Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Disgusting: The Greatest Gift: Part 1

Dear Dad,

I can just see you sitting there now, thoughtfully rubbing your forehead, racking your brain for the gift that I might be talking about. It was very obvious to me, even as a little girl, that you never thought that you were a good father. Part of that thinking was your own mind and the liquor and drugs talking, whispering evil into your ear about what a horrible father you were. The main reason why you thought that you were a bad father, as far as I can tell, is really because of Jennifer. She was always trashing you to me and she didn't stop there. No, she had the nerve to trash you right to your face, and proudly so.

But you weren't a bad father Dad. No, you were a terrific father, in fact. The best father that any child could have. The best father on Earth. Sure, you had your issues, but who doesn't? And, whether you believe it or not, you gave me many gifts that I still cherish today, long after you are gone.

Love is certainly one of the gifts that you gave me. Not just any love either. It was strong, unbreakable, unconditional love that nobody else in the family gave to me. Love that, even now, eight years after my loss of you, it is still tangible and it still gives me that warm, contented feeling inside whenever I think about it. Your love, Dad, is what shaped me to be the self-confident woman I am today. I'm not thinking about that particular gift right now, though. In fact, I didn't even discover this gift until very recently.

The gift that I'm talking about runs deep into my core. It is a gift that not very many parents are able to give their children. It is a gift that many people aren't strong enough to give. It is a gift that only a very few percent of the people in the whole wide world have the capacity to give to another human being. The gift I am speaking of, Dad is the gift of bravery. Now, I'm not speaking about just any bravery. I'm not talking about the kind of bravery it takes for a blind person to jump off of a wobbly diving board into a deep swimming pool for a school project or the kind of bravery that many people think I have for simply using my cane on a daily basis, traveling with it confidently, taking sure, confident steps as I move along. No, this kind of bravery runs way, way deeper. I'm talking about the bravery that it takes to not be afraid of certain people. Now are you catching on?

I thought so. The gift I'm talking about that you yourself gave me Dad, without even realizing that you gave me, was the gift of not being afraid of my mom. It took me a very long time to discover this gift and to begin applying it to my life, but finally, after twenty-four years, I've finally figured out how to use it.

Your gift to me was unlike any gift I have ever received. With a normal gift, the gift is presented to the person as a whole, meaning that the person gets all of the blouse or all of the house or all of the kitchen silverware and dish sets, not just part of them. Nobody really gets a part of a gift. At least I've never heard of that happening before. I'm pretty sure that the majority of the people all over the world would consider it impolite and rude to give someone only half of a gift. Many others would even find the idea of it outright offensive. Your gift to me, though, came to me in small increments. The increments came to me in perfect amounts and exactly at the right time.

It wasn't like I just woke up one day and said, "Oh hallelujah, I'm not afraid of my mother anymore! She's never going to hurt me again! In fact, I'll see to it that SHE becomes afraid of me for once. You know, give her a taste of her own bitter, sour medicine and then watch in satisfaction as she chokes on it!"

No, it didn't happen that way at all. In fact, as much as I hate to admit it, I am still a little afraid of her. Actually, I'm sometimes a lot afraid of her. Some days I'm practically fearless of her. I feel invincible, like, no matter what she tries to do, she won't succeed. On those brave, confident days, I imagine myself grabbing a large handful, maybe even two or three handfuls, of the gift. On those precious days, which are starting to come more and more frequently, I sometimes feel like, finally, FINALLY, after all these years; I am safe from her vicious temper and immune to her frequent, impulsive stunts. Other days, though, I dread her presence, cower at the very idea of being confronted by her one day when I am alone and not knowing what to do. On those days, I only get a pinch of your gift, a pinch no bigger than a Braille letter A. I still don't really know what I'd do if I ever did come across her lurking in the alleyway or watching me from a far and then, very sneakily and quietly like a snake, slithering over to me, just waiting for the right moment to strike.

I'd like to think that I would be able to find my lungs and scream, scream, scream as loud as I could for help, for someone to call the police and make her run away, bewildered and totally shocked by my sudden act of courage. I'd like to think that I'd simply take out my own cell phone and call 911 before she did anything to me, like drag me in her car, covering up my mouth so I couldn't scream, and drive me who knows where. By the way, Dad, if I ever do wind up missing and Chris can't find me and nobody else can, make sure that Jennifer gets caught. I'm not sure if you really do have any spiritual abilities where you are or the ability to haunt her, but if you do, make sure she gets busted and make sure I'm unharmed and traumatized as little as possible by the whole ordeal. I've told Chris time and time again that if I ever go missing to alert the authorities immediately and tell them to track Jennifer and her mother down, and any other members of my family for that matter. Mom and Grandma should be the main suspects, though, that's no joke. I told him that they should be the first suspects of my disappearance if it should ever happen that I disappeared mysteriously and without a trace.

I'd like to think that I could outrun my mom and get into a business and tell the workers to call 911. But sometimes I doubt my ability to do all those things. I don't doubt them as much as I used to but sometimes I still do. I fear that my lungs would be impossible to find right when I needed to scream, that my legs would turn to jello, and that I'd have the horrible displeasure of hearing my mother make her shrill, catlike laugh of satisfaction as she did whatever to me as I stood helpless, wishing that someone would stop the situation before I was really in trouble.

The fear of her used to overwhelm me. I used to walk quickly, chin down, hoping that she wasn't lurking somewhere, just waiting for the right moment. When I lived with Mom, she used to tell me that she saw me doing this or that when I was in school, which meant that, she was watching me without me knowing it. One time, when I was going to Green Lake to celebrate my friend Sara's birthday, Jennifer said to me, "Don't take a canoe out there in the lake without supervision. It's too dangerous."

"Okay," I told her but silently wondered how she would really know if I actually obeyed her order or not. I didn't really plan to go rowing on the lake but I still couldn't help wondering how she would really know.

As if she read my mind, she answered my silent question. For a moment I thought I had accidentally uttered it out loud, but I know that I didn't. I wasn't stupid.

"I'll know if you disobey," she said, an air of arrogance to her voice.

"I'll be watching."

Some people think that I am very paranoid. Many have even accused me of having a paranoid personality disorder. As far as I know, I don't have one. My fears are valid and they were created by Jennifer herself telling me that she was watching me when I didn't know she was and without my consent. Jennifer knows it, too, though she will never admit it. Her precious reputation would be jeopardized if she ever admitted it and, oh my Satan, the world would just end right then and there if THAT happened! Oh no, we can't have that!

The more time away that I've spent away from her, though, the fear has subsided some. There have been many times when I lay sleeplessly in bed, wondering how people could not be afraid of Jennifer. I wondered countless times; still do wonder sometimes, how YOU were never afraid of her. At least I've never seen you afraid of her before. Angry, yes! Depressed about the way she treats you, yes. Lovesick over her even, which, by the way still makes me want to puke whenever I think about it, yes. Never, though, in my entire life, have I seen you afraid of her.

A couple of weeks ago, while Chris and I were lying in bed together, I told him, "I wonder how it was that my dad was never afraid of Mom. I mean, she did some pretty horrible things to him."

"Like what?" Chris wanted to know.

"Well, I can't remember this because I was just a baby but, one time, while Mom was still pregnant with me in her womb, she tried to run Dad over with the car."


"Yeah, she did. Mom told me about it, bragged about it, in fact. I can't remember if she actually ran him over but I think she might have pushed him over with the car a little. He didn't get hurt, though, as far as I know."

"Why did she do that?"

"I have no idea. I guess, as usual, her temper got the best of her. Who knows."

"So, you've never seen your dad be afraid of your mom before? Ever?"

"No, I really can't think of a time when he feared her."

"Tell me about the times that you remember him not being afraid of her," Chris said as he gently wrapped his arm around me.

"Well, there was this one time when Mom came over to pick me up from his house," I started to tell him.

"I remember we were sleeping and it was noon, maybe even a little later than that. I wasn't expecting her to come over because I thought that she was flying into Miami, Florida visiting Tim. That's where Grandma Giovanna told me she'd be anyway. I don't know why she thought that's where Mom would be, but whatever. Normally she would fly into Miami or Fort Lauderdale or Fort Meyers and then either drive herself to Naples or she would have Tim pick her up at the airport. He was living in Naples, Florida then and Mom and I were still in Washington. She didn't call before she came over, she just came. I knew it was her even before she got out of her car because I could hear the gears making that awful grinding sound that always signaled her awful approach whenever she came to fetch me. She turned off her car, got out, and a few seconds later, she knocked on the door. Dad made a groaning sound, stretched lazily, and then just laid there in bed. Mom knocked again, harder and more impatient this time. Dad got up and answered the door.

"What are you doing here?" he asked her, his voice deeper than usual because he was still sleepy. He would have kept right on sleeping peacefully if she hadn't showed up. I would have, too. I think I had been somewhat awake when she came over but just barely. When I heard the grinding sound, though, and the sound of that familiar car engine, it had jolted me completely awake. I knew I would be in deep shit for sleeping in so late.

"I'm here to pick up Ashlee," Jennifer said angrily.

"Why else would I be here?"

She stomped up the steps that lead inside of the trailer and marched to the bedroom where I still lay in bed, frozen with fear.

"Ashlee, get up!" she yelled.

"Get dressed and go brush your teeth! For pete's sake, half the day is gone!"

"Okay," I said, grinding my teeth in anger at how my voice trembled.

I got up and rummaged around for clothes that I could wear that were clean. When I found a pair, I started taking my pajamas off. Mom snatched up the shirt that I was about to put on and took a big whiff of it.

"Phewwwww!" she roared.

"It smells like smoke! Don't you have anything that is actually clean in there? Come on, hurry up! You should have been dressed hours ago!"

"The shirt is clean," I told her.

"No it's not!"

"Well, that's the last shirt I have. Everything is going to smell like smoke to you because Dad smokes. I'll change when we get home."

"You'll take a shower first!" she snapped, yanking my chin up roughly, causing me to bite my tongue.

"You're hair's greasy! When was the last time you took a shower?"

Before I could think of what to say, she snatched a pick out of her purse and began plowing through my hair with it, ripping it painfully as she kept raking through it, not bothering to stop even though I was in obvious pain.

"OOOOOWWWWW!" I finally yelled when the pain became unbearable.

"Shut up!" She hissed at me.

"Go grab a hair tie. We need to get this filthy hair up in a ponytail."

Relieved by the prospect that she would have to quit ripping my hair out of my head in order for me to get a hair tie, I started walking to the bathroom.

"I thought you were going to Florida," I told her.

"Well I didn't," she snarled.

By this point, Dad had had enough.

"Jennifer," he said quietly from the living room where he was lighting up a smelly cigarette.

"What." Her voice had softened, too. It had lost all of its sharpness and all traces of evil intent vanished. It was like she was afraid of DAD!

"Come here," Dad said to her, his voice choked with fury.

Mom walked the three or four steps over to him.

"What? WHAT?!!"

Her voice became more frantic then, like she saw something in Dad's eyes that scared her then, or at least made her think twice before yelling anymore nasty things at me.

I could hear the door open and then Mom and Dad's footsteps as they walked outside. I wondered if Dad was dragging Mom outside by the arm or if she was walking on her own accord.

Dad closed the door but only a little. I stood very still in the bathroom, listening.

"Don't talk to Ashlee like that," Dad growled at her. Slowly, very slowly, I inched the bathroom door open so that I could hear what he was saying better. The door made a creaking sound and I cringed, not wanting to attract attention to myself. That was the LAST thing I wanted and needed at that point.

Miraculously, Mom remained silent. Dad took advantage of that and kept talking.

"I don't know what your fucking problem is but you will NOT speak to her like that. EVER! Just because you're a miserable son of a bitch doesn't mean that you can take it out on Ashlee. You'd better watch how you treat her bitch or I'll come after you."

What Dad meant by "coming after you" meant I'm not sure. I hoped that it meant that he would take her to court and fight for custody of me. Full custody without the possibility of visitations for Mom. But first he'd need to get clean and sober and that alone, I knew, would take a very long time. I tried not to let that discourage me and told myself to focus on the present. As it was, the present was way more exciting. Mom had completely lost all traces of bravado. Now she just stood there with my dad silently, watching him smoke.

I came to Mom with the hair tie then and noticed how much gentler she was at handling my hair. I wished I could thank my dad, hug and kiss him, but now wasn't the time. He smelled terrible because of the cigarette smoke and I was in too much of a hurry to comply with Mom's orders so as not to set her off again.

"I still have to brush my teeth," I told her. I was hungry but I knew my mom wasn't in the mood to wait around for me to eat breakfast.

"No, you need to eat breakfast first," Dad said kindly to me, gently brushing my cheek with his flaky finger. His skin was always flaky and peeling off, especially during the winter months when it was bone chilling cold out and there was hardly any sun. Cold weather was hard on his entire body but especially his skin.

"I don't think I can have breakfast with you," I said sadly.

"Mom won't let me I'm sure."

"Yes she will." My dad's voice was stern. It sounded very abnormal coming from him. Rarely did he use a firm tone when he spoke to me, so much unlike my mother, who was always barking stern orders and commands at me like I was some sort of wild, untamable animal.

"Can I?" I asked Mom, afraid that if I took Dad's word for it there would be hell to pay once we got home.

"Yes, I guess so. You have to eat, don't you?"

Mom's voice was cold and clipped. I knew then how much difficulty she was having keeping her temper in check. I could tell it was taking almost all of her energy. I wondered if she would manage to contain it during breakfast and thought that I had better eat it in a rush so as not to risk it.

Dad poured me a big, round bowl of cheerios all the way to the top. Normally I wasn't crazy about cheerios but, since Dad himself was the one who poured them and because I was too scared to protest about anything because Mom was so close to me, I ate them without complaint. If Mom hadn't been there, Dad would have surely made me a much fancier breakfast and he would have joined in the feast with me. We would either have had French toast with cinnamon and maple syrup and scrambled eggs with sausage links. We might have had egg sandwiches with Miracle Whip and Mayonnaise and Ketchup with the sausage links and maybe some fruit. Sometimes Dad would have cantelope and watermelon around to munch on with breakfast. Or we would have had cream of wheat, filled with lumps of sugar and butter and milk. Most people don't like lumps of sugar in their cream of wheat but they were my favorite part. For today, though, there would only be cheerios. And today, he would not be eating with me. I guess he was too angry to eat.

Dad turned on the TV and he and Mom began watching it without talking. I think the Simpsons were on but I can't remember. I do remember that it was a TV show that Mom would not have watched if she had control of the remote. But, since it was Dad's house and since he had given her a good, hard scolding for treating their daughter like crap, she kept her tight, rigid mouth shut.

As I ate, the tension in the room subsided a little and Mom and Dad started making small talk. Mom and Dad laughed a little but I could tell it wasn't really genuine. If I wasn't under so much stress I might have enjoyed the fact that Mom and Dad were sitting together, watching TV and laughing, even though the laughter did sound forced. The anxiety in my stomach was unbearable, though, and I knew that the instant that Mom was in the safety of her car, all that pent up, held in wrath would come loose with a boom. And since I was the only person in the car with her, it would only have one thing to focus its attention on. You already know what THAT thing might be."

Chris and I lay very still for a while. I didn't go on to tell Chris what happened once I left the safety and security of the trailer. I knew that if I did tell him, my own anger would be very hard to reign in. And since the baby was asleep I didn't want to wake her up by filling my brain with negative thoughts. Amira is very sensitive. If I am having a panic attack or am feeling angry or sad, she will wake up from the deepest of slumbers and will wail until I have managed to calm my racing thoughts and think of more relaxing things, like the lazy dogs. I'll tell you about them later.

"Can you think of another time your dad was not afraid of your mom?" Chris asks gently.

I think for a moment and then tell him.

"Well, Dad used to call Mom when he was drunk and chew her out. He used to yell at her for being such a whore. He'd call her horrible names like tramp, cocksucker, scoundrel, and cunt. The messages would make her really mad and that, in turn, would make me smile. I don't know if it was the alcohol in his system that was making him brave or what. I do know that, whatever it was, there was no room for fear in the hate-filled messages that he left my mother."

This letter is not finished yet but I must go. I don't really know why but it's hard to write about all the thoughts that the Disgusting Project is bringing up for me. I do plan on finishing this letter, just like I plan to finish the Facebook Story and the Home Bitter Home story. I guess our gifts to each other are very similar. Like father, like daughter. Your gift of courage comes in little doses, just right for each unique situation. My gifts to you, which are my heartfelt letters, also come in little drifts, like little summer breezes on a sunny day on the Indianola beach on a low tide.

I love you Dad. I wonder if you can remember the story I told Chris, too. Whatever made you not fear my mom, I'm not sure of. All I know is that it's slowly being passed on to me from you, and I love it, need it even, to survive and run my own life, something I've yearned to do for as long as I've lived on this earth.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Disgusting: Sucking on the Government Teat

Hey hey Dad!

Oh, how I've missed writing to you. I have been so terribly lazy lately. Instead of writing, I've been sleeping in or reading mushy gushy girlie stories that you'd laugh at and probably make fun of me for reading! Well, the first book that I read wasn't really girlie. It was called Summer of Fear. It was so juicy and captivating that I stayed up until seven o'clock in the morning reading it. I hadn't meant to stay up that late, it just happened! Now I'm reading Where the Heart Is. THAT'S the book that you would probably laugh at me about. I'm not far in it but so far, it's a good one! The main character's boyfriend Willie Jack is such an asshole! He doesn't even want to feel his girlfriend's pregnant stomach when the baby moves! Reading about Willie Jack made me even more grateful that Chris and I found each other. He is about the most loving man I could have ever found! I love him so very much! I wonder what you'd think of him, what you'd say to me about what you thought of him, what you'd say to him, if you were able to.

So Dad, something really cool happened! I finally got my Medicare card in the mail. My mom finally bit the bullet and took me off of her health insurance Premera. I'm glad that she finally did. The deductibles for that insurance were absurd! Right now, I'm on Medicaid and Medicare. It is a really confusing setup that they made for me so I'm not even going to begin to attempt an explanation about which insurance covers what because I'm still not entirely sure what Medicare and Medicaid covers for me and which one should cover a particular thing. The government is so stupid! I guess they think that, since many poor people don't have a job, they will give them a non-paying job, which is to try and figure out their screwy system. What I have to say to them is, "I'll pass." Being lazy is way more important.

I'm not the only one on Medicaid and Medicare. Well, I am the only one who has Medicare insurance so I guess I should have actually said that I'm not the only one on Medicaid. There, that's better, now I've said it right. Chris and Amira are also on state insurance, too. So far, it's been pretty good. We've had a few hiccups with it when we tried to get my prescription medications and Chris's dentist still can't figure out how to bill the insurance, but, apart from that, all's gone well! No more ridiculous deductibles, no outstanding bills, no more calling Mom and begging her to pay bills that she started neglecting to pay as a way to get me to talk to her, even though she had agreed to pay them in the first place and even set up payment plans with the billing department. Nothing of the sort like I had to deal with when I was on Mom's insurance. Best of all, Mom has absolutely nothing that she can hold over my head anymore. The insurance was the last thing she had. Since she took me off, a decision that she made entirely on her own, she also lost the very last thin thread of connection that she had with me. I will never have to speak with that awful witch ever again! I will never have to ask her for anything either! I don't need her anymore and I never will ever again! I am in control of my own life now, something I've longed to be for as long as I can remember. I am as free as a bird! Well, actually, I take it back; I don't think she made the decision to take me off entirely on her own. No, Jennifer can NEVER do anything on her own. She doesn't even own the house that she lives in. Grandma Giovanna does. Jennifer just lives there and pretends to own it when really she pays Grandmamma rent to live there, though I don't know how much she pays in rent. She has to get her mommy's approval before she does anything. So, actually, I'm sure Grandma Giovanna played a part in helping her make that life altering decision. A decision that I don't think they thought all the way through. An impulsive decision, one of many that they make on a daily basis. They have absolutely no self control! I don't think that Mom and Grandmamma realized that, by cutting me off of Mom's health insurance also cut off all remaining control and power that they still had over me until it was too late. Do they regret that decision? Most definitely. Now, they have absolutely NOTHING but their own bitterness and greed to choke on. Stooping low enough to be on state insurance isn't as low as we stooped, though. Nope, we stooped even lower, the lowest that one can stoop as far as I know. If I find out that I can stoop lower and bring the family down with me, I'll totally do it. The lower I stoop, I've learned, the more time I have for being lazy and writing stories about things that disgust my mother, then adding pictures to go along with them to make the book more decorative. Mom surely doesn't think they're decorative, though! Ha ha!

Chris, Amira, and I have stooped lower and lower and lower until we finally came across food stamps. If I were alone, I wouldn't qualify for receiving food stamps because the amount I get from Social Security is too high. But, since I have a baby and Chris doesn't make much money selling his Satanic art, he qualified to get food stamps for all of us. So, I guess he gets full credit for stooping lower than I was able to stoop to get us all on food stamps.

They don't give us that much money a month for food, but every little bit helps. I especially love being on food stamps because we often get looks of disgust from the people at Bayview Thriftway, a very conservative store that is operated by mostly Christians. The store went so far as to boycott contraceptives from their selection of products. I guess they thought that if they didn't make contraceptives available, it would lower the risk of high school kids from having sex and putting themselves in the pregnancy predicament. What they failed to realize was that high schools would simply deem Bayview a totally "not cool" store and would get their contraceptives elsewhere.

Apparently, contraceptives aren't the only thing that the workers at Bayview are against. Chris and I found out that they look down on people who are on food stamps, too. They don't seem to mind when we are buying loads and loads of groceries and paying for them in food stamps. They do, however, mind when all you buy is ice cream on food stamps. Chris says that they have given him a dirty look on more than one occasion.

One day, Chris came home to deliver me my very own pint of Häagen Dazs chocolate ice cream. It was ALL MINE!

"Thank you Smm Smm!" I exclaimed excitedly as I tore the plastic off of the ice cream.

"Did you buy it on food stamps?"

"I sure did," he said, handing me my spoon. The very spoon that I stole from my mom's house.

"It was really funny. I walked up to the register to pay for the ice cream and I was met by this woman. She was really friendly to me, chatting animatedly, asking me how my day was and talking about how adorable the baby was. When I showed her our EBT card, though, her whole demeanor changed. Immediately she stopped talking to me and gave me this look of total disgust."

I laughed so hard that some of the mouthful of chocolate ice cream fell out of my mouth, landing in a gooey, sticky, melting heap on my shirt and on my lap. I guess I'd just wasted some of Bayview's precious ice cream and it was all their fault! If the woman hadn't been so disgusted with Chris, I wouldn't have laughed and lost my mouthful of ice cream!

"They are so strange, those people that work there," Chris went on.

"It's like they think that only middle class people are allowed to have ice cream on a hot, summer day but not poor people."

"That's a pretty fucked up way of thinking," I said but I really did think that woman's reaction was funny. That was just one of quite a few more disgusted reactions that Chris would get from people when he produced the EBT card and handed it to them.

Finally, we reached our lowest peak. Too poor to be able to afford the expensive cost of formula, we decided that it would be good for us to get on WIC. It's a pretty annoying program. They give you a lot of stuff that you don't even want, not to mention huge lectures and guilt trips if you don't do exactly what they want you to do. They made a huge deal when I told them that I wanted to start supplementing breast milk with some formula because I wasn't producing enough and was quite frankly getting beyond fed up with breastfeeding. Our family doctor had even advised us to start supplementing. We informed the WIC people of this but they payed no attention to what we said. Like Mom, the people who work there only hear what they want to hear. It's called selective hearing. They did give us the formula finally, but they were very reluctant about it. They acted like they were paying for the formula for Amira right from their own paychecks! It was absurd the way they acted! It was almost comical. It would have been if we weren't the ones they were focusing their lectures about how important breastfeeding is on. But Chris really had to fight for it. That's one of the things I really appreciate about him. No matter how much people try to intimidate him, he never lets them win. Often, I wish I could possess that quality of not being afraid of people, of not giving into pressure. I'm getting better but Chris is still ahead of me in the courageous area. He handles conflict way better than I do. I'm learning a lot from him, have learned a lot from him in the years that we have been together.

Now, I don't know if you and Mom have ever talked about welfare much or about people who don't work and who have support from the state. I can't imagine you haven't heard snide remarks from Mom about it, though, because it is something that she is quite passionate about. Passionate about looking down her nose at them like they are worthless pieces of shit all because they are on welfare or receiving other benefits from the government.

"People who are on welfare are lazy losers," she has commented on numerous occasions.

"They are uneducated and they just expect the world to accommodate them, enabling them to continue sitting at home eating bon bons all day and picking their butts."

"What if there people who are too sick or disabled to work? What about them?" I confronted her about it one day.

"Well, I think that people who are on their deathbed should have some leeway or if they have a terminal illness and have death knocking at their doorstep," she replied.

"But the majority of people who are being supported by the state are taking advantage of the system. Almost everyone can do SOMETHING to support themselves and their families, especially now with online jobs. There is always SOMETHING that someone can do to help themselves, but instead they just sit there, all pity pity, poor me, I'm disabled, and don't help themselves even though they can. They just don't want to and our government enables them to continue living that lifestyle. Lazy losers," she spat. I could see that she was getting all worked up so I didn't push the issue. Peace was a hard thing to come by in my life when I was with her, and I certainly didn't want to rock the boat and make it tip over. Mom's boat was definitely an easy tipper, that's for sure.

One day, while I was doing my homework in the living room and Mom was ironing her uniform that she wore for work, a commercial came on the television. The person who was speaking in the commercial was a social security disability lawyer who was vehemently advertising his services for people with disabilities.

"With my help, I can get you the benefits you need," he promised. His voice was slow and sympathetic. I wondered if that was how he normally talked or if it was all for show, a method to merely trick people into contacting him to get on disability.

"I have been fighting to give people the benefits they need for over twenty years, and I know how hard it is to prove certain disabilities. Panic attacks and posttraumatic stress disorder are one of the hardest things to prove. But don't give up. Pick up the phone right now and give me a call. It will be the best decision you have made in a long time."

"Jesus Christ," Mom hissed through her teeth, in unison with the iron. It was funny how the hissing sounds of the iron sounded very similar to the sounds that were coming from her now.

"I hate people who just expect something for nothing."

I was deep in thought, trying to put together a good essay that would get me an A to keep Mom off my back, but the remark that she made about people expecting something for nothing really offended me. No, it ANGERED me. It angered me enough to draw all thoughts of my essay away from my mind and focus on my mother's hurtful words. The reason why I was so angry by her remark was because I was one of the panic attack sufferers and she knew it. I hadn't been diagnosed with PTSD yet so I only focused on the panic attacks because that was something I knew for certain that I had.

"Mom, that is a very ignorant, hateful remark," I said to her.

"Have you ever had a panic attack before?"

"No!" Her word lashed out like a whip, aimed right at my face now. She had turned the iron off and was in full confrontation mode. Too angry to back down and knowing that even if I wanted to back down I was already in too deep, I pressed on.

"Well, as you know, I have had them before and they are horrible! Sometimes I find it impossible to do my schoolwork until the attack is over. Just imagine how difficult it would be for someone to work for a very demanding boss every day and trying to work diligently despite the fact that they were having a panic attack. They can come at any time, you know. They sneak up on you when you are least expecting them sometimes. You should know all this. After all, you've been trained in how to deal with people who are having panic attacks on the plane because they are afraid to fly."

"That's true, I am," she said in a boastful manner that made me wish I had enough eyesight to aim my fist straight for her stupid, hateful, heartless, thoughtless mouth. This wasn't the first time I wished this. Often, I wished that I could lash out at her violently, the same way she did to me when I "acted up" as she put it.

"But the people who have panic attacks while flying manage to hold down a job. Panic attacks can't disable a person unless they MAKE them disable them. People just use the excuse of panic attacks so they don't have to get off their fat asses and go to work like everybody else in society. They are losers, Ashlee, losers I say! Especially the people who get on disability for depression! Depression you say? Jesus Christ, how absurd! Instead of getting help for it, they sit around all day crying "AAAAAAA-hooooooooo, aaaaaaaaaaaaaa-hoooooooooooo, poor me, poor me." Then they turn around and go on vacations, even though they are supposedly SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO depressed, too depressed to work even, while the rest of us are supporting them with our taxes! It's ridiculous, absolutely RIDICULOUS! They don't even contribute to society one bit! They are losers!"

"No, they aren't losers," I said quietly. I knew that, no matter what I said, there was no convincing Jennifer that she was wrong. As far as she saw it and still probably sees it today, she is always right and never wrong, and if someone even DARES question anything that she says, they are in the wrong, not her.

Knowing this, I gathered my computer, got up, and headed to my room.

"Where are you going?" Mom asked me as I departed the living room.

"I'm going to my room to finish my essay. It's kind of hard to concentrate with the TV on and all of your rude, insensitive remarks."

"I can't believe you're siding with the losers!" Now my mom was in angry mode herself. My own anger, which had begun to ebb a minute ago, came thrusting forth again, this time with more force than before.

"I'm not siding with anybody," I told her, my voice low and choked with fury.

"I'm telling you the way it is; the way normal people see things. You're so worried about me being abnormal and are always trying to get me to behave just like everyone else around me. Well Mom, you have succeeded. I'm positive that there wouldn't be anyone on this block who would disagree with me about how cruel and insensitive your comments were. You can't have it both ways Mother. You can't have me be normal when you want me to be and then to flip off the normal switch and think like you when you want me to for a different situation. I am a different person entirely and thank heavens I am. I wouldn't want to be you for anything in the world!"

I didn't get slapped for that. I don't know how I escaped it but I did. I guess my mom was more worried about getting her uniform perfectly straight and void of any wrinkles to want to get up off her own ass and come after me. She had resumed ironing at this point and I left her there to chew on my words, though I knew that she would have already forgotten what I had said by the time I had gotten to my room and Judge Judy came on. She would be more interested in the court case on TV than she would be about trying to better herself and be a kinder person.

When you died Dad and Mom started collecting the checks from you, she told me, "When you move out, it's okay for you to collect them for a little while but make sure you don't rely on them for the rest of your life like so many people do. Losers do that and you weren't brought up to be a loser. Make sure you go to college, get your doctorate's degree, and get a well paying job. Then you can buy me the house in Tuscany that I've been longing for."

"Okay Mom," I said dully, wishing that she would shut up and leave me alone. I didn't know what life had in store for me, didn't even want to think about it right then after I had lost someone so near and dear to me. There was one thing I did know, though. It was that there would never, EVER be a house in Tuscany that my mother would receive from me. If she wanted a house in Tuscany, she would have to work for it herself to buy it or talk one of her suitors into purchasing it for her.

Looking back on what she had said to me now makes me laugh. Jennifer, the very person who had time and time again lectured me on having to work for the things I want in life, had completely disregarded everything that she had said to me prior to your death and was now expecting ME to buy HER a house in Tuscany with MY hard earned money, not hers. So, in her mind, it was okay for her to sit on her ass at home and let other people work to provide her the things that she wanted but it wasn't okay for people who are actually sick or disabled to receive benefits to live on as they struggle day after day just to get by. How sick is that?

The last time I spoke with her, which was over six months ago, I had informed her that Amira was on Medicaid and WIC. She tried desperately to hide her disgust but she couldn't quite manage it.

"Well Ashlee, make sure you don't keep her on it forever, the Medicaid I mean. It's welfare, you know that, right?"

"Yeah, I know," I said, a huge smile on my face.

"It's the best option we have right now. It's better than her not having any insurance at all, wouldn't you say so Mother?"

The last part of my question was sarcastic, aimed right at her angry button. Since I wasn't sitting right next to her, I wasn't afraid of her reaction. She couldn't slap me or try to drag me by my hair all the way from Port Ludlow. The smile on my face grew even wider as I thought to myself that she was very aware of that fact herself. I could just picture her sitting on the cold, unwelcoming, loveless leather couch in her cold, loveless home, trying to control her palms, which were twitching convulsively with the urge to strike against my face.

"Yes," she said with a sigh as she tried to contain her rage.

"It is good that Amira is on some kind of insurance now. All I'm saying is make sure she isn't on it for too long. Medicaid sucks! They don't give people the care they need! And it's welfare. You are better than that. I want more for you and I certainly want more for Amira. I want her to grow up having nice things and good insurance. Go back to school, get a job, and live life the way I taught you was the right way. Don't be a welfare loser. You don't have to be low class, you know. People on welfare are just CHOOSING to be low class and trashy, but you aren't going to be like that."

"Okay Mom," I told her.

"Keep telling yourself that. You'll see."

I let the rest of the sentence drop off, knowing that my last words had deeply disconcerted Jennifer.

So now, over six months since I have spoken to her, I am proud to announce that I am still on Medicaid, WIC, and on food stamps and so is Amira. We still live in our furnitureless studio and we still mooch off of Chris's parents when the money from social security just doesn't last. When I have time, I go to POWER, which is an office in downtown Olympia where advocates are present to advocate for the rights of single parents who are on welfare. I know that it would disgust my mother beyond words if she knew that I was a part of a community of people who advocated for people's welfare rights! I don't do it just to disgust Mom, though. I also do it because the work is rewarding, especially when I can help a single parent get more money out of DSHS by telling them a secret that nobody really knows about that DSHS tries to keep quiet. I never tell them that they should get a job! No, I am there to help them "work the system" as people like my mom would say, and it feels great!

Mom still hasn't gotten to see Amira, which is, I'm sure, making her tight with fury every day. All she has are pictures, which she gets from looking on Chris's Facebook page. At first I was mad that she could see Amira's pictures. She doesn't deserve to see Amira at all, even if all she is seeing are pictures that we have taken during one of our many fun adventures. But then, the more I thought about it, the more I came to terms with it and realized that, without a doubt, the pictures that Mom gets off the internet just make it all the more difficult for her to know that pictures are the only thing she will have to hold, touch, and interact with. Never will she be given the honor of meeting precious Amira and, I'm sure, at this point, she knows it's true. Amira, my precious daughter, born to the daughter of Jennifer, the daughter that never turned out the way she wanted, the daughter who never WILL turn out the way she wanted, the daughter who she was too embarrassed to call her own.

HAIL SATAN!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Disgusting: Buying a Lottery Ticket

Hey hey!

Man, I miss the way you used to say that. I miss the way my mother would cringe every time you said it, how angry it made her when I started copying you. She'd say, "You know I don't like the hey hey thing! Don't say that!"

I must admit, I don't really say it nowadays but it isn't because my mom didn't like it. I think it's just because it feels sacred to me, like I would be breaking some kind of code you and I had created if I started saying it. That sounds weird, I know, but sacred things have that way about them that can turn people weird. What can I say?

So, the day before yesterday I bought a lottery ticket. Chris and I are broker than broke man. I don't really know how we're going to get through the month. Hopefully no emergencies arise. Anyway, Chris says that we have enough diapers to last for the rest of the month and we have plenty of formula for Amira and food for us so I'm not too terribly worried. Before I started this project, being broke really depressed me. All I could think about was the fact that I was too broke to do anything. All I could think about was wishing I could do something, like go see a movie or go bowling or go out to eat at the fancy Oyster House but couldn't do any of those things because we didn't have enough money. Now that I'm working on this project, I don't feel so bad about it. I'm too busy concocting new ideas of how I can disgust my mom and make her even madder than the last story and set of pictures. Because of this, it makes me feel more hopeful about the future. It also allows me to be satisfied with what I have and it makes my desires for expensive restaurants and outings almost nonexistent. As long as I know I'm doing something creative that I know will make my mom mad, I'm as happy as a sunny day.

Anyway, despite the fact that we were so broke, Chris and I decided that it would be fun to buy a lottery ticket. Actually, it was Chris's idea to buy one.

Chris and I were in the middle of a conversation about how we both hope very much that we get in the lottery to get on the waiting list for section 8 housing. You see, the waiting list is so long and the program is so dysfunctional that there is a lottery to actually get on the waiting list. Then, about a month after you apply, you'll get a notice stating whether you got on or not. IF you get on the waiting list, which is super, duper iffy, you are rewarded with what? Yeah, you guessed it, waiting, waiting, and, oh wait, what else? Oh yeah, that's right, more waiting. Monica, one of our dearest friends, thinks that we will have to wait seven years before our turn comes up but Chris doesn't think it's that long of a wait. I hope he's right. I love my studio but it would be nicer to have more space. The studio, for now, is tolerable because I know that if Mom were ever to set foot in here, she'd be mortified. She might very well have a heart attack right then and there and drop dead, granting the wish I've had for pretty much my whole life. I'm also proud of my studio because it is my very first place that I chose all by myself and I'm the one who pays all the rent all on my own. Chris came here to look at it with me to make sure it was nice enough so it has meaning to it, too. As much as I want a bigger place and more space, I'll miss this place and will be somewhat sad when I have to leave.

"Nevaeh is in charge of luck," I told Chris as we sat talking.

"She's working diligently to give us her best shot at getting us on the lottery. I know she can do it, I KNOW IT! She has given me good luck before. Nevaeh is my good luck charm."

"Okay," Chris said a worried air to his voice.

"What's wrong Smm Smm?" I asked him. I thought that telling him about Nevaeh would bring him some hope and comfort like it did with me.

"Well, it's just that Nevaeh doesn't really have anything to work with. It's going to be very, very difficult for her to get us on the waiting list."

Such a pessimist, I thought to myself as I rocked back and forth slowly on my bed.

"Remember the last time we bought a lottery ticket a while ago?" he asked me.

"Yeah, I remember."

"Well, Nevaeh picked the numbers and she lost and that was when she actually had something to work with. This lottery is different."

"Yes, I guess it is," I agreed.

"But if we don't get on, we don't get on. Why are you so worried?"

"I'm worried because I don't want all of your friends and you to get mad at Nevaeh if we lose. What are your friends planning on doing if we don't get on?"

"I was going to bite her nose off!" shouted Chrissie as she bounced up and down on the bed.

"Nooooooooooo!" Chris said, putting his head in his hands.

"That's why I'm worried. I don't want anybody biting anyone's nose, especially Nevaeh's nose. Nevaeh is so tiny!"

"I was going to throw a candy bar at her," Mary Meyers said.

"Oh no!" Repeated Chris.

"We're not going to be mean to Nevaeh," I assured him.

"I don't mind living in this studio. Mom would really hate this place and your parents already do hate it. That alone gives me enough satisfaction to tolerate being all cramped up in here. And, if we get a storage unit like we talked about, we'll be golden! Don't worry Smm Smm!"

"What do your friends think?" Chris asked, not feeling quite convinced that it would all be all right.

"I won't bite off her nose," Chrissie reassured him as she walked over to him and touched him tenderly on the pointy part of his nose.

"I won't be mean to her either," Mary Meyers joined in. She, too, walked over to him and wrapped her tiny arms around him in a giant bear hug.

"I was just going to throw the candy bar at her so that she could catch it in her mouth and eat it! I didn't mean to make you sad Smm Smm."

"So you guys don't mind living here? You won't mind having to live here a while longer if we don't get on?" Chris asked, sounding more confident and loads calmer.

"No, we don't mind," all of my imaginary friends chorused.

"Besides Smm Smm, we can always look for housing somewhere and just put up with living with roommates," Smm Smm told him.

"Okay then," Chris said, totally relaxed at last.

"As long as everybody will be nice to Nevaeh if we don't get on, I'm happy."

With that settled, Chrissie and Mary Meyers returned to my side.

Some time later, an idea came to Chris while we were lying in bed. It was late at night and Chris was rocking the baby to sleep.

"Hey, how would you like to buy a lottery ticket tomorrow and let Nevaeh pick all the numbers?" Chris asked as he continued to rock the car seat that the baby slept in. She has a crib but she hates sleeping in there. She'd rather be all scrunched up in her tiny car seat, don't ask me why.

"That sounds like SO MIUCH FUN!" hollered Chrissie.

"I want to do it," Nevaeh cried.

"Okay then, make sure you all help your mom get to bed early then so that she'll get up in time to play the lottery."

Picking up his I-pad, Chris began surfing the net, looking at all the different lottery games there were and how big the prizes were and what the odds of winning were for each game.

"I think we should play the lotto because Nevaeh can pick twelve numbers, which is more numbers than the rest of them have," Chris said after a few quiet moments of browsing all the games.

"That sounds FUN!" hollered Chrissie again.

"What does Nevaeh think?" asked Chris.

"I like it," responded Nevaeh.

"The more numbers, the better I have of actually getting us a prize. And I like it because it makes you say tweeolve."

When I first met Chris, my friends and I couldn't help noticing that he said certain words funny. In general, he spoke funny, much different than anyone else I had ever heard before. The number twelve was just one of his funny words. He has many, many more. One time, during a family get together with his family, not mine of course; Chris told his mom, "Ashlee thinks I talk funny."

"You do talk funny," his mom said without hesitation.

I remember thinking that it was weird that his mom took my side, the side of a total stranger, which was me of course, instead of taking the side of her own son. Yes, Chris isn't her flesh and blood because he was adopted, but still, he IS her son! I wondered what words she thought he said funny and wanted to ask her about it sometime. I still haven't gotten the chance to ask her about it yet.

All night my friends kept waking up excited, making it almost impossible for me to get decent sleep. The next day, we had a loungin' morning and afternoon and then, when evening arrived, warm and cloudy, Chris, Amira, all of my friends, and I set off for the grocery store to buy the lottery ticket with one of our last precious dollars. That day, just like the day before that, I decided to go out in my pajamas. The same exact ones that I showed you last time and wrote about. Mom would be mad if she saw me but she'd be even madder once she came close to me, close enough to smell me. Oh yes Dad, I've been stinking' it up. I haven't worn deodorant in days and I'm loving every second of it.

To say it mildly, her pajamas smell. To say it honest to Satan truthfully, they smell so bad that I'm about ready to chuck them in the dirty laundry pile and get a clean pair of pajamas, soon to be defiled from my "odoriferous" body, as your mom would say.

Yeah, if Mom were to see me right now and if she had seen me on that beautiful day that we bought the lottery ticket on, she would be completely devastated. Not only had I managed to rip the shoulder on the left side of the shirt but I had also quite successfully, a little TOO successfully, I must add, corrode her precious, sentimental pajama shirt with armpit juice stench. Oh, how I wish she had seen me then, how she could see me now. Only I don't want to see that awful woman, I just wish I could see her reaction and nothing else. But life just doesn't work that way. You either have to see the horrid people that were once in your life who you despise with every fiber of your being if you want to see a good reaction or you decide it's better not to see them and in turn, you don't get the satisfaction of seeing them completely blow up. Life's unfair!

When we arrived at the store, I had to all but restrain Chrissie as I put the dollar in the ticket machine and waited for the ticket to come out. Chrissie was determined to snatch the ticket before Nevaeh could get her tiny hands on it.

"I want to pick the numbers," she wailed in my arms.

"I know you do Chrissie, but we all decided that it was Nevaeh's turn to do it today," I told her, trying to soothe her.

"Next time you can pick the numbers, okay?"

Chrissie would have kept on sulking but then the ticket came out, Nevaeh leapt in the slot and grabbed it, and then it was all numbers from there.

Once all the numbers were picked and written down, pictures were taken, and the crippling laughter had subsided amongst my friends and I, we headed for the park for some evening swinging time. Swinging in my pajamas. Again!

As I swung, looking up at the darkening sky, I thought about Mom's view on people who buy lottery tickets. Mom wasn't much of a lottery player. Now and then she would buy scratch tickets but she never won anything. Once in a while she would pick numbers, though I really only remember her ever playing scratch. She's mostly into slot machines at the casino. I guess they are a tad more exciting than playing the lottery but not much. The big difference is, in the world of gambling, that a lottery ticket, at least the one we bought anyway, only cost one dollar. Playing on the slots can cost way more. Mom always brought twenty dollars to play with. If she got ahead, she would sometimes keep playing until she started losing and then cash out. Sometimes she would just cash out as soon as she got just a little ahead. But never did she just spend one dollar like Chris and I did. Lottery ticket equals cheap fun once in a blue moon. Casino slot machines equals you might as well flush your money down the toilet and declare bankruptcy on everything before you fall headfirst in the gutter. My way of gambling is way smarter than Mom's. Ha ha on her!

One day, while we were sitting at home watching mindless, boring TV, Judge Judy no doubt or another court show, a commercial for lottery tickets came on. My mom had been feeling triggery that day, meaning that she was a walking time bomb just waiting for the right moment to detonate the force of mass destruction on whoever had the terrible misfortune of saying the wrong thing or looking at her the wrong way or messing up the tassels on her throw rugs or whatever. The list could go on and on and become a novel in itself.

While the person in the commercial rambled on about how great playing the lottery was, my mom went off. She was just smoking for starters, no full-blown, mass destruction explosion yet.

"People who play the lottery are so stupid. The lottery is such a waste of money."

So is playing the slot machines at the casino, I thought but I kept my mouth clamped tightly shut. Now was definitely not the time to contradict anything that my mom said. It was going to work to my advantage, for sanity's sake, to just mmmmm-hmmmmmm and aaaaaahhhh-haaaaaa whenever she expected me to and pretend that she knew it all, which is exactly what she wanted me to do.

"Mmmmmm-hmmmmm," I half-heartedly agreed with her.

"I hope that you never waste your money on stupid shit like the lottery. It doesn't set a good message," Mom blathered on.

Who, exactly, are we trying to set a message for? Another thought left unspoken. Yes, another day in the life at Jennifer's house.

"It makes me so angry how people complain how poor they are and then they go apply for welfare to support their families and then turn around and buy petty shit like lottery tickets, which, by the way, they will NEVER WIN!"

Yeah Mom, like nobody's ever won the lottery before. Nope, never heard of a winner in the world's entire history Mom. NEVER!

Suddenly, she turned on me, smoke wisps becoming more fiery. I could hear the sizzle begin.

"Why aren't you talking?!" she said, her voice raising an octave with each word that she uttered.

"Are you sitting here under MY roof thinking that it is a GOOD THING to play the lottery?"

"No Mom, not at all," I told her, keeping my voice as calm and cool as I could manage. It wanted to tremble so badly but I wasn't going to let it. I fought to stay calm as I added, "I'm just thinking about my leftover homework. I have to study for a test tomorrow. May I be excused?"

I rarely asked my mom whether I could be excused but that day definitely called for it.

"Yes you may," she said coarsely.

"But if I hear you up there, laughing at me and mumbling under your breath, I'm coming up there and you're getting slapped. Nobody disrespects me in MY HOUSE!"

"I know Mom," I said, rising slowly from the couch, fighting my muscles which wanted desperately to run to the safety and security of my room. Or, rather, the RELATIVE safety and security of my room. Nowhere in that house was safe and secure. Not when Mom was home anyway.

Knowing very well that if I listened to my body's fight-or-flight response I'd be under even more scrutiny by the lion that was waiting to pounce, I forced myself to walk slowly towards the hallway leading to the stairs to my room. They always say that if you are ever confronted by a wild animal in the woods that you are supposed to walk slowly and never run. I kept that in mind as I slowly walked, feeling more relaxed the further I got from the furious lion that was, in fact, human. My mother.

Once I was in my room, I sighed a deep sigh and collapsed on my bed. I'd made it! I didn't really have homework to finish but I needed an excuse to get out of there. And since education and absolute perfection were on Mom's top priority list, I knew that playing the homework card would surely be my get out of jail free card. Sure enough, it was.

Throughout the show, commercial breaks happened and, each time, the stupid lottery commercial came on. After about the fourth time, Mom's remaining ammunition finally ignited and BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!!! CAAAAAAAAAA-BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!

"COME OOOOOOOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNNNNNN!" she shouted at the top of her lungs.

"It's bad that you play that commercial on TV at all! But to keep playing it over and over and over again like this!!!! It's just RIDICULOUS!!!!!!!!"

I doubled over in silent laughter. Even at the scariest of times, I could almost always find something about my mom's totally out-of-control temper amusing. I just wished that I had a recorder that I knew how to use so that I could record it and use it to my advantage someday.

Suddenly, I could hear Mom's cell phone vibrate. She answered it on the third ring. It was Chris, I could tell by the way her voice relaxed as she deeply inhaled much-needed air, air that would keep her fire going, and said, "Hello handsome." Totally acting as if nothing had happened. Once again, the lake was calm. Not even ripples. That would soon change, I was sure.

There was a pause. Then she said, "Oh, just watching TV. They are playing this stupid commercial promoting playing the lottery and gambling all your money away. Seriously, our society is so going down the tubes. People gamble and gamble and gamble and then wonder why they are poor and on welfare, yet they don't do anything to stop the gambling or do anything about finding a job. RIDICULOUS! And the odds of winning are near to impossible! Why do people even bother playing? It makes NO SENSE!"

Just like that, the waves came crashing again. Only this time, it was Chris who was underwater and quickly drowning in her tsunami tirade. Whatever. At least it wasn't me.

Sitting there on the swing thinking about all of that made me smile.

As it turns out, we lost. I got two numbers right but that wasn't enough to win anything, not even our dollar back. At first I was a little sad about losing and so were all of my friends.

"Oh Smm Smm cards!" They all chorused in disappointment once we discovered that we hadn't won anything.

"Smm Smm cards, Smm Smm cards, SMM SMM CARDS!!!!"

Smm Smm cards is something that all of my friends, especially Chrissie, say when they get frustrated. They didn't say it until recently. You see, we've been trying to come up with things to say that can be used as a good substitute for swear words so Amira doesn't catch sailor's mouth. Honestly, Chris and I really don't care whether she swears or not but Chris worries that the school that she attends will so we're trying not to cuss in front of her. So, for now, the most popular swear word substitute is Smm Smm cards. So far, it counts for all swear words because we haven't invented any new ones yet.

"It's okay that we lost," I told them.

"Playing the lottery is hard. People don't usually win the lottery, you know. But, man, that jackpot was pretty high. Over five million dollars. I wonder what we'd do with that amount of money."

"Buy a house," Chris said.

"Get a dog!" yelled Chrissie.

"Buy a Dairy Queen," giggled Nevaeh.

"So, nobody's mad at Nevaeh, right?" Chris said, sounding a little tense again.

"No, we're not mad at Nevaeh," Chrissie assured him and all the other friends chimed in, too.

"But I'm still going to throw a candy bar at her," Mary Meyers said.

"She wants one."

Reaching into her fancy snake skin purse, she pulled out a king size symphony bar and hurled it right at Nevaeh's face. With one swift leap Nevaeh caught it right in her mouth and began nibbling on it, just like a guinea pig might nibble on a piece of celery.

"I think it's funnier that we lost," Chris told me.

"Why?" I asked him, curious.

"Because it will make your mom more mad, don't you think?"

"I hadn't really thought of that," I replied.

"But, come to think of it, yes, she would be madder about that. I mean, she would be totally outraged if we got rich and I didn't share my wealth with her, which I most certainly would not. I'd flaunt it in her face by taking pictures of me buying extravagant things and going out to eat at extravagant restaurants and then putting them up on the blog but she most definitely would NOT be seeing any of it. The fact that we lost is, though, very funny, especially because we are in such dire straits financially right now. Yes, it IS better that we lost and I think that deep down, Nevaeh knew that, too."

So yes Dad, I am here to tell you that I totally wasted money that I really don't have to waste, on buying a lottery ticket and then lost big time. We didn't even get our measly dollar back. I'm totally cool with that, though. I got what I wanted out of it, which was to disgust my mom. Right now as I type this letter, I know in my heart that I have succeeded and that makes me smile big time.

HAIL SATAN!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Disgusting: Going Out in My Pajamas

Hi Dad!

Man, I have been such a lazy buns lately! I do love writing to you but I was in some serious need for some lounging' days after all that writing I did last week. Originally I was only going to take one loungin' day for myself to do nothing but sleep all day and be lazy but it turned into four loungin' days! I tell you, those loungin' days can be quite addictive. They are like Oreo cookies. Once you have one you can't stop until you've had three or four of them. You never told me how addictive the loungin' days were! Even if you had, though, it wouldn't have mattered. I would have them anyway because it was something that you did and I always strove to be like you when I was little and still do today. I don't just want to be like you to disgust my mother, though it is a big part of why I strive to be like you. It's also because I really love you and admire you. I loved the way that you answered to no one and how you never let anyone shame you for being lazy and having loungin' days.

Yesterday I had such a fun loungin' day. It wasn't like the one that day when you and I were lying on the couch and got barged in on by Mom. No, it was a different kind of loungin' day, one that would make Mom even MORE mad than the one that you and I had. Here's my almost daily devotion to the Disgusting Project that I partook in yesterday.

I was feeling incredibly lazy yesterday but at the same time I didn't feel like being trapped inside of the house. I felt like going out and eating ice cream and then going to the park for some swinging with Amira. She absolutely goes bonkers when I swing with her, laughing and squealing all the while her dad pushes her on the swing. I usually take the swing right next to the baby swing that she swings in and relish in the sounds of her glee and joy, as well as the feeling of ticklish butterflies in my stomach and the WHOOSHING sound as the wind whispers in my ears as the swing goes back and forth. I also relish in the way the air whips my hair all around, making it even messier and out of control. Yes, I am 24 years old but I still haven't grown out of swinging. I think it's mostly because I have so many fun memories of you pushing me on the swing and chatting with me when I was young.

Anyway, I longed to go out of the house and have a go at the park and I was also "hankering" as you would say, for a nice, large, creamy, soft served chocolate ice cream cone from Grandfather's Ice Cream Parlor. The dilemma, though, was that I didn't feel at all like getting dressed for the outing.

If I lived at home, it would have been a real dilemma because my mom thought it was truly unacceptable to go out in public wearing pajamas. Since I don't live with her anymore, though, it wasn't a dilemma at all. In five minutes, I was ready to go. All I had to do was brush my teeth and bam, I was ready! So simple and yet it would have been totally impossible if I had lived with Jennifer.

When I left the house in my pajamas, I felt great! I wished that Mom was driving through Olympia and would see her not-so-perfect daughter walking around in thin, worn-out pajamas. The same pajamas that she had worn when she was a high school student. Yes, those were her pajamas before I got my hands on them. I stole them from her before I moved to Olympia one day when she was at work. I was completely fed up with her for always going into my room and stealing my favorite socks and never returning them to me. So I walked proudly and shamelessly into her room, rifled through her closet for something worth stealing that I knew she would miss, and BAM! I found her faded old coffee pajamas.

She was too big to fit in them but she kept them because they were sentimental for her. Not anymore! Laughing to myself, I whisked the pajamas up from the closet floor where they had fallen off of their hangers and carried them upstairs to be packed away in one of my moving away bags. As I sloppily scrunched them into one of the paper bags holding my clothes, I smiled to myself knowing how much my mom would disapprove the fact that I had packed them without having neatly folded them first like Mom always packed her clothes. As I was laughing about that, I also noticed just how willing and eager the PJ's were to be packed up for the big move. They didn't mind one bit that they were scrunched tightly in a paper bag amongst all sorts of other clothing. Seriously, my packing job was as untidy as they came.

As we began to walk into town, I remembered all of this and laughed to myself. Then I said to Chris, "My mother would be so embarrassed to see me in her pajamas. Well, she would be embarrassed to see me in ANY pajamas while out in public but she would be even more mad if she saw me walking around town in THESE pajamas."

"Why?" Chris asked as he carefully pushed Amira's stroller along the bumpy, broken sidewalk. Seriously, those roads are in serious need for repair. You'd think that the city would upkeep the roads here because Olympia, after all, is the capital of Washington State. But… no. They just let the roads worsen more and more over time. Which, as you might guess, is one reason why I love Olympia so much. It is untidy and imperfect just like me and proud of being that way, too. Olympia is unashamed of its appearance just as it should be and so am I.

"Because she would never, EVER have worn these pajamas out in public."

"Those were her pajamas?"

"Yes, they most certainly were. She told me that she used to wear them when she was in high school. She kept them for all these years, even when she was too fat to fit in them anymore."


"Because they were sentimental to her I guess. She never could get rid of any of her stuff. They were always sentimental in some unfathomable way."

Amira listened to us talk with a huge smile on her face. As we neared all the shops, I began to smile, too. It was broad daylight and there I was, walking around in old, not so stylish pajamas right out in the open for all of Olympia to see. As we walked, I shouted "Hail Satan!" to everyone that we passed. At one point, some random dude said to me "Hail Satan! Man, you're crazy but I love you."

"Satan loves you," I replied, wondering if the fact that I was wearing pajamas out in broad daylight had anything to do with him thinking that I am crazy or if it all had to do with the fact that I shout "Hail Satan!" to everyone that I see as I walk.

The first place we visited was the park. There were plenty of mothers with their children at the park. I felt their stares as they assessed my unkempt appearance. Wearing pajamas, wild, fly away hair that hasn't been combed in Satan knows how long, filled with tangles and dreadlocks of all sizes and severities. I used to work harder at trying to untangle them. Now, not so much.

I got on the swing next to Amira and began to swing. I didn't give a rip what the starers thought of me. All I cared about was having fun with Amira and Chris. I hoped that I would successfully pass on the good, shining example to Amira of how good it is to be lazy and totally careless about how others in society view you.

When Amira and I got tired of swinging, we went to Grandfather's Ice Cream Parlor next. The place was hopping. Almost every table was taken. I guess almost everybody in Olympia had ice cream on their mind, too, just like me.

Again I could feel the stares as dozens of people tried to comprehend why on Earth someone would want to wear pajamas to an ice cream store. Or, maybe they were actually admiring the fact that I didn't care what others thought about me. Maybe they admired my self confidence and were staring so that they might catch some of my self confidence and apply it to their own boring, phony lives. Unfortunately, self confidence isn't contagious. You have to build it up yourself. It takes time, lots and lots of time, especially if you have been abused, but if you truly want it and work towards getting it, the self confidence will come. It will come slow at first, almost unnoticeable, but it will come.

Another thought crossed my mind as I basked in the rich, creamy taste of chocolate ice cream. Maybe they weren't staring at me after all. Maybe none of them were staring, not even the mothers at the park. Maybe it was all just in my head. Maybe nobody else in the world gives a flying fuck about whether I wear pajamas in public or not. Maybe, just maybe, it was only my mother who cared about it so fervently. So many things that she found offensive and unacceptable are so small in comparison to all the other unacceptable or inappropriate things going on in the world. Maybe, I thought, SHE really was the one who cared about it all along while others looked beyond it, focusing on the more pressing matters of the world. And, people these days are usually so self-absorbed that they generally don't look past anything but their own future and things that pertain to them and them only. Probably nobody would have raised a single eyebrow if I ever had worn pajamas out in public. Yes, that's right, I was never given the chance to do that when I lived at home, which is why I do it now.

Yesterday wasn't the only day that I have worn pajamas in public and I don't always wear the coffee ones. Sometimes I wear the pajamas that my mom bought me for Valentines Day six years ago. The pants have xoxoxo's on them. The other pair of pajamas are zebra striped and, yes, I most certainly do wear those in public, too. I really have no idea why Mom got the "hair brained idea" as you would put it; to buy me PJ's for Valentines Day. I mean, I never asked for them. As a matter of fact, I had a drawer that was almost overflowing with pajamas and yet she bought them for me anyway. Another one of her unwanted, unnecessary gifts.

Some of the time, I also go out in public without wearing a bra and while in pajamas. Yesterday, I must admit, I was wearing a bra yesterday underneath the pajama shirt because the park is kind of a long walk from home and I don't like to feel them jiggling during long, brisk walks. I also wear bras because I still have the deeply imbedded fear that Mom put into my brain when I hit puberty.

"If you don't wear a bra your boobs will get saggy and you'll wind up being all hunched over like the Hunch Back of Notre Dame. People will think you look like a freak and you'll have even more back trouble than you do now because there isn't anything supporting them. You must wear a bra if you want your boobs to stay nice and perky and if you want to avoid having to get a boob lift in the future. By the way, boob lifts are very painful operations and they leave very ugly scars. You'll never find anyone who will want to look at your body when you are naked if you have to get all kinds of operations or if you let your boobs sag all the way down to your knees."

Back then, I used to take most of the threats of something horrible happening to me that my mom spoke of literally because I didn't really have anyone else to ask about whether what she said was true or just to scare me. Despite my gullibility, though, I still found it very difficult to believe that a person's breasts really could sag all the way to the knees. When I confronted my mother on that, her defensive wall sprang up immediately the way it always did when she was confronted about something both minor or major. It didn't matter, the wall always came up.

"It is true Ashlee!" she hissed at me.

"Everything I tell you is true. I am not an over exaggerator like your FATHER is! And, unlike him, I keep my promises."

I wasn't quite sure why she felt the need to attack you so much just then, but whatever. She was always launching personal sneak attacks on people. Since I know how she thinks because I had the misfortune of having to live with her for over eighteen years, this is how her thought process worked when it came to sneak attacks. She, of course, never fessed up to her thoughts but I know her better than anyone else so I know how her manipulative, controlling, power hungry thought process works. It's like this:

If I launch a personal attack on someone, I'd better do it when they are least expecting it. That way they will be hard pressed to come up with an immediate comeback because they will be too stunned to respond. If I sneak attack them, it is a sure thing that I will get my way no matter what.

I still don't believe her about breasts sagging all the way down to the knees but I do wear bras nonetheless because her words might ring true about back troubles in the future if they aren't supported. And, I just like the support of having one sometimes. But there are some days when not even her words can lift the blanket of laziness that washes over me. On those days, I don't even take the time to take my pajama shirt off, put a bra on, and put the pajama shirt on again before leaving. I simply just get up and go no makeup, no neatly combed hair, and no boob support. It is on those days when I feel the proudest.

I remember a time when I was in grade school. I was attending Vinland Elementary School in Poulsbo. I think I was in the third or fourth grade. Anyway, once a year, Spirit Week came around. Spirit week, in case you never heard about it, is a week when kids get to do all sorts of goofy stuff. Like, one of the days you are supposed to come to school wearing mismatched clothing and then another day you are supposed to bring a bunch of bubble gum to school and then have a contest with the rest of the grades in the school to see how much you can chew at one time. You chew and chew for about three minutes or so, your mouth as full of gum as you can stand it, and then you spit the gum out in a bag or something and then the school weighs the gum that each grade level participated in to see whos class had the highest number of pounds of gum. I know, it's kind of confusing, but it was fun all the same.

I forgot who won. It wasn't our class though, I'm pretty sure of that. If we did win, the prize we got for our stellar gum chewing abilities was highly unimpressive and unmemorable. Probably some stupid puppet or something.

Anyway, one of the Spirit Week days was pajama day. Everyone was supposed to come to school wearing pajamas. They were to wear them all day.

So, when Mom woke me up that morning to go to school, I continued lying in bed staring up at the ceiling and grinned, looking forward to the fact that I didn't have to waste valuable time getting dressed and could instead use it to lay in bed under the warm, fuzzy covers for a few extra minutes.

Mom began rifling through my dresser drawers, trying to pick the most outstanding set of uniform for me to wear that day. Vinland had a very stupid rule that made all of us students wear uniform. I didn't understand it back then and I still don't know. I think it's stupid. I don't really know what my mother's take on it was, though. I never thought to ask her.

"Mom, you don't need to pick out uniform today," I told her.

"Today is pajama day."

"Ashlee, stop wasting time here. Get up and get dressed! Hurry up, get a move on!"

I didn't budge. Every morning, as soon as she woke me up, it was rush, rush, rush. She never gave me enough time to get ready at a leisurely level. That was one thing that I loved about you. Even when we were in an actual hurry, not just some made up hurry that Mom invented to get me out of the house faster so she could shop or sneak around with some guy or whatever, you hardly ever rushed me. I only remember you rushing me one time in my entire life and it was my fault because I wouldn't get out of bed to catch the school bus. But even then you didn't really rush me. You just tickled me until I got out of bed and you made it fun for me to make having to get up early tolerable.

"What did I just say?!" As usual, she was yelling now. Nothing new there.

"You said to get up and get a move on," I said meekly.

"No, you aren't LISTENING! I said HURRY up and get a move on! Now here is your uniform," she said as she threw them on the bed at me.

"Today is pajama day for Spirit Week," I tried again to tell her.

"We're supposed to go to school in our pajamas today. It's part of the fun."

Since Mom always wanted me to be just like everyone else, a cookie cutter child, I thought that she would embrace the idea that, at last, her child would fit in somewhat with the rest of the other kids. But… no.

"You are NOT going to school in your pajamas!" she bellowed.

"It's wrong to wear pajamas in public. It sends a bad message about you to the people around you. I can't even believe the school is condoning that kind of behavior."

Luckily, Tim came to my rescue. That didn't happen very often. And, although I really didn't like the guy all that much, I was grateful to him just then.

"What's the matter with you?" he demanded as he came through the door.

"Didn't you ever have Spirit Week at your school?"

"Yes but we never had a pajama day. Our school didn't believe in encouraging laziness and I don't think this school should either."

"Fine Jennifer," he mumbled as he walked out on her, something that he always did when he was fed up with her.

"Make her be the odd woman out. That'll REALLY help her make some friends."

Obviously his words sank into her shallow brain because, finally, she relented.

"Okay," she said her voice stiff as cardboard.

"You can go to school in your pajamas, but I'm packing some uniform in your backpack for later. When school gets out, you are to go to the bathroom and change into normal clothes. I will not allow my child to go walking around in public wearing nothing but pajamas."

Phew! I finally won! Not that I really cared much about fitting in with everybody else. I thought they were all stupid and I couldn't relate to them even if I did want to. I was just happy that I had one less thing to do in the morning.

Of course, my mom had stolen my magical few extra minutes to be lazy under the covers. I hadn't really been able to enjoy them, what with all the racket she was creating. But, that was life with her as I knew it. She was always sucking the fun and joy out of everything. That is why and how she got the name Fun sucker. I got that name from a movie and quickly applied it when referring to her.

Pajama day at school was great! I wished that we could go to school in pajamas all the time. When I got home from school, wearing the uniform as Mom had repeatedly instructed me to do throughout the entire drive to school, she said, "Where are your pajamas?"

"They're on my pillow in my bedroom where I always keep them," I responded.

"Don't get smart with me," she growled.

"Bring them out here and put them in the washing machine. You aren't wearing them tonight."


"Because I said so! Now MOVE!"

Later, I would hear her telling Tim that she hoped that "No other child would be wearing the same pajamas that they wore to school to bed that night because the pajamas were all covered with bacteria from being in a public place."

Tim just mmmmmm-hmmmmmmd and aaaaaahhhh-haaaaaad the whole time she spoke, feigning interest as he often did when she went on one of her tangents.

Thinking about that conversation that she had with Tim makes me laugh. Well, it was rather a one-sided conversation since Mom dominated the conversation. I laugh, though, because I just realized something. When I wear my PJ's out, I sleep in them later that night, too, bacteria and all. I guess I'm doing things subconsciously to disgust my mom without even realizing it. Not only that, but the PJ's that I'm wearing now, the same ones that she cared for like they were ancient art pieces that belonged in a fancy art museum, are a little torn from putting the shirt on too quickly. Mom always hated wearing holey clothes and I totally forgot about that until now! I guess my hatred for her is more deeply rooted than I imagined it was. That just goes to show you how deeply my love for you, Dad, is rooted into my psyche.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Disgusting: Untitled Letter

Dear Dad,

This project has been so much fun so far! I sure hope you've liked it, too. This is really the first time I've written letters to you, pretending like I was sitting in your trailer talking to you like we used to. I would sit in the rocking chair, rocking it back and forth, listening to it squeak with every movement that the old, creaky thing made. You would be sitting right across from me on the long, skinny couch, looking at me as I told you what was going on in my life. There was a little table between us so that we could eat close together and still talk, despite our mouths being filled to the brim with canned raviolis or canned spaghetti and meatballs or Vienna sausages or chocolate ice cream cones with rainbow sherbet on top. We were always eating something cheap and not-fancy when I came to your house and it used to taste so good, much, MUCH better than the homemade food that Mom would make for me to eat.

I'm really not sure what to title this letter. Perhaps it just won't have one. If it does have one by the time it gets printed and sold in a book, you should know that I came up with the title at a later time after consulting my imaginary friends and having come to an agreement on one. At present, though, this letter has no title. I want to feel right now like I am having a real, face-to-face conversation with you. I can picture it more if it doesn't have a title right now. You see, we never used to title our conversations before we would have them. We would simply open our mouths and start talking about whatever we felt like talking about. So this is what this letter to you is going to be like, okay?

I don't think there will be any pictures to go along with this letter either. When you were here, you never used to bug me with annoying cameras like Mom and Grandma Giovanna did, so this letter won't be about pictures either, though later I might decide to put a picture in it but only if all five of my friends and I agree on what it should be.

So Dad, something really funny happened last night. Well, I got the email days ago but I didn't recognize the meaning behind the email until yesterday during a long walk in the sunny park. It was actually Nevaeh who caught on before all of us did.

On March fourth, I checked my personal email account to see who had written to me. Mostly I get junk mail that I don't even bother to read so I was just skimming the messages in my inbox, only listening to what was in the subject lines of all the messages. As I reached the bottom of the stack of messages in my inbox, checking them off one by one so I could put them in the trash, I came across a message from Facebook. I didn't read the entire message, just what was in the subject line and the first sentence that was in the body of the message.

The subject read:

Getting Back On Facebook.

The first sentence in the body read:

Sorry That You've Been Having Trouble Logging Into Your Account.

Oh, stupid Facebook, I thought grumpily as I checked it off along with all the rest of the messages that were destined to be tossed right into the siber dumpster in just a minute.

They're always sending me stupid notifications that I don't care about. Like this:

Ashlee, you have notifications pending: Here's what you missed. You have a friend request, so-and-so posted on their wall, it's somebody's birthday, yadda, yadda, yadda. Nothing that I care about at all. I really should turn off the notifications on Facebook but I kind of like to know when people's birthday's are coming up. Not that I use Facebook to wish them a happy birthday, though. Facebook is so inaccessible. It used to be better and I used to be able to chat with friends and family online but, as always, they make changes every couple of months and, finally, I gave up on Facebook. Facebook, I decided, was a waste of time, designed for people who don't have much of a life and who feel that they have to keep checking who posted every hour or so. I saw how addicted to Facebook many of my college roommates were and I didn't want to become like them. Unimaginative and sitting in front of a computer screen all the time, so I stopped logging into Facebook altogether. I didn't close my account, though.

Anyway, I sent the message to the trash and quickly forgot about it. I was under the impression that Facebook had sent me that particular notification because they were trying to get me to log into Facebook since it had been forever since I'd logged in. I also thought that the message was trying to warn me that if I didn't log in soon, they would lock my account and I would have to have them call or text my cell phone if I wanted to log into my account next time. I didn't care, though. I had better things to do. There is so much more to life than Facebook, especially now that I have the love of my life to talk to and do things with and a precious daughter to dote on and laugh with and enjoy her baby stage because it's going to be over in a flash. She's already grown so much. I just can't believe how the time has flown. Sometimes it seems really slow and I wish that she would hurry up and grow. But, for the most part, it's gone by really fast, faster than I thought possible.

Yesterday, as I walked slowly in the park, shading my eyes from the blinding sunlight and relishing in how it warmed my face and reminded me of summer days with you, Nevaeh suddenly shouted, "Mommy, MOMMY, I've just realized something!"

"What is it Nevaeh?" I asked her, surprised at her sudden outburst. It was usually Chrissie who did all the yelling, not Nevaeh.

"Do you remember that email from Facebook that you got like four days ago?"

"Which one? I get tons of notifications from stupid Facebook," I told her, annoyed that she was ruining my sunny, peaceful reverie.

"The email where it says that they're sorry that you've been having trouble logging into your account. Remember Mommy, REMEMBER!!!!?"

I racked my brain, trying to remember. Finally, it came to me.

"Oh yeah, I remember. What're you so excited about?"

"Facebook wrote to you because they were trying to tell you that someone had tried to log into your account! They weren't writing just to try to get you to log in like you thought they were. Someone has tried to hack into your account Mommy! You should tell Chris about it so he can investigate! He's a computer genius!"

"That he is," I agreed.

"Okay Nevaeh, I'll tell him later. For now, I want to get some writing done and bask in the sun for a while longer. I will tell him later, though, I promise."

Keeping to my word, I told Chris later that evening as we sat in Café Vita. Chris got a hot chocolate, which I ordered for him, bought with my credit card with the money from the social security check on it, and handed to him, touching all five of his fingers just like I did in the picture where I handed him the money. Then I sat down and got down and dirty with my pint of Hougendas chocolate ice cream, which I planned on eating all by myself, giving my imaginary friends one tiny bite each but no more than that. Yeah, I know, I'm greedy with my chocolate. That's nothing new. I've been like that for as long as I can remember. I remember you trying to break that habit of mine and trying to teach me how to share, but I absolutely refused to share anything that was chocolate. Finally, you decided that it was hopeless and gave up.

"Where's the email?" Chris asked me after he took a long sip of the hot cocoa that was cloaked in white, foamy whipped cream.

"It's in the trash of my personal email account," I told him.

When he found it, he read the message and then went onto Facebook with the intent of finding out who had tried to log into my account. Chris thought that Nevaeh was definitely right about that email, even before he read it himself.

Unfortunately, Facebook won't reveal to its users who tries to log into your account, so Chris and I came up blank. Frustrated, I said, "I HATE stupid Facebook and I think that policy is just plain retarded!"

"Actually, it's a pretty good policy," Chris said gently.

"If Facebook revealed the IP address of the person who tried to log into peoples' accounts, it would make it possible for the wrong person to get accused. For instance, if I found out that the IP address of the last person who tried to get into your account was someone from Port Ludlow you'd automatically assume that it was your mother, but in actuality, it could be some other relative that you forgot about or a friend or maybe even a total stranger who just happened to be in Port Ludlow when they tried to get into your account."

"I think it was my mom who tried to log in," I said.

"I do, too. She's really mad about the project."

"But why would she try to log into my account? What would she gain from it?" I asked Chris.

"She's trying to see if you had any personal conversations with anyone on there. She's trying to find information about you since the only connection she has with you now that you won't talk to her is by going onto your Satan blog and checking to see what you're writing. She's REALLY mad!"

"Do you think she would have deleted anything if she had succeeded to log in?"

"She might have tried to delete all of your stories, though that would be pretty stupid since your stories are already published on the b blog. She might have deleted your public Facebook page, though, for the Blind Satanist, though that would also be very stupid. She would get in so much trouble for doing that and I'm sure that her and your grandma's lawyer told them both to leave you alone and to not mess with anything of yours."

"I'm so glad that she's mad about the project," I told Chris.

I'm sure it was her, it HAS to be her. I don't know of anybody else who would want to get into my account."

"I think it was her, too. It might be a coincidence and maybe it was some stranger trying to hack into your account, but I'm sure it was her. It was after you published the story about McDonalds and eating ice cream in bed and when you showed Mary Meyers and Chrissie playing with the spoon. She's really MAD!"

I laughed aloud and then stopped laughing.

"It is really frustrating that I can't hear my mother's reaction to what I'm doing now with the project and all," I said to Chris.

"I know it is," he told me.

"But you're just going to have to be satisfied knowing that she knows about it and that she's really mad. You know that she's checking up on your blog, especially now that you've been writing more. She's found about everything else that you've written about so you know that she knows about this project, too."

"Do you think that she'll get sick of reading the letters to my dad and of looking at the pictures?"

"She's not strong enough to stop reading your stories and seeing everything else that you're putting up on the blog," replied Chris as he downed the last sip of hot chocolate, then set the glass down in the middle of the table, which was Nevaeh's cue that he had finished with his drink and it was her time to jump into the glass and finish the last dregs of cocoa that he didn't want before they got cold.

I sat there, digesting what Chris had said. Finally, turning to Mary Meyers, I said, "Mary Meyers, I need you to do me a favor. I won't be able to rest until you do this for me."

"What do you want me to do?" she asked, sipping her cinnamon cappuccino and staring out the wide, tall windows.

"Do you have a show to do tonight in New York?" I asked her.

"Yeah but it doesn't start until midnight. If I do it now I can still make it to my private helicopter and get to New York in time for the show."

"Isn't the rocket faster than the helicopter?"

"Yeah but it's getting repaired by Shanelle's boyfriend right now. He's a mechanic and a real good one, too. It'll be ready tomorrow."

"What happened to it?"

"One of the strings inside of the rocket snapped during takeoff last night. Luckily I wasn't too high off the ground and I was able to parachute down to the ground without so much as a scratch. Good thing you installed a parachute in the rocket Mom or I would have broken a leg."

"I'm glad that you weren't hurt," I said, scooting over to give her a hug.

"We'll have a party for your rocket when it comes home, recovered and ready to travel again when it gets here."

"Sounds great. Now, about that favor . . ."

"Yeah, this is what I need you to do. I need you to go to my mother's house and watch the surveillance on the camera that you and Smm Smm and Chrissie installed. I want you to see if it was indeed my mom who tried to log into my account."

"Okay Mommy, that sounds great! I'd love to go."

"I want to go, I want to go, and I want to go!"

All of my friends began yelling at once. A huge commotion broke out as they jumped up from the table and began running around, flapping their arms and shouting that they wanted to go. In her excitement, Chrissie knocked over Mary Meyers' cappuccino, which spilled all over the table and soiled the floor.

"Chrissie!" Mary Meyers shouted.

"Be careful!"

"It as an accident!" Chrissie said, grabbing the broom to mop it up while Smm Smm grabbed some napkins to wipe up the mess on the table.

"I'll make you one Mary Meyers," I told her.

"No, I want one from Caffé Vita, not from you. No offense Mommy, but these cappuccinos rock the world! They have had way more practice making them than you have. But yours are good, too."

Mary Meyers went up to the counter to order another one. While she was up there ordering it, Chrissie said, "Mommy, I really, really, really, REALLY want to go! Do you think Mary Meyers is too mad at me to let me go?"

"You'll have to ask her yourself," I told her.

"I don't know what she is feeling right now."

When Mary Meyers returned with a fresh, full cup of cinnamon cappuccino, Chrissie walked up to her slowly and, trying her best not to get too excited all over again, said, "Mary Meyers, can I please go with you? I'm really sorry that I spilled your cappuccino. Well, it was kinda funny watching you leap out of the way before it got on your pretty pink dress, but I didn't mean to spill it, I promise."

"I forgive you Chrissie but I must go alone," Mary Meyers said.

"You're going to get too excited and we might get caught. Jennifer is stupid but she has bionic ears. One holler from you and we're so busted!"

"Oooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhh!" wailed Chrissie.

"Nevaeh inside the nose," she said sadly, which is a new thing that my friends have all started saying when they are happy or sad or just relaxed and content. They say it different ways according to how they're feeling.

"Chrissie, your mom needs you," Chris cut in.

"You need to help keep the panic attack away. You need to make sure that the dogs in your enormous dog pound don't lose its scent. We can't let it get into the wall."

The wall is something that my imaginary friends all built to keep the panic attacks out. The wall is lined with all kinds of noses, big ones and small ones. I'll tell you more about the wall later, perhaps in another letter to you.

"Yeah Chrissie, I need you," I chimed in.

Doing this project has meant a lot to me but it has also brought up a lot of unpleasant memories and thoughts along the way, which attracts the panic attack. I was afraid that if Chrissie left, too, her dogs would lose its scent and wouldn't be able to find it again until it was too late. The wall is pretty sturdy but, sometimes, the panic attack finds weak spots or chews its way through the wall, attempting to weaken it at its foundation so that it can have access to everything inside of it and break it down slowly until the whole thing finally gives way and topples over.

"Okay," Chrissie said, still sounding disappointed.

"But I get to go on the next adventure, okay?"

"Okay," Mary Meyers and I both agreed.

Now that that was settled, Mary Meyers grabbed her cappuccino, poured it into a plastic to-go cup, and headed out to her fancy black Lexis. She has numerous fancy cars and motorcycles and such but today, she decided to drive the Lexis, probably because it was black and could be easily hidden amongst all the greenery of the Port Ludlow woods.

Two hours later, as I anxiously awaited her return, pacing and rocking back and forth, I finally got some news from her. Mary Meyers Returned with a satisfied smile and a glowing face. I could tell that she definitely had a juicy report to give all of us.

Now, before I reveal to you what Mary Meyers found, I must first tell you a couple of things. First of all, the camera that Mary Meyers, Chrissie, and Smm Smm installed can't quite catch everything because it is a small camera and it is hidden in the branches of a big, tall tree in my mother's driveway, where it has full access to most of the activities that are going on inside the house but, Sometimes, when the wind blows or when the tree decides to go for a romp, the branches sway a lot, distorting the image and sound quality of the camera. And, though I hate to admit this, my imaginary friends aren't always accurate on what they see. They do their best and they have been right about a lot of things before but they can't be right all the time because no one is perfect, not even my mom, though she would love for that topic to go up for debate I'm sure. So, after saying all of this, I'm not 100 percent sure that it was my mom who tried to log into my Facebook account, but this is what Mary Meyers had to say. This is her theory of what she thinks happened according to what was on the camera's surveillance.

"So Mommy, listen to THIS!" Mary Meyers said as she plopped down onto my bed next to me. All of my friends gathered about in a circle, all eyes on Mary Meyers.

"She definitely tried to log into your account. Not only that, she got really mad and started yelling! She even threw her tablet on the floor after a while and stomped her foot on the floor like a three-year-old."

"I KNEW IT!" shouted Chrissie.

"What did you see?"

"Jennifer tried to log in at 9:01 AM on March 4th. She was sitting in the living room downstairs watching repeat episodes of Judge Judy that she had recorded for herself when she was at work so that she wouldn't miss a single episode. Anyway, for some reason, though I don't know how it could be possible or that it even WAS possible, she completely lost interest in Judge Judy, grabbed her tablet out of her purse, which was sitting on the lower kitchen counter where the phone and drawers underneath the phone are kept, and headed back into the living room to sit on her uncomfortable, cold as ice leather couch. By the way, she still has that ugly white carpeting in the living room and everywhere else in the house for as far as the camera can see. I can't believe Coli hasn't convinced her to get rid of it already!"

"Go on, go on!" Chrissie rushed her along.

"Tell us what happened with Facebook!"

"Well, she went onto facebook. I thought that she would just log into her account but instead, she typed in your email address Mommy and there, right on the tiny screen in full view of the camera, your Satanic image appeared, wicked and awesome as ever!"

"I knew it!" roared Smm Smm, blowing little puffs of smoke out of his nose as he sat there listening to Mary Meyers' account of what happened on the morning of March fourth.

"When Facebook asked her to log in, she sat there, tapping her forehead with her fingernails as if trying to dig down deep in her memory to recover the password from it."

"And?" I prompted when Mary Meyers went into a fit of giggles.

"She finally jumped and I could tell that a light bulb had gone off in her head. Or so she thought it had. The first thing she tapped into her tablet for the password was bryanj1968. She clicked the Sign In link after she wrote that password, all peppy and sitting all straight and alert like a cat that has found its prey and is just about to make the deadly pounce. She immediately sagged, though, when she got the message Invalid Password. Please try again."

"Did she try again?" Nevaeh asked.

"Oh yeah," replied Mary Meyers.

"She tried six times before finally giving up and taking it out on her poor tablet."

"What password did she try next?" I asked.

"Next she tried bryanj1205. She was certain that this password would be correct. I could just see the confidence twinkling in her evil brown eyes as she stared intently at the screen, still sitting tight as a rope, waiting for the tablet to let her into the account."

"Ha ha, that was still the wrong password!" shrieked Chrissie as she began to bounce up and down on the bed standing up like a little kid would on a trampoline.

"Man Chrissie, you would have totally blown our cover had you come with me," Mary Meyers said, laughing at her rambunxious sister.

"After the second rejection, Jennifer let out a little groan. "What… IS… IT?" She said it all slowly, breaking up her words into tiny fragments as if she could find the password in them somehow. She let out an exasperated sigh and then tried another one. This time she wrote bryanj333. No go. "Why, oh why, won't it WORK?" she said, her voice starting to quake with rage.

"Why did she change her password? She had to have changed it! I know I'm right about what it used to be, I'm always right!"."

Mary Meyers sighed and moved in closer to me.

"She was starting to panic now. "Bryan, bryan, BRYAN!" she yelled.

"It's got to be something with Bryan in it."

Next time she tried bryan1968 and left out the J, but to no avail.

"FUCK!" she roared!

"This is ridiculous! She TOLD me what her password was. No, she must not have changed it, she would never change a password that had to do with her dad. Oh Bryan, if you're listening, please tell me what it is again! I don't think I ever wrote it down. I never dreamed it would come to this."

She began rushing now. She typed in bryanj1121. That one made no sense to me because why would you have made a password that pertained to your dad and then added your birthday to it. She's SO STUPID!"

Mary Meyers' mouth was starting to get dry. She got up and poured herself a glass of fruit punch that Chris had made all by himself. Only it wasn't a glass that she poured it into. It was a styrafoam cup that I use for drinks so that I don't have to wash the cup after I'm done drinking from it. I can simply chuck it in the trash and forget about it. That was a definite No-No in my mom's house.

After she had chugged half of what was in the cut, she continued.

"Jennifer was beside herself now. Picking up her tiny tablet, she began violently shaking it. "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH BIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIITCH!" she screamed at the top of her lungs.

"Why won't you let me in? I know I'm right about this password; it's YOU who is the problem. I'm embarrassed to call you my tablet."

"Does that ring a bell Mommy?"

I nodded. Countless times my mother had told me that she was embarrassed to call me her daughter. What she didn't realize, though, was that I was glad to embarrass her and planned on embarrassing her even more than she ever thought possible when the time was right.

"She had reached her wits end," Mary Meyers began as she slowly sipped her punch.

"She got up, slammed her tablet down on the table, and then stomped into the kitchen, huffing as she walked, as if she was climbing a hundred flights of stairs. She wrenched open the nearest drawer and began tossing papers, credit cards, bills, and saved receipts onto the floor, frantically trying to find the written password that she had failed to write down in the first place. Then she got down on the floor and began rifling through everything. When she couldn't find what she was looking for, she threw everything back into the drawer, too angry to care about order and organization. She went through everything in her bedroom, including her closet, then she went upstairs and began ransacking your room, pulling the mattress up and peering underneath it to see if she had stashed it in there like she used to stash the 32000 dollars of someone else's money. I still wonder if it was yours or Tim's? It definitely wasn't her money. She doesn't stash it there anymore. Perhaps it's in your pajama drawer now, with all the poor pajamas who didn't get lucky enough to be rescued. She hid the money there once before, remember?"

I certainly did remember that. I also remembered how, one day, I told my mom that I'd rather her move her stash of loot to her own room because I didn't want to be held responsible for it should there be a fire or something.

"If there is a fire in the house, I'm not going to dig around in there and try to save your precious money," I told her.

"It would be nice if you would," she snarled at me.

"There's a lot of money there. Thirty-two thousand dollars. And don't you ever tell anybody about it because it's nobody's business but mine."

"Okay Mom," I said, walking away from her and retreating back to the sanctitude of my room where, hopefully, I would find a moment of peace and silence before another wave of her fury came to give me another surprise attack wipeout.

"It's nice to know what your priorities are. It's good for me to know that you'd rather have your precious money be rescued from the fire instead of your own daughter."

"Ashlee, that's not what I meant," she said, quickly trying to fix the damage of her hurtful words. Words we both knew she couldn't take back.

"I just said that it would be nice if you COULD save the money before you got out of the house, that's all."

"Whatever Mom," I said, but the damage was already done. Those words, along with many other ugly, stinging words, would stay with me for a lifetime.

Dad, I'm starting to get tired of writing. My back's starting to hurt and I really want to take a walk while it's still nice out. I'll finish this story tomorrow, as I'm not done with it yet. There's way more that Mary Meyers has to report. I guess you'll have something to look forward to for tomorrow.

I love you Dad. I wish I really was sitting in your trailer right now, talking with you. Writing, though very helpful and satisfying, just isn't the same as actually getting to talk to you face-to-face.

Love Ashlee