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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I Have a Book to Write

I am not the most disciplined individual. My dad used to say I had no "stick-to-it-iveness." I start things, projects usually, work on them for awhile, then get bored. Maybe that's due to my weird intelligence (I can tell you what wine goes with what meal, including the year, the vintage, and what grapes are prominent in said vintage, but particle physics is Greek to me), or maybe I just need constant input, like Johnny-5. Now, I think it's time for me to focus.

You may remember a year or so ago, I mentioned writing a book about my journey through borderline personality disorder. And I did start it. The few chapters I wrote are saved in Word, under the title "Staggering Down The Road Less Traveled." This afternoon, one of our neighbors asked me what I do. I stammered a bit, because I try very hard not to tell people here about my online writing. I responded,

"I'm...err...writing a book?"

Confident reply! Anyway, he nodded, and asked me what the book was about. This is where it got dicey. Throwing caution to the wind, I told him. To his credit, he did not throw his arms up the air and scream "CRAZY PERSON OH MY LORD!" He listened, then told me about his daughter who is an English teacher. 

The reason I want to write this book is simple: people need to understand you can not only survive mental illness, you can live a fantastic life. You can claw your way out of that hole and step into the sun. But the journey is incredibly difficult, and writing it all down the first time brought back memories that I wasn't prepared to deal with. I took a break, wrote for a big website, made a little money, and now, I just write here. So, it's time to get back to "Staggering."

My plan is to start over. Yes, it will still have humor (some of it dark, because that's who I am), and yes, it will still be my story. The thing is, my story is so many others' as well. I met a psychologist here who didn't believe that I had graduated from therapy, that I no longer self-harmed, that I was, in effect, cured. He said "Borderlines don't really every stop being borderlines." 

Therapists hate treating borderlines. I've been told that by actual therapists. I got really lucky in Vermont, and found a therapist who only treats borderlines. Thanks to him, my family, and my own determination, here I am. Scarred, a little cracked, but in the words of Leonard Cohen:

There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in.

I am filled with light. Seriously, I truly am. I love my life, I love my husband and my son, my step-children and grandchildren are wonderful, my relationship with my dad and stepmom is fantastic, and I think now is the right time to get back to the book. Will those memories pop up again? Probably, but I believe with all my heart that this book will help people, and that matters more. Who knows-maybe it will help me in the process.

Now, if Shelly runs for president, there will be a slew of Diaries, so don't you fret, Wombats. I will write here on Poking At Snakes, once a week or so. I need to write "Staggering Down The Road Less Traveled," because there are millions of people with BPD, and they need to know it's possible to live without it. Borderlines are told over and over again that they are incurable, which translates into hopelessness and despair. My fervent hope is my book will show other borderlines that we are curable, we are lovable, and after the therapy and the hard work, there is an amazing life waiting for all of us.

Maya Angelou was one of my heroes. Her early life was traumatic and filled with pain, and yet, she became a poet laureate, an award-winning author, and an inspiration to millions of people all over the world. She said, of her life:

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.

My mission with "Staggering" is to let other borderlines know we can thrive, not merely survive. And I plan to write it with passion, compassion, humor, and style, in honor of Dr. Angelou, in honor of my friends who fought their own battles and won, and in memory of my friends who didn't. 

I staggered down that road, tripping, falling, bleeding, crawling. It was worth every single step. I rarely stagger anymore; perhaps that's my fear with writing this book. That somehow, I will break, or regress, and all my work will have been for naught. I don't believe that's going to happen. Obviously, this will be an incredibly difficult book to write, but it needs to be written, by someone who has survived, and now thrives.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Bachmann Diaries: I Had a Vision

Dear Diary.

Last night, I awoke in the middle of the night to see a beautiful angel sitting in the Louis XIV replica chair in the bedroom. He was very handsome, with black hair, and weird eyes. Sort of like a snake, but I think that was a trick of the light. When he smiled at me, the whole room looked as if it was bathed in rubies. And what he told me was miraculous indeed.

Diary, ever since the 2012 campaign, I have known 2016 is my year. The true patriots in this great nation are hungry for a president who understands how great this country can be, and is willing to do whatever it takes to repair the damage done by Barack Hussein Obama and his liberal cronies. They want a leader who will put HOMOS in camps, force the "poor" to work, bomb every single country that doesn't love us, and make sure all the media is owned by my dear friend, Roger Ailes. And I am that leader.

The angel told me I am destined for greatness, which can only mean I am going to win the 2016 presidential election. He reminded me of the visits I got from Jesus as a child, before the stupid doctors put me on that medication, and he correctly pointed out that I am the only politician in the country who truly understands our nation's history. I do know our founding fathers fought tirelessly to end slavery, even though most of them owned slaves. I think they were trying to end bad slavery, like the kind where the slaves were beaten, or had to live in tents. Good slavery was probably better for American blacks than Obama!

It is my fate to be Queen of Godlandia. Well, maybe not Godlandia, because the angel told me I can't change the name of the country. So, probably not Queen either. That made me a little sad. I really want to see my face on all the money. Plus, Marcus wants to be King. First Husband sounds so silly, not at all manly, and Marcus is very manly.

I know it won't be easy. After all, the other conservatives thinking of running are very smart, and are also dedicated to the betterment of this great nation. They're just so caught up in the Washington, DC lifestyle of expensive dinners, illicit sex, backroom deals, and all the rest of it. America needs a down-home girl, a woman who has raised her own children, and has the compassion to raise 874 360 289 27? foster children. America needs a leader who can make apple pancakes, create a formal place setting for six, whip up a lemon meringue pie, and still have time to tell Putin what a great leader he is. I wish I could make him my VP.

Sorry this is so short, Diary, but Marcus and I are setting up recording equipment in the bedroom in case the angel comes back. I would love to go on James Dobson's radio show, and play a tape of an angelic messenger from Holy God, telling me to run for president. That would shut the liberal media up!

I wish I could go public with my decision! Soon, though, I promise!

Love-President Michele Bachmann.

Monday, July 28, 2014

If you have an extra $100 a year, you can subscribe to Sarah Palin!

My friend Lee sent me a link to an article late Monday morning from MSNBC. It seems that Half-Governor Grifter Palin has launched her very own "alternative media" website, the Sarah Palin Channel. Snort, guffaw, choke. Sorry.

The reason I find this so incredibly amusing is Half-Governor Grifter is charging her gullible minions $100 a year to listen to her lie. So, using math:

1,000,000 idiots Grifter Palinbots x $100/year = $100,000,000 gross a year. That's Mitt Romney money right there.

Even if I'm wrong, and only half a million Palinites subscribe, that's still a shitload of money. And why the hell would anyone pay for anything Palin related, when you can hear her lie, manipulate, slaughter the English language, screw up our history, and say "You betcha!" for free? Spend a few minutes with Google. Type in "Sarah Palin lying." Sit back and relax in the knowledge that you are getting for free what some sucker is paying $100 a year to view.

I have never understood her appeal. She represents everything wrong with our country. She's ignorant, selfish, she has no empathy, she's vain, manipulative, she lies the way you and I breathe, she lives in a constant state of victimhood, and nothing is ever, ever her fault. Remember her blood libel comment? In the aftermath of the Tucson shooting, many on the left attacked Palin for her use of what looked like gun targets over Democratic congressional districts. Rather than apologize (which would have been the classy thing to do), she and her "handlers" claimed those targets were surveyors marks, and Palin herself was the true victim in all this. Not the people who died that horrible day, not the families who lost loved ones, not Gabby Giffords or her family. Nope, as usual, the most harmed person was Half-Governor Palin.

She was awarded the dubious honor of having the Lie of the Year from Politifact. Palin told the horrible, make-believe story of the "death panels" in the ACA. She still makes this claim from time to time, and her little minions lap it up like the milk from "A Clockwork Orange." The same minions who are at this moment trying to win enough money at the casino to afford a subscription to the Sarah Palin Channel, while at the same time, having enough left over to send Ted Cruz a little something. Because he's a Real American™!

In honor of Grifter Sarah's newest endeavor, I am going to watch my favorite documentary about her later this evening: "You Betcha!" by Nick Broomfield. I have included a You Tube link for folks who don't have Netflix. In other words, unlike Palin, I won't make you pay money to watch her.

Thank you, Lee, for making my day. If you're a fan of martial arts/action films, Lee has a website dedicated to those films, and the men and women who make them. I highly suggest it. I do not highly suggest the Sarah Palin Channel. Seriously, just don't.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

You must have me confused with someone else

Visa® sent me an invitation in the mail today. We receive many credit card offers, but this one got my attention, because Visa® must have me confused with someone else. This was an invitation to apply for the Visa® Black Card.

It's made of stainless steel, which I guess is handy when camping or something. It comes with concierge service, occasional presents from luxury retailers (just for having the card), exclusive offers, you name it. It also has no spending limit. This is the card for the 1%, kids, and for some bizarre reason, Visa® seems to think I'm one of them.

The catch? This card costs $495 a year. FOUR HUNDRED AND NINETY FIVE DOLLARS. If I wanted to get my husband a card, that's an additional $195 a year. If I can't afford the annual fee, how in the world does Visa® think I qualify for this stainless steel, super spiffy, holy shit rich person credit card? P.S.: I don't.

We don't make six figures a year. We will never be worth millions (or even a million) dollars. We're solidly middle class. We don't even own a home at the moment; we're renting a monster-sized cabin here in Angry Old People Ville. So why did Visa® send me this invitation?

My first thought was they hoped I wasn't a read the fine print kind of gal, but then I pondered it a bit more. That doesn't make any sense. This kind of card is used by Kim Kardashian, Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch, Warren Buffet. You can buy a plane with it. Or a Bentley. Maybe rent Richard Branson's island. This isn't a grocery store purchases card. This is a "Hey let's rent a Gulfstream and fly down to the Keys for some conch tomorrow" card.

Which brings me back to the question: Why did I get this invitation? I'm not rich, never have been, never will be. My credit cannot possibly be so fantastic that Visa® would totally overlook that fact that I can't afford the annual fee. Did I recently make a purchase that would lead Visa® to think I'm related to the Rockefeller family? Let's see...I bought broccoli, peaches, and cat litter yesterday. I bought Deborah Harkness's new book online about a week ago. I put gas in the car. Yep, obviously I am drowning in money. Hang on, my eyes just rolled into my hair, and it's hard to see.

I am tempted to call the number and just ask "What the eff, Visa®? Who in the wide, wide world of sports do you think I am? Does my buying history lead you to believe that I am the kind of person who can afford a yacht, or a Lamborghini, or $325 ice cubes?"

Huh. Those ice cubes cost less than the credit card.

Anyway, I am not going to apply. My car payment is due, rent gets paid next week, it's almost time for school supply shopping, plus we're trying to put together another college fund for the kid. If you're one of the 1%, feel free to click the link and apply for the Visa® Black Card. The rest of us will muddle through somehow, weeping copiously into our peasant ice cubes, waiting for the day when we can afford a vacation that involves air travel. Commercial, of course.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sh*t just got real

See that bug? In the photo? That's a hornet. Hornets are huge, they're angry as hell, and they hate everything. Guess what? We have them in the front yard of our house.

Normally, I have a cavalier if not humorous attitude toward our insect invaders, even the deer flies. But when you start talking about wasps and hornets, sh*t gets real. I am allergic to wasps, and I don't even want to know what would happen if I was stung/bitten/mauled by a hornet.

My husband and I were standing in the shade of the garage, admiring our two clean cars. We drove my Camry up to see my dad and stepmom Saturday, and the grill, headlights, and windshield were like a Civil War battlefield for bugs. Legs, wings, blood, and a myriad of insect internal organs were splattered everywhere. After my wonderful husband washed (and detailed!) the Camry, not a bug gut was to be found. As we stood, basking in the shininess, he told me about what he thought was a horsefly that tried to murder him earlier. Then he pointed out towards one of the small trees.

"There! That's one!"

I squinted into the sun, and backed way up.

"Uh, that's not a fly."

"What is it?"

"That's a hornet. Sh*t just got real."

We watched, mostly terrified but slightly fascinated, as two hornets began fighting in midair. You could almost hear them growling. Let me put this in perspective: Hold up your thumb. Now, imagine a really pissed off bug that has a stinger and armor on part of its body flying inches away from your face that's the size of your thumb. Now imagine two of them.

In China, they have giant killer hornets. According to this article on, Asian hornets are attracted to sweat, the smell of alcohol oozing from pores, and people running. So, if one comes at you, just stand there and glare at it. They also have venom that destroys red blood cells. See? Sh*t just got real.

We have no idea if the flying, stinging, pissed off behemoths in our yard are Asian killer hornets, or just regular killer hornets. I'm not sure it matters. Nothing that big and that angry should be able to fly. My husband tried spraying one of them with bug killer. The hornet bared its teeth, flew into the tree, and zoomed back into the grass.

"What in the world do we use to kill them?" my brave husband asked.

I muttered to myself, removed my gardening clog, and tiptoed onto the driveway. I could be brave, too! Until the hornet turned in midair, locked its rage radar on me, and flew directly at my face. At that point, I screamed like a banshee and dove back into the garage. Courage be damned, I want to live.

One of my favorite cartoons is this one: the anatomy of a wasp. It's a very accurate representation of what used to be the angriest bug in our yard.

Now we have hornets. My guess is, you can use the cartoon above for hornets as well, but include "on steroids and bath salts" next to each descriptive. The arse dagger would become "arse Tomahawk Missile."

If anyone needs me, I'll be hiding under the bed.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Michele Bachmann spews hypocrisy on "Crossfire"

Michele Bachmann recently appeared on "Crossfire," to discuss immigration. Many other websites and blogs have covered her segment, and oddly, all those articles read the same: Michele Bachmann Compares Child Immigrants To Rapists and Murderers. Now while Rep. Bachmann did mention (briefly, and without any details whatsoever) a University of Minnesota college coed who was, according to Bachmann, raped, murdered and mutilated by a "foreign national," what she really went on about was a bus accident. A bus accident that killed four children, caused by a woman named Alianiss Morales. 

Rep. Bachmann should have done just a wee bit more research into Alianiss Morales. It seems Ms. Morales may have purchased her identity in Puerto Rico, something Michele Bachmann didn't mention. Imagine how much more convincing her argument would have been if she had stared down Van Jones, and silenced him with the story of Alianiss Morales. Of course, then Jones could have retorted with:

"Did she buy that identity to work at Swift?"

At which point, I am certain Rep. Bachmann would have responded:

"That's not in my district, Van."

Let's get to the hypocrisy. Van Jones introduced Rep. Bachmann by calling her "probably the most compassionate person in the U.S. Congress." He went on to mention her foster children. That's it. Van Jones, allegedly a liberal with his head screwed on straight, believes Michele Bachmann is probably the most compassionate person in Congress because she and her completely heterosexual husband, Marcus, took in foster children. Rep. Charlie Rangel, who was sitting on the supposedly liberal side of the "Crossfire" table, also weighed in by defending Rep. Bachmann:

"I would like to come to her defense, because this is two beautiful ladies. One is a Republican, the other is a mother and a compassionate person."

What? When I think of Michele Bachmann, the word that does not leap immediately to mind is compassionate. Cruel, hypocritical, homophobic, conniving, bigoted, ignorant, racist-those are the words that leap immediately to mind. 

For those of you who read The Bachmann Diaries, you may have noticed I never, ever include one thing in my satirical take-downs of Michele Bachmann: the rash of teenage suicides in her district that began in 2009. Nine teenagers took their own lives, so many that the public health department labeled the Anoka school district a "suicide contagion area." Some of these students, like Justin Aaberg, were gay and bullied, others, like Samantha Johnson, were thought to be gay, and were bullied. Many other teens either attempted to take their own lives, or expressed suicidal thoughts. 

Do you know what the "most compassionate person in the U.S Congress" did in response to this? Nothing. Not a thing. Her silence was so deafening that during the 2012 presidential campaign, Nancy Pelosi told the media:
I would think that if she wanted to be president of the United States, she would understand that this is a larger issue than whether someone is gay or not, but as to whether someone is harassed and bullied to the point of seeing no way out. (source)
Michele Bachmann doesn't care about those four children killed in a 2008 bus accident either. When the accident occurred, Rep. Bachmann did not, as far as I can discover, make a statement to the press. She didn't donate blood, or champion the fund set up to help victims and their families. But when she realized she could use those dead children as political fodder to bolster her attacks on immigrants, suddenly, Michele Bachmann cared. 

Rep. Bachmann is anti anti-bullying legislation. She gave a speech in 2006 on the floor of the Minnesota House against anti-bullying legislation, saying in part:
What will be our definition of bullying? Will it get to the point where we are completely stifling free speech and expression? Will it mean that what form of behavior will there be — will we be expecting boys to be girls? (source)
What you have to understand about Michele Bachmann is she doesn't care about anything except Michele Bachmann. Much like most politicians, especially those "compassionate conservatives." This is the woman who accused Huma Abedin of being a terrorist by falsely linking her to the Muslim Brotherhood. This is the woman with a lesbian stepsister, who rails against the LGBT community. This is the woman who says, about the LGBT community:
Our children will be forced to learn that homosexuality is normal and natural and that perhaps they should try it, and that’ll be very soon in our public schools all across the state, beginning in kindergarten.
It’s part of Satan I think to say that this is 'gay.' It’s anything but gay.
This is a very serious matter, because it is our children who are the prize for this community, they are specifically targeting our children. (source)
Van Jones and Rep. Charlie Rangel didn't do their homework. To call Michele Bachmann compassionate is ridiculous. To me, that was the most horrible part of the "Crossfire" segment. While Van Jones did begin calling her out eventually, both he and Rep. Rangel made sure to point out Bachmann's "compassion." 

I would suggest Van Jones and Rep. Rangel read a few articles on Michele Bachmann, perhaps starting with this one. She is anything but compassionate. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A walk with my son

Hiking in Lutsen, MN

I don't get enough exercise. I can't jog, I can't afford to join a gym, and frankly, exercise bores me. But I love to walk. Coincidentally, our son does not get enough exercise either, simply because there is nothing to do here for teenagers. When he was younger, he and his friends were outside every day during the summer. They rode their bikes, hiked in the woods, played a strange form of baseball, ran, jumped, screamed, and generally had a blast.

So Monday afternoon, I asked my son to go for a walk with me. He said yes, and off we went. We chatted about the girl whose mom told him he can't spend time with her daughter because he's an Atheist, how he only has two more years of high school left, and Webb Institute. He wants to be an architect, and he loves ships, so Webb seems like a great place to investigate.

We had a great conversation about language and accents. We talked about junior level chemistry, and how he hopes it's not like freshman chemistry, because he prefers blowing things up to lectures. Well, who doesn't? He told me he wants to read Al Franken's book, "Lies, And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them." Funny thing about that-the only part of the entire book that gives me pause is the quote from Bill O'Reilly's fictional novel. Excuse me, I mean Bill O'Reilly's one and only LABELED fictional novel. Ahem.

My sixteen year old son went on a walk with me. As we rounded the bend in front of the house, I thanked him. He glanced at me and said "For what?" "For going on a walk with me," I replied. "Most teenage boys wouldn't want to go for a walk with their moms." "It's fun to talk to you," he said, while running across the street, laughing.

Someday, when I'm older and grayer, I am going to look back on today, and add it to my wonderful memories. I have a lot with this child. Teaching him to roller skate, feeding giraffes at Binder Park Zoo, reading Tomie Depaola together (and meeting Tomie Depaola together!), seeing he and his stepfather become the best of friends, and watching him grow from infant to toddler, and from energetic kid to really amazing young man.

I never take the relationship I have with my son for granted, especially when I see other teenagers with their parents. Angry, disrespectful, disdainful, sometimes cruel. Now he's not perfect, but he's by far the nicest young man I know.

And he went for a walk with his mother.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Bachmann Diaries: We're Suing Obama!

Dear Diary,

John Boehner has finally found his backbone, and is moving forward with the Republican lawsuit against Barack Hussein Obama. Holy God, it's about time. Since that colored uppity socialist Chicago thug was elected, he has acted more like a king and less like a president every single day. Do you know what he's done? He's ignoring Congress!

Now, given that on the evening of Obama's first inauguration, members of both Houses met in secret to figure out to ruin his presidency, you would think we would have made more headway than we have. HOMOS can join the military, HOMOS can get married, women are killing babies for fun, and poor people have food. It's just wrong. America was built by rich, white men, and should be run by rich, white men. And rich, white women. Like me.

So, Boehner told the media that Obama has not executed laws the way a president is supposed to. Look at how President Reagan did it. When Congress told him he couldn't fund the patriotic freedom fighters in Norway Nicaragua, he and Oliver North, one of my heroes, went around Congress and did it anyway. That's a really bad example. Wait. NO, it works, because when Obama does it, it's to take away our rights to be protected from HOMO government contractors and contraception. When President Reagan did it, it was to save the world from the commies.

In 2010, when the patriots in the Tea Party swept the liberals out the door, we vowed never to let Obama get anything done. How DARE he do things anyway? Doesn't he understand that Congress makes the rules? And if we want to try and overturn Obamacare 567 times, then we will. If we want to block immigration reform, we will, because our constituents hate Mexicans, unless they're mowing a lawn or cleaning an office building.

The White House press secretary, Josh Earnest oh there's an interesting last name for a liar. Anywho, he said most Americans wouldn't support this lawsuit, because it will be paid for with taxpayer money. Well, ya know what? I'll betcha that most Americans would rather pay for a lawsuit to stop Obama from destroying this country than pay for birth control for that Sandy Fluke girl.

I went on Neil Cavuto's show to talk about this lawsuit, and he yelled at me. He asked me where my rage was when Democrats were going after President Bush for his executive orders. I don't remember that happening, because just like President Reagan, President Bush used his power to save the world from Islam. Obama invites terrorists like that awful Common into the White House. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush never pal-ed around with terrorists. I bet Obama has signed an executive order to help Bill Ayers.

I know we'll win. We just have to present it correctly to the country, and frankly, I'm shocked that Neil Cavuto doesn't support this. It's a great plan! Yes, it might take longer than Obama has left in office, but it's a great way to win votes for ME in 2016. See, that's my focus right now, Diary. Marcus says I should be more concerned about the possibility of going to prison, but I know Jesus won't let that happen. I am destined to be Ruler of Godlandia, and with Holy God's help, I will win in 2016. And what better way to do that than by riding in on a wave of anti-liberal sentiment, white supremacy, and camps for HOMOS and the poor?

Well, I have to wax Marcus's back. We're going to the lake tomorrow, and he wants to be smooth so his tan is even. I will keep you posted on the lawsuit, and my campaign.

Hugs and kisses-Queen Michele, future ruler of Godlandia.

*To see Neil Cavuto yell at Shelly, click here for the Politico piece.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My son the Atheist meets his first Christian bigot

My son is an Atheist. My husband and I were raised Catholic, and while I am a liberal Christian, my husband is sort of "whatever." Our teenager is a full-blown, 100% non-believer, which is fine with us. He respects others who believe in a deity, but he doesn't respect people who hate in the name of their god, or refuse to accept proven science like evolution. And he is not ashamed of being an Atheist.

This morning, my son showed me a series of texts he received from a friend we'll call Kylie. Kylie and her parents are conservative Catholics, and when my son told Kylie he is an Atheist, she was less than pleased. She told her parents, who told her she and my son couldn't have any sort of close friendship or relationship. Kylie agreed, and was flabbergasted that anyone could go through life not believing in God.

At this point, I was just listening to him tell me the story. Then he showed me the texts Kylie's mother sent him. Yes, her mother got involved with this conversation, telling my child that you have to believe in God to go to Heaven, and "this"-any kind of serious relationship between Kylie and my son-would be really tough. In other words, believe what we believe, or you can't see, date, or be friends with our daughter. I saw red. As I tapped my fingers on my desk, I wondered what kind of parent would raise a child to discriminate against people who either don't believe in God, or believe in a different God than they do.

I told my son to ask Kylie to have her mom give me a call. Then I called my husband at work, to see if I was overreacting. My husband is firmly planted in logic, and I often ask his advice if I think I'm making a mountain out of a molehill. In this case, he agreed with me completely. What Kylie's mother had done was absolutely offensive, totally inappropriate, rude, tacky, and I had every right to tell her that. And when she called about half an hour ago, I did.

I asked her if she had texted my son. She said she had. I then said:

"You texted him about God? And Heaven?"

There was a rather lengthy silence, then she replied she had. To my credit, I never raised my voice, I never called her a name (thank you, brain filters); I was very calm, but very firm. I made sure she understood she had crossed a line, and I told her not to contact my son again. She never said a word. She knew. She had to know that a mother contacting a teenage boy to tell him being an Atheist is wrong was a horrible thing to do. She had to know this phone call was not going to be pleasant.

There are a myriad of things I wish I had said (isn't that always how it works?). I wish I had told her that people like her are the reason my son is an Atheist, the reason we don't go to church, the reason I struggle with my faith. I wish I had told her brainwashing your kid into believing what you believe is wrong. I wish I had told her that my Atheist son is a better person than she will ever be, because when he has kids, he will never tell them they can't befriend or date someone who has a different set of religious beliefs. I wish I had told her that people like her remind me of the Taliban.

But I didn't say any of those things. In a civil fashion, I told her never to contact my son again, and that her behavior was highly inappropriate. The nerve of that woman astonishes me. I would never, in a million years, presume to lecture someone else's child about religion. I believe what I believe, my son believes what he believes, and we love and respect each other. And if my son falls in love with a Muslim or a Jew or a Wiccan or a Christian or a Buddhist, as long as that person is kind and loving, not just to him, but to others as well, then we will love her, too.

Kylie will never fall in love with anyone other than the type of man her parents approve for her, because that's how she's being raised. A belief in God is all it takes to win the hearts of Mom and Dad. I think we all know at least one person who claims to believe in God, but walks a path never trod by Jesus. A path of bigotry and bullying, of hate and small-mindedness.

My son just met one of those people. To his credit, he's fine. He was pretty "livid," as he put it, but we talked it out, and he's okay now. I'm not. This is my only child. He is bright and funny, empathetic and kind, and he did not deserve this woman's derision. Oh she did what fundies always do: prefaced her attack with "I don't hate you," and told him how much she enjoys hearing him play in the marching band. Then she told him he's not going to Heaven, or hanging out with her daughter, because he doesn't believe in God.

Well, Kylie's mom, I'd rather raise an Atheist than a religious bigot any damn day of the week. You can take your sanctimony, and your holier-than-thou attitude to church on Sunday, and tell White Conservative Jesus what a good Christian you are. And while you're doing that, I'll be spending the morning experiencing the joy and love that really represents Jesus. Oh, and bacon.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Mint means Mojitos

Five or six years ago, my husband and I went on vacation to Clearwater, Florida. In July. We are never doing that again. I lived in Orlando for ten years, and I should have remembered what late summer is like in Florida. But somewhere in my head, I thought "It's on the coast; it won't be so bad." Holy hell, was I wrong.

The ocean was the temperature of bathwater until you swam waaaaay out past the buoy, and then of course, you couldn't touch the bottom. My husband sped out into the cooler water while I, visions of "Jaws" dancing in my head, wondered if it hurt to have a snaggle-toothed behemoth rip off your leg.

We both broke out in hives or some sort of rash from the sun and heat. Walking from the hotel to dinner was an adventure, as we ran across the street because the heat from the asphalt hurt. But the one thing we discovered that made up for the suffering? Mojitos.

Over the weekend, my husband discovered mint growing by the side of our house. And he practically skipped into the house, grinning from ear to ear, holding a bunch of mint in his hands. "Look," he said, "mint!" I immediately started working it into pies and thinking about dessert sauces. He shook his head. "Mint means mojitos."

You have to understand: we don't drink. We both used to, but now that we're a wee bit older, we just don't care for the taste of most alcoholic beverages. The exceptions are a summer ale that's made right here in Minnesota, and mojitos. We each had one every night we were in Florida, and more recently, tried the strawberry mojitos at Applebee's. I don't recommend them.

So yesterday, I purchased ingredients for this most beloved beverage. Which meant wandering the liquor store, searching for white rum. I didn't even know that was a thing, white rum. My son and I walked up and down the aisles, stepping around grizzled old men who were using a shopping cart. That made me kind of sad. We found white rum, I bought limes at the grocery store, we already have sugar and obviously the mint, but I forgot the club soda. It's okay, though-we're not making them until Saturday.

Here's the recipe I'm going to be using. I'm thinking of making a simple syrup instead of using sugar, only because the syrup will dissolve more evenly. You can infuse the syrup with mint, or any herb that goes with the drink you're making, for an even more intense flavor. I found this recipe at All

Makes one mojito.

10 fresh mint leaves
1/2 lime, cut into 4 wedges
2 Tbsp white sugar, or to taste
1 cup ice cubes
1 1/2 fluid ounces white rum
1/2 cup club soda

Place mint leaves and one lime wedge in a sturdy glass. Use a muddler (no, you can use a long-handled spoon) to crush the mint and release the mint oils and lime juice. Add two more lime wedges and the sugar, and muddle again to release more lime juice. Do not strain. Fill the glass almost to the top with ice cubes. Pour the rum over the ice, and fill the glass with the club soda. Stir, taste, adding more sugar if desired. Garnish with remaining lime wedge (and more mint, if you like).

If you have a favorite summer cocktail, let me know in the comments. Throw in a recipe if you like. And I'll let you know how the mojitos turn out.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Tylenol versus guns

As I was trying to open a new bottle of ibuprofen with a paring knife, my son wandered into the room. He stopped to watch me struggle, and asked why everything has some sort of safety seal. I put down the bottle, wiped off the paring knife, and started telling him about the Tylenol killer.

In 1982, seven people in Illinois died after ingesting cyanide-laced Tylenol. The entire country was paralyzed by fear, and hospitals were overrun with people who believed they had been poisoned. Prior to the Tylenol killings, safety seals were not required on any over-the-counter medication. Now, you can't find anything without one.

Seven people perished at the hands of an unknown killer. There is one suspect-James Lewis. Lewis spent thirteen years in prison for sending an extortion letter to the makers of Tylenol, Johnson & Johnson, but maintains his innocence regarding the cyanide poisonings.

The FDA responded to the Tylenol poisonings by implementing stringent, new guidelines for safety regarding over-the-counter medication. "Do not use if seal is broken" messages now appear on almost everything we buy, from pain reliever to juice to lipstick. Our government took the Tylenol killings, and the subsequent "copycat" incidents seriously, and changed hundreds of products' packaging and labeling for our safety.

According to a paper published by the CDC and verified by Politifact, between 1981 (the year before the Tylenol murders) and 1998, 620,525 people in the United States died because of a gun. This number includes suicides and accidental shootings. In 2011 alone, 32,163 people met their demise at the hands of a gun. We have more mass shootings, more accidental shootings, the highest rate of gun ownership in the world, and yet, our government does nothing.

Why is that? Why did the poisoning of seven people in Illinois inspire the FDA to take immediate steps to safeguard the public, while gun violence seems to inspire silence and apathy? Is it because everyone takes OTC medicine at one point in their lives, but not everyone will come in contact with a firearm? That's what Richard Martinez thought. Mr. Martinez's son, Christopher, was killed during the rampage in Santa Barbara in May of this year. He told the media during a raw and gut-wrenching statement that you never think this will happen to your kids, until it does. And here in the United States, it's happening far too often.

Those seven victims in Illinois are mourned every day by their families and friends. It's all the more frightening knowing the person or persons who laced those bottles of Tylenol with cyanide has never been caught. From that awful mass murder came stringent safety guidelines, better and safer packaging, and a sense of security, knowing that when tragedy strikes, our government will take the necessary steps to ensure we are safe.

Unless we're talking about gun violence. When the subject of how to stem the tide of mass shootings and deaths by gun, suddenly no one has any real solutions. It's too hard, it's too complicated, it simply can't be fixed. The NRA is too powerful (as opposed to the pharmaceutical lobby). The gun manufacturers can't afford any changes (as opposed to Johnson & Johnson, who pulled $100 million worth of product off the shelves in 1982). Our Constitution says we can own all the guns we want, and your dead kids don't trump that.
We desperately need our government to understand that gun violence is a public health issue, and it is an urgent one. I just have no idea how to do that, who to talk to, what politician, if any, is taking this seriously. Oh, they speak about it, and wring their hands, but are any of them brave enough to stand up to the NRA and the gun extremists in this country? Not so far.

This is why November is so important. We need to get right wing extremists out of Congress. Send the Tea Party and the NRA-bought politicians home this fall, and help elect representatives who will actually represent us, not corporations. We need sane gun laws, and the only way to achieve that is to have folks in DC who have the courage to fight for us, our safety, and the safety of our families.

Take a few minutes and really study this graph put together by Mother Jones. The Tylenol murders resulted in sweeping change, aimed at keeping us safe. Why does gun violence result in nothing?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The State Bird of Minnesota

The state bird of Minnesota is the loon. For as long as I can remember, this has made me giggle. Don't get me wrong; the loon is a really lovely bird, with an almost haunting creel. But the name. Loon. Loony. Hee hee. See?

When my dad moved us here from San Diego many moons ago, I was unfamiliar with the kind of nature you are surrounded with in Minnesota. I was used to the ocean, orange trees, Santa Ana winds, dry heat, sea gulls, mild winters, gorgeous summers. I was completely unprepared for Minnesota.

Minnesota has bugs. Huge, bloodsucking, angry insects, who are more than happy to chew on your skin morning to night. This is was driven home when my parents sent me on Outward Bound.

Outward Bound, at least back when I was sixteen, was a place for teens to be abandoned in the woods for three weeks. We canoed, portaged, canoed, portaged, canoed, portaged, ate gorp, "learned" how to rappel, and were ignored by our "counselors." Oh they'd show up every morning, yelling at us to get up, but really, they just left us alone, because I guess if we died, they could go home early.

My Outward Bound experience of terror took place in the Boundary Waters canoe area of northern Minnesota and southern Canada. My dad drove from Minneapolis to International Falls, my parents hugged me, and sent me off to perish in the wilderness without a second thought. This is where I learned how hairy my legs can get (think gorilla), how much I hate camping (A LOT), and I learned about the actual state bird of Minnesota. No, not the loon. The mosquito.

Before anyone comments "Erin, sweetie, mosquitoes are bugs, not birds," I know that. However, have you ever seen "The In-Laws?" The original one, not the stupid one. Remember the scene where Peter Falk is telling the story about Tse Tse flies carrying off small children? Minnesota has mosquitoes that can do that. They probably DO do that. And on Outward Bound, I met those mosquitoes.

That high-pitched...buzzing isn't the right word. It's more of a whine, really. I've always thought if Hollywood wants to make really scary horror films, replace all that Tubular Bells crap with the high-pitched whine of a flock (don't) of mosquitoes. I heard that sound in my sleep, weeks after I got home.

The other thing we have here in Minnesota are deer flies. My husband has tried to convince me they are so named because they love to feast on deer. That is total and absolute bullshit. They are so named because they are the size of a deer. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, have you ever SEEN one? Nothing that big, and that angry, should be able to fly. And one of them laid an egg in my finger on Outward Bound.

Yes, I'm serious. A deer fly laid an egg in my finger. My left middle finger, palm-side, to be exact. And because I was sixteen, and fairly stupid about anything nature-wise, I let some douche sterilize a pocket knife in a bonfire, and dig that egg out. Of course, the finger got infected, and of course, I would never let anyone do that to me again unless I was quite literally dying. At the time, it was just "OH MY GOD IS THAT A BUG EGG GET IT OUT!"

I currently have a mosquito bite way up on my right leg. I was gardening yesterday, and forgot to wear long pants, a parka, a hat, and spray myself with DEET. Which wouldn't work, because Minnesota mosquitoes don't care. You can douse yourself with Deep Woods OFF, and the mosquitoes laugh at you. "Oh you silly human," they chuckle, "that won't work. We eat through anything. Release the HOUNDS!" And you're suddenly punching yourself in the face in a feeble attempt to ward off the herd (don't) of bloodsucking insects from Hell.

Deer flies really don't care. There is nothing on this planet that repels them, and I don't care what Cabela tries to sell you. Nothing. I have suggested to my husband that we need a Gatling gun for deer fly season, and he just hugs me. Yeah, the dock might get blown up, but it's worth it if I hit a deer fly.

The Land of Ten Thousand Lakes, twenty gazillion mosquitoes, black fly season (that's a whole other piece), and gaggles (don't) of deer flies. Ah, nature.