MYOB in IHOP

She came over, decked out in red and green tinsel and seasonal cheer

She saw me checking my blood sugar and committed the first of many errors.

“Oh, let’s see, what’s your sugar? If it’s good, you can have whatever you want, but if it’s bad…well, you’re on restrictions. ”

Then she waited for the reading.

Then she yelled out “191!” to everyone in a five mile radius.

What is it with people being rude?!

What is it about people finding it necessary to admonish me in matters of my health?

“One of my husbands was a diabetic, so I know all about it.” She patted my hand in an attempt to….soothe me?

You wouldn’t read someone’s mail or emails or text messages

But you find it okay to insert yourself into my Health-related business.

My numbers are personal.

My numbers are for me and my doctor, period.

I don’t need your judgment, I don’t need your kudos.

191 isn’t even that great of a number, anyway.

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Trigger

I’m sick.

I’m always sick, but this is acute, not chronic.

It’s not cute sickness like hair did, nails did, face beat,

It’s pig tails, tank top, leggings, used tissues lying around sickness.

And you’re angry.

You’re delaying my meds.

You’re delaying my meals.

You’re going to parties and making deals.

The logical part of me says I’m transferring past hurt and anger,

The irrational, crusty-nosed watery-eyes part of me says, “It ain’t RIGHT! It just ain’t RIGHT!”

It was more important for you to paint your mama’s shutters than to look after your wife.

It was more important for you to paint your mama’s shutters than to pick up my meds.

I missed a few doses yesterday.

Because of your screwed up priorities.

I’m trying to remain calm and rational but I’m just stunned and hurt.

I already function at a high level of pain and I have realized that it bothers you to be inconvenienced by my struggles.

But I thought surely you would understand that this is different on top of what I already deal with.

This is routine disrupting, highly contagious illness.

And you just don’t get it.

Meanwhile I’m on my back feeling frustrated, neglected and helpless.

You have expectations and desires–well, so do I.

I’m not much feeling like sharing baked goods with someone who can’t help me out when I’m sick;

Who can’t understand why I might be hurt that our break was taken up with work.

Who can’t understand how disappointed I am.

How abandoned and betrayed I felt when I realized that you stayed to play some games.

How even more disappointing it is to feel like you don’t even realize how much you have wounded me.

I’m just lying here, pretending I’m all right.

I’m just rolled up in the blankets like it’s not deja vu.

I’m just thinking here in the dark like it’s not them–it’s you.

In Utero

If there’s one thing my body does well, it’s create and cradle new life. I always knew I wanted to be somebody’s mama. I can vividly remember dressing up in my mom’s housecoat and nightgown and pretending I knew what it would be like to have a baby.

I knew you gave the baby your breast in order to feed it. I knew how to change diapers –and wash cloth ones. That’s what having a semi-crunchy mom and two baby sisters will do for you.

Once my sisters grew too old to be swaddled and too curious to be cute, I started spending as much time as I could with infants I saw at church, on the streets, etc.

I will never forget the ache of being told to go away and not to speak to or touch the baby. Around 15, my desire for a baby intensified. I was thankfully able to think logically about this and made the wise decision not to become pregnant at 15.

Fast forward five-six years later. I’m married to my son’s father. By our 6 month wedding anniversary, I was pregnant.

He wanted me to have an abortion. I couldn’t understand why. I knew I didn’t want to have the procedure. I told him he could leave if he saw fit. I loved my baby before I met him.

Every pregnant milestone I celebrated sent his father deeper and deeper into the doldrums. I welcomed my bouncing baby boy, Chai, the day after Hurricane Frances breezed through Tampa.

And then, for eight years, there was nothing but yearning and sadness and disappointment. Every time I felt those tell-tale twinges in my pelvis, I would hope against hope that new life had taken root deep within me. Every month, I went in search of feminine products with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat.

Month after month, my body bewitched, bothered, bewildered and ultimately betrayed me with false reactions, ubiquitous symptoms and nothing to show for it besides embarrassment, frustration and bitterness.

And then, in spite of all the odds, it happened. One day, one moment and my long-held hopes were realized: I was enceinte–with child. Between bouts of nausea and vomiting, I exulted in the knowledge that Bridgette was having a baby.

Then, at eight weeks, fear and pinkness froze me in my tracks. The OB said it was a subchorionic hemorrhage–basically bleeding from the placenta left over from implantation. She told me that I’d be fine and more than likely the embryo would be, too. Today, that embryo is my 4.5 year old daughter.

The night she was born, all I could do was cry post-delivery. At last, After the years of deferred hope and nine months of jockeying my health and my unborn’s health against the enemies of asthma, Type 1 diabetes, RA and hypertension, she was here. My Faith. Every doctor’s appointment, every moment of shame, embarrassment and inconvenience had been so worth it. My second miracle babe was nestled safely in my arms; her time to come into the out was finally here.

Four and a half months later, I was feeling odd. Wondering why I was short of breath and nauseous when climbing the stairs. Happily loving on my loquacious eight year old and 4.5 month old chunk of adorable-ness.

He was the one who called my attention to it. I scoffed; what did an eight year old know about lady parts and menstrual cycles? As if!!!!

The first test I took was negative because I took it wrong. I remember shrugging in relief and then realizing that I had dunked it incorrectly. Reasoning that it was probably negative anyway, I dunked it correctly. Bing! A BFP (big fat positive)!

Nah, can’t be right! I told myself. I took another. And another. And another. I probably took at least six tests. I splurged and bought the fancy digital version….all tests showed the same result. After an eight year drought and serious contemplation over my womb’s barren state, I was now preggers for the second time in less than a year.

Guess I’m NOT barren. Oh my God, how am I gonna do this?! I was about to be ushered into the two under two club!!!! I had some mixed feelings about my membership, but I said, “God, if this is how You planned it, You gotta help me through this!”

And indeed, He did. He was there through the morning sickness. He was there through the vexation of dealing with other people’s children while you’re incubating your own. He was there through the horrendous pain and inflammation that is RA during pregnancy before remission. He was there through my endocrinologist leaving the practice. He was there through me having to go on leave a month earlier than planned. He was there through the repeat VSD issue. He was there through prodromal labor that kept me awake at night and made me vomit to no avail. He was there through rides in my pressure when the OBs kept telling me to lie down and rest–while I was waddling around after a crawling nine, ten and eleven month old baby.

And He was there on D-Day, which wasn’t planned, but was very much expected–no April Fool’s baby for moi! My little six-fingered victor, Justice, was my third miracle babe.

It’s been almost four years since we brought Justice home and the reality of two kids who cannot walk upstairs on their own recognizance gobsmacked us squarely in the face. And still, I yearn for one more. I’ve made no secret about this. I’ve tried talking myself out of it, I’ve ridiculed my feelings both alone and aloud. I want an even five. Laughing but very serious.

But due to some little penny ante things such as my husband’s wishes, the state of my health and the health of my bank account–whoops, our bank account–I may never get that starting five.

I’ve been working through the grief for a few years now. I despair of ever seeing its tail end. How do you heal from the loss or grieve for a person you’ve never met except in your dreams?

When I find out, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Gendered Dilemma

After decades of being questioned

Dealing with public and self-inflicted doubt,

I have reached the point of no return.

I have no tolerance for your queries about my judgement,

My patience is too thin for your wonder over how I reach my hypotheses.

It is. What it is.

I demand the same courtesy, the same

insouciant suspension of disbelief I offer you

Down with ridicule,

Strike through gaslighting.

And just as I give you a measure of grace when you’re wrong,

Miss the mark or are misinformed

I expect reciprocity.

The physiological differences between us are not an excuse

I’m nobody’s “sweetheart,” “little girl,” or hapless Child

God, grit and get up and go

Got me where I am today

Not my curves, not my pretty face, not my bedroom eyes

Don’t insult me or my intelligence—

Just know that when I say the dog peed in the crate I know.

No explanation should be necessary.

His blanket is cream and gold so the wet, yellow spots were a dead giveaway;

Not to mention the 10 hours he spent holding it….

I don’t care if this seems petty;

I’ve identified the source of my irritation.

Though you’re the current recipient, you’re not the only culprit.

In the course of my life, my agnostics started with my mother

Afraid of what being wrong might do to her elaborately constructed structure of safety, she mercilessly shot down many of my ideas and hypothetical/rhetorical arguments

Then my first boyfriend who expected me to abandon my gut feelings in order to spare my feelings for him

Lather rinse repeat

Women have doubted me but the doubt from the men in my life packs a powerful misogynistic wallop

So mind my sore spot!

Martyrdom

A thankless job

You never reap the fruits of your labor

Because you are too far gone to appreciate them

Buried six feet under

Literally

Figuratively

You put blood

Sweat

Tears

Into the effort

People forget you’re a person, too

They just expect you to give and give

Like a horn of plenty

Never running out, never needing anything for yourself

That’s what working with the public is like

You go to school and dive into debt

To make enough money to eat ok and live off the street

You earn meaningless degrees so that you can be denigrated

condescended to by others–both in and out your field

In order to be a glorified babysitter whose hourly wage doesn’t even come close to equity

You are blamed for the pitfalls of a system you didn’t create

Even as you struggle to avoid the same perils

Don’t you dare have needs or obligations–those you serve come first!

Your children suffer and lack in order for the essentials of other people’s children to be met

You are shamed and derided for your feelings

Guilted into working hours upon hours for free because “you chose this job,”

No one EVER mentions the free labor.

No one ever acknowledges the lack of support–at times even from the very ones you serve

No one ever admits that you are the expert–as long as someone else who is more of an expert doesn’t show up.

True gratitude goes a long way

Respect is invaluable–

If you can read this, thank a teacher.

A Watched Poti

I’m a little tea cup, short and stout

Brimming with the water of epiphany

Building up steam for the task ahead

Each student I meet is like a teabag in an empty cup

A little package filled to bursting with potential

Frustration

Hopes

Dreams

Fears

Desires

Waiting for my hot water to catalyze their development

It’s sweaty work, but tea is best piping hot

Sometimes the rim gets too hot

The purpose isn’t clear

Or apathy has run headlong into

Deadlines

Teacher expectations

When the water’s ready hear me shout

Tip me over

And pour me

Out

The realest

I’m a teacher
The definition of a social justice warrior
No pejorative
I’m contesting this world order
So I teach to try and put it in order
Sisyphus ain’t got nothin’ on me
My daily occupation is the definition of insanity

I put bio kids on hold place my life on the line

Cuz I’ve run out of insulin and days of sick time

I control my bladder and my mouth

All while ignoring pain that forces me to the couch

I work 10-12 hour days and get paid for 8

I’m a salaried employee according to the state

Overtime is expected in this career that I’ve selected

I’m a parent, nurse, therapist

Coach, fundraiser, nutritionist

Administrative assistant, behavioral specialist

Motivational speaker, creative reacher

I’m not permitted the same excuses as others

If one way doesn’t work I BETTER find another

No matter if they take our books, walls and AC

The most powerful influence in my classroom is me

I’m a superhero with no cape

Living for moments when my students’ educational experiences change their fate

Armed with a few degrees, prayer and a good attitude

I work with kids help them differentiate between assertive and rude

I’m a teacher

The definition of a social justice warrior

No pejorative

Emotional Free Fall

You never know how deep the wounds are until you trip and bust your stitches.

You know, when it’s in the past and so much water under the bridge? But then, you fall off the bridge and you can’t stop the sensation, can’t brace yourself enough for the inevitable impact?

When I was a small child, I used to have recurring dreams of falling. I’d be up somewhere dizzyingly high and I’d fall. And fall. And fall. And fall. The impact of my body slamming into the ground would wake me with a jolt, and I’d lie in bed, staring at the ceiling, feeling the room spinning as I tried to reorient myself in the dark.

Everything I’ve read about these types of dreams says either there’s a perfectly good physiological reason for these dreams or that these dreams indicate that a person feels insecure or anxious or that a person is dealing with instability within his or her life. I don’t have them anymore, so go figure….

In past relationships I have dealt with several non-negotiable situations–you don’t become the owner of a failed marriage by 25 without being lax about your non-negotiables. This laxity will definitely breed insecurity, anxiety and instability.
There was one person in particular though, who capitalized on my inability to maintain my non-negotiables; my desire to give people a chance, the “benefit of the doubt.” When I used to deal with the silverback*, the information conduit was always clogged.

Everything was on a need-to-know basis and I was never the one who needed to know. I would ask. I would cajole and beg and plead–to no avail. My threats were met with derision or worse–silence.

I was accused of being nosy. I was taunted about my neediness; harped upon about my insecurities. Of course, he knew exactly what he was doing. He was manipulating my feelings and naïveté in order to ensure that I would remain enmeshed.

I’m familiar with the concept of codependency–I’ve read tomes on the subject–I’ve even lived it multiple times. But psychobabble is mere words, and some things cut so deep, the pain leaves you mute and numb; unable to articulate your emotions and desires, so lost “you don’t know your butt from a hole in the ground,” as my mama would say.

My indomitable spirit is born out of necessity; a tenacious desire to live and thrive that poverty, mental illness and too much church couldn’t choke out of me. I have been knocked down countless times and popped back up–like the inflatable with a weight in the bottom. I can take a punch.

But I still bruise. I know how to disguise the purples, blues and greens of the contusion but I can’t control the pain. Life can really pack a wallop.

When you joked about my concern for you, it threw me into a maelstrom of confusion, hurt and deja vu. I couldn’t understand how my tumult was amusing to you. As I begged for you to explicate, I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.
“Et tu, Brutus?” was all I could think.

I had to go to great lengths to make you level with me. And still, it seemed you couldn’t understand my anger.

I’m not the scared little girl I was 10-15 years ago. I’m not desperate for love or security. I no longer believe the narrative that says others are impervious to fear, pain, rejection. I’m not a weak anomaly.

I will tolerate many things. I will turn my head away from foolishness. As the saying goes, God looks out for children and fools. Love covers a multitude of sins–you’re familiar with these platitudes.

But what my love will not cover, what I cannot turn a blind eye to are repeat incidents that trigger me and remind me of abuses and abusers past. What my conscious mind doesn’t catch, my subconscious won’t let slide.

I’m. Not. Going. Back. There.

Not for you, not for my children, not even for God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit or any other triune combination.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

You shook me to the core, but you didn’t rock my world at all.

*Names and situations have been changed to protect the guilty.

Bashert

My heart was a forest–
Scorched beyond recognition.
Trampled in the warpath of love's
staccato beat.
Sparks flew–
rapidly, the cockles of my heart
went up in flames.
Tinder.
My hopes and dreams were kindling–
burned ash.
The inferno engulfed my soul;
My psyche seared by the white heat of selfishness.
The coals of misabuse and usury red hot.
I was a wounded animal,
Seeking cover while all around me,
the underbrush of my life burned.
Into the smokey haze you
Tiptoed.
Deliberately, sans armor,
Defenseless except for thick-soled boots of patience.
This was no controlled burn; though extinguished, the blaze was only banked beneath a facade of insouciance and aplomb.
You doused the flames of my hurt with love.
You stamped out
The embers of my righteous indignation.
The safety of your arms an emollient for the coarseness of my youth.

Remission

The penultimate prize.
The end goal.
My life back!
My focus laser sharp.
My energy back on 10!
Firing on all cylinders!
Wearing the footwear that I like
Reclaiming my stilettos, wedges and platforms…
Grabbing hold to my sex appeal and dragging it from the sick bay.
Goodbye injections!
So long, Prednisone!
I chuck the deuces to the multi-colored pills.
I'm normal!
Not inflamed
See me bend, see me twist?
No pain!
All gain.
Hello, cardio!
Welcome, window shopping!
Long time no see, surfboard!
See my pinky, see my thumb!
I can make a fist, everyone!
See my shoe, see my foot!
A miracle was all it took!
Farewell, stress, kick rocks depression!
I'm the recipient of a bona fide blessing.

But even if the miracle only exists within my sleep,
I yet have promises to keep…
14 years in–this thing runs deep.