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Solitaire with Yoda

cards

Dear Dad,

I taught Yoda how to play solitaire last night. He was bugging me to play cards with him and I just needed some time to work a quiet word puzzle, so Bashert suggested I teach him how to play. At first, he was not really interested; too complicated and boring he said then he started to catch on. I think it helped to tell him you taught me how to play and that I was playing with him, that clever boy.

Funny, the things that stick in one’s mind. I remember it was when we lived in Phoenix, in the second house that you taught me to play. That made me about the same age Yoda is now: eleven. You taught me to play left handed despite the superstitious attempts of your teachers to overcome your natural left handedness, some of it still shone through. I never corrected that even though the rest of the world seemed to play in the other direction. This is the way my Dad taught me, so this is the way it is played. I showed Yoda the same.

It took him a minute to catch on – how to build the cards down and up at the same time and to read the entire board – but he got it. The kid can play a mean game of chess, so I thought this wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for him. A few more games and he will see the strategy involved.

I told Yoda, it’s always good to know how to play a game of solitaire with real cards. I told him of how I was stuck in an airport for six hours in the days before portable electronics. After I finished off the book I brought for reading on the plane, I didn’t want to pay airport prices for anything else and people watching only goes so far when you are by yourself. Cards to the rescue.

That story led to other stories and before you know it, we were all laughing and having a splendid time without all the distractions of the television or computers. It was a warm, cozy and fun time. I hope it’s one he remembers down the line.

I ended up teaching him a couple of different games of solitaire besides our old standard, Klondike. He really took to Aces Up. I think because I told him that it could be really frustrating to win. Klondike has about a one in four win ratio, with Aces Up the ratio is a bit wider. He read that as a challenge, I believe. He didn’t win, but he didn’t get frustrated either. I loved that.

He hasn’t given up on learning to shuffle. His hands are almost big enough to handle a full sized deck and he is a hair’s breath away from getting it down. So many things we take for granted until we see someone learning it for the first time.

Thank you, Dad for taking the time to teach me.

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Never Hide Again

Pride balloons        As this day, this “National Coming Out” day comes to a close here in America. I am reminded of something Bashert and I promised ourselves about 16 years ago; we will never hide again.

You see, Bashert’s first ‘real’ job after graduating from college was teaching art at a local, private high school. Thing is, this private high school was also a Catholic school, complete with their very own nun and moral turpitude contract clauses. Bashert could not reveal the fact that not only was she living in ‘sin’, she was also living in sin with a woman. So, for the first year of our relationship, we lived in hiding.

Every morning before Bashert left for work, she took the ring off her finger. It broke my heart each time. We were careful not to be seen too close together when out and about town. There was many a time I took off for other parts when one of her students or their parents were spotted. Even as far away as Atlanta, we had to watch out. We ran into a student of hers up there in a jewelry store, of all places. We became professional level dodgers.

Why did we do this? Fear. Bashert was our only means of support. I was still in school with no job. Our livelihood depended upon her livelihood and she could be fired for being openly gay.

After a year of this exhausting life in the closet, Bashert said she didn’t want to hide anymore. She couldn’t stand all the avoiding and having to take a ‘beard’ (false male date) to school functions. So, we quietly began living our lives in the open. Well, sort of. She still took her ring off and I just became an unnamed entity in Bashert’s life: her unspoken partner, her ‘friend’. I attended fund raisers and didn’t leave her side when kids or their parents came up to her. I helped with community projects and we attended Pride festivities in Atlanta. We went to dinners with other faculty. Some knew our relationship, others chose not to acknowledge it and others didn’t like it a bit.

What did this cost us? The least thing was a keyed car. The biggest thing was her job. At the end of that school year, the principal stated that there wasn’t enough money to continue the art program. They were cutting back and didn’t need a full time art teacher for the next year. Her contract was not renewed. Next fall, the art program was suddenly back on – with another teacher.

It was that year, we told ourselves no more hiding. If we lived in the closet and shamed ourselves, how were we to expect others to treat us with any dignity or understanding? How could be expect my daughter to accept us as the family we were if we didn’t set the example? We decided then and there to just be us. No fancy or dramatic coming outs, no topless marching in the Pride parade (although eventually I did get to ride in the Dykes on Bikes segment thanks to some very good friends who owned motorcycles at the time). Nope, we just went about our lives as matter of fact. And for the most part it was okay and became more and more natural as we practiced what we preached.

The only other time we shied away from the full truth was when I went to work. I got a part time job at the local library. I didn’t really go back into hiding or so I told myself: Bashert and I continued to live in the open outside of my job, I just didn’t talk about it at work.

This was my second time working at the county library, the first being 20 years earlier and with many of the same people. From what they knew, I was no different from that young student, except a good bit older and greyer. As said, I didn’t talk about my present outside life.

I worked there two years before the rumours and comments began. Of course, a lot of it probably had to do with the timing of Yoda’s birth. Not many ‘roommates’ get that excited about the other roommate’s pregnancy and birth. I took my vacation around Yoda’s birth for goodness sake and kept a picture of Bashert and him on my desk – not so subtle.

One coworker kept dropping the hint that she loved watching the HBO show “Queer As Folk”. If I hadn’t been so exhausted from now working two part time jobs and having a newborn and a teenager in the house, I might have recognized an ally, but I was pretty blind.

Another coworker, actually, my boss at the time kept making side comments as to how she was grossed out by seeing two women kiss on television. These were never made quite in my full presence, but as I was passing through the room or loud enough so that I could hear them through the doors in my area next to hers. I got that picture.

Why didn’t I stand up? Why didn’t I fight back? One reason alone – fear. At this point, I was the sole means of support. I needed my two part time jobs and I lived in a state and worked for a county government where I was not protected under the law. I could be fired for being gay. Money won out, plain and simple.

I was fortunate enough to be offered a full time position at my other job not too long after Yoda was born. At that job, I was protected under their anti-discrimination policies. I said goodbye to library and the last time I ever avoided the truth of my family.

Bashert and I reaffirmed our stance with each other after my stint at the library. No job was worth lying about ourselves even if it was by omission. Yoda and Nene would not know parents who were together, yet separate. We were a family and took our place in the world.

For the last ten of almost 18 years, Bashert and I have just lived our lives, no fanfare, no dramatics, just matter of fact. We are lucky. Despite a few, short rough patches in other family relationships and our initial forays in the job market, we have met with few who deny our place. Yoda’s school and friends know he has two moms. Nene has grown proud of her relationship with Bashert and considers her a stepmom of the best character. My job continues to support and expand their anti-discrimination policies and Bashert is now a substitute teacher for the same government that could have fired me ten years ago.

It did get better and we have kept our promise to each other; we will never hide again.

Waiting & Cussing

lonely carI hate it when I get tired and irritated and run out of words. When I run out of words, I resort to cussing. Mind you, I’m talking cussing, not swearing. There is a difference. Swearing, in my humble opinion is a higher art form than cussing. Swearing involves creative thought, a unique combination of well put together words to form an expressive and descriptive, yet negative picture. For example:

“Mother of pearl and golden dams, that hurt!”

Cussing on the other hand, it more earthy, immediate and guttural:

“Hell’s bells and g*d dammit, that hurt!”

There are no well thought out variations; no, it’s just a bam! there you are sort of thing. Visceral and heartfelt cussing is brought out when there is no time or filter.  To me, it has it’s place in one’s freedom of expression and I have no shame nor sorrow to say I am verbally proficient, but it is also the bottom rung of word symbolism and yesterday I sank that low in writing. For that, I am embarrassed (especially if my mother reads it).

Let us recreate the scene:

As you may or may not know, I am still having issues with my right foot and ankle. I have seen doctor after doctor to find out why my poor ankle and foot swell to the point of tightness and pain and why my ankle will give me acute shooting agony at odd times. Ultrasound, MRIs, x-rays: all reveal nothing, except the things I do not have. The last orthopedic specialist recommended I be tested for soft tissue diseases and see a vascular specialist. Money doesn’t grow on trees, so why shell out for yet another specialist if I can get some of that done at the local level, you know? That is how I ended up at my general practice doctor’s office.

 
So there I was at my GP’s. I signed in a cheerful 20 minutes early, thinking in a strangely optimistic way that this would help slide me right into my 4:15pm appointment. Now, that’s not as foolish as it sounds because this was happening at my other appointments for the past few weeks, so I had reason to be hopeful. Well, those hopes were soon to be dashed in a slow, torturous tunnel of time.

 
I was tired, nervous, and on edge. This ankle thing has been going on for quite some time and it’s costing me a lot in many ways. Chronic pain does something to people and by people, I mean me. I am grumpy, short tempered, and tense. I end up taking a lot of meds to help take the edge off and by that virtue, I end up losing time at work. (Goodness knows, I don’t want to have to go through a urine test at work for this!) I’m also losing valuable good time with my family, especially Yoda, who is growing up and away by the day. I’m distracted, well, you get the picture. I was ready to get the appointment going so I could get my labs done and be on my way.

 
As I sat working my crossword puzzle and surreptitiously observing the others in the waiting room, I kept hearing name after name being called back, all but mine. I think I knew I was in trouble when a fellow waiting room occupant not only ran out the internal battery of her Kindle, but also the emergency battery and began searching for an outlet. By 4:45, I was ready to bust. The woman behind the counter said, with a verbal pat on the head, that it shouldn’t be too much more time. It is too laugh.
My eyes were bleary from working crosswords, I played through the paltry assortment of games on my phone, and ran out of people to observe because I was the only one left. The religious MUZAK was taking on ominous tones of brainwashing. God’s happy music was starting to sound a bit on the Stepford side. If the reason for my visit was not so important to me, I would have walked a long time ago. It was now 5pm.

 
At last my name was called to the magic ‘back’, but told that it would still be a wait.  I left home over two hours ago and have been waiting an hour and 15 minutes. Insert internal screaming here.

 
I entertained myself in the exam room with more magazines, but that didn’t last long. I swiped a couple of tongue depressors and had a wooden sword fight with myself. I took a latex glove and blew it up to make a chicken. I paced a little to stave off the sleep that threatened. I allowed myself to get beyond frustration and what is a modern person to do about that? I posted it to FaceBook.

 
This is where the written cussing took place. All out in public. Yep, the best place in the world to display a total lack of verbal creativity and show that I really should have joined the Navy that day in the recruiter’s office so long ago. I ended my short little rant with the mother of all four letter combinations. Yes, I dropped the ‘f-bomb’ on public media. Really swift.

 
You know if you post a photo and comment it on it via mobile, you can’t edit the comment? Found that out a little too late. So there it sat, four little rudely combined members of the alphabet for the world (or at least the twelve people who read my FB page) to see. I think that began to bother more than the continued waiting.

 
I am not a prude by any means, as I said I am very proficient in verbal cussing, have been since a young age. I used to get in trouble in elementary school (yes, me) for gratuitous usage of foul language. Perhaps that is where my love for words began – trying to find the alternates. Or perhaps it’s where I learned that words have power – to change, to mark, to delineate, to shame or raise up. Next time and I am sure there will be a next time, I will stick with swearing (at least in public). It is much less worrisome, at least to me, but if you perchance do see me slip up and bring out the verbal trash again, please note the dire circumstances said expletives are surrounded by and do not judge too harshly.

 
Oh, and by the way, I did not get out of the doctor’s office until 6:20pm. Gosh darn it.

To Dad, Love Sam

Nature Boy – eden ahbez

There was a boy
A very strange, enchanted boy
They say he wandered very far
Very far, over land and sea
A little shy and sad of eye
But very wise was he

And then one day,
One magic day he passed my way
While we spoke of many things
Fools and Kings
This he said to me

The greatest thing you’ll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return.

Once upon a time, in a previous lifetime when I was falling apart to come together, I was obsessed with playing cards. Solitaire was my constant companion; I played hour after hour, shuffling and reshuffling, black on red, red on black – a coping mechanism to soothe and wait for the world to make sense again.
In my present life, I do not play cards that often. Instead, I collect them. Each deck I acquire, either from a place visited or just an old, interesting design, reinforces the awareness of how far I have traveled. They are markers of all dark things conquered – trophies.
Nowadays, I use many distractions, FB, Pinterest, old videos, but mostly I’m found with my nose stuck in a crossword puzzle book. Codewords, cryptograms, syllacrostics and the occasional word find are my solace and escape today. They keep my mind awake and numb at the same time. They are also a touchstone to my Dad. “Great for waiting,” he said.
That’s what I brought to him in the hospital: a crossword puzzle book. Something to pass the time between the alphabet barrage of testing: EEG, ECG, EKG, CT,  PT, EIEIO…
Dad was not the best speller in the world, so sometimes his solutions to crosswords were a bit inventive. We think it has to do with the fact that he really should have been left handed, but back in the 30s left handedness was still seen as well, suspect – especially back in the dirt farm area Dad came from. The teachers tied down his left arm so that he would learn to do all with his right hand. It worked to a point. He ended up ambidextrous – I play cards and use a computer mouse left handed thanks to him – but his spelling was always lousy.
I was lucky to pass the time in conversation, as well as, work a puzzle or two with him that week. The talks were long overdue. We talked and talked for hours. I kept asking if he wanted to rest, but he kept declining, saying he wanted to chat.
We spoke of his love for literature and science. We pondered the energy of the universe – that energy is neither created or destroyed – and how he thought there is ancient energy all around us. He asked to borrow some of my archaeology books so that he could learn more. He said the subject always fascinated him – proper archaeology, too, not paleontology. We talked of passing age milestones; the psychological sense of relief both my sister and I felt when we successfully passed the age of 21, the age his sister was killed by a drunk driver. We talked about the new home Bashert and I just closed on and the things we were going to have to do to our fixer-upper, including the floor.
Dad told me that when he worked for Taylor Furniture as a young man, he hated when people would come in to look at flooring because he would have to move entire rolls of linoleum around from the back of the store to the front sidewalk and then back again. He would go “find” something else to do when he heard anyone mention flooring. That’s my Dad; work smarter, not harder.
We laughed at silly things and I kidded him about wanting his comb, so he could pretty himself up for the nurses. But he had eyes for only one person. Mom.
Mom, his favorite subject. He kept coming back to her. He told me that there was a beautiful nurse on the floor, but that she had nothing on Mom. Even when he was all woozy and waking up from one of the tests he went through, his first thoughts were of her. He wanted to go home because he, “missed his girl.”
On the Friday of his week in the hospital, he finally fell to sleep after Mom and my sister Calico Nell arrived. I guess he felt comfortable with Mom there. I visited with Mom and CN for a bit and then left, giving Dad’s toe a little squeeze as to not wake him, but to let him know I was going. I whispered love and that I really enjoyed talking to him about everything and that I would see him later.
CN told me the next day that Dad was upset that he didn’t get to say goodbye. I thought about calling, but she told me that Mom was visiting on her own for the first time. The weather had been so dicey the rest of the week, CN was driving her in to visit. I didn’t want to disturb their time together. Let him have those moments with ‘his girl’. I’m glad I made that decision. I had my time.
Dad died that night. Massive heart failure due to previously unknown, plaque filled arteries. He died of a broken heart and ours broke in the process.
I’ve had my head stuck in word puzzles ever since. Two months, now. Concentration on anything else hurts too much. Between bereavement, foot ailments and my own discovered hypertension, work has been a struggle. Our house, while coming along is still in flux. Schoolwork sits untouched, unread, unfinished, unwritten. But damn it, I have conquered the Dell no-clue, codeword puzzle. In ink.
Each book I finish stands in a stack, another legion of trophies to mark the passing of dark places. I am not sure how high the stack will have to be before most of the darkness fades, but for now it’s great for waiting.
I love you Dad.

She Ain’t in Montana Anymore.

courtesy of Eonline.com

courtesy of Eonline.com

The wires are hot with Miley Cyrus this week. She is being denigrated as everything from Disney Princess gone bad, to Lady Gaga wannabe, to a prime example of usurper and exploiter of black culture. Wow. The power of media and a six minute display of really bad taste.

Black cultural theorists are damning the performance as a parody or minstrelsy take-off on an urban dance fad and the objectification of the black female body. Feminists are stating that Miley is being judged harshly for just doing what male performers have been doing for years. Gay rights activists are up in arms over the opportunistic bisexual displays. Parent organizations are weeping over the loss of the tween-age, innocent icon. Music aficionados are turning purple at the butchering of what was only remotely something called music. Movie lovers are outraged with Robin Thicke’s theft of Beetlejuice’s favorite suit. Animal rights groups are protesting the absurd use of teddy bears as symbols of pornography. It seems Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke, by guilt of association and participation, have set off a maelstrom of cultural intrigue.

But you know what? One can take any source and make it into an example of how injustice is done to any particular group. Hell, even with my limited knowledge of cultural and literary theory, I could build a case for the marginalization of the Jews as shown through the story of Three Little Bears.

Yes, there was a plethora of injustices demonstrated from many sides. Yes, Miley stepped into a minefield of idiocy by taking on an “urbanized” caricature. Yes, she objectified not only the black women on stage, but herself as well. Yes, she mimicked the vulgarities done over and over again by male performers. Yes, she took advantage of the current media attention on homosexuality and made it base. Yes, she shot down her goody-two-shoes identity to a degree that side of Montana. Yes, she sang off key and ‘danced’ with less grace than Pinocchio. And yes, she misused the image of teddy bears and foam fingers the world around. It’s all there and then some.

But, personally, I think she’s just a naïve, stupid little girl play acting at what she thinks grown-ups do. And if that is what the grown-ups do in her neck of the woods, then heaven help her and us.

Summer Break(ing) Bad

BreakingBad. courtesy of AMC. All rights reserved.

BreakingBad. courtesy of AMC. All rights reserved.

I am a late comer to many of the hip television shows of the last decade. I guess using the term hip pretty much says it all anyway. I work nights, never invested in a DVR and do not subscribe to premium channels. My t.v. watching has pretty much subsisted on trying to stay current with Bones and Glee through Netflix or Hulu. Not exactly the Ingmar Bergman stuff of television, but entertaining to a tired mind (although I did write a cool paper on the media industry’s use of intentional propaganda in the employment of the word “fag” using Glee as the basis – but I digress). Heck, our television reception has been gone for a month now.

I am also not a fan of entertainment violence, especially graphic or psychological violence. I like my occasional shoot-em-up, but gruesome or nightmare inducing, no thank you. Bones is about as icky as I can take. So why in the world would I choose to watch Breaking Bad? I mean have you seen the promotional cover? It is Hal from Malcolm in the Middle after six rounds of steroids. I think the premise intrigued me enough to take a gander.

Breaking Bad is a Vince Gilligan creation, produced by AMC, surrounding the gradual and terrifying decline of a middle-aged, rather emotionally disenfranchised high school chemistry teacher, Walter White. Having been diagnosed with what was thought to be imminently terminal lung cancer, Walter, who has limited monetary resources, stumbles upon a plan to make quick money to leave his family after he dies. He becomes a meth amphetamine “cooker” with one of his former high school students Jesse Pinkman. (*spoiler alert starts now)

I have to admit here and now, if I had started watching this in real time, I would have given up. The story arc for me was incredibly slow and boring. The constant close-ups of Bryan Cranston’s slack mouth angst were wearing. The wooden acting of the supporting characters was bothersome and the whole perfect emotional tug set-up, with the pregnant wife, disabled (and unbelievably naive) teenage son, kleptomaniac sister-in-law, and stereotypical DEA agent brother-in-law was a bit trite. It would have been too much of an investment for my need-a-resolution in 50 minutes mentality. Where were all the award winning acting and critically acclaimed story lines?

The stilted life of the White family prior to the discovery of Walter’s undercover and dangerous vocation was mind and emotionally numbing. Hints are thrown out throughout the program that Walter left his stimulating and potentially lucrative partnership in a research lab in order to maintain family equilibrium after his son was born with cerebral palsy and the characters literally embody this loss. They move through their lives stiff and locked in their own individuality. There is an ironic lack of chemistry between the characters. It is not until Walter’s other life as Heisenberg, the drug king, begins to overtake the family’s that the actors and their characters come to life. Save one.

Jesse Pinkman is Walter’s former student and character foil. In the beginning, Jesse is a live wire, a junkie living on the edge with the chemicals he produces. Jesse is the one who feels and has true connections with the people around him, unhealthy as they may be. Aaron Paul’s portrayal of the messed up, but lovable poor, little rich kid and his reactions to his dissolving world is riveting. The intensity of his sorrow in the aftermath of his girlfriend’s death is gut wrenching. Try not to clench up when her phone is finally disconnected. As Walt becomes more alive in his separation from all that is moral in regards to life, Jesse dies with each ensuing disaster. He becomes the stilted one, unable to make those connections anymore.

I found out that the original intent was to kill off the character of Jesse in the first season. As a viewer, I agree with Gilligan that would have been a mistake. For me, it is the odd play between Jesse and Walter that keeps me coming back. I find the Walter/Jesse dichotomy fascinating. Many of Walter’s moral disconnects come when he believes he is doing something in Jesse’s best interest. It is like watching a documentary on a Nazi officer ordering the deaths of hundreds of people and then coming home to be the doting father to his children.

The periphery characters do not interest me as much as do Walt and Jesse. I sometimes find them intrusive. Although there are compelling plot lines that obviously run parallel – what would the show be without the ever present danger of Hank Schrader, brother-in-law and DEA agent extraordinaire, discovering the goings on – but they are just props to propel the dark and light balance of Walt, Jesse and their respective descents from humanity.

Hank succumbing to the emotional trauma of facing off with bad guy Tuco, witnessing the death’s and mutilation of fellow DEA agents in El Paso and fighting for his life against the twisted Salamanca brothers is, to me, while good acting by Dean Norris, too blatant in its equivalency to Walt’s succumbing to the evil that resides in himself. Only in finding the goodness – the will to fight the bad guys – does Hank find his strength. It is finding the badness – the will to come out on top – that brings out the strength in Walt.

I do not care for most the women characters at all. Walter’s wife Skylar, played by Anna Gunn, is a whiney irritant. Walter’s sister-in-law Marie played by Betsy Brandt was given the unfortunate and weirdly out of place subplot of overcoming some form of kleptomania. The only interesting sub-play for Marie is her subtle obsessive compulsive act of lining up her artificial sweeter packets – her chemical dependence and reflective image of Walter’s perfectionism.

The woman character I do admire is Wendy. The horribly ravaged meth addict is the only character who remains true to herself. She is hard to look at and harder to understand, but she is really the only character who remains “moral”.  Look at her, she is a decaying, filthy shadow of a human being, but Wendy is the only one who cannot bring herself to murder, not just because she knows the two drug dealers or because of the danger – it is just wrong.

All the other supporting cast are obvious symbolic representations of the parts of Walter/Heisenberg: Gus, fastidious and dangerous; Gale, fastidious and pure in his love of the science; Badger and Skinny Pete naive and dirty at the same time; Mike, the former cop and Saul, the sleaze lawyer, two characters who represent the worst of those who should represent the best. Even Walter’s son Walt, jr. (played well by RJ Mitte) shows a physical image of innocence trapped in a constant struggle of mind over body.

I know it sounds funny to say it took me until the end of season three to really want to be invested in the show. That is a lot of time spent on the off chance something will get better. I think the hook finally hit when Walter shot the drug dealer he ran over to save Jesse on that last episode. When he looked at Jesse and said that one word, “Run,” something clicked and I got it. I wanted to know if this story has just been a long build up to the complicated revelation that perhaps, just perhaps, Walter was always Heisenberg, just cleverly disguised beneath layers of built up mundane banality. I wanted to know if his other life as ordinary husband and father was really the coverup. I wanted to know if Jesse could ever come to terms with what he had done with his life.

Breaking Bad has become a habit I do not want to kick just yet. After I finish the rest of what is available on Netflix, the withdrawals will be difficult, but I will get a bump by reading what happened in the end. I have no issues with knowing what will happen before I see it. I read all about the plot lines after I started watching in the first place – it helped me stay with it. I have learned that the build up is worth the wait. For as Walt Whitman said, “The future is no more uncertain than the present.”

Church, yo. I’m hip.

*Breaking Bad airs on AMC at 9/8pm – returning on 11 Aug. All 5.5 seasons are available to view on Netflix streaming.

Ice Cream & Horseradish: Baby Chapter 13

J&EThink back on your childhood days when your parent made you take your Flintstones One-A-Day™. Oh, yeah, they pulled you in with their little effigies of Bedrock’s favorite inhabitant’s (except Betty, ‘cause Betty’s Not A Vitamin). You could giggle and bite off Barney’s head or feet in a little defiant act of cannibalism, but did Barney or Fred or Wilma or even Dino really taste like grapes or cherries? I think not.

Oh, a first there was a strange unidentifiable sweet – just enough to fool you – then came the slow realization that the back of your tongue was now coated in tin foil and no amount of water would scrape it off. It forced you to go brush your teeth – a cooperative childhood conspiracy between the vitamin and toothpaste companies and our parents, I say. Anyway, the dang things were just gross.

Now, prenatal vitamins are horse pills, big, long oval horse pills. They don’t even come in appealing little cartoon shapes. The ones Bashert took were light kidney bean colour and they smelled like rust. They tasted like, well, vitamins (see above). So, you may excuse me the grimace that comes over my face when I write the next line.

Bashert loved to suck on her prenatal vitamins.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Bless her little pea picking, pregnant, weird craving heart, that is exactly what Bashert did with her prenatal vitamins. Sucked the goodie right out of them, she did. Even Dr. OBwan thought that one topped the charts for her records. Excuse me, I think I need to go brush my teeth.

Another peculiarity about Bashert’s dietary changes during pregnancy, she could consume as much milk as she wanted. Normally borderline lactose allergic (think Meg Ryan on the train in French Kiss), once she realized that she was free from the bonds lactic tyranny it was look out ice cream! She became the dairy industry’s poster child. Cheap, expensive, soft serve, cone, or Klondike Bar™, no mixture of creamy frozen milk was denied. For someone who had to down four lactic counteractive pills before tasting the sample at the frozen yogurt place, this was a dream come true.

After the ice cream, came the need to consume all things that burn out your entire gastrointestinal track. Up until Bashert’s pregnancy neither one of us really had a palate for spicy foods – savory, yes; spicy, no. Pepper to us was just a doll from the 60s. That all changed for her during the pregnancy.

For some reason, Bashert’s body chemistry took a weird turn and decided to keep her sinuses blocked up for weeks on end. She didn’t want to take medications, so asked around for ideas. A friend suggested consuming something spicy – not an appealing thought, but she was desperate for some kind of relief and decided to take the chance.

The first opportunity (since we didn’t keep any peppery spices in the house) came when we attended a Passover seder at a friend’s home. Passover is full of traditional stuff, from the actual order of the meal (seder means order) to the things simply repeated year after year by the friends gathering round the table. Sometimes the traditions can combine, ancient and invented. One of the combined traditions was “Charlie’s Horseradish.”

Part of the seder is to consume bitter herbs (maror) to symbolically remember the bitterness and tears of slavery. The primary food of choice for this bit is horseradish. Charlie’s horseradish had to be kept in a specially designed jar – it ate through ordinary containers. When the lid was removed to start partaking of the lethal concoction, it did not take long before everyone’s eyes filled with tears. This stuff could have been used as a chemical agent for warfare or riot control.

So, why was this night not like any other night? Normally, Bashert and I would take the tiniest portion possible of Charlie’s horseradish, say an imaginary one, but this night Bashert took a heaping spoonful of the slow burning acid, spread it on her matzah and popped into her mouth.

I was writhing in sympathetic agony when I first realized what she had done, but then I got a look at her face. The transformation from the initial, “oh shit, what did I just put in my mouth” to “praise be, I can breath” was nothing short of a miracle. The look wonder and profound joy was incredible. My eyes filled with tears – the fumes were killing me.