Karma, I’m The Chameleon

I’m not sure when it happened, when I stopped believing.  No, not really stopped believing, more like not feeling it, not feeling the entity known as “God”.  It’s been awhile now, I was just afraid to put it down in writing, to actually get outside of my head and acknowledge it.  Afraid of repercussions, perhaps?  Afraid of that bolt of lightning coming down from the sky?  Afraid to admit to my family and friends that this life-long Lutheran, this zealous church-goer/church-dragger no longer believes in a higher entity? Yeah, that last one is pretty much spot on.

It started with my break from the church we were currently attending.  I was super-involved in the church life- Sunday School, Youth Group, Council, Book Club- even heading up the major redesign and renovations to the interior sanctuary.  Throughout my life, I’ve always been involved in church stuff, mostly with kids.  My parents were involved, therefore I got involved.  Not so much my kids, but that’s their decision- I brought them up in the church from Baptism through Confirmation, after that they were on their own.  And not one of them looked back.  In retrospect, I should have taken their lead.

Anyway, yeah, I was super involved.  After attending for almost 16 years,  I got close to the Pastor and to some extent, his wife.  I babysat their birds (one of which died almost immediately when they brought it home, oops), I redesigned their kitchen (pro-bono, of course), we acted in plays together, we travelled to Youth Events across the country together, he commandeered my mother’s funeral.  I confided in my spiritual advisor on many occasions and I thought we should have been considered friends, or at least close in the service of the Lord.

I should have known better.  I never learn.  I’ve thought the same of half a dozen people in my life and the end result was never good.

There were little things that started to piss me off- things we (the Youth Group) would do that would be ignored, or forgotten.  Attempts to pin down dates or plan trips or events would never be acknowledged.  Things would be done behind my back, planned with someone else.  Look, I can take a hint- I’m incredibly perceptive- if one doesn’t want my help just sit me down and talk to me.  Don’t go behind my back in front of my face.

And don’t…do not…insult my child.  Do not insinuate that she did not work on her Confirmation project.  If you know me, or know my family you would understand our work ethic.  We do not do things to get over, or take short cuts.  We give our all and if you asked us to do something and gave my daughter permission to use it as a project you don’t get to speculate whether or not she did it.  And you should not speculate or insinuate in front of the other Confirmands and their families at the official dinner the lack of my daughter’s role in her project.

Yes, I understood he was sick and maybe not himself.  I tried to cut him some slack, I really did.  But right after she was Confirmed, I stopped going to church.

I was hurt, but this next part was truly the icing on the butthurt cake…

I stopped going to church and not one person- not the pastor, not the secretary, not the council, not my neighbors, not my friends who also go to that church- not one of them called me up and asked my why.  Not one of them said “Hey, we miss you.  Come on back.”  Not one of them texted, emailed or Facebooked me.  Months went by and my tithing amount was being taken out of my account.  I emailed the secretary (also my friend) and asked for the form to stop donating.  Not one word was said when the form was sent.  Still, no outreach.  After all that time, after all I did, I felt that no one cared enough to want me back.

Was I hurt? Beyond belief.  Was I mad? Oh, hell yes. Did I get over it?  After many years, yes.  Only two people knew why I drifted off and now I’m finally able to type it out without alternating crying with cursing. Time heals sadness and anger.

I’ve been to a few churches since then, trying them on, see if they and I were a good fit.  Warily, I sang the songs and listened to the sermons and tried not to read the brochures where they were looking for volunteers.  I liked the Holy Roller/Rock Music church I went with my friend to a few times but the last time I went I felt something else other than the LOVE they were fervently preaching.  It took about a year for me to realize it was disbelief.

Agnostic? Atheist? Neither of these actually describe what I think I believe.  I do believe we’re all connected some way.  There are too many instances of Synchronicity in my life to argue otherwise.  And there may be a force at the center of that big web of inter-connectedness, but I don’t feel we should be worshipping it, or praying to it (and why are we still saying “God Bless You” when someone sneezes?  It’s an expulsion of  body fluids!)  I believe in Jesus Christ- the person- and I believe he did die for “our” sins and because he loved “us”.  His message to me is to be kind to my fellow persons, live a clean, good life and do good works.  Do I need a god-figure to tell me to do that?  Do I need a preacher to remind me of that?  Karma plays a big role in my belief these days- rattle that web between you and I and what goes out will definitely come back.  Good and/or bad.

Maybe I’m Buddhist, I don’t know.  Let me meditate on that.

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Just Call Me Femke- Part 2

…and there I am.  My DNA. The basics of everything I am, handed down for generations.

And I am surprised.dna1

English! Scandinavian? IRISH?!?  And not a trace of Native American.  I really shouldn’t have been surprised.

I suspected the English since my grandmother’s maiden name is Hewlett and that happens to be a town a mere 15 minutes from where I now live.  Yes, we founded that town. No, we don’t have the Hewlett money.

Dad gave me a year’s subscription to My Heritage and I’ve been adding people practically daily.  Our family tree is up to 1625 people and I have connected with different people with the same links in their trees. The earliest I have been able to go back is a 16th generation Grandfather, William Pepper, born in 1458. It’s so exciting yet frustrating.  I try to go through every match (there are hundreds) to see if they are actually part of my heritage but it so slow going.  And I’m not getting any hits on any other branch of the tree- MR’s branch is withering and my cousin’s branches are bare. Eventually I’ll have to sit down with those sides of the family and pick some brains.

What’s really exciting (yet frustrating) is that I found my maternal grandfather.  He left my mom and sister when they were very young and my mom’s hatred of him was well known.  Nana married a nice man who also had a daughter (he died when I was two) so she did have a father figure around.  But I was always curious about the missing grandfather and I didn’t dare ask Mom.  Anywhoo, I found that he never remarried, did a stint in the Army, moved around a lot and died in 1991.  In Staten Island.  STATEN ISLAND, so close to me.  I could have met him, talked to him.  It makes me sad that a piece of me was taken and can never be replaced.

Back to the DNA test. If you can, have it done.  I believe it’s accurate because a third cousin of mine had it done and who was on top of the list for possible third cousins according to Ancestry?  That same third cousin who had it done as well. Our little DNAs were a match.

So there I am. I knew I was a mutt, but now I know what breeds make up my muttness.

I still like cornbread.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Call Me Femke- Part 1

It seems that my whole childhood was a lie. Not the “Santa Claus is real” or the “Tooth Fairy put a quarter under my pillow”  type of lie that every childhood has, but a real identity lie.  One that may have led to ridicule (or may not have,  I was kind of a little jerk when I was a kid.)  One that gave me a sense of always being on the fringe of normal.  One that I didn’t realize until I’m older had left me with questions about who I really was.

In elementary school, starting in Third Grade, I took French.  I don’t remember why exactly I ended up taking French over Spanish.   Something about not returning the form on time, or my parents not having the foresight to see that Spanish may have been beneficial- I don’t know.  All I know is that I didn’t choose it.  I would never have chosen it.  My teacher, Ms. Nussbaum, scared the shit out of me.

French classes continued until Junior High School.  Maybe into High School, I don’t remember and I won’t bother to look it up. All I know is I can recite the “Solomon Grundy” poem in French and I know where my Aunt’s pen is. (It’s on the dresser.)

So, as they do to this day, language classes always hold “Cultural Fairs” and “Ethnic Feast” where the kids are supposed to bring in dishes native to their nationality.  I always dreaded those days (I didn’t know then what I know now, that ethnic food is DELICIOUS),I never ate a thing my classmates brought in.  Spanish food and Italian food and Jewish food and German food, ack.  Gross.  The most ethnic dish my family ate was lasagna, made with Ragu pasta sauce.  What did I usually bring in?

Cornbread. Why?

Because I was told I was part American Indian.

It seemed that this ethnic piece of my pie trumped my German piece of the pie (dad’s side), so no, I’m not bringing in Schnitzel.   We were half American (mom’s side) and a portion of that was Native Indian.

That cornbread was accepted in my lower grades because what little kid doesn’t like corn bread and Cowboys and Indians? But as I got older and brought in that pan of maize cake and explained that I was part Native American Indian, I started getting major side-eye from both my classmates and teachers.  When they asked what tribe I was descended from, I couldn’t answer.  When I pressed my mom on what tribe we were, I never got a straight answer. I stopped bringing in corn bread.

Fast forward a few years to Seventh Grade.  March 17, everyone is wearing green because it’s St. Patrick’s Day.  Not me, unfortunately.  I’m not Irish, I’m Protestant (Lutheran) so I’m not wearing green.  Here, my mom says, wear this shirt. It’s more suitable to your heritage.

My orange Tony The Tiger shirt.  Orange.

I know now that it’s not a slight to wear orange.  The Irish flag is green (Catholic) and orange (Protestant) and the white symbolizes the peace between them.  But I grew up in a working middle-class neighborhood in the 70’s and those Irish kids were listening to their Irish parents talk about the Troubles in Ireland.  I think if I was a boy, I would have been beat up.  Not that I wasn’t threatened or stalked or intimidated. There was no way I was taking the bus home that day.  I begged a ride from a friend’s mom and they went out of their way to take me home.

So I grew up “knowing” that I was 50% German, 50% American, which included American Indian.  I “knew” my mom’s side of the family founded the Long Island town of Hewlett because that was Nana Ethel’s maiden name.  I “knew” I wasn’t Irish (even though EVERYONE is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day).  I “knew” my ancestors came over on one of the ships soon after the Mayflower landed in America.

These are the “lies” I grew up with.  Not intentional, absolutely not.  Just repeated from generation to generation without a smidge of fact checking or research. And for the next 40 years, I was content to believe them.

It wasn’t until I started going to the cemeteries with Dad that I became interested in my family history.  When Joyce contacted me after coming across this blog post I became even more so.  When Sandy wiped out all of the family photos and I had to rescue them and started really looking at these people in these old photos and wondering how they were related to me, I was hooked. I had to know where I came from.  Who were my ancestors?  Where are those Native Americans?  How was I related to the Hewletts?

Thank you Ancestry.com.  And MR. And Zombiegirl and her quest for scholarships.

Last Christmas, MR gave me the Ancestry.com DNA kit.  He’s fully supportive of me finding out where I come from and what I’m made of.  I spit in the tube and mail it out.

Eight weeks later, I get the email I’ve been waiting for.  This is it, this is my past revealed to me.  I will finally get some questions answered and some facts validated. I can’t wait for MR to come home, I have to open it now. My hands are shaking as I click the email…

Ponderings

I wonder:

-what the universe is trying to tell me?  In the last two days I have been “followed” by Greek imagery (ATLAS Cleaners, a license plate that said GREEK2, a MEDUSA head vinyl sticker on the back of a Mercedes, etc.., etc.)  Today I was speaking to the new girl and I asked her what her last name was.  When I got home, I was watching some coverage of the rebuilding in Ecuador and the structural engineer’s last name was the same as the new girl.  I’m not talking a common last name, either. What does it mean? Synchronicty abounds. What’s the frequency, Kenneth?

-why it takes two and a half months to get an appointment with a new General Practitioner?  I need a family doctor, someone who can oversee my health, and this doctor came highly recommended.  I’d say-by the time I finally get to see her,  I’ll forget why I needed her in the first place.

-why the Catholic High School attended by some of my friends kids decided to name their sports teams after 12 Greek (there it is again) deities?  Isn’t that paganism?

-where my next desk location will be?  In the span of 19 years, I’ve gone from a private office to a shared office (which was a converted store-room) to a window cubicle to a non-window cubicle to a trading desk.  Everyone in my office suite has moved to New Jersey (not going there!) and I’m next to move out.  If my desk progression is any indication, my next location should be the coat closet.

-what the hell you were thinking airing out your dirty family laundry? You have already been pegged as the bad guy, that little stunt didn’t help.  Grow the hell up and shut the f*ck up.

-why my tolerance for sports parents gets smaller and smaller each year?  There should be a rule that spectator parents have to keep quiet, or maybe just yell “YAY” during a game.  Parents should not make derogatory comments about any child on the field and should keep their yaps shut about the coach(es).  The last few games I’ve had to say something to the parents around me about shutting up and it just left a bad feeling that I had to do so. I sincerely hope these kids don’t hear the comments when they’re on the field.

-why my 17-year old speaks in a wholly different language than us?  Words like “bling” and “dab” and “chill” and “squad” all have totally different meanings than what Webster’s dictionary cites .  Add the weird meaning slang to her mumbling at us and I’m ready to go get my Xanax prescription refilled.

-why, after all these years doing my job, no one has listened to me when I’ve said that the procedures to execute a certain report are repetitive, tedious and asinine?  Finally, someone has stepped up and agreed with me and since she’s in a position of power, can implement the change to these procedures, making my life easier and the reports more comprehensive.  Of course, she’ll get all the credit, the raises and promotions as well.

-why is the Sweeney Todd song “Pirelli’s Miracle Elixir” on an endless loop in my head?

-when bloggers and social media mavens will stop calling their kids “littles”. It makes me as ragey as the term “kiddos” when referring to offspring.

-what this weird obsession older women have with dyeing their hair different colors. I’ve asked my kids to stop me if I ever express an interest to put purple/blue/pink streaks in my 60+ year old hair.  That’s about 10 years from now, if you’re counting.

-how much longer I have to keep this secret.

Anyone else wondering and pondering anything?

 

 

 

30 Day Simplicity Challenge

I’m sitting at work, finishing up some things I have to do.  It’s a quiet Friday, literally calm before the storm, since we’re expecting a blizzard starting sometime early tomorrow morning going through to Sunday.  No one is in the New Jersey office due to a water main break last night.  No one is asking me for anything urgent so I’m running some routines and uploading some plans.

And since the system is slow, I’m reading “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” by Marie Kondo.  Yes, I drank the Kool-Aid and bought the book with the gift card MR gave me for Christmas.  The Amazon gift card, not the usual Joann’s gift card.  Yes, I brought that up for a reason, lol, to be discussed later…

A few months ago, I took a good hard look at all the crap I’ve accumulated- my clothes, my shoes, my crafts, my everythings- and starting with my closet, I was able to pare down my work wardrobe into less than 50 pieces.  It really helped that I finally lost some weight and am now able to fit into some of the stuff I put aside waiting for said weight loss.  Since I had a basic knowledge of the KonMarie method of de-cluttering (and if you read ANY mommy blogs, you’d have that basic knowledge too) I took each piece in hand and decided if it gave me joy.  Then I tried everything on to see if my reflection gave me joy.  If I hesitated at all, I got rid of that piece.  Off to Savers, off to Lupus.

I tried the Stylebook app, and spreadsheets and lists to figure out what went with what, but they were all too time-consuming to start and then maintain.  Index cards, Pinterest and a numbering system worked best and I was able to put together outfits and see where I needed to supplement.  I shopped around, got some deals and filled in some gaps.

I no longer cry in the morning that I have nothing to wear.  I feel good about everything I put on.

So I’m continuing on with the KonMarie method, but I’m also setting a challenge up for myself- a 30 Day Simplify Challenge.  I’ll post one challenge here each day (it will also get me back to blogging) and how I handle that one task.  Nothing earth shattering, nothing too strenuous.  Just little ways to simplify and declutter.  If you’re still reading here and you want to join in, let me know!

DAY 1 of 30:

Take everything out of your every day bag and get rid of anything you don’t use daily.

  • There is no need to keep all those receipts- put them in a folder to go through later.  Put the folder on your desk at home.
  • Condense your personal items (chapstick, hand sanitizer, tweezers (!?) and put them in a little makeup bag.
  • Take all that spare change at the bottom of your bag and put it in a change purse or at least a ziplock bag. Better yet, put it in the loose change jar behind your bedroom door.
  • Gather up all those pens, test them, throw out the ones that don’t work and put two back.
  • Throw away the hot sauce packets. That’s a disaster waiting to happen.
  • Toss the little pieces of paper, the loose Lifesavers and all the empty Metrocards.
  • Take out all the earrings, watches and necklaces you tend to shed during the day and put them back in the jewelry box.
  • Get a small makeup bag or coupon folder to put all those loose coupons in.  Go through them first to see if they’ve expired.  Don’t worry about sorting, just clean them up and get them in something so they don’t float around your purse.

Your pocketbook shouldn’t weigh you down and make your back hurt!  Once you’ve decluttered your bag, make it a habit to clean it out every Sunday night before you go to bed.

Day one, done. Day two tomorrow if we don’t lose power!

 

 

Catharsis

There wasn’t any cooking today. Today was a day of purging and expulsion.  Of cleaning and scouring. Of cleansing.

Ever since I saw my first episode of Tiny House Nation, I’ve been obsessed with minimizing my life (and building a tiny house).   Around the same time Beena expressed an interest in having a yard sale.  Perfect timing.  I started going through drawers, closets and attics.  If it had never been used or if there were duplicates of any one thing, it went into a box.  If it didn’t fit AT THIS TIME or, being realistic, I was never planning on fixing or making it, it went into a box.  If I felt I could reasonably live without it, it went into a box.

I was ruthless.  Out went six pairs of nail clippers.  Out went eight tote bags.  Out went a full set of Margarita glasses.  I practically halved my personal stuff and gained tons of space in my closets and drawers.  It felt wonderful.

Unfortunately, the weather the past several weeks prevented us from having that yard sale.  Now all this stuff is sitting in my basement, waiting for the spring.  I got depressed every time I went into the basement, which has its own special kind of crap crammed in.  Now it had a multitude of boxes to add to the messy mix.

The girls pitched in today and helped me pack and stack the boxes in a tidy corner of the basement.  They cleaned out the game cabinet and convinced me to get rid of some stuff I was hanging on to “just in case”.  Even though the crap was still in the house, it was neat and boxed up, ready to be sold.  It felt good.

I dropped a bag off at the church- a ton of baskets for the shut-ins, some angels my mom made years ago and some flower pins we once sold on Mother’s Day as well as floor plans of the various projects I worked on for the parsonage, the church office and the church itself.  Giving these little things away was more therapeutic than culling the clothes from my closet.  Knowing my time with this church has completed left me feeling light and clear-headed.  The anger has dissipated and I’m ready to merge onto the next spiritual highway and see where that takes me.

Seeing me run up and down two flights of stairs all day must have made MR take pity on me because he offered to take me out for dinner.  And honestly, that burger didn’t taste half as good as some of the things I cooked this week.

(Why would anyone have seven pairs of nail clippers?)

A Year of Meh

Today is the first day of 2014.  So then, Happy New Year!  As I look back on 2013, it certainly was a year of meh.  No, that’s not a typo- not a year of “me”, just a year of meh.  It had the potential to be something great, but no, it turned out to be meh.  Mediocre.  Unexceptional.  Same old shit.

I checked out my blog history for 2013 and I posted exactly seven times in 2013.  SEVEN.  I had more drafts, more posts started sitting there in my dashboard than those I actually posted.  I was not inspired and definitely not in the mood for anything last year let alone posting.  Pathetic.

Being pathetic, I watched all the episodes of Breaking Bad (except for the last 8 episodes.  Thanks Netflix).  I watched all of the first two seasons of The Big Bang Theory (including all the episodes on network TV and the Tuesday night marathons on TBS).  I watched Best Ink, Once, Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Long Island Medium, Top Chef, Master Chef Junior and countless bad movies.  I sat on the couch, worked from home and stared at the TV.

It was better than dealing with what was going on in the world.

You can reread all my F*CK You Friday posts, or you can watch the news and see senseless killings. Log on to twitter and gawk the twittering twits. Look out of my window and you’ll agree I’m living in Crazytown. Follow me to work and observe the moronic. Contemplate the skies and witness wacky weather. Regard the rude, look at the liars, behold the ungrateful and note the knuckleheads.

Escaping into television seemed like a good idea at the time. Having only my yoga pants fit now doesn’t seem like such a great conclusion to 2013.

Other people in my family fared better than I did in 2013.  Beena started a full-time job in a Bronx high school teaching Math to ESL students. Yes, they are kids who don’t speak a lot of English.  It’s a lot of work for her and a hellish commute but she seems to love it and keeps us laughing with anecdotes of bad English and cute kids.   We’re in full-blown wedding mode now that it’s less than six months away and I’m seriously considering taking her to the doctor and getting her a prescription for Xanax.  She gets kind of frantic even though she has the majority of wedding stuff taken care of.

Utah is still working full time and going to school.  This past semester she pulled a 4.0 GPA for her four classes.  Today is her one year Anniversary with Kevin, one of Beena and John’s groomsmen.  MR calls her dating “Kevynning”.  He’s nice and really good for her.

She’s been looking into her future and trying to decide what to do for the next phase of her life.  She shouldn’t worry- she’ll be good at anything she does.

Zombiegirl had a few milestones this year.  She graduated from Middle School with Honors and the won the same award Utah won ($100) when she graduated from MS.  She was also Confirmed from St. A’s and got her first real job with a real paycheck at the local ice skating rink, working the snack bar.  High School is keeping her busy- honors classes and soccer and more soccer and an iPhone and a boyfriend- it’s a miracle we see her at all.  The highlight of her year was shooting her first deer.  We’re eating good in 2014.

MR and I celebrated our 50th birthdays.  Hooray.  It was a quiet birthday for both of us except for the honking of cars on my day.  Thanks to the soccer moms for bombing my house with “Honk, I’m turning 50” signs and “50”s spray painted in shaving cream on the sidewalk, I’m constantly reminded of a perfectly mediocre birthday because the 50s are still there.

Memorable events in 2013?  A zombie 5K run (walk), a rocking good time with Ro seeing Rock of Ages on Broadway, an all-girls camping trip to Lake George, surgery for my lady parts, Amy’s sudden passing (Pastor’s wife), any time Howard the Snake sheds, the passing of Magma, Z-girl’s gecko, the Red Wedding and a major spiritual breakup.  2013 saw the usual delusionals, drama queens (and kings) and wackadoodles, but I should be used to all that.

2014? It can only get better.  I got off the couch today and I’m planning on running later and do some yoga before I go to bed.  Happy New Year to you and you and you.