Date Archives June 2012

Why your friends think you’re a douchebag

Before I get into my real topic for today, I have to say this to CNN and FOX: Really, assholes?

You got it WRONG?

Listen, dudes. I write about employment law for a living. I read lots of court opinions every week. Compared to you, I have about four readers. But you know what? They’re paying me to get it right.

It’s important to get things sort of, you know, correct-ish when you’re reporting about court rulings. That might be especially true when you’re reporting about rulings from the Supreme Court on one of the most significant cases to occur in our lifetimes.

And here’s the thing about court opinions: They bury the lead all the time. They aren’t published with big, red marker scrawls across the front saying WINNER and LOSER (with appropriate happy and sad faces, of course.)

The Supreme Court is not an umpire. 

Court opinions are often nuanced. They DISCUSS matters of law which are sometimes INTRICATE. The Supreme Court, especially, often tends to take its time with this.

That means it’s important to read the darn opinion.

Oy.

Do I have to separate you?

 

Now let’s talk about why you might be a douche.

My smart, lovely pal Lisa Cellini Romero just wrote something on Facebook that I thought was as smart and lovely as she is. It was one of those things that I’d been thinking but hadn’t quite articulated in my own mind yet. She wrote:

I still cannot understand why so many people view politics or our government in general as “us vs. them”…. it’s not a sporting event, where because I root for the Eagles, I automatically hate the Cowboys…. I don’t “lose” because democracy is in action…. I don’t “win” or “lose” because the view I had was upheld or not.

Smart chick.

But I admit: I have been guilty of that mentality in the past.

So, so guilty.

 

You are gray and stanky

 

Remember the movie Cujo? Remember how at the beginning of the movie, Cujo looked all normal and nice and possibly even cute? Then, he got rabies and slowly degraded before our eyes — gray, bloody, slobbery and evil …  intent on trapping and terrorizing an unsuspecting mother and her child in a car, threatening to rip their limbs off if they dared raise their heads above window level.

That’s what happens to you when you follow politics too closely. You turn into Cujo.

I know because this has happened to me. And I’ve seen it happen to lots of other people.

I’m not saying don’t pay attention. You SHOULD pay attention. You should educate yourself so you don’t believe it when one of our nation’s leading “news authorities” tells you the WRONG DAMN THING.

But there’s a line.

If you start following politics like you’re following NFL draft choices, you’re on a slippery slope. If you start spending your time trawling the Internet for sound bites on the latest political development — especially during an election year — you’re in danger.

Next thing you know, you’re only hanging out with people who agree with you. You start crowing on Facebook about your amazing political insights with the not-so-veiled insinuation that people who don’t agree with you are morons.

Pity the person who attempts to present a different opinion to you. You pull out obscure facts that no one can argue with because no one has any fucking clue what you’re talking about.

Your Facebook friends start arguing amongst themselves in awkward combinations — your Bible study group leader and the dude who used to make bongs out of sneakers in your dorm back in the day. Since you don’t want to alienate your so-called friends, you backpedal, swearing that you weren’t trying to start a brawl, you were simply trying to begin a neutral dialogue about abortion, global warming or high-ranking figures getting blow jobs in public places.

Everyone thinks you’re a douche anyway.

Because you are. You are also Cujo — gray and stanky and ready to rip off people’s limbs.

Those friends you cut to shreds with your amazing political acuity? They’re emailing each other pointing out all the ways that your various douchebaggery manifests. They’re talking about how you’ve become a humorless fuck and whether or not they should unfriend you or just put you on “ignore.”

And let me say this: I have TOTALLY been that douche.

Like, so many times.

What scares me: I’m probably one news story away from being that douche again.

But I’m trying. Lordy, am I trying.

My attempt to not be a douche

 

So with this whole healthcare thing, I’ll say this: I’m happy.

Not because it has Obama’s name on it. Not because it’s a so-called “win” for any particular group.

But because this affects me.

I don’t have insurance through work. When my ex quit his job to start his own business, we had to buy independent healthcare.

It was terrifying.

It was like rowing up to the Titanic in a little canoe and shouting up, “Uh, hey there! Can anyone hear us? We’d like to come aboard! We don’t want a free ride! We’ll pay! But we need you to pick us up!”

Then a big, booming, faceless voice nearly knocked us out of the boat. “HOW MANY DO YOU HAVE IN THAT BOAT?”

“There are four of us. Two adults, a child and a baby! Overall, we’re pretty healthy. We won’t cause any trouble! We promise! Can you let us on? We’ll pay.”

The big, faceless, booming voice let out a big, put-upon sigh. “Fine,” it said. “Since there aren’t that many of you, you’re not big enough to get a room of your own. You’ll need to sleep in the broom closet. And it’s going to cost you big time. Now before you get on, we’re going to need each of you to turn around so we can ram this propellor up your asses. Then you better disclose that as a pre-existing condition or we’re going to kick you off the boat.”

Or something like that.

Finding insurance became a part-time job for me. I was scared of the questions that I didn’t know to ask. For example, we almost went with one policy, then I googled it and found that people were complaining that it had payout limits on hospitalization and certain types of treatments.

So, if someone got something BIG, we’d basically be screwed.

We finally ended up getting policies at a cost of more than $1000 a month for our family. My ex had an especially hard time finding someone to cover him — he had to get his own policy — because he had the gall to have hereditary high blood pressure.

The Irishman worked as a contractor for one of the biggest banks in the world for almost two years. But since he was a contractor, he never got health insurance. He wound up in the hospital last year and ended up with thousands of dollars in bills.

No, this new healthcare law isn’t going to give us all health insurance. But one of the goals is to make it more affordable for people like me — working, tax-paying, middle-income people who don’t have health insurance through traditional means.

The American workplace is changing. Fewer people are getting insurance from their employers. If you ever have to fend for yourself out there, wouldn’t it be nice to know that there’s an affordable option?

As for the tax penalty that people who want to opt out have to pay — I can’t understand what the big deal is. I don’t know any single person who has never needed healthcare in their lifetime. Not one. You will use the healthcare system at some point. And people who don’t have health insurance who run out on their medical bills make it more expensive for everyone — it’s the equivalent of stores inflating prices to cover theft.

Think of it this way: If you have a car, you’re legally required to carry auto insurance. Most months, you pay it and don’t use it. But if you ever need to use it, you want to know you can get your car replaced.

So if you’re walking around with a body, you should have health insurance.

Is this law perfect? I doubt it. Is health insurance going to be as affordable as I’d like it to be? Time will tell, but I’m hopeful that many of us will be shelling out a whole lot less when the Affordable Care Act goes into effect.

I work hard. I’m a good person. I’m doing the best I can to take care of myself and raise my children to be good people. I deserve affordable healthcare. So do my children.

So do you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daughter, meet Mr. Sandusky

Every now and then I trip over a news story and I get stuck on it. I read everything I can on it. I become sort of embarassingly well-versed on the backstory — which I don’t quite realize until I’m talking about it with someone and they give me a look and ask, “How do you know so much about this?”

Right now, it’s Jerry Sandusky.

I wonder how it could’ve happened. I wonder how the victims are doing today — are they able to live normal lives? Are they ok? Do they think about it every day? I wonder how to protect my own children.

I tossed and turned all night after the verdict. The next day, I woke to a bright, sunny morning. One of my first thoughts was that I hoped Sandusky’s victims were able to appreciate the beautiful morning, with the knowledge that Sandusky could only glimpse the day through the window of his jail cell. There would be no barbeques on the deck for that monster. No swimming in a backyard pool. The only time he would ever smell freshly cut grass again is when they mow the prison yard.

But I don’t know if the boys that Sandusky victimized are capable of any true relief or joy after what he did to them.

 

A slow seduction

 

I remember years ago Oprah interview several child molesters.

If you have children, you should watch these clips. They are difficult to watch, yes, but super instructive.

The biggest takeaway: Those child molesters are a crafty bunch.

Sure, some of them jump out of the bushes and snatch kids off the street.

But, by and large, they don’t.

A lot of them do it Sandusky style. As Oprah — a victim of child molestation herself — has often said, it’s a slow seduction.

The best I can figure, is that it often happens much like things unfolded at Penn State.

It starts with the friend or family member who takes an interest in a child. Listens. Gives gifts. Spends time.

The child molesters Oprah interviewed mentioned that they often selected kids who were marginalized in some way — latchkey kids, kids in single-parent homes, kids who were troubled in some way.

The predators gain the child’s trust. As in Sandusky’s case, they may even gain the parent’s trust. Sandusky took at least one of his victims to a bowl game in Texas.

But it doesn’t have to be an overnight trip. Maybe the predator offers to drive the child to school or run to the store with them to get milk.

And then it’s not always the vicious assault of having a wet, middle-aged, defensive coordinator ass rape a boy in the bright light of a Penn State locker room. At least not to start anyway.

Often, molesters try to pleasure their victims. Why? Because if the child felt pleasure, he or she would be less likely to tell someone about it later. If the victim felt like they were a willing participant, they might assume that they had done something wrong.

Apparently, even Sandusky often worked up to his assaults. He’d workout with the kids and then suggest a shower. Then he’d instigate a tickle fight or have a “soap fight.” He picked one boy up and held his head near the shower nozzle to “rinse his hair.” The boy says he doesn’t remember anything after that.

Some kids told their parents. One of Sandusky’s victims told his mom that Sandusky showered with him. She called the police.

Another told his mother that he thought Sandusky was gay. She told him to stop lying.

Some kids were silent.

A teachable moment

 

I listen to NPR in the morning while I’m packing lunches and making breakfast. One morning they were reporting on the Sandusky story when my 8-year old walked in. Apparently one of the accusers had testified that Sandusky told him that he’d never see his family again if he told anyone what happened.

I was furious and it must have shown on my face.

“What’s wrong, mommy?” Megan asked as she put her breakfast dishes on the counter.

For a second, I considered saying, “Oh, it’s just this news story.”

But instead I decided to tell her. “There’s a story on the news about a man who touched a bunch of boys in their private places. Remember how we talked about how no one should touch you anyplace covered by your bathing suit? Well, he touched them there. And he asked them to touch him there. And then he told the one boy that if he told anyone about it, he’d never see his family again.

“So listen, I just want you to know that if anyone ever does anything to you — or asks you to do something to them — and they say something like that, they’re just trying to scare you. If someone ever tells you not to tell your parent something, that’s EXACTLY when should tell me.”

Sending them into the world

 

Megan and I have been having talks on stranger safety since she was about three (which means it’s probably time to start talking to Benjamin about it now). The Safe Side DVD is an EXCELLENT tool for starting these conversations with your kids. It introduces the concept of stranger safety in a way that kids can understand. It also gives you a vocabulary to talk about the topic in an age-appropriate way. Plus, kids think it’s funny.

Now Megan is on the verge of turning 9. She wants to ride her bike around the neighborhood, go to friend’s houses and join things at school.

I believe in supervision and being vigilant about knowing where my children are and who they’re with.

But I won’t put them in a bubble.

I need to know that as Megan goes out into the world, that she has a certain set of tools to look out for herself. There’s no fool-proof system. And I certainly don’t want her to live her life in fear. But I do want her to be aware that there are people with bad intentions out there.

Here are some things we’ve talked about:

1. Scream your head off. I took a self defense class in college. The instructor said that most people don’t scream when they get assaulted because they’re just in shock about what’s happening. In the case of children, the Safe Side DVD tells them to yell “This is not my mom!” or “This is not my dad!” Tell them to yell it LOUD and practice it with them. If you go over this, kids are more likely to internalize it and be ready if and when they need to be.

2. Fight. I tell Megan if anyone ever tries to grab her, she’s supposed to fight like crazy. I tell her to claw at the person’s eyes. If it’s a man, I tell her to her punch or kick between his legs. And (sorry guys), I tell her to grab really hard, squeeze and twist (another tip from that self defense class). If someone grabs her from behind, I showed her how to stomp her heel down hard on the top of the person’s foot. (There’s a nerve there that, when hit, can make a person nearly pass out.)

3. You have private parts on your body and they are no one else’s business. Anything covered by your bathing suit is a private part. No one else should ever ask to see those parts or touch them, unless it’s mom or dad helping you to keep clean or a doctor for a medical reason. No one should ever show you or ask you to touch their private parts either. If any of this ever happens, tell mom or dad immediately — especially if the person tells you not to.

4. Be aware of tricks. I told her, again referring to the Sandusky story, that people who do these kind of things to kids like to make the kids think it’s their fault. The bad people give the children nice things, so the kid thinks that because they took them, they did something wrong. Or, when the person does things to the kid, the kid doesn’t tell them to stop so again, they assume it’s their fault. I told her that it’s NEVER THE CHILD’S FAULT when an adult does something like this — and again, it’s important to tell a parent right away.

Of course, this is all a lot to digest. I don’t always hit her with all of this at the same time. But I do try to remind her and work things in where I can. I drill her: “What do you if someone tries to grab you?” Big, bored sigh from her and then this reply: “Scream my head off, mommy. Can I go ride my bike now?”

Blogmuffins, we’re all in this together. I’m curious: What do you tell your kids? If you have something to share, please comment here on this page rather than my Facebook wall so everyone can see it. I’d hate for someone to miss out on a good tip.

The Irishman: Day three-six-five

Dear Irishman,

This day last year, I did not know you.

I did not know that the very next day you would ask to meet me.

I did not know that I would try very hard not to like you or that you would be so persistent in showing me how wonderful you are.

I did not know that I would I have to make a choice between being a dating warrior, with all the appropriate defenses that a warrior might have, and putting down all that armor and just being.

I did not know that we’d laugh so much.

I did not know that we’d be so crazy about each other.

I did not know that anyone could see through my smartass bullshit enough to challenge me to just be real. Open. Vulnerable.

I did not know that you’d see all my faults and all my skeletons and all my baggage and love me anyway … with no conditions.

I did not know that you’d never test me. I did not know that you’d have no conditions. I did not know that you’d be so sure about me.

I did not know that you’d let me test you because I thought I needed to. I didn’t know that you’d teach me how to stop needing to.

I did not know I’d have to make so many choices about whether to run away from you or not. I did not know that I’d lose my nerve so often, or that you’d be so generous and loving when I did.

I did not know that you’d want to plan with me, dream with me and spend time doing nothing and everything with me.

This day last year was like any other day before it. You were not in my life.

I can’t believe it’s been a year.

You’ve made my world more complicated in so many beautiful ways. Thank you for being you. And for being with me.

(Now go make me a chicken pot pie because this is getting way too sappy up in here.)

😉

 

The confounding conundrum of Father’s Day

Since I did such a spectacular job of shooting my mouth off over Mother’s Day, I thought I should try to even things out and make sure that I posted today.

So first, let me say Happy Father’s Day to all the dadly dudes out there. I hope you enjoy your day with your kids. I hope you feel loved throughout the day, appreciated for all that you do and recommited to be a loving role model for your children.

When I sat down to write this I asked myself, “OK, what do I want to say about dads?”

And my answer was silence.

That fact is, I just don’t know. I feel like someone just asked me to write down everything I know about the Pliocene Epoch.

In fact, I recently had a little back-and-forth with a popular blogger (who is awesome, btw) over dads and their roles. That exchange made me realize something: I can tell you all kinds of things dads shouldn’t do, but when it comes to what they should do, I’m stumped.

Welcome to Baggage Claim. Ms. Sammer Johnston, please claim all of carousel 4.

 

Daddy issues – the cliche’ that keeps on giving

 

Let me explain. I lived in the so-called nuclear family growing up. My parents weren’t divorced. But in a lot of ways I grew up in single-parent home.

Dad just wasn’t around.

Dad was a military man. He was gone a lot. And then when he was home, it was like we had a visiting dignitary in the house — I had the sense that someone important was under our roof, but I wasn’t sure what to say to him.

I knew, though, that he got the preferred spot on the couch (next to the two-tiered end table) and that I wasn’t allowed in the living room on Saturday afternoon when he watched Creature Double Feature or when he sprawled out on the couch to take a nap.

I knew that if I did something to get him mad that I was in TROU-BLE. I got spanked here and there, but it was his booming voice that I was terrified of. I have memories of getting out of bed one too many times one night and setting him off. As he started yelling, I turned and ran up the stairs like a fire-breathing dragon was chasing me.

I rarely heard the actual words he said once the volume went up, but I’m sure he was making solid points.

If I was asked to bring something down to my dad while he tinkered in his basement shop, I was always slightly nervous — like I’d been asked to deliver something to the principal’s office.

I don’t think that nervousness ever went away. As an adult, I’d find myself pre-rehearsing what I was going to say to my dad when he came over.

Even when I played Barbies with friends, I never knew what to do with the husband. Ken would come home for dinner and then go … somewhere. He also drove the family jeep when it was time for he, Barbie and the two wild-eyed rugrats with nylon hair to go someplace. But that was about all I could conjure up for Ken to do.

More important things

 

As I’ve said before, I think my dad did the best he could with us. He was born behind Polish lines at the tail end of WWII. His German family went through unbelievable tragedies: his older brother was killed by a grenade; my grandfather was drafted into the German army near the end of the war and was captured by the Russians — after he was released he was unable to find his family for months; my grandmother was nearly starving while pregnant with my dad’s youngest brother, so my uncle was born with no skin on his hands and feet.

And that’s all before my grandparents, already in their 40s, packed up their remaining brood of five and headed off — dirt poor — to start a new life in a new country where they didn’t know the language.

I think it’s safe to say that my dad’s own parents were a bit distracted themselves.

Certainly, my grandfather wasn’t out on the front lawn pitching a ball with the kids. He was too concerned with getting them fed.

I no speak your language

 

My dad, finding himself the father of three daughters in middle-class America … well, I imagine some days he felt that he’d been plunked down on an alien planet.

Dresses, dolls, The Smurfs, Girl Scouts … what did he know of these things?

Hormones, training bras, broken hearts and drama, drama, DRAMA in his home at all hours … well, that certainly sent him running to his dad cave or to the Chief’s Club to drink it up in a world that he understood.

Messin’ you up

 

We all have baggage from our parents. It’s inevitable. They hovered too much or not enough. They smothered us with their expectations or they left us alone too much. They were too neat or too messy. Too driven or too lazy.

In fact, I know that as a parent I’m screwing up my kids in some indetectable ways as we speak. I’m sure I’ll hear all about my sins when they get older.

And then I will tell my children this: I did the best I knew how to do at the time. I’m sorry for any mistakes I made that made your life harder. I always loved you and I always will.

So about my dad? He did the best he knew how to do at the time. I suspect that as he got older, he felt sorry that he missed out on the best of his three daughters. He didn’t know how to fix things.

He loved us but he didn’t know what to do with us.

The gifts he gave me

 

No, dad wasn’t attentive. In fact, I have few memories of actually having his eyes on me growing up.

But that doesn’t mean he gave me nothing.

He gave me the power of my own conviction, although it took me a while to learn how to admit when I was/am wrong. (That second part is a skill dad never quite mastered.)

He gave me a love of travel. Dad had been everywhere. Although he never shared those stories with me, I grew up hearing the magic of far-flung city names tossed about casually, with the insinuation that people who traveled had insight into the world that people who stayed in one place didn’t.

Probably the most important thing he gave me were the lessons he taught on how to be a friend. Dad loved his friends. If you were my dad’s friend, you were his friend forever — his door was open to you and if he got within spitting distance of your house, he was going to stop by for a beer. I have so many amazing, deep and long-lasting friendships that make my life so sweet. I have to credit dad’s example for that.

One moment

 

My dad has been dead for more than five years. I knew he was going to die. Call it a premonition. But months beforehand, in the middle of a random July afternoon, it was like someone inserted the information in my brain. I actually jumped a bit and then said, “Oh my God. Dad’s going to die.”

Then a few months later, a psychic told me that my dad wasn’t “scheduled to be here much longer.”

“I know,” I said. “How does it happen?”

“His heart,” she told me. Right on, psychic lady.

About a month before the failed heart bypass that would ultimately end dad’s life, he and I were in the car together. Just us. I had to pick him up after he dropped off his car for service so I was driving.

I took a deep breath and said — ever nervous — that I had watched a documentary on The Military Channel a few nights before. It was about P-3 planes.

Those were my dad’s planes. He was in charge of keeping them running at the Navy base. He took us on them when we were little and we got to sit in all the seats and try out the bunks and laugh at the toilets.

Daddy’s planes, I thought while I watched the show. I knew he loved them. Watching that, I could see why. How exciting to be master of something so massive. And then to be able to get in it and fly anywhere.

I told him in the car that day, “You know, I felt a had a little insight into you for a minute there. I finally understood why you were never happy with any other job after you retired from the Navy. How do you go to a desk job after working on those planes? I mean, what’s cooler than that?”

He looked at me — a look of shock and confusion, as if he didn’t quite recognize the person sitting in the seat next to him. Then his face softened and he answered, “What’s cooler than that? Going someplace you’ve never been before.”

I nodded. “Yeah,” I said. “Yeah.”

And then we were quiet. For the first and only time in my life, my dad and I related to each other as people — not father and daughter — just people who, for split second, understood the same thing and agreed.

In that moment, in me seeing him, I think he saw me, too.

The big, fat, start of a conclusion

 

So here’s where I’ve ended up after all that — with just the start of what I think dads should do.

I have two takeaways:

1. See your kids. Put your eyes on them. Don’t look away even when you don’t understand what the heck they’re doing. Even if it’s uncomfortable, fumble through it. Resist the urge to withdraw.

2. Let them know you. Tell them all your stories, even if you feel like you’re boring the shit out of them. Don’t let them arrive at your funeral and get an earload from all the people who knew you and have your children walk away wondering, “Who was that guy everyone was talking about? I didn’t know that guy.” Don’t make them have to put together the puzzles pieces of your life after you’re dead.

Father’s Day, Single Momma Style

 

And now, I’m off to help my kids cook breakfast for my ex-husband. I’ll let myself into my old house and play cook while the kids put on aprons, take their dad’s order and carefully walk too-full glasses of orange juice into the living room.

No, I don’t mind doing it. He’s not a bad dad. We weren’t great being married to each other, but I think we’re pretty good at the kid thing. (And btw, he did the same for me on Mother’s Day. It’s become  important to us to help the kids celebrate their other parent.)

Then I’ll meet my older sister — another single momma — for Father’s Day brunch. The thought of it already makes me laugh.

Happy Father’s Day to all.

 

I sold my kid short

Last Friday. Me in my daughter’s school gym. Ready to bust into a million scattered pieces all over the room from nervous energy.

My little girl was going to sing in the school talent show. By herself.

She’d worked on the song “Make it Shine” by Victoria Justice for weeks. I knew she was ready. Initially, I’d helped her prepare. We broke her performance down into steps: Learn the lyrics. Figure out the music cues when each verse starts. Lose the lyric sheet. Pretend to hold the microphone. Think about how you want to move your body.

But all of that was handled pretty quickly. Then my job was just to remind her to practice, which she did without complaint (!) several nights each week.

She was like a duck in water.

The kid nailed her performance. By the time she was done I was crying. I wasn’t making a big, sobbing spectacle of myself, but there were some tears in the corners of my eyes.

I was so proud. And also a bit … ashamed.

I almost sold her short.

As I mentioned before, I was uncertain about Megan wanting to be in the talent show. In fact, I was hoping that she’d forget about it. Like last year.

Then I wanted her to do something nice and safe. I asked her to play a song on the piano. If she was up on stage, tethered to the big, safe piano, she would be safe too, I thought. Even if she flubbed a few notes, how bad could it be with that giant piano to hide behind? Or maybe she could make up a dance with her friends so she wouldn’t be up there all alone?

No, she said. No.

It would be just her. Alone. My kid. On stage. No props. Nothing to hide behind. What if she lost her nerve and couldn’t do it? What if she totally fell apart and could barely squeak out the song? What would I do if she was up there, alone and terrified, and I couldn’t run up, swoop her off the stage and save her?

She wasn’t interesting in doing anything safe.

She knew what she wanted to do. She wanted to own that show. I saw it in her eyes.

And did she ever.

When she was performing, that time was hers. She wasn’t tenative. She wasn’t timid. She was there to put on a show. To perform. She didn’t see the point in just participating.

She wanted something bigger.

That kid sure showed me.

I told myself to REMEMBER THIS.

REMEMBER.

Remember that my kids have to take their own risks sometimes. I have to let them sometimes.

Remember that my kids have strengths and talents that are different from mine. I have to let them explore them.

Remember that even when my kids want to do something that terrifies me, I have to have faith that they can handle themselves.

I wanted her to participate, but my conditions would’ve clipped her wings. I low-balled her.

I wanted her to be safe.

She wanted to shine.

Shine she did.

Shine on, darling daughter. Shine on.

My haunted house, part four

So things were quiet. Mostly.

Yes, that lamp turned on when my mom was here but that was it for a while.

And I find myself wanting to blow off electronic things. I suppose at this point I’ve watched enough Ghost Hunters to know that you have to look for another explanation first. There are too many things I don’t know about how lamps and clocks work to just go, “Ah ha! It’s paranormal!”

But it was weird. And it’s hard to dismiss the fact that the only times I’ve ever seen lamps turn on by themselves with no other explanation have been in places where I also had other unexplainable experiences. (Remind me to tell you about the haunted hotel room I stayed in once … interesting story.)

For those of you who might assume I’m too quick with the old calling-it-a-ghost thing, you should know that the lamp in my bedroom started blinking on and off rapidly one night. I examined it and found an ancient curse etched into the underside …

I’m kidding. I actually found that it was a loose connection on a very old lamp. So that was the end of my so-ugly-its-frickin’-gorgeous bedside light.

Opening the door?

 

For a few months it was uneventful around here. So much so, that it felt like things were really over.

One Friday night, I put the wee ones to bed and collapsed onto the couch for some mindless TV. Friday night is ghost night on the Travel Channel. I wanted to watch. But I told myself that I wasn’t watching that stuff anymore.

Then I thought… That’s ridiculous! I’d have to be cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs to think that a damn TV show is going to affect what’s going on in my house. I mean, that doesn’t even make any sense! Would a ghost know what I’m watching on TV? And can’t I control my own mind enough to watch something about ghosts without subconsciously inviting them over for coffee? 

So I watched The Dead Files.

I’m sorry, I find it super interesting. I just do.

It was fun to watch again. But I admit, it got me thinking: What on earth is the deal with the Single Momma Townhouse? Could it really have been a ghost who was doing all the weird things? If it was, I didn’t have any sense of evil or darkness about it. Heck, even Megan took it in stride and the darn thing tried to talk to her.

But whatever. We didn’t need to hear from it. It would all remain a mystery as far as I was concerned.

An encore

 

The Single Momma Townhouse has what everyone calls Brady Bunch stairs — that is, the backs of the stairs aren’t closed. So if you’re sitting in the living room and someone is coming down the steps, you can’t see the backs of their feet until they get to the landing.

One night I put Megan to bed. A few minutes later I saw her feet on the top step. Not moving. Just standing there. She never does stuff like that. I was about to ask her what was up when she came down the rest of the way — slowly with a puzzled look on her face.

“Um, mommy? I’m not sure how to tell you this, but something just said my name again.”

Oh boy. Now Megan has no idea what I watch on TV after she goes to bed. I’ve never discussed The Dead Files with her. We never talked about the strange things that happened in our house, other than right after they happened.

So this event was entirely out of the blue. She looked really confused — and also as if she knew what she was saying sounded crazy and she couldn’t quite believe it happened herself. In other words, she wasn’t making it up. (Mommas: Back me up here. You can smell a lie from your 8-year old like a fart in a car.* It might change in the teenage years, but most 8-year olds haven’t entirely honed their lying skills.)

*Thanks to the awesome early ’90s Christian Slater movie Pump Up the Volume for the fart reference. I’ve gotten lot of mileage out of it over the years.

Anyway, I believed her.

I went into hypercalm mode.

“OK. Are you sure there was no way it came from outside?”

“No, it was inside my room. Near my posters.” Her posters are on her closet door.

“Hmm. Do you think there’s anyway you just thought you heard something?”

“Mommy. I heard it. I’m sure.”

“OK, then,” I said as I popped up off the couch. “We’re going to handle this right now.”

We went up to her room and she showed me where the voice came from. I looked around a bit but didn’t see anything out of the ordinary.

“Come sit on the bed,” I told her. “This is what you’re supposed to do when these things happen.” I still hesitated to use the word “ghost” with her. I didn’t know if that would scare her — and she didn’t seem scared at the moment, just confounded.

Hippie Trish, I mean I started talking out loud. “God, please surround us with your white light.” Why did I say that? Protection, in case there was anything questionable lurking around … “Now I would like to talk to whoever keeps saying Megan’s name. If you are her guardian angel, we’d like to say thank you for looking out for her and please continue to do so.”

I turned to Megan and asked, “If it is your guardian angel, do you still want it to talk to you or not?”

“Well, not right now because I’m going to bed and I’m tired. But other than that it’s OK.”

I addressed the room. “If you are Megan’s guardian angel, please don’t talk to her at bedtime because she needs to sleep. Now if you are not Megan’s guardian angel, we ask you to leave her alone. Don’t talk to her, don’t try to contact her, don’t do anything to her. Just leave her be.”

I turned to Megan again. “See? You have to claim your space. You have to let them know that you’re in charge of your room and they’re not allowed to mess with you. You have to be a little bit forceful about it.”

“OK,” she said. “Can I try?”

“Sure.”

“If you are not my guardian angel, you need to get outta here and stop talking to me! Because this is my room and I don’t want you in here anymore! So get out!” She sounded like she meant it.

“Nice!” I told her. “Now if you feel scared at night, you can ask to be surrounded in God’s white light for protection. You can also ask your guardian angels to look after you. And you can even ask for extra angels if that makes you feel better.”

(Yes, I believe in angels even though I’m not religious. I have my reasons. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy…)

“How many angels would you like?” I asked her.

“Six,” she said. “Plus one extra.”

“OK then. We ask for six angels plus one extra to surround Megan while she sleeps to keep her safe. If anything other than a guardian angel or a being of the light should try to contact her while she’s sleeping, we ask for the angels to intervene.”

She smiled. Big.

“Now let’s send some angels to Benjamin,” I said. “Just in case.” So we sent him 7 angels. Then Megan wanted to send angels to me and her daddy. She sent us each 10.

When I left the room a few minutes later, she was in her bed whispering to her angels.

At bed time every night, we always name three happy things that happened during the day. The next night she said, “Can I say something from yesterday? I liked talking to the angels.”

So that was all nice and pretty and good.

Darn squishy hippie girl

 

But still. Something had spoken to my kid. Again. And my hippie magic apparently had its limits.

A friend of mine let me borrow her sage stick. Burning sage is supposed to clear anything that might be in your house. So I lit it up and waved it around every corner of every room, including closets. I, again, said that the thing had to leave us alone.

Here’s where being a hippie is a drawback. I waffled. I guess my thought was that I didn’t care if it was here, as long as it left us alone. So I was slightly inconsistent. At times I said leave us alone and then at other times I said get out of the house.

My resoluteness was less than resolute. I knew I potentially lacked the forcefulness I might need.

Raindrops in the potty

So all was quiet  again.

For a bit.

Then one night I was in the house alone. Asleep. Bedroom window open.

I was awakened by the sound of water.

Rain?

I listened for a minute. Must be rain …

But it didn’t quite sound like rain.

So I got up and went to the window.

It wasn’t raining.

The water sound was coming from behind me.

The master bathroom.

I went in.

The sink was on. I turned if off and went back to bed. What else was there to do?

I told the Irishman about it later. He said, “You must have left the sink on when you got ready for bed.”

There’s no way. The night before, I had brushed my teeth and then I read in my bed for 20 minutes. I find it hard to believe that I wouldn’t have noticed the water running during that time.

Plus, it woke me up when it came on.

Plus, I don’t think I’ve ever just left a sink running and walked away in my entire life. (Who does that?)

Could it be a plumbing issue? Again, I don’t know enough about that area to know. However, this has never happened before in nearly two years of living here. Also, I got an entirely new sink and faucet setup a few months ago.

I don’t know what to think about that.

But the next day I was in the bathroom getting ready. I started preparing to launch into my regular leave us alone routine, when I decided to change courses.

Obviously, whatever this was really wanted to make contact.

So I said this instead, “OK, if you really want to make contact, you can talk to me. Just me. Not my kids. Don’t bother my kids, don’t talk to them, leave them alone. But you can tell me what you want. I’m curious.”

That was Memorial Day weekend. Nothing since.

And now, I’m ready to move into a deeper level of investigation. I don’t want to say too much about it yet, but I’ll keep you posted.

Thanks for reading.