Eulogy for my Father

I just found this draft in my garage, stashed away in a box of random papers.  It’s 15 years old now, I’m finally getting around to typing it.

I began writing this eulogy shortly after I saw my father for the last time, 15 years ago now. For it was there that I realized that to me, he had already left this world.   Only his body and mind hadn’t quite accepted it yet.


My Mom and Dad, circa 1957. My Dad passed away on March 18, 2000. He was 73 years old.

We sit here today and are told we should pray for forgiveness from the Lord for Robert Piersall.
We should pray for his soul to be raised up
into Heaven.
But I know in my heart that my father doesn’t require God’s forgiveness.
He requires mine.

My father’s only sin lay in not knowing
how to be a father.
And perhaps not being interested enough
to learn.

But being a parent doesn’t come with an instruction manual, and for that I forgive him.
So many times he wasn’t there, to kiss away the tears of a skinned knee.
Or a broken young woman’s heart.

He wasn’t there to rescue me from the shouts and slaps of a turbulent upbringing.
Or tell his teenage daughter that no man would ever be good enough to date her – just because he was my Dad, and I was his Princess.

In the times in my life when I had crawled so far out on a limb that I had nothing but a leaf to cling to, he wasn’t there.

When I told him that I was engaged to be married, his only concern was that I was already “living in sin”.  He didn’t ask if my husband-to-be was a good man, or a good provider.
He didn’t ask if he would care for me, or make me happy.
He never did call me his Princess, and he didn’t really ask me anything that implied he was the least interested in my life.  Yet I learned from him anyway.

In not being there, I believe he showed me the way to be there for my own children.

And in those times when the leaf I was clinging to broke off the branch
And I fell to the ground with no one to catch me
I learned to shed my tears, pick myself up, and move on.

Though he never told me I was pretty, or that he was proud of me,
Even though I was desperate to hear it
He made me realize that these assurances needed to come from within.

By judging my friends by their skin color, or nationality, and me by my religion, or lack thereof, my father taught me how not to judge, and to try and appreciate all mankind equally. I couldn’t be the good Christian my father wanted me to be; I could only be his daughter.

And in that task, I did the best I could.
With my father, I could talk baseball, or football, or sports cars, or the gas mileage on his exhaust-spewing diesel VW Rabbit.
I learned his few interests, because he never learned mine.

For letting so much of life pass him by,
Without reaching out and grabbing at so many of the joys and mysteries the Universe has to behold in it, my father taught me that I need to do just that.

For never sharing in his children’s triumphs and tragedies, however great or small, he has taught me how to do so in the future, with my own children.

So I do not ask the Lord to forgive my father.

Because I have forgiven him, and that is what really matters here on Earth.

And while he was not a father to me, more like a kindly uncle I saw now and then, he was nevertheless a good man.
With a good heart, and a ready smile.
And rarely a cross word for anyone.
And for that, I will always love him.

So do not pray for my father to gain ascension to Heaven.
For he has already been dwelling there.




Posted in In Memoriam | Tagged | 1 Comment

This Is How A Heart Breaks

You know those PSA commercials where they show someone texting in their car and suddenly getting broadsided by a semi-truck in slow motion?  When you see it, you’re shocked, frightened, horrified … and may even think about what the driver could have done differently to prevent such a terrible thing from happening.

blue heart

My life felt like that a little less than two weeks ago.  One minute, I was out at dinner with my significant other, my boyfriend of 7+ years, enjoying ourselves, and the next I felt I’d been slammed into by an accordion bus, so hard that it wrapped around both sides of me and squashed me in the middle. He split up with me because even though he loved me, he was no longer “in love” with me.  Even now, I’m still bewildered and shaking my head like I got a concussion or something.  And I’m afraid to slow down and stop to think about it, because if I do, I’ll be overwhelmed with despair – it chases me like some nameless figure.

Maybe I should look at this as a blessing, somehow.  I can now get on with my regularly scheduled life.  Whatever that was.  I’m not spending my evenings driving around between El Cajon and Escondido, or Rancho Bernardo to El Cajon and then back up again to Escondido – because he has two dogs who can’t stay home alone and I have six cats who can.  So on the nights I don’t have my kids with me, every other week, I’m going up to his house to spend time together and in between trying to make sure I’m still working a full-time job and occasionally saying hello to my cats. I can get back to learning yoga or exercising or expanding my mind and my horizons, learning to play the piano, whatever – now that I have all these free evenings.  Maybe that was the problem, I forgot who I was, or who I was aspiring to be, somewhere along those past 7 years and he got bored with me.

The reality is, I had no regularly scheduled life outside of him.  My future was planned out with him, both the near and the distant.  In a couple of years, when my kids (or at least one of them) would be grown and off to college, and the other would at least be able to drive a car to high school, we could move to a different part of town, figure out a house arrangement that would accommodate the cats and the dogs in some kind of semi-harmony.  We could both retire, and when it was just the two of us, we’d have plenty of time for all the travel we wanted to do.  A trip on the Orient Express, another train ride through the Canadian Rockies; a riverboat cruise through Eastern Europe, to see Prague and Budapest and even Transylvania.  All that time we wanted to spend together, we could finally spend.  I wouldn’t always be driving to and from work or his house or driving my kids to school.  It’s been this way since we met, since I’m not going to have my kids change school districts every other week, and our few attempts at trying to introduce cats to dogs have not gone well.  Not to say I wouldn’t have been willing to try, given enough space for a decent Catio and a dog run.

Sigh.  On one level, I am angry at him for screwing up the entire rest of my life.  I was always able to see us together until one or the other of us passed away.  Preferably me first, since I didn’t want to live without him, but hopefully not until into our 90’s and still being of relatively sound mind and body.  We could have produced a whole video series on geriatric porn that would have given the rest home residents some inspiration.

But on the other hand, I am so fucking pissed at him.  Maybe this is karma.  It’s payback, finally, for divorcing my husband 11 years ago and probably breaking his heart and ruining his future dreams in the process.  I’m not sure.  The only thing I’m sure of with my ex-husband is that he’s probably more bitter about the monetary loss in his retirement accounts than he is with the physical loss of me.  Although it feels like I’ve been through more than my share of crappy relationships and even crappier men in the interim that I would have thought karma and I would be even by now.  I guess not. For the past seven years in this relationship, I’ve been the patient, accommodating, understanding one … the one who stood by and waited for him to get his life in order, for the time when either his son was out of college or out of the house, or a time when he would actually divorce his wife, who lives in another house elsewhere, with her boyfriend.  That never happened, and he’s still married, but yet now I’m made to feel like me being upset about that issue is over-reacting.  Am I?

I don’t know what’s going to happen now.  I haven’t seen my boyfriend in almost two weeks, and I feel like I’m adrift at sea in a boat with no motor and no oars.  Fortunately, I don’t think Richard Parker is aboard.  I’m angry that he doesn’t seem to feel that I was worth fighting for, someone he would suggest going to counseling with to try and work things out.  He used to tell me that he and his wife went to counseling multiple times, even did a marriage encounter weekend.  I thought that was what couples who cared about making it last should do – fight for the relationship, find a way to make it work out. Nope. Instead this was just a cut-and-dried affair, like that’s it, I’m done with you.  And I’m left sitting at Miguel’s with that deer in the headlights look.

This morning in the car I was listening to Jewel’s big song, Foolish Games.  There’s a line in there where she says, “Excuse me, I think I’ve mistaken you for someone else, somebody who gives a damn, somebody more like myself.”  I hope I’m wrong. We’ll see. In the meantime I feel broken, and spend my evenings crying until I have nothing left in me, wrung-out like a sponge … and yet by morning I always seem to be full of tears again.






Posted in I Hate The Living | 3 Comments

To the Moon and Back

One of my favorite songs from Savage Garden is one I always thought had to be written about me, at some point.  I’m sure I’m not the only woman to think that, either.  But it strikes the heart when it feels like someone is talking about you and they’ve never met you, doesn’t it?

She’s taking time making up the reasons
To justify all the hurt inside
Guess she knows from the smiles and the look in their eyes
Everyone’s got a theory about the bitter one.

I’m not really going to go into what prompted today’s downward spiral, let’s just say it was a combination of things – health issues, personal issues at work, and a little too much introspection on my part (generally always classified as a FAIL) and going down memory lane, looking at old emails from old boyfriends.  I often envision my world around me to be like this glass bubble that I blow, day by day, that protects me and shields me.  Sometimes the bubble is tough and (nearly) shatterproof, like the Gorilla Glass on an iPad or cell phone.  Others, it is as fragile as a soap bubble and just as easily burst, leaving me defenseless, naked, shattered on the ground in a hundred pieces.  And dear God, when it happens, I might as well have had my skin flayed off with a thousand lashes – to the heart, it hurts that badly.  The dam breaks and every pent up insecurity bursts forth.  Suddenly I am reminded that I’ve never been “The One” to anyone I’ve ever been with.  At least not that I’m aware of.  Maybe I was to my ex-husband, I don’t know.  He didn’t really act like his life was somehow incomplete without me, and I feel like I badgered him into proposing to me – we’d hit the two year dating mark and were living together, and I told him I wanted a ring or I was walking.  So he did the right thing and we got married, but looking back I wonder if his heart was really in it or if he just figured it was something he was supposed to do.  Sort of like I figured you were supposed to get married before you were 30, or good heavens, you’d end up an old maid forever, some scary spinster living in a spooky old house that all the neighborhood kids throw rocks at.

Prior to that, I dated a number of guys in college, or rather, slept with a lot of them and dated a few of those.  The occasional one who did decide he was devoted to me usually didn’t decide to tell me so until after we’d split up and he’d gone home for the summer or the winter break and found God or had a lobotomy, and then came back and was a possessive psycho who wouldn’t let me out of his sight.  Yeah.  Just the Prince Charming I always wanted, a fucking stalker.  After my divorce, I met and dated more than anyone’s share of men who had no problem telling me they were still looking on the other side of the fence for that greener grass, even though professing to me that I was the best lover they’d ever had.  In some cases, they were even still living with that other lawn and mowing it on occasion, too – but oh no, they loved me also, and I was just being insecure and jealous by thinking there was anything wrong with that.

They’re saying, “Mama never loved her much
And daddy never keeps in touch
That’s why she shies away from human affection
But somewhere in a private place
She packs her bags for outer space
And now she’s waiting for the right kind of pilot to come”
And she’ll say to him
She’s sayin’

Realistically, I find myself asking again today, as I stand amid the shattered fragments of my heart’s bubble, trying to pull myself together once more, is that really what I want?  To be “The One”, someone that got put on a pedestal, loved, worshipped, adored?  In my efforts to attain that level of devotion, I have learned to mold myself to be just about any woman a guy would want, like human Play-Doh.  I’m so flexible that I’ve forgotten what shape I started out as – even though I think that’s the shape I want others to love.  But in all honesty, even when my brother (whom I love very much) tries to do too much for me, I find his attentions annoying, like a bee buzzing around me, and just want to slap him away and remind him that I’m a grown woman now and am perfectly capable of taking care of myself, thank you very much.  Who’s to say I wouldn’t react the same to a man wanting to take care of me, as a man who really treated me like a cherished object would be wont to do?

“I would fly to the moon and back if you’ll be
If you’ll be my baby
I’ve got a ticket for a world where we belong
So would you be my baby?”

She can’t remember a time
When she felt needed
If love was red then she was color blind
All her friends
Well they’ve been tried for treason
And crimes that were never defined

Yet no matter how often logic stares me in the face, or damn near pinches my neck like Mr.  Spock with his Vulcan grip, it doesn’t sink in.  Somewhere inside me, that little girl who used to always draw crayon pictures of herself wearing a crown or a princess hat with the trailing veil, still reaches out, thinking every guy who finds her attractive or just wants to shag her is Prince Charming.  Surely this is him.  This is the one that I can give myself to and he will appreciate me for all that I am, he’ll realize what a prize I really am.  I’m continually striving for something I don’t think I really want, but it’s the only behavior I know. The people that have known me for years have probably given up trying to understand why I can’t see in the mirror what is so visible to all of them – that I am a strong-willed, stubborn, independent cuss who would just as soon be hoisted on a pedestal as I would want a colonoscopy (oh yeah, I have one of those coming up too, as if life didn’t suck enough already).

“Guys don’t like women who are too smart.”
“You’re too independent, it’s a turn off.”
“Try being a little more helpless once in awhile.”

I’ve been told all of those.  And more.  And wonder why I still won’t let go of that protective shell.  Yet somewhere deep inside I believe that if that bubble isn’t there to protect me, that I might not exist at all.  I imagine myself to be this wisp of a soul, easily blown away in a strong breeze, dissipated like smoke, the particles never to recombine.  That protective bubble holds me together.  And keeps others out.  Maybe those same others who would see me in that golden, glowing light of a woman worthy of perpetual worship.  The very same worship I don’t want.  It’s a small wonder at the end of a day that my head doesn’t explode when I actually think about this.  Even worse when I run out of Ketel One.  I was thinking recently that I really should write more for my kids, sort of an advice column from Mom, on all the stuff that our parents forgot to pass on to us.  That’s another full blog (or a whole series of them) in itself.  However, I don’t think my first one will start off with “You know kids, if I’d taken up drinking vodka years ago, I might still be married to your Dad.”  Yeah, nice sound advice there.  Let’s just book me my reserved space in the trailer park now, shall we?

Not to minimize the point behind the Ketel One comment, though.  I think a lot of people do drugs to escape their reality or expand their imaginations out to somewhere they can’t go.  I’m no expert by any means.  But I will admit to knowing that alcohol is a depressant.  I take antidepressants.  You’d think if I just quit the one, I could stop the other, right?  Except I was taking the medication long before the vodka, so I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive.  The latter serves the purpose now of telling my mind to STFU.  The former?  Keeps me from throwing myself off a bridge.  So in that sense, I guess it’s an upper.

I used to argue with myself (and lose) over the notion of taking prescription medication for, potentially, the rest of my life.  I started taking antidepressants in 1999, after my first son was born, due to what was diagnosed as severe postpartum depression.  I can admit now that the diagnosis was accurate, and my therapist told me she was pretty close to just hospitalizing me, but I guess I responded pretty well to the three drugs she put me on at the time.  It’s now 13 years later and I’ve been on the same one, one that I can say finally actually worked (the previous ones were adequate, but I wouldn’t say they gave me the rose-tinted glasses everyone envisions) since 2004.  I wouldn’t call them rose-tinted, either.  Maybe just glasses without as jaundiced of a view.  The same year I split up with my husband and we filed for divorce, I don’t think that’s a coincidence.  I think that was the year I finally tried to stop compromising, at least with regard to what I expected a committed relationship to be.  And I think I’ve been looking and trying to figure it out ever since.  For better or worse, I was going to have it my way.

Then I struggle with wondering what the hell I’m looking for.  Take my current boyfriend.  He is a delightful, funny, smart, sexy man.  He is also still married, albeit separated for the last four years.  He spoils me, at least in my definition of the term.  I suspect he would probably gladly support all my needs if I asked him to, and I never will, because even the thought of him helping me out with my exorbitant medical bills is abhorrent to me.  I hate the thought of feeling beholden to anyone.  My former therapist Dr. Tam, whom I’ve seen since 1999, recently got back into practice again, so I started seeing her again, gratefully so, because my interim therapist, whom I really only saw for prescription refills, had that kind of Marty Feldman wall-eyed stare that always bugged the crap out of me … anyway, Dr. Tam knows me pretty well from way back when.  When I told her my issues with having my BF offering to pay the occasional bill for me, she asked me, “Well, how would you feel if the situation were reversed, and you could easily afford to pay his bills, and offered to?”

Damn the hell out of people for throwing logic at me.  Of course I would do that, and would expect it to be accepted and would expect nothing in return, all of which he does.  But crickey, I’m still struggling with the fact that I used to make $90,000 a year and now I make $60,000 a year and my expenses have only gone up and my spousal/child support has gone down (the spousal support stopped last year), although thankfully Chase Mortgage did refinance my house as part of the whole whatever-it-was Act.  Now you can actually say you know someone that benefited from it.  Probably the only person you know. But hey, I’m grateful for it, it made a huge difference, even if it took forever.  It allowed me to keep my house, which, I have to admit, is part of that bubble.

I can finally admit after several months of experiencing this, that it totally blows that my boyfriend doesn’t spend the night at my house anymore because of his dogs.  Or his son’s dogs.  Or his son’s dog and his dog.  Call it however you want, but they sure as hell aren’t cats and they aren’t as self-sufficient as cats, either.  I have five felines (yes, that is too many), but yet I can make sure I leave them enough dry food and I can be gone overnight and they won’t shit or pee all over the place and the world won’t end.  Dogs aren’t quite the same.  Anyway, I digress.  The point here, if there was one, is that my home is my fortress of solitude, my strength.  Just call me Kal-El.  Being alone, even for an evening, serves to remind me of who I am.  I think.  (We’re assuming, for the moment, that I actually know who that is.)  Being at home with someone else there is a close second in terms of fortifying me – hence the gripe about my BF not spending the night there.  I’m not about to pass up the chances I get to spend the night at his place as I don’t see enough of him anyway … but maybe I need to rethink that on occasion and have a “me” night once in awhile.  One that I don’t spend sitting around moping, that is.  Right now I have a roommate, her lease is up at the end of March – she has been a part-time nanny for my kids since my separation from my ex back in 2004 – so that doesn’t help my desire to be alone.  She’s a great roommate, but to be honest, I could have a mannequin for a roommate and it would still drive me crazy to know I don’t have the house entirely to myself.  It’s not like I’m prancing around in all of the bedrooms at night wearing a tutu and clown shoes, either.  But I might want to, you never know.  And for that reason, it bugs me to have someone else there.

I love my house.  I remodeled it in 2005, at a cost that was more than I could afford, after my divorce was final.  It’s the same house that my ex and I bought in 1992 as our first house, and while it looks mostly the same on the outside, it is (at least in the upstairs area) scarcely the same house it was back then.  Flooring, windows, entryway, back patio, yard, kitchen, master bed and bath have all been redone and replaced to my specifications. My contractor told me he’d never dealt with someone who knew so exactly what they wanted as I did.  Why is it, though, that I can pick out tile and flooring and light fixtures but apparently not seem to settle on what it is that I want in a relationship?

Let’s go back to my boyfriend for a moment (he’ll hate this; he generally hates to be focused on) … I understand his reasons for still being married to his wife and accept them.  And I ask myself if what I really want at the end of the day is to be married to him myself?   Hmmm.  Well, no, not really. I mean, yeah, I look good in a wedding dress and of course I love diamond jewelry and a good party … but that’s about the end of it. I love the romantic notion of marriage, at any rate, but I’m not the same woman I was 20 years ago who was deathly afraid of ending up alone.  Twenty years from now, I may be singing a different tune.

Do I want to live with him?  I love spending time with him and always feel comfortable around him, a real rarity for me.  You’d think someone who has posed naked for amateur photographers and for Playboy would be always be self-assured in her own skin, but I’m about the most modest person you’ll find when I’m with someone I love.  He’s probably the first person I’ve been with that I don’t continually find myself trying to cover up my stomach or other saggy parts when he’s in the room.  But living together full-time?  Aside from my tutu and clown shoes issue from earlier, well, it isn’t really practical at the end of the day.  I can’t and won’t move my kids out of their current school district and I only have 50% custody of them, so I need to stay in San Diego’s East County.  We live about 25 miles apart, so it is pretty impractical from a get-the-kids-to-school-every-morning standpoint, too.  And I don’t think his two dogs (large and semi-unruly Labradors, albeit cute and adorable) would do too well with my five cats, so scratch that theory.  Which leaves us kind of in the situation we are now, namely, I see him and spend the night most of the time when I don’t have my kids for the week, and he comes over usually once a week to hang out with me and my kids when I do have them.

Which leaves me stuck with this restlessness of the soul, this journey I don’t have a map for.  Why can’t I just be happy?

The Reality of My Glass Bubble

She’s saying, “Love is like a barren place
And reaching out for human faith is …
It’s like a journey I just don’t have a map for.”

So baby’s gonna take a dive and

Push the shift to overdrive
Send a signal that she’s hanging all her hopes on the stars
What a pleasant dream …

What scares me the most is that I know I need to be honest with myself.  I do everything I can to avoid it, because I don’t want to go there.  Going there is exposing that wispy smoke of my soul to a category 5 hurricane.  I’m not even sure I would know where to start – which is probably one of many reasons that I write this blog, because thinking out loud like this gives me clues.  I know I spend a lot of time and energy on making myself look good to the outside world, because I always want people to find me appealing.  Like a bad movie with a really good trailer – it’s rare that I ever let anyone see the whole film.  Including myself.

I’m reminded of a lovely scene at at the climax of “A Room With a View”, when Lucy Honeychurch (played by Helena Bonham Carter) finally admits her feelings for George Emerson (Julian Sands).  George’s father (the delightful late Denholm Elliott) confronts her and says to Lucy, “You love George.  You love the boy, body and soul, as he loves you.”

Lucy:  “But of course I do.  What did you all think?”
Mr. Emerson: “Then …”
Lucy:  “No.  Mother’s calling.  I’ve got to go.  They trust me.”
Mr. Emerson:  “Why should they?  When you deceived everyone … including yourself.”

Posted in I Hate The Living | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment


April 26, 2011

It strikes me, tonight, when I ask my 12-year-old son (he’s in 6th grade this year – middle school in our school district) if he wants to see my middle school yearbook. “Ok, sure,” he says, already starting to develop that preteen complete disinterest in anything a parental figure has to say. He glances through it and finds my picture, and says, “You know, Mom, you were kind of a dork.”

Ahh, the sympathetic tone of youth! I just shrug and agree with him. Yes, I was a dork. But didn’t know it, and didn’t have enough parental interest in my life to actually tell me that I was a dork. I just went on in my blissfully oblivious dorky way … well, not so oblivious, because I still remember the kids that taunted me and picked on me for being (pick one) too skinny, too flat-chested, buck-toothed, four-eyed, a brain. Not sure you hear those same insults today, but I’m sure there are others to take their place.

And I find myself wondering, how in the hell did I get here? I’m almost 48 and yet there are times when I remember my early 20’s as though they were yesterday, and then I wonder what in the hell happened in between. For those of you who are religious or sensitive to cussing, I apologize in advance – this blog post will most likely contain a lot of swear words or varieties of taking the Lord’s name in vain. For myself, having not been formally raised in a church, baptised, or really even taken into a house of worship other than on the occasional Easter service (and even then I was convinced that the assistant minister was a child molester – think of me as Stewie Griffin in female form back then), I think this sort of gives me carte blanche to say what I want. For me, swearing isn’t taking anyone’s name in vain – it’s just a more colorful way of expressing myself.

But back to the point. This evening I ended up chatting briefly with a friend on Facebook, a guy I knew from high school. Who I had a crush on for probably most of high school as well, but who was also someone I thought was unattainable, one of the jocks who got to hang out with the “soch” crowd of jocks, cheerleaders, student body presidents, and the like. Me? I was just a skinny, underdeveloped nerd. I didn’t hit puberty until I was almost 16. By my senior year, I was starting to look pretty good, but of course all the guys I liked all remembered me and probably thought of me as the way I was the year before, or the year before that. Plus nobody likes a girl who gets all the answers right, unless you want to copy off her paper during a test, of course.

But I find myself wondering, where has the learning gone to? What one generation passes on to the next? Is it even happening anymore? Or are our kids all convinced that our parents are morons and all of their technology was so passe anyway (no cell phones? what the hell? and they played Pac-Man or Pong? GMAFB) that they should be hanging out with the special kids on the short bus? I think the religious/existential/metaphysical learnings are passed on. But what about the other stuff? The parts about how to deal with the kids that pick on you? About relationships and dating and boyfriends/girlfriends, crushes, love, heartbreak? All the stupid stuff that you thought mattered in high school, and then when you get into the real world, you realize it doesn’t matter worth a rat’s ass?

Yeah, that. I don’t remember my Mom ever giving me a single piece of useful advice back in my junior high and high school days. I saw my Dad only a couple hours every two weeks at that point, so he was kind of a non-entity. If it didn’t involve cars, the Padres, or the Chargers as a topic of discussion, he wasn’t interested anyway. I developed an interest in all three until probably the last decade, when I finally acknowledged that the latter two suck and have always sucked. As for the first topic, I drive a terrific car that my dad would have simultaneously envied and condemed, if that makes sense. For him it would have. He would have loved the engine, the performance, the ride, and the handling, but would have been in a tizzy over the gas mileage or lack thereof. That was my Dad. My Mom, when I asked her for advice on how to deal with the girls who were stealing the better parts of my lunch out of our shared high school locker, proceeded to give me some pop psychology “fight or flight” lecture. Yeah, that’s what I really needed to hear when the cholo girls were stealing my Ding-Dong every day, and I was tempted to lace the Hostess goodies with strychnine just to see what would happen. Like I was going to actually confront them and get my skinny white ass beaten up in the school parking lot by a chicano gang with a tire iron. Pass.

I resolved the lunch issue by carrying my lunch around with me for a few weeks and looking like even more of a dork, until such time as I was well enough acquainted with another freshman girl and she asked me if I wanted to share her locker. This advice, of course, would be lost on my son now because his junior high has no lockers. I’m sure his high school doesn’t either. And I will sound antiquated bringing up the subject to him because I lived back in the days when kids weren’t stupid enough to bring drugs or guns or God-knows-what to school and stick it in their lockers. By the time my kids are in college (or maybe even high school), they will probably have the ability to just carry around a pad of paper and an iPad, or maybe just the latter, and read all of their textbooks on the iPad rather than carrying around 20 lbs of books. For the sake of their spines, I hope so.

So I ask myself what useful advice I could impart to my two sons. Advice on how to deal with bullies? Maybe. But it’s different for a girl vs. a boy. Guys end up having to punch each other out to resolve things. Or get beat up and learn how to run faster. Girls just go home and cry, and get told by their Mom that they’re overreacting. Looking back, I’m not sure how I dealt with the shitty kids in junior high, either. I do recall thinking that no matter what, school was always better than home. And maybe that’s what kept me going. I’m not sure if I’d like to pull some manic-depressive psychotic mom route on my kids just to save on the utilities and have them move out the minute they finish high school.

My son will be 13 on Saturday.. I used to think as a kid that adults knew everything. That there was some mysterious rite of passage into adulthood that occurred when you were 18, or maybe at 21, and that you would suddenly just KNOW how to be a grown-up. The older I got, the older that age limit became. Maybe at 25, I thought. Maybe when I get married. Or maybe when I have kids. I’ll be 49 in July and truth be told, I’m still waiting.
People never seem to understand why I’m so lacking in self-confidence. I’m not really, not always, but even I wonder when the childhood self will grow up at last. I ran across some photos of myself the other day, from almost 24 years ago, back in my post-college days when I was earning some extra money by doing modeling for photography classes. Circa 1988, there were such things as “glamour photography” workshops, or lingerie photography classes. If amateur guys wanted to get quality home whacking material (pretty much what I always figured they used it for), they couldn’t just shoot a couple hundred shots and toss the bad ones like you can now, with digital. You had to actually learn how to compose a shot and not waste all your film, because that shit was expensive, especially developing it. My first trip to Europe in 1985, I shot 13 rolls of film (24 to 36 shots per roll) in three weeks and it cost me over $130 to develop it all. You could buy a whole camera for that now.

Anyway, back to the point. One of the photographers I occasionally worked for gave me some prints from one of the sessions he did of me. I’m wearing this black bustier with garters, mostly sheer lace with some deep blue ribbon accents, really a sexy little number now that I think about it. I still have it somewhere, I think. It was always one of my favorites, although I doubt it will ever fit again. And that’s okay. I used to mourn that notion, but after a couple dozen years, I finally recognize that gravity does shift things around a bit, even if I could ever get back down to the weight I was then (probably 115 lbs), the distribution of matter isn’t the same. Wait, does this mean I’m a grown up? Acceptance of reality? Ha. I wish. I scanned the photos and saved them on my computer, and took a good look at them again the next day. Huh. I really was a hot little number back in the day … and yet why in the hell couldn’t I see it in the mirror? How can I teach my own children how to have the self-confidence I never had? Still don’t have?
I always feel like I’m faking it, being an adult. Sure that someone will call me out, ask me for my papers, my credentials, something showing that I really know what I’m doing. Yet I have to admit, on the rare occasions I actually watch the news or take the time to read beyond the top 5 headlines, I find no shortage of stories on people who have no fucking clue how to be adults, how to raise kids, how to hold down a job, how to even function as human beings, for that matter. People who sit on a toilet for two years and get stuck there. People who lock their kids in a closet for days on end, or adopt 50 cats even and live in a urine-soaked shithole. People who repeatedly get busted for drunk driving and don’t stop until they finally end up in jail, usually after they’ve killed someone else. Wow. At least I’m not THAT dysfunctional, I think. My kids seem to be more or less okay, they still like me and neither of them has taken a run at me with a kitchen knife yet. They’re both good students and very bright and creative boys. They’re observant, intuitive, well-spoken, and witty enough to be a comedy act at times. Maybe parental influence does make a difference along the way …

Which brings me to probably the one cohesive thing I can say about being a grownup – at the end of the day, you have to trust yourself. I don’t recall ruminating over my day when I was a child and wondering what I should have done different, or whether I did the right thing in such-and-such situation. I do remember always deferring to everyone else, though. My mom, my brother, the few friends I had in school – everyone else was right, everyone else knew more than I did. Yet along the way, things started to turn. Perhaps earlier for me than most average US kids, perhaps not – I don’t have a broad base of exposure to compare to, since I had so few school friends (moving at least once a year and always being the new kid in school tends to make peer bonding a little tough) to talk to. By the time I was 12 or so, I was doing my Mom’s taxes and balancing her checkbook down to the penny every month. When she wanted to buy a townhouse when I was in high school, I was the one who told her she couldn’t afford the payments, even with the mortgage deductions – let alone whether or not she would even qualify for a loan with her shitty credit. And I had to remind her that I did still have a tendency to sleepwalk, and I wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of falling down a flight of stairs and breaking my neck in a two-story townhouse, something she really hadn’t taken into consideration. Or maybe she had. We weren’t exactly the best of buddies those days, although I recall still telling her I loved her every night at bedtime. And most of the time I meant it. It wasn’t until years later that I told her to fuck off, and probably not until a couple decades later that I decided she most likely had borderline personality disorder, untreated and unrecognized, and so destructive to everyone who cared about her.

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What Women Really Think …

Sunday, April 24, 2011

In case you ever wondered what a single gal thinks (well, me, anyway – I’m no longer single, but I’ve looked at a lot of these in my time and hope to never again) when she looks at online personal ads … (click and view full size to read captions easier)

Posted in Just for Sh*ts and Grins | Leave a comment

Four Four and Nineteen Years Ago

April 4, 2011

On this day, back in 1992, on a Saturday, I got married.  Today would have been my 19th anniversary.  May 5th of this year will mark the 6th year since my divorce became final.  These past few years I’ve always found it kind of ironic, the dates thing.  My first date with my ex was on 6/6, my wedding was 4/4, my divorce was 5/5.  Fortunately I think that’s about it for the numeric coincidences.

Me on my big day, 19 years ago

I don’t think about this day that much except when it rolls around.  Like today.  Next year would be my 20th anniversary.  That’s kind of a big one, or it would have been.  And every year when this date rolls around, I feel a sense of remorse.  Oddly enough, I’ve felt that way for at least the last decade.  Yep.  I think you can do that math.  Means I felt like that while I was still married, too.  Different reasons, same emotion.  I’m the first to admit, if anyone asks me, that I’m the guilty party in my divorce.  I’m the one with the figurative scarlet letter “A” on my chest.  I’m not the least bit proud of what happened or how my divorce came about, and I’m still ashamed of how much my husband was hurt by my actions.  It didn’t have to be that way and I never wanted to hurt him.  What I did was stupid, careless, unthinking.  All that being said, though, it always takes two to make a relationship work.  It also takes two to make it fall apart. ‘Nuff said on that for the time being.

Looking back, I’m hardly the same woman now that I was 19 years ago, or 22 years ago, when my ex and I first met.  I had just moved back to San Diego after 8 years up in Berkeley (4 for college, 4 for work) and at the ripe old age of 25 I finally got around to getting my driver’s license and my first car.  I was convinced that all of my friends were getting married (they weren’t) and starting to have children (ditto) and that I was going to end up an old maid, unmarried at age 30.  Horrors.  Well, back in 1989, it sounded a lot worse than it does now.  After all, my Mom was married when she was 19, for heaven’s sake.  Granted, that was in 1957, and the world was a little different then.  I had split up with a previous boyfriend after two years together up in the Bay Area, dated another guy for awhile who then went off to  South America somewhere to either find himself or join some band of revolutionaries, dated some other dude who decided that after I broke it off that he couldn’t live without me and then was going to hitchhike and bus his way to Africa (not sure how that works across an ocean), and ultimately I came to the conclusion that there were very few normal men to be had in Berkeley.  As if I could actually be considered “normal” myself.  Ha.

Coincidentally enough, when I started to write this post, I started wondering about that one boyfriend who went off to South America and whatever became of him.  Strangely enough, I briefly dated a guy when I moved back to San Diego, who had once dated that guy’s sister – because they lived in the same neighborhood up in the SF Bay Area.  Small world.  So I thought I’d look him up online, see if he was out there somewhere.  No luck on Facebook.  So I went to Pipl.  I had no idea where he was.  Last I had heard of him (from the San Diego guy), he was in Europe with some girlfriend.  That was probably 15 years or more ago.  If you haven’t tried it, is an amazing search site. It only looks for people.  Took me a bit to remember the guy’s name – I knew it was Eric, because that was one of my top choices for a name for one of my sons.  Last name was … uhhh … shit.  Something Scandinavian sounding.  Or Jewish.  Yeah, that helps.  Started with a J.  After mulling it over for a bit, Eric Johannson finally sprang to mind.  And darned if there wasn’t a match on some total stranger’s blog about a professor at a school in the Netherlands from UC Berkeley, named Eric Johannson.  I met Eric when I was working at the UC Berkeley School of Education.  He wasn’t as tall as I would have liked and he drove a crappy car with ripped seats that always snagged my nylons, but he liked to play basketball and had damn nice shoulders, looked good in tank tops, and gave credence to the saying about guys with big feet and their … ahem … other endowments.

Which brings me back, sort of, to the subject of this post.  Me, 19 years ago, getting married.  I was a virgin until I got to college.  I was a dorky, dweeby looking kid in high school until I hit puberty sometime in my junior year.  Talk about your late bloomers.  I started high school at 4’11” and weighed 75 lbs.  I finished at 5’6″, 110 lbs and a C-cup bra size.  By the time I finished college, I was one of Playboy’s Girls of the PAC-10 from UC Berkeley.  And yes, I do miss the figure I had then (insert anguished sob here).  I went from Escondido High School to UC Berkeley with absolutely no clue what to expect.  Compared to my high school peers, I was a genius.  To my college peers, I was just average in intelligence.  My parents (divorced since I was 5) were of no help, neither of them had been to college, nor did either of them care that I was going to one of the toughest schools in the country on a full scholarship, as an aerospace engineering major.  It was like it didn’t register on their personal Richter scales or something.  I don’t think it registered on mine how important it was in terms of an accomplishment.  To me, it was just a place that was far enough away from my Mom that didn’t have snow in the winter.

I look at how much time and effort parents put into their kids’ college choices these days, helping them out, moving them in, the whole bit, and wonder how I even made it back then.  My Mom put me on a PSA flight to Oakland with a couple of suitcases, and I had to then find my way from the airport to my dorm room, courtesy of a BART train and a taxicab, because I guess the drive up from San Diego was too much effort for her.  I was so anxious and tense the first few days there that my shoulders were as stiff as a board and I couldn’t even sleep because I was in so much pain.  Being a complete novice as to medications as well, the best I could think of was to get some baby aspirin and down a dozen or so of those.  This was back in the days before they discovered Reye’s Syndrome and took baby aspirin off the market.  I never learned to swallow pills as  a kid, because I had such large tonsils that I often choked on them, and on food I was eating, pretty routinely.  I didn’t realize how big the tonsils were until after they got infected for the 4th time in my freshman year and a doctor advised me to have them removed that summer when I was well again.  Amazingly, I was able to swallow pills after that.  And I stopped snoring like a freight train at night, too.  Wish someone had looked into that issue a little sooner, like, I dunno, maybe my Mom?  Anyway, let’s move on, shall we?

A few weeks into my freshman year, I discovered that guys noticed me all of a sudden.  And talked to me.  I had no idea why.  I’ve always found my deep voice rather off-putting, and certainly my well-honed sarcastic, self-deprecating wit wasn’t exactly what you’d call the America’s Sweetheart level of feminine charm.  I really don’t know.  I should try and track down one of those freshman-year boyfriends and ask them what the appeal was.

This was the point in writing this blog where I got sidetracked and decided to try and do just that and search for some of them online.  Surprisingly, I found four of them.  There’s a few more whose last names I don’t remember, shamefully, and another one who tragically died around age 30.  John Johnson (yes, that really was his name) came up to me at a winter formal dance in my sophomore year at Berkeley and made some Monty Python joke and told me how bored I looked.  I was there with a previous-ex and soon-to-be-ex again boyfriend, having a miserable time and wondering why the hell I’d been talked into going to this stupid thing, and this charming, funny guy who was also from my hometown of San Diego literally swept me off my feet.  I miss him probably the most of all, since I know I’ll never see him again.  I would have loved to have seen him with kids, he would have been a terrific father.  He met the love of his life somewhere over in Asia or Africa when they were both either working in the Peace Corps or studying abroad, I don’t even remember.  She was from Germany.  They’d barely been married a year when he died in a hiking accident.  I don’t know the details and I never found out – I just remembered getting a Christmas card from his widow, it turns out, the same day I was sending mine out, I hadn’t heard from him since the previous Christmas.  I was shocked.  John was always upbeat and cheerful, even though his life had more than its share of ups and downs.  I think he was allergic to nuts, and shellfish, and tomatoes, and a list of about a hundred other things.  He limped when he was tired, I can’t remember why now, but he might have been born with a clubfoot or something that had been corrected, but wasn’t quite 100%.  He wasn’t the tallest guy I dated, or the best looking, either.

Yet John was like an Energizer Bunny of enthusiasm.  The guy ccould have made friends with a terrorist and the next thing they would have been hoisting a couple of beers and talking like old buddies. I saw him a couple of times in my senior year of college, by then I was living with a guy out in Concord (East Bay), and I remember John and I always ended up goofing off and having the best time doing something that always looked suspicious yet was actually pretty innocent.  He insisted on giving me a foot massage one night at his place in Berkeley after dinner, complete with a foot bath first – which he managed to upend all over both of us and on his bed.  I had to take the BART train and a bus home, and he escorted me all the way there because he didn’t want me getting home and having my boyfriend at the time wonder why I was soaked through on a non-rainy evening without him explaining what happened.  I got home well before my boyfriend did, fortunately, so no explanation needed.  But that’s just the kind of guy John was.  A gentleman.  Who gave great massages and was incredibly ticklish after sex and did a great rendition of the Knights of Ni.  The kind of guy I seemed to push away in my quest for some unattainable douchebag who would end up ignoring me, dumping me, or both.  Because I didn’t think I was good enough for someone like that, that I was somehow damaged goods because of my perpetual cynicism that I could never shake.  If you’ve read my earlier entries on this blog, you know my upbringing was hardly anything for the pages of a Parents magazine.  Unless they have a “Don’t” section with black X’s over everything like Glamour does for photos of women with pantylines.

What I Looked Like Under my Dress …

Recently I found and scanned in some photos I had from a glamour photography shoot I posed for back in the late 80’s.  I had curly, permed, 80’s hair, big earrings, big blue eyes, a winning smile, and a figure that, well, was worthy of Playboy.  And I still hated myself. I was convinced that my thighs were getting lumpy, my stomach was poochy, and my breasts were the wrong shape and size.  I don’t remember John ever finding any flaws in me.  Maybe that was why I always pushed him away, he liked me too much.  How could anyone not see how flawed I really was?  And I don’t mean just in the sense of my physical appearance … mainly, I still find the biggest flaws are within my character.  But I didn’t recognize them back then, or maybe I did and thought I could overcome my “demons”.  Case in point, we have a happy photo of the newly married couple here at the reception, right before the garter toss:

And now, a page from John Madden’s playbook …

Looks nice, right, other than the privacy-protecting pseudo whipped cream over the faces of my ex-husband and ex-brother-in-law?  Except now when I look back at this picture, I realize of the men in the photo, how many of them I either A) wanted to have sex with; B) had already had sex with; C) dated; D) would have sex with in the future – all options circled in red.  The only one I forgot to circle is the category of E) “My Mom thinks I had sex with him”, which would have included my brother – the guy in the tux with the beard, standing up behind me.  John is actually the third guy in from the right, in the light-colored slacks and black jacket.  This was the last time I saw him.  😦

One saving grace is that there aren’t more people in this photo, because in a photo of the entire reception, there would have been at least three other guys circled who fell into category A) or B).  And three more who didn’t make it.  Now I don’t know about you or the guests at your wedding, but the fact that I had intimate knowledge of at least 15% of the male guests in the room strikes me as a bit high, not to mention, uh, a bit out of the ordinary?

Which brings me around to why I started this post to begin with.  Wondering whatever made me think I could stay faithful to one guy for, as it turned out, over 15 years?  Certainly at the time I married him, it wasn’t in my nature.  Or maybe he just wasn’t the right guy.  My ex was, and is, a nice guy.  Not as charismatic as a guy like John, but a decent guy.  I don’t think he ever made me feel swept off my feet nor was he big on giving foot massages.  I didn’t feel like I wasn’t good enough for him – which is maybe why I married him.  I shouldn’t have, in retrospect.  Hindsight is always 20/20, of course.  I liked him as a friend and I think at the time that was all I was looking for.  It should have been enough, but we eventually became the kind of friends who hang out at lunch once in awhile at work and say hello in the hallways … not the kind of friends who stay married.  And as former President Carter so famously put it, I still had lust in my heart for any number of guys over the years since 1992, including the guy who’d introduced me to my ex.  (He was one of ones who would have been circled in that same photo, if he’d been there).  I never acted on it until 2004.  My mom died that year, on my son Sean’s 5th birthday in February.  I remember getting a phone call that night, after everyone was in bed, from my mom’s boyfriend in Las Vegas, she’d had a serious heart attack (after a couple of massive strokes the previous year) and the ER docs were trying to get her heart going again.

I told her boyfriend Bob to call me back as soon as he knew anything.  He was in tears, the poor guy.  I called my brother and gave him the news, and told him I’d call him back again as soon as Bob called me.  Then I went back in the bedroom; the ringing phone had woken my husband up.  I told him my Mom was in ER with a heart attack.  He said “oh,” and turned over and went back to sleep.  Admittedly, my husband knew that my relationship with my mom was far from close or loving … but she was also the only parent I had left, my father having passed away three years earlier.  I left the bedroom, checked on the kids, and went back out in the living room with the cordless phone in my hands, waiting for Bob to call back.  In the intervening minutes, I can remember praying, one of the few times in my life I really have prayed, for my Mom not to make it.  Bob called back about 45 minutes later – she was gone.

A lot of things died in me that evening.  My husband never got up to check on me as I sat out in the living room and broke down in tears.  My long-ago vow to myself, that my marriage would be better than that of my parents and would last far longer than their record of 11 years, shattered.  I had spent most of my conscience life trying to prove to my mother that I was not only good enough, but that I could do better than she did – I had a more successful job, a nice house, a decent husband, and a stable home life that wasn’t filled with shouting, screaming, and senseless accusations – all because I wanted her to NOTICE.  Yeah.  The same mom who couldn’t be bothered to drive me up to college and who didn’t visit me once in 4 years there, until I graduated.  And then couldn’t leave fast enough to get back to a non-existent life.  The one whose daughter nearly dropped out with a 1.6 GPA her freshman year, but ended up graduating with two bachelor’s degrees three years later and a 3.7 GPA, but she never noticed.  The mom whose only “birds and the bees” advice to me was to give me a copy of Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex to read … when I was 8 years old, thus giving me a lifelong mental image of homosexual men ending up in the emergency room with shot glasses or other weird objects up their asses.

That was February.  In April that year, my 12th anniversary came around and I belatedly realized that I had surpassed my mom’s 11-year mark for being married.  I didn’t give a shit anymore.  All the grand scenes of reconciliation I used to imagine with her that I played out in my mind over the years, where she would apologize for being such a bitch and for hitting me and slapping me and warping my mind the way she did, where she would tell me how proud she was of me and show me she was actually interested in my life and in her own grandchildren … it would never happen.  I don’t know what made me think it would happen.  But it took that long for it to actually sink in.  The cracks that had begun to open in my marriage even before February started to spread and deepen, turning into deep fissures that old hurts bubbled up through.  The same hurts I used to squelch and bury and ignore over the years, wanting to present the perfect facade to the outside world, and mostly, to my oblivious and uncaring Mom.  My marriage died right along with her because it just didn’t matter anymore.

Since then, my life’s playbook has been looking like the John Madden one above with regard to men.  (Notice the nice subtle way I go about saying I have a tendency to be a slut?  Yeah, I thought that was well played.)  At least until the last couple of years.  The notches on the bedpost routine gets old, although certainly never dull.  I would say I’m too old for swing clubs, but having been to those places, I know that isn’t the case!  😉  So what happens now, you may wonder?  I wonder too.  It’s hard to know where the behavioral me ends and the real me begins.  I know deep down that my promiscuous tendencies stem from low self-esteem, a need for acceptance in whatever form I can get it, even if that is in the form of being told you could suck the chrome off a bumper.  Yadda yadda.  Throw me a few more psychology books and I’ll have a master’s degree in still trying to figure out how I tick.  The parentheses of my life at either end of my marriage of my actions tell me that being faithful that long didn’t change that part of me one iota.

Oooh! Pretty!

But I’m happy now, in the relationship I’m in.  That relationship is hardly without its flaws or complications and is far from perfect.  I’m the first to admit that the fantasy aspect of being married – the elaborate dress, the rings, the ceremony, the whole bit – still appeals to me.  I’m a girl, after all.  I love dressing up and I love jewelry.  Duh.  Hint, if anyone’s reading this, I love rings by Verragio and Ritani, and I think this is a really nice dress …

Will I ever end up married again?  Do I need to be married again?  I thought being married meant love and security, a feeling of being cherished.  I never had that even with a ring on my finger before, but I do now, in probably the most unlikely relationship I could ever end up in (like, OMG, he voted Republican, for one thing).  What I’m trying to figure out now is if the difference in my current relationship, a relationship where I actually feel loved and accepted just the way I am, is due to my boyfriend, or to me?  I like to think it’s a little of both.

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In the Event of a Zombie Apocalypse …

October 12, 2010

I have randomly weird, worrisome thoughts about how I would manage in the event of such life-altering things as a zombie apocalypse, being kidnapped and held by terrorists for several years, or ending up in some Turkish prison, falsely accused of drug smuggling.  Or, particularly relevant to today’s news, trapped half a mile underground in a Chilean mine without company or hope of near-term discovery (although there is no way in hell you’d get me down there to begin with, unless it was by way of a giant sinkhole that then closed up again).  Or surviving in a post-nuclear world, doing my best to evade the Mad Max-style creepies out there, roaming the empty highways.  I suppose dwelling on these things keeps me from thinking about the bigger-picture issues, which in general are too horrifying to really discuss.  So I focus on the trivial.  How about you?

To wit, my Top Five Fears:

1.  No fresh contact lenses or saline solution.

Just goin' for a stroll, anyone seen the optometrist's office?

If I don’t have my glasses when the zombies invade, I’m screwed. 

1a.  Glasses and sunglasses.

And even then, what do I do for sunglasses?  I don’t have a prescription pair, and I can’t even go outside on a cloudy day without squinting like Dirty Harry.  I think I may be part vampire. 

Yeah, punk? You seen my sunglasses anywhere?

I guess if I at least ended up with a pair of glasses I could see out of (we’re talking -8.0 diopters here, with a bifocal correction of +2.0), maybe I could score a stash of those funky huge wraparound shades you always see old people wearing home after cataract surgery.  I could hang with that. 

2.  Haircolor.

I don’t have Heloise’s stain removal advice or Emmylou Harris’ singing talents.  I have no desire to have my hair end up looking like either of them, or worse yet, some half-gray, half faded blonde (or deep auburn, depending on what month this is) Chernobyl-inspired disaster.

3.  Tweezers.

If I’m ever kidnapped by terrorists and held hostage for an extended period of time, my eyebrows will start to look like Andy Rooney and my chin will be reminiscent of the three little piggies. 

Come near me with that eyebrow wax and I'll rip your lungs out.

4.  Zits.

If I don’t wash my hair pretty much every day, my skin starts to break out everywhere my hair touches – around the forehead, chin, jaw, neck, etc.  I’m 47.  Why do I have to still deal with pimples?

5.  A razor.

Right up there with the chin.  I don’t need to have my underarms looking straight out of Paris, France and my lower legs like Sasquatch.

One Day After the Apocalypse

In short, whenever I am rescued and brought back to civilization or what passes for it and before I have to face the light of the press, the public, or of day, I want a trip to the local spa.  With no mirrors anywhere in sight.

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