lie down and rest a little. She had a rough night. Waking up around 5AM with fever spiking at about 102. She hadn't been feeling poorly on Saturday. (Though they just came back from their dad's around noon and I'm not sure how she's been the last few days.) But she woke up feeling bad and with a cough. I got up with her. Gave her some meds for the cough and the fever and sat on the couch holding her, both of us trying to catnap a little. Highlander got up with us, too. Helping fetch a cool damp cloth for me to wipe on her, tissues so she could blow her nose, the thermometer.

Back in the day, I would have handled all of those things, while her father slept. Highlander was adamant in his refusal to go back to bed when I told him (more than once) that we were okay. And when my little one was ready to sleep, I laid down with her and we slept for a couple hours. I could hear Highlander in the next room, typing. Not sleeping in case we needed him. He came to check on us around 7:30. I heard his footsteps and knew what he was doing. Checking on his girls. Making sure we were okay. Worried, I suppose. I don't know if any of you realize what that means to me. What a wonderful feeling it is to know that he loves those kids as if they were his own. For this (and so many other things), let me reiterate...

Luckiest. Girl. In. The. World!

* My middle daughter had her first session with a new therapist this past week. She's been having a great deal of stress lately. Struggling a bit with school. Primarily with grades, but also with some boys who have been making her feel uncomfortable about her body. My 15 year old is quite buxom. Far more than her older sister or I, in fact. And high school boys, if you can believe it, put on impromptu contests to guess her bra size, or make remarks that embarass her, or hit on her...alot. And she knows that these are guys that have no interest in her other than the conquest. I'll give her this much, she's pretty smart. I wish this stuff didn't bother her so much, but I've never been in that position myself, so I'm not sure how I'd feel if it were me.

The other big stresser in her life right now is her dad. She and her older sister have asked me to make changes to the visitation schedule. Changes that would have them here full time (can you say 'hooray' with me?) and visiting their dad every other weekend (which is pissing him off big time). My older girls are of the age that they can pretty much make their own decision on the matter. They've been kind to him about it. The change wanted as much because they are just plain tired of packing and moving every two weeks, as they are of his anger management problems. Irrational outbursts and the verbal and emotional abuse and intimidation that have gotten better over the last year, but haven't stopped. And issues with respecting them, and their privacy, and mutual trust.

In any event, my #2 kid went for her first session last week. Her dad took her. And sat in on the session. While explaining the things stressing her, my daughter told the counselor (and her dad) that it hurt her feelings and that she was angry that he was opting to fight them on this. And when she looked him in the face and asked him why he was putting her through this, making the stress that was causing her to need a therapist, his response was that he loved her and wanted to spend more time with her. All about him. Doesn't want to lose the control or admit that he has problems or is, in any way, less of a parent than I am. Hey, don't want to think about the kids and what's best for them, huh? What a guy.

The next few months should be pretty painful for all of us, as he insists he is going to fight them on it. He knows this is coming and didn't even respect them enough to talk to them at all about it over the last two weeks while they were all together. Their feelings and opinions, obviously, mean so little to him that it wasn't worth the effort. But, I may need to subpoena the counselor. I can't believe my ex doesn't see the damage (both to the girls emotional health, but also to his long-term relationship with them) and that he is so blithe to it that he flaunts it in public with such disregard.

* Do you know the Debbie Reynolds' "Tammy" movies from the 1960's? Probably not. They're pretty stinky. But my mom loved them and that's where she got my name. In addition to the movies, there is also a theme song. Which is also pretty stinky, but I can't help it, whenever I hear it, I have to sing along. My girls mentioned to me last night that their dad has burned a mix cd that has the song on it. And that he and my youngest daughter sing along to it in the car. And that, in fact, his new girlfriend does, too. Sorry. That just freaks me out a little. Almost as much as him dating a girl named Tammy a few months ago.

Okay, off to the kitchen for me. Another fleeting Sunday, indeed!

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Friday, February 24, 2006

Culturally Speaking

Whew...while it felt great getting all de-Curt-ified the last few days, I'm shifting gears a little today. Fluff all around, Barkeep!

Know what I did last night? Well, Highlander does...and Nate might...but the rest of you are as the 'shrooms. Though I can change that. And I will. O' course, a little effort (in the form of reading) on your part will be helpful.

Last night, I was spending a cultural evening with two of my girls.

My ex wasn't able to take my middle daughter to a school function last night. So, even though it's technically his time with them, I got to take her. My oldest daughter tagged along to hang out with her boring, old mom. And, hey, before I get into the actual events of the evening, I just want to say that I find it TOTALLY cool that my teenagers actually enjoy hanging out with me. Probably for two reasons. The first of which is my pride in their excellent taste of companions...okay...that's a little further down the list. The first is that we have a relationship that is so comfortable for them. It is for me, too. The second of which is because I genuinely enjoy their company, too. We have fun when we're together. We cut up and laugh and it's just good. You know?

Anyway, school thing...let's get back on track, shall we? Her high school has a liberal arts program that is incorporated into the standard package. Consequently, there are a few little "extra" things that they get to do while they're getting their learn on. Each class has a special annual project. The seniors have "The Big Show", where they put on a performance. The Sophomores have the "Renaissance Fair", where they learn to juggle and make appropriate costumes, etc. The Freshmen, of which my middle daughter is one, have the World Cultures Bazaar.

While I don't think I could say, convincingly, that the purpose of the World Cultures Bazaar is to promote awareness of our fellow humans, it might be part of the mission. What I can say is that the class is broken down into groups of 4-6 that are assigned to represent a foreign country. Once that has been accomplished, each group is responsible for a number of tasks, the culmination of which is an event which allows the likes of me to learn about, and appreciate, other cultures, and get an evening's worth of entertainment for the measly $2 admission.

Since the beginning of the school year, we've been involved in all sorts of things. Making flags, writing consulates, getting costumes and recipes together. And, while it's a great lot of trouble, when kids are also involved in orchestra and chorus and drama (of both the official and unofficial variety), as well as regular homework, and my work hours, at the end of the day, I think it's a worthwhile thing. So, I get a little pumped up about it.

When my oldest daughter, now a junior, went through this, she was on Team France. It was (as many of them are, oddly) an all girl team. And the girls decided for their local cuisine requirement to each do a different French dessert. It was a popular booth! Making her costume was tricky. I'm no seamstress. Not even close! And her group danced the Can Can. Could a mother be more proud than to see her 14 year old daughter lifting her skirt in front of a crowd of teenaged (and older) males? I think not.

This year, we were the Irish team. Our team of five (two boys and three girls) happened to all play musical instruments. And so, for the entertainment portion of the required elements, they learned a piece by a contemporary Irish rock band called Flogging Molly.

I'll readily admit that I knew nothing about them. And that when they wanted to do a song called "Drunken Lullaby", I was biting my tongue a little. But they were fired up about it and over the course of a couple months had several practice sessions and got really good with it. My daughter plays viola and got the only solo in the song. She did great. I was really very proud. They also had a keyboard player, a drummer and a guitarist, along with vocals.

Sure, I'm not the most objective person when it comes to my own kids, but to help put things in perspective, here are a few examples of the other groups.

Team Germany - Performed the Maypole dance. They put pre-recorded music of the Oktoberfest song (in English) on while they circled around a pole, interweaving ribbons as they went.

Team Russia - Dressed in lab coats to represent Russia's history of 'mad scientists' (as soon as the funding comes through, we're gonna let all the kids know that the cold war is over...should be any time now), they performed a science experiment. Spraying various elements across a butane flame, they were able to identify them by the color of the flame. Come On!!

Team Greece - A reading. A reading about the history of the Olympics. How much prep does it take to walk out and read from a sheet of paper?

Team Poland - Singing the Polish National Anthem, forgot the words in the middle, and had to refer to notes.

Now, Team Cuba had some very good salsa dancers. And Team England had excellent Elizabethan singers (even if their dancers really, really stunk). And Team Japan did a lively martial arts exhibition. But my kid better take Best All Around or something, or it's gonna be on down at River City High School!! After seeing the final results of the performances, I can't believe that ANY group spent as much time preparing as Team Ireland!

I should back up and say that each team entered (dressed in authentic garb) carrying 'their country's' flag, kind of a'la the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. Guests are given an opportunity, both before and after the performances, to visit each country's booth and they are encouraged to talk to the kids about the country.

Each team's booth was required to have an example of the country's flag, a map of the country, cultural artifacts (Ireland opted for a collection of celtic crosses), a tri-fold poster board that included historical facts and other important data about the country, and food native to the country. My daughter made Irish soda bread. Her group also had scones and rootbeer. Booths were also to be manned by team-members dressed in authentic costume.

I visited the French team's booth (not having had dinner before the performance) in the hopes of finding some yummy French goodies. This year's team opted for savory over sweet and it was not a good choice. Something lumpy and unidentifiable, in sauce.

Team Brazil had some juicy looking orange slices. But they'd covered them with black pepper. That's just WRONG! And they weren't moving very fast either. Clearly, I wasn't the only one with trepidations.

Team Scotland had something that smelled terrible (I couldn't bring myself to try it), but that everyone was raving over. It was hard-boiled eggs covered in ground sausage and deep-fried. They had quartered them, so that everyone could get a taste.

I ended up at Team Italy's booth eating a tiny piece of Italian bread dipped in olive oil and herbs. Can't really mess that up.

Most of the costumes looked good. Some clearly involved more effort (and cost) than others. And, of course, I'm completely leaving out the international incident that was narrowly averted when a member of the Jamaican team insulted a female member of the Saudi Arabian team by gazing at her bare arm. But, overall, my oldest daughter and I greatly enjoyed attending the bazaar. And, honestly, spending time with my girls, no matter what we're doing, is about as good as it gets. They come home tomorrow and I can hardly wait to see them!!

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Curt's Story (Third in a Three Part Series)

If you're still hanging in, this post wraps up the highlights of Curt's dismal existence to the point we are now. If you're just showing up here, you may want to go back and start with the first part.

But be afraid. Be very afraid.

When Curt and Angie divorced, Curt was deathly afraid of the consequences of being unable to pay child support. Given his inability to hold any job for any length of time, and the laws allowing for the incarceration of deadbeat dads, it was likely a valid fear. And so, he fought, very hard, expending a great deal of (his parents') money to get shared joint custody. And he was, despite his mental health issues, despite his previous child molestation issues, despite his drug and alcohol dependency issues, despite his criminal record, despite having no job and living in his parents' basement, considered a responsible enough parent to raise his daughter. I'd never really believed that the system could so utterly fail a child until that time. I said it then, and I still believe it now, I've never seen a more appropriate candidate for the foster care system anywhere. Say what you will about the problems with foster care. About neglected children falling through the cracks. Any judge who could look at this situation and think that a child would not be damaged living with this man is an idiot.

Angie began using crack around this time. Providing yet another parental pillar for the girl. She lost her job with the law office, dropped out of school, and spent a $20,000 inheritance within months on drugs. She and Curt, neither of whom were in an appropriate position to do so, shared custody of their child, but, because of the ever-present EPO's, it was a difficult and constant imposition for everyone else in the family to pick up or drop off the baby. Curt could not go get her himself. Curt kept insisting that this was ridiculous, as he'd "never done anything to hurt Angie". The family wanted to believe this. Which was absurd given the witness accounts and other physical evidence, as well as his penchant for violence in his first marriage and with his parents. I suppose it was easier for them to pretend. But, well, I wasn't as good at playing along. So, whenever he'd spin that little yarn for me, I'd remind him that he, himself, had called me and told me over the phone that he'd assaulted his wife. And that I'd believed him then. I also never missed a chance to remind him that he needed to work on putting his daughter first and becoming the man that he needed to be as her father.

Curt and I didn't get along particularly well. The fact that I had no respect for him probably had a great deal to do with it. The fact that he probably got tired of me preaching (relentlessly) about how much self-improvement he needed to do might have contributed. The fact that he'd borrowed our pick-up truck once to help a friend move over the weekend and then refused to return it for us to be able to go to work on Monday, because they'd gotten busy and weren't done, forcing us to go steal it from where he'd hidden it from us, didn't help his case either. The fact that my (then) husband had to constantly bail him out of jail, listen to his mother fret over how she was going to provide for him after she was gone and make ends meet herself while she was here, that we all had to try to help him parent his daughter (throwing birthday parties for her, babysitting, providing second-hand clothes, etc.) and he never once said thank you, might have had something to do with it, too. But, with Curt, it was all about entitlement. People owed him things. He never returned the favor or showed any modicum of appreciation. Other people had things and he was as deserving as any of them.

Curt's daughter is the only person I've ever known who has flunked kindergarten. In fact, she flunked it twice. She has seen a psychologist for years because of nightmares. In fact, during a session when she was 6, she drew a picture of daddy's 'bong' for her therapist, and still they let her go back to him. I guess the fact that her mother was a crackhead at this point made Curt look like a better father.

Angie's house and white pick-up truck were damaged about this time. Curt's "side of the story" of their life together, the lengthy explanation of why he'd had to hit her and how she was such a bitch that she deserved it, were preserved for all to see in permanent red ink on her truck and a few choice 'bitch', 'cunt', 'fuck you's, were spray painted on her house (and the house in which his own daughter lived half the time) for all to see. Curt was convicted of unlawful destruction of property and ordered to pay for the corrective actions necessary to remove the text from both the house and the truck. Several more thousand dollars that his mother had to pay.

My ex-mother-in-law began to be concerned about Curt's future (nothing like waiting to the last minute, folks) as she, herself, became more infirmed. And, her answer to this was to buy Curt a house. He would, then, have a roof over his head always. This wouldn't account for things like property taxes or utilities or maintenance and upkeep of a house, but she was sure Curt could take care of those things. I wish I could say that it was senility that caused her to believe these things, but it was the same blind faith she'd always had when it came to him. And probably a healthy dose of fear. She was, however, wise enough to realize that putting the house in Curt's name would open a Pandora's box. Curt could sell the house for drug money and then be living in the same cardboard box I'd warned her about for years prior to this. Curt's ex-wife could force the sale for money he owed her. He could lose the house in a police seizure for illegal activity. He could fail to maintain it to the point where the house would become unfit to live in. It was the first clue I had that she was thinking in realistic terms when it came to Curt.

Her answer? To buy the house and put it in the other three siblings names and allow Curt to live there. Basically, she felt it was better to put the financial security of her other three children (and NINE grandchildren) at risk, to make an attempt to take care of the monster she had created. There was no way I was going to allow my (then) husband to have property in his name in which his youngest brother was, in any way, involved. I plainly stated that if she wanted to buy him a house, she could do what she wanted with her money. But that there was no way that I could allow her to put my own children at risk to help Curt. And I was pretty firm about it. Not rude. Not raising my voice. And her response was to call me an asshole. She tried again and again to talk the family into this over the next several months to a year. But it just wasn't going to happen.

The age of the internet put Curt in a position to meet new women who didn't know his past. (This actually was a huge advantage for my ex-husband a couple years ago, as well.) And he would use his mother's credit card to pay for hotel rooms to go meet these unsuspecting females. When my ex-mil reported the cards as missing and had them cancelled, he just had the women show up at her house. One early morning, my ex-mil was awakened to noises coming from the basement and when she went downstairs to see what it was, she found Curt...along with three of his new friends (two women and a man) engaged in (what she considered) deviant sex. Curt's mom did what she always did in these situations, she did the equivalent of shaking her finger at him and saying "you better stop doing that, Curt." And he did what he always did in these situation, he ignored her.

Curt continued to financially and emotionally drain his parents to the point where my ex and his sister took a stand. They felt they had to, as there became genuine concerns as to the ability of the parents to be able to survive until their natural deaths on what money they had left. As my ex and his sister were their father's power of attorney (at this point the old man was in a nursing home), they commandeered his direct deposits from social security and his pension fund. They could pay their mother's household accounts and Curt couldn't get ahold of the money from the new account, because no bank card or checks would be in the house. The plan was actually a very good one. Curt, however, couldn't have disagreed more. Very quickly, he began threatening and beating his mother, insisting that she make my ex and his sister return control of the money to her (where he'd have access once again). When that didn't work, he went on a rampage, destroying family heirlooms including hand painted ceramics that had been done by my ex's maternal grandmother that were brilliant, several pieces of expensive crystal, paintings that had been done by my ex's father (who was very talented in his own right) and, most tragically, an oil painting of a Nebraska sod house that several collectors had tried to procure for years, which had been painted by my ex's paternal great grandmother.

He, once again, made an attempt (by threatening his sister with physical violence)to get one of his father's guns, and when it didn't work, he threatened to kill all of his nieces and nephews. It was a threat that the family didn't take seriously. "Oh, Curt just says things sometimes. He would never really do them." I did. And I never let my children be alone with him again.

It was then that my ex-mil called us and asked us if she could come stay with us. Wanting, rather than to make Curt leave her home, to abandon it to him. When we explained to her that if her safety was an issue, she needed to contact the police , and that she needed to do so anyway to file a report about the property damage, she reacted as she regularly did, cussed us out and refused to confront him. She went to stay with her brother while she healed from yet another of Curt's beatings, and then when the brother wouldn't allow the nonsense to continue without Curt being prosecuted, a niece.

One would think Curt would have revelled in having the house to himself, but, it was not to be. Curt had, perhaps, the worst of his psychotic episodes around this time. (Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, huh?) The lunacy was taking it's toll on me, big time, but I wasn't having delusions. Can't say the same for Curt. Curt began telling people that there were midgets in the attic of his parents' house. And he believed it. They were in the walls and when he slept, they came out and took things. He insisted they were there. And he called the police, a couple times, to come find them and make them leave. When a friend suggested to him that he might be able to capture their images on a video camera with a tripod, Curt explained that the midgets were too fast to be filmed and that police needed to bring their dogs to get the midgets. The police had taken Curt downtown for psychiatric observation twice, but if he wasn't hurting himself or someone else, they, apparently, could only hold him for a relatively short period of time.

This went on for weeks, until, one Sunday afternoon, a neighbor contacted my ex-sil, and she then contacted my ex-husband to tell him that Curt had been out in the front yard screaming for help. My ex-husband called the house and Curt told him that he had confronted one of the midgets who had tried to attack him and that he had fought him off, killed him with a kitchen knife, and had trapped the body in a bedroom...just in case he wasn't completely dead. He was very anxious for my ex-husband to come over to confirm the incident and help him. The blood drained from my ex-husband's face as he asked Curt if he was sure the midget was dead and if there was a lot of blood in the house. He was so afraid that someone...some stranger...had been hurt, but didn't, for a moment, believe it was a midget. And so, he headed over there only to find that Curt had trashed his mother's bedroom. There was no midget. No blood. No knife. But every piece of the antique cherry furniture that had been in that bedroom was splintered. It looked as if he'd taken a sledgehammer to it. The mattress was propped against a wall and had been slashed. The window to the front yard had been broken out. Curt was distraught that the midget had revived and escaped before any help had arrived.

My ex told Curt that the police were on their way to help with the midget situation and Curt, afraid that he'd be forced to go in for more in-patient observation, took off. At this point, he was afraid to stay in the house anyway.

Ironically, he called about an apartment that was in a building owned by my current landlords (who are friends and former bosses). They had, during the six years I worked with them, heard a great many "Curt stories". And so, they were intimately familiar with the tenant who was looking to rent their apartment. I hadn't talked to them in a year or so, when the older of the two brothers called me. It was an interesting conversation, to say the least. Dan said, "I had to call you. I've got a story you won't believe." I was at work, but I bade him continue. He said, "I got a call from somebody wanting to look at one of my apartments. So, I met the guy out there. He looked around and told me he was interested in renting the place. I asked him his name and he said Curt R________. I couldn't believe it! I said 'Are you THE Curt R_________???', and when he reluctantly shook his head, I said 'Man, you're FAMOUS!" By this point, I was cracking up. Certain that Dan had heard enough "Curt stories" that the story would end there. But no.

I don't think people believe me when I tell them these stories. I suppose they are somewhat unbelievable, but I assure you, I have not embellished. Not in the least. And I assure you that I've left out a good deal more that I could have included. Dan was calling, then, to let me know he'd rented the apartment to Curt. And two months later, when he had to evict Curt and was putting his furniture on the street, he called me again. It was generous of him to give me the opportunity for an "I told you so." But he's a pretty sweet guy. Not that I wasn't expecting the call anyway.

Curt was pretty upset about his furniture being put out for trash. Not upset enough to contact the landlords or make any effort to pay his rent. But upset enough to contact his sister and insist that she use her dad's pension money to buy him new furniture and a deposit on another apartment. She wasn't nearly the soft touch that her mother was and poor Curt ended up out in the sticks in a run down trailer.

I understand he's been back in jail at least once since I split with my ex. In fact, the family thought he was still in jail when his father passed away last November. He surprised them by showing up at the funeral, though. His ex-in-laws now have full custody of Curt's daughter. Sad that it didn't happen until the child was ten years old. My ex commented that it was tragic that her grandparents wouldn't allow her to come to her own grandfather's funeral. (Curt is not allowed any contact with her.) I commented that it was tragic that Curt had made the situation what it was. The family (including my ex) disagree.

They're still...after more than twenty years...making excuses for this man. I suppose that's what dysfunctional families do. For a lifetime. Someone once pointed out to me that each member in a dysfunctional family has a role. A role that they take on (or that is thrust upon them) from a very early age. And it becomes so ingrained that it feels 'normal' to them. I believe there is a great deal of truth in that.

Have you ever seen RAISING ARIZONA? One of my most favorite movies of all time. Nicholas Cage's character is a bad boy who isn't very good at it. He ends up serving a lot of time in prison. Each time, as he comes before the parole board, they ask him if he will do better. They ask him if he'll give up his criminal lifestyle. And each time, he says he will. This happens over and over and over again. And it's always the same people on the parole board. It's not like they haven't seen him and had this same conversation before. But each time, he tells them he'll be good this time. And they look at him and say "Well all right then.", and turn him loose. That's the way our local legal system continues to handle Curt. He has been arrested so many times and charged with a variety of violent offenses. Yet he's never been to prison.

His family treats him the same way. I never could. I had a hard time believing him the first time. At some point, fairly early on, I quit believing ANYTHING that came out of his mouth. It confuses me how the people in his family, who experienced the same things I did, and more, continue to be mesmerized by the constant falsehoods Curt dishes up. I suppose you have to be shoe-horned into those roles at an early age for them to take well. Or maybe I'm just stubborn.

Curt's daughter will have a lifetime of problems. Problems that her father, and her mother and her grandmother all paid for in advance. And each member of that family will carry the scars of their responsibility in making Curt what he is today.

I still worry, from time to time, that one day he will snap and make good on the promise he made so many years ago. A promise he made because he believed that all of his troubles were caused by the failure of his family to help him at various points in his life. Some nights I wake up from the nightmare of the phone call from my ex telling me that his brother has broken into his house and killed our children. And it's a bad one. I'm so glad that Highlander is there when I wake up.

I'm always a little suspicious when people roll their eyes and talk about their crazy in-laws. Could it be that they have their own Curt? I suppose. But I get through each day convincing myself that most people just don't know how lucky they have it. It's not that I don't realize that every family has some problem or another. Hell, my children are related to this man by blood. They could, potentially, share the genetic predispositions he does. And that really does scare the shit out of me.

Funny, I keep trying to come up with a moral for this story. Something that we can all learn. I can't seem to do it.

Maybe the moral is to get the help your children need when they are young. And, even if it hurts or is tough, you have to follow through, because you're doing what will be best for them in the long run.

Maybe it's that drugs and alcohol can completely destroy you. If you cannot control your demons, they will consume you.

Maybe it's that you shouldn't marry into a family with that many mental health issues. Or make that untreated mental health issues.

Maybe it's that you can't protect your own family from everything. No matter what you do. Sometimes the hell comes from within. Though that moral really sucks.

Whatever else I've learned in my own life, I can say, without hesitation, that I saw this one coming. A long way off. And while I tried to make everyone who had any power to change it aware of it, ultimately, for a variety of reasons, nothing was done and it turned out pretty much exactly like I knew it would. Sometimes, you really don't want to be right.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Curt's Story (Second in a Three Part Series)

When last we left young Curt, he was just back from visiting the Canadian legal authorities and their fine facilities. It was during this time that Curt decided to grow up and find himself. An admirable goal, even if he had no strategy whatsoever to make it happen. A series of dead-end jobs (mostly delivering fact, he had worked for every chain in town and numerous locations of each chain, as well) didn't seem to give him much gratification (though he did gain an uncanny ability to map the entire city) and so he decided to enroll in community college.

Except for the fact that he'd never technically graduated high school, it would have been a pretty good plan. By this point, I was married into the family. A copy of Curt's transcripts were ordered so that he could try to find out what would be needed to get his higher learn on. Curt had not graduated from high school because he'd been asked to leave high school. Asked to leave because of an incident involving an elementary school girl and some inappropriate sexual shenanigans. It was never discussed in detail and I still have no idea exactly what happened. This was swept so far up under the rug in that family, that even the dust mites wouldn't be able to get at it. Curt made a few half-hearted attempts at getting his G.E.D., continued to be the pizza delivery baron, went through a number of vehicles (all of which were purchased by his parents), and continued to have minor skirmishes with the law.

This was about the same time his parents began to start "losing" large sums of money. Bank cards (or blank checks) would disappear and then their checking account would suddenly, coincidentally, become overdrawn. We all knew who it was, but his mother fervently refused to believe that her own son would steal from her. The first time it happened, she went to the bank and when they showed her video tape footage of Curt using her card at an ATM, she didn't know what to do. She refused to file charges and paid the bank their fees and the shortfalls and hung her head all the way home. Wee, Wee, Wee. After that, she just "took care of things", whenever Curt did this stuff, and would get out the broom and sweep the new stuff under the rug more and more frequently.

My ex-mother-in-law believed (or tried very hard to believe) that Curt was trying to do better. Because he told her so. Not that any fool looking at his behavior would believe any of the crap coming out of his mouth. I guess a mother's love is just as blind as the romantic kind sometimes. Curt was (still is, I would guess) very charismatic. Weaving elaborate motivational tales of how he was going to turn his life around. And all he needed to make it happen was $1,000. Or another car. Or someone to help him move. Or someone to give him a reference for a job. Or whatever he WANTED on any particular day at any particular time. Reminded me, for all the world, of a snake oil salesman. But, it wasn't my least not that point.

Curt was trying to stay "clean", but when his mother found a case of beer in their garage, rather than confront Curt, she called my (then) husband and accused him of hiding beer at her house (why wouldn't he have it in his own place???) and tempting Curt. She was so angry with him that she was cussing him out and arguing even as he denied any involvement or knowledge of the situation.

Once the entire family acknowledged the fact that Curt was, once again, using substantial amounts of drugs and alcohol, they pushed, once again, for treatment. And Curt (who refused the help) was locked out of his parents' house. They changed the locks and refused to let him in until he got straight. At least that was the plan. It was probably too little, too late, by then. But it was an admirable decision, and I believe that had they stuck to their guns and done what it took then, Curt's life could have been salvaged.

Very quickly, Curt began seeing a therapist, who diagnosed him with a bi-polar disorder and prescribed medication to help him deal with the problem. The medication seemed to help his personality swings, but it had side-effects that Curt didn't like. Amongst them, significantly curbing his libido. And, surprise, he didn't like that one damned bit. Hard to be a manly man when you can't beat your woman and then drag her off to bed! So, he quit going to the therapist, and he quit taking the medication, and he started self-medicating again. And the cyclical fits of rage due to his own lack of self-worth resumed.

He broke back into his parents' house and threatened them. Calling his mother a 'cunt' to her face (a scene my ex witnessed, but did nothing more than not speak to his brother for a week about) and later punching her in the face. Well, to be honest, she called me prior to getting together for a family outing to ask if I had some foundation make-up she could borrow because she had a big bruise on her face. When we showed up, she had a black eye that, literally, covered half of her entire face. I know my two ex-sister-in-laws and I all gasped upon seeing it. We all assumed Curt had hit her. But, we were wrong. She explained that what had happened, you see, was that Curt was lying on the living room floor and she'd fallen (from a seated position on the couch) and landed with her eye hitting his hand. His hand had just happened to be in a fistoid position at the time of the fall. I mean, what are the odds of that? Honestly, though, this was the story she told. She really did. And she thought, for some bizarre reason, that any of us would believe that load of horse hockey.

After that, no matter what Curt did, he was never put out of the house again.

It was during this time that Curt met his second wife, Angie. She was a legal secretary and a student at the university here. She was cute and sweet and the entire family was scratching their collective heads trying to figure out what a girl as together as she seemed to be, could possibly see in the mess that was my youngest ex-brother-in-law.

At the summer picnic (the annual family reunion), Curt's sister had a very frank conversation with Angie telling her she should not continue her relationship with Curt and that she should get away as soon as she could. That she had far too much going for her and that Curt's first marriage had ended as a result of him beating the girl and that he would, eventually, beat her, too.

Angie was confused as to why Curt's sister was trying to get rid of her in such a hurtful fashion and, of course, completely ignored the advice that could have saved her so many tragic circumstances later. I wonder, sometimes, if she ever remembers that conversation now. If the regret consumes her. I believe, if I were her, I'd be replaying it mentally, almost daily.

When Angie became pregnant with Curt's child, she became his second wife. It was a lovely outdoor ceremony in the middle of the woods. As is customary for Curt, the beatings began shortly after the honeymoon. Before the baby was born, the police were being called for domestic disturbances. They were living in his parents' basement (again) and during a particularly nasty fight, Angie was screaming for help, prompting Curt's dad to come to the top of the stairs and ask if anyone needed help. When Angie said Curt was hurting her and to please call the police, the old man ignored her request and returned to his easy chair in the living room, trying to ignore the screams of the woman, pregnant with his grandchild, as she was being beaten by his son in the basement of his own house. Angie finally broke the leg from a nearby coffee table and beat him off of her enough to get away. She never forgave her father-in-law and she vowed that she would never again live in that house. Though she did not divorce Curt at that time, her relationship with her in-laws was never repaired.

They moved into an old farmhouse that belonged to her grandfather and continued to fight. Police were called to the property repeatedly. Angie began to fight back and, at one point, took a sledge hammer to the windshield of Curt's car. Curt asked his father to borrow one of his rifles (he had a modest weaponry collection) because of a problem with gophers on the property that he was trying to get under control. That's the first time that the other siblings stepped in and refused to allow it. Putting a gun into that environment would, most assuredly, have ended in a homicide. So, despite the fact that my ex-fil had agreed to allow Curt to borrow a gun, the guns were, at that time, removed from my former in-laws home in order to prevent Curt from getting access to one.

Once Curt's daugher was born, things continued to deteriorate. Curt and Angie split and reconciled three or four times. Angie began to drink heavily. Every time they got back together, Curt would end up hitting Angie. She called me once, after a particularly bad beating (once Curt had left to go cool off somewhere), and asked me what she should do. I told her to get to a battered woman's shelter and looked up the name and address for her. The family was none to pleased with me, but I couldn't keep looking the other way as easily as they did. When Curt came back home and couldn't find her and the baby, he called me. He asked if I'd heard from her, stating that he was remorseful. That what he'd done to Angie was blatantly assault. And I told him I had talked to her, but didn't know where she was.

Many assault charges and EPO's later, they divorced. And then began the travesty that was the custody case of their daughter.

You think you've heard it all? Oh, no. There's more. Tomorrow will be part three in the brief summary of the 20 year span that I knew this man.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Curt's Story (First in a Three Part Series)

I used to muse that if ever I had a topic in my life, about which I could write a book, it would be the lifetime adventures of my youngest ex-brother in law. Getting a publishing release would most assuredly only be possible post-mortum. Twenty years worth of stories about him is definitely one of those things that writes itself. I should probably start by stating that my ex never defended (most of) his youngest brother's behavior, but the family made excuses and allowed this insanity to go on, to the detriment of everyone else. So, take a look at the Story of Curt and tell me if I was unreasonable to insist that my divorce decree would include a no-contact order for my children with this man.

The very first time I ever met my ex-husband's youngest brother he was about 16 or 17. I was 20. My ex would have been 24 (he's the oldest of four kids). We were at his mother and father's house. Sitting at the kitchen table chatting. His brother was in the shower when we got there and I'd never met him before. All of us 'adults' were having a lovely conversation about a camping trip my ex and I had been on and they were asking after my family. That sort of thing. We'd only been dating a month or so and I was pretty new to them. Anyway, someone knocked on the front door and his mother leapt up and when she spotted the patrol car out the front window, she started shouting "CURT, it's the police!! They're at the front door!!"

Now I wasn't completely naive, but this was a shocker to me. I hadn't heard anything about the criminal element in this family. I suppose it's not the sort of thing one uses to try to lure a young woman into falling for you. But, when Curt came bursting forth from the bathroom, completely naked (with not even a towel), heading, with all due haste, for the back door, I saw more of my future brother-in-law than most women ever do, I'd imagine. The police, not to be outwitted by the likes of the maladroit Curt, had established themselves at the rear of the premises as well as the front. (Am I the only one who watches police drama on tv?) And so, young Curt, was apprehended before he was able across the backyard. He was marched back into the house where he was allowed to dress before he was hauled off to the pokey.

This should have been a sign. I should never have allowed myself to ignore it. While you can't blame your significant other for his family, you should be aware of how he (and THE REST OF HIS FAMILY, I can't stress that part enough) deals with this sort of thing. Vitally important. And there are some just should never, EVER know about your in-laws.

Over the next several years the family dealt with many issues of a legal nature with Curt, as he broke into (and burgled) a gas station to help support his drug habit. Given his age, he was offered the option of an in-patient drug treatment facility. This was not the first break he failed to take advantage of. Sadly, just one of many. After being admitted to the treatment center, he found that it was not to his liking and "escaped" days later, returning to his elderly (both in their early 60's) parents home by way of breaking into their basement in the middle of the night.

Several more scrapes with the law over primarily traffic issues, some of which bought him a night (or more) in jail, some of which simply resulted in skirmishes, all of which upset his mother and often got his oldest brother involved in bailing him out, etc., followed.

At some point around Christmas of 1985, Curt met the first of two women (possibly the only two women) who would marry him, Jaclyn. In fact, they had just started dating and he brought her to Christmas at his parents' house, where she was introduced to the fam. By this point, all of the brothers and sisters had significant others, but no one was married. Curt, now 20-21, just disappeared the following February. A few weeks later, he notified his mother that he'd run off to Florida with Jaclyn and gotten married as they were expecting a baby.

With Curt, the hits just keep coming. That's one universal truth I learned long before the rest of them. While the entire family was glad to get a break from the chaos that surrounded Curt, we worried about what would become of a child brought into that situation.

Alas, when Curt, and a very pregnant Jaclyn, showed up in a car packed full of belongings in early July, those concerns were replaced with a laundry list of others.

And when Jaclyn had a 10 lb. baby boy the end of July, the rest of the family had their calculators out scratching their heads. They'd only known each other 7 1/2...8 months, tops. Jaclyn had explained to Curt that the baby had come early.

Sure it did. And it weighed 10 pounds. Happens all the time.

Curt and Jaclyn and their baby boy lived in my ex-in-laws basement for several months and then, once Jaclyn got a regular job at a local grocery store, they moved into their own tiny place. Curt became a stay-at-home dad, except grandma did the babysitting and he played video games and smoked a lot of pot. When he wasn't sleeping, of course. But, apparently, the stress finally got to Curt and he began getting violent with Jaclyn. Beating her. Once, I personally witnessed him hit her in the head with a coke bottle (back in the day when they were still glass bottles, btw) while she was holding the baby.

When the baby was about 10 months old, Curt and Jaclyn got into such a bad fight that when she left to go to work, her employer would not allow her to clock in and insisted that she either go to the hospital or a shelter and that she could not come back to work until she'd done one or the other.

At this point, Jaclyn finally left Curt. (My ex mother-in-law spewing the nonsense that Curt beat Jaclyn because she instigated it. Because she was a bad mother to her son. And any other reason she could think of that wasn't that her son was an abusive prick and she'd failed him as a mother.) Jaclyn's leaving only further enraged him, because he had (in his mind) done nothing wrong. And, because of this, he came to realize that Jaclyn had gone insane and was not fit to raise his son. Encouraging his mother to back him on this, Curt spent thousands of dollars (of his parent's money) fighting to get primary custody of the baby. And you won't believe this, but Jaclyn told the court that the baby wasn't his. Shocker!

Curt fought the court-ordered blood test. Spending even more of his parent's money. And when he eventually did have to do it, and it was proven that the child wasn't his, he still tried to take him away from his mother. Can you say 'spite'?

$14,000 later, Jaclyn was free of him and returned, with her son, to Florida. They are the luckiest ones in this entire story.

Curt then fell into a bit of a depression. A road trip, perhaps, would cheer him up. Friends he'd met at a treatment center he'd voluntarily been in (in Michigan) shortly before I'd met him, had asked him to come for a visit. So, he got his dad to rent him a car (let's call this mistake #1) and took a few of his party friends (mistake #2) and headed north (mistake #3). Once they'd visited their friends at rehab, they were so close to the Canadian border that they thought, why not check out the great white north(that'd be mistake #4 if you're keeping track). So Curt drove (mistake #5) the rental car that was leased in his dad's name, to the border checkpoint while his buddy in the passenger seat rolled a few joints (big ginormous mistake #6).

What a shock! They were all arrested for trying to bring illegal drugs across the border and the rental car was impounded in Canada. Curt, of course, called his parents, who paid to get him released from jail and a bus ticket home. Then they paid the exhorbitant rate to have someone from the rental car agency fly to Canada and get the car and drive it back to River City. Though, I'm sure the cost was well worth the effort to try to alleviate Curt's depression. It's just too bad that it didn't work.

Tune in tomorrow for the next installment of Curt's story. Believe me, it's never a dull moment with Curt.

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Monday, February 20, 2006

Dead Presidents

Well, it's President's Day. No mail. No school. No work. Oh, wait, that's because I took a vacation day. But still, a happening holiday nonetheless. Eat a little cherry pie. Wear a funny hat. Play those funny games with the lying and cheating and backstabbing. What do you mean you don't celebrate it "quite that way"? Huh. Must just be me, I guess. You probably watch DAVE and play lincoln logs. That is so 'I love the 90's'.

I'm a smidge cynical when it comes to politicians. I generally like mine liberal. Or at least liberally basted on a spit. It was sometime around Nixon's tenure that I came to believe that, despite his infamous denial, he was a crook. And so were just about everybody else in politics. I've felt differently about a few people. But, by and large, it's my contention that it's no coincidence that lawyers make the best politicians (and bait, for that matter), lying scum is what it takes to get voted into office. And what does that say about us? That we believe politics is such a horrific job that we won't do it and we're willing to let the lying scum have at it to keep us from having to do it.

And so, in honor of this solemn day, commemorating all of the wonderful contributions made by the men who have led this country nigh these 230 years, here are a few things I wanted to share.

This article is about the ten worst blunders made by U.S. presidents. I've looked through the list more than once. Somehow Dubya is not on it. Hard to believe that. Maybe there was a cut off date or something. And here are some presidential scandals. Just so's you'll remember to look both ways. Graft crosses both sides of the aisle.

Sometimes, the only good president is a dead president. And while we're talking about them (and we must remember that Supergirlfriend has just a little morbid streak), did you ever wonder how the presidents died? That list seems to be a little outdated though. As Ronnie Reagan wasn't on it. Of course, that could just be because everyone knows that Nancy shoved a couple jellybellies up his nose and smothered him with Saddam Hussein's woolly beard.

While it's a little late to start making plans, I encourage you to take a moment and think about the men we, as a group, have elected to lead us, over the past many years. Think about the qualifications that we have found compelling. Think about our taste in character.

We suck. We shouldn't be allowed to do this.

But I suppose if we can't even pick out someone to spend our lives with after months or years of "up close and personal", why in the world do we think we are competent to pick a stranger to run our country??? (Hey! Maybe Monica Lewinsky was simply trying to make a more informed decision.)

So, give a little cheer for your favorite president today. Hard choice. I know. Mine's Jed Bartlett.

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Saturday, February 18, 2006

Missing My Girls

While surfing the other day, I found This Full House. Nice layout, but what caught my eye yesterday was a cute photo montage she'd done as an early Valentines Day thing, using the lyrics to "Love Is In The Air". My first thought? Oh, I could do that! I've got the cute kids and everything!! I fretted and searched and tried to come up with another song that would work. One that would fit us better.

Highlander finally gave up and went to bed with a book, because I just couldn't get it. It was, frankly, pretty damned aggravating. And then, today, when I went back to the blog which originally inspired me (with every intention of "borrowing" her lyrics to "Love Is In The Air", which would have been okay, but it would have been settling). Clearly I was going insane. And then, the right song hit me. And it was so obvious.

I've been missing my girls. (They're at their dad's and we're barely to the half way point.) It occurred to me that the song that I used to croon while I rocked them would make the perfect choice for a photo montage of them.

Lucky for all of you, I have elected to forego the audio link of me singing along, but you may rest assured that I was doing it as I put this together. It might help to imagine the sound of 100 cats being squeezed accompanied by bagpipes and accordians being played by people who have never seen such instruments before. Now throw in Yoko Ono with a sinus infection and you've got it. Or you can just refer to the Beatles version and save yourself from the pain. (Note from Highlander: don't believe a word of it. Supergirlfriend's voice is professional quality; if American Idol didn't have that idiotic age limitation, she'd be rocking all your worlds right now on radio and TV.) (Note from Supergirlfriend: #1 - Be sure to check your blog post when you ask Highlander for formatting help. He'll add things and never tell you. #2 - I believe we all know how objective Highlander is about any of my skills and/or talents. 'Nuff said.)

Love, Love, Love

Love, Love, Love

Love, Love, Love

There's nothing you can do that can't be done.

Nothing you can sing that can't be sung.

Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game.

It's Easy.

All you need is love.

All you need is love.

All you need is love, Love.

Love is all you need.

All you need is love.

All you need is love.

All you need is love, Love.

Love is all you need.

Nothing you can know that isn't known.

Nothing you can see that isn't shown.

Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be.

It's easy.

All you need is love.

All you need is love.

All you need is love, Love.

Love is all you need.

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Friday, February 17, 2006

Two Full Days

Guess What?

I have five minutes. That's right, you haters, five minutes. Five minutes to do anything I want. Five minutes to make the world stop and take a deep breath and close my eyes. Five glorious minutes. And what am I doing. Typing. Pathetic, I know.

Highlander was right, you know. Blogging is totally addictive. If I don't do it for a couple days I start jonesing. And Mike Norton was right, too. It's about time for this blog to get to the business of car repairs and bad hair days. Buckle up. I'm gonna get my rant on.

For the last two days, I've been in Full-Throttle Martha Stewart Mode. Or, that's what Highlander calls it anyway. I think it's actually a kind of a throw back to Nate. Once upon a time Nate was describing his ideal woman to me (in the event that I met her here in River City), and said he was looking for someone who could cook like Emeril, keep house like Martha and a few other things associated with a few other folks that I won't go into here. I, jokingly, told him that he had described me to a tee. Sometime later, when Highlander moved to River City, he blogged that, my assertions to Nate were no exaggeration. I guess that whole thing loses something in the retelling. Likely, a lot. Bottom line, when I'm in serious house-frau overdrive, he calls me Martha Stewart.

Now, Nate is coming for a visit. His first time in River City and we're looking at about four days of checking the sights and sounds of this town and catching up. Highlander and I are looking forward to it.

My family, being "hill people" raised me with a certain protocol when it comes to company. Especially, overnight company. You want guests to feel welcome and homey, but you also want them to feel special...that you've gone to some measure of trouble because they're important to you. You don't want to go overboard to the point where guests feel they have to dress for dinner or that they can't feel comfortable while they're visiting, but you want them to see that you've been looking forward to their visit.

I need to go pick Highlander up from work in about an hour and a half, and Nate should be here by then. The apartment is respectably clean. I've got some chicken, smoked sausage, rice and veggies in the crockpot and a loaf of banana bread baking in the oven. I needed to wind down a little, so here I am. Unloading on you guys. Again.

Work has been excrutiating. Knowing that I'm taking three days off next week, I've been trying to get things in my little world in some kind of shape so that they can idle for a bit, or finalized, or handed off. But, yesterday morning, while I was working on making a list of outstanding stuff at Hell (I know I said I'd be done with this job in two weeks, two weeks ago. Leave me alone. It's one of those little lies I have to tell myself to be able to sleep nights.), one of my bosses came to visit me and inform me that our current temp receptionist was an idiot. Oh, like that was news. Ellen started two weeks ago and if you look up the word 'vapid' in the dictionary, she'll be staring back at you...with a kind of vacant, lobotomized stare. It would have to be, because that's the only expression she ever has.

She was touted, by her agency, as being very computer savvy and having extensive background in marketing. Excellent. One of the responsibilities of our receptionist is to prepare marketing proposals for various upcoming jobs. This consists of printing out prepared sales sheets on various architectural and construction projects that our firm has done in the past, lists of clients, design awards, key employee resumes, company histories, for both our firm and any consultants (engineers, usually) that will be working with us on the potential upcoming project. Generally, 4-6 copies of the entire submittal are required, and then each copy is bound. It really can be a very time-consuming job. Difficult, however, it's not.

We had two proposals going out today, both to the same client, but for two different projects. Six copies of each. My boss gave the information, and an outline, to Ellen ten days ago. (This after a fiasco two weeks ago that had three key employees pushing to the last minute before the proposal was due, because Ellen totally misjudged her time and would have totally missed the deadline. And, hey, someone with an extensive marketing background should be intimately familiar with deadlines...wouldn't you think?)

So, as I said, yesterday, he stopped back by my cubicle to beg for some help. I glanced around at the piles and made a mental note of everything I had left to do and the time in which I had to do it, and grimaced as I realized I'd be working some overtime. Likely a great deal of it. And, frankly, Martha Stewart had shit to do at home. You know. So, I left all of my stuff to the side and busted my ass DOING ELLEN'S GODDAM JOB most of yesterday. And got so much done that it should have taken her about two hours max to finish everything this morning. My boss was falling all over himself thanking me last night. Stammering in awe at what I'd gotten done. But, hey, I was seriously motivated.

When I got home last night I was totally wasted. I had planned to hit the laundry last night, but that was a lost cause. I did a few things around the house. Baked a cherry, raspberry, blueberry pie, prepped veggies for the crockpot and then went to bed totally surrendering to the sweet bliss of sleep.

This morning, I started the crockpot and did another couple small things. Highlander loaded the laundry into my car, so that I could head directly to the laundrymat (oh joy!) when I got finished at work. I checked into how the proposals were going when I got there and was told that everything was going fine. Great. Some time to work on some of my own stuff. So, I started digging through the piles madly. Calling contractors and clients. Moving things down the line.

A couple hours later, when I assumed things on the proposals should be finished, I checked in with Ellen again. Still nothing. Hadn't started binding them yet. ::sigh:: I so badly needed to get home and get things done. And I could just see that I was going to be stuck staying late and working on this crap. And I REALLY didn't want to. And whenever I tried to hurry her up, she'd give me that look. That far-away void look and I thought, more than once, that maybe if I smacked her in the side of the head it would jump-start her brain. When that thought started to get irresistible, I had to force myself to walk away.

I brought various staff members up to speed on items I had been working on for them, answered all of my company emails and voice-mails and organized things on my desk that I thought might be needed in my absence. Then, I went back to see where Ellen was with the proposals. It had been, after all, four hours. And, to give her credit, she'd done about 15 minutes worth of work in that four hours. I went and talked to my boss and told him that she had very little work left and that I had things to do at home and intended to take my vacation time. Both he and Ellen calmly assured me repeatedly, that they'd be fine. So, I only put in an extra half hour today. Much less than I'd thought I'd be doing. I suppose I should have been grateful.

It's just that leaving that, to do laundry and sweep floors and clean toilets wasn't quite the reward I had envisioned for the hard work I'd put in. But, hey, I'm done. Now I can enjoy the next few days virtually guilt-free and even have some fun! Highlander can be proud of his home. Everyone wins when Martha visits. Somehow I'm sure he'd disagree. I think Martha scares him a little. And to give credit where credits most assuredly due, he has done quite a bit around here, too. I couldn't have done it without him.

Whew, two very full days. Five days off. Yip Pee!

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Cheney's Got a Gun

I saw this "Visual Hunting Aid" yesterday. At first glance, I got a little chuckle. But, now I'm just queasy. I've got about a million links I want to share on this, but the more I look, the queasier I get about it. And the fact that the White House is doing nothing to come across with some Pepto Bismol really is pissing me off.

By now, if you're breathing, are not comatose, and have made it to any electronic communications device in the free world since Sunday, you are aware that Vice-President Dick Cheney was involved in a hunting accident in which he is believed to have shot a fellow hunter. If, you've been camping in the wilderness and this blog is the first thing you've checked since you've been back...well, first I'm flattered,'s a link to the news story that may help bring you up to speed.

You know that insurance commercial where the celebrity goes into the coffee shop and thanks the clerk for the “special” extra…just because he’s a celebrity. And she tells him that’s how everyone gets it and he gives her the wink and says “suuuure it is”? Don’t you wish that it was true? That famous people got the same deal everyone else does? That store policies and laws were not just for some people, but for ALL the people?

That Barney’s would eagerly open their doors for me if I wanted to roll into their establishment sometime for a little 2AM shopping spree. Kinda like they do for J-Lo.

You think Elvis was in the same army everyone else was in 1958? Oh, I don’t think so. Elvis don’t peel no potatoes, Baby.

That if Russell Crowe or Nick Nolte or Diana Ross were driving drunk, some highly trained law enforcement official would do the job they are paid to do and haul the offender off to the pokey like they deserve. Oh, wait. They did.

Perhaps I should be labelled a commie, but I think these things should be universal. That we don’t make exceptions for people just because they (or some faction) think they are more important...somehow, more valuable…than someone else. I mean, hell, do teachers and heart surgeons get these perks? ‘Cause I’m thinking they’re a whole lot more important than singers, actors or even politicians, in my book. Oh, wait, we don't get to vote on that either, do we?

Now, do you think anyone did a blood alcohol test on Cheney when he SHOT A MAN IN THE FACE WITH HIS OVERPRICED BB GUN? Let alone finger-print the bastard or lock him up? Oh, hell no. I have to wonder if the local police were even called. My guess is that they rushed Dick back to the compound to start the damage control meetings. And then, they probably started digging the hole to bury the body in the backyard of the whitehouse and hiding Cheney's toys.

Is it too much to want the leaders of our country to live by the same standards that are set for everyone they govern? If you or I (well, it wouldn't be "I", because I wouldn't be hunting) were involved in a hunting accident, you think we could just say "oops, my bad...gotta get back to the important business of...." whatever business it is we do, that'd be enough? Do we want it to be enough?

What happens if his hunting partner dies? He's already had a heart attack due to one of the pellets travelling to his heart. Given his age and current condition, it's unlikely they are going to try to remove the other dozens of pellets that are lodged in his chest. So, you know, it might happen again. And, if it kills him next time. Where do things go then? Manslaughter? Yeah...I don't think so. But it should. It would for anyone else in this country. Well, except pro football players.

Of course, the White House doesn't take this man's life any more seriously than they're taking the lives of the young men they're sending to Iraq every day. So, what should we expect, huh? When you're gods, the sheep are only here to serve and amuse you. Certainly, you wouldn't answer to them.

And, after all, guns don't kill people. People kill people. Right? Every time.

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Sunday, February 12, 2006



I know I haven't written you lately and...well...I suppose the easy answer is that there's just been a lot going on. But, I hate neglecting you. And since there was 'stuff' on my mind, I thought I'd get it down and you could do that thing you do where you read my long-winded nonsensical crap and roll your eyes that cute way that you do and then send me back a note telling me to please stop sending you email or you're gonna get the cops involved.

I was cleaning this weekend and ran across a high school yearbook. It was the one from our senior year. I opened it up and looked around a little. Reminiscing about that football player I had a crush on (you know who he is, I don't have to write his name here), and clubs I was in. Working on the yearbook staff. Hanging out with my friends. And I saw your picture. And the note you wrote in my yearbook. I know I owe you email. I wanted to let you know that I do think about you from time to time.

You remember when we were young and wild? You and I would get into so much trouble. Best friends do that, I guess. And our parents never found out about it. Well, your parents didn't find out about it as much as they got a vibe and told you that I was a bad influence. Heh. As if.

Like that time, during the summer between our junior and senior years in high school, when Robin was having an affair with the married man that lived across the street from her. The one whose kids she would occasionally babysit. And they had that really cool swimming pool and the guy's wife was out of town and he had invited us over for a midnight swim. So, you and Robin and I all got our folks to let us spend the night at Pam's (whose folks were out of town) and then we snuck back over to her neighborhood in the middle of the night to go swimming. and I went swimming, anyway. And then on the way back to Pam's house at about 3AM, Robin's car ran out of gas. There we were with no car in the middle of nowhere in our goddam bathing suits at 3AM. Lucky for us that ambulance came by and picked us all up. Those guys dropping us off at the IHOP was a real stroke of luck! And, hey, we had Robin's car off that road by 6AM when her dad would have passed it on his way to work. know...all was well.

I'll bet I missed curfew twenty times that summer. Sneaking in through the basement window most of the time. Except that one time when I tried to sneak in the front door and my @*&%! key broke off in the lock and I had to knock and wake my folks up to let me in. Boy, were they mad.

Or, hey, remember that time we went to that party way out in the sticks with those guys we met at the fair? I don't remember their names. Do you? Whatever. Anyway, we got so drunk that I couldn't even remember driving home. It was like I remembered getting in the car and the next thing I remember was taking the exit ramp off the highway near my folks house. What's 10 miles? Gotta be. Geez, I could have run 40 people off the road in 10 miles. I'd have never known it.

What about that time when we went over to our bosses apartment and you drank so much, you started kissing my boyfriend and I decided to pay you back by taking the guy you had a serious crush on into the back bedroom and making a man out of him? Heh. Was that really us? We just had no sense whatsoever, did we?

We thought we were such big shit in those days.

Remember going up to the Hideaway Tavern? We were what 17? 18? The bartender would give us beer if we kissed him. Many's the night we came out of there pretty drunk and never spent a buck. And if you dressed like a slut and played a little pool, you'd make more than a few new friends, too. But I doubt either of us would know anything about that, huh? AH HA HA HA!!!

Seeing Heart in concert was kinda cool. But you were so high, I doubt you even remember it. Yeah, okay, so I'd smoked a little myself, but you were a mess. At least I wasn't falling down in the parking lot, hollering about how that was "the best fucking night of my life" and that they were "the best fucking band EVER". What a dweeb!

How many times did we cut French 101 when we were Freshmen at U of L? Yeah, at least once a week. But, we had fun. Didn't we? Way better to hang out at the sandwich shop drinking pitchers and playing video games. And, so what if our grades weren't all that. College is about more than classes. It's about having fun and living life, too, you know. We sure got that down, didn't we? LOL!

Sometimes I wonder how we ever survived those days. I imagine we were both pretty lucky, because I know we were both pretty foolish. Underaged drinking, smoking pot, cutting classes, recreational unprotected sex, driving under the influence, lying to our parents...sheesh...teenagers really are all about testing the limits aren't they? I'm glad you and I made it unscathed.

And, WHEW! I am so glad I don't have teenaged daughters.

Oh, wait.

I totally do.

I. Am. So. Screwed.

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Cupid's Little Helper

Just because I want all of you to have a very Happy Valentines Day (since I'm destined to do the same) fellas, I've gone to exhaustive lengths to come up with some information that should make this year's festivities memorable for you and the one you love. Now, you don't want to wait until the last minute, so avoid the rush and be the first on your block to keep up with the Joneses and all that other marketing hoo-hah.

I found this sexy name decoder site today. Don't know if I agree with what came up for my name, but given the impending holiday, I thought it was at least seasonal. So, I'm passing it along. Don't even act like you won't try it. You know you will.
Temptress Adeptly Made for Massage and Yeses

Bad Cupid has a variety of e-valentines for your ex (or your current) significant other. One of my personal favorites is as follows:

roses are red
they come by the trainful
I hope your death
is slow and painful.

But be careful. Choosing from the wrong list could prove disastrous and/or expensive.

What's Valentines without some tradition? Gotta get some candy for your sweetheart, right? And it doesn't have to be chocolates, you know. How about a gummy heart? Because, after all, tradition doesn't have to be blase'...just customary.

So, while we're getting seasonal, I thought I'd share a few other goodies with you. No additional cost, of course. Just because I like you! Law & Order SVU Valentines. These are two of my favorites. Which one is creepier? You be the judge.

You say you don't have a Valentine? Mary is waiting for you now. But don't keep her waiting. She's not a woman who deals well with life's little inconveniences...

And you should probably remember a gift for your sweetheart. They advertise that diamonds are forever. Heh. You want something that says I love you? Something that says forever? I say permanent ink drilled into flesh is the answer. A tattoo professing your adoration is a sure way to show her you mean it when you say it. Just ask Billy Bob and Angelina.

Okay now. You have some work to do. I wish I could share my Valentines surprises with you, but with Highlander it's hard enough to keep secrets. I don't need to go blurting them out here. Have a happy one.

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Mastering the Mystique

Once upon a time, I was young. Oh, it was eons ago, I know. Long, long before I was jaded. In fact, I was still pretty impressionable in those days. There may have been a sheet of ice still covering the earth at the time. I'm a little sketchy on some of the details. I believe I was the age that my middle daughter is currently, and I was a freshman in High School. Yes, yes, of that much I am sure. I had always been a good student and truly enjoyed learning for learning's sake. And, yes, I embraced my inner nerd...even when it was my outer nerd. Couldn't help it.

High school freshmen really are pretty clueless. Of course, one doesn't think so when in that situation. Can't remember all my classes, but I do remember Freshman English with Lorraine Abrams. And if she's googling her name, I hope she finds this and knows that I enjoyed her class and that I remember her fondly. Now, just so you'll know, you did not get an 'A' in Ms. Abrams English class. It was unheard of. There were epics written on bathroom stalls telling of mystical incantations that hadn't worked...of formulaic equations that had failed...of men who had fought and died heroically in an effort to get one. She had a reputation for being a hard-ass. I didn't realize how easy it is to get one of those reputations when I was that age. Looking back, I suppose she was tough. But, I always thought she was fair.

I remember the first paper I ever wrote in her class. It set the tone between us for the entire year. I don't remember the theme of the assignment, but I do remember that it was to have been five typed pages with at least three references. It was my first high school paper and I wanted it to be perfect. I felt at competition with the rest of the class and while I didn't want to necessarily be better, I wanted to make sure I was at least par. I selected the History of the Feminist Movement in America as my topic.

I didn't realize I was wielding a double-edged sword at the time, but I came to realize it when I learned that the feminist movement was a cause dear to her heart. I wasn't sure if it would make my quest more difficult (as impressing her on a topic in which she was so well-versed would certainly be a challenge) or substantially easier (because she might cut me a little slack for sharing a passion for the movement). Freshmen don't have the wherewithal to avoid these situations. Or maybe they're just unwise in their abandon. But, whatever the case, after we'd submitted outlines and rough drafts, I figured out that I had better be suiting up. This wasn't going to be just any paper. Not even just any freshman English paper.

Long before the internet, I combed the library, looking for books and magazine articles that would enlighten me and supply the opinions, historical data and facts and figures necessary for my paper. I spent hours and hours reading the material. Immersing myself in the origins of the movement with suffragettes Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, to feeling kinship with those burning their bras and fighting for the ERA. As an impressionable young woman, it was easy to believe in the cause. Easy to look (in 1976) at the disproportionate employment practices, the unfair educational opportunities, the fact that marital rape was still legal, and feel that women needed to be empowered. Badly.

Yes. Yes. By this point, you have all deduced that I got an "A" on my paper (and as a final grade in her class). It was 20 typed pages and had two full pages of reference material. I railed against the patriarchal system and beseeched women everywhere to take a stand. Ms. Abrams was very impressed (or so she claimed) and she had great respect for me throughout the time I knew her (or so it seemed). She always encouraged me to write and thought I had great things ahead of me. I imagine she'd find me a disappointment now, not having lived up to the great potential she saw in me. But she was one of my biggest cheerleaders then.

I was reminiscing about all of this yesterday, when I heard that Betty Friedan died over the past weekend. It was during that time in my life that I read 'The Feminine Mystique'. And like so many other things at that time, it had a profound influence on me. I imagine it did on a great many women of the time. Bolstering our belief that we were whole people individually. That while it was great to be a wife and a mother, being a wife and a mother didn't have to define who we were as people. That we could find meaning in our lives without relying on anyone else to administer that meaning. That we were stronger than we thought ourselves. Smarter than we were given credit for. And that it was our responsibility to ourselves, and our daughters, to let the rest of the world in on that little gem.

It was another time, I realize. My own daughters will never know those feelings. And there's a sadness in me about that. I'm glad for them that this country has come as far as it has in how it treats women, but I don't think you can always appreciate what you have when you haven't seen the struggles a little more closely. It's almost impossible to get the same thing out of reading about history as you do living it.

Much of this is the same reason that I vote. Always. I feel I'd be doing the women who came before me...who gave up so much to make it possible...a huge disservice by skipping out on the responsibility just because it's inconvenient or because I am not particularly fired up about a candidate. Women who endured years of legal battles and ridicule, whose own children suffered so that I could have this right, deserve better of me. I refuse to slap them in the face by ignoring their contributions.

Sad to see Betty Friedan's passing. She had already become a name in a history book for most. Of course, she'll never be that to me. Or to Ms. Abrams, I'm sure. To us, she will always be the voice of hope and the promise of what we could be. Both individually and as womankind. And that's a priceless gift.

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