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If I have learned one, single thing from being the significant other of a Freemason, it is the art of public kissing (and by public kissing, I mean the act of kissing hello and goodbye, something which has fallen from mannerly fashion).

Every time I attended some form of masonly gathering, I find myself not being able to enter or exit a room without a flurry of kisses from older men in suits. And when I say art of kissing, I mean it. There is an intensely subtle craft to it. The kiss must be centered precisely on the proferred cheek; too far towards the ear and it lends an air of creepiness, too close to the bottom of the jaw and it's just awkward, and too close to the mouth, it's just plain inappropriate. One's mouth may not be too dry (painful) or too wet (gross), nor should one's mouth be too open or closed for the same reasons. A kiss of greeting (or departure) is specific and regimented, failing to perform it perfectly just leads to uncomfortable situations.

When the Engineer first entered Freemasonry, I was not even remotely comfortable with so much physical contact, let alone from nigh-on strangers. I fidgeted and stammered when forced into attending events, finding excuses to slip away and generally keeping to myself. I'm not sure when this exactly changed, but I found myself going through the steps of casual social encounters. After so many years of holding myself apart from people, it felt alien at first and there were many nights when I went home and laid awake for hours trying to figure out what was wrong with me.

In part, I believe the change was brought about by our friendship with one of the other officers-in-line (the Engineer was going through the chairs), who is now soon to be a Past Master. He and his wife opened their home to us, greeting us with such warmth and friendliness that it was a bit staggering. I found myself participating in things like fundraiser bake sales and spaghetti dinners (that year was a record-breaker for funds raised, and I cooked/baked for both. Coincedence? heh...) and donating my time to help out in several, painstaking projects. I didn't enter into these endeveours with any type of motive in mind. I just deeply respected the people behind them. I didn't do them for the lodge; I did it for them.

Recently, over the past few months, there has been some drama engulfing the lodge and there has been an enormous amount of trash-talking and outright disrespect to done to the soon-to-be Past Master. It pains me to see it, particularly when other people I admired and respected have involved themselves in it (they say they have valid reasons to do so, but I have yet to be convinced). The Engineer is upset as well, even moreso because of his personal commitment to the lodge. He removed himself from line and the past couple of weeks have been spent trying to figure out what happens next. I reckon we'll find out when we get there, though the wait is annoying.

It's amazing, the political machinations I have witnessed throughout all of this. It brings to mind the petty squabbling and gladhanding of the doomed Roman Senate. Whenever I have been privy to conversation, I always feel like an anthropologist in the field, studying a wildly different culture than my own. Once, I was asked by one of the Brothers for any opinion I may have had on a conversation that had happened earlier that he knew I witnessed. I told him that since I don't understand the majority of the subject matter, I don't pay attention. He looked at me for a moment, smiled, and said: "Somehow, you being you, I doubt that." I laughed when he said that. We had always enjoyed each other's company and he had always treated me slightly different than the other Significant Others. We once bonded over a mutual love of HP Lovecraft and Otis Redding. He's also one of the ones who I'm currently waiting to be convinced by; since he was always one of my favourite people, this is a particular pain.

Even if all of this ends in broken bridges, stepping out from behind the wall I've built around myself for years and years remains an interesting experience that I hope continues. I've spent far too long wrapped up in my own head and loathe to unentangle myself from my broken brain. Too long, immersed and afraid. I don't want to live my life like that anymore. I don't want to get to the end of my life and think to myself, I could have done so much more. That singular lesson from my mother's death lies particularly bitter and green across my tongue. I loved her deeply, but do not want to follow in her footsteps.

She gave up her life and dreams to be a mother (of some irony, she wanted to be anthropologist), something which many women do and have no problem living with their decisions. But, I get the idea that my mother was always vaguely resentful of being forced to do this (her first marriage, at age 17, was in direct response to a pregnancy and her second marriage, at 28, was prompted by being told to "if you want to keep custody of your two sons, get married yesterday" by her lawyer) and thus, spent the rest of her life always wishing she had done better, but drowning in the notion she was too old to start over. Being so much like my mother as it is, I've always been afraid of falling into the same trap. It's what eventually prompted me to go back to school two years ago.

...

This feels a lot like that "growing up" thing I've heard so much about. I'm not sure of my opinion on the matter quite yet, but I reckon I'm willing to wait and see.
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Joanna visited me at work today to say hi and drop off the holiday gift she had gotten for me.

It's cookie cutter shaped like a fetus, which fills my embittered heart with so much joy and song.

I plan on making cookies for the next Mason bake sale with this. Tell everyone they're supposed to be bears or something. hah!

Also, I am currently eating a honeycrisp apple. It tastes strangely of perfume, which is probably due to the fact it's been in my messenger bag all damn day.
thejunipertree: (Default)
DEAR INTERNETS:

Tonight, I kicked the shit out of my World Lit final.

Dang, seriously. I made it my little bitch.

Especially with the essay I wrote comparing and contrasting the relationships of Shakespeare's Hamlet/Ophelia, Marie de France's Bisclavret/his wife, Anne Bradstreet/her husband, and Beowulf's Grendel/Grendel's mother. Then I discussed what these four relationships said about the nature of love.

It was entitled: Douchebaggery, Thy Name is Hamlet.

I love this class and am very sad that my last night of it is next week. Except for how I had to sit through five different students tonight attempting to read Sonnet 130 (My mistress's eyes are nothing like the sun...) for twenty-five points of extra credit.

That was pretty painful, yo.

This class seriously kind of maybe makes me contemplate going into literature as a some kind of major and eventual profession. But, I am not quite that much of a maschochist.

Oh, what manner of nonsense is that?

Yo ho, yo ho, it's a mortician's life for me!

Love,
~tara

P.S.
The Engineer totally talked about masturbation and ball-shaving tonight to the Masons. It slayed me.
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The bake sale went well, I think. I wound up not making the bread because...err, I forgot about the dough. It wound up staying out all night Friday and all day Saturday. When I finally got home and checked out the bowls, they smelled horribly of beer. So, I threw them out and started again (only one bowl this time and it's currently in dough form and finishing its two hour sit).

Both halves of the Irish cream chocolate cake sold, all of the peppermint chocolate chip cookies sold. And the majority of the cupcakes went, as well. I brought home the rest of them and ate one last night. Verdict: HOLY MARY MOTHER OF MICE. That is a serious effing cupcake that kind of made me a little dizzy to eat. Sweet Jesus.

On the way home, I suddenly had the urge to hit the comic book store. I very rarely have the chance to go because they always close before I get out of work and thus, the Engineer usually goes without me. I've been working on building up my Hellblazer graphic novel collection and the Alan Moore line of Swamp Thing, so some holes were filled in their lines. I also picked up a Books of Magic I didn't previously have (and which I actually didn't really enjoy, it was kind of boring). And another graphic novel called God Save the Queen, which I'd never heard of before and which turned out to be quite good.

Friday night, Aristotle had another incident with the wood chips. This time, the damn prey was on a paper towel and there was no dead mousie dance to be seen. And he missed. Wood chips in the snout, panicking me trying to get them out by myself with hands that are shakey on a good day. It wasn't as bad as the first time, but I was still freaking out. Especially because it's a little difficult to wrangle a squirmy snake, pin his head, force his mouth open, and fish out wood chips. It should take five hands to do this. I had two at my disposal.

I tried to container feed him last night to avoid all of this happening a third time, but he was really not down with that. grr. Next week, I will try to lay down towels in his tank and then do the dead mousie dance for him. Rather irritating. He was such a good eater before. Then he had to get all stupid with his strikes. Not fun.
thejunipertree: (Default)
What is wrong with me that I keep volunteering to make large quantities of food for people?

Tired Tara is tired.

Currently in my kitchen, I have roughly four dozen peppermint chocolate chip cookies, a dozen dark chocolate cupcakes with chocolate ganache glaze, two halves of a dark chocolate bundt cake with powdered sugar on top, and three bowls of bread dough a-rising to be baked tomorrow night.

One of those goddamned cupcakes is calling my name with a sweet siren song of "You want to eat me! You'll never get to sleep anytime soon if you do, but you should eat me because my glaze is imperfect and there is an even number of me and my brethren! And you know your OCD just will not allow that to stand! You hate even numbers!" It doesn't help that I didn't eat any dinner because as soon as I came home it was time for CUPCAKE MAKING A-HOY! Oh, and getting the Engineer caught up on season 3 Battlestar Galactica, so he can start watching season 4 with me and I can stop kicking him out of my apartment on Friday nights to watch it by myself.

At the tail end of May? I volunteered to make spaghetti sauce for fifty. Oy.

This bake sale thing is on Saturday and I will be working the table from open to close, which is to say: from STUPID O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING until early afternoon.

Check me out, being a good Mason girlfriend. :D
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I like to push my boundaries once in a while, just to see if my tastes have changed. Particularly regarding food. For instance, I used to labor under the delusion that Brie cheese was gross. Now? You'd have trouble prying it out of my cold, dead fingers.

So, I was invited to a coffee tasting last weekend (the one we just came out of) by the wife of Grand Poobah from the Engineer's lodge. Ok, says I. I'll go to this thing, despite it is at fucking stupid o'clock an early hour. How early? Shit, I don't even get up that early for work.

I tried six different coffees. And the verdict?

I still don't like the damn stuff. It is VILE.

Everyone kept laughing at the faces I was making after every sip. It looked a lot like the D: style of face, which I am quite good at making in person. How do people drink this shit? I mean, seriously. It's NASTY. And I prefer to drink diet soda!

Blergh.

Same day, only later on, I also tried lox for the first time. Sweet suffering mice, it tasted like oily, slippery, compressed chum. Ew. And the texture in my mouth was enough to make me gag. The Engineer said if one eats it with cream cheese, the flavors play against each other and it helps with the texture. So, I tried it that way.

SWEET CHRIST, WHY DID I DO THAT?!

That was, to say the least, even worse. I took one of my favorite food substances, cream cheese, and wrapped it in flexible chum. Ick.

Later on in the day, I got extremely inebriated and told an entire room full of Masons the story of how [livejournal.com profile] wemble lost her virginity (and how I was forbidden, upon pain of death, of telling that same story at her wedding reception). I swear it was topical. hee.

Good times.

Much later after that, my body started screaming at me that it was no longer running on anything resembling a full tank and that rest needed to come soon, or I was going to throw a rod. I went to bed at around 11 o'clock (unheard of in my part of the world, I normally go to bed at 1 a.m.) and STILL got up late for work. And now the slight sickness I was feeling on Friday is rebounding.

Therefore, I'm cutting class tonight to go home and vegetate on the couch. hrmph.
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+ Aristotle ate for me! Not a single pet store around here had anything even resembling frozen rat pups, so I decided to attempt giving him one of the frozen mice I already had in my freezer. And he went all om nom nom on it. Hooray!

+ I also held him. Twice. And he seems to be comfortable with me.

- The police were called at my office on Friday due to the unruly father of an underage patient. I got in his face because I seem to not notice when people are bigger and scarier than me.

+ I made chili for fifty last night.

- It's currently sitting in giant vats on my stove and now I can't make anything to eat until it's moved.

- And I can't move it on my own.

- It also has to be transported this evening to the Engineer's lodge.

+/- Bills are paid. Mostly. I'm also starting the process of a debt snowball.

+ That being said, upon looking at my current debt (which excludes school debt), I'm not as far in the hole as I thought I was. Shit, my debt could be sneered at by my most people. My debt could be one normal person's credit card balance, if'n you want to get technical. Things are hesitantly looking up.

+ My brother is in Vegas for the next few days. Here's to hoping that the hotels don't once again circulate flyers about him, stating that he is potentially a pimp. Don't ask.

+ Classes start on Tuesday!

- I still don't have my goddamn book card, with which to buy my text books. I called Financial Aid to see what the deal was and they told me because I registered so late (news to me, I knew it was late but I didn't think it was OMFG Y U SO LATE TARA) that I need to pick up my book stipend on Wednesday. Which comes after Tuesday. Which is when my first class starts.

+ Watched Severance last night. It's probably one of the better movies I've seen in a long time.

- I was going to go into work yesterday and make chili today, but I decided to reverse the days and switch activities. Now that I've woken up, I've got a screaming headache and thusly, do not want to go into work. Maybe I'll just stay home and clean. And eat ice cream. And watch Notes on a Scandal.
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So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

As it was related to me last night, it would appear that my character is the subject of some discussion in a certain Freemason lodge.

Apparently, someone or a party of someones overheard two private conversations and mashed them into an absolutely hilarious final product. That being: I am currently married to someone who is not the Engineer and the Engineer is my little something-something on the side.

hee.

I almost peed when I heard of all of this. And I know exactly which conversations were eavesdropped on to produce this.

See, a couple of weeks ago, I went to an event at the lodge and after everything, was standing around talking with one of the other ladies, while many other people milled around us, who had referred to me as the Engineer's wife. I mock-gasped at her and told her not to "put me in that particular grave". I told her that I had only recently become divorced (or so I've heard, I actually haven't seen any final papers as of yet). She then asked how long he and I have been together. Almost seven years, I told her. I saw a frown beginning to form, that frown I am altogether too familiar with, and was just opening my mouth to clarify what I'd said when the Engineer jumped in with, "I was not the cause of her divorce. They'd been split up for a couple of years before we even met. They were both just too lazy to actually file the paperwork."

All clear, right?

Not, apparently, if you're only listening with half an ear. In addition to that, I am usually unavailable to attend lodge functions that the spouses are also invited to. I work late and am usually in class on those nights. The Engineer has frequently had to explain that I wouldn't be in attendance to people when they asked after me.

So, amongst a few of the lodge members (and their wives), I have now become the Scarlet Woman. I think my age (I'm probably the youngest of the significant others) and the fact that I don't dress like a prig (my...ah, charms are usually on display) don't really help my case. I also shamelessly flirt with some of them, particularly the father of this year's Worshipful Master. This gentleman is an absolutely wonderful man I adore and I remember on one occasion, I made him laugh uproariously when after he'd slipped me a few peppermints, I told him that if he "kept giving me candy, I would follow him anywhere."

I told the Engineer that the next function I go to, I'm going to wear a red A on my chest. Hester Prynne is in the house, ya'll.
thejunipertree: (Default)
I should be studying for my Human Services exam tomorrow, but I really can't be arsed to do so. Gah.

I spent most of the weekend acting like an eight year old boy with the Engineer. For starters, we were invited to dinner over at a lodge brother's house. Said lodge brother has one of the happiest, smilingest dogs I've ever had the pleasure of meeting (Jack, American Eskimo dog). Jack has a girlfriend, who just happens to be a soccer ball. When Jack is feeling like getting up to dickens, he smacks his girlfriend around the living room and then humps the ever-loving shit out of her.

HILARITY.

Add this to a room full of people, two of whom are already vastly uncomfortable for unknown reasons (not the Engineer and I, another couple). MORE HILARITY.

Now add this to the fact that Jack is going to town on the soccer ball right in front of the female portion of the uncomfortable couple. Who is trying her hardest to ignore the dog's enthusiastic humping, but failing miserably and only producing a rather stretched grimace of horror across her face. And too polite to say anything about the dog. EVEN MORE HILARITY.

At this point, I've managed to not laugh aloud and have stifiled my laughter down to a bit of underbreath snickering. Cue the Engineer. Who starts laughing so loud, the kind of laugh that he gets where he can't breathe and starts wheezing. And he's sick, so this produces a wretched coughing fit, but he's still laughing through it.

Now I start cracking up and lo! The two of us are officially out of control.

The Engineer actually got up and left the room at this point, to try and get a hold of himself, leaving me to fling myself across the arm of the couch we were sitting on, wiping the tears from my face and still cackling.

Later, after everyone had left and it was just the two of us hanging out with the lodge brother and his wife, we told them what had happened. In the middle of the retelling, Jack starts going at the ball again. Lodge brother turns to Jack and says, Good boy, Jack! Good boy! and I lose my fucking mind all over again.

The next night, we went on a Jersey Devil walk through the Pine Barrens that was being hosted by the lodge. In attendance were the uncomfortable couple, who I couldn't even look at without giggling uncontrollably.
thejunipertree: (xbrokenwingsxicon)
This is more for my benefit, then anything. I need to have all of this written out so I can organize my thoughts.

-----------------

I am just so fucking tired, it's not even funny.

Every spare moment I've had this week has been dedicated to ferreting out information to help my mother's situation. What is the situation, you ask? Well, let me lay it out for you.

My mother was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer in June 2002. She went on short term disability for six months, when the disability ran out, she was forced to go back to work. During that six months, she went through twenty rounds of intensive chemotherapy.

Some time after she returned to work, it was decided that she should undergo radiation therapy. So, she did thirty days of radiation, during which she also received a continuous low level chemo feed.

Around late November/early December of 2003, her boss decided that it was time to start laying people off. Being the benevolent soul he is (*snort*), he gave her the option of either accepting the lay-off or getting her doctor to sign her out on short term disability again. Since she needed health insurance coverage, she opted for the short term disability route.

Now it's the beginning of May and her short term disability is about to run out again (remember, it's only for six months). And we're faced with some very difficult situations to muddle through.

1. Once she finishes this spate of disability, she would be expected to go back to work. However, she's in no shape to do so. Therefore, she will lose her health insurance because she won't technically be employed with that company any longer. So, problem #1 is no health insurance. No money to pay for her chemo treatments and numerous prescriptions.

2. She's applied for Social Security disability (SSD), which is only given to people who fall under a very specific criteria. What this criteria actually is, I haven't the foggiest notion. However, you do have to be expected to be disabled for over one year or have your disability end in death. It is notoriously difficult to be accepted for SSD. Many people are denied for ridiculous reasons, though most of them hire lawyers for an appeal. Oh, and even if you are accepted for SSD, it can take up to six months to get it. Problem #2 is waiting for SSD/not getting SSD at all. No money to pay her rent and bills (I can cover mine and my brother can cover his, but we just barely squeak by).

3. She has an extreme hernia that causes her to have enormous amounts of pain, which affects whether or not she eats. Not eating has caused her weight to drop to 108 pounds. You heard me right. One hundred and eight. When all of this started in June 2002, she weighed around 176. The hernia needs to be surgically fixed. But, because of how bad it actually is (it's huge), her recovery time would be lengthened. Not to mention that she's in no condition to withstand a very intensive surgery right now because of her weight and general weakness. Problem #3, the hernia.

4. As I wrote in my journal the other day, the oncologist told us that because of the new spots in her liver, lungs, and bladder, if she does not go through chemotherapy again (and posthaste), she has months to live. Months. As in, less than a year. However, she's in no condition to go through chemotherapy. Her weight, may I remind you again, is 108 pounds. To go through chemo she has to get stronger and gain some weight. Problem #4, chemo.

4a. (This is where it gets a bit tricky.) To go through chemo, my mom has to gain weight. But because of the hernia, she has a lot of difficulty eating. To have the hernia fixed, she has to gain weight. Now, say she actually does gain enough weight and is feeling a bit stronger. Does she get the hernia surgery first, so she's not in pain, before she goes through chemo? Or does she go through the chemo first, build herself back up from that, and then get the hernia fixed? It's half a dozen of one, six of the other. If she goes for the hernia surgery first, she runs the risk of actually becoming sicker due to the pressing need for chemo within the next few months. But, if she does chemo first, she's very likely to not bounce back from it because of being weakened from the chemo and weakened from the hernia. Problem #5, chemo vs. hernia surgery.

5. Say she does actually get accepted for SSD, she won't have health insurance for two years. She needs (is there another word that means REALLY FUCKING NEEDS, like beyond needs?) coverage to handle any of the health issues, be they chemo or hernia surgery. Not to mention the slew of medication she has to take, which is rather expensive when you don't have a prescription plan. Medicaid is an option, however one must (again) meet a very narrow criteria to be accepted. And I have a feeling that they are not going to like the fact that my brother and I both work. And that they'll decide we make TOO MUCH money for her to receive Medicaid. We can't lie to Medicaid and say that one of doesn't live here, because our mother has to show cancelled rent checks to welfare and SSD and they're going to want to know why her portion of the rent only equals a third. Problem #6, Medicaid.

--------------

Needless to say, the past week has been hellish. I have used every keyword combination humanly possible in Google to get information on assistance with our problems. I've come across some very valuable resources (like the Patients Advocate Organization and Cancer Care, Inc.), but there doesn't seem to be any kind of program in our state, much less this country, that serves as a safety net for people who are suffering from cancer. I've read innumerable messages on so many message boards from people who are in the exact same situation, that I haven't even bothered to post my own query because there just doesn't seem to be any kind of definitive answer.

The other day, I had the idea that I could solicit some sort of fund raising activity/charity from various groups in my area. I've already started the ball rolling with that by approaching Miss Rowan's husband, Ellis, who is an officer in a Masonic lodge and The Engineer, who is a fledgling mason in a lodge closer to us. Masons give millions of dollars in charity every year. They told me that each lodge master can give a hundred dollars without even approaching the rest of the lodge first. And if they ask the other lodge members, they can give up to three hundred. After that, they can approach the district lodge that governs each county. They could even possibly hold a fundraiser for her.

I'm going to draft a letter and send it out to every single fraternal organization in my area (and the surrounding areas). All of them. Explaining the situation and desperately hope that someone decides to help. If I could, at the very least, get her portion of the rent paid for a year, that would be fabulous ($2976.00, I calculated it). If I could manage to also have her bankruptcy payment paid for a whole year, that would be even better (that brings the total to just under five grand). I'm also going to bring it up to the MWC (the pagan discussion group I belong to), to see if they can spread the word to any of their contacts and possibly wrangle help from any of the pagan organizations around here. Though I'm not banking on that, because getting pagans to do anything all at the same time is a lot like herding ferrets (most people say cats, but I strongly believe that those people, unlike myself, have never tried to herd a business of ferrets).

If anyone reading this has any other ideas, or any experience in dealing with matters such as this (any of it, whether it be SSD or Medicaid or welfare or health insurance or charity or fundraising), please contact me through email (if you have it) or my LJ. I would be infinitely grateful and welcome any suggestions.

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thejunipertree

January 2011

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