Summer Has Arrived

At the end of the day when I enter the lobby of the building where I work, I can feel some of the heat while I’m still a couple of yards from the revolving door. I push through, freeing myself from my air conditioned office prison, and for the first minute or so the heat is a refreshing contrast. But by the time I’ve crossed the courtyard and properly entered the parking lot, I’m wilting. Halfway across the asphalt that separates me and my car, I feel sweat pooling on my forehead, on my upper lip, under my arms.

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All of the photos in this post are from more pleasant summer times than the sticky week I’m currently enduring. Here’s the first Dippin Dots I ever had, taken at Six Flags in 2009.

I make it to the car and haul myself inside, desperately turning the key in the ignition as quickly as possible so I can roll down the windows. I feel blood rushing to my face and the sensation of all my pores opening up like I’ve just steamed them for a skincare treatment. The breeze from driving with the windows open calms my heat borne agitation (the AC is reserved for only the hottest of days, or when it rains).

I get home, and do I get to go inside where it’s cooler? Not yet — I have the task of pulling the rest of the family cars into our long narrow driveway once mine (the last to leave in the morning) is properly situated at in the back of the property. My brother’s car is black, with a black vinyl interior. Even if he remembers to crack the windows and park in the shade, I feel like I am sitting in hell.

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Here’s a weird baby head that was on one of the carousel horses in Dorney Park. This was the second carousel, way in the back of the park, that played hilariously out of tune music. Taken 2010.

Once that’s done, I go inside and eat dinner before going up to my room and cranking on my big boxfan. Last summer I successfully shunned the window air conditioner on the floor of the spare room that has my name on it, as it dries me up inside and out, usually giving me a cold. Hopefully this year I shall remain strong again. I’m usually wearing long pants or a cardigan in the interest of being office appropriate, and I curse them as I peel the sweaty cloth from my body. I flop down on my bed in my undergarments and let the cool air of the fan blow over my sticky skin.

Yes, I hate being cold. But I hate the heat even more. When it’s cold you can put on a sweater or grab another blanket. But when it’s hot, you can remove all of your garments and still be miserable, and I am absolutely not about that life.

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A beautiful view from the fortress of Wulzberg in Germany. Taken in 2012.

A New Job, Sort Of

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I’ve been able to personalize my new work area a little bit more than my old one!

If you’ve been keeping up with this blog for awhile, then you’ll know that for over a year now, since March 2017, I have been desperately wanting a new job. When I asked the universe to help me out with that, I was incredibly specific that I wanted one at another business, but apparently all it had to give me at this point in time was a new position at my current place of employment.

I work at a law firm. I’d been the receptionist for the past four years (my anniversary is the start of May), but two weeks ago I moved up in the ranks and became a proper legal secretary!

How this came to pass is a story full of panic and cautious optimism. About a month ago now, I came into work one morning and was getting settled at my desk when my coworkers A and T rushed over to my desk. This was odd, and I immediately felt a slight sense of alarm.

“We have news!” they said.

“What happened?” I asked warily.

“L gave her notice this morning, she got a new job!”

I was incredibly jealous (Why wasn’t I getting to escape?) but I also felt happy for her — I knew she’d been very unhappy at work for a long time, largely because of one of the attorneys she was assigned to, a woman I’ll call C.

I could go into a looooot of detail about how awful C is, but for the sake of looking at least slightly professional to any future employers who might come across this blog, I’ll keep it to this: she is nice to your face, but is an incredibly demanding extreme perfectionist, to the point of toxicity. When I went to congratulate L on her new job, she confided in me that she’d been having frequent panic attacks because of C, and that C was pretty much the entire reason she was leaving. (Fun Fact: in the past four years the only people that have left our firm have worked with C.)

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A closer look at my figures! Everything except the mermaid and Morgan from P5 had been previously tucked in a corner of my old reception desk that no one could really see.

A legal recruiter I’d met with earlier in the spring had told me that my resume was a little awkward for her to market because I’ve been in a firm for years, have a good admin background, but had no experience with dedicated legal secretary paperwork. L’s vacancy would be a good opportunity for me to get more skills so I could get out. But….C. C was the entire reason that I didn’t immediately run to F and ask for the job.

I’ve been working with C often myself — she’s been frequently giving me different types of work ever since I started with the firm, because she decided early on that I was smart and capable enough to work with her. So I’m extremely familiar with how she is, and I knew that if I worked for her, I’d be shortly having frequent panic attacks myself.

I consulted with my office manager and the other secretaries and they all agreed that there was no way I could take C and F, especially considering I hadn’t been a full-on legal secretary before. But my office manager floated an idea with F and our other boss E: “Krys can’t possibly take on two partners, so why doesn’t she take F and…I don’t know, maybe G?”

G is super nice, and easy to work with. F is also pretty easy to work with, and while he does put out a lot of work, he’s not overly picky about how it gets done the way C is. It’s a long complicated story, but we were able to swap some of the attorneys around between the secretaries so I could have F and G. They’re also in the process of hiring a new attorney, and my assumption is whoever they hire will get assigned to me as well, just to keep all the numbers even between the secretaries.

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The trinkets I keep under my monitor — a tiny lucky cat from a Neko Atsume blind box and a squishy Aggretsuko that a friend recently brought me from Japan.

Being a legal secretary is somehow not that different than some of the work C was having me do, but there’s just a lot more of it. Also, large portions of my day are spent typing F’s long dictations, to the point where sometimes the thoughts in my head are in his voice, lol. I find myself feeling more tired at the end of the day than I did when I was receptionist, probably because there were more lulls at the front desk than I get now. But I feel more satisfied about work, and the day goes by faster because I’m more occupied.

Plus, C has largely gotten off my back, which my office manager predicted! She was still giving me a lot of work for the first few days (which caused me a fair bit of anxiety because I just wanted to be rid of her so badly and it hit me that it will never happen as long as I work here!). But I’ve made it clear with my actions that she’s less of a priority to me now (aka, I’m taking longer to do her stuff because I’m doing work that F and G asked for first). Supposedly I’ll be getting a raise as well, but I still need to talk money with F. I’m honestly not expecting to get the figure I have in mind because they don’t really pay any of us what we’re really worth, but any money is good money.

So I guess I’ll be staying at this office for another eight to twelve months before I start looking for a new job again, just to be sure I have the skills firmly under my belt. I didn’t mean to wind up in the legal field now, but since I’ve wound up here, I’m going to start making the most of it. My career future feels brighter than it has in a long time!

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(My final piece of cubicle decor are these two prints! The Journey one up top is by Etherelle — I bought it at Anime Boston and had it up on my whiteboard at home before bringing it to my new desk. You can buy a larger version of it here — they don’t seem to sell the postcard size on their site. The lower one is the Pokemon Swablu and Altaria,  done by Cryptovolans. You can buy it here.)

 

An Evening in NYC!

Last Thursday night, as I was preparing for bed, a text from my friend Kristen popped up on my phone. She’s one of my friends from college, and one of the people I always stay in a hotel with when I go to Anime Boston. I knew she was coming down from the Boston area to NYC for an event that weekend called Bookcon. Kristen’s text said that the friend who was going to Bookcon with her wasn’t going to be getting in until very early Saturday morning, so would I like to come into the city for dinner on Friday? I usually only see Kris once a year (at AB) so of course I immediately said yes!

I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it before, but despite the fact that I live only a 30-ish minute train ride outside of NYC, I only make the trip in a few times per year. There’s just not a whole lot there that feels like it’s worth making a frequent hassle. And when it’s as hot as it was on Friday, that desire drops even more. NYC (or at least Manhattan) is kind of gross in the best weather, but in the summer it immediately turns me into a disgusting, sweaty, sticky mess, and I hate that. But getting to see a friend that I very rarely get to see makes everything worth it.

My office has special summer hours that allow us to leave at 3pm on Fridays. I wound up leaving half an hour late because of some urgent work that came up, so after rushing home to change out of my work clothes, I wound up arriving at Penn Station at around 5:30. Kristen and I met by the TGIFridays in the big main area — she’s not as familiar with Penn as I am, so I figured it was a landmark that would be easy for her to find.

Her bus had gotten into the city around 1pm. She’d checked into her hotel and then gone to lunch with a friend from the area that she’d met at NYCC. He’d recommended some interesting bookshops for her check out, which is what she’d been doing until it was time to come meet me. He’d also suggested a few restaurants, and the first one she mentioned sounded intriguing to both of us, so we set off for Turntable Chicken Jazz, which is located in walking distance from Penn, in an area known as Koreatown.

We picked Turntable Chicken because they supposedly have really good Korean-style fried chicken (which is supposed to be awesome), but when we got there and looked at the menu we both decided to eat other things. Kristen got seafood fried rice, which she said was really good, and I got the seafood pancake, which was very greasy, but very worth it. But the best thing we ate was an appetizer we shared that’s called Corn Cheese. It’s a simple dish of yellow corn cooked with cheese, butter, mayo, and onion and it. was. AMAZING! And prices were actually pretty reasonable for the area of the city we were in, which is always a plus.

To top it all off, the decor inside Turntable Chicken is really neat! It was too dark to get a good picture, so I’ve borrowed this one from their website.

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From here, Kristen and I took a little stroll through the rest of Koreatown, ducking into a bookstore where they also happen to have a lot of KPop CDs and merchandise. I’m not sure of what it’s called, but I do know it’s just a few stores down from a bakery called Tous les Jours, which I just found out when I pulled up their website is a decently sized chain! They have a lot of cute little pastries, and beautifully decorated cakes.

After all this wandering, we wanted to go someplace that had air conditioning, so we decided to explore the flagship Macys at Herald Square, since we were right near it. This is the Macys that the annual Thanksgiving parade passes by, and I had never been inside before. There’s really not much to say — it’s a department store, but super massive. There’s a lot of different merchandise to look at (there was a whole large area just full of nice furniture!), and there’s multiple places to grab food (including a small, but proper, McDonald’s).

I became fixated on finding out just how many floors there were, seeing just how many escalators up there were, and Kristen (bless her heart) was game to answer that question with me. Not only did we discover that the Macys has nine floors, but the upper four or five of them were unexpectedly connected by these old wooden escalators! You can’t tell from this picture, but even the side walls of the escalator were wood.

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After Macys we made our way over to Times Square, even though we both know it’s awful tourist bait. We popped into the LINE store, which is full of merch based on the characters from a popular messaging app. There were a lot of cute things in there! I wanted to include a picture of my favorite character in this post, but I can’t remember its name and Google is not being helpful at the moment. So instead, have this nice picture of the sunset! Not quite Manhattanhenge, but still quite lovely. (Evidently we missed it by just a couple of days, bummer!)

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Kristen’s picture was much better than this, because it wasn’t taken on a 2 year old phone, lol.

After this, we walked over to Kristen’s hotel to continue our chit-chatting. We were just longing for a bit of quiet and air conditioning — even though it was starting to get dark, it was still quite hot. Along the way we stumbled across the theater where Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is happening.

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I haven’t actually read the play, but I did read a plot summary online when it first came out, and I utterly reject it, lol. I can’t believe they took over the outsides of three different buildings for that awful black spiky mass. And if we zoom in just a little closer…

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What the fuck is this trashfire? It somehow makes me view this play even more negatively than I already did.

Anyway, I didn’t want to stay in the city for too much longer, but Kristen had told me her hotel had a really neat lobby. She was not wrong! This photo is also borrowed from the hotel’s website and makes it look brighter than it really was — the lighting was actually a little darker and more moody which is why I didn’t try to take a photo myself.

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Kristen’s actual room was a little lacking interior design wise, but it was a basic room in a big city hotel that’s not part of a chain, so it was kind of to be expected. At least it had air conditioning! We sat and talked for a little while before I headed back to Penn to grab a train home. I was pulling into my driveway by 10:30.

So all in all it was a quick little trip, but I got to go to a few places around the city that I hadn’t been before, eat some good food, and spend some time with a good friend that I rarely get to see. Definitely a very good use of a Friday night!

 

Getting AdSense Money?

Once upon a time, oh so long ago, I used to be very into making YouTube videos. I started in 2009 and uploaded at least once a month or so up until this past September. (I’m not saying I’ll never make a video again, but this blog has kind of replaced my channel.) I’ve had my YouTube account since the year the site opened, and by the time I actually began creating my own videos advertisements were becoming more prevalent on the site, but you had to be specially invited into the Partner program in order to collect any of that revenue yourself. I had quickly realized that probably I wasn’t going to have massive YouTube fame ever, so I wasn’t too fussed by being cut off from this program.

But then around 2012 I spotted a notice that had popped up in the video manager area of the site — my good conduct had earned me the right to hook my account up to the big monetization machine. I waffled a little bit before deciding to take the plunge and sign on. Why not? Who knew what would happen? It took me a year and a half to reach the payment threshold of $100. It was a nice accomplishment, but, again, I didn’t tie the worth of my work to the numbers it brought it. What mattered to me what that I was enjoying myself and maybe getting to connect to a few people, which I did get to do in greater numbers than ever before the following year! (#TeamCake!)

And then, in the spring of 2014, as I slowly drew close to the payment threshold for only the second time, I received an alarming message. My AdSense had been disabled for “invalid click activity.” I could file an appeal to try to save myself, but I only got the one appeal and if it was denied then that was that — banned from using AdSense for life. I had one video that was about hairstyling My Little Pony toys that had gotten many times more views than any other of my videos, and I assumed that this was the problem. I included any information in my appeal that I thought would help me, but ultimately I was rejected. And so I did what any good YouTuber would do and made an angry rant video.

I’m actually quite fond of this video. It really makes me laugh, even four years later! And I think I bring up some valid points about the whole process. For instance, they never even fully specified, in any detail, what I was supposed to have done to make the “invalid click activity” happen. (My research at the time told me there’s a whole variety of things that fall under this umbrella, from clicking your own ads, to using robots to do it for you en masse.) Google claimed the opaqueness is because they don’t want people to know how they figure out when misbehavior is happening. I thought (and think) that it’s so people have a harder time defending themselves so they can share money with fewer people.

(And, to go on a tangent, honestly that whole “we’re demonetizing all the small creators” thing they pulled this winter only serves to back up this opinion of mine, although I also feel that situation is related to their consistent lack of punishment when it comes to the massive fuckups that some of the massive personalities have made in the past couple of years. If they’d just properly discipline the PDPs and LgPls of the site, maybe advertisers wouldn’t be running away and Google wouldn’t have to steal from the poor to feed the rich. Taking away a person’s YouTube Red program, but still letting them have ads is NOT A REAL PENALTY. Anyway, tangent done.)

But if they were more specific perhaps I could have put together a stronger appeal because I was totally innocent. (Additional fun fact: as soon as you receive the, “You’re getting demonetized, try to appeal,” email, you’re locked out of the AdSense website, which might also hold helpful information for your appeal.) I am a huge square who is constantly worried about whether I’m behaving in all aspects of my life. I did nothing at all to deserve a permanent ban from what is probably the biggest advertising service on the internet. My numbers were the same consistently low numbers that they had always been. I don’t know how I got caught in the “invalid click activity” net, but I did, and I’m still slightly bitter about it.

If you actually take the time to watch the video I’ve included here, you might notice that I throw out the idea, “Hmm, isn’t it a little bit suspicious that they’ve disabled my AdSense shortly before they’re going to have to pay me?” And apparently I’m not the only person that’s ever thought that. I was recently cleaning up my various email inboxes, including checking the spam folders to make sure nothing important had wound up there by mistake. And in the spam box of the email for my YouTube account was an email telling me about a class action settlement, that I might be able to collect a little bit of money from!

The lawsuit is captioned Free Range Content, Inc. v. Google LLC. and to pull a quote from the settlement agreement, the most basic description of the complaint is: “Plaintiffs alleged that Google terminated AdSense publishers from the AdSense program and improperly withheld unpaid amounts in those publishers’ AdSense account.” They also alleged that Google would do these terminations shortly before money was due to be paid. At some point during the proceedings, the lawsuit became a class action situation, which is how I received a message about potentially receiving a piece of the $11,000,000 of settlement money. (The terms of the settlement still have to be approved by the court, as per this FAQ.)

I naturally did some research, because it sounded kind of fake. But after coming across several different articles corroborating the information, I submitted a Confirmation of Claim form to try and get my piece of the pie. I’m not certain that I’ll get all $90ish that was in my AdSense at the time Google disabled me, as there are going to be different payment groups that will receive different percentages of their balance depending on several factors. Since I work at a law firm, I’d like to point out settlement obviously does not mean Google is admitting fault. In fact, the settlement agreement I linked above specifically states that Google has denied wrongdoing.

But it’s still a good feeling for me that a lawsuit and settlement has happened at all! Even if I don’t get any money, I feel vindicated knowing that, yes, perhaps Google misbehaved in regards to me and others, and they are now going to pay up because of it.

Empty Products!

I love Empties videos on YouTube, because if someone is showing you a product they’ve totally used up, you know you’re getting a fully formed opinion on it. I always wanted to do one myself, but couldn’t justify holding onto trash, waiting to accumulate enough stuff for a video. But when I recently finished up several products at the same time, I realized my blog could be a good venue for this sort of thing, because I can take pictures of the empty containers before I dispose of them, and compile them into a post when I have a good amount.

Today I have five empty products to share with you!

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1. Folle de Joie Perfume: I found out about this perfume in 2014, during the brief period of time I was subscribed to Birchbox. They sent me a sample of this, and I fell so deeply in love that I treated myself to a proper bottle. To me, it’s kind of flowery, but not in a full on girly way — it’s got a bit of an undertone to it that I associate more with masculine scents. To be more precise, according to the website, it’s got top notes of sweet citrus, woodsy floral, and cognac, mid notes of jasmine and rose, and base notes of spicy wood and leather. In my experience, it sticks around the whole day. I still like this perfume a lot, although not as much as I first did. I won’t be repurchasing it, because I really only have room for one fancy perfume in my budget (and several cheap ones, lol) and I’ve since fallen way more in love with another.

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2. Nip+Fab Glycolic Fix Night Pads: I talked about these in my full skincare routine post, and I’m still digging them. In fact, I’ve already bought another tub (which was probably my 4th or 5th one)! To reiterate what I’ve written over there, I use these as a nighttime toner. There’s a lot of nice skincare acids in them that weaken the bonds between my skin cells to kind of chemically exfoliate the skin and aid in the renewal of my complexion.

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3. Soap and Glory Heel Genius Foot Cream: I’m not gonna lie to you, the bottoms of my feet are not the prettiest in the world, especially in the winter. I remember that I saw a YouTuber (I forget which one) recommend this in an Empties video, so I thought I’d try it out. This helped a lot, but I think I’m just going to go back to slathering tons of regular body lotion onto my feet because there are a few things I wasn’t crazy about.

Firstly, the scent — I’m very picky about scents, and I find that I usually do not like Soap and Glory’s scents. This one wasn’t as bad as some of the others, and I did get used to it, but still am not interested in smelling it again anytime soon.

Secondly, it’s hard to get it to absorb — When dispensing this cream I found there was a very thin line between “not enough to cover my foot” and “whoops, way too much lotion.” I’d put my socks on and go about my business for the few hours between shower and bedtime. Then when I’d take off my socks to go to bed (I can’t sleep with them on), I’d find my feet felt kind of sticky, even on the days where I got the amount of product right. It wasn’t a major discomfort, but I wasn’t fond of it. Also, I couldn’t rub the leftover cream into my hands after coating my feet, it didn’t work. It left a weird residue that made me feel like I couldn’t touch anything, and had to immediately wash my hands.

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4. Innisfree Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask: I mentioned this in my post about the face masks I own. I’ll be honest — technically this isn’t fully empty, but it’s past its expiration date (always look for the little jar icon the back of cosmetics/skincare!). The last few times I’ve tried to use it, I’ve found that it’s hard to remove from the pot because it’s dried out a bit. So I figured it was time to pitch it, since I’m paranoid about fucking up my skin. I’ve described this as kind of a poor man’s version of the famous Glamglow mask, and I’d buy it again in the future once I use up other face masks I have.

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5. Noxzema Classic Clean: This is another one from my big skincare masterpost. This cleanser is my basic, twice a day go-to. It makes my skin feel clean, but not dried out. Like it says on the tub, it tingles, which is super refreshing and helps me wake up in the morning, lol.  I’ve gone through maybe four or five of these, but haven’t bought a new one yet because around the time this was running out, I was also prepping for my trip to Boston and bought a stick based cleanser (partly from curiosity, partly for ease of travel). But once I use that up, I’m going straight back to this!

That’s it for this Empties post! Let me know what you think of this format. I think I’d like to do more of these — it’s a nice way to share a bunch of recommendations at once, instead of doing a lot of little review posts.

Have you guys been using anything interesting recently?

I hope you’ve been having the best week you can.

–Krys

Mother’s Day is Complicated

When I was in elementary school, Mother’s Day was a bit complicated for me, because I didn’t live with my biological parents. My two brothers and I had lived with one of our aunts since right around the time I started school. Up until she adopted us when I was in 4th Grade, I had to periodically field questions from the other kids about why I lived with my aunt. My stock response was, “I don’t want to talk about it.” This was partly because being asked made me uncomfortable, but mostly I just didn’t know what to say. No one in my family talked about it, at least not where I could hear, so I had no idea what had happened.

In middle school I managed to shape my vague early childhood memories into a hunch, and then a few years later, when my younger brother started asking our mom questions (he’d been an infant when we left our biological parents), she sat us down and told us that our biological parents had been neglecting us due to drug addiction. Child Protective Services were alerted, and we were removed from their custody.

Sometime in the past few years my aunt (not the one that adopted me, a different one) has told me a story from around the time that we were taken away. She was at court, at a hearing concerning the custody matter, and when they were leaving my biological father said to her, “I’m gonna get my kids back.” And she replied, “I hope you do.” But that was the last time she saw him.

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My biological father’s van.

I understand that addiction is a powerful master, but also, how do you prioritize a substance over your three small children to the point that they get taken away from you? How do you not pivot instantly to sobriety and make every possible effort to get them back? It’s not that I’m saying my biological parents never made the effort at all (I have no way of knowing this, obviously), but also the aunt that wound up adopting us waited several years before beginning the adoption process. She even told me once that the judge asked her why she waited so long, and reason was the adults in our family had the assumption and hope that my biological parents would get their shit together and come back, but it eventually became clear that just…was not going to happen, so she began the adoption proceedings.

I definitely feel constantly fortunate that my life turned out the way that it did, considering how terribly things could have gone when my brothers and I were removed from our parents’ home. So many children in similar situations get split up from any siblings they have, and in some situations never see any member of their family again, or at the very least not for a long time. However, my brothers and I were raised and looked after by members of our father’s family (mainly by a couple of aunts, an uncle, and our Oma). Our mother’s mother (called Grandma) also lived just a few streets away and we saw her, and other members of both sides of our family, throughout the year. I don’t think I ever felt unloved during my childhood and, again, I know I’m lucky for that.

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Carving pumpkins at Oma’s house!

I did periodically wonder what had happened to my biological parents, especially after my mom told us exactly why we had come to live with her, but it was a pretty vague feeling. I didn’t really pursue it. No one, on either side of the family, really ever brought up our parents. It felt like such a taboo subject, something I wasn’t allowed to talk about. It still feels that way now — we never talk about them. I’m sure I could ask for stories, but it just feels weird.

In 2010, around the time that my Oma died, an uncle of mine somehow came across the information that my biological father had died some years back of an overdose. This news didn’t upset me — it was just a source of closure, a feeling of, “oh, ok, so that’s what happened, alright.” I hardly remember the man, how could I possibly mourn him?

But then, at the start of 2012, I unexpectedly found out the fate of my biological mother. I was home between college semesters, and Grandma was over for a visit. My Grandpa had been ill from cancer for some time, and by 2012, he had been given only a few more months to live. Grandma told me and whichever brother of mine was there (I forget which one, whoops) that in a month or so she and Grandpa would be having a last hurrah sort of anniversary party.

Then Grandma said, “And, by the way, you should know, D might there.”

D is my biological mother.

Our collective reaction was a flat, yet surprised, sort of, “oh, ok.” Grandma went on, “We wouldn’t seat you guys at the same table or anything. We usually wouldn’t have all of you at the same event, but it’s not possible this time. She’s doing pretty good these days, but sometimes I just wanna shake her.”

So in a very short span of time, a massive heap of mind blowing information had been dumped in my lap. Not only was the my biological mother alive, but Grandma knew how to contact her. Not only that, but it sounded like she’d been in contact with D and spending time with D for quite a long period of time. And never. said. anything.

On the one hand, this makes sense to me — D is Grandma’s daughter, it’s natural that they would be in contact. On the other, why had Grandma been so silent about this?

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Grandma and Grandpa took me to Disney World when I was in kindergarten. Grandpa often spoke of the trip fondly right up until he died.

When my brothers and I later talked through the situation later with our mom, she was dumbfounded as well, but also mentioned that at the time of the adoption, when our parents signed the paperwork giving up their rights to us, some restrictions were put in place for the duration of our minority. The way my mom put it is that nobody was going to stop anyone from seeing each anyone, but the adults taking care of us were firm that our parents had to be clean for any meeting to take place.

This goes a small way to explain why Grandma would keep mum, as my younger brother was only 15 at this point. But also it doesn’t explain it — being forbidden to see someone is not the same as being forbidden to talk about them. My mom didn’t say that Grandma had been asked to never discuss D, and my mom is the sort of woman who would’ve told us if that was the case. So my best assumption is that Grandma may have been trying to protect my brothers and I, trying to keep our lives as peaceful as possible.

I was so conflicted and hung up about this newfound information that when I went back to school for the spring semester and started taking the playwriting class I’d enrolled in, I based my big semester long project on the situation. But Grandpa got too sick, so the party never happened, and I had to invent what happened when the biological children and mother met for the first time in 15 years.

But then, in the spring of 2017, my great-grandma died. I only met her a few times when I was young, so my only motivation for attending the service was to support Grandma. However, I dreaded the event because I had a pretty strong hunch that D would be there. The service was scheduled for a couple of weeks after Great-grandma’s death, and I spent the entire time in a state of steadily mounting anxiety. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been so anxious in my life as when I left work to pick up my younger brother and go to the funeral home.

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Breakfast time in the first house we lived in with our aunt (the one who was later our mom).

When we entered we went to sign in at the guestbook. My eyes were drawn to D’s name like a magnet. I noticed she was still using my and my brothers’ last name, and I felt a sort of dull rage at what I perceived to be the audacity of the act. My mind raced, “How fucking dare she keep our name? She abandoned us. She had a new kid. She doesn’t deserve to keep the name. She should go back to her maiden name.” (Naturally, I said none of this at the time, but did rant about it to my younger brother after we left.)

We entered the main room and were immediately approached by a group of our cousins, who we hadn’t seen since we were small. But as I chatted with them, my eyes kept darting over to D, recognizing her from the few photos I’d seen of her. She was standing in the back of the room with teenage boy and a man. My younger brother is social with one of D’s brothers, and through him he had found out that D had had another son a little over a decade ago. I figured the boy and the man were her son and his father. I had been stunned when my brother told us about our half-sibling, and it was weird to look at the boy and know we shared the same blood.

Conversely, D had to have known who we were, had to have heard people say our names, seen us embrace Grandma, and yet she kept to the back of the room. Realizing she was going to give us space did nothing to lessen my anxiety, and I settled into a seat near the front of the room, allowed myself to be drawn into meaningless small talk by a couple of Grandma’s friends that I knew.

I did my best to pretend that my heart was not about to burst out of my chest from how hard it was beating. Being in the same room as my biological mother for the first time in 20 years was an incredible emotional strain, even though we never exchanged words, or even made eye contact. Just knowing she was there, seeing her in the flesh, was a suffocating sensation. That was my mother there, and yet, at the same time, the woman was not my fucking mother at all.

One of the most important things I’ve come to recognize in my 27 years is that that some of the best families in the world are found ones, not blood ones. Yes, my mom is technically a blood relation of mine, but she didn’t start out as my mom — she became my mom through circumstance. She’s the one who has been there for me through all of the best and worst parts of my life. She’s the one who encouraged me to read books and play music, the one who taught me patience, who gave me my love of nature and the slower side of life. So much of what and who I am has developed the way it has because of her. She may not be the one who gave birth to me, but I consider her to be the only mom I have.

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Judging from my size, I’d say this is probably from the first Krystmas.

My younger brother and I left as soon after the service as was polite. I had parked us a little ways down the street from the funeral home, so we wouldn’t get caught up in the parking lot when we wanted to leave. As soon as we were a safe distance away from everyone, I burst into frantic tears. The service was on Friday and I was an emotional wreck for basically the whole weekend, but found comfort with my other found families (ie: my friends, and my then-boyfriend).

I still don’t really feel okay about the whole D situation. All I know is that I don’t want to see her again if I can avoid it.

So this whole long story is to say that Mother’s Day can still be a bit of a complicated day for me. And I know it can be tough day for other people too. There are all kinds of reasons for people to struggle with Mother’s Day, whether they’re estranged from their mother, their mother has died, or for some other reason. If Mother’s Day is a rough day for you, I’m here for you. Just try to focus on other, more positive forces in your life until the day passes by. You’ll be fine, and so will I.

Much love,
Krys

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Why, yes, I did use my early childhood photos as a way to add some levity to all this heavy shit because I’m uncomfortable with these emotions. Thank you for noticing!

 

Romeo, oh, Romeo!

This is Romeo.

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He is my aunt’s cat. She adopted him over five years ago from a local shelter. (I’m not sure exactly how many, since I was still in college while she did it.) He chose her before she chose him. She’d been to the shelter a few times to check out the cats, and finally came the day when she was going to make her final decision. When she set down her cat carrier on the floor, Romeo ran right inside, and that’s how she knew it was meant to be.

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He is a big boy, weighing in at around 20 pounds. He’s a little tubby, but even if he wasn’t he would still be a large cat. Not sure if this picture shows his proper scale, but I just want you to know this lad is an absolute unit. That vest was actually made for a small dog.

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Romeo is not really a lap cat, the above picture is the closest he’s ever gotten to sitting in my lap. This is not to say that he’s not affectionate. He is a very sweet, loving boy, and a very sociable cat. Sometimes all you have to do to set him off purring loudly is walk into the same room as him and say something in a friendly voice. He loves to be scratched, and to be brushed (which is good, because he’s a very shed-y cat). But what he loves more than anything is food! He gets food twice a day, and treats once, and as my aunt puts it, “he knows how to tell time.” He gets his snack at 8PM, and when the time comes, he’ll walk into whichever room you’re in and just look at you until you get up and give it to him.

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He and I have gotten properly acquainted in the past couple of years because my aunt has started to travel more. The first time I housesat/babysat Romeo was when my aunt and younger brother went to Germany for the 900th anniversary of the village where she grew up. Why was I not invited? I will never know (I do have some guesses), but living alone in my aunt’s apartment for the week and a half they were gone was a nice consolation prize, and a tantalizing taste of what my proper dream adult could be like. I’ve also stayed with Romeo on a few other occasions since then, when my aunt has gone on trips with a seniors group in the area.

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I’m always very glad to babysit him and spend time with him. It makes me feel like I have my own cat again, and I’m sure he loves the company since my aunt is half-retired and he’s probably used to having her around a lot. He makes me laugh a lot, like when he hangs out in the doorway of whatever room I’m in at 9 or 10PM because he thinks it’s bedtime, or like the most recent time I babysat him, when I walked out of the kitchen while I was making dinner to find him sitting on the sofa somewhat like a person. It was so funny, I just had to snap the picture above.

So you’ve caught me, this whole blog post was just an excuse to post some highly excellent cat pictures. I hope that you’ve enjoyed it even if you’re a dog person instead!

–Krys