The Fall of Man

They found him. Gunshot wound to the chest on his birthday. Although, it makes sense, his heart was what hurt the most. His wife passed away four years ago in a car accident. He was the one driving the car… He had sold his house two weeks before he took his life. He wanted to move out of the city and on with his life. But, with no job prospects and no real friends anywhere else, he must have lost all hope. Deep down, we all knew this day would come; we just thought it would have happened shortly after she died, not now.

My uncle Steve is was an introverted, angry man. He didn’t like the outside world. When he met and married my aunt, his second wife, new life was pumped into his veins. He turned himself around, started going to parties, meeting people, and he even thought about having children! He said and did things he, and we, never thought he would do. But, when he accidently hit the other car that caused her death; he also died. The spark she implanted in him was gone; he went back to his old ways, hating the world and everyone in it. Each year that he remained alive, we considered ourselves lucky.

The last time I saw him was the day before his birthday. We were at a family gathering at my grandmothers. It was to celebrate her birthday, as well as his. He retreated to the living room for most of his time there, and when he was in the kitchen, he wouldn’t talk to anyone. All he wanted to do was play with his smart phone. When my grandmother talked to him, he answered her with a strong tongue and boiling anger in his eyes. No one could say or do anything to please him at this point.

I didn’t even bother trying to talk to him for fear that he would lash out at me. In fact, in all the years that we’ve been family, I’ve never said more than a few sentences to him. He wasn’t the type of uncle to show up at your high school play, take you out for ice cream, or make small talk. He was a man who just wanted to be left alone.

Sure, I could cry my heart out, take off of work for a few weeks, and preach to everyone about how you need to, “hold you loved ones close.” But, I can’t. I’ve never loved this man. To me, this isn’t a heartbreaking loss.

In fact, this isn’t a loss at all. My uncle did not die; he’s very much alive. Today he turns another year older…and colder, that is true. And, as I sat near him the other day, not speaking a word, I was reminded of how awful of a person I truly am. I realized in that moment that the man sitting near me is a man I’ve known my whole life; but he’s been nothing but a stranger. I realized that if he died tomorrow, even from suicide, it would not have a major impact on me. Sure, I would feel awful. No one deserves to die, no matter what the cause! And, no one deserves to feel alone. But, to me, it wouldn’t feel like a major loss. I can honestly say that it would hurt more if my dog died than if he passed away.

Four years ago, this was where my family found themselves; on suicide watch for my uncle. It’s awful to admit that someone who is supposed to be such a huge part of your life doesn’t matter to you. Writing those words, “It would hurt more if my dog died than if he passed away” makes me feel like a terrible person, but I know deep down that I’m being true to myself. Although, sometimes, we have to admit that even those people in our lives who are supposed to be family and the closest humans to us, mean zilch. That is why we all must create our own “families.” “Families” that are made up of blood relations, friends, acquaintances, dogs, cats, etc. “Plant your own seeds and grown your own garden because you have the power to choose who you become and who is allowed to influence you along the way.”

Granny Smith – over and out

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Luck to be a Lady

I open my eyes and I’m greeted with a stabbing pain. My head is throbbing, and I feel like someone is sitting on my belly button. I think my pelvis was shattered. They said I lost a lot of blood, but they’re doing what they can to make me comfortable: heating pads, chocolate, soft pillows. I’m an emotional wreck. Everything seems to be triggering some form of anger, sadness, and confused complication in my body. They tell me that this too shall pass…

Unfortunately, being a woman is not a phase, and I’ve struggled with it my entire life; the monthly gift (as described in the example above), weight gain, societal pressure, family pressure, unworthy pressure that I’ve put on myself, all of it. Today is International Women’s Day, and I can’t think of a better day to talk about what it’s like being one.

When you’re a girl, you see images of Cinderella, Belle, Jasmine, and Ariel, and you think to yourself, I want to be them, I want their life. I want to look like them, have their problems, and their happy endings. I remember being really little and standing on my bed, looking at the moon and dreaming of a life like Cinderella’s (the ending of course). I even dug around in my mother’s beauty drawer for a thick, black hair tie, just like the one Cinderella had, so that I could pull my hair back, just like she did in the movie.

As I grew, I wore dresses, painted my nails, applied makeup; I had a field day trying to look like a lady. But, still, when I looked in the mirror, all I saw was a girl with pale skin, nasty zits, glasses, and frizzy hair who was gaining weight by the minute. Boys NEVER looked at me…especially when I was going through my ugly phase…which was from 2nd grade to about my sophomore year of high school. I noticed all the girls in classes around me finding guys in middle school, and I was looked at as an ugly freak. I thought, how can I change?

As time went on, like any other woman, I saw images of Hollywood celebrities, their hair, makeup, weight, and tried to imitate them. I bought their clothes, went and got my hair done, researched how to tone my muscles while sitting at my desk, and the best brands of makeup for my skin. Still, I never looked like those women in Hollywood. Hell, there are celebrity women in their 50s that look better and are healthier than I will ever be!

And, not only did I feel pressure in regards to my looks, but sex. As a woman, you’re expected to be this sweet and innocent girl in public, but once you lock your bedroom door, men want you to turn into this wild animal! I remember the first few times I had sex, I didn’t know what to do with my hands, what to say, anything. I thought that I was supposed to sit back and let him take control of my body. It’s his for the taking; right?

Looks, the bedroom, and even the work force seem to control society’s perception of women. I remember when I entered my first job and realized that I wasn’t making as much as the man (who was doing the same work and at the same level of experience) sitting next to me because I had a vagina. Really? But, I suppose women are an awful investment. If they’re not engaged to be married when they start working for your company, they probably will be in no time. So, if they get married and their husband wants to move away because of a promotion, poof, they’re gone. Then, if he wants to have children, of course, someone might have to stay home. But, how can he stay home? He just got that promotion? He’s top dog! And, companies hate maternity leave. You might as well ask to go part-time, or just save the company some time and never come back. Why invest in a woman, they’ll just leave! Ugh…

But, when you think about it, I don’t know if I’d want to be a man either. Society tells them that they can’t cry or show emotion when they feel it. They can’t be the runt of any sports team, otherwise they’ll get picked on. They have to be tall, have six pack abs, and watch ESPN. They have to make others feel like they’ve earned the penis God’s given them. And, if they want a female partner, they better make sure they’re able to provide. They’re the one who’s going to have to work long hours, make connections, and do everything in their power to make sure that at the end of the day he still has gas left in the tank to have sex with his wife. And, what about that wife? Is she pretty? Does she do meaningful work? How many women did he have sex with before he married her? How much action does he receive on a regular basis now that he’s married? It’s all important. It all counts toward their “manhood points.”

I don’t know if I’d want that specific pressure that comes with being a man. I couldn’t tell you what’s worse. But, what I can tell you, is that pressure to be anything other than who you truly are is awful. If you’re a woman, but like being a “tom boy,” who gives a shit? If you’re a man, but enjoy The Notebook, I’m not going to judge you. Shouldn’t the message we spread to one another be, “Be Happy, Be Healthy, Be You,” Instead of, “be a man,” or “act like a lady”…?

Granny Smith – over and out

Who Rescued Who?

Growing up, I always wanted to be the girl who lived on a farm, or the one whose parents fostered animals, or the girl who was born into a family who already had dogs. It’s no secret that I love animals a lot more than I love people, but I love rescue animals most of all.

Over the past year, I’ve spent a considerable amount of my time working for a local dog rescue. This rescue brings dogs from high kill shelters in the south home to the north. Working with this rescue, I’ve heard a lot of stories in regards to the backgrounds of our dogs. Unfortunately, most of them make me roll my eyes towards the human race, others make me tear up.

Before joining this rescue, I didn’t realize how terribly dogs were treated in the south. I’m not saying that all dogs in northern United States are treated fairly, but this rescue works with multiple shelters in different states in southern United States where the euthanisation rate is through the roof and a lot of individuals down there don’t even know what spaying or neutering means.

For example, one dog that was recently brought to us was very large and fluffy. The owners of this dog lived in an apartment and decided to pack up and leave one day without warning and left their dog to fend for itself in the empty space. Did I mention that this was in the middle of summer? Without air conditioning, the apartment was 90 degrees.

In another instance, members of our rescue team went down to a new shelter in the south to save a few dogs. When they got there, they found out that multiple dogs were euthanized three hours before our team’s arrival because they were “cleaning up for the weekend.”

To me, animals are not just animals; they’re family. My dog has been with us for 13 years. We got him when we went to a pumpkin patch shortly after the September 11th attacks. My dog is hands down the best dog for our family. He’s relaxed but loves to go for walks and gets along with other dogs…most of the time. Over the last 13 years, we’ve had some great moments, but our dog has taken more of a liking to my mother. However, over the last year with me being around our house more with my unemployment, I’ve developed the deepest bond with him that I’ve ever had. Nowadays, he’ll take naps on my bed, follow me around the house, get very excited when I put my tennis shoes on (signaling a walk), or put him in the car with me (signaling a ride to the dog park or Pet Smart). He’s been my constant companion and best friend, and I’m so happy that we’ve gotten to spend so much time together recently. We’ve grown very close, and as I write this, he is sound asleep on the edge of my bed.

Goodnight my angel; and sleep tight to all of the dogs without a home. Don’t worry, we’ll come pick you up soon!

Granny Smith – over and out

Text, Call, FREAK OUT, Repeat

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I’m a worrier by nature. And every time I worry about something, I think of the worst case scenario, and then I start to believe that that’s actually going to happen.

For example, about a week ago, I made plans with my boyfriend, Matt, and a few friends to go to the beach. I told Matt the previous day (via text) that we were all going to meet up at the beach at 1, but that I would stop by his place first to drop off my stuff. That morning came, and I decided to call Matt at 10:30 to let him know when I would be leaving…no answer. At this point, I was fine, he’d probably call me back within an hour. An hour later, no call from Matt, so I called him back…no answer. Finally, it was 12:30. Still not having heard from him, I called again. Nothing! By this point, I was starting to freak out a little because he hadn’t responded the previous day when I texted him our plans…so, that meant I hadn’t heard anything in 24 hours. Who knows what could’ve happened in 24 hours time? My head was racing. Did he even make it home last night? What if someone high jacked his car? What if someone came into his place of work with a gun and everyone at his office was waiting for a hero?

I did the next logical thing and packed my bags and jumped in my car on a quest to find him. I couldn’t help it. Matt is usually really great a communicating with me, so I felt funky when he hadn’t even texted me back. I searched the area around his apartment and couldn’t find him or his car. So, he’s somewhere with his car or someone stole his car and he’s wandering hopelessly on the street, was my thought. Then, I checked the beach, thinking that maybe he’d lost his phone and was waiting for us there. There were so many cars and people as there happened to be multiple festivals going on near the lakefront that day…just my luck. After spending what seemed like years in traffic, I headed to one of his friend’s homes, nope, not there. Then, I texted a few of his other friends, no one had heard from him. I stopped at the mall, and lastly, his office. Nothing. It was almost 4pm.

I called my father and told him that I couldn’t find Matt. I stated that I was coming home and we were going to have to call the police, his parents, or form a search party…something, anything to make sure there wasn’t another wasted second that went by without having others know of his absence. As I drove home, I started crying my eyes out and I screamed at God, “Please let me find him!! He’s my everything! You might as well take me too! Where did you hide him? Why are you doing this? This isn’t ok.” Then, I began to think of what my life would become once he’d been pronounced dead, what I would say at his funeral; and I asked myself how I would feel if we never found the body. Would I be able to move on? No, probably never. Yes, I would take the oath to never date again and live the rest of my life as a spinster. Hell, my grandmother was a widow for 40 plus years before she died and she never dated, remarried, or showed interest in anyone after my grandfather passed away. If she could do it, so can I.

Then, the call came through. It was Matt’s face that showed up on my phone. But, I didn’t even rejoice at first. I thought, what if it’s the police calling to tell me they found him dead, or that he’s at the hospital and probably won’t make it? I picked up the phone and screamed, “HELLO?”

“Hi, what’s going on?” the other end answered back. It was Matt, he was alive…for now!

“WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN? WHERE ARE YOU NOW? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?…” I went off. I’ve known Matt for almost 9 years now, and in all of those years I’ve NEVER, NOT ONCE, yelled at him. Unfortunately, that streak has been broken.

In the end, I went back to Matt’s apartment and we talked it over, but sweet Jesus did he scare me. It turns out that he was participating in one of his weekly activities, sailing down at the yacht club. He left his phone in one of the club’s lockers, thinking he would be back by noon. As it turns out, that wasn’t the case.

I spent the next few hours being as close to him as I could, hugging him, smelling him, cuddling with him. Good God, if you don’t know if you love someone, try thinking about what your life would be like without them, then you’ll know if you want them to stick around. It sounds stupid, but I realized that losing him would mean losing myself.

I also learned a few other things during that crazy day:
-Communication is so important, especially when you’re in a relationship: Terrible communication has got to be my number one pet peeve…and it’s probably why so many people piss me off! If you have plans and forget, that’s one thing, but if you deliberately ignore people because “you don’t feel like it,” then we can’t be friends anymore. I have a friend who gets invited to many things and just doesn’t respond. She figures, if she’s available that day, she’ll come, if she can’t, whatever. I’m sorry honey, but with that attitude, I can’t invite you to a big event… like my wedding. I understand if it’s just a bonfire where you don’t really need to RSVP, but if you NEVER respond to ANY event and you still won’t respond when people personally text you and ask, “hey, you comin?” Inappropriate. People have actually stopped inviting her to things because of her attitude. Be polite and at least give someone some sort of a response. Even if you don’t know right then, say it. Don’t make people assume! In the working world, shit like that doesn’t fly, and it shouldn’t in real life either.

-Worrying is interest paid on something that hasn’t happened: My dad literally says this to me all the time, but I don’t listen because it’s a part of my personality to freak out over just about everything. This is the part of me that I can’t stand. I work at a radio station part-time, and if you’ve ever worked in broadcast media, you know that those guys and gals are some of the calmest people on the planet. They have to be! There are hundreds of factors that can make everything NOT go as planned, and you have to have a plan B while being calm about it. You just need to take things one week at a time, one day at a time, and then one moment at a time. And just remember, if there is a lack of preparation on someone else’s behalf, then there should not be any case of urgency on yours. Try your best to live in the moment, sniff out danger, but it is OK to let some things fall by the wayside.

What about you? Are you a worrier? How do you deal with your worries?

Granny Smith – over and out

Autism Awareness

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If you don’t know already, the month of April is Autism Awareness Month here in the United States. And seeing how the month is almost over, I thought I’d dedicated this post to those individuals with Autism, my brother, specifically.

My brother was three years old when he was diagnosed, and my family’s life hasn’t been the same since. I can’t tell you how many countless hours my brother has spent with therapists working on his speech and cognitive ability and how many days he was in the Special Education room at our high school only for us to realize that he isn’t so different after all. He’s still a typical boy who has his own likes and dislikes, he just can’t express himself in the same way we can.

For years, my family has gotten stares and weird looks in public places when my brother has cried out, hummed, or even danced near complete strangers. Even tonight, we went to our local YMCA for a swim and a young boy (probably only about 10 or 12) told my brother to hand over the ball he was holding because he was supposed to use it to shoot hoops not hold it! Of course, I glared at the boy and flipped him the bird…in my mind. But, we carried on, business as usual.

When I was younger, I would get so embarrassed half the time because my brother would have to use the ladies room with my mom if my dad wasn’t around so that someone could help him in the bathroom. We even stopped going to church because my brother loves to laugh, hum, and cry out during inappropriate times. Whenever someone looks at him, all they can see is his age, so they’re completely confused as to why he’s behaving “in that way.” Nowadays, I don’t give as many shits. If he cries out, he cries out. If he decides to dance in the middle of the grocery isle, let him have at it (as long as he’s not in anyone’s way)!

I’m not saying that I’m completely fine with his outbursts and that they never embarrass me. Of course, I still get agitated with him every once in awhile. But he’s my brother, and that’s what siblings do. If anything, he’s made me more of a tolerant person. Yes, people mess up once, twice, three times even! But, because I live with a boy who constantly needs to be reminded to wash his hands after he uses the bathroom, or to take his shoes off before climbing into bed, I’ve never gotten into a heated/screaming match with anyone. No one has ever pissed me off that much…because, it takes A LOT for me to REALLY show my frustration.

Like my dad says, “everyone should have at least one disabled child so that they know what it’s really like.” And, I completely agree. There’s too many government officials trying to cut funding for those with disabilities and it brings me to near tears when I think about how much those with disabilities have already been shafted in life, how many limitations they have when it comes to things to do, places to go, or people who will take care of them, and now this? My father actually has a friend who works for the government and has a disabled daughter, and because of that, he makes sure that he knows every law and is able to fight that much harder for her rights. He’s actually helped a lot of families (mine included) knowledgeably advocate for their disabled child. And, never would he have become so involved if he didn’t have a daughter with a disability.

My brother and other individuals with disabilities that I have spent time with over the course of my life thus far have helped me get a better perspective on what really matters in life. Not only that, but they’ve also taught me how it’s important to treat individuals with the utmost respect, say what you feel, and do what makes you happy.

If you’ve never had the chance to spend time with an individual or individuals with a disability, I encourage you to volunteer for the Special Olympics, or for a disabled group home. Even if it’s just for an hour and only one time! Make some sort of interaction with these uniquely talented and special individuals, and I guarantee your life will change for the better.

Granny Smith – over and out

Breaking Up is Hard to do

Recently, one of my very best friends went through a terrible, unexpected breakup with her boyfriend of 2 years. The situation left her damaged and with more questions and emotions than a toddler.

Now, I’ve gone through breakups myself, and I know that the majority of others have as well. But, I’ve always wondered how other individuals deal with them. I remember reading in an article somewhere that some men are ok in the beginning and tend to get a bit crazy, and then reality sinks in and they become lonely and miss the other person. On the other hand, I’ve heard that most women tend to cry about it, get really upset for a certain period of time, and then they move on and get crazy.

I’m not saying this is the case for every male and female because breakups happen in plenty of different ways and for plenty of different reasons, but it’s just what I’ve heard.

But, no matter how harsh of a breakup you have, you need to figure out how you’re going to pick yourself up and dust yourself off.

So, what have I done for you? I’ve searched the internet to find the best ways to deal with a breakup!

You’re welcome:

  • Don’t fight your feelings – It’s normal to have lots of ups and downs, and feel many conflicting emotions, including anger, resentment, sadness, relief, fear, and confusion. It’s important to identify and acknowledge these feelings. While these emotions will often be painful, trying to suppress or ignore them will only prolong the grieving process.
  • Talk about how you’re feeling – Even if it is difficult for you to talk about your feelings with other people, it is very important to find a way to do so when you are grieving. Knowing that others are aware of your feelings will make you feel less alone with your pain and will help you heal. Journaling can also be a helpful outlet for your feelings.
  • Remember that moving on is the end goal – Expressing your feelings will liberate you in a way, but it is important not to dwell on the negative feelings or to over-analyze the situation. Getting stuck in hurtful feelings like blame, anger, and resentment will rob you of valuable energy and prevent you from healing and moving forward.
  • Remind yourself that you still have a future – When you commit to another person, you create many hopes and dreams. It’s hard to let these dreams go. As you grieve the loss of the future you once envisioned, be encouraged by the fact that new hopes and dreams will eventually replace your old ones.
  • Know the difference between a normal reaction to a breakup and depression – Grief can be paralyzing after a breakup, but after a while, the sadness begins to lift. Day by day, and little by little, you start moving on. However, if you don’t feel any forward momentum, you may be suffering from depression.

If you’re currently going through a breakup, or know someone who is, I hope this article helped!

Granny Smith – over and out

Love and Loss

Lea Michele

So, if you’re a pop culture junkie like I am, you’ve obviously heard about the tragic death of Glee star, Cory Monteith…and you’ve probably watched the speech that his girlfriend, Lea Michele, gave at the Teen Choice Awards on August 11th.

Now, I may come off as a person who has a heart made of stone, but in all honesty, I’m very emotional, and nothing gets me more emotional than the passing of a loved one. So, when I first heard that Cory had passed, I immediately thought of Lea, and I couldn’t even begin to imagine what she was going through. And, when I watched the speech that she gave at the Teen Choice Awards, I admittedly started tearing up.

As someone who is currently in a relationship, Lea’s loss made me think, what would I do if I lost him? How would I go on? Unfortunately, my thought process regarding this topic isn’t new. My uncle lost his wife about three years ago in a tragic car accident, and it took such a toll on him that my family members began to wonder if he was contemplating suicide.

So, what do you do to help yourself move on after the love of your life, your best friend, has passed away?

Below are 10 suggestions:

1)      Before you move on, fulfill any request that your significant other said before passing away.  If there was no time as with a sudden death for a final request, explore ideas to gift or honor your late partner. This will give you a peace of mind, and will ensure that you will not have any mental obstacles in your new life.

2)      Know that it will take time before you can begin to feel a sense of normal again. It will not just disappear, and it will not heal itself. Be patient with yourself as you work through the process of grief. Grief is a journey that lasts as long as it takes to reconcile all issues pertaining to death, your loved one, yourself, your relationship (good/bad) to bring peace and understanding.

3)      Understand that there are stages you will go through and they are not linear. You will experience denial, anger, resentment, yearning, suffering, sadness, and eventually an acceptance. However, you may not do them in this order and you may, much like a roller coaster ride, go over these stages repeatedly over the course of your grief journey with regard to the same loss.

4)      Do not pay attention to those who try to tell you that you are not grieving properly. Instead, thank s/he for their concern allow them to know everyone grieves differently. Grief is as individual as you are, as your partner was, and as your relationship was. Specifically, you will likely deal with some who thinks you are healing “too fast” and those who think you have become “stuck in your grief”. If you have concerns about either, talk to a grief counselor or therapist, s/he has training and experience to help you navigate through your grief as well as help you build self esteem.

5)      Realize that you have choices. There is a time when you need to cry and go through the suffering to get to the other side. There will come a time when you are ready to actively participate in grief work to bring healing to have a new life.

6)      Do not worry that you will forget your significant other.

7)      Ask yourself what it was that you have always wanted to do but something you never had time to do because of family obligationsNow is the time to do it! Be anything you want to be. Become an artist, a pilot, or a scuba diver. Take a ride in a hot air balloon. Most of all, strive to be happy and fulfilled. Your dreams can become a reality and help fill the void in your life. You will meet new people and realize that life can be satisfying and exciting even if you are alone.

8)      Be patient because this change may not come quickly or easily

9)      Adopt a pet. If you don’t have the energy to give a great amount of attention to a pet, consider a cat. They make great companions. They are clean and do not have to be walked. They give you love and affection. They give you someone to care for and care about. They will greet you when you come home, and lie on your lap while you watch TV. If you are not a cat person get a dog, or whatever pet makes you happiest. Understand that the pet will not replace your love, nor is it meant to, but animals can make you smile.

10)   Volunteer. When you are ready or have energy, volunteer your time to a cause or something that you feel strongly about. Helping others can have a wonderful effect on ourselves. Join the library and read. Most libraries have library buses that bring books to your neighborhood. Or you can rent a DVD, or watch movies on the TV. Write letters, or become a phone companion, a group that is backed by the Police Community Service. They make daily calls to shut-ins, to make sure that they are safe. Talk to them to keep them company and they will be keeping you company as well.

If you have recently lost a significant other, I hope that these tips have been helpful, and may you find peace.

Granny Smith- over and out