Saturday, October 10, 2009

Like Mother, Like Daughter, Turns Out...

Last year my father had heart surgery. It was pretty grim. And I was, for the most part, alone taking care of him. See, I don't have children so everyone assumes I have to do everything, because only people with children have responsibilities. I have a husband, own a small business and teach private voice and brass instruments classes, but none of that counts if you don't have kids. Not that I minded taking care of my father. I'll do what it takes. The only person in my family who has ever made me feel loved just for who I am as a person, even when we bicker, is my dad. But after so many days straight of not sleeping or eating I was starting to get pretty cranky. If my dad's cousin hadn't stepped in and relieved me a couple of nights I would have gone completely nuts.

I have a rather large family. My father is the youngest of 8 children. So when my dad needed a third transfusion I figured they would step up. Boy, was I wrong. Before the surgery my cousin and his wife and I gave blood, but that was used quickly. There wasn't enough for a third transfusion. I called my aunt and asked her for help. She said she would call her church for donors. I waited and waited and no one came. So I called an Army friend for help and exactly thirty minutes later there was a person hooked up to a bag donating for my father, then a couple more, then they took more from me since I was the "Emergency Direct Donor". See, in Puerto Rico,I found out, whenever you go in for a surgery you have to bring donors to replace the blood that you are using because there is a huge shortage of blood. Luckily I have the same blood type as my father.

Crisis averted and two days later I returned to my father's room from getting some coffee and found a group of people from the church gathered around his bed. There was my aunt with a bunch of strangers holding bibles. My father looked at me with pleading eyes and clenched teeth. He was not happy and neither was I. They couldn't give blood or help me out with a little bit of a break, but they're here to pray? In Puerto Rico hospitals you also have to be there 24/7 to make sure your loved one gets the right medication and a freaking bath due to the serious shortage of nurses. Not to mention look out for well meaning morons who show up with food you're not supposed to give a diabetic, like dad's roommate's wife. All of this was going through my head as the preacher lady opened her mouth to spew her verbal vomit. That was it. I lost it. And all of a sudden, in front of my father, family members and a bunch of unwelcome strangers - I came out. Talk about a show stopper.

Although I've been calling myself an Atheist for over twelve years, I've been one since the day all the nuns in my Catholic school took all the girls to the basement of the building to explain to us all about the menstrual cycle we were going to have when he hit puberty, and how it was our punishment for being born sinful girls, and how there would be pain because of Eve and yada, yada, yada. I was like - are you fucking kidding me? Except for flushing bananas down the toilet, I hadn't done anything sinful! I had a lot of questions. And when no one would answer me I took it upon myself to read the bible and my brother's biology book to try to understand what was going on. It was the best thing I could have done. Aesop's Fables made more sense. This was no punishment. This was nature. Not that it still didn't suck, it just made me feel better that it wasn't inflicted upon me by some angry, woman hating, invisible man. But I digress.

The filter between my brain and mouth was broken. Before I knew it, I heard myself saying something like, "You couldn't pray and give blood at the same time? Don't do us any favors with your useless prayers now!", and ended with something like, "If your Jesus actually existed, he probably would have given some of that blood he's always leaving all over perfectly good linen!" My cousin's wife grabbed me by the arm and dragged me out to the hall. I told her, "They have thirty seconds to leave that room."

It's a year later now and after a painful recovery and lots of disillusionment, my dad now lives with me in Florida. I'm so relieved to have him with me. No more worrying about his health from afar, no more emergency trips. I also realize that this is an opportunity to learn more about my mother. The other day my father made a comment that pinched my heart. He said, "There's a lot about your mother that you don't know." Well that's the understatement of the year. There wasn't exactly an outpouring of family information thrown about when I was a kid. My mother in particular had very little to say about her family. Everything was always so secretive. My mother succumbed to brain cancer when I was only 28. And between school and the military I had spent all of my adult life away from home. When she passed I felt like I never got a chance to know her. Not really. I missed out on the opportunity to do things with her as an adult myself, the benefit of her experience as a woman and her views on life in general. There's not a void, there's a black hole.

I look a lot like my mother. I have her facial expressions and her sense of humor. When she died it was hard for my father to be around me at first. I don't blame him. But it sure was hard on me. To this day I can't even be around some family members without them staring at me. Freaks...

Dad told me a story about my mother sneaking a bunch of "For Sale" and "For Junk" signs on his cousin's crappy cars. I couldn't believe it - I had pulled the same prank on a drummer friend of mine who drives a really crappy car. He told me, "You are more like your mother than you know. She was an Atheist, too." My jaw dropped. "Yeah, she never believe in any of that. The only reason you kids were put in a Catholic school was because the nurse at the public school you were in wanted to have you admitted to a hospital for Palor, because you had white skin and red hair and since you were Puerto Rican, you were supposed to be black."

I remember that day clear as a bell. I was sent, along with my older sister, to the school nurse for a required exam. I remember she was looking at our paperwork and had quite the confused look on her face. She kept pulling at my copper hair, looking at it closely and pinching my skin. Then she would open my sister's green eyes really wide and flash a light in them, then back to my hair. So annoying. Finally she picked up the phone and called my mother. A few seconds later I distinctly remember hearing my mother yell, "What?!" I could hear her yelling into the phone from the other side of the nurse's room. She sounded even more pissed than that time she found the doll head I tried to flush down the toilet. (yeah yeah I used to flush all kinds of shit) The nurse turned pale, even for a "white" lady, and looked like she was going to puke. My sister and I looked at each other and figured someone in the room was in a lot of trouble, and thank goodness it wasn't either one of us. Then next thing we know, I swear, my mother showed up in a fairy godmother *POOF!*. My mother was as white as me with the same green eyes my sister had, and there she stood yelling at this woman who kept getting smaller with every word. I learned a few words that day: Ignorant, Racist and Bitch. We were then pulled out of school.

My mother was an Atheist who never came out, not even to us. When I asked my father why she never talked about it, he said she thought everyone had to figure things out for themselves. Then I asked him what he thought, he said "I'm not a fan of religion."

I miss my mother. Having my dad here sharing his memories of her gives her back to me in a way. So I guess I have them both. Thinking back I realize that I grew up in a home that was filled with all kinds of music, books, games, we recreated lots of things from different cultures like miniature pyramids, and discussed different mythologies. They gave me the tools I needed in order to become a thoughtful, reasonable person. Boy were they sneaky rents.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Reflections on 9/11

I thought about writing about my experiences during and after the attack on 9/11, but honestly, I just can't do it. What I can say is that after 9/11, well, I just never felt the same in my uniform.

To my fellow soldiers in the Pentagon who didn't make it, it was a cowardly attack and as soldiers you did not deserve to die this way. No one did. Not in New York - not in Pennsylvania.

To my fellow soldiers and friends who went to Iraq, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, I hope that what little I was able to do Stateside was at least enough to provide some relief for you and help make you safer.

To my fellow soldiers and friends who didn't make it back - I thank you, I love you, I miss you.

To my Primo-Hermano Colo, I can't tell you how happy I was to hear your voice and know that you were safe after so many months without communication. I'm so happy you finally came home last month!

The last time I played TAPS in uniform was for the son of a friend who was killed in Iraq. That was the day I decided never to do it again for family or friends. It was even harder than playing TAPS for my uncle. It's the hardest thing I've ever done as a musician. I think if everyone in the world had a chance to do it and share that moment with the grieving family, we'd all be a little nicer to each other.

It's eight years later and we still can't figure out how to live together in this world. We can't even figure out how to live together as Americans. Maybe one day we'll figure out that kindness is the greatest weapon against "evil". That education is the greatest weapon against suffering. And that loving humanity isn't a bad thing.

One day.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Thank You For Your Service

Before my official retirement from the military I had an interview with the HR office. All of my paperwork should have been up to date, but considering that the same documents were submitted three times and lost three times, I showed up with copies. To my surprise, everything was there. All of my retirement points were accounted for, and that's what I cared most about. I had already gone through my documentation with my Unit Administrator, so I didn't see a need to have a meeting with HRO. The person interviewing me, who we'll call Sgt Rivera, cause that's her name, and who was about seven months pregnant, had called me to her office because of my beneficiary papers. I changed them when I married a few years earlier to make my husband the primary beneficiary, and my father and nephew alternates. She insisted that I update it to add my children before my retirement date. The following is the conversation that ensued as clearly as I can remember, which is very clear because that bitch pissed me off so much I couldn't forget if I wanted to:

"I don't have any children to add."
"You don't have children?"
"No, I don't have children. Does my cat count?"
"No. But you ARE going to have children, aren't you?"
"Uh, no. I'm NOT going to have children."

She somehow managed to shrink her mouth into a pucker tighter than my cat's ass and elongate her face to look like my pissy 6th grade teacher, Miss Lynch. She got pretty darned snooty at this point and I was getting visions of turning her desk over in a fit of rage, but I didn't, because it occurred to me that my shit was tight, and hers wasn't, and that made me happy.

"But you HAVE to have children!"
"I don't HAVE to have anything!"
"You get married to have children. If you didn't want any children, why did you bother to get married?"

Now normally when confronted with a total asshole of a human being, I try to find ways of dealing with that person which will somehow end in peace, not pieces. But she was pushing it. I noticed a picture of her and her husband and three kids on her desk. And another on the way? I thought that maybe she was hormonal or having a bad day, but obviously, this was a thought out plan brought about by the assumption that every woman is supposed to pop out babies, cause that's our primary function. Well, fuck that! Wasn't she popping them out enough for the both of us? My husband and I were incredibly happy with our life and we wanted to keep it that way.

"I got married because I love my husband, not because I wanted to have children. Never in my entire life do I even remember wanting to have children. And besides having some physical issues that I won't get into, why should I do something I don't feel naturally inclined to do?"
"You'd feel differently if you had a child."
"No, you'd feel differently if I had a child."
"Well, that's your decision."
"Exactly. My decision and absolutely none of your business. Let me ask you something. Were you trained to be this rude? Or did you get the job for your natural ability? Because as far as I know, in the 21 years that I have served, Self Righteous Bullshit wasn't a requirement to wear the uniform. So if the inappropriate judgemental portion of this interview is over, I'd like to get on with my retirement. "

I always find it amazing how people who are pregnant assume that they should be treated like holy vessels doing the world the great favor of overpopulating the planet. A week before this conversation I was walking with my dad in the city. We were passing in front of the Hard Rock Cafe and the music was so loud that you could feel it on the sidewalk and through your feet. At that very moment a car pulled up in front of us and a door was thrown open. Out hopped a woman with a baby, a toddler and a magically opening stroller right in our way. It was all so fast that my dad, who has problems with sudden stops and turns thanks to a stroke, almost fell over. I imagine that the look on my face did not convey it's usual cheerful glow. I held on to my dad and stared her down. There she stood in front of me with her Diagon Alley stroller, ready to take children into the city's loudest restaurant and she had the nerve to look at us as if we were the ones in HER way. So I stood there and waited for her to get out of OUR way. Finally she moved and as I was guiding my dad away she said, "It's obvious you don't have children!". Oh no she di-int. I turned around and walked right up to her and said in the lowest most controlled voice I could muster, "No, I don't have children, but if I did, I wouldn't use them as road blocks and I certainly wouldn't take them to a loud and crowded adult place like this. If I owned this business I would ban people like you for the sake of the children whose hearing you put in jeopardy, and for the sake of the customers who come here to eat, drink and listen to Hard Rock, not miserable children screaming because their parents are assholes who care more about themselves than their children's well being. Have a nice day." She was stunned, needless to say, so my work there was done. She was lucky that my dad didn't fall. I honestly don't know what I would have done. But I digress.

Sgt Rivera closed my folder and said that my paperwork was complete. She didn't look at me, she didn't wish me a happy retirement, she didn't thank me for my years of service. It didn't matter how many medals, awards or citations I had. My accomplishments and dedication to my country meant nothing. I was a selfish human being because I chose not to have children. I got up, gathered my things and walked out.

There's a big difference between being a smart ass and being rude. I love being a smart ass. Probably because I can't help it, and it's usually in good fun. I don't like being rude. As a matter of fact, I'm totally against rudeness. It makes me crazy to have to defend myself as a result of other people's rudeness. I hope I never do anything that would force other people to flip out as a result of my rudeness. And I wish there was some kind of procreation law that said people had to pass certain requirements in order to procreate - like not be assholes or stupid. And if you insist on wanting a big family, you should be required to adopt kids who need a family. That's the kind of family I'd like to see on TLC.

I love my cat.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

I vs. Me / Between you and me

One of my biggest pet peeves is the improper use of "I" and "me" and "between you and me". It's especially annoying when used incorrectly by people who I know aren't dummies.

I vs. Me:

Simply put, "I" is a pronoun that must be the subject of a verb. "Me" is a pronoun that must be the object of the verb.

I is the first person singular subject pronoun, which means that it refers to the person performing the action of a verb.

David and I went to the store.

Me is an object pronoun, which means that it refers to the person that the action of a verb is being done to, or to which a preposition refers.

He told Judy and me to have a nice day.

The easiest way to decipher the two is to remove the other noun from the sentence and see if it still makes sense:



Me went to the store.

I went to the store.

David and me went to the store.

(Sound silly? Yes - and cavemannish.)

David and I went to the store.



He told I to have a nice day.

He told me to have a nice day.

He told Judy and I to have a nice day.

(Sounds silly and, I have to say, pretentious

and douchebaggy.)

He told Judy and me to have a nice day.



She brought I a drink.

She brought me a drink.

She brought Tom and I a drink.

She brought Tom and me a drink.

or reverse:



She brought a drink to I.

She brought a drink to me.

She brought and a drink to Tom and I.

(Again, pretentious sounding.)

She brought a drink to Tom and me.

Between you and me:

Between is a preposition like with, to and from. A preposition must be followed by an indirect object pronoun. Me is an indirect object pronoun, and I is a subject pronoun. Therefore, between has to be followed by me, not I.



He went with I.

He went with me.

He gave it to I.

He gave it to me.

It's a gift from I.

It's a gift from me.

The teacher wants to talk to you and I.

The teacher wants to talk to you and me.

The issue is between you and I.

The issue is between you and me.

Still confused about I or me? If I was doing something, I would use I. If I was doing something with someone else, I would use I. If something was happening to me, I would use me. If it was happening to someone else and me, I would use me.

Still confused about between? It's ALWAYS "between you and me", Never "between you and I". That's the rule.

Ow. My brain...


The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation by Jane Straus and Mignon Fogart

The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language by Rodney D. Huddleston and Geoffrey K. Pullum

Monday, June 15, 2009

What's So Great About Being An Atheist?

I wrote the following in response to a wonderful piece titled "What Atheism Offers Over Christianity", written by my friend, Dusty

I hope more than anything that there ISN’T a god because if there is, that would imply that he is a sadistic bastard who knew what awful things were going to befall humanity, but went ahead with the lab project anyway. And if somehow some religioutard can prove without a doubt that god exists, then I want to bring the bastard up on charges of cruelty and neglect, among other things. Sexist psychopath. I would like someone to explain to me what possible reason could there be to put a tree in the middle of a garden with fruit on it, and tell two people with maturity of a toddler, who have never dealt with the concept of consequence or right from wrong, not to eat from that tree, then leave them alone with it. That's like putting a child in a room alone with a bowl of broccoli and a bowl of M&Ms and expect him to only eat the broccoli and then punish him and humanity for all of eternity for eating the pretty red ones. Most of all, how it is that women all across the world accept Jesus Christ into their hearts, get baptized, forgiven of all sin to be Born Again clean in the lord, and still have massive cramps and total pain in childbirth and still believe. Wasn’t that the punishment of original sin? And weren’t women and men created equal before the original sin? Still second class citizens in all religions no matter how dedicated they are. I honestly believe that is the purpose of religion - to control people’s property and keep women in their place - under rule and subjugation of men.

A relationship with god is like a relationship with an abusive husband. In order to be treated kindly you have to do everything that he says, and even then you get your ass kicked - but he loves you and that’s why he punishes you. He gives you free will, but you can't use it. As far as following a religion, fear is the basic tool of recruitment. Manipulation is the basic tool of management and control. Stockholm Syndrome anyone? I fear and love my captor. How sick is that?

Want to know what is great about being an Atheist? I choose to be a good person and actually feel compassion for living things of my own volition. I don’t do it out of fear, or in expectation of great rewards. I don't do it to feel morally superior to others. This makes my kindness all the more worthwhile - because it comes from my heart, not my fear or duty. I also accept the fact that I am human and make mistakes. I am human - and part of the world’s evolution - the greatest part - because I am aware of the fragility of life and the world, and of the responsibility that awareness entails. That is what makes being a human being the greatest thing. If I hurt someone I answer to that person and try to make amends - to them - not an invisible man or a stranger in a booth. I was born without that which does not exist - sin. I choose to either do wrong, or do right. And unless I have some kind of mental or physical issue that I am incapable of overcoming, I am responsible for my actions. Me. No demons, no spirits, me.

I'm not ashamed of who I am. I've made good and bad decisions, but they were mine to make. And whatever bad things have happened to me, they weren't punishment for being a woman or a sinner. They were results of other people's or my own actions, or just shit that happens in life. They are a part of my evolution as a person, so I wouldn't be who I am without them, no matter how horrible some of them may have been. So when someone comes to me and says I have to believe in Jesus Christ or whatever the Deity du jour is, otherwise I will burn in hell, I’ll have to say “Pass the freaking sunblock".

Monday, June 1, 2009

Between Science and Religion

The endless online debates on the origins of the universe almost always end up with someone spewing out the fact that a priest proposed the Big Bang theory. Yes. It's true. A Roman Catholic Priest DID propose the theory. Can't argue with the facts. But more often than not, when questioned about said priest, it's apparent that while they spout this fact with an air of superiority, they demonstrate a void of information. Most simply have no idea who he was. And I suspect that if he were alive today, he would be offended by the frivolity with which his scientific achievement is thrown about. If there ever was an advocate for the separation of science and religion, it was he.

[1]Monsignor Georges Henri Joseph Édouard Lemaître (1894-1966) had a classical education at a Jesuit secondary school (Collège du Sacré-Coeur, Charleroi), an afterwards began studying civil engineering at the Catholic University of Leuven at the age of 17. In 1914, he interrupted his studies to serve as an artillery officer in the Belgian army for the duration of WWI. At the end of hostilities, he received the Military Cross with palms. After the war, he studied physics and mathematics, and began to prepare for priesthood. He obtained his doctorate in 1920 with a thesis entitled l'Approximation des fonctions de plusieurs variables réelles (Approximation of functions of several real variables), written under the direction of Charles de la Vallée-Poussin. He was ordained a priest in 1923, and in the same year became a graduate student in astronomy at the University of Cambridge, spending a year at St Edmund's House (now St. Edmund’s College, Cambridge). He worked with Arthur Eddington who initiated him into modern cosmology, stellar astronomy, and numerical analysis. He spent the following year at Harvard College Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts with Harlow Shapley, who had just gained a name for his work on nebulae, and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he registered for the doctorate in sciences.

Lemaître’s work put him in an impressive and exclusive league with brilliant minds such as Albert Einstein and Edwin Hubble. And in spite of his achievements, he still contended that cosmology and religion had no similarities. At the Solvay Conference it was suggested to him by theoretical physicist Paul Dirac that cosmology is the branch of science that lies closest to religion. In disagreement he suggested that psychology may be closest to religion. So strong was his conviction, that when Pope Pius XII in 1951 took the position that the Big Bang theory confirmed the biblical creation story, Lemaître was greatly embarrassed. He later met with the Pope and cautioned on drawing parallels between scientific theory and the book of Genesis. From then on he published no further research on the Big Bang.

What Georges Lemaître did was courageous and progressive. He maintained a rigid boundary between science and religion. Science asks how, religion asks why. He knew this and lived by it. He once said, “There is no conflict between science and religion”. If Webster defines science as “a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method: concerned with the physical world and its phenomena”, and defines religion as “the service and worship of God or the supernatural”, then he is correct. The only conflict is the eternal one between people.

1. Georges Henri Lemaître from World of Physics. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved

Additional source: The Pari Dialogues: Essays in Science, Religion, Society and the Arts, by F. David Peat

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Hail This!

Hail Ovaries full of Eggs
The Midol is with You
Blessed art thou among Stockholders
And blessed is the Cramping of your Womb
Jesus Christ!
Are you kidding me?
Holy shit!
Screw the fish and the bread!
Multiply Chocolate!
Now and at the hour of our Menopause