Wednesday, June 18, 2014

To the woman that tried to contact me for assistance in filing a report against your online harasser: Your blog name did not link back to a profile as you indicated it would, so I am unable to locate your email address as you requested. I am happy to give you some tips, but have no means of contacting you. Please email me at ljstewart@gmail.com.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day

I dashed into Casey's this afternoon for a big 'ol fountain soda, and when I came out, there was a car parked next to mine with a cute little kid strapped into the passenger seat. His father wasn't far off, just grabbing a newspaper. 

Said cute little kid--and I mean freaking adorable; TV cute--gave me a wide-eyed look as I turned to open my car door. Just as I began to hop in, his sweet little voice called out "Happy Father's Day!" I turned around to see him leaning toward his window with a beaming smile. I smiled back and said "Thank you! You too!"

My speaking to his child brought the father running, and I could see a look of concern on his face. I knew that look. I could see his thoughts: "What did you just say to my kid?"

I got into my car and paused for a few seconds to settle my soda and put my seat belt on, giving him a second to speak to his son. When I figured I'd given them enough time to straighten it out, I turned to look at them. The father had his forehead on the steering wheel, laughing so hard, and when he turned to make eye contact with me, we both just burst into another round of laughter.

It has been a good day, even though Clint worked all day. I delivered gifts to him from myself and from his daughter. I left a bottle of bubbles at my father-in-law's grave. I was proud proud proud when I found out that son called Clint to tell him Happy Father's Day. I had a jolly laugh with complete strangers, and witnessed another father in love with his funny kid.

Really, I had a great Father's Day.

Water, Roots, Deep Conversation with a Jalapeno Plant, and Unsolicited Relationship Advise to a Loved One

I've spent a good part of the weekend trying to get a grip on my garden, which has gotten away from me. Sigh. I know. Already.

A couple of weeks ago I purchased more plants, and life got a little chaotic, so they sat, in their flats.  The plants were larger, and the roots sat confined in those little plastic packages. They'd become so compacted and dried that the water I'd sprinkled over the them just sat on top, and would not soak in. 

Yesterday I sat and analyzed them, and came to terms with the fact that I was probably out $40 and had killed 2 flats of marigolds and a couple of jalapeno plants.

I decided I had nothing to lose by trying though, so started the day by pulling the plants out of their tight pants--I mean, their tight plastic containers--and sat them right down into tubs of water. I let them soak their feet for a day. I knew full well I might end with a couple of buckets of mud with dead plants in them, but I gave it a shot.

Here are the peppers, yesterday:



And here they are now, my coffee companions this morning:



I slept in this morning, and now on my second cup of coffee, I sit contemplating how important water is, and how it has the same effects on our human bodies as it does on those little plants, and how I wish someone would bring me some scrambled eggs.

Putting off scrambling my own eggs, then, I sat thinking about the roots of those plants. All squished in in there, taking on the shape of the container they were stuck in, growing and growing into a tight knot, and getting sicker. And once released from it, beginning to reach out and expand, and absorb what it needed to thrive again. 

We really do have a lot in common with a plant, don't we?

I spoke this week with a friend that has just ended a relationship. A relationship with a "partner" that belittled her and made her feel bad about herself, and made her second guess her own good instincts. A "partner" that would turn the tables on her and trip her up and make her feel a little crazy. When you're in that relationship with someone--and look, most of us have been in that relationship with someone--that stuff trickles over, outside of the relationship--into your self-esteem, into your personal life, your job, your hobbies, your dreams, your friends, your family.

Now, entertain me, and let's say we're all plants.

My friend's ex-boyfriend--and this is not a man-bashing exercise, the situation is gender-reversible--is that shitty piece of plastic that those plants came in. That sheath that kept her from expanding her roots and reaching out and absorbing what she needs to thrive. I was there once, 30 years ago, a story for another day, but I still remember how that shitty plastic sheath can actually come to feel like home--you're planted in it, for God's Sake. You come to think you actually need it to survive--it has you convinced that it is the only thing holding you together, and you cannot live without it. You see what it does there, right? It's very sneaky plastic; that plastic is a real sonofabitch.

Note to my darling friend:

You've stepped out of the plastic flat. Be one with my jalapeno plant: Drink lots and lots of water now, and grow and grow and grow. Your reach can be endless. And the next time a piece of plastic asks you out for dinner, run for your life. You don't have to be polite to plastic; you can be downright rude. It really doesn't matter if it thinks you're a bitch, ok? 


If you don't believe me, just ask my marigolds. Marigolds don't lie.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Legacy

Last night we went to dinner with Clint's Uncle John and Aunt Judy. John turned 79 today, and he and Judy are real pistols. I fretted over choosing a restaurant they'd like--they're "older," I thought, so nothing too spicy, nothing too boozy, etc. We settled on a great old bar-restaurant called Crane Alley. The minute we walked in, Judy said "I want a beer!" and John followed suit by ordering a smoked chipotle beer for himself, and told us how much he loved big, loud places. He can't hear well in them, he said, but he loooooooves watching people have fun.

They told us about their wedding in Las Vegas (not the first for either of them), in which they met "the cousins"--an annual gathering of 8. They intended to sneak off after lunch one day, and then return at dinner time and announce they'd gotten married. It was one disaster after another: their intended witness took off before they could whisper their secret plans; Judy's name was misspelled on the license application, then they argued whether she should put that she was divorced or widowed (she was both—divorced once, then widowed from her 2nd husband), and the license had to be redone 3 times, to the chagrin of a grouchy clerk. The courthouse couldn't then dig up a legal witness, so they gave up and ran into a cheesy chapel. They finally got the job done and were then forced to sit through a sales pitch to purchase a video of their wedding. When the movie was put into the VCR player, nothing played: the staff had forgotten to turn on the camera.

John told us also of a story about going to a one-room schoolhouse when he was a young boy, and knocking the two front teeth out of a classmate, when he threw a block at him. He lived, he said, with the guilt of knocking that kid's teeth out, but upon seeing him again when they were adults, the guy had teeth! All of his teeth, and they didn't appear to be dentures! He said he wanted to ask how it could be, but on the other hand, didn't want to bring it up.

I noted, "Maybe you knocked out his baby teeth, that he was going to lose anyway." Uncle John gave me a blank stare, and finally said, "You know. I never thought of that." I'm not sure why we all found that so funny, but we ended up howling, laughing. John could finally let go of knocking someone's front teeth out, after 75 years. What a relief.

***

This was just one evening that we shared with family, in the last 10 days or so. Clint's father, Alan Weidert, passed away in his sleep on May 23. He'd been declining from Parkinson's disease for some time.

We have been busy and stressed, and grieving for him and for each other, but what has been at the forefront of the last 10 days or so is the close circle of friends and family that gathered to hold one another up, and celebrate Alan's life. While we have cried, we have also laughed and laughed and laughed, and that is his legacy.

I want to tell all of the stories I heard, in the last 10 days, and all that we did with the time spent with family and friends that gathered. As I said, we laughed, we cried. We ate, we drank. We went to a few garage sales, and even to an acupuncture clinic together. I may circle back and show the photos and tell the stories, or life, as it is wont to do, may move forward faster than I can write about it.

Time will tell, I guess. I know that if I don't get around to it, I still have another angel keeping track, and laughing along.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Kids Say The Darndest Things

Hot in Cleveland was on tonight, and in one scene, Elka, played by Betty White, is talking to a paramour about the fact that his father recently married. It's funny because they are both elderly, so one imagines his father to be 100 years old. The punchline is that his new "baby brother" has just turned 70, and "kids really do say the darndest things!"

This cute skit reminded me immediately of my Great Grandmother. Ida Bennett, from Humboldt, Illinois (likely not to be found on any old-timey map). Sweet and understated, I always made a point of listening, and memorizing, her laugh--as did I my Grandmother's, and my Mother's laugh. They would get, in their own words, "tickled."


My grandmother spoke often of the girl down the road that helped her out every now and again. Ruby. Ruby would deliver this or that, or come down and pull a few weeds while she chatted. In general, Ruby was just a good kid, in my Grandma's eyes. 

As a pre-teen, I always imagined this wonderful Ruby girl as a beautiful, kind, 16 year old girl. Tantamount to Cinderella or Snow White: so pure of heart, assisting the elderly and taking time to enjoy their company. 

Since Humboldt was a bit away, and we only visited every few months or so, years and years passed before the stars aligned and my path crossed with Ruby's: One her visits coincided with mine. A young teen by then, I was gobstopped to discover: 

Ruby was, like, 50! FIFTY, she wasn't a girl, she was fifty! At least, 50! 

Super old.

That's how I told the story, for years: My Great Grandmother was 90, and she referred to the 50-year-old woman as a girl, and I imagined something else, oh, how funny.

Honestly, now I can't even remember what Ruby looked like; I can only remember that I thought she was 50, and old as dirt.

Now that I am 51, of course....I am convinced she was probably closer to 80.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Fever



After noting, last week, that I haven't gotten a cold this winter, when I have been surrounded by folks with colds and flu, of course I was hit hard yesterday. My throat hurt so much I swear I could feel strep creeping across the back of it like lava. 

Blessed to have sick days, I took off yesterday afternoon, and stayed in bed most of the next 24 hours--save a quick stint to do Mom's taxes--nothing like putting things off until the last minute.

Sore throat, headache, and upset stomach is now a cough and since snot is gross, I won't tell you about the snot. But the garbage can next to my bed is full to the top with tissues.

I also have a fever. At least, in my mind, I have a fever. My body temperature rarely tags up to 97 degrees, and it is often less than 96. Normally, it is, instead of a normal 98.6 degrees, 96.8 degrees. (My temperature is dyslexic.) Therefore, when I get sick and my temperature spikes to 98-something, I declare myself feverish.

 We are constantly advised to listen to our own bodies, but my insistence that, say, a 99-degree temp closer to a 3-degree spike for me than it is the normal .4-degree fever, falls on deaf ears in the doctor's office. Nurses and doctors have a hard-and-fast rule for what constitutes a fever, and it's downright irritating to hear that I don't have one when I feel so lousy. And hot. 

Irritating for one reason: Everyone knows that a fever is proof that you're sick.

No fever, no sympathy.

Well. Shut it. My temperature is 97.6 degrees right now, which is 2 degrees warmer than it was at 3:00 this afternoon. I am burning up, and if I want to feel sorry for myself, I can.

Poor baby.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Universal Laughter

Last night we attended the 70th birthday of Erica, our son-in-law's mother, in St. Louis. Erica is originally from Germany, and there were 3 family members from her hometown that flew in for the party, to join 40 or so more of us in celebration. There were 2 sisters that knew no English, and 1 nephew, who is fluent in both English and German. (These tidbits crucial later in this story.)

First of all, those 3 sisters spent all day Friday preparing authentic German food for this party. You know, you can find good food in a lot of places. You cook good food, you go out for good food, there is abundant good food, if you want it. But THIS food—this homemade rouladen (thinly cut flank steak, filled with I-don't-even-know-what and then rolled up and baked, and this homemade spaetzle, with nectar-of-the-gods brown gravy ladled over it—THIS good food brought us all to our knees.


An amazing meal, that if I had one wish for you, we could get them together to cook again, and you will be there to taste it.


Clint's daughter Jen made the cake(s) and created beautiful flower arrangements, cleverly placing the bouquets in Oktoberfest steins.

We sang happy birthday, passed cake around, and then retired to the deck on a beautiful night, drinking beer and wine, and gathering into a closer, tighter ring as the guests meandered home. By 11:00 or so, it was just close family left, and story time began. By then we were only about a dozen, and, mentioned earlier, most of us English-speakers only, with 2 speaking German, and 2 capable of acting as interpreters.

Everyone kept up at first, but as one story sparked another, they began coming faster and faster, and our interpreters could not keep up. Margo and Kate began telling a story in German, both of them laughing and screaming so hard that they could't get their breath. Our interpreters also began laughing so hard they couldn't interpret, and what do you think the rest of us did? 

The rest of us laughed along so hard that we had tears falling down our cheeks, that's what we did. We couldn't understand a single word, but the laughter was so contagious, and the realization that we didn't understand what was so funny in the first place...oh lord, we just laughed until our guts ached. It got even funnier when Erica tried to explain it all, but began mixing languages: she began telling the entire story in German again.

Laughter is indeed, universal.

That point was brought home when Erica walked right into the screen door, and then 15 minutes later, I did the same dang thing. Germans and Americans alike think that's pretty dang funny. Boy, it's a shocker when you think you're going through a doorway, but you don't, not at all. I hit that door so hard that my wine splashed out, and was all stuck dripping down the screen to make everyone laugh even harder.

Man, it was beautiful evening. Gathering with friends and family, and so much love surrounding everyone that not even a bit of a language barrier couldn't stop us.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Soapbox: More Troll Updates


Ya'll know I filed a police report against an anonymous blog troll that had been harassing and impersonating me for 6 years. The final complaint was filed by four from this community, and backed up with statements by others, local and nationwide. An investigation turned up a 55-year old man—stranger to us all—that works for the Department of Defense. He was arrested, posted bail and is back at work, I understand. I am told by the local victim's advocate that there will be a lot of stalling in the courtroom, and that this will take a year or even years to close.

Each of the victims was issued a "No Contact Order of Protection." One in our group is pushing for that same protection for his wife and daughters, and having a difficult time getting it. Benjamin Beaupre met in a courtroom today with our troll and his attorney. While this part isn't really about me personally, I am tied to it, and so, very interested in the outcome.

The outcome was not so hot: troll's motion to dismiss was granted, but a new date was set for Beaupre to file amended arguments for the order of protections for his family.

I received a copy of the petition that was filed in court yesterday, and thus, some insight on what may be in store for the rest of us. I am amazed at some of the smoke and mirrors. For instance:


Note here how the terminology skipped from Ben's "Online Blog" in #2, to a "public online chatroom" in #4. It is referred to for most of the rest of the petition as an "online chatroom."

Tomato-tomahto, you might say, but a "personal blog" and "an online chatroom" are two entirely different things. Here's how I see it: Say you take your little old self to a restaurant, and there's a filthy loud-mouthed stranger across the room. That would be the public online chatroom in this case, ok? If you don't want to listen to that filthy guy, they you leave the restaurant.

Moving on with my analogy, let's say you wake up one day, and there's a filthy loud-mouthed stranger in your living room. That—for the sake of explaining the difference here—is your personal blog. It's your living room. You can let him hang out there if you want to, and mouth up the place, or you shut him up with your moderation tool. Yes, this imaginary living room has has a moderation tool, like a trap door, or an ejection seat or something, in which you can push a button and make him leave.

But you don't have to leave your living room. You should never ever have to leave your own living room because there's a filthy loudmouthed stranger in it. Because it's your living room!

So, you're all clear now, on the difference between a "Personal Blog" and a "Public Online Chatroom" now, right?

Now, for the sake of more crazy talk, let's say the stranger never really shows himself in your living room, but instead ties a filthy note to a rock and tosses it through your window every Saturday night for years and years. Filthy, racist, sexist, unnerving notes. And let's say your name is...pick a name..let's say your name is ummmm, "Earring." Ok, and then the nasty notes start flying through the house, but now they are signed "Earring Killer."

Also, in this story, notes on rocks through windows are covered by free speech. So, you have no recourse there, rocks and notes are allowed. Even if they weren't allowed, you never ever know who threw the rock, so what do you expect the police to do? In the end, your choices are to move out of your living room altogether, or to just deal with the weekly rock through the window.

You just deal. You don't have to read the note if you don't want to. You can throw the rock back out the window, or you can just unwrap it and save the note. (Always save the note, by the way).

Anyway, back to reality, and the petition that was filed. (This is real now, that living room stuff was for-pretend, ok?) Here's some more text for you, scanned right out of the petition:

So. Did our troll engage in a course of conduct that would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety, or the safety of a third person? That was what was on the table today. Our troll and his lawyer say "No."

No?

One of the women in this case only filed a report because she wanted him to go away and be done with it. She is frightened, and wants just to be left alone. Another has his mugshot posted on her refrigerator in her home, and in her office at work, "so I remember what he looks like, and everyone around me knows to look out for him." Ben is the hypothetical "Earring" in this story. I sleep with pepper spray on my nightstand, and I have a weird mental "plan of escape" in the event that I hear an intruder in my house.

Why? Because anyone that would spend most of their Saturday nights, and many of their Fridays, and a few weekdays, writing and sending you a constant stream of vitriole of murder and rape and genocide and sex and name calling for six years is unhinged, and yes he fucking has conducted himself in a manner that would cause any "reasonable person" to fear for his or her safety.

But alas, it remains (#10): No one forced Benjamin Beaupre to participate—excuse me, write on his own personal Blog. In fact, there is no evidence that he even tried to stop writing on his own personal blog! (See #10 again.)

Lord help us all. There are 6 more pages of this stuff, and even though it's a matter of public record, I asked Beaupre for his blessing to express myself here. Asked and granted. Today's trial was his, and the outcome his disappointment, but ours also. I watch to see what we'll be up against.

I pray the State's Attorney is watching carefully also, and the Judge understands these online nuances and takes them seriously. Currently listed as "electronic" stalking avenues are "text messages or emails." I realize that it's unlikely there will ever be a law that says you can't leave nasty notes in public forums, but seriously, what this guy has done is not a matter of free speech, as his attorney is claiming. Anonymous bullying and harassment really is a a modern-day note-on-a-rock for today's cowards. It is threatening and terrorizing, and the sooner legal boundaries are established against it, the better.