Friday, November 30, 2012

My Fantasy Life in the Witness Protection Program

One of the ways I survived my crazy dysfunctional childhood was by escaping into a fantasy world of my own creation.

Now, lest you start to worry, I didn't suffer actual breaks from reality or anything - these were more like carefully crafted daydreams or "thought vacations."

I had fantasies of every stripe and variety. There were the Please Rescue Me fantasies of my younger days, which usually involved being adopted by some loving teacher, neighbor or family. These easily morphed into the Prince Charming fantasies of my adolescence which grew ever steamier and complex as I got older.

Then, of course, there were the I am SO Good Enough fantasies, which generally involved Olympic medals, hit songs and Academy Awards.

But when things got really bad, I could always resort to one of my Leave Me the Fuck Alone fantasies, which included things like being marooned in a tropical paradise, or the darker more nihilistic kind where I would awake in some sort of post apocalyptic world to discover that I was the only human left on the planet earth.

But of all of my fantasies, one of the most enduring and flexible has been the Witness Protection Program fantasy.

I still catch myself drifting off there now and then whenever life starts to feel a bit overwhelming (like, say, when I'm faced with the illness of a beloved pet.)

So here's the scenario:

Through some quirk of fate I happen to witness some sort of Mafia transaction - one which will surely result in my being "rubbed out" in short order, until the FBI sweeps in and takes matters into their own hands. I'm left with no choice but to testify against the bad guys, abandon my life (the FBI fixes it so everyone thinks I'm dead) and enter the witness protection program.

Now, depending on how badly I want to escape from myself, the fantasy sometimes involves plastic surgery, amnesia, and/or the mysterious disappearance of several inches of height - but none of that is really a necessary component.

At first blush one might think this fantasy is simply a convenient way to escape from a painful past and an uncertain present. A unique opportunity to finally have what I always wanted... to "be normal" (whatever the fuck that means.)

But the interesting thing is that the sort of life that my witness protection self always seems to create is generally a very small and quiet life. I mean, if the mob is after you, the last thing you want is to draw attention to yourself, right?

So in this little dream, I've given myself permission to simply melt into the fabric of society... to be ordinary... to stop trying so frickin' hard... and it's always such an incredible relief.

And when I look back and compare the reality of my daily life to the life of my younger self, it is rather remarkable how much like the witness protection fantasy my actual life has become.

No... I didn't disappear, or change my name (well - except for the purposes of this blog) or move to a different city, or anything like that. But my life is certainly quieter and smaller. There are fewer people in my life now, and I don't spend nearly as much time worrying about what they think.

Once I stopped working, I learned pretty quickly that my "big important job" wasn't really all that important after all. And while there are plenty of issues that I care deeply about, I've sort of given up on the idea that my purpose in life is to fix everything. In a real sense, I guess I've stopped trying to "matter" so much.

To my former self, all of this would have been unthinkable. If I wasn't striving, and working, and suffering, and achieving, and proving something to someone all the time, I honestly felt like I didn't have the right to exist.

I'm not entirely sure where I'm going with this... I mean, it's not like I've got everything figured out now, and that my life is totally peachy keen. But there is a certain peace in surrender, and it's sorta nice not to need the threat of mafia hit men in order to allow myself to let go a little bit.

So, I guess I'll just leave it at that, and offer up one of my very favorite songs from back in my younger days. Yes... I was  HUGE John Denver fan, and he was the object of many-a Prince Charming fantasy!

So how about you? How does your fantasy world compare with reality?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Warning for Small Dog Owners

I just wanted to let y'all know about something that happened in our neighborhood and hopefully prevent someone from having to go through a similar situation.

Over the weekend several of my neighbors discovered, to their horror, that somebody had opened their gates and their dogs were gone. At first we all just thought that some kids had probably done it, and that the dogs were probably running somewhere in the neighborhood.

But, search after search turned up nothing. Plus, it was odd that only the small dogs were missing, and one of the families actually had a lock on their gate - which was still intact - so someone would have had to have gone into the yard to let the dog out.

Anyhow, one of the families put up signs offering a reward for the return of their dog, which ended up being the exact right thing to do.

As it turns out, the dogs were all stolen by a group of teenagers who steal small dogs to sell to dog fighting rings as "bait dogs." Fortunately, one of the perpetrators had a girlfriend who was pissed off at him, and when she saw the flier with the reward offer, she decided to cash in.

What followed was a series of clandestine meetings in parks where all of the neighborhood dogs were returned (in exchange for some reward money.) One of the neighbors figured out where the dogs were being held and called the cops.

We all figured that would be the end of it, but apparently the police couldn't do anything because the teens claimed that they had found the dogs and were just waiting to take them to the animal shelter the next day.

Anyhow, my neighbors have decided that it's just too dangerous to let the dogs be out in the yard unsupervised anymore - I can't believe the world has come to this.

It just horrifies me! I can't imagine losing a beloved pet under those circumstances, and I'm soooo glad that all the dogs were returned.

Soooo... if you own a small dog, I guess the lesson here is to be careful!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Every Day

My mother HATED to cook. Actually, that might be a bit of an understatement. At any rate, suffice it to say that I was raised on a steady diet of frozen dinners and fast food.

Looking back on it, I'm kind of horrified by the diet I ate as a child - seriously, I had committed to memory the entire menus of Burger King, Arby's, McDonald's, Wendy's, Taco Bell & Pizza Hut, not to mention a few locally owned sandwich shops.

The thing is, to me this was "normal." I can remember the first time I was at a friend's house for dinner when her mother boiled real potatoes and mashed them up to make mashed potatoes. I was completely floored - it had never occurred to me that mashed potatoes where actually made from potatoes!

Anyhow, one day when I was about 8 or 9, my mother, brother and I stopped off to visit my Grandmother (my dad's mother) who invited us to stay for dinner.

We graciously accepted her invitation, and then I remember my mother peeking in the freezer and whispering in my ear "there's no food in there!" Well... what she actually meant was that there were no frozen dinners in the freezer.

But my grandmother, having run several restaurants in her day, was a fabulous cook, and she proceeded to make us what I deemed to be an incredible feast!

In reality, she just roasted some beef, made gravy with side dishes of pasta, biscuits and fresh steamed vegetables - but to me, this meal ranked right up there with the best Thanksgiving dinner my mother had ever prepared.

It's funny how one situation like that can have a profound impact on a person's life - but that was the moment when I decided that I wanted to learn how to cook.

I began a never-ending campaign trying to pester my poor mother into making real food. Suffice it to say, it did not go well, and my mother did not enjoy being reminded of what a good cook her ex-husband's mother was!

But as I grew older, learning to cook became a passion for me - though I was at a bit of a disadvantage since I didn't have any basic skills to start out with. But I muddled through, and at some point in my early adulthood eating real food became the rule rather than the exception for me.

Now... have you ever had the experience of going through a big transformation, and sort of forgetting that the rest of the world didn't actually come along for the ride with you?

I guess part of me has always just assumed that everybody dove into the adventure of cooking once they were out on their own. But I think the truth is that sadly, most of the people in this country eat like my mother did... or perhaps worse, if that's even possible.

So... flash forward to this morning. I needed to run to the grocery store to pick up a few things, and I guess I sorta forgot that everybody and their brother would be out doing their Thanksgiving shopping this week. Holy Moly!

It wasn't just that the store was crowded, it was like there were droves of people who had wandered out of the darkness of the frozen food aisles and were standing there in a blind stupor trying to navigate the unknown territory of the baking, produce and dairy sections.

I saw husbands and wives standing there reading the instructions on various Thanksgiving staples, and calling out ingredients to each other. There were poor lost souls in the baking aisle hopelessly trying to figure out if they needed baking soda or baking powder, and an actual traffic jam around the Brussels Sprouts!

It suddenly occurred to me, that, much like my mother, this was the probably one of only 3 meals (Thanksgiving, Christmas & Easter) that they would attempt to cook "from scratch" during the entire year!
My first reaction (other than wanting to mow them all down with my shopping cart) was some combination of sadness, dismay and anger. I mean, is this really what our society has come to?

But once the harrowing experience was over and I was safely back home, a different emotion started to wash over me... I started to feel grateful.

I mean, here are all these people, who for whatever reason have decided that it's better to eat crap-for-food day in and day out.

Maybe they never had a Grandmother to show them what real cooking could taste like, maybe they're just too busy, or maybe their taste-buds are so corrupted by the chemical onslaught that they can't actually enjoy the subtle tastes of real food.

But somehow, I managed to escape from that world... I made my foray out of the frozen & canned food aisles years ago and have never looked back. In a very real sense, I feel like I get to eat Thanksgiving dinner each and every day, and for that, I am truly thankful!

So I'll leave you with a portrait of my grandmother... how very lucky I am to have had her in my life.

So how about you? Do you enjoy cooking from scratch? And if you do, who were your cooking inspirations?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Missing in Action

Hello World. Is it complete and total hubris to imagine that someone out there might have noticed my absence from the interwebs?

Just thought I'd write to let y'all know that I am alive and well... although I've had a terrible cold, and my sweet kitty, Mr. Sputnik VonWiskars is sick.

At this point we don't know if it's serious or not... poor little guy has blood in his urine and has been beating a path to the litter box. We've ruled out stones, and he's been on antibiotics which have helped somewhat, but he's certainly not back to normal yet. Anyhow, at this point we figure it's either an antibiotic resistant bladder infection, bladder cancer, or some sort of idiopathic inflammation. More tests and more waiting...

I'm really hoping it's not bladder cancer - the vet says it's very rare in cats, but since I lost 2 cats to lung cancer which "never happens" in cats, I know that doesn't really mean much. We don't know how old he is, but the best guess is around 15, so I'm trying to be reasonable with my expectations - still, I'm finding it hard to focus on anything but him.

Anyhow, my brain is spinning with all sorts of unfinished ideas for brilliant and witty posts, but alas, I haven't been able to make anything gel. There does seem to be a bit of a theme swirling around the idea of accepting reality though.

In that vein, I'll live you with this little gem:

Be well everyone!