Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Something Wicked This Way Comes

  • Look friends! A Harry Potter Quiz! I don't think I've ever done one of these. You do one too and put it in my comments, or on your blog and link me to it and I will read it! Yay!

Also, I swear, I'm writing againand so I will do my best to update as well. I mis talking to you all. And in general. Its healthy. Right? 

  • 1. What house will you be in?
  • I'd expect I would be in Slytherin. Its the house I am always sorted into...
  • 2. If the sorting hat was on you and it said you'd be great in a house you didn't consider before, will you follow his advice or choose what house you want?
  • I would certainly consider it. 
  • 3. What kind of animal would you bring to school?
  • A cat. No question. A Kneazle if I could get away with it (like Hermione)
  • 4. If you were in class, where would you normally sit?
  • In the front. 
  • 5. What do you think you'll be doing right now?
  • I assume I'd be in the tower getting ready for bed. Or studying. 
  • 6. What's the core of your wand?
  • Phoenix feather
  • 7. Do you think you'll be part of the quidditch team?
  • Nope. Too clumsy.
  • 8. Will you be part of any organization???
  • Probably. 
  • 9. Will you go home during holidays?
  • Yeah. 
  • 10. Do you think you'll have friends from other houses?
  • I hope I would. 
  • 11. What will you pack for school?
  • Whatever's on the list McGonagall sends me, some muggle candy, some prank materials, a bottle of Old Ogden's Firewhiskey and a bunch of books. 
  • 12. How about when going home for holidays, what will you bring home?
  • Everything I needed washed? I don't know. Stuff from Hogsmeade?
  • 13. Would you consider studying in another wizarding school?
  • I suppose it would depend on the schools.
  • 14. Do you think you'll be a prefect or head girl/boy?
  • Nope. Too much of a trouble maker.
  • 15. Are you going to be a pure-blood or half-blood or muggle-born?
  • I assume I would be a half-blood. I've got witches in my family. 
  • 16. Will you be related to any wizarding family?
  • Famous ones? Probably not. 
  • 17. Will you be a student who gets into trouble a lot?
  • Its likely. 
  • 18. Do you think you'll get a lot of detention? For what reason/s?
  • I assume I wouldn't get caught, so no. 
  • 19. On hogsmeade visits, what shops will you go to?
  • 20. Will you be supportive of your house's quidditch team?
  • Sure. I'd be supportive of any quidditch team that I had friends on. 
  • 21. Will you read Hogwarts:A History?
  • Yes. 
  • 22. Do you think you'll get a lot of letters from home? How frequent do you think you'll get them?
  • I hope I would. Maybe once a week?
  • 23. Will you subscribe to the daily prophet or the quibbler or other wizarding world media?
  • Yes. 
  • 24. Which part of the castle will be your favorite?
  • The library. 
  • 25. When sleeping in your dormitory, will your four-poster bed's curtains be drawn or closed?
  • Drawn
  • 26. If the team your house played against wins, do you think you'll be bitter towards the other team after the game?
  • Nope. Not really. Its only quidditch. 
  • 27. Do you think you'll be a fan of wizard music?
  • Yes. I am pretty sure I am already a fan of wizard music and I just dont know it. 
  • 28. Will you be curious enough to try and explore the whole castle, even if you know you can get in trouble for visiting some parts of it?
  • Of course! Why do you think I would read Hogwarts, A History? 
  • 29. How frequent will your visits to the library be?
  • Often. 
  • 30. If someone was to form an organization similar to dumbledore's army, will you join?
  • Maybe?
  • 31. If you were to get detention, what task would you prefer? Would you want to scrub cauldrons or clean trophies or sort through unlabeled books or…?
  • Sort books!
  • 32. On your o.w.l.s, what subject/s will you get an O in? Which ones do you think you’ll get a T on?
  • T is probably Arithmancy. 
  • If I don't get an O in Runes, DADA, Transfiguration and Charms I will be angry. I get I could scrape by A's in Care of Magical Creatures and Potions. 
  • 33. How about in your n.e.w.t.s?
  • I better get all Os at that point. 
  • 34. If you were a pure-blood, would you take interest in reading muggle literature?
  • Yes. 
  • 35. At what time do you think you'll go to bed on weekdays?
  • Later than I should. 
  • 36. Would you prefer firewhiskey over butterbeer?
  • Firewhiskey
  • 37. What wizard snack would be your favorite? Or which one would you like to try?
  • I don't even know. 
  • 38. Will you collect chocolate frog cards?
  • No. I would give them to my friends and just eat the candy. 
  • 39. Will you keep track of which flavor of beans you already tried?
  • Yes! 
  • 40. What quidditch team (excluding hogwarts houses) will you support?
  • I probably wouldn't. I don't follow sports now. 
  • 41. What classes will you take for n.e.w.t.s?
  • All the ones I can?
  • 42. What will your boggart be?
  • My Anna, seriously hurt. 
  • 43. Will you stay in the hog’s head or the three broomsticks?
  • Three broomsticks. 
  • 44. If you are of age, will you try to enter the triwizard tournament if they ever host one again?
  • No. I don't want to die. 
  • 45. What do you think happens during graduation?
  • Our wands do something cool. 
  • 46. Will you see the thestrals carrying the carriages?
  • Yes. 
  • 47. If you were invited to join the slug club, will you accept the invitation?
  • No. 
  • 48. Will you consider becoming a professor in hogwarts after school?
  • I wouldn't mind taking over for Madam Pince. 
  • 49. What would your patronus be?
  • A Mountain Lion/Panther. 
  • 50. What memory will you think of when making a patronus?
  • Meeting Anna. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Memories of What You Can't Seem To Let Go

I am a pretty cautious person by nature, despite how it might seem, when it comes to protecting myself emotionally. I think everyone has those triggers that put them mentally in an unhealthy place that they want to avoid. I do everything I can to keep myself from those situations. I've done what I can to help myself heal from things that have hurt me in the past and by and large I feel like I am well adjusted given my fairly chaotic and occasionally awful past. And yet, there are days when it seems the past is inescapable and you find that you are much more vulnerable than you imagined you could be.

Let's rewind for a moment to about four or five months ago. I was just starting to work as a server at The Diner. Or, at least, I was finally comfortable enough with my surroundings that I didn't feel like every weekend was a battle. Its then that I first noticed this nice, quiet guy who read books and sat by himself. He came in every Saturday. He seemed nice enough. I noticed him enough that he eventually became That Nice Quiet Book-Reading Guy Who Always Orders a Breakfast Special (Take Three Creams with the Coffee). We would chat occasionally and I discovered he was an interesting person. He liked the outdoors. He seemed pretty well rounded. About two months ago I found out he's an Arborist. He then became (in all my references to Kitten when talking about work) That Nice Arborist Who Comes In On Saturdays and Reads. By luck or design he started landing in my section more often. It was then that I discovered two things 1- he does just about everything from play instruments to rock climbing to reading, in general that he is a person whom I would like to hang out with. 2- His name. We'll call him Jack here (short for Lumberjack, or Jack of all trades, you chose).

So I happened to have an extra ticket to the symphony this last weekend and I invited Jack along. I was both pleased and surprised when he said yes. Sakura and I go (well we try) every month. He has season tickets and I am almost always his date. Anyway, we went, we had dinner, Jack met Kitten and Sakura and things were nice.

Cue Sunday. Without airing Jack's dirty laundry I can say with a fair amount of certainty that he has, in most people's eyes, a personal history that would make him predisposed to dislike me. That he was not only comfortable but gracious and very open with me and my strange little family speaks to his strength of character, I think. I know, without him telling me, that he was putting himself out there when he joined us on Saturday. I took it as a compliment. Imagine my surprise when that morning when he was in eating breakfast that he invited me to come watch him play his instrument at his church that Sunday night. Once again, I'll reiterate that his character already shames mine because I don't know if I would be able to ask him to come, I don't know, watch me sing or read my writing or whatever. Not this early in our tentative friendship. Not especially considering those extenuating circumstances with would bother me considerably were I him. He was even kind enough to point out he was not proselytizing in inviting me- proving he was intuitive enough (or I scream NOT CHRISTIAN loudly enough) to see that might be something of a deterrent to me. Even though, once he gets to know me better, he'll understand that I really don't mind most Christians, or the religion itself, really. Its just not my cup of tea, and we've already discussed here my philosophical disagreements with the religion- I won't rehash it.)

What he couldn't know (and what some of you who have been around for some time will recall ) is that I was sexually assaulted by my Pastor's son and some of his friends when I was a teenager. The resulting damage to my person, and my mental health and all of the horrible things that came after that when I foolishly sought help from my pastor, thinking he would do the right thing and want to help me (I was really, really naive) have had a profound effect on me as a person. He wouldn't know about the years of therapy. The drugs. The attempts on my own life. My blatant disregard for my own health and safety. My lack of personal value. The number or horrible relationships I ended up in that mirrored, in some sick way, that first really awful one. He wouldn't know this. And he shouldn't really. Because in the intervening years, as most of you are aware, I've gotten help, I've healed and in general I consider myself to be as well adjusted and happy as a person who has gone through what I did can be. I live a relatively open life. I have learned to cope with my anger and fear. I am in a successful, healthy relationship. I have friends who love and support me and help me when I feel weak. Any person who looks at me would not see those hidden scars. I don't want them to.

So imagine my surprise- after all these years of being well adjusted and happy- at finding myself in the parking lot of his church Sunday night, sitting in my truck, having an utter and complete panic attack. I never even saw it coming. You know, it occurred to me as I pulled in that outside of three funerals, one wedding and a couple of Midnight Masses at Christmas (and honestly, a Catholic church is a completely different animal from a tiny protestant church) I have not set foot inside a church building since the incident as a teenager. I certainly have not been to any church without having someone whom I might consider a security blanket with me. So there I was, sitting there, feeling one hundred percent out of sorts and a little bit terrified, trying desperately to talk myself off that panic ledge. I remember telling myself how big a step it must have been for Jack to be with my family. I remember telling myself that I could be a big person. I remember telling myself that I was not going to punk out. I was already there.

And honestly, as I sat there, I reminded myself that I am different now. I know who I am. I am stronger. I am braver. I know how to protect myself. As a priestess I speak with god more often than most of these people would ever in their lives. I never thought the day would come when my being a witch would be the thing that made me brave enough to walk into a church. But it was. If I can hear the voice of god, if the goddess comes to me in my dreams, if my Grandfather and Great Grandmother and all my sacred dead can sing me to sleep on my worst nights, there was really no reason I should be worried that they would not be there for me in that moment. And so I got out of my truck.

And Jack, thank god and goddess, came out of the church just then to get something out of his truck. And he spotted me. And promptly commented on how terrified I looked. Bless his heart, he asked me if I was afraid of combusting or being struck down by god when I went inside and he laughed. I managed a smile and told him with complete honestly that I was fine with God, it was his followers that had me anxious. Bless his heart, he put his hand on me and led me in and let me sit down and I could tell he felt bad when he had to go do other things. But he did come back, and when he wasn't playing he did sit with me. I felt bad about that, really, because I feel like he was babysitting me. I know he had people he probably would rather have been with.

Did you know that all churches smell the same? I swear they do, though I didn't recognize it until now. The voices sound the same. Its like the same picture, over and over, no matter where you are. I find it ironic. The sounds are the same. The church may be different- they may see themselves as completely unique- but I swear I had been to so many before...well, before. And it doesn't look like things have changed. Which is fine for them, of course, but for me was immensely uncomfortable.

I want to say this- Jack played beautifully and I am really glad I went. I really am. I might even go again because honestly, now that I am seeing my own fear I feel like I should face it. And it wasn't so bad really, even if I am on a different page spiritually. Their pastor is really, really nice. That said, I spent a lot of the evening jumping every time there was lightening (because of course there was a storm rolling in), twisting my rain jacket in my hands in an attempt to look like I was merely chilly and not fighting the impulse to white knuckle the seats (I was not leaving!) and struggling desperately to turn off my "witch eyes" which had suddenly decided to light up like The Plaza at Christmas (let me tell you how fun it is to be seeing auras and sensing emotions and have your psychic mail box go off while you're trying to focus on something else entirely.) Obviously something about the place or the situation put me in an Alpha state, which is great. Unfortunately, I was trying to torch my own personal demons.

I think I tripped over my own feet three times in the ten yards to the door (thank the lord that everyone already knows how clumsy I am). I managed to get out of the parking lot and home without wrecking my truck. I only had a little cry after I got into bed. I managed a whole night without nighmares, though, and that's got to count for something.

I suppose I am stuck in a strange place feeling like I am really weak because I had such a crushing panic attack and being proud that I got through it. I'm still sorting out how I feel. I am still trying to sift through the emotions I had and the ones I have now. I'm trying to give myself space and think about the whys and wherefores of a building being a trigger. I can't punish myself for it. I know that. But I feel disappointed in myself. I thought I was stronger.

Kitten says I am being unreasonable. That when traumatic things happen to us that we never really truly recover from them. I would never judge her for reacting to fire the way she does. I would never condemn a person who struggles with an eating disorder or addiction or any other thing that even slightly suggests less than sterling mental health. She's right, I wouldn't.

Is it wrong that I hold myself to a higher standard? Maybe, but it doesn't mean I don't.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Wy Down in Missouri Where I Heard This Lullabye

So I recently had a new friend of mine who does not live in the US ask me what it is like in my home state of Missouri. (Hi Pressure-Point!) It occurs to me that I really don't talk a lot about my home state and what its like to live here so I thought I would post a little information here for you in case you are curious.

Missouri is smack in the middle of the United States. On our East is the Mississippi River. To the west is, well, the west.

If you look at this map we're the orange/pinkish state right in the middle. I live pretty close to the Mason Dixon line, actually which means that we're actually part of the South. Or, at least, our state fought for the South in the Civil War. In southern Missouri, where I live, the customs are fairly southern. We have about 69,000 square miles in or state.

Missouri has a population of about 6 million people, and is predominantly settle by Anglo-Europeans (white people, 80% or so). About 15% of our population is retired persons (over 55) and about 20% are under 18.  A terrifying 25% of our population has a bachelor's degree or higher, though I am encouraged to learn that 87% of our population graduated high school.

Our Two largest cities are Kansas City and St. Louis, both of them share half their city or more with another state. My home city is the third largest by population and is the largest completely within the borders of the state. None of our three major cities have more than a half million people and none of the three largest cities are the state capital.

Missouri is predominantly conservative with the exception of the two larger urban centers of St. Louis and Missouri. It is one of the things I really dislike about my home state since I am fairly (okay, really) liberal and this part of the country is seriously not conducive to the lifestyle of a witch/lesbian/democrat and I happen to be all three.


Missouri is really green. Really green. We have a lot of trees, a lot of lakes and a lot of caves. We're known for a special kind of land formations called Kart Topography, which pretty much means that a lot of our caves collapse and become what we call "sink-holes" in my area. They're sometimes dangerous but really, really pretty if you have a chance to walk/hike through it.

This is a look down at a spring at the bottom of a bluff in the middle/north part of my state in Ha Ha Tonka state park. This park is full of Karst formations and is super pretty and a lot of fun to hike.

This is a picture from the bottom and across from the picture above. If you click on the picture and make it bigger you will see the remains of an old building at the top center of the photo. That's where I took the picture above at. It took me about an hour to get to the bottom.
This is actually inside my city at a nature preserve. This spring cuts through part of my city and actually joins with several others in the area to form part of the lake in my town.

I mostly chose this photo to point out how very, very green my area is. This creek is literally a mile from a major interstate.

This one below is me at the same place in the fall, and you can see how dull and grey it gets whenever the green dies out. It can be pretty lame, and depressing.

Our weather is pretty changeable so it is pretty hard to describe the weather in generalities. I can say that over my lifetime in my city, spring and fall are pretty mild- about 18 to 26C (thats 65-80 for you US folks). The summers are hot and very humid- it generally gets to be about 35C (95) most days and sometimes can go as high as almost 40C (105) and not be too unusual. The winters are cold and generally it averages 0C most days (32 or so) and during the worst months it will be -23C (about ten below) during the most bitter cold days.  

You never can tell what its going to do either. Last week there was 3 inches of snow on the ground. Today it is supposed to be about 26C. Tonight its supposed to snow again but we'll be back in the high twenties before the end of the week. Crazy. 

And, in case you're curious there's a lot of people who come from my hometown who are famous. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft was from here. If you like film and Television celebrities Bob Barker, Brad Pitt, John Goodman and Lucas Grabeel are all from my city. Kim Crosby, the Broadway actress, is too. We had the guy who starred in the second season of The Bachelor (he still lives here, actually). The and Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin (who are really great, actually) are local. Gracie Gold, the Olympic skater, is from my city.  And if you like science Edwin Hubble (yeah, the Hubble Telescope guy) is from a town about 20 minutes from mine. 

So, yeah. That's sort of what my town and state are like. 

Questions? Leave me a comment! I will love to tell you more about my state. Or me. Or whatever. 

(Also, the song lyric I used today is from Missouri Waltz, my State Song and done beautifully by Johnny Cash.)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

There Isn't a Song Lyric To Express how Crazy and Wonderful My Family Is

Family seems to be that secret that we hold really close to the chest as adults. You never really think about it, but all those holidays together are something you may reminisce about but aren't necessarily something you share.

As you get older, that part of yourself is something that reserved for you, maybe your significant other (if they tolerate family gatherings and you still go to them) but by and large you never sit down with your friends and share about your family. Its a shame, really, because I think our families really influence who we are as as adults and its impossible to escape that influence. Sometimes I don't think we even really register the magnitude of how they influence our worldview.

I've been thinking more about this recently. Part of this reflection was brought on by an envelope of photos I brought home from my grandmothers to show Kitten- many of them were from when I was a little girl. Another contributor was our recent viewing (mine, twice) of August: Osage County. During the film Kitten leaned over to me and whispered "This is like watching a documentary of your family." I was also reflecting on how our family changes how people view us while talking to one of my coworkers today. I had been telling her about Sakura's first holiday with my family and his reaction to them. She was dying laughing. Personally, before Sakura's visit to my family Christmas I knew we were a little different from some families but it never occurred to me how much until then. That was also about the time that I realized how different I am from most of my family members in personality as well. I always knew I was one of the odd ducks in the family (maybe even to some extent the black sheep for a few years) but their cohesiveness was a shock when I honestly started to reflect on it.

To understand how different my family is I think you have to look at how unique we are to start with. My family is pretty large, by most family standards. (That picture, by the way, is my cousin Red, my brother Punk and me, respectively, being held by my grandmother sometimes in the early 80's. My guess would be '86 or so, if I had to wager) My mom has five sisters, all of them with the exception of my Aunt Dancer had at least two children. My grandmother has several sisters as well. Her youngest is within a year of my mom's age. Her son JD and daughter JJ, whom I call my cousins, are actually my first cousin once removed and JJ now has a daughter (my second cousin Iris, who is tiny and adorable). To my best knowledge my grandma has three living sisters- this may be inaccurate since I don't have a super firm grasp on my family history (don't judge me my family is HUGE). I additionally have family members that could be called in Southern terminology "kissing cousins" (that means they don't have direct blood relations to me but I consider them to be part of my family anyway- e.g. my Aunt's stepson is a kissing cousin). And don't buy in to all that Yankee hooey about how that's just a family member who is close enough to exchange a kiss in formal greeting- my family is southern and we're going to use those rules. Plus we'll get to the whole kissing thing in a little because my family KISSES and that's another animal entirely. So I have this nice, big family and we, for most of my childhood, piled into my great-grandmother or my grandmother's house every year for holidays (Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Independence Day, sometimes for no good reason at all) so we could spend time together. I also come from a really unique place in that for a few years of my life I shared a bedroom with one of my younger aunts when we lived in my grandmother's house. I look at my aunts more like sisters, which confuses things a little more, I suppose. I find myself often in a strange position- inhabiting a no man's land where I am not part of the older generation (though I am equally close to some of my aunts in age as I am my cousins) and I am old enough that I remember the births of and even babysitting as a teenager some of my cousins who are technically in "my generation" of the family.

Suffice to say, my family is all up in each other's space, all the time, no question. Once my mom remarried I never lived more than three blocks from my grandparents- in the same neighborhood always. I spent a significant part of my childhood in my grandparents home even after we moved out. My Aunt Dancer for a while lived up the street from my grandparents and it wasn't until a few years ago when my Aunt Priestess moved away with her husband and daughters (Lovey and Cowgirl) to Oklahoma that any of us lived more than a fifteen or twenty minute drive across-town from each other- excepting, of course, when my Aunt Buddy went to college in Kansas. Even stranger, for a lot of people, I've known most of my uncles who married into my family for a long time as well. Priestess married her high school sweetheart (they just celebrated their 25th anniversary) and Buddy and her husband met while she was in college and I was still in grade school when they married. There's never been a time in my life when my family- even the extended part- were beyond a day's drive. We're an up close, in your face, tell me all about it honey kind of family.

That in and of itself makes us a rarity, even in the Midwest where larger families are common.  But it wasn't until recently that the culture of my family, which is distinctly Southern, was something I was terribly aware of.  Sakura says it was a surprise when he met them two years ago (I was sick with a migraine and drugged out of my mind as a result, Kitten was at work and I needed a way to get to the Christmas party so Sakura did me a solid and came to get me) because he thought they would be like me. To wit "I was expecting a reserved, proper, northeastern, Huxtable kind of family. I walked into The Clampett Family Christmas." My mom was hugely offended when I laughingly told her about this- though I took no offense at all. Sakura was simply trying to express the shock he felt when he realized that one of his best friends (a relatively quiet, introverted, polished person- yes, me) came from a loud family full of kisses, cuddles and let me get you a sweet tea and fix you a plate honey. There's nothing wrong with it- but if you're not expecting it, its a shock, I'm sure.

And nothing is more surprising than walking into a room (we rent a community room now- we're too big for anyone's house) full of people shouting good naturedly, elbowing each other in the food line and chasing down toddlers when you're expecting a nice polite clam bake. We eat, too, make no mistake. I didn't know until recently that its odd to have more than one turkey at Christmas. I didn't know its not normal to have to empty out bedrooms so there's room to set up card tables because the main table (a 12 seater, mind you) is full, the long card tables set all along the dining room wall are full and there's no more room on the stove, the kitchen counters or the two dessert carts my grandparents dug out to stick all the cookies, pies and cakes on in the pantry were all full. Now that we have a community room its not odd for my aunts to carry in three or four crockpots and chafing dishes to go with all the cold food and dips and vegetables and whatnot. My cousins even cook. No kidding- Aunt Buddy's youngest  Colorgirl made a soup last family gathering that was so good I wanted to cry and she's in her second year of high school. Even my boy cousin's cook. And if you bring a date- if they're going to fit in chances are they'll cook too. JJ's husband makes prime rib to die for and my cousin Mustang brought his girlfriend to Christmas (her second family gathering) and she didn't have to be told to bake cookies. She just did. They were delicious by the way.

So I'm sure Sakura was taken aback- in part by all the food and in part by the determination of my family to feed him. I may have been to sick too eat (and that was debatable since I had thrown up from the dizziness and had "plenty of room in my stomach") but by god Sakura was not. And no kidding they drug him to the table and fed him and fed him and kept his drink full. Nevermind he had eaten before he came. He wasn't just my ride. In my family its unspoken but true- if you're willing to bring someone to meet them then they are family too, like it or not. Sakura was family and when we get together we eat. No ifs ands or buts about it. Truthfully, I laughed my ass off this year when several of my family members were horrified that I had not told him when the party was because of course he was going to come- he came last year didn't he? They were even dismayed that Oscelot (by then my ex) and her lovely girlfriend Bobcat didn't come because Oscelot is family and that Bobcat sounds like a nice girl and when do we get to meet them? Truthfully I think my family will love Bobcat- she cooks on caliber with my family's best and that's saying something.

On top of that my family is by nature loud. They are affectionate. Oh yes, the kissing. You know, my younger cousins don't do this so much, it might be a generational thing, but growing up everyone kissed. I mean, I'll get a peck on the cheek from my cousins I'm close to and everyone hugs- like full body crack your spine hugs- but I mean my family kisses hello and goodbye. On the mouth. All the time. Think nothing of it. It never occurred to me until way later in my life (I had an ex point it out, maybe ExBeloved) that I realized that this is not how a lot of families interacted.  My aunts and my grandparents and any of the older generation still do it and I do when I'm with them and I don't feel weird or ashamed about it. I know some people have implied that its unhealthy. But it never bothered me. It might also explain why I have such a small personal space when it comes to my friends. I grew up in a house with two bathrooms and sometimes up to six women. Personal space didn't exist. My aunt went into labor on the same night as my mom's first date with her second husband- while he was picking her up (Lovey, if you're reading, it was you...). My family kisses on the mouth and swats on the ass and pinches with their toes and why in heaven's name would I have a personal space when I grew up expecting that if you're with people you love you pile on top of them and give them hell?

The Easter Lovey was four or five my uncles dumped a kiddie pool of water on my aunts and chased them around the yard while Lovey chased me around the yard in her powerwheel. As close as we are now she would probably be horrified to know my clumsy ass fell and she ran over me with that damn thing. But she did. (Swear, Lovey, I don't hold a grudge. Its funny now.)

My family is privy to some of my most private moments. Some of my most embarrassing. Some of the most moving. It was my family that was there to pick spiders out of my hair when I ran afoul of an opus in my Grandma's yard (hence my severe arachnophobia for nearly two decades). It was my aunts that took me away from the horrible scene they were making the year my parents split up- Christmas, mind you- and my father came to the party to try and take us from our mom. It was my aunts who fought for me. My grandfather and my uncles who protected me. My grandparents who gave us somewhere to go. When I became a dancer at a downtown club when I was 18 I had family show up (like it was a dance recital or a school exhibition!) on my first night. My grandmother bought me my first pair of pasties and my first pair of leather boots. It is my family who helped me through my coming out process. My family came for all my karaoke contests. They showed up and ate when I was having a sales contest at work. I have worked as a coworker with three different generations of my family now- and it wasn't that bad, really. It was my family who helped me when I hit bottom, twice, and had nowhere to go and no way out from my mistakes.

Its the absolutely insane level of nosiness that spurs my family to offer dating advice on women. Its what makes them call me to make sure I know that we're always welcome, damn the conservatives and what they say (neveryoumind that some of them are conservative too!). Its my family who pushes me to be my best, who call with good natured nagging when I'm not getting along with someone else (a rarity more and more, thank god). It is my beautiful family who watched my romance with Kitten develop and who felt no compunction stalking her through Walmart when she was shopping before coming home to me even though they'd never met her, debating with each other whether or not they should introduce themselves.

And my family's kinks, quirks, oddities, secrets, histories, dramas and fights that make me so understanding of the troubles of others. It is what has given me the little compassion and empathy I possess and it is their level of unconditional love that I one day aspire to have. It is my family that reminds me that I am human. It is my family that reminds me that I need forgiveness as much as they do sometimes. But if ever there is a time when I need a second chance, forgiveness, help or acceptance I know I can get it from them. And it is that certainty that makes me want to share them with the people I love despite those links, quirks, oddities and dramas. Because after years of wondering where the hell I fit in with them I've come to realize that I am my family to my friends.

That's the one thing you can count on from me. I'm going to cheer for you. Loan you what money I can. Clean your house when you break your leg, bring you soup when no one else will because you have bird flu. I'm the person they'll come to when they need to bitch about work, or a friend. When time comes for a life changing decision, I know my friends are going to use me as a sounding board. If no one understands or they need a cry, a couch to crash on, or they need a dinner because the paycheck is three days away and they can't take one more bologna sandwich or packet of ramen; its my house you come to. I'm proud of that. I'm delighted that after all these years of wondering if I was ever going to be able to truly cope with my family and fit in I've discovered that they are a significant part of who I am, and have been all my life. I'd just never noticed.