To the Little Boys in my Urban Classroom

tears

I wish I could make you want it. I wish I could make you feel it – a deep desire…an aching thirst…to accept the keys I try to give you…every single day. I want, so badly, for you to grasp those keys, unlock the gate, and forge a path, fiercely, toward a bold future. I want you to have success beyond the minimum of what is required of you. I want you to claim your brilliance. I want you to outsmart them…all of them…those who look down upon you and underestimate you. I want you to surprise them with your eloquence and alarm them with your capabilities. I want those in the establishment to be threatened by your intelligence. I want you to seize the power that that brings you and wield it with the benevolence they never gave you…or me…or your sisters of color…or anyone that isn’t white and male.

The world needs you. The world needs men who understand what it’s like to be marginalized because there are so many others that have been, too. The world needs to see men of color who have found a way to rise above. It needs their heart…and grit…and guts…and perseverance. It needs to see you as something other than the stereotype that popular culture has painted you to be. It needs to see that you know…that you believe…you are more because you are. You are so much more to me. You are so much more to the people who love you. You embody the hopeful potential for which so many of us long – the hopeful potential of human evolution. Your success equals the success of our human race, not just your ethnicity. When humans overcome the direst of circumstances, we are all lifted.

Okay, guys, I know that I’m just some old white lady, but I love you. And I think you know that I love all the children in our classroom. As I tell you almost every single day, we are a “classroom family.” We love each other. Still, you still test me…almost every day. You want to make sure I’m not just saying that, like some people in your life have done. I know the things you do are, in reality, just asking me, “Will you still love me if I do this? Okay. Weeell, how about this?” Please know that the answer will always be, “Yes.” I plan to prove that to you. I plan to show you that I will never give up on you. I’m going to tell you, “Yes, you can,” when you say that you can’t. I’m going to expect you to do all the things I know you can…and that is everything your white counterpart does. Yes, it might be harder for you, and it might take longer. Yes, you didn’t come to me with the same advantages and background knowledge that those suburban boys did, but we can overcome that if you just trust me. I understand. I need to earn that trust. I promise I will try to make you believe in me…and, most importantly, in you. With that being said, just know I am expecting a decent “shout out” at your acceptance speech for the presidential nomination – after the one to your mother, of course.

Hot Mess: My Life As a Fabulously Un-Photogenic Woman

 

hotmesskinder

The first photo of me, as a newborn, hid it. The focus of the shot was my dad – the young, handsome, and thin version of him. The newborn me, balanced on his lap, looked like a cute little pink piglet swaddled in a brand-new receiving blanket as white as a first snowfall. It was downhill from there, though. Photos from my first birthday featured me with bright red decorative icing smeared all over my face, looking like a baby vampire. Mom and Dad were pretty poor, back in the day, so Mom used to cut my hair herself. Needless to say, ages two and three featured the asymmetrical bangs that accidentally made me look like a 60’s mod trend-setting toddler. When I was four, Mom became obsessed with the television show “Family Affair.” One of the characters was an adorable moppet named Buffy, whose golden hair was always pulled into two perfectly pipe-curled ponytails. My mother so adored this character that she had me spend the spring/summer chilling in the sun, in my little rocking lawn chair, with my baby-fine baby hair saturated in the then-popular hair lightening product Sun-In. What’s the downside to that? Yeah. Well, the only thing that could make a preschooler look like a white trash, hot mess is having brown roots and flowing bleach blond locks. That’s how I started kindergarten.

Kindergarten was my first school photo. It featured those roots and a shirt whose collar spanned the entire width of my shoulders. The kicker? The color – goldenrod! Sorry. I just threw up a little bit in my mouth thinking about it. By first grade, I’d lost my first tooth – a front one. Yup! First grade’s school photo was a snaggle-tooth nightmare. The dental situation was only the beginning, though. Scottish plaid was all the rage that year (thank you, Bay City Rollers!), and my favorite outfit was a “maxi-dress” with a smocked bodice in burgundy/gold/green plaid. This was not a good look against my anemic looking, milk-white complexion. I guess I should just be thankful that my roots had grown out by then. By second grade, I’d begun to put on weight (a LOT of weight), but the real tragedy is that I’d begun to experiment with boxed home perms. I know, I know, I know. In retrospect, I can’t believe it either. I mean, a boney gal like Gilda Radner could get away with hair that looked like Joan Crawford’s in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. But a butterball like me? No, not so much. Happily, my perm fascination was short-lived. So, apart from my hair always looking messy/greasy/dirty – whether I’d just washed it or not – school pictures in third, fourth, and fifth grade were awful mostly due to the horrendous fashion of the times – a navy-blue polyester dress with a white peter pan collar and a bonus tiny rose applique on the neckline that looked oh-so-flattering against my fat girl double chin, a polyester pinafore dress in hunter green with a gold floral blouse, a floral kelly-green blouse with a white cardigan. Have you thrown up yet?

Then, as I got older, I began “experimenting” with grooming techniques. The photographic evidence of this is featured in my seventh-grade school photo. I had THE coolest dolman sleeve sweatshirt… and that was a BIG get for me with my skinflint of a mother. It came from the Juniors department at JC Penney! Super cool! Unfortunately, the other “accomplishment” from that year was my failed attempt to remedy what I considered to be a “uni-brow.” In actuality, it was just a few stray hairs. In my thirteen-year-old mind, however, I was straight-up Frida Kahlo. Consequently, in my seventh-grade school photo, I am missing approximately a third of my left eyebrow, thanks to a failed attempt at shaving between the two. My eighth-grade photo featured yet another “fashion” trend – tinted glasses. Why, yes, I DO look like a stoner, but NO, I was not one. Hey, thanks for noticing, though! I looked pretty normal in my ninth, tenth, and eleventh-grade pictures…well, except for being fat. With that being said, after we got the proofs of my senior pictures, the pose I chose for the final one was based solely on how thin I thought I looked in it. Never mind that I appear to be looking off, wistfully, toward a future that was n’er to be as the thin, gorgeous, and photogenic lead singer of the next Go-Gos! Sigh! Some things never change. How thin I look is still the standard with which I choose any Facebook profile pic.

For many years, I put school pictures behind me. Then, at age thirty-five, I became a public school teacher. Of course, that meant the annual “picture day” was back in my life. Once again, evidence of the “hot mess” that I am has been thrust upon me year after year thanks to LifeTouch school photos. The good thing is that teachers don’t have to pay good money for these ghastly things. LifeTouch gives a few prints to them for free. I usually toss them in the closet, though, after giving one wallet-size pic to my dad. He gets a big kick out of showing it to people and saying, “This is my daughter. She’s in kindergarten” and then laughing like Pee-Wee Herman. “Haha!” The bad thing is that this photo also takes the form of the id badge I wear. It’s a daily reminder of just how un-photogenic I am. There it is…every day…hanging, literally, like an albatross around my neck. And, believe me, at this point in my career I have quite the collection of gag-inducing photos.

I think the only photographs of me I feel are truly “good” might be the ones from my second wedding. My dress, the most expensive garment I’ve ever worn, seemed to fit just right, and somehow this important day miraculously seemed to coincide with a “good hair day.” My complexion was clear that day, too. The home tooth-whitening system I’d been using for the previous six months seemed to have been effective. Although I did my makeup myself, exactly the way I always do, on that day it made feel like I was glowing. I felt beautiful, and, somehow, the photos translated it into the most flattering images of me that have ever been made…which, given my history, is no great feat. Still, I can’t help but wonder if the joy of that day somehow radiated into the molecules that compose the human shell I lug around, enhancing them temporarily, in the way photogenic people experience every day. It was nice.

Look. I’m okay with the fact that I don’t look like Gigi Hadid. At my age, really, I truly am. I’ve got other things going for me, I think. I’m just curious, though. I’d REALLY like to know what the secret is. How do you people do it, those of you that don’t have to take forty selfies before you find the one that’s the least disgusting to post as your profile pic? How do you do it, those of you that are always the best-looking family member in those holiday family snaps? And how the hell do you manage to look SO good in a fucking driver’s license photo? Really! HOW? Us ugly folks wanna know!

Self-Actualization and the Wisdom of Peter Frampton

penandpaper

I should’ve been at a writer’s conference today. For the past couple of years, I have registered for it as soon as registration opened and waited, with great anticipation, to attend. This year, I didn’t. In fact, I missed the deadline altogether. I know this because twinges of regret about not going made me try to register at the last minute. It’s been a difficult year for me as a writer. I’ve written little, struggled to find the desire to write, lost confidence in my ability, and felt overwhelmed by the demands of the job that provides my income. It sucks. There’s nothing that hurts as much as being untrue to yourself. Anyone who’s ever lived a life of denial will tell you that. There’s a line in the song Ophelia by the Lumineers that goes, “I read the script, and the costume fit, so I played my part.” I feel like that’s me. That’s why I went into my current profession – teaching. It fit me, at the time. Look, it’s not like I don’t like what I do…well, I like the idea of what I do, anyway. I take it very seriously. I feel like it’s extremely noble and incredibly important. And it’s not like I don’t pour my heart and soul into it every day, day after day. Still, the intrinsic motivation I feel to give 110% to my job is mostly about my deep feeling of inadequacy…and having something to prove because of it…and my psychological status as a grade A people pleaser. It’s not because it’s my passion, though…and that sucks. My job has been draining every last ounce of my soul lately, because of the aforementioned reasons. Consequently, my passion…my writing…is writhing within me, starving and crying out to my conscious mind.

Okay. I am intensely aware that my plight is a total “first world problem.” I appreciate the things my job has given me – a decent income, health insurance, modest retirement savings. And, yes, my parents got what they wanted for me – for me to do a little better than they did. I got what I wanted, as a single mother, too. I worked my ass off to achieve a modicum of financial stability. I worked full-time while going to college full-time and raising two kids. After living in poverty, my goal was to stand on my own two feet and take care of my kids. I did that. Back then, though, I never once thought I’d find myself in a situation where I was considering what would make me feel fulfilled. I studied Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs in college. For those of you unfamiliar with it, his model details how basic human needs – food, shelter, and safety – take precedence over everything and then other needs like esteem, belonging, and self-actualization follow in that order. Sometimes, but not always, that hierarchy corresponds with the aging process and maturity. I spent a lot of my life trying to meet those basic needs. I am grateful that, thanks to my job, I rarely worry about them anymore. As a result, however, I can’t escape the nagging ache…the pull I now feel…to “self-actualize” and fulfill this burning need to write and only write. I dunno. Maybe it’s because I’m getting old. Maybe it’s because I’m feeling time ticking away. It’s just getting harder and harder to ignore. I have this crazy need to say stuff and a deep belief that the world needs to hear it. I have poems, just below the surface of my emotions, itching to burst forth. I have characters, the voices of whom are getting louder and louder, parading around in my head and demanding that I find an audience for them. I am confounded. I am perplexed. Aaaaand the final stupid thought floating around in this episode of “Hoarders” that is my mind? Peter Frampton’s lyrics, “Ooooh won’t yoooou show me the way?”

Ode to My Autumn Child

bdayrose

October 7th, 2017:  I wanted the weather today to be gray and rainy and depressing, matching my mood. When I awoke, I lay in bed for a few moments. The light in the bedroom, at 8:30 am, was dim – suggesting that my wish had been fulfilled. From the delicious “sleeping in” comfort of my bed, I tilted my head back and peered through the partially closed blinds. A glint of gold from a few freshly turned leaves caught my eye. I sat up on the edge of the bed and opened the blinds fully. Thick beams of light stretched across the yard, illuminating those few golden leaves – their color accentuated by juxtaposition with the faded pale green of the surrounding ones, just on the verge of displaying their own vibrancy. “Shit,” I thought, “what an annoyingly beautiful day.” I appreciate the beauty of autumn. It’s like the leaves are donning their finest finery just to say goodbye to us in the most glorious way. It’s funny that we go on “color tours” to revel in what is, in actuality, a pretty clear signal of impending death. Comedian Jim Gaffigan summed up the sheer strangeness of this collective fascination with a few short words, “Everyone says, ‘Oh look, fall foliage! Let’s drive by the fall foliage! The leaves are SO beautiful just before they fall to their DEATH!’”

I love color…LOTS of color. Even when I was a child I was drawn to vibrant colors. I still love color, and fall has always been my favorite season because of its colorfulness. I remember feeling jealous of my father and sister, whose birthdays are in October. I recall many birthday preparations for them being carried out amidst the bright-hued orange, red, and gold foliage and golden rays of autumn sun. By contrast, my birthday, which is in winter – more specifically TWO DAYS after Christmas – was always set against steel gray skies and the black silhouettes of bare trees. Of course, since I live in Michigan, there was also the frequent prospect of a blizzard or slightly lesser snowstorm. Then there was the fact that people are coming off the major MEGA celebration that is Christmas. I have always said, “There’s just no competing with Jesus when it comes to birthday celebrations.” His is, of course, THE biggest. Plus, people are usually totally partied-out, after Christmas, and are just recharging their batteries in preparation for New Years. Consequently, my birthday has, typically, come and gone with little fanfare. Hey, no worries. I’ve long since been “over it.”

On October 7th, 1989, I found a depth of joy in autumn that I had never felt before. I gave birth to a beautiful little girl – Sarah Christine. Every year, I looked forward, with great anticipation to fall and to her birthday. Now, the changing of the leaves and the crispness in the autumn air are a reminder to me of what is not. The beauty of autumn still stirs my soul. The cool air still soothes my body, as I am not a fan of warm weather. Yet, the colorful foliage, the yellow fields of spent cornstalks, and the cool nights remind me that you came to me when the trees blazed color and the air held a chill. You should be here, still, Sarah Christine. I miss you. I love you. I’ll never stop loving you…or the season that, to me, is you.

Sunday, Bloody Sunday

                 skull&guns

On Sunday, October 1st, 2017, Stephen Paddock used a cache of more than twenty firearms to rain a hail of gunfire down upon country music festivalgoers from his room in the Mandalay Bay hotel. It’s now being described as the worst mass murder in modern U.S. history. Fifty-eight people died. Hundreds were injured, some critically. The entire country was traumatized.

(CNN) The gunman in the Las Vegas massacre may have rigged his guns with devices that enable a shooter to fire bullets rapidly, mimicking automatic fire.

Twelve bump-fire stocks were found on firearms recovered from Stephen Paddock’s hotel room, said Jill Snyder, the special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ San Francisco field office.

Also known by the brand name Slide Fire, bump-fire stocks, or “bump stocks,” modify such rifles as an AR-15 to “allow it to fire in rapid succession or automatic fire,” said Sam Rabadi, a retired ATF special agent.

Prior to Monday, I’d never heard of a “bump stock”…and part of what my husband does for a living is selling guns. Actually, he hadn’t heard of a bump stock before either. Confused, I asked him, “What the hell does a recreational firearms user need with one of those things when they’re just screwing around on the range?” My husband explained that a bump stock gives the “sensation” of an automatic weapon while using a legal firearm. Okay. I want to preface the rest of my commentary by saying that I am not opposed to private citizens owning guns. I grew up around guns. My dad did and still does have a modest gun collection. He use to load his own shotgun shells in the basement, and, as a result, I can easily recognize the smell of gunpowder. Dad shot trap as a hobby when I was growing up, too. We regularly went to trap shooting events as a family. I gave it a try, but it wasn’t my thing. My husband and I own a handgun. I was reluctant to agree to keep a firearm in the house, but I will confess that shooting it at the range has been fun. Even amidst the recreational fun, however, my brain cannot ignore the serious caution I feel when I use it. I am hyper-vigilant and, to be honest, still a little nervous when that gun is in my hand. I STILL don’t get it, though. I don’t understand the need to feel the sensation of an automatic weapon. In my struggle to find an answer, I told my husband, “I’d really like to know what has happened over the course of human history or what those men lacked in their upbringing that they would need to feel such a sensation.” Then it hit me. Men can’t have babies. That’s it. Women can have babies. They can bring life into the world…and some men subconsciously resent that. Deep down, they secretly seethe over it. Yeah, yeah, yeah – you need a guy’s sperm to make a baby, but that’s the end of their part in actual procreation. A woman gestates that new human life for nine months. A woman brings it forth into the world, with great travail. Frankly, it’s a pretty awesome and heroic thing. Men, with their man-egos, secretly hate that women can do something so amazing – something they can’t. So, they’re like, “Okay, so I CAN’T bring life into the world…but I sure as hell can take it out!” Aaaand therein lays the origin of their dark need to destroy. Well, that’s my theory anyway. Do you have a better one? Look, I’m not saying there aren’t ladies out there that get a little thrill from squeezing off a few rapid-fire rounds at the range. I just find it interesting that we never hear about some chick bringing down a rain of blood in a suburban Sephora with her pink, souped-up automatic rifle.

Bad Medicine

doctor

I currently find myself in the market for a new primary care physician. I’m getting up there in age, see, and in the back of my mind I know you have to keep close tabs on shit as you get older and your body starts to act like an appliance that has long outlived its warranty — with one thing after another breaking down and wearing out. So, I recently took to Facebook to get recommendations for primary care doctors from friends and acquaintances. I made it clear, in my post, that my husband and I have had some really bad experiences with doctors and that I could probably count the number of physicians we’ve had dealings with who are NOT complete assholes on one hand. One of those five is my future son-in-law. So, technically, it’s, like, about four people. I then proceeded to expound upon the history of my disdain for the medical profession.

I hate doctors. I’ve always hated doctors. That has been the case ever since I was a child and they plunked my fat little butterball ass onto the scale in the pediatrician’s office and made that “tsk, tsk, tsk!” sound — like it can be an eight year-old child’s fault that she’s fat. Yep, ever since those days, I found that the medical community blamed nearly every single medical issue I had on being fat. “Your periods are hell on earth? Oh, that’s because you’re fat.” “You have back pain? Well, that’s probably because you’re fat.” “Hang nail? Yeah, well, you ARE fat. So, what do you expect?” Male physicians have been the worst. One that I went to for infertility was so insensitive and abrasive during the exam that I cried in my car for ten minutes afterward. “So, you’ve been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, right?” he said, “Well, I concur with that diagnosis, and you’re never going to get pregnant at your weight. So, all I can tell you is to come back when you lose some weight.” Then he walked out of the room.

I had a good female physician once years ago. She ended up leaving the practice after she had children. So, I started seeing another doctor in the practice, the only other woman doctor. I mistakenly thought she might be like my former PCP. Nope! Like the guy I went to when I was trying to get pregnant, every interaction with this woman involved some kind of personal insult. When I’d lost 100+ pounds she said, “You’ve worked hard to lose the weight and you’re a young woman (I was 35). You shouldn’t have to look like you’re 80 years old. I’ll write you a referral to a plastic surgeon friend of mine.” I hadn’t even mentioned being dissatisfied with my post weight-loss appearance. I visited her again months later to get tested for a sexually transmitted disease after an unfortunate dating experience. I was already feeling vulnerable and emotional about the situation. Her response? “What? You didn’t use a condom? What were you thinking?” My response? With tears in my eyes, “I dunno. I guess I just trusted the wrong person.”

I finally found another female doctor I liked and trusted several years later, only to have her turn into a stark raving lunatic over time. I’m pretty certain that, since the bulk of her patients were elderly, she was driven nuts by…well…how those folks can be when it comes to health problems. After nearly every annual physical and at the mere mention of some slight issue, she would order a litany of invasive and unnecessary tests and procedures. None of the tests ever found anything of importance. On one occasion she had me feeling like I was some kind of “junky” for my regular use nasal decongestant sprays. I got so freaked out and panicked that I was in hysterics when got home and I told my husband about it. Two years ago, after my annual pelvic exam, she started throwing around the “C” word and insisted that I go see her gynecologist colleague to get more information. Let me tell you that nothing gets your attention more and scares you shitless quite like the word “cancer” tumbling from your doctor’s lips. Instantly, you feel helpless and childlike…and more than willing to let “the experts” make any and all decisions. So I did what I was told. I went to see this doctor that’d never so much as laid eyes on me. As soon as I sat down on the examination table and before he ever even examined me, this guy told me he was going to do a biopsy. Surprise! It was one of the most painful and traumatic experiences of my life…and that’s coming from a woman who gave birth to two children without the benefit of medication. Fortunately, the biopsy was negative. Then, after my pelvic exam the following year, Dr. Crazy ONCE AGAIN, insisted I go to back to Dr. Biopsy Bill. This time I declined. I told her I would find a gynecologist on my own. I asked everyone I knew for recommendations. Luckily, I found a wonderful doctor who was knowledgeable, gentle, and compassionate. He quickly determined that the issue my PCP thought was some horrible disease was actually a completely normal condition.

With all that being said, what I need from a healthcare provider is very simple and probably pretty similar to what every healthcare consumer needs. I need a doctor with a gentle manner. I need a PCP that is kind, compassionate, and understanding. I need a doctor who will listen to me and will NOT treat me like I’m a fucking idiot. I need someone who doesn’t think there’s some kind of inverse relationship between a person’s weight and their IQ. I also need a doctor who won’t hang every damn thing that I come to see him/her for on my weight. I don’t want to have to say things like, “Yup, Doc, I prolly wouldn’t have come down with malaria if I wasn’t so godamn F-A-T.” I need someone who understands that it’s not some kind of newsflash to a fat person that they are fat. I can’t count the number of times a doctor has, with furrowed brow, “broken the news” to me. I’ve had to fight the urge to point my finger right in his stupid face and scream, “NO FUCKING SHIT, SHERLOCK! Gee whiz! My fatness musta broke my brain! Hey, ya know what would register a bigger number on your scale right there? How many fucks I give!!!!”

Look, right now I’m just a girl with a few pounds on her staring at a computer screen and hoping to find my “Prince/Princess Charming” of primary care physicians. Frogs need not apply

The Fighters That Made a Family

betafish

It was a long week. It was parent-teacher conference week for this teacher. I had two “marathon” twelve-hour days. I taught in the morning and talked (and talked and talked) with parents all afternoon and evening. My husband is a retail manager. He’s preparing for his first inventory with a new company, so he had a difficult week, too. It was filled with ten-plus hour days. We were both looking forward to our only day off together – Friday. Yet, Mother Nature held no regard for our plans. A windstorm left us without power in the middle of the week. We persevered, though, coming home to a dark and very cold house after a twelve/thirteen hour day each day. “Certainly the power would come back on by Friday,” we thought. We slept huddled under a pile of blankets each night, our cat and dog cuddled up with us. Our “pack” was sticking it out by sticking close. The only member of our little family left on his own was our red Beta Fish Tony Beets. My husband added a few ounces of warm water to his tank before we went to bed. He hoped it might help him make it through the cold night.

Tony Beets was a “replacement” pet. Our first Beta fish was a beautiful blue fish named Billy Abbott. Billy was named after a character on our favorite daytime drama Young & the Restless. Billy Abbott, may he rest in peace, was the lone casualty of an extended power outage three years ago. From the start, unlike Billy Abbott, Tony seemed more like a “fighter” than a “lover.” Within the first 24 hours in our house, Tony Beets survived being flung onto the floor by our cat. He also lived through being picked up by human fingers. After my run that day, I sat down in the dining room to drink a glass of water. I noticed what looked like a flower petal on the floor. “That’s weird,” I thought,“I don’t have any fresh flowers around the house right now.” Upon closer examination, I realized it was the fish! I scooped him up and placed him back in the tank. I was certain he wouldn’t survive the trauma…but he did

For some reason, we lose power at least once a year. We live in a neighborhood that consists, mainly, of elderly retirees. These lovely people seem to have grown wise to the inevitability of such power outages. They also seem to have a financial situation that has allowed them to circumvent such events. Many of them own a heavy duty, no-joke backup generator. My husband and I are the “kids” of the neighborhood, and we behave as such. We say to ourselves, “Wuuuut? Why the hell do we need a generator? We don’t lose power that much. Plus, we don’t have the kinda cash you need for something like that when you might use a few times a year.” So, each year, we lose power. Each year we try to “ride it out” without giving in and dropping coin on a generator…or a hotel…or any other “pussy” way out. Okay. If you’re getting the sense we’re cheap, that’s inaccurate. In actuality, we are what is commonly known in “Jim Cramer” circles, as “thrifty.” We approached this outage with the same ironclad determination that we always do. After all, we would both be at work the majority of the day anyway, so what would it matter if we didn’t have power? Those long days came and went, and we persevered. Then came Friday.

We drank ourselves numb to the cold in front of a roaring fire Thursday night. I awoke to a still frigid house Friday morning. The dog begrudgingly left the warmth of our bed to be let out for “potty” at 9 am. I read the thermostat – 45 degrees. “Shit, that’s cold! He’s a goner, I know it,” I thought, about Tony Beets. Sure enough, he lay at the bottom of the tank, motionless. “Another one bites the dust,” I thought. And there was no end to our electricity situation in sight. We went about our “power outage” plan for the day. We ate breakfast out. We washed clothes at the Laundromat. We headed home to put the clothes away. I looked into booking a hotel and kenneling the dog. On the drive home, our hope for restoration was bolstered by small signs. There was a traffic light finally back on. A neighbor’s exterior lights were lit. The small, faint light of our doorbell and the light from the garage door opener confirmed that we had power. Woo-hoo!

As I opened the door, our house coming up to temperature felt like a warm hug. I hung my coat in the entryway closet and walked into the kitchen. I saw Tony’s tank on the kitchen counter. I walked over to bid him goodbye one last time before a “burial at sea” (i.e. being flushed down the half bath’s toilet). As I gazed into the tank, I was surprised to see movement – the faint motion of one fin. I jiggled the tank. The motion continued. I took a butter knife and stirred the water. Tony’s seemingly lifeless body moved with a jolt. I added a bit of warm water to the tank. He was moving again! I threw in a few pellets of fish food. He swam to get them. Tony Beets was alive! He’d survived!

The real Tony Beets is a Dutch immigrant. He lives in Alaska and is a successful gold miner in the Yukon. He’s built his own business, which he now shares with his three grown children. As a cast member in one of my and my husband’s favorite reality shows, “Gold Rush,” he is the most tenacious of the miners. Okay. Okay. Okay. Part of his appeal, to me, is that he swears like a sailor. Another part of his appeal, though, is the fact that he does not give up. Under any circumstance, in the face of any kind of adversity, he perseveres. Today we found out how aptly named our Beta fish is. We also realized that our Tony Beets is well suited to our little family. My husband and I have both been through some incredible adversity. Our cat, a rescue animal, was the runt of the litter and unwanted. Our dog was also a rescue animal. She’d been abused and then abandoned because of a deformity to one of her eyes (one that was easily fixed, by the way). And then there’s this fiery red fish! He survived a cat’s attempt to make him her permanent “cat toy.” He lived through 45-degree temperatures for not one but TWO days. He (swear to God) comes right up to the glass whenever I talk to him using his name. He always comes right up to the surface of the water in his tank when I play pop music while I clean the kitchen. Tony Beets is not furry or cuddly or able to show his affection for us clearly. He is, however, a full-fledged fighting member of this scrappy little family of fighters.