Monday, December 2, 2013

Shit My Dad Says... About Welfare

We've established that I was really poor as a kid. Welfare poor. The major reason for this was my dad. My useless, transient hobo with a gambling problem dad. It took my mom quite a few years to come to the realization that being on her own with 4 kids would actually be significantly easier than staying with him and trying to take care of us.

That said, we were still really poor. Except that single mothers of 4 kids can get help from the government instead of just living in a van and eating dinner out of vending machines like we did when we lived with my dad. And so we were on welfare, and food stamps, and eventually we were able to get into subsidized housing. You know, the projects. My mom still worked- mostly for our landlord to pay off our rent in the many years while we waited to get into housing we could afford. And then cleaning bars and homes and stuffing envelopes for our (by then) ex-landlord and a handful of her colleagues for 2 cents per envelope. Guys? Doing anything for 2 cents a piece is basically slave labor. I remember my mom staying up 24, 48 hours straight- sometimes longer- and making a whopping $25 for 2 straight days of work.

My point is that my mom busted her ass. Because she had to and because she would do anything for us. Because my dad didn't pay a single dime in child support, basically ever (the occasions he managed to collect unemployment where child support was taken out- much to his dismay- automatically, were like bonus time in our family). Because she couldn't afford child care and so she had to work odd jobs for next to nothing just so we could survive. I've always respected how hard she worked for us. As a parent myself now, it's really jarring to look back on it and see it from her perspective. As a kid, I knew we didn't have much money. I knew a lot of times I couldn't have something I wanted because we couldn't afford it. Hand-me-down clothes were the usual. Nothing about it seemed particularly hard for me as a child because it was all I ever knew. But now, as a parent? I look at how much I stress about making sure I can afford things that are luxuries- DVR and Christmas photo shoots- how I don't want Caitlyn to miss out on those things that aren't really going to hurt her in the long run- and I can't help but imagine what it must have been like for my mom to not be able to afford food and milk and diapers. Because, as the poet Eminem once said "these goddamn food stamps don't buy diapers". Preach, brother.

None of this is really the point though. We've already established that I hold my mother in the same regard as saints. Probably higher, actually. My point is that, through all of this- through quite literally nearly killing herself because she was taking care of 4 kids alone- my father always judged our lifestyle. On the occasions he came around (it was much less so when we were kids- I'm assuming because none of us had couches he could crash on yet), he always had rude comments about what my mom wasn't giving to us. Nevermind the fact that he hadn't contributed anything of value for the entirety of our childhood. He couldn't believe my mom had us living in the projects (apparently sleazy motels were much better)! He looked down at his nose at her for feeding us with food stamps (Oh, how she enjoyed those 1st of the month, 3 mile walks to and from the grocery store!). He particularly hated the fact that she was on welfare. He always thought himself far too good for welfare. Or maybe it just especially annoyed him because he was more likely to end up with an arrest warrant for not paying his child support when the money was owed to welfare. My point is that he would show up, and he would judge us. He would promise to get us out of such horrible conditions (and back into the shitty motels/homeless shelters we deserved!). He treated my mom as though all she was doing wasn't enough for his standards. Ironic.

Anyway. My dad stopped by for a visit a couple of weekends ago. I could tell he had some money in his pockets, because he wasn't using what I like to refer to as his "kill yourself" tone of voice for everything he said. I didn't even have to ask before he started telling me why. You guys? He's on welfare. And food stamps. And he is inexplicably getting rental assistance which has been approved through AUGUST. He is a 60 year old man who has never held a steady job, has pissed away every dime he's ever earned through his gambling addiction, has abused the kindness and asked favors of every single person he has ever known (his own children included), and passionately HATES "the system" for ever pursuing him for his obligations to his 4 children. And yet, he is happily abusing it now (and trust me, abusing is the right word. He openly admitted to winning $2000 on the lottery- he spent his WELFARE money on fucking lottery tickets!).

The worst part isn't even that he's abusing a service that he frequently judged my mom for needing while he contributed nothing during my childhood. The worst part is that he bitched about how inconvenient receiving welfare has been for him. You guys? Welfare asks questions. Like whether or not you are looking for a job. So RUDE! Also, he didn't even WANT welfare. He just wanted food stamps and rental assistance but they totally insisted on giving him welfare too. Ugh. And then, omg he totally had to sit in the welfare office for TWO STRAIGHT DAYS- he was even the LAST person they took on his second day of waiting- before they gave him a fucking free ride for the forseeable future. Tacky, welfare. So tacky. The customer is always right, you know. And the customer shouldn't have to wait 2 whole days that they definitely weren't going to spend at work, waiting around for your free money. And food. And housing.

Anyway. I digress. It's just that sometimes you are going through your own personal struggles. Real struggles, scary struggles, and you find you have to pull yourself up and realize that, well, you got yourself into this mess and you're just going to have to deal with it now. You'll be okay eventually. And then some jackass who is just begging to be dead to you comes to your house and bitches about how inconvenient he found his trip to the welfare office, and you have to hold yourself back from punching him in the face. On the upside, he did give me a red plastic Solo cup full of change though. Totally makes up for that whole "absentee father" thing.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Guide To Your Classy Unplanned Pregnancy

I figured you were all wondering how my pregnancy is going. I wanted to let you know that my main focus has been to remain as dignified as humanly possible during this unplanned affair. I know, I know. You hear the words "unplanned pregnancy" and your mind automatically conjures up images of someone who has been on 16 and Pregnant.

It doesn't have to be that way. You can make it through your own unplanned pregnancy with all the grace of a 30 year old woman who absolutely should have known better. Mostly because when you are 30 and pregnant, people just assume you did it on purpose (related: Don't blab to your gossipiest coworker that you are getting a divorce and also nailing some random dude, only to end up accidentally pregnant a few months later. There will be follow-up questions, you guys).

There are so many ways to keep it classy. So many different scenarios. Let's go over a few of them:

Lesson 1: No One Wants to Hear About Your Shit Problems
When I was pregnant with Caitlyn, I had a good friend of mine ask that I please stop narrating to him my every thought about shitting. That didn't exactly stop me back then, but it did give me something to think about this time around. It's plenty bad enough to know that all of my friends are wondering just how many IQ points I've lost since they met me that this even happened, so I guess I don't need to keep calling attention to my personal lack of judgment by not editting my need to talk about the fact that my body keeps cycling back and forth between extreme constipation of the sticky variety, and crapping 5 times a day while we are on our way to dinner.

Lesson 2: No One Particularly Want to Hear About Your Other Problems, Either
I have great friends and family. Really I do. They support me and love me and are there for me when I need them. But I do try to remind myself often that, ahem, I sort of did this to myself, and I know lots of people dealing with non-self-inflicted problems and so maybe I should bitch a little bit less about my own personal stupidity.

Lesson 3: Strangers Do NOT Fuck With the Pregnant Lady
Sometimes, in your personal life, you're going to need to curb your tendencies toward blaming your accidental pregnancy for your random emotional outbursts. This does not apply in public. Strangers don't know it was an accident! They already assume you are classy, yet emotionally unstable. Use this to your advantage. Maybe you wouldn't normally complain about slow service in a restaurant, but you are PREGNANT now. Talk to that manager. You're going to need to save some money anyway, and the pregnant woman who bitches about the service gets free food for her and her friends.

Lesson 4: Are You Absolutely Sure He's the Dad? Because He Isn't!
Sure, you made a mistake. But you aren't the only one. That shit was 50/50. Stunningly enough, though, despite knowing that he had unprotected sex with you, he is going to question the baby's paternity. Especially if you break up with him or decide that you want the baby to have your last name (and really, how DARE you! That's a man's right!). This is like the ultimate "keep it classy" lesson. Because you'll want to be sure you don't outright tell him to go fuck himself in a text message. That shit doesn't look good in court. That said, go right ahead and feed into his suspicions- "well... I suppose it's possible that she isn't yours. I'm like 99% sure, but who knows?". You just got him to leave you alone for the rest of your pregnancy! Nothing says classy like being deliberately vague about the paternity of your adorable little bastard.

Lesson 5: Time to Get Your First Round of STD Tests in Almost a Decade!
There is just nothing classier than a responsible lady. And nothing says responsible like going to your doctor at 5 months pregnant and asking for a "just in case" round of STD screenings. I mean, you DID have unprotected sex with a dude you only knew for a few months. And you DID happen to find out that you were actually his side piece for the first several months you were seeing him because he was apparently cheating on his long-term girlfriend with you. For the record though, what a classy lady should NOT do is try to sneak a look at her blood test results before the doctor comes in the room, because she may find herself and her equally classy bestie googling random STDs she's convinced herself she saw a check mark next to on her results. Herpatitis, you guys. It could have been a real thing. Except it totally isn't.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Divorce Court...

Actually, that title is a lie. Of course it didn't really happen on the way to divorce court. That would be just plain tacky. And I like to be enormously tacky.

So here is the thing. Remember how I started dating that guy? Yeah. That guy got me pregnant. And so, while it technically did not happen on the way to divorce court, I was absolutely a proper hoodrat about it and showed up to divorce court pregnant with another man's baby. Not that anyone knew. But I knew, and I felt the ghettoness of my roots in that moment. You can take the girl out of the projects, I suppose...

Anyway. Obviously you have some questions. Questions such as "are you really that stupid?" and "so, I guess you aren't having an abortion then?". Let's get in to that, as I'm going to find a way to blame this all on my ex husband.

As for the question of my intelligence, well, let me assure you, you aren't the first to ask. And rightfully so. I won't get into the messy details, but let's just say I had a lapse in judgment. Let's just say that I was so cocky about my knowledge of my cycles and fertility signs after multiple rounds of IVF and years of tracking and trying to get pregnant, that I simply got cavalier about the whole thing. I simply thought I knew too much to have an accidental pregnancy. So yeah, ok, I guess I'm kind of fucking stupid.

As for the abortion question. I looked to my past, to my struggles to conceive and my loss of a much loved and terribly wanted baby and I could not bring myself to do it. Even if it was the most logical choice. And I assure you, I do realize it was the most logical choice. Even now I sometimes find myself thinking "wow... I wish I could have been a bit more logical when I made this decision". It's not that I regret it, exactly. I just didn't really take as much time as I should have to think it through. Truthfully, I knew I'd never go through with it anyway, no matter how much I may have been able to convince myself that it was the best option.

And so, for the official record, today I am nearly 16 weeks pregnant. The future is murky and scary, but in the end I know I will love this baby no matter what else happens. I know I will find equal parts joy and challenge in being a single mother (and no, that doesn't mean the guy just dropped off the face of the Earth, but my reality is what it is and I have to be prepared for that). I know that when Caitlyn hugs my belly and tells me she wants a baby brother, who shall be named Pocoyo and who she shall paint blue, she will get an immense amount of joy from having a sibling to love. I know that we will be a family, in whatever version works best for us. I know we will carry on and love each other and support each other and be happy. As for everything else? Well, fuck if I know.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Near Death Experience

Of a character. On a TV show. That I find infuriating.

Oh, I'm sorry, did you think this was going to be about me? Of course not. I do, in fact, have an announcement to make, but things have been crazy and busy and stressful, and I want to have the time to really sit down and write it out the way I want it. Now is not that time. Now is the time I'm typing this in the smallest window possible so my coworkers don't see that I'm not actually doing work.

Anyway. Spoiler Alert, obviously.

Can we talk for a moment about Grey's Anatomy? Or The Anatomy, as I prefer to call it. Specifically, I want to talk about Meredith and how much I want to watch her die.

I get it. The show has been on for quite some time. You can only really rework a character's storyline so many times. But the fact is, this shit is getting ridiculous. How many near-death experiences can one fictional character have before the show has to acknowledge the fucking absurdity of it and ACTUALLY kill her off? It's like watching fucking Final Destination. I can't even tell you how much I was rooting for her to really die this time.

Do you understand the lengths of absurdity and obnoxiousness this show had to go to, to get me rooting for the TITLE CHARACTER's death? KILL THAT BITCH NOW. I can't even anymore with her. She's not even likeable to begin with, and I'm really sick of the fact that she has the fucking grim reaper on her back at every single season finale.

I mean, I suppose, if they did decide to try to stretch it across a few more seasons, they could find a few more ways for her to almost-die. Maybe in the series finale, the world will end with a Day After Tomorrow-style flood and ice age.  But I fucking swear the last scene would be her doing voice-over about death, and you would see her hand reach out from under a mountain of snow and then they would just cut to black.

Is Meredith Grey the devil? Is she, at the very least, some kind of witch?  Because, bitch, please die already. Nobody even likes you.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Indignities of Being a Toddler

I think one of the really interesting things about having a kid is that sometimes I find myself having mini-flashbacks to my own childhood. It's always something small that does it. Caitlyn will do something ridiculous and I'll find myself remembering when I would do that as a child. And wondering why children are so utterly fucking spastic.

There are a few things I've noticed recently that cause Caitlyn great pain. These are things that I do as an adult too, simple, everyday things. Things that I do not fear. That are not even remotely painful. And yet, somehow, my toddler finds them absolutely traumatic to the point of running away when I even suggest that they may happen.

At first I couldn't understand it, but when I really thought about it, I can remember these exact things being horrible as a kid. Daily things I had to survive, despite the pain and indignity of the tasks. And when I think of them now, I can't help but realize that maybe my childhood wasn't quite as hard as I imagined it to be.

Are you ready for this? The list of the things Caitlyn finds to be physically and emotionally torturous? Let's get into it then:

Pooping: Do you remember when pooping was difficult? When it hurt to push out your poops? I guess as an adult my butthole is regulation sized now, so I can't understand it anymore. But for Caitlyn? She hates to poop. She whines and complains that her butt hurts. I regularly find her hiding in a corner, crapping her pants, because pooping on the toilet is simply an indignity she refuses to suffer.

Shampoo Eyes: You guys? Why the fuck won't she just close her eyes when I rinse shampoo out of her hair? I've tried to explain it to her so many times- your eyes WON'T FUCKING HURT IF YOU JUST CLOSE THEM, but she seems rather convinced that if she does close her eyes, I'm just going to splash her face with acid or something. I mean, that's basically the equivalent of rinsing shampoo out of her hair anyway, right?

Getting Stuck in Shirts: Every time I put a shirt on Caitlyn, she freaks out for 10 seconds while I try to thread her giant lightbulb head through the neck hole. I can't help but remember the panic I would go into as a kid when my head would get stuck in a shirt. I was always pretty sure I was about to suffocate at any moment, even though I was never stuck for more than 5 seconds. Also, it occurs to me that this many not be a thing that normal people deal with. The giant head thing runs in my family.

Hair Brushing: There is no indignity Caitlyn is less inclined to suffer through than having her hair brushed. There is running away, and crying, and repeated declarations that she doesn't want to brush her hair. And that's just when she SEES the brush. Once I actually sit her down and try to do it? Sobbing, squirming, and begging me to stop. So fucking dramatic about the hair brushing. Just as I was as a kid.

In summation, kids are fucking weirdos, and extremely dramatic. God, that is a shitty closing sentence.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Shit My Dad Says- Hobo Bill Strikes Again

My dad has officially worn out his welcome with every single member of my family except for me. I mean, he's worn it out with me too, but I'm too nice to show it as blatantly as everyone else does.

In particular, my sister April recently decided that she couldn't deal with him anymore, told him off in spectacular fashion, and ignores him like 90% of the time now. That being said, when she was invited to come visit by our uncle that my dad is currently living with, she decided to make the 2 hour trip to visit our extended family. My dad told me that April would be visiting, and asked if I would come too.

I really didn't want to go. And so, I layered a little bit of truth and a little bit of exaggeration on him. I told him I couldn't really afford the gas and tolls to make the trip. And I couldn't, really. I'm a recently single mother, thank you very much. Sometimes I'm broke.

It got weird when my dad called me a few days later, and then again another couple of days after that, asking about my money situation. If I was okay. If I needed any money. I responded with the verbal equivalent of shrugging my shoulders. "Eh, you know. I'm always broke". The thing about my dad is that he's like Willy Goddamned Wonka in the Chocolate Factory when he has money. And by "has money" I mean, "is currently collecting unemployment even though he hasn't had a real, on-the-books job in like at least 5 fucking years, wait, excuse me? Why the fuck do you get to collect unemployment, because you just almost turned me into a Republican when you said that?". He gets all manic and jolly, but with a certain uneasiness where you know the facade could slip away at any moment. But hey, he's there, and he's smiling and he's got lickable wallpaper so I guess it's better than the LSD boat rides he likes to take you on when he's depressed.

Anyway. This past Wednesday he came to visit me after work. He shuffled in and I noticed he was carrying a plastic jar.

Ok. Side bar on the plastic jar. When I say plastic jar, what are you imagining, exactly? Maybe an old water jug, or some sort of Tupperware container? I mean, sure, I didn't give you a hell of a lot of context on "plastic jar", but I feel like those are the sorts of things that are going to pop into your head. What isn't going to pop into your head? THIS:

Yeah. That is a one gallon drum, previously filled with the blue cheese dressing of his former employer. Are you wondering what it's filled with now? Change. Specifically, it contained $142 in an assortment of quarters, dimes, nickels, pennies, and- AND- most importantly, half dollar and dollar coins.

Let me explain. This is not a normal change jar. Even if you put aside the fact that he chose a vat of dressing as his piggy bank, this is not an accumulation of $142 worth of the everyday loose change from his pockets over the course of a few months. No.

You know how if you offer a young child a choice between a $1 bill and 4 quarters, they will almost always pick the quarters? Because even though the value is the same, the quarters SEEM like more money to them? That is how my dad is. Except that he is turning 60 this year and he's still eternally fascinated by change. He will take his real, grown-ass man paper bills (that he seriously needs to pay his real, grown-ass man neverending debts), and go to the bank and trade them in for change. He will specifically ask for half dollar and dollar coins, because he thinks they are OMGSOCOOLOMG. He will say to the bank teller "Give me as many as you have! I collect coins!" You know the problem with "collecting" coins when you are too poor to live? You run out of money and then you are the fucking weirdo at the Walmart paying for deodorant in change out of a gallon sized jar of salad dressing.

When he started telling me the exact value of each denomination of coins in his jar ("I didn't have anything to do this morning so I counted them"), I started giggling like a maniac at his utter lunacy. Then he showed me his "collection" of $2 bills. In his wallet (where else would he keep a collection of MONEY? Der.). $14 dollars worth of $2 bills. You guys? Math, ok. That is SEVEN $2 bills. That + $50 in quarters = money aficionado right there. He even had another $2 bill at home. I mean, he could have totally just been bragging, but I believe him. People like him don't need to lie about their accomplishments. He even gave one of the $2 bills to Caitlyn, and, I mean, if he was lying about that extra one at home, that would mean he only possessed $12 in $2 bills, and really, what the fuck is THAT? Nothing, peasants. $14 is the minimum to gain notoriety as a collector.

It came to a point where I had to ask (again), "Why, dad. Why do you insist on cashing in your money for change?". Naturally, he had infallible logic on his side, once again:

Dad: You know, those coins can be worth a lot of money

Me: ...

Dad: No really, there's a 1964 blah-blah-donkey-fuck quarter that's worth $2! (I may have paraphrased).

Me: Oh yeah. $1.75 profit. Big money. How many of those do you have, by the way.

Dad: Oh, well, I checked all these quarters and there weren't any.

Me: So none then, collector?

Dad: The $2 bill I have at home is worth $10.

Me: ...

Dad: Some of the half dollars are worth $2 too.

Me: We just discussed this.

Dad: And you know, those silver dollars... you put 10 of those in a sock and carry it around with you. Anyone tries to mess with you, you can smack them in the face with it (you guys. This is not embellishment for the sake of the story. He literally said these words and did not understand for even a moment why they were insane).

Me: Oh dear sweet baby Jesus, save me.

Then he proceeded to dump out his entire jar of change and count it in front of me. When I wouldn't stop mocking his salad dressing jar, he told me his big plan for Christmas. Yes. In fact, his "big plan for Christmas" involves 1 gallon salad dressing jars (JARS- plural). And change. Naturally. He has 4 of them in his car, you see. And he's going to fill them all up with change and wrap them up in paper and a bow, and each of his GROWN ADULT OFFSPRING, WITH JOBS AND GODDAMN BANK ACCOUNTS AND A MODICUM OF NORMALCY DESPITE HIS VERY EXISTENCE, WILL RECEIVE A STINKY JAR FULL OF CHANGE FOR CHRISTMAS. I mean, isn't that the "spirit of the season" everyone always talks about at Christmas? Being broke enough to pay for things in change and then dousing your stress in high fat foods? Yup. Nailed it, dad. Fucking nailed it.

Anyway. Then he told me, since he knows I'm super broke, that I could keep his $142 in change. And you know what? I absolutely fucking kept it.

Monday, February 4, 2013

To Be A "Kid Person"

There are two kinds of people in this world: Kid People and Normal People.

You see, I kind of object to the idea that anyone would say that they just across-the-board LOVE kids. The self-identifiers. The people who say things like "every child is a precious miracle from God". I mean, really,  you like every kid? Have you never met an asshole kid? Because I have. And I definitely don't like them at all.

I mean, some people are more naturally inclined to caring for children. My mom is one of those people. If you asked her, I think she would absolutely say she's a kid person. And she's the one exception that I will make here. Because as much as my mom has a fantastic nature towards kids and the fact that every single child she encounters loves her immediately, I've also heard her express her distaste for certain children. She won't hesitate to call out an ugly baby (I mean, not to the parents, obviously) or an asshole toddler, or a rude 8 year old. She's not absolutely indiscriminate. And she sure as shit doesn't call every little troll-kid a "miracle". My mom understands that some kids are just not going to mesh with her personality, even if MOST of them do.

I guess the thing that bothers me most about the self-identifiers though, is the pressure it puts on people who don't feel the need to try to superbond with every single kid who crosses their path. When you find yourself in the company of that person who tries so hard to be every kid's favorite, proclaiming their love indiscriminately to every slimy, slobbering little stink beast, I suppose you can't help but wonder if there is some fundamental flaw in your genes, some lack of maternal instinct on your part that is stopping you from wanting to hold every child in your arms and tell them they're special.

Here's the thing about maternal instinct though: it's meant for YOUR kid, not someone else's. Not giving any fucks about other people's kids does not mean you don't have it in you to love your own.

Sometimes though, as a non-self-identifier, you will find that you do bond with someone else's kid. You will find that despite all your notions that you probably don't even like kids that much, you actually enjoy spending time with one of them. And it's not just that you like them. Inexplicably, they like you too! They ask to go to your house. They play play-doh with you and laugh at your jokes and think the sun shines out your ass. They think you are awesome even if you can't seem to figure out why.

My point is that sometimes you need the unfiltered view of a two year old to make you see how awesome you are and that you are more than capable of being a good mom some day.