Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Talking 'bout my religion

As the Pope spends his last day as the leader of the Catholic Church, I am reminded of my early years and why I no longer am part of organized religion.

Now it wasn't always this way.  I started out really liking church.  Queen of All Saints - isn't that the best name in the world for a church.  I think it is.  And Father Dettmer...he was the coolest priest ever.  It wasn't that he was loosy goosy or tried to be modern, it was because he was rational.  He talked to everyone about The Lord in regular terms.  He didn't breathe fire and brimstone.  He told the  stories of the bible in a way I understood.  Now the Catholic Church really missed out on all the mysteries of the bible by having the 3 year rotating gospel loop.  There were so many stories I never even knew existed until my college courses in the New and Old Testaments.  We were not encouraged to read the bible.  We just showed up every Sunday after mass to be taught by some harsh nun.

Sister Macrina (may she be burning in Hell right now) was one of if not THE wickedest human being I have ever known.  If tested, it may have been shown she was actually Lucifer himself.  She basically ruined my name for me on the Sunday that she went desk by desk telling each child what saint they were named after.  That is until she came to me.  When it was finally clarified that I was not named Michelle after a bit of protesting, she proceeded to tell me I wasn't named after a saint and moved on.  I was severely embarrassed and hurt.  In fact I tear up now as I write this.  It was one of the most hurtful moments of my life.  I will never forget it.

This wonderful experience (sarcasm) mixed with the "you must attend church every Sunday" even when you felt like crap and had a migraine philosophy at my house made me realize that as soon as I could I would leave the church.  I knew even as a kid I could pray wherever and whenever I needed or wanted to.  I didn't need the four walls and ornate things to meet my needs.  I just wanted someone like Father Dettmer to talk to me and teach me the good stuff and why we should make certain decisions.

So when I had children I started back to the church because I thought it was the right thing to do for my kids regardless of how I felt.  It was all okay, I was teaching Sunday school until the day one of my students asked if it was okay to attend another church when on vacation.  I said yes it was.  God is everywhere.  He will listen to you wherever you are and whenever you need Him.  Apparently that was the wrong answer.  I was told that is wasn't okay to tell this child she had options and they told me I couldn't be a teacher anymore.  So I left in total and took my children with me.  My mom even called the church and diocese to express her disgust to no avail.  my parents are very strong in the church and donate heavily.  I let my children know it was up to them what they wanted to believe and if they wanted organized religion.  Two have chosen to keep on believing, one has chosen not to.  It is all okay with me.  God loves all of us.

As for Father Dettmer, I will never forget the joy he gave me.  He even married me in the church when he knew I was already pregnant.  He was a good man.  I thank him for what he gave me.

May you all be of a sound mind to make the decisions best for you and know you don't have to be in a church to be religious and don't have to be a member of organized religion to have a relationship with God.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

"Dawn-ing" of a new age

What is dishwashing soap?  It is a cleaning agent that contains a surfactant where one end of the molecule clings to dirt and the other loves water so it keeps the dirt away from the fabric or whatever it is you are trying to clean.  Hmmmm, interesting.

I guess maybe that was what my mom was trying to do every time she would fill my mouth with Dawn and make me sit with it for an hour, then have me spit it out and not be able to take a drink for another hour.  She was trying to separate the dirt from the person.  I guess I was rather dirty back in the day.  My dirt was the words coming out of my mouth or the lack thereof.  Even with this bit of rationalization - What the hell was the deal with washing kids' mouths out with soap?  REALLY PARENTS OF THE 70s? WHAT WAS YOUR PROBLEM???

If I was really warped, I am thinking you could almost make this into a commercial.  Is your child testing your patience?  Have you tried beating them, taking things away, and grounding them to no avail.  We have the answer - Dawn liquid soap.  It cleans away those dirty little lies, builds clean teeth and gums, and can serve as an excellent laxative if swallowed.  It also is an excellent dish detergent.  Leaves dishes and mouths lemony fresh!!

I always embellished what was going on or changed it to meet my needs, yes, I lied.  I was either making things up or not saying where I was going.  Why did I do it?  I don't know.  I wanted things to be more exciting.  I wanted to do what I wanted to do and not ask permission.  Perhaps even in my childhood I didn't want to follow anyone else.  I wanted to stand out.  I wanted to make the decisions.  I wanted to have fun when I wanted to have fun.  I was no shrinking violet, that's for sure.  Kids didn't want to come to my house because it wasn't fun.  You couldn't run around and touch and play with everything.  There were always so many rules.  And I had told them all about my punishments, so needless to say, they were petrified of my parents.

I eventually grew out of my "creative" phase.  It took a long time, but ultimately I was very busy doing other things as I grew up, so I think life got exciting enough that I didn't have to add to it.  I often wonder if my parents would have had the inkling to ask me what was going on and get to the root of the problem, if I wouldn't have been such a challenge to them.  Those type of conversations didn't happen in the 70s, at least not in my family.  They were of the mind that you punish children and they will then not do the same things again.  Boy was that a flawed mentality.

In any event, it all turned out okay.  I have great teeth.  There don't appear to be long term negative effects - my health is very good (knock on wood).  With my kids, I found I could tell when my kids were lying whether I told them I knew or not.  Sometimes, in my opinion, I think it is okay to let a child get away with a harmless lie.  They feel a bit of power, excitement, and later on you get to hear the story from them of how they pulled one over on you.  I haven't minded that at all.  And, I am getting close to the grandparent years.  I can hardly wait to see what challenges await me there, however, there will be no liquid soap for them.  That is something best left in the past.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Before I dig my own grave...

First Grade - my favorite photo
Before I clear up part of the title of my blog and spill some of my deepest secrets...which will undoubtedly erase me from the will, I am sharing some family photos.  I see my children's faces in some of these photos.  I look back at these and wonder why everyone thought I was overweight.  I look now and I think I look good.  I had some attitude in the 4th grade photo rocking the wide leg colored jeans.  Here are also some of the relatives about whom I have written.  I am glad I have these photos.  It is so true how photos bring back a rush of memories be they good or bad.  It is where I came from and what has shaped me.  Through photos I can see where things changed. They remind me of the house with the hell mouth where I risked my life everyday for beefaroni.  It reminds me of the people who cared for me best they could.

It is amazing what life gives and then what you do with it.

Marcella and the little shit

Uncle Bob and Aunt Dorothy 
Grandma Burkhart

Senior in college
High School Sophomore
High School Senior
Baby Shelley - happy to be picked up by a family

Third grade

Attitude already rocking the wide leg jeans

Monday, February 18, 2013

Who doesn't have a secret lab in their attic?

We moved when I was 10.  I was on the hunt for new friends.  I had to find some inventive way of getting them.  The standard "hi, my name is Shelley, let's be friends" didn't seem like it was sufficient.  So I decided to do something way more inventive.  I created a secret lab in my attic.  Now the lab wasn't real, but I sure talked about it like it was.  I created potions and did experiments that had the  kids at my new school quite interested.  I came to school with bandaids on and other things that definitely signaled something exciting was going on in the Frageman household.  When kids came over I would show them the entrance to the attic, but always came up with some reason why we couldn't go up.  They totally bought it.  Either that or we were just all so excited to think these things may be going on that no one wanted to ruin the fun.  The fake lab and the experiments invoked creative conversations.  I think that was all I was after.  We would swing on the new outdoor play equipment and just have a grand ol' time. I loved being social and the lab was always a great conversation piece.  I guess I always knew I would become a scientist, although I now know I should have had a career that was sports or radio related.  That surely would have suited my personality way better than being in science.  The fantasy became the reality.

Those were fun times...although the fibbing led to part of the title of my blog.  I will share that story soon.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


I was 9 when the movie came out.  I had no idea I would react the way I did.  I know they blew up the shark at the end, but that did not stop me from checking the toilet before I went to the bathroom.  You never know when a shark could bite you in the butt.  And the pool, forget about it.  I don't care how clear the water is and how many times I checked it before I went in, chances are when you entered the water that shark would somehow materialize and eat me.  For those of you who saw the movie you know you thought a little bit about it when you went in open water.  Admitting your problem is the first step in solving it.  I lived really close to Lake Michigan.  I really wanted to go in but let's face it folks, sharks can live in fresh water in my world.  Has it lessened over the years? Kinda.  It is as silly as ghosts...or is it.

Cheating - a failed but valiant attempt

So there I was sitting in my fourth grade class.  It was Mrs. McDonald's class.  She was tall, thin, and had short brown hair.  her face always looked like she had a question forming.  She was nice enough, but quite strict.  She always would write on my grade reports that I didn't apply myself, I talked too much in class, I needed to focus more.  I decided one day I was going to try cheating.  So many other kids were doing it, I wanted to know what I was missing.  So we had a spelling test and I figured that was the right time.  Now this probably wasn't the right test to cheat on because I am an excellent speller. I will blog about that another time.  I had watched others cheat and found that most of them would casually drop a pencil then pop a look at the other person's paper or would look at the teacher then if she was looking away would cop a look at the unassuming kid's answers.  I always was watching them.  I found it very interesting.

So on this fine day I made the move.  The test began.  I did the first few words on my own and then decided to catch a peak at Tom's paper.  Tom wasn't the brightest crayon in the box but he knew a lot of curse words.  He was the one who first introduced me to the word fuck.  I had absolutely no idea what it meant, but when he used that word the world seemed to slow down and sometimes stop if the right adults were present.  I looked over at Tom's paper forgetting all the cheating etiquette.  He had spelled the word wrong.  So I wrote the word on a piece of paper and passed it to him.  Then the next word came.  He spelled that one wrong too, so I did the same thing.  Apparently ripping little pieces of paper gets the attention of the assistant in the room who came to settle right behind me.  Kind of like what Gibbs does on NCIS.  I had no idea she was there.  I continued to "cheat" which was not anything like I thought as I seemed to still have to do all the work and got no benefit.

When the test was done, we handed in papers.  I was asked to stay in the room at recess.  I knew this could not be good and would most likely involve my mom and a belt.  The assistant was chuckling with the teacher as I walked slowly to the front of the room.  The assistant proceeded to tell Mrs. McDonald that I had been cheating during the test.  I was sweating badly.  Then Mrs. McDonald spoke.  She asked me why I was cheating.  I told her I wanted to know what it was like.  She asked me what I thought.  I said, well I guess I should have picked someone else because Tom was a terrible speller.  She then said,  Shelley, kids who cheat don't know the answers.  They are cheating to get the answers.  This is the first time we have ever had a cheater who gave the answers to the other person.  She then told me that I was too smart to cheat and when she wrote the things she did on my papers it was because I could do so much more than I was.  She told me she would let this go, but expected it not to happen again.  I think I totally pitted out my clothes during that conversation.  Tom had to take the test again.  He didn't do well at all.  I haven't cheated since.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Dana Ashley

It was when I was 5 years old.  Everyone should have known this was a sign of trouble ahead, but no one did.  I was in Kindergarden.  I loved school.  There wasn't a better place for a little extroverted, intuitive, thinking, judging kid than public school.  Right away I knew I would rule the joint.  When I stepped into my classroom I could smell the great times I would have, all the stories I could tell, all the other kids I could direct.  It was nirvana.  I had this cool pair of sunglasses that the lenses changed  out with like 4 different colors.  That caused my first trip to the corner.  Apparently changing the colors while your teacher is talking WAS FROWNED UPON IN THAT ESTABLISHMENT!  Why the hell did they name the school Joy school if you couldn't have great fun there?  I know, great question.  It was also frowned upon if you knocked a kid on the head that was bothering another kid.  More time in the corner.  And what was the deal with naps.  I never needed a nap, so I would talk to other kids who were trying to nap, yep - the corner.  I liked boys.  I think I liked them from the day I was born.  There was one boy who caught my eye.  When I look back at it now, I have no idea why.  He had none of the characteristics that I go for, except he had a fantastic imagination.  Dana Ashley.  He had two girl names (at least that is what I thought at the time).  He had long unkept blonde hair, he was little - shorter than me, he was so skinny and usually dirty.  He had this cool tank made out of cardboard.  I would go over to his house (usually without telling my parents - also frowned upon but there was a beating with the belt, not just a corner) and we would play and play.  The tank was painted in camouflage.  It was great fun.

Kindergarden was a wonderful time.  I don't remember my teacher's name so that must mean I liked her.  I seem to only remember the ones who left a lasting negative impression or scared the shit out of me.  I do remember that I got to bring home the class guinea pig one weekend. That was the best. I still have a slide with that image on it.  The only other thing I really remember clearly is the bus driver.  I still to this day do not know if it was a man or woman.  Five years old was a good time.  Sure I was constantly in trouble, but it was all worth it.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Dorothy, Thelma, and Marcella

Boy you don't hear these names today do you?  Three sisters who were oh so different and had such different impact on me.  All were daughters of Cecilia.  Sister Macrina once shared with me that I didn't have a saint's name, well I don't recall a Saint Thelma and she was a saint with all she went through in her life.

Marcella.  I think her other name was Lucifer.  You'd have thought my name was "you little shit" as much as she called me that.  She was my grandma.  She ate Limburger cheese that she kept in a cabinet with sardines and washed it down with a bottle of liquor that the neighbor would buy for her.  She would hide the liquor and I would tell where it was.  Could be why she called me a shit. She was mad, all the time.  She used to be a smoker when she was younger, but had a stroke and gave up that vice.  I can understand how hard things were not being able to use her arm and her leg wasn't right.  I wouldn't want that for any family member.  But she took it out on everyone.  I think her alcoholism is one of the reasons my mom was so angry and hard on us all the time.  Marcella never had a nice thing to say to me.  She was mean to her mom and sisters.  I played outside a lot just to be away from her.  We had to go to the grandmas' house all the time because my mom worked.  When Marcella got older she had to live in a nursing home.  I was the grand kid who was there to visit, who took Thanksgiving meals there, who talked to her.  She treated me the worst and I was the one who was there in the end.  I like to think that I did have good empathy at one time.  I don't have much now.  I think all the negative has caught up with me.  No one else ever had to change, just me.  I am always expected to be the one who says "okay, I'll change, it's my fault."  I really, really hate that, but I do it.  One day I will understand why.

Dorothy.  Best seamstress ever.  That includes since her death.  She could sew anything.  She could change pantsuits to skirt suits and skirts to pants.  She could crochet and knit.  She could make long things short and short things long.  Let it out and take it in.  A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. Period.  She was married to Uncle Bob, yep that one with the freaking chihuahua.  She was a chain smoker.  I don't think I remember a time she didn't have a cigarette.  She was an amazing cook too.  Thanksgiving was always at her house.  Once you got past the nasty dog, it was all good after that.  She cooked with cast iron.  It gave food a flavor that cannot be duplicated.  She also made THE best macaroni salad on the planet.  Between Uncle Marian and Aunt Dorothy of course I had a few extra pounds.  I had to eat like there was no tomorrow, because ultimately there wasn't when she died.  Aunt Dorothy got breast cancer.  When you think about that you think of going for your annual exam or doing a breast exam and finding a lump.  That isn't what happened here.  One day we (my mom and I) were at my Aunt Dorothy's.  she called my mom into the bedroom.  This was at a time when my Uncle Bob was really sick as well and he was near his death.  I don't think I will ever forget what my mom said to me.  She said "they're gone."  I said what's gone?  My mom said, "her breasts."  Holy shit.  The cancer had already eaten through the tissue and was visible.  She wore menstruation pads to absorb the seeping.  I cannot even imagine the pain she endured.  When asked she said she didn't have time to address it because Uncle Bob required her attention.  If this doesn't change you, nothing ever will.  I do not take my health lightly.  My mom got her to a doctor.  They did surgery to stop the continued devastation.  She was treated with radiation and chemo,  but it was too late, it had moved to other parts. She had a tracheotomy and wore a little lace thing on her throat.  She did stop smoking.  She did live for quite some time.  She still sewed a bit.

Thelma.  Aunt Thelma had 2 husbands - Tony and Marian.  Tony was a nasty SOB who abused others - children, as I understand it.  But that was a time when no one spoke up.  He got mouth cancer and died. No one ever said he didn't deserve it or that it was too bad.  I think it was good riddance to bad rubbish. Thelma was the bomb for a great aunt.  Call me not-stylish, but I wore her hand-me-downs.  I have NO idea why I liked her clothes.  I think I loved her so much maybe I thought the clothes would make me better in some way.  Thelma took care of everyone. EVERYBODY.  She made sure her mom and sisters were taken care of, she worked, she had her own house.  She made jello for every gathering.  I had never seen jello made in so many ways, so many flavors, so many additives.  Some didn't work out so well, but others were amazing.  She is known for her jello.  She wasn't a good cook.  I used to go with Aunt Thelma everywhere.  We would go with the other aunts on Sundays to Gary to shop, before it was a cesspool of human waste.  My little 9 year old self and all these old women.  It was great.  Occasionally we would take Aunt Katie, Uncle Wilmer's wife.  She was diabetic.  It was several times when I stole candy and juice because Aunt Katie would have an attack right there in the store.

I used to walk to my Aunt Thelma's house from my grandma's house.  Many times without telling anyone I was going.  That didn't go over very well.  Aunt Thelma had a velvet picture of a bull on her wall.  I have no idea why.  She lived upstairs and rented out the downstairs. Every Saturday she had her hair done.  Only on Saturday.  She didn't wash it all week.  It was styled about 12 inches or so above her head.  She was like 7 feet tall with that hair.   I never knew that Aunt Thelma was bald.  I only found out one New Year's Eve when we were being bad and blowing our horns.  She came flying down the hall and had no hair!  (Only wisps on the sides that were tied up with a wig to keep everything on.)  I don't think I even knew women could be bald.  It was scary.  At first we didn't even know it was her.  We thought someone had broken in and was attacking us.  We threw the horn at her.  Sometimes I would go wait in line with her downtown to get government cheese and milk.  That cheese didn't melt, ever.  I bet if we still had a brick of it, it wouldn't be moldy yet.  The milk was nasty.  Powdered.  Yuck.  Being poor sucked.

Aunt Thelma watched Val when we went away.  Val hated Aunt Thelma or rather the leather coat she wore.  When Aunt Thelma came in, Val would hide in the basement (hellmouth) and Aunt Thelma would have to carry her up all those stairs to let her out.  Val would growl.  Aunt Thelma would bring her treats, but to no avail.  After Val died, we got Mandy.  Mandy was a Great Dane.  She LOVED Aunt Thelma.  She always knew Aunt Thelma would bring treats in her purse.  That dog would root around in that purse until she found something to eat.  They had a great relationship.  This is as far as I am going to go talking about Aunt Thelma because some family members took advantage of her.  They stole things from her.  I will cover that another time.  Aunt Thelma was an amazing person.  She was simple, proud, and caring.  She did the best she could with what she had.  I never heard her complain, even when Uncle Marian was taken from her.