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My first meme

It occurs to me that, long before the internet age, I was exposed to the concept of 'meme' on the playground. Songs and stories and drawings and skills that circulated and spread from schoolyard to schoolyard, and also intergenerationally.

Some of the stories we told were the same stories our older brothers and sisters told; and in turn they had perhaps learned them from parents or even grandparents. My own father had a childhood in the great depression, and some of the earliest stories I remember hearing from him were rhymes he'd learned in his own playground days.

Ooey gooey was a worm.
A mighty worm was he.
He sat upon the railroad tracks
The train he did not see.
Ooey gooey!

And this other lovely bit of nature-

A big brown birdie with a bright red bill
Sat upon my windowsill.
I tempted him in with a piece of bread.
And then I squished his ugly head.

Rhymes from my father always seemed to involve some creature meeting a horrible end, perhaps unsurprising from a boy who grew up in Cleveland. From my mother, who grew up in the same era, I learned what the girls had been singing as they jumped Double Dutch in Philadelphia.

Cindarella , dressed in Yealla (yellow)
Went upstairs to kiss a fella
She made a mistake
Kissed a snake
How many times did she make that mistake?

Interestingly, the cadence used for some of the songs I learned from my parents were re-used in songs learned from my schoolmates. One of the songs my father sang during his navy days, for example, during World War II had a verse I remember that went -

Oh the chicken in the Navy,
They say it is the best,
The men get the asshole,
and the admiral gets the rest!

Followed by a chorus of - gee ma I want to go, but they won't let me go home

In the schoolyard it was a condemnation of school days with

Oh I don't want to go to (name of school)
Gee mom, I want to go
but they won't let me go
Gee mom I want to go home.

The tune was the same, though I don't recognize what either stemmed from.

There were urban legends in the schoolyard. Everyone knew someone who had known someone who really really had spiders in their hair, or in their gum. And some famous person really wound up in the hospital to have a gerbil removed from his butt. And if you said Bloody Mary to the mirror seven times, you just might really get killed like this kid's older brother's friend did. They were those circulated unchecked 'facts', and we had no Snopes in those days so it was a very real IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU because everyone knew a guy who knew a guy who...

We also tackled some very controversial subjects for our time and age. In the fairly early 70s, I repeated along with my girlfriends...

I love you
You love me
Homo Sexu Ality
People think
we're just friends
but we're really
les bi ans!

Until our horrified parents told us to stop before someone believes us. We had no idea what they might believe us about but that made the song all the more fun to sing. An older boy taught us that there was another song about homosexuals (which we still had only the vaguest idea of what they might be), sang to the tune of Strangers in the Night

Homos in the night
Exchanging rubbers
This one's too tight
Must be my brothers.

The only rubber things we knew were rubber cement and erasers, so it didn't make much sense. But it made our parents uneasy, so it became a favorite to sing as well. As we got a little older, and made friends who actually were gay or lesbian, I wondered if too much singing the forbidden songs had 'made them that way' the way that parents said a face would stick if you made it too much. It seemed a mysterious condition to me, something that parents obviously disapproved of-- but at the same time didn't really seem that bad in practice. We had a girl friend who had a girlfriend in the fifth grade. It didn't seem any different than the other I Like You Now We Are Dating relationships that went on at that age.

There were rhymes about other taboo subjects - having a baby out of wedlock (Miss Suzy Had a Baby - she definitely wasn't Mrs. ), killing yourself (Suffocation, suffo suffication - a game we used to play), swallowing drain cleaner (Comet - it makes your mouth feel clean), sex organs (milk, milk, lemonade..) , and so on.

And there were Grosser than Gross jokes, which often took a dirty or sexual turn---

What's Grosser than Gross?
A midget saying Gee, Your Hair smells terrific.

One rhyme that we had learned from older brothers and sisters probably dated from the time of race riots and civil unrest -

Fight, Fight
A Nigger and a White
You're the nigger
and I'm the white.

And there was a little bit of domestic violence in

My mother and your mother were hanging out clothes
My mother punched your mother right in the nose
What color was the blood?

that was used to pick who would go next in a game.

When I read about how kids are doing this or that horrible thing on the internets, I don't really think that this generation is any worse than we were as kids. The playground has just become universal, and the memes easier to spread. In an era where playtime is now often highly structured, and based around parent supervised activities - is it any wonder that they are finding their own place to share their version of the meme / rhyme / story?

Childhood is still childhood.

Blogging 2.0

Its been a while since i attempted to keep this journal. The cyberworld has moved on from LiveJournals since i first started this some 15+ years ago. But there are now apps to post to this from my phone and Kindle so I shall at least attempt a revival.

They do not seem to offer spell check or work with my phones autocorrect however, so you may see how badly I spell and type when left to my own devices.


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The Christmas songs I hate the most:

That feed the world one. "There won't be snow in Africa this Christmas." Well no shit, there won't be snow in South Carolina either. Also the "Thank god it's them instead of you." Uh... yeah. That's a real nice thought.

"Baby it's cold outside.. say what's in this drink?" AKA the date rape song.

Little St. Nick. Surf rock should have died in the sixties yet we still play this. Why?

Here we come a-wassailing. We aren't in 1800s England. Nothing is wassailing anywhere anymore. Wassailing is likely a verb that should have never happened anyhow.

I want a hippopotamus for Christmas and All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth, both for the same reason - that grating false child voice. And then there's the dumb lyrics. Oh and for that matter - "I saw mommy kissing santa claus" - it's your dad, kid. Or at least the milkman. Get over it.

And the worst of all -- Any country music song involving a dead and/or dying person that someone is buying a present for, especially if they're begging for that present because they're also poor. I think there's like fifty of those at this point, or maybe just two that seem like fifty because they're that bad.

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Far From the Maddening Crowd

There's a fundamental part of human nature, a survival instinct that wants us to form tribes and groups. I'm on team Edward. I'm in the Harry Potter fandom. I'm a gamer. I'm emo. Etc, etc. I have always found a certain revulsion for this concept - partly because I seem to lack the drive to group up with my fellow humans, and partly because groupthink can be so ugly when it gets out of control. Kurt Vonnegut, one of my favorite authors, describes it so well in his book Cat's Cradle-

A Karass is a network or group of people that unknown to them, are somehow affiliated or linked, in the case of the book by a higher power. But they are the individuals who, upon meeting, you feel like you have known forever. Who help you in some tangible meaningful way to fufill your purpose in life, and whom you help do the same. And then there is the Granfalloon - which is a false Karass a group of people who affect a shared identity or purpose, but whose mutual association is actually meaningless. This includes "the Communist Party, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the General Electric Company—and any nation, anytime, anywhere." A proud and meaningless association of human beings.

Perhaps it is partly my aspergers that makes me particularly resistant to the idea of false karass, to granfallooning it up for the sake of feeling connection. I can't feel that connection. I like a movie or show, but I have no desire to be part of a 'fandom'. I play games, but I don't consider myself 'a gamer'. I wonder if it relates to my troubles with executive function - placing things into categories has always been difficult for me. I get words like 'pan' and 'pot' mixed up, for example- and have a hard time understading what defines a cooking container as either. It puzzles me to try and sort the clutter in my living room into meaningful groups. What belongs together? What should reside where?

Yesterday we were at the GameStop, trading in a group of video games that we'd finished playing to get store credit for a game for Aus's birthday. We had a coupon for 50% increase in trade in, which I thought was rather nice, and was pleased with the timing of. The reason for said timing became immediately apparent, as everyone in line before us was using their trade-in to get a new game that had just come out- some version of the Madden football franchise.

The clerk asked if we were trading in for Madden, and of course I blurted the honest truth "No, we have no interest whatsoever in Madden." Collective gasp from the crowd, who suddenly looked at us like we'd grown two heads. Literally every other person was there specifically to trade in to buy this game on its release day. Some had pre-ordered the Super Deluxe version. I asked, knowing Madden to be a long running game series, what made this one so valuable.

The clerk went on about some targeting tackle system, and about how it was likely to be the last one released on the older systems as we move to Ps4 and whatever the newest Xbox is calling itself, etc. So newer, shinier, and so forth. Much better than the older version, really. Totally worth sixty dollars to buy brand new right rightnow. The other clerk, who was wearing an Eagles jersey, chimeed in "I don't even like football but I'm picking it up because I'm going to be bored this weekend with my wife and kids out of town."

Clearly he felt the call of the granfalloon, wanting to be part of the Maddening crowd, rather than be the outsider who was purchasing used games with their credit to get a better deal. We got a lot of looks as we brought up two older ps3 games and a DS game from 2008. Gasp! No Madden! Outsiders, not one of us!

I am comfortable from my position as observer, and much freer I believe, than if I wanted to be part of the granfalloons that surround me. I have aspergers. You have aspergers. Does that make us a karass? No, nope, not at all. And I say this as a person who is staring a group for folks on the spectrum. If we find connection in that group, that will be great. But must we have connection because we have the same condition? Of course not. If you've met one person on the spectrum, you've met one person on the spectrum . Long live the individual.

Prejudices that Make Sense

If we're going to have prejudice, why can't we have prejudices that make sense?

What sense is there in being against a fellow human being based on characteristics they have at birth - skin color, country of origin, sexual orientation? That's just ridiculous- that's like saying I'm totally opposed to left handed people, or brunettes, or people who are over 5'6" tall.

And let's face it, there's not much sense in being against someone's beliefs as long as they're not hurting anyone else with them. If you want to believe in God, or Goddess, or the Space Monkey That Shat Out the World - how does it hurt me, or any other human on this planet? That's cool, believe what you're going to believe. I'm alright with that.

And we shouldn't be prejudiced against someone's financial state - the poor certainly didn't wake up in the morning and want to be poor. And there's plenty of folks who are rich who earned their money and worked hard to be where they are.

But I do have prejudices, and it's time I come clean about what I am prejudiced against.

The Willfully Ignorant
I used to think I was prejudiced against stupidity, but then I had to redefine my thoughts. I'm not against people who have lower than average IQs by any means - there are lots of mentally challenged people who are working very hard to use what they've got and overcome their challenges. What I'm against is willful ignorance, the people who aren't using their brains and making informed decisions, who flaunt the fact that they don't give a shit about the world and their fellow human beings and they'd much rather just care about themselves and what feels good. These are people who act out of animal instincts, who let fear and anger and lust control their lives without giving a second thought to how their decisions affect others. Fuck those people, seriously. I'm prejudiced against willful ignorance, and if you life your life that way, I'm really ashamed to have you as a member of the human race.

The Idle Rich
Bill Gates has his foundations, and JK Rowling gave away so much of her money she's no longer a billionaire. Both of them earned their own money by creating wonderful things that advanced society or culture. And then we have... the Kardashians. What have they done for anyone? Why are they famous? What are they doing that benefits anyone but themselves? Yet the willfully ignorant (see above) hold these idle rich empty headed icons up and worship them. How about revering those who advance society - our inventors, our doctors, our teachers, our bringers of culture? Fuck the idle rich. No wait, if you do that, you'll just add to their celebrity. Let's just ignore them and move on.

Those are my two biggest prejudices, but there are others. I'm pretty not down with most politicians - I'm not talking the nice folks on a local level who are actually caring about the area they govern over, but those on a state and national level who have sold their allegiance to corporate sponsors. Who say one thing, and do another. Who pass legislation blocking marriage equality, only to be caught having gay sex on some island somewhere.

And of course, I'm against corporations -- but I refuse to believe that they are people, so they are not included on this list. See Willful Ignorance for what allows those corporations to control our media, our politics, and our lives.

A Lack of Color

I can remember being very small, and living in a yellow house with a brown roof. The walls of my bedroom too, were bright and sunny. The living room furniture was colonial, the couch velvety and covered in various country scenes. I could stare at it for hours, making up stories to myself about the tiny people in their carriages and barns and houses. I was the significantly younger child in the family, my brothers being some 15 years older than I am. About the time they left home is about the time the colors started to drain from the house.

Let me explain that this is not entirely metaphorical. As a person on the spectrum, I have always felt a great affinity for color and texture. I can remember the texture of that first couch in my life as surely as if i was sitting on it right now, and the color of my first set of 'big girl' sheets (and the wood of my crib before that, for that matter). My bedroom furniture was bright white and kelly green. Before you think my memory phenomenal, I can't recall what I looked like. I can't remember my mother or father's face. People don't stick the way textures and colors do.

Anyhow I was about 6 or 7 when my brothers moved out, and my grandmother moved in. She had dementia, and often looked up at the blue sky and the white clouds and talked to my grandfather who'd gone up to the sky not long ago. Her clothes were mostly dark, but on her head she wore silky scarves that had color. In her hands she held her knitting, white and purple and green, no longer any pattern but down, down, down. She died in the room that had been my brothers. The EMTs brought her out, stiff as a board, her hands clutched over her chest, colorless as the sheet they pulled up over her.

i suppose it took us all a while to get over it, though no one ever talked about it much in front of me as I was a child. And I kept the nightmares to myself, because I wasn't really that great about communicating. Somewhere around here is the time I was put into Children's Hospital a while, for 'tests' was all my mother would tell me. The only memories I have of that are smells, flashes of light, a clear oxygen tent and white, white sheets.

They decided they would only need one bedroom now, and they could expand the living room now by knocking my bedroom completely out of existence and moving me into my brother's old room. Wouldn't that be great? they said, in that tone that implied I hadn't much of a choice. The new room was bigger after all, and it had A Closet, which my room lacked. Wouldn't that be great? All I knew was they were going to take away the only room I'd ever had, the space I considered my own safe space, and place me into the area where someone had died.

IN the room I went, with a green carpet to match my furniture's green being installed. Isn't this nice? I saw, or hallucinated I saw in my hysteria, the ghost of my grandmother in that room. I can't as an adult tell you one way or the other, but I know as I child I firmly believed I saw it. There, on the dresser, a transparent lady couldn't they see it? Her smile was kind but I was afraid she'd come to take me up into the sky the moment I fell asleep. My mother (and a visiting brother) told me that there was nothing there, I needed to stop being dramatic and just go to bed. So I lay there in the darkness, too terrified to sleep, the sheets up to my neck (I didn't dare pull them over my head because I had to keep an eye on her).

I never saw anything distinct after that night but I do recall a lot of lights and sounds and shapes in the darkness that disturbed me.

I don't recall how many years later it was, when everything started to turn to brown and gray. Wood paneling was in, and my mother had the most wonderful idea (she said) - we'd cover all the walls in paneling and never have to paint inside again. She chose the darkest paneling she could to hide stains. A deep, dark, fake wood brown. I ran my hands over the texture- it didn't feel a bit like wood, being all laminated and slick. And it was so dark. The walls in kitchen, living room, and dining area were covered in it. The windowsills and frames were painted brown to match. The door became brown, heavy steel. I begged them not to do it to my room, but they insisted it had to be paneled. They at least allowed me to choose a color that wasn't brown- but they wouldn't go for anything wild. Gray, pale gray.

The furniture set to match this was shades of brown, and the carpet was dark (orange, I think?). Dark wood china cabinet. Dark orange counters. Brown table, with brown vinyl seat cushions. The couch felt scratchy and fibrous. The dining room chairs stuck to your skin if you dared sit on them in shorts. For a long while, they even drove a brown car.

I became profoundly, but silently, unhappy. I had no way of expressing the depression I'd been spiraling into - this is also about the time I started playing musical schools. Every time a school tried to diagnose me with something (emotionally disturbed, in need of counseling, etc) - my mother moved me to another school with a caution to act more normal this time, and not tell anyone anything as it was none of their business.

The outside of the house too, had to eventually lose its colors. Gone was the bright yellow wood, replaced by somber beige plastic siding and a brown deck. The only refuge of color could be found in the screened porch around back. You could look up and see yellow paint, the same paint that had been used on the exterior of the house. There was a riotous carpet, orange and red, that was a hand-me-down from my aunt I believe. I spent a lot of time in there.

The orange counter surfaces became colorless ecru. The table became black.

I can't look back on my childhood home with any degree of fondness because the walls soaked up all the unhappiness. The colors bled out like any hope of being a happy functional family bled out over the years.

At the end of the sidewalk, by the mailbox, my tiny feet were pressed in cement shortly after I was born. About a year old, and I got set in gray concrete - my name and the date recorded along with those footprints. When my mother dies, I hope they tear down that place.I can't see it ever bringing anything but misery to anyone. But at the very least, I hope that someone will be kind enough to take a sledge hammer to that slab of stone and finally free me from that awful ground.

The Cat Alarm Owner's Manual

Did you know that most cats come with an alarm function? Of course, this is of dubious use as they will always be set to Cat Time. Cat Time rarely coincides with Human Time.

Katzen, our cat alarm, wakes my hubby every morning at 6:30. His alarm is set for 7:15, but that's human time, which is clearly Wrong. If he'd just get up in Cat Time, he'd have more time for important morning activities - like petting cats, playing with cats, and letting cats out on the balcony - before doing whatever it is that humans do when they disappear all day.

She knows I don't go to that 'Work' place that Aus goes to, so my cat alarm is set for 9:30. Never mind that I am not a morning person, and I would prefer to wake up about 11 or later. 9:30 is the time the human should get up and by golly the cat alarm is going to do its job and get that human up.

Cat alarms come pre-loaded with the following functions:

The Mew - This is the most basic setting. The mew is a polite reminder that your wake-up call is approaching. If you miss the first mew or two, don't worry- it will repeat itself 1000x times.

The Nudge - For humans that somehow manage to ignore the mew, there is the next level of cat alarm - the Nudge. This is where your cat alarm will helpfully headbutt you, repeatedly, until you get up. Note that you can sometimes activate the snooze function by petting the cat alarm until it settles briefly down. Don't worry though, the cycle will soon restart.

The Sniff - In case you have expired during the night, as evidenced by your ignoring the first two alarm calls, the cat alarm will helpfully sniff your face - eyes, nose, and mouth - to make sure you're still among the living.

The Paw - This is getting to be serious business. The human is not getting up! The cat alarm must resort to its most drastic measures. The Paw starts out much like the nudge, a gentle prod. But it is soon given a bit of claw, to get even the most reluctant humans out of bed and down to the important business of feeding the cat.

The Pounce - Y U NO LISTEN TO CAT ALARM?! The alarm is angry now. It will leap on your chest or belly with full cat alarm weight. We have a 16+ pound model, so you can imagine how uncomfortable this can get.

The cat alarm never fails, and gets quite indignant when it is placed in another room where it can't perform its wake up function. You never know when your kitty will come equipped with a cat alarm, so just consider it a 'bonus' of cat ownership when you find one.


Self-Calming after PTSD dreams

PTSD dreams are very different than normal dreams. You feel as though you are really experiencing the events - you not only see and hear, but you have the sensation of touch, pain, smell, taste. This dream involved, as many of them do, my abusive ex-husband. Sometimes they are recreations of the actual past traumas - sometimes they have pieces of that, with other components. This one involved me being on a bus with the ex, and him starting to beat a fellow passenger. I tried to stop it, but I wasn't strong enough to pull him off of the guy. So I alerted the bus driver hey, this is happening, you need to call the police, this guy is a dangerous criminal and he's hurting people.

The driver pulls over and the police are there, and we're somehow in the town my ex grew up in, in the mountains of Pennsylvania. The cops there recognize him, and are telling him they remember all the bad things he did in their town so they aren't surprised he's come to this. The ex takes me hostage,and tells me how this is all my fault - he has schizophrenia and he can't help what he does and don't I have any sympathy for him? He produces a small pocket knife saying he will make me see, and begins to carve up my eye. I can feel the knife slip in, the sharp stabbing pain, smell the blood running down my face and taste it as it drips into my mouth.

And then I wake up, and I'm unsure for a bit where I am and what is going on. My body is shaking, my heart is racing, I'm in a cold sweat. There is residual pain in my eye , and I feel it to make sure it is still there. No blood, no blood on my face or in my mouth. A concerned cat is sniffing me. I'm at home, I'm safe here. I start to do the breathing exercises and tapping I've learned in EMDR to calm down enough to go back to sleep.

When I wake up again, I think of what might have caused the PTSD to rear its ugly head. When I'd gone to bed the night before, I was agitated. I'd spent some time in the evening at the library, working on my genealogy research. I was surrounded on all sides at the computers by a family - four children and a mother. The children seemed genetically incapable of sitting still, and the mother was more interested in checking her facebook and messaging friends than disciplining them. So much unpredictable movement,and so much noise surrounding me on all sides wasn't going to end well. But I was making progress on my research and really wanted to continue. I tried to ride it out, figuring the mother would eventually do something or the family would leave. But the children just got more squirmy and loud the more that they saw they were getting away with it and finally I had to give up in disgust.

When I got home I tried to calm myself and play some games, but I was still really irritable and overstimulated. Hyperaware of every sound and movement. These are all warning signs that I am approaching either a sensory meltdown (thanks Asperger's) or ptsd incident (flashback, dream, anxiety attack). I had a bit of a hard time falling asleep, and then I had the dreams. Now today I am doing what I can to return my nervous system to normal. First step is to confront the dreams head on instead of repressing them. When I am fully aware, I go over what happened in them. Which things really happened (taking a trip with my ex to his hometown really happened, though the point at which he held me against my will was much later, and we didn't find out he had schizophrenia until many,many years later) and which things did not really happen (the bus incident, eyeball carving). As I review, I pay attention to my body's signals- when I start to tense up, I stop and relax my muscles. When I am breathing rapid and shallow, I do mindful breathing. I type out what happened, and read through it, this time tapping my arms and keeping my breathing steady.

I read through until it doesn't bother me to read about it, then feeling I have successfully processed the incident, move on to do other things - something calm and pleasant. When I am finished with this post, for example, I will find my tv remote and turn on a nice nature documentary and play a game on my kindle while I watch it.


me with gloves
L(aura) Cushing

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