Friday, July 28, 2017

Missing Persons

It happened again this week; it has only happened once before, but both times left me a little bit breathless and a large bit melancholy.  I was wandering the streets of my hometown at a summer festival, and I looked ahead a few yards and spied a man who looked exactly like Roy.  Exactly.  Like.  Him.

Now, I am not totally brain-dead, and I do know that my husband died over thirteen years ago, but for one tiny instant, I wanted to just run up and ask, “Where the hell have you been?  Why did you go away?  How ARE you?!”

(Incidentally, the first time it happened, I was walking back to my office in San Francisco in 2010, and I actually started to walk up to the poor guy, then realized that he was a stranger and there was truly NOTHING I could say to him that wouldn’t make me seem like a lunatic, so I let it go.)

But it makes a person realize how imprinted on our hearts our loved ones are, even when they have been gone for quite some time.  The influence, for me, is great enough that I can close my eyes and remember Roy’s tuneless humming, the scrape-scrape-scrape sound of my dad shaving, the fluffy softness of my mom’s robe on my cheek when I snuggled up to her on the couch in the evening.

Certainly, though, the recent memories are often the strongest, and when someone dies suddenly and before his/her time, it’s a huge blow, and the memories are all-consuming.  If there is a lot of “what-if”-ing (or, as one of my friends once termed it, “the curse of the shoulds”), it can be almost impossible to endure.

This past week, only a couple days after I had the jolt of seeing the Roy lookalike, one of Roy’s nephews surrendered to whatever demons were driving him, and took his own life.  The sadness of it is incredible, even to me, and I hadn’t seen him in, well, thirteen years.  I cannot imagine what his parents, and brothers, and children, are going through.  All I can do is hope and pray that they somehow, someday, find peace and can simply recall his huge laugh, his random (and hilarious) utterings, and his oh-so-kind heart.

There have been a couple times in my life (luckily, not recently) when I was weighed down by depression, and I often think that I just barely escape its cloud much of the time.  It’s a heavy, barren feeling, and it’s almost impossible to shake.  I have fought it with and without medication, and have learned some coping mechanisms that [mostly] help me tremendously.  I do, though, recall that in my darkest period I just plain wished I could go to sleep and never awake.  One of my friends told me once that suicide is a “long-term solution to a short-term problem.”  It makes sense to a sane person, but what if your problem is NOT short-term?  Or, what if your problem SEEMS short-term to everyone but yourself?  The solution begins to appear as a liberation, a perfect escape.  It’s really hard to shake that off, and I understand how it could become a constant companion that finally convinces you to end your pain permanently.

For those of you who have never felt this turmoil, I am truly happy.  Freedom from that kind of darkness is a huge gift, not to be taken lightly.  For those of us who have ever been plagued by darkness, I say this: Tell someone.  Tell everyone who will listen.  There *is* safety in numbers, and there is some freedom in the telling itself.  Seek help far and wide.  And for those who know someone who is struggling with this demon, please be supportive, and open, and loving.  Shower the people you love with love - unconditionally.  Don’t minimize their pain.  Hold them close.  And, if you think there is real danger, make a call.  Peace be with you all.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Waiting for a Pony

For years, I have wanted a pony.  I believe that my dad's cousin, Attilio, told me when I was three years old that he would buy me a white pony.  This brought up the hackles on my mom, who believed you should never make a promise to a child that you couldn't keep.  (If my friend, Ken Firl, is reading this, he will now know where this philosophy of mine originated.)  ANY-hoo-how, I spent years wishing in vain for an equine pet.  I wore cowboy boots.  I went on trail rides.  I kept a binder of pictures and articles on horses.  I subscribed, as a child, to Western Horseman magazine.  I dreamed that one day, like the boy in Lincoln Steffens' great Christmas story, a man would come down my street leading a pony, and I would joyfully realize that it was mean for me.  (If you have never read this tale, you should - you can find it here: A Miserable Merry Christmas  I cry every time I read it, or even talk about it.)

Alas, my pony never materialized.  But, still I persevered.  Any time ANYone asked me if I wanted anything ("Janine, i am going to the store - do you want anything?" "Janine, we're heading out for coffee - can we bring you anything?"  "Janine - it is Groundhog Day - is there something you'd like?") I always have replied with, "A Pony!"  In fact, one day while at work years ago, I was sitting next to a colleague who had brought in a set of walkie-talkies that he had scored on Woot!.  He had one on his desk, turned on, and somehow it picked up the NexTel devices of the construction workers out in the parking lot.  The walkie-talkie next to me suddenly squawked, "I'm taking a break - anyone need anything?"  Without hesitation, I picked up the device, pushed the "TALK" button, and said, "I want a pony!"  Pause...silence...then the same voice, an octave deeper, said, "I've got your pony right here, baby."  Funny, but NOT what I was hoping for.

A few weeks ago, sometime before my recent 56th birthday, 53 years after I first asked for a pony, my lovely Ron asked me what I'd like for my birthday.  "A pony," I said, and we both laughed.  He reminded me (for the 4,677th time, as he does every time I ask for a pony) that our subdivision has CC&Rs that restrict the ownership of anything other than "normal household animals."  Usually, I then say, "an alpaca? a llama?  an emu?" But, ever the practical lawyer-type, he has to tell me that I cannot have any of those, nor a springbok, a dik dik, or a nilgai.  Believe me, it's a looooong conversation some days when he asks if I want anything from the corner market.  He ended up getting me a really cool scrapbooking tool, and I thought that was that.  My birthday came and went, and nothing earth-shattering happened.

Then, the next day, he handed me a card and said he had reserved it for the day after my birthday because he thought my birthday had been a challenging day for me (long story), but that the 23rd had been a banner day (true, but a separate long story).  The front of the card's envelope alone was awesome, because, well, it looked like this:

It's just so cute.

The card was lovely, the sentiment perfect, and then, at the bottom inside, after his signature, was a promise to take me to two riding sessions.  I could keep both for myself, or he would accompany me for one joint session.

So, in addition to building me a house, taking really good care of me, agreeing to support me (and my scrapbooking habit) so that I could semi-retire this year, and being a steady source of joy in my life, the man gave me (in a small way) a pony.

Happy Christmas, everyone.  I hope you receive that super special thing that is your own pony this year.

Peace to all of you!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Social (In)Security

Recently, one of my Facebook friends posted about her wait time and not-so-good experience at the Social Security office, having her name changed (for a happy reason - she got married!).  It reminded me of the last time I changed MY name, and what a trial it was to get my Social Security records changed.  So, I thought I'd regale you all with the tale....

I was divorced in 1996, and took back my birth surname (which I retain, to this very day - who would want to give up a name with such culture?).  I never went in to the Social Security office, because who the heck ever wants to see your Social Security card?  (Apparently, SOME people do - more on that soon).  In any case, I had been happily trotting around for four years with a card that still had someone else's last name on it, even though I had been filing tax returns for four years under Bocciardi.

I had the good luck, in 1999, of meeting an amazing man who wanted to marry me, and so we looked into what we needed to get a marriage license in his county in Pennsylvania.  This particular county (another time, I will tell the story of the marriage license application meeting, complete with a blue-haired woman and a manual typewriter) required that I bring, as a form of identification, my (egads!) Social Security card.  So, I had to go to the dreaded office to get my card reprinted with my current last name, which was the name of my father - the name of my birth - THE NAME OF MY PEOPLE.  

Armed with a piece of identification with my "old" name (my previous married name), my "new" name (the birth name I reverted to after my divorce), and a full copy of my divorce decree stating that I was re-taking my birth name, I optimistically went to the office on my lunch hour one day.

The first sign of trouble was that there was a burly security guard at the door, checking purses and backpacks.  Remember, this was PRE-9/11, and the office had no cash!  I wondered why anyone would even begin to get violent at this place, but I was soon to learn that there were all sorts of reasons...

As I stood in line, a young man was called to the window, and his older sister was with him.  He explained that he was staying temporarily at this sister's apartment, but that he needed his SSDI check (which his previous roommates had stolen) to be able to come up with a deposit on a new place of his own.  The clerk said they needed a "permanent" address for him, and that they would re-issue a check only after 90 days and if the check they had sent him was never cashed.  But, without a "permanent" address, they could not put in an address change, and his upcoming checks would continue to be mailed to the home of the thieving roommates.  The young man explained again that he couldn't GET a permanent address until he had money for a deposit, and the sister was about to move, herself, so using her address was not going to work.  He and the sister and the clerk went back and forth maybe...oh, twenty-seven times in this manner, until the sister began yelling, and loudly questioning the clerk's parentage, the clerk finally slammed shut the window, then closed some wooden doors behind it, and ostensibly went to lunch.  More screaming and yelling from the sister.

The security guard was reading a magazine.  Twelve feet away.  And never budged.

Soon (ok, that is a lie - I was already into the second hour of my lunch hour), it was my turn at the one window that remained operational.  I stepped up with my documentation, and all of my completed forms, and informed the woman that I would like to have my name changed.  Here is the conversation that ensued:

SSA Harpie: "You need a piece of identification with your old name, and one with your new name"
Janine: "I have a driver's license in my new name.  I also have my old drivers license, with my old name."
Harpie: "The old license has your new name."
Janine: "No, it has all names.  It says Janine Rae Bocciardi Bassett.  Bassett was my old name."
Harpie: "But the Bassett part is on another line."
Janine: "Yes, because it was too long to fit on one line.  See, it's right there - after the rest."
(some perusal of the old license is done, and then she nods)
Harpie: "The old license has a hole punched in it; you cannot use that."
(why did we even go through all that crap, then?)
Janine: "OK, well, my divorce decree lists BOTH names."
Harpie: "I don't think you can use that."
Janine (victoriously):  "I have my old Social Security card with my old name!"
Harpie: "we do not consider that a valid form of identification."
Janine: "But you GAVE it to me!"
Harpie: "What else you got? How about a Costco card?"
Janine: "Everything I have already has my new name, and you'll take a Costcop card but not your own Social Security card?"
Harpie: "Yup.  If you don't have anything at all, you might not be able to do this today.  Well, maybe at all.  You have NOTHING with your old name?"
Janine: "Well, can we use the divorce decree for the OLD name, and the new drivers license for the NEW name?"
Harpie: "Maybe.  Let me see it."  (read through some of my divorce papers) "This has both names on it!  Why didn't you give me this in the first place?"
Janine: "But I tried to...I mean, I'm sorry.  My mistake."
Harpie: "You got divorced years ago.  Why are you doing this now?"
Janine: "Because I am getting married, and I need the new card to apply for a marriage license."
Harpie: (god's truth, she actually said this) "Well, you change your name like you change your underwear, don't you?"
Janine (seething): "Actually, this is the last time."
Harpie: "No, you'll have to change it again after you get married."
Janine: "No, I am keeping my name 'as is'."
Harpie: "What name will you file taxes under?"
Janine: "Bocciardi"
Harpie: "What name will your license say?"
Janine: "Bocciardi"
Harpie: "What name will be on your paychecks, and on your accounts?"
Harpie: "What's wrong with your husband?"
Janine: "I dunno...maybe he's too tolerant and respectful of my heritage, and loves me too much?"
Harpie: "OK, here you go.  But I am just curious; WHY don't you want to change your name?"
Janine (making sure all validated forms were already in my possession): "Because I never, ever, EVER want to have to come in here and talk to you people AGAIN."

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Are They Happy?

Last year, during the last phone call I had with my mother before she died quite suddenly a few days later, she said to me toward the end of the call, "Are you happy?"  Certainly, I hadn't ever been an easy child, and I had had a lot of woes (real or perceived) in my life.  I tend toward drama (surprise!), so pretty much everyone knows when I am unhappy.  But at the time of that call, after having moved to Washington with the man I love, and in the middle of looking for a lot on which to build our dream house, I could very easily and truthfully say, "Yes, I am really happy!"  And my mom said, "I am so glad to hear that.  That's all that really matters."

We parents want so much for our children, try to control so much of their upbringings, attempt to change the things that are bad in their lives (often, even when they don't think they are bad things!), and strive to either gently (or not so gently) guide them through this crazy obstacle course called life.

But in the end...I think it amounts to just plain wanting our babies to be happy.

A couple years ago, my daughter called me and told me (and I didn't expect it) that she was breaking up with her husband.  I recalled having to make the same phone call to my own mother, almost twenty years earlier.  My mom said to me, "Oh, Janine, after all your dad and I represented, how could you?" and I replied, "Mom, after everything you and my father represented, how could I NOT?!" And she understood.  She didn't like it, but she understood.  So, I got over my initial shock, and then asked my daughter what I could do to help the transition.  I have never, since those initial two minutes or so, questioned her decision, and I see now that she is happy, and healthy, and living the life she wants and loves with a man who is quirky, and irreverent, and adores her the way she deserves to be adored.  She is happy, so I'm happy.

Just before I moved from California, about a year and half ago, my son said, "I need to talk to you about something, and you should sit down."  Of course, my first response was, "Are you dying?  Do you have cancer?"  After a brief and minor heart attack, he assured me that he was healthy, and that he had decided to join the LDS church.  I asked him, "Are you happy?" and he said he was, so I went to his baptism, tried not to scold my daughter for joking around with the bishop (refer back to my second paragraph and the part about controlling them), and watched him grow to embrace this religion but also not leave the embrace of his non-LDS family.  

And now? My daughter is purchasing a home, all on her own merits.  She works for a great place, has a responsible job as a developer, has a great man in her life, and makes time to talk to me every week on the phone (ok, once I got over my passive-aggressive ways and stopped complaining bitterly about not hearing from her, she asked if it would be easier if we scheduled works great!)  My son has met a young woman and is fairly sappily in love.  (I haven't met her yet, but will soon).  He also has a good job, is looking to make his first big move, and seems to be a fully-functional member of society.  (This is a far cry from days of yore, when I used to tell my friends that if the cats were both still alive and nothing was on fire, it was a good day).

Sometimes, they do things we wouldn't do (or wish THEY wouldn't do).
Sometimes, they don't agree with us.
Sometimes, they get piercings and tattoos (oh wait, that was me).
Sometimes, they sing the same line from a song over and over for three days in Disneyland just to make you scream in frustration (even when they are 30!)
Sometimes, they play truly mortifying "games" in public places and you run from restaurants, thinking you can never show your face there again.
Sometimes, they go to college; sometimes, not.
Sometimes, they follow societal norms; sometimes, not.
Sometimes, they live their lives the way we'd choose for them to do so; sometimes, not.

But... ARE THEY HAPPY!????   Well, OK, then.  The rest is just logistics.

-- Dedicated to my two happy munchkins

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Enough, Already!

A few weeks ago, one of my relatives posted on Facebook that she had unfriended everyone who she knew to be a Trump supporter, and asked that anyone she had missed do her the favor of initiating the unfriending for her.  I gotta admit, I thought it a little extreme at the time.  But now?  Not so much.

I have asked some of my friends who are Trump supporters why they would vote for the man, and they pretty much all come to this: "Because he speaks his mind and is honest."  Really?  Well, the speaks his mind part, sure.  But honesty?  Have you checked Politifacts?  He either blatantly lies or at least speaks less than half the truth (and I am giving the man credit for even HALF truths!) 77% of the time.  LIES.  77%.  Of. The. Time.

So, what is it REALLY that makes him attractive to voters?  I have come to the worst, most frightening conclusion.  People don't love Trump because he speaks HIS mind - they love Trump because he speaks THEIR minds.  He speaks out against minorities, against women, against people with disabilities, against specific religions.  And the people who love him are bigots, and racists, and misogynists.  They are angry that the world isn't "what it used to be," and they want desperately to blame someone.  Soon, they won't be able to blame President Obama any longer, so they will blame Muslims.  Or Latinos.  Or African-Americans.  Or women who are assertive and effective.  Or some other group who is different from them.  Does this sound familiar?  Hitler did it, and was wildly popular in his day, too, before he took absolute power and began murdering people based on their religion or ethnicity or sexual orientation or disability.

On top of that, the man is as un-Presidential as you can get.  He accuses a female newscaster of being on her period, as that would explain why she was tough on him at a debate. He curses in public, while campaigning.  He calls his opponents "pussies."  He discusses, at a debate, the size of his penis.  He talks about how sexy and desirable his own daughter is.  Can you really imagine this man in a G10 summit?  Trying to engage in diplomacy with any other world leader?  I curse like a sailor, and even *I* know not to do so in meetings, or with clients.  How hilarious that I, a person who is known for being undiplomatic, am probably better at it than a man who half the Republican party wants running our country.  And he goes to a Christian college and terribly misquotes the BOOK of the bible he is discussing (geez, Donald, I am not even Christian and I know it's "Second Corinthians," not "Two Corinthians!"), and still cannot seem to get dethroned in a party that is vastly Christian.

So, I can only conclude that anyone who thinks this man should be in charge of this country, a man who seemingly detests and looks down upon pretty much anyone who isn't a wealthy white male, also thinks that only wealthy white males are worthy of anything.

And really, if I have to make a decision, I'd definitely decide to NOT be friends with anyone who thinks that way (even if they are hiding their bigotry and letting Trump speak for them).

I shake my head when I think of the embarrassment that this country has become, and I can only hope that the Republican party can somehow get a brokered convention and get rid of this tyrannical madman.  If not, and he somehow gets voted in during a general election, then fasten your seatbelts, America - it will be a wild, crazy, and frightening four years.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Geysers, Hot Springs, Mud Pots, and Stupid Tourists

After a not-super night’s sleep, we got up a little late this morning, wandered to the lodge for breakfast (I had a shake, believe it or not…this diet is killin’ me), and hit the road to see more stuff.  First stop: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.  But first, stop in a pullout and hop out of the truck to snap some bison.  And then onward…pictures of the falls, etc, then as we were exiting the upper falls parking lot to go to the Norris Geyser Basin, a delay.  A herd of bison crossing the road.  RIGHT in front of us.  Roll down the window, snappity-snap.  Baby bison are cute (and the size of a freaking pony).  And leet me tell you: they are acutely aware of the fact that nobody will hurt them.  Then amble.  They meander.  They stop to look at the tourists.  They move a few feet.  They smile for the cameras.  They are awesome!

But the BEST part of the day was going from basin to basin getting shots of geysers, mud pots, and those eerily-colored hot springs that I have only ever seen before in photography books.  My lord, the range of color is tremendous.  Porcelain blue, deep turquoise, crazy orange, intense greenish-yellow.  I think I took a hundred pictures of them.  And during one walk along a boardwalk rimmed by springs and signs warning people that they are HOT (Hello??!!  If it’s water and it’s boiling, it’s 212 degrees, you moron!), a tourist jumped off the boardwalk and went to put his hand in the spring.  Now, I never feel more American than when some crazy tourist decides to ignore every rule and defile MY country’s land.  As I was drawing breath to tell him to stop, six people in front of me, every one of them at least 6 feet tall, started yelling at him in Australian accents: “DO NOT TOUCH THAT!!!”  He looked at them, shook his head, and went back to his unlawful ways, at which point they all converged on that spot in the boardwalk.  Now, he was looking a bit guilty.  The woman he was with, who up to this point was pointing a camera at him and yammering at him in their native tongue and waving her hand as if saying, “No, a little to the left…no, get more in front of that geyser in the distance..” suddenly arose and, acting as though she’d never seen him before in her life, walked on without him.  Finding my voice, I looked at him, his beseeching gaze landing on me as if to say, “Holy shit; save me from the Aussie Amazons!” and I said, “You CANNOT be in there.  Come out of there.  Come out of there NOW!  GET OUT!”  Seeing he had no champion, he sheepishly climbed back onto the boardwalk.  When I saw him next, he was trying to take a picture of the woman who had rebuffed him earlier, and she was clearly not happy with his skills.  Maybe he just wanted to throw himself into the fiery cauldron; who knows.  But I do know that I LOVE my neighbors down under!!

More driving, more sightseeing, dinner at the Old Faithful Lodge (no, we didn't wait for it to erupt; we are going to see it at sunrise on Friday on our way out of the park), and now blog time and then bed.  I'M ON VACAYSHUNNNN!!

Monday, August 25, 2014

I'm Going to Jackson

We camped Sunday night just outside Jackson, Wyoming, in a campground with 350 sites (huge!).  It should have been uneventful, except that the weather forecast ended up being unreliable (what a surprise!) and it rained like the dickens much of the evening.  In addition to the rain, the blow-up bed that we were sleeping on in the tent lost most of its air overnight, and so I ended up waking up around 2 am and realized that I was sleeping pretty much on the (cold, cold) ground.  Not the most restful of nights.  Oh yeah, and I also had to pee but didn’t want to wander around in the dark.  So, I slept off and on until about 6:30 am and then decided to stumble to the restroom.  I walked into the restroom, straight into a cloud of hairspray.  Apparently, some women don’t like to go camping without their blow dryers and hairspray (I still can’t figure out where this woman and her two daughters washed their hair; there were no showers and no hot water!).  The good news is that all the blow drying heated the bathroom nicely.  The other good news is that it was all so ludicrous that my grouchiness dissolved.

Finished with my bathroom activities, I went back to the campsite.  By this point, my fingers were numb and my face was frozen (it was cold out!) and there was Ron, standing next to the camp stove, ready to make coffee and breakfast.  I said, “Would you like to just go into town for a nice, hot breakfast with lots of coffee to wash it down?”  He said, “Ummmmm….is this a hint?”  (Ron has learned to think carefully before answering my questions).  So, we got into the truck and decided to drive into town.  After one turn in the campground, Ron said, “Look to the left.  Moose!”  And sure enough, there they were.  At first I thought they were playing, and then I realized that the smaller (a male) thought he’d try to become amorous with the larger (a female).  She was having none of it.  In fact, she was bucking with an arched back and all four feet off the ground, the way I’d seen some horses do in rodeos.  Then, ears laid back against her neck, she trotted away.  Poor Bullwinkle, ever hopeful, ran after her.  All of this was happening in front of our truck.  So, I grabbed my camera and hopped out (MAN, those things are big when they are only a few feet away!) and snapped a couple pictures.  I also cried a little because, come on, how often do you get to see a failed moose courtship right in front of your nose?  Boy, am I happy I suggested going out for breakfast!!

So, we went out to a place that the locals frequent, had great breakfast, I bought the warmest hat EVER at the Pendleton store on the way out of town, and then we packed up the tent and the gear and we were off to Yellowstone.  On our way to our cabin (which is one of the cabins right next to Lake Yellowstone), Ron stopped the car and said, “There’s your elk..” and, sure enough, there were some elk just walking along the side of the road and occasionally rubbing against a tree or grazing.  The best thing was that they had the grace to do this right next to a pullout.  SO, out of the car I pop, shoot some pictures, back into the car, and on our way merrily.  Wow.  Not even checked in yet, and already I have moose and elk on my camera.  Lucky girl.

Rest of the evening was mostly normal; had dinner, offloaded pictures onto my laptop, gave Ron a short lesson in using Lightroom, the usual stuff.

But oh, the things I’ve seen.  I will never, ever forget those moose as long as I live (and no, I did not give them a muffin).