Month: November 2015

A tale of two sisters

The last time I saw my sister was at the Olive Garden. I don’t even like the Olive Garden yet that bastion of suburban culinary mediocrity is where I had my last physical contact with her. It was a fine enough lunch (who doesn’t like bread sticks?) but what was much more important than the food could ever be was the simple fact that we actually had a good time. Sadly that was not always the case when we were together. She seemed to be happy with a new job and a rekindled relationship with her only grandchild. We hugged in the parking lot and said we would talk soon. I loved my sister very much (both my sisters for the record) but it wasn’t always easy for me to show it. She was 19 years older than me so I had no memories of us ever living in the same house together even though we most certainly did. She grew up in one suburb of Minneapolis while I grew up in another, the only thing we shared were parents, and yes they were the same pair.

When I was little none of the other kids in the neighborhood even believed I had a sister, let alone two, both of whom lived in California at the time. We had some of my sister’s clothes in a closet in our den and I would proudly show them off to some of the naysayers just to prove that she was indeed real and not some Jan Brady fake boyfriend kind of thing.

During one of her visits home she took me shopping and I remember calling her SISTER at every possible opportunity like we were in some sort of weird religious cult. I wanted everyone within a five-mile radius to know that was who she was to me and not my mother. I already had a mother but a sister was not something I just had lying around the house like some Legos or Tinker Toys to take for granted like my friends with siblings got to do on the regular. My sister looked like Natalie Wood, dark auburn hair, big brown doe-eyes and I thought she was the prettiest, sweetest, kindest sister in the whole wide world. My sister was also very smart and could figure out how to do just about anything you needed her to much faster than my parents ever did.

Unfortunately despite all of this she had major self-esteem issues which ultimately contributed to her early death. When she was a teenager she thought she was fat (she wasn’t), but between the diet pills she took back when doctors prescribed them like candy and the anorexia/bulimia she developed afterwards, she ended up not only damaging her teeth (capped and recapped) but also her heart and so one night six years ago it just stopped.

My sister’s lack of self-esteem manifested itself in other harmful ways as well. One with more immediate results than the years of puking up every meal she ever ate. She married an abusive alcoholic and stuck with him no matter how many times my parents tried to rescue her. It seemed like once a year we got in the car and headed somewhere to retrieve her, Indiana, California, Nevada or Texas. Often times it was my Easter vacation. Other kids went to Disneyland or Disney World, I went to domestic abuse land and believe me it was way scarier than the Haunted Mansion or Space Mountain could ever be.

My sister was stabbed and had her jaw broken not once but twice. When I was about nine she moved back to Minnesota with her husband and son. Now I don’t come from drinking people, neither of my parents ever drank, yet the next few years of my life played out like one of the deranged drunken fight scenes from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. When my sister’s husband got drunk and abusive she ran home and he followed. Sometimes the police were involved, sometimes not, but she always went back. Always.

Holidays were a bit of a hit or miss proposition. Sometimes they would come, more often they would not. If they did come, sometimes it would be okay but many other times it wasn’t and would end in him storming off with her trailing right behind. Since abusers like to isolate their victims, we could go months without seeing her yet she lived mere blocks away. Not even the magical vocal powers of Adele could have saved some of our Thanksgivings.

The sister I loved did not love herself at all and it became harder and harder the older I got to try to understand why. We had the same parents and grandparents, my other sister who grew up with her was normal, what happened? No one seemed to know the answer. My sister and her husband moved to Florida when I was in my 20’s  and it was like my birthday and Christmas all rolled into one. No more having to sit across the table and ask the person who threatened to kill you and your entire family to pass the potatoes. I felt like I could finally breathe.

Ten years later they moved back, supposedly to be closer to family yet they lived 60 miles away. Typical. He was older now, no longer drinking and it seemed like the abuse days were over. It was still difficult for me to be around them because they were a package deal and every nerve, hair and hackle in my body was always on high-alert in case the craziness would re-surface and I would need to flee like so many times before. It didn’t, thank God, but the wariness remained.

My sister loved animals, I can’t tell you how many times she stopped the car and we got out to rescue a cat, a dog, ducklings or turtles trying to cross busy roads to go lay their eggs. She was generous to a fault and would gladly give you her last dollar no questions asked. She always got me an Easter Basket because no matter how old I was in real life I was always her baby sister and I miss that terribly.

Baggage man, we all have it. Some of us can fit it neatly under our seats while the rest of us pack too damn much and have to pay extra. Never pay extra people, sometimes we just need to take a note from the airlines and lose it altogether.

November Rain

One of the few side benefits of not tottling off to an office five days a week is how very clean and organized your house can be when you have little else to occupy your time. All that pent-up energy you used to spend on work things can now be spent on house things, all the projects, big and small that have been piling up because you were either too busy or too tired to care about them when you had a job. In the past few weeks I have taken on cleaning tasks that would make Martha Stewart (or the people who actually do the work for her) proud. I have straightened out every closet, dusted ceiling fans, scrubbed floors, cleaned windows and taken the dishwasher apart, in other words I have become my mother. This Suzy Homemaker vibe was so strong it even extended to my garage, a place the child that I used to take to school in the mornings told me was “very messy“. (For the record I am a very clean and neat person, but there are a couple of areas where I let my not-at-all-neat-freak flag fly, and one of those happens to be the garage.) On more than one occasion she even offered to send her dad over to straighten it up for me, not sure if he ever knew that because I never took him or her up on the offer.

I decided to do it myself because in addition to being on a major life-cleaning and purging mission, I was also on a quest to locate something from the past that I knew was in there, somewhere. The 80’s were known for a lot of things like skin-tight Guess jeans, really bad perms, cassette tapes, Bartle & Jaymes wine coolers and rain lamps. You know those lamps with the pseudo Venus de Milo statue (but with arms) surrounded by plastic greenery and crisscrossing strands of fishing line that tiny drops of something trickled down? Rain lamps were swank and elegant in a trashy 80’s kind of way and my mom was the proud owner of one she bought back in the day at Montgomery Ward (RIP).

I was pretty sure it was somewhere in my “very messy” garage, the question was where, and then once located, what kind of shape it would be in because it has been in there for at least a decade. After filling a garbage can with useless crap and finding more than a few things that I have been looking for for years (hello expensive pruners and skate blade protectors), lo and behold there it was, behind a Sharper Image elliptical machine that hadn’t been used since the Bush years. It was sealed in a box that was a little bit water damaged because it was sitting directly under an air conditioner but other than that looked pretty gosh darn good. My mom had promised this little slice of ’80’s heaven to my niece when she was little and now that she’s all grown up with a proper career and an apartment of her own in NOHO, she was looking to collect on her inheritance.

Despite being sealed in a box it was still a bit dusty in that dirty, clumpy, kinda suspiciously looks like spider eggs way. Thanks to my deep love of all things Charlotte’s Web, I am not in any way an arachnophobe but that doesn’t mean I want to go out of my way to encounter a bunch of spiders either. I grabbed some paper towels and started to clean it as best I could before putting it on my counter, just in case any little Charlottes were still around. I plugged the cord with its annoying chain into an outlet and hoped for the best.

Let there be light!

Success! I did not even have to search in vain for a tiny little lightbulb because the one in the lamp still had some lumens left in it. What wasn’t happening was any sort of rain action. I remembered back in the day that it took a while for the rain to kick in but also figured after ten plus years any sort of oil that had been in there had probably dried up long ago. According to my Google research, they stopped selling the original oil but you could order something similar online or use mineral oil. Since I am an immediate gratification kind of gal I went with the mineral oil, which only took me going to three stores to find. Good thing I have lots of time on my hands because if I had a job that lamp might have stayed in my garage for another ten years.

According to rain lamp experts, you pour the oil into the bottom, the amount varies depending on the size of the lamp. Per instructions, I poured the mineral oil in until the pump sound changed. If there still was no precip happening you could add more, which I did and then decided to wait, and wait and wait some more, a trait I am not generally known for.


Snoopy McSnooperson decided he liked the taste of mineral oil and proceeded to lick all the fishing line and the fake shrubbery. I was just about to unplug the lamp in defeat when tiny drops of oil rain started down one strand and then another strand and the next thing you know it’s pouring and somewhere an old man is snoring.


Now I just need to figure out how to remove the oil so I can ship this shining example of 80’s decor to its rightful owner. Of course another big thing from that era was over the top music videos, the more absurd and self-indulgent the better. Guns & Roses, a band known for both, gave us this gem and while technically it came from the 1991 stylistically I say close enough. 

Girl, you’re gonna be disappointed

First of all, gross. Who wants to wear their fiancé’s dead old tooth on their hitching finger? I don’t care how nice the setting is or if is made from platinum mined by the original seven dwarves (although that would be pretty cool), that is just nasty.

According to a story on Buzzfeed a couple of hipsters with some not-so-subliminal serial killer tendencies decided that gem stones were just too boring for their one true love and thought an excavated wisdom tooth was more representative of their mutual affection than a gem stone. Which kinda takes the notion of blood diamonds to a whole ‘nother level and not one I want to visit any time soon.

I get their frustration at the whole wedding industrial complex and how it can make brides-to-be think that if they are not wearing a diamond the size of a Yugo on their finger then the groom-to-be must be a right cheap bastard. Yet if they ever tried to sell said Yugo sized diamond they would never ever get back what they originally paid for it. Depreciation ‘bro, it’s not just for cars anymore.

Secondly, I can tell you from my own personal experience that wisdom teeth have a short shelf life, which given today’s divorce rate might not be such a problem for Carlee and Lucas. I had four of those suckers removed and it was a nightmare, I woke up from the anesthesia before they were done and bled for three days before they decided I needed more stitches. Even though I was barely functioning I made sure I got those four bad asses in an envelope as a reminder of how valiant a battle they fought not to be removed from my mouth. Seriously, they were the worst squatters ever.

A few years later I was cleaning out a drawer and found the little envelope with my dental souvenirs. I decided to revisit my past and opened up the clasp only to find four wisdom teeth in various stages of decomposition. No wonder some of my reserve socks had a less than fresh scent. So take it from me Carlee, ditch the tooth and go for the diamond, it’ll last longer and should you ever find yourself in a financial pinch you can always sell it for Yugo.