Some thoughts on the day after Veteran’s Day

I spent yesterday watching people’s Veteran’s Day messages fly past me in a flurry on social media. Veteran friends changed their profile pictures to display themselves in uniform. Some of them goofy, some of them serious. People posted photos of relatives that have been lost in the line of duty and photos of generations past who have served in the military.

I’m from a military family. We have served in every war since we landed in this country in the early 1900s. My family photo albums are full of men in uniform. Mostly army, although my father is a formerly active Marine.

Growing up, I had a lot of good feelings about the military. And I still do. I think that there is something to be said for the type of bonding that happens when you are a part of a group like the military. And I think that America in particular is a country in which families like mine are not the exception, but the rule in terms of military service.

The problem with growing up, though, is that it tends to complicate any bucolic feelings you may have had about the things that surrounded you growing up.

I have known a lot of veterans in my time. The first one was, obviously, my father. He enlisted in the Marines when he was young. He wanted to serve his country over in Vietnam. The second veteran that I knew was my uncle Paul. He was the youngest boy in my mother’s family. Unlike my father, he actually was sent overseas to Vietnam to fight. He came back to a country who hated him and a VA that did not treat him for the PTSD that he suffered from due to his time spent overseas. He came home to no job, no prospects, and nursing a crippling heroin addiction that would follow him for the rest of his life, leading to the loss of his leg and his eventual death due to overdose in 2005 when I was 21.

Since my uncle died, I have known many other veterans. I have seen them begging for money here in Philadelphia. I have become friends with them. I have listened to them talk about their time spent overseas fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan or Korea or even Vietnam. And I have heard them when they have talked about the way they have been treated when they have come home. The way they have been reviled by the general public. Disregarded by Congress. And underserved by the VA.

The United States of America has been at war in one country or another since 1779. That’s 236 years of conflict. 236 years of soldiers fighting and dying in service to their country. I hold those soldiers in my heart and have the utmost respect for their service and sacrifice. I salute every single one of them. And I am grateful to their families who have to give up so much when they give up their soldiers to fight.

But I have a serious problem with a country where we have nearly spent two and a half centuries at war. I have a serious problem with the leaders of a country that vote consistently against legislation that is designed to help our veterans when they return home. I find it shocking that the rate of veteran suicide is so high that we have organizations dedicated to stopping it. That rate is so high because the people that we send away to fight our endless wars for us do not have the support necessary when they return to deal with issues effecting their mental health.

So while I support wholeheartedly the people fighting for our country, I cannot support the warmongering of the country that they represent. And I cannot sanction or abide the pattern of neglect that I have seen enacted throughout my entire life when it comes to veterans health.

Happy Veteran’s Day. Let’s do better for the people we call on to make the highest sacrifice imaginable when called to serve.


Featured image is by Martha Rosler and is entitled Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful – First Lady Pat Nixon (1972).

Other People’s Pools

in the summertime we’d gather.
when the heat rose through our feet
and made our barefoot lives untenable.

our parents packed and piled us,
we teams of children, small barbarians,
into mini vans and busses.
on arrival we threw ourselves through
neighbors houses, loud with summer frenzy.

we were chaos manifest. we
did not pause to take in the serenity
that is a dormant pool.
its mirrored surface marked
with leaves of trees
too hot to bear the weight
gentle ripples caused by bugs’ wings
iridescent, brushing the surface
on their way about their business.

delirious with heat,
sick with the sun, we
scattered into riotous motion
the bugs who buzzed
around the surface
                (dancing, biting things
                their green chrysalises
                the color of our bathing suits)

sticky in the sun we
plunged, bodies arching
in the light like rainbows,
into blue and white.
so cold our teeth would chatter
so pure we would not protest
the chill that arched through to our bones.

we tossed each other’s toys and then,
mimicking the pose of ancient divers,
set out. fingers fumbling, we found them
floating to the bottom of the pool
bellies brushing cement,
eyes open, goggles on.

we were sharks, then,
fingers clutching prizes, predatory,
the sea of legs above a tempting sight.
we stalked the icy depths,
eight feet below,
then pounced! our prey,
once friends, made splashing, shouting protest.

we lounged,
large jungle cats disguised as kids,
arms and legs dangling,
bodies sheared by
hard lines of cold water
splitting us
between earth
                        and captured sea

Bullying is Bullshit

I went to seven grade schools.

Kindergarten was basically normal. I fingerpainted. My best friend was in the class with me. I remember making paper feathers for a hat at Thanksgiving. It was uncomplicated.

My first grade teacher was evil. We found out later that she wasn’t even qualified to be a teacher. She put children in closets. Including me. She punished you for squirming. I kicked my first boy in the crotch. He would confide in me when we were both 18 that he still possessed a scar. I would tell him that the scar was a lesson that you should listen to girls when they tell you to let them go or leave them alone. Mom moved me because the environment there was so toxic.

I don’t remember much of second grade. I think that it was fine, though. I was bullied, but I don’t remember to what extent. It must have been bad, because Mom moved me to a local Baptist school.

Third grade was the best grade. I was not being bullied. My best friend was in my class. My teacher was red-haired and beautiful. She brought us back cheese from Wisconsin. Someone in the class cut themselves on safety scissors. It was the first time that I had seen blood in that amount. They went home in an ambulance.

In forth grade my teacher was also a Civil War reenactor like my dad. I accidentally told her that I loved her one night when leaving the Civil War museum. She was kind. And warm. And nurturing. Like a favorite aunt. I really did love her.

My best friend left my school in fifth grade. Suddenly the bullying was too much to bear. Girls in my class telling me that I could be the servant when we played princesses on Church days because my dresses were not as nice as theirs… suddenly stung. And my old retreat between a building and a wire fence where I would pretend to be a pilot, sketching out drawings in chalk on the stone and pressing buttons that would take me to Where They Were Not, was profoundly isolating without a co-pilot. My mother elected to move my brother and I to home schooling.

Sixth and seventh grade were spent at home. My dad was my history teacher. I spent hours with my mom out in the woods learning the names of trees and rocks and rivers. I poured over Civil War era maps with my father. I had a few friends from local home schooling groups. One of them had a deer named Dawn who lived in her back yard and would gently take offered grain from my hand. Most of the home schooling groups were fundamentalist Christians, however, and I grew tired quickly of having them tell me that my family was going to Hell. Additionally, I had a hard time adjusting to the idea of my mother as a teacher and respecting her as such. So the decision was made to send me back to school. I did not pass the entrance test for eighth grade, however.

The second go of seventh grade was more difficult than school had been to that point. I was close enough to walk home, but my bully followed me. She whispered death threats in my ear in class and followed me home until, one day, terrified, I threw a metal trash can at her face and ran. After a quarter of the year had gone by, my mother was fed up and I was terrified. The Principle told my mother than I could deal with the problem or get out. We got out.

Seventh grade part three was easier. I was not afraid of what passed for a bully in the new school. She tried to push me down the hill at lunch. I stood stock still and laughed. She made fun of my pads and the boys joined in, so I threw them at the crowd of shrinking boys and they scattered like schools of fish before me. I felt the flavor of future power as I laughed off her pale attempts at playground butchery.

In eighth grade I had a new best friend. I was a little in love with her. I had followed her around the playground and begged her to be my friend. Eventually she would come on vacations with me and my family. I was so grateful to have a friend. And she was so lovely.

In high school my fifth grade bully would find me, now a grade ahead of me because of my having repeated seventh grade. She asked me if she could be my “big sister” and show me the ropes.

I threw my head back and I laughed.

Being a grown up is pretty fucking great

My birthday is coming up (this weekend, the 19th, feel free to send cash) and that has gotten me thinking about all kinds of things. About adulthood and childishness and death and all that good stuff. So here’s a rambling list of some stuff I’m thinking about as I take the first step into my 30s. This blog post is totally my gift to myself, because I’m just going to be weird here for like 700 words and you all will read it anyway because you’re bored on your phones on a train platform or a toilet somewhere.

So, first and foremost, I’m pretty sure you can measure your success as an adult by how much money you manage to save at the grocery store. Last night we saved $50, so we are clearly winning some kind of grown up lottery. Moreover, our groceries had almost no junk food in them!

I say "almost" because I had to buy myself these delicious little bastards. Because what's the point of being an adult if you can't have some fucking fun?
I say “almost” because I had to buy myself these delicious little bastards. Because what’s the point of being an adult if you can’t have some fucking fun?

I’m also fairly certain adulthood can be defined in another way, though. Because all the social and fiscal responsibility in the world won’t save you if you can’t chill the hell out and have some fun. It’s important that you fulfill the dreams your childhood self dreamed as much as possible. To that end, yesterday morning I announced to Frankie that, when I die, I want her to have my skull bleached and bedazzled so that she can remember me forever as decoration.

Nothing says "eternal love" like using the whimsical remains of your loved one as a centerpiece.
Nothing says “eternal love” like using the whimsical remains of your loved one as a centerpiece.

She, of course, said no.

But being bleached and bedazzled would basically be the culmination of a lifelong dream. So I’ll keep begging like a kid for a Christmas present. I’ll wear her down. You’ll see. Because I’m an adult. And that means I’m persistent.

One of the better things about being a grown up is that you are the master of your own domain. Which means that you are the master of your own time. Which is great! But what I find more and more is that I have less and less time to do the things that I want. Which is a super huge bummer for me. But, in order to counter that utter crap salad of a realization, I’ve started doing super adult weird shit with my spare time. You know, that time that you have that you can’t really do anything with? That stuff drives me crazy. It’s existential version of a penny. Why does it even exist? It costs more money to make than it’s really worth, but you never want to throw it away because eventually it will add up to a dollar. It’s so frustrating!

Fuck you, Abe.
Why can’t I quit you, Abe? Why?

Here’s a real question that I think I’ve finally answered. You know that time after the gym and dinner, but before bed time? What do you do with those two hours that doesn’t make you feel totally useless? I mean, I watch TV and play video games as much as the next girl, but I’ve figured out in the last year how to tag team my leisure time like a pro. Which basically just means that I never watch TV without cross stitching anymore. And I listen to audio books while I clean. Because I’m a grown up!

But back to birthdays. My absolute favorite thing about my birthday is the cool people that I get to share it with. Jules and my birthdays are only 8 days apart, so we always get together for dinner and drinks and hangouts, just the two of us. It’s super great. I look forward to it every year. This year it’s cheap noodles and expensive drinks at the Hop Sing Laundromat. Which just… really you can’t beat that for a night out.

This year my girlfriend continues to win all the girlfriend awards there ever were for her awesome gift giving skills. Last year she got me the boxed set of Calvin and Hobbes. This year she got me a KitchenAid. A red one. Which I promptly named Martha. While making this face:

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!

Seriously, I have wanted one of these things for the last … ever. For. Ever. And now I have one. I am going to bake so much, y’all. I am going to get so fucking Martha Stewart all up on this kitchen. It’s insane.

Then tomorrow she is taking me out for bourbon and noms at Twisted Tail, my favorite bar in the city next to Hop Sing. And I get to spend the weekend baking with Martha and playing games and running around the city doing basically anything I please.

All things considered, so far, my 30s are kicking the absolute shit out of my 20s. My 30s are making my 20s their bitch.