Category Archives: Lake ME

The Title is Title

The following are titles of blog posts I’ve intended to write for years but probably never will:

  • McDonalds’ Playhell: Lord of the Fries
  • South American Donald Trump Wants You to Buy a Classy Thong
  • I Just Gave You Melanoma
  • Return of the Working Mother (Demise of the Magic Fucking Laundry Fairy)
  • The Korean Cab Hustle
  • My life with PMDD: Premenstrual Dysphoric DEATHtoALL
  • Kid-Free, Clothing Optional
  • Soju Blackout
  • If There’s Lipstick on Her Teeth, It’s a Vicodin Day
  • Hello Ultra-size Tampon, Goodbye Hymen
  • Damnit Niki: And Other Tales of Assholery

Then again, my failure to share these gentle, heartwarming tales might just be for the best.

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Salutations 2015

Oh! Hey there 2015! You startled me!
How are you? Five months old already? Wow. Where does the time go….
Me? Oh yeah, well, you can say I’ve been a little busy.

I don’t know if anyone told you, but I enrolled in college last summer. Adults go back to school all the time, I know, but in my case it wasn’t so much the going back thing as it was more the just going to part. I wasn’t picking up from where I left off at 19 or 20, because at 19 and 20 I didn’t believe in the future. I believed in part-time jobs, all night parties and never marrying or (shudder to think) having children. Little Niki was kind of a shithead, but we forgive her.

All these years later, my placement test slated me for college-level English and Dumb Blonde Math. About two weeks into Dumb Blonde Math I posted the following: “Quotients are welcome to shove an integer up their respective prime factorizations.” My attitude has yet to improve.

There are three remedial math classes I need to complete before tackling a mandatory pummeling in college algebra. I knocked out the first course last semester. This semester, however, I floundered hopelessly in what I believe was the equivalent of 11th grade algebra and/or Dante’s Seventh Circle of the X Y Interception of Hell. Somewhere along the way, I started to write a blog called “7F{(6u+4.2c)-13k(4M-12a+1t)+3.7h = F*ckM*th” but the title alone exhausted me and I passed out in a pool of my own dim-witted tears.

You see, I just took on too much this semester. I assumed, because I’d managed an English and Math course last semester, with an A and B respectively, that I was a not only a mega-genius but also some kind of full-time-working-mother-super-hero-lady-pants.

Which reminds me, at our marriage counselor’s office (don’t worry, we’re fine, we simply require a communication tune-up every now and then) there’s this series of mental health statements you have to rate via electronic tablet before every session. Ranging from “I feel good today,” to “I want to stab my boss in his/her yapping face hole,” – Strongly AgreeAgree; Undecided; Disagree; Strongly Disagree.
The one that never fails to amuse goes: “I feel like I have special powers.”
Yet, next time we go in for a tune-up, there will be no giggles from me. Just a reluctant admission of “Strongly Agree.”

I strongly agree that I thought I had special powers when I took on four online courses – to include Biology 100 and Dumb Blonde Math II – while still a full-time employee, still a full-time mother to a kindergartner and a 13 year old (ALL THE HORMONES), all during the months when my husband retired from a 24 year career in the military (ALL THE MID-LIFE CRISIS) and our lives changed forever. But, to my dismay, I did not manifest the necessary super human strength, and it turns out that I also need to sleep sometimes. Who knew.

Oh, guess what else? Within the framework of a self-paced online math course, it seems my individual pace is “NO.”
Intermingled with “Fuck this shit” and “I wish I were dead.”

So yes, you could say It’s been a rough five months. Far more difficult than I thought it would be, even though I’ve seen people struggle through it before. When I think of the friends and family who worked toward their degrees in similar situations, they have my eternal respect. Heroes and martyrs – all of them.

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In other news, life is good. My girls are still happy, healthy, and doing great in school, and my husband is slowly but surely navigating life as a civilian – the first step of which appears to be mandatory beard growth (which I thought I’d mind at first …but it’s kinda hot). We’re planning to move this summer. Whether that means locally in AZ or ending up on one of the coasts is, as yet, unknown. In fact, there are so many unknowns just now that if I dwell on them for long enough my chest starts pounding and it gets harder and harder to breathe so, I avoid that. I’m keeping the “future-tripping” to a minimum, and the “right now” on blast. A greatly matured yet slightly suspicious Little Niki lives on.

Also, I’m taking a break from school. Not giving up, just pausing for air. I’ll be one of the “go-backers” next year.
But, do me a favor, will you?  Please tell 2016 to be kind to me?
Thanks, 2015. You’re a peach.

Lessons Via Bastards Telling You Painful Stories

Once upon a Christmas Eve while visiting home for the holidays, my step-father, after having consumed his customary seven to eight gallons of cheap, rotgut whiskey, cornered me in the kitchen and apologized, ad nauseam, for being such a gigantic douchebag my whole life. He then elaborated on his sorrow by telling me a story I could have happily lived the rest of my life never having heard.

Before I relay the details of this glorious yuletide tale, (cause shiz about to get real……personal, that is) I want to pre-defend my mother’s honor. She was a very good mom, my mama: sweet, warm, loving, super fun and deeply devoted to her one and only child. As a human being, she is equally stellar: funny, intelligent, strong, reliable, incredibly talented and in possession of a heart as big as the mighty universe. But she came into this world with birth defects, back when ruthless bullying didn’t make the news or launch outraged media campaigns to abolish it, so she suffered. Greatly. Horribly. And, naturally it follows that, with low self esteem so instilled, perhaps she didn’t make the best choices in men. To this she always said, “I didn’t have that many options.” Given the right guidance in life, she may have felt differently. She may have empowered herself and she may have discovered many more desirable options, but that’s just not how our collective cookie crumbled.So….what happened was….

Back in that 2007 Christmas Eve kitchen, with my mother and my boyfriend serving as the audience, my step-father cornered me and muttered sloppy, random apologies about my upbringing over his ethanol-laden breath. Then, out of nowhere, he slurred the following cringe-inducing confession: “I feel bad sometimes…..like for that one time…..that one time me ‘n yer mom went to the bar……and you were sleepin’ in the backseat…..you musta been about three years old….and we left you asleep in the car….. while we had some drinks…..I don’t know how long it was….but then this one fucking asshole comes in…..he’s all pissed off….and he yells, at the top of his lungs, ‘WHO THE FUCK LEFT THEIR FUCKING KID ASLEEP OUT IN A FUCKING CAR???!!!’ ….and I kicked that guy’s ass. That guy was a fucking asshole!”

Isn’t that great?! Wonderful story, yes? One to snuggle up with loved ones and tell by fireside every Christmas, for generations to come. Warm family fuzzies for EVERYBODY! (Christ Almighty.)

As Step-Daddy-Dearest recounted his version of deplorable events, I remember turning to my then-boyfriend, now-husband, with wide dear-god-make-it-stop eyes. In that moment I felt an awful mixture of absurdity and embarrassment, and I sent the following message with my fully rounded, please-kill-me eyeballs: “Oh Scottie, I knew I was fucked up. I knew my childhood was fucked up, and that I am ultimately, psychologically, and possibly irreparably fucked up. But I didn’t know I was THIS fucked up! And I’m sorry. I would have warned you if I could’ve. I’m so sorry. If you leave me, I will completely understand. Matter of fact, you should probably leave me now. Save yourself. This ship isn’t sinking. It wrecked a long, long time ago.”

He didn’t leave me, though. He married me instead. Turns out he had a less than Norman Rockwell upbringing himself. Not Child Protective Services worthy, not even close, but his parents’ marriage couldn’t be categorized as a healthy one – and he picked up a good number of his own relationship-killing habits watching that mess go down. Even still, 2015 will mark our ten year anniversary. Ten years of working on taming our inner-insulant-children, and ten years of helping one another to do a lot of growing up. Progress. Improvement. Growth and expansion. My oh my, but it’s a marvelous thing.

I only wish my mom could revel in the same sense of accomplishment, having battled and won so much in her time. Because, while her husband sat spewing old, drunken, dirty family laundry that Christmas Eve,I looked over and found her with her head hung in shame – which simply broke my heart. I hate to see her in pain. I’ve seen much too much of my mom in pain. She’s dealt with more than her fair share of suffering this lifetime, and she really did do the best she could by me. Her parenting wins far outweigh her parenting fails. She taught me honesty and integrity. She taught me compassion and (though it took me something like 25 years to show it) responsibility. She taught me how to love with my whole heart. And, whenever anyone compliments me on what a good mother I am, I let them know I’m only emulating her example – and her overall example was LOVE.

Again, I could have died a happy woman never knowing that I was once a tiny, blonde, pigtailed three year old left alone in the back of a car (1979 Camaro? 1976 Nova? It’s anybody’s whitetrash guess), while her mother and her mother’s jerk of a boyfriend went to drink in a bar. In fact, after hearing the story, it took me months to absorb it. Sorta shook me up. In a logical sense, it shouldn’t have. There are much lousier childhood incidents I can recall easily and vividly, but I still tear up when I think about that little girl left alone.

It’s not the worst thing that ever happened to a child. As far as kids and atrocities go, I got off all sorts of lucky. But a wound is a wound. A scar is a scar. And a drunken stepdad on Christmas Eve is a pitifully old, selfishly unburdening-himself bastard. However uncomfortable inebriated step-dad’s over-sharing might have been, it afforded the opportunity to confront a bunch of my ancient mental bullshit, and it prompted me to work on getting the sam hell over it. I’m far from all the way over it (clearly), but I’m getting there.

What I find truly fascinating, even encouraging, is the idea that I might just be a better person for it. For ALL of it. All the sad, all the shame, all the massive heartache: the whole tumultuous lot of my youth. This notion that it didn’t just “all work out in the end”, or that I didn’t merely “turn out okay”, but rather than it all meant something and it was all intrinsically necessary in order for to me be ME…….well, I dig that. I get that. It makes sense. I lived it all, and now the trick appears to be learning to love it all.
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If you pay attention, all existential roads seem to lead back to love.
And if you’re not getting there….maybe you (we, US) are doing it wrong.

Dear Niki

Shortly after my birthday in 2011, inspired by a Plinky prompt, I wrote a letter to my-one-year-in-the-future-self. It’s sat in the drafts section of my email box ever since. Read it this morning, and I’d like to thank 34 year old Niki for the smiles. I’d also like to assure her that the future is bright, and all poop-related catastrophes have been contained.

Dear 35 Year Old Niki,

Hey, it’s me, 34 Year Old Niki. How’s it going? Have your Master’s Degree yet? Haha. Yeah, I thought you’d laugh (and then cry) at that.

Hope things are going well for you, obviously. At the very least, I hope you’re not still changing diapers. I also hope your husband is home from South Korea, that your marriage took no significant hits from the separation, that your eldest is transitioning into preteendome as smoothly as a girl that age can, and that your toddler is moving into preschooler territory without much protest – and by “protest” you know I really mean still pooping her pants. Or pooping in the bath tub. Or pooping on a hotel carpet (REMEMBER THAT?!  Right after you’d signed that waiver saying you had no pets in the room).

I hope you found, or are in the process of finding, a job that isn’t soul-sucking, pays for more than just childcare expenses, and is even slightly interesting. Because (and this is just my year younger than you opinion here, but) I really think you need to get out of the house. However, if you’re still living in the same town (and it would be a miracle if you found a job at all in that town) I don’t fault you for staying home. I know I do.

How was turning 35, anyway?  Did you sob naked in a bathtub? After taking stock of the effects time has wrought on your matronly body, and that face you should have been slathering Ponds upon, years ago?  That would be a shame. Because, from my end of things, I’ve been doing my best to prepare you for middle age. And, yes, 35 is considered the commencement of middle age, according to the US Census. I looked that shit up. I’m busy mentally picturing the type of middle-aged woman you want to be, but I haven’t arrived at the image yet. I hope you do.

I also hope you’re still happy, because – though nothing is perfect – I am. I’m deeply grateful for the health and happiness of my children, my family, my friends, the strength of my marriage, and, however limited, the stability of our finances. And any time I want to kvetch that my boobs are less awesome or that I see the begining of jowls, I check-in with the reality of real world heartache – which can be found, en masse, around any domestic or international bend. I have a feeling, in the years to come, “healthy perspective” is going to be your very best friend.

Thus, I hope you’re graceful (in your old, tired, decrepit age). I hope this is the beginning of a new era for you. If, in letting go of youth, and those unrealized dreams, you let go of self-doubt and increase your own personal level of “what the hell”, and actually GO for things, that would be cool. Grabbing life by the ballsack has never been your thing – or even your purpose, I think. Your journey has been of a deeply personal, behind-the-scenes, under-the-hood sort. A quiet evolution of the soul. But, ball-grabbing aside, surely it’s time to give life a thuroughly serious titty twister.

Most of all, and most importantly, you’ve hibernated long enough: GET OUT OF THE FUCKING HOUSE.

Oh, and don’t start smoking again, either. Dummy.

With immensely selfish love,
34 Year Old Niki

Dating Myself

Sifting through the journals I’ve kept since I was a teenager, I wondered if teenage girls even do that anymore. Or do they just blog instead? Probably. God knows the security/privacy settings you can set your blog to beat the snot out of thin, cheap, metal locks most vulnerable to snooping mothers armed with bobby pins. I can’t tell you how my times I got busted by listing the details of my juvenile-deviant plans in a diary, and then hiding that diary poorly. “Tonight I’m going to jump out my bedroom window and take the 10 PM bus to Seattle to sneak into an underage nightclub – that I’m underage for – and be offered numerous illegal substances while I make out with a boy and have no idea how to get back home. Being fifteen is great!” And this is why I was grounded most of my adolescence.

And as many journals as I have, I’ve thrown an equal number away. A lot of the time I just can’t stomach reading how deaf, dumb and blind I was. I find myself yelling at the yellowed pages of my diary the way someone watching a horror movie might try, in vain, to warn the hapless, half-naked girl that’s about to get messed the frack up. “Don’t go in there, you stupid bitch! That fool has a machete AND a chainsaw!” There were many metaphorical fools with emotional machetes and psychological chainsaws, and I was an extremely stupid bitch – in the literal sense. It’s hard to read. It’s why I second-guess my various forays into the blogosphere, and it’s why I much prefer writing my memoirs. My hindsight is positively lasik!

But, what isn’t uncomfortable to read, what’s actually fascinating to revisit, are the day planners. I’ve kept almost every day planner I’ve owned since 1992! And, without being conscious of it, I’ve gifted myself with nearly two decades worth of little time capsules. A receipt for renting my apartment in 2004 ($525.00), an old business card from the hot Hispanic boss I had a secret crush on, doodles from jr. high buddies, random trinkets, how little I once paid for car insurance – the minutia of your everyday gone by. The things you forget.

Exploring these remnants felt like an archaeological dig through my own life. I noticed appointments I had casually jotted down that later became important events: the morning I visited my grandmother in the hospital for the last time, the day I found out I was pregnant, the night I met “the one”. But what struck me most were the names, phone numbers and addresses that didn’t make it into subsequent datebooks. In each edition some names drop off, new names appear. I looked for a long time at the names of the people I regret falling out with, and longer at the names of those that died. But it didn’t bring me sadness (like the damn journals), only gentle reflection. These snapshots of my years spent on planet Earth, they are absolute treasures.

I still keep private, hand-written journals (always thinking I’m not a “stupid bitch” anymore) but I stopped using daily planners in 2008. And, suddenly, I’m very upset with myself for that. I think I’ll be buying a new one immediately!