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Karma Has Three Fathers
May 23rd, 2017 by Dr Karma

In my grief, I have not thought about you, my readers. The word “daddy” could technically belong to three people, even though I’ve only ever used it for one man.

I have three dads.

My father was James Dean Norris. (I was born Karma Jewreen Norris.) He and my mother got divorced fairly soon after my birth. He died when I was four, and I don’t remember him. He didn’t see me much in between–I don’t know the whole story, except that my grandparents were afraid that if he had access to me, he’d take me.
I have spent a fair amount of time in therapy dealing with growing up without knowing much about him. My mother only told me a few good things about him when I was young. I heard the bad stuff from others–who thought I knew.
That he cheated on her.
A lot.
That when she finally left him, she had to do so with a black eye.
I know he wanted me and was excited about my birth, but I don’t know why he didn’t fight to see me.
He left me two poems, for my 18th birthday (he’d had a premonition that he’d die at 35). They were about reincarnation–I wanted them to be about us. He was an American buddhist (yes, he named me).
I wanted, for a really long time, to understand him, in hopes of understanding myself.
My mom always told me that I got my intelligence from him and from her father (my daddy). I think I was also lucky enough to get whatever inspires loyalty from one’s loved ones.
My therapist once said that my dad could have been a cult leader. The two women I know who loved him loved him completely. He cheated on them, but they both swear he was their soul mate.
I don’t claim to have that kind of power, but when people talk about my cult following on campus, I think of my father.
I have come to terms with the fact that I won’t have the answers I want and the fact that those answers wouldn’t have answered questions about me anyway.

I went to live with my daddy, my grandfather, when I was 2 and my mom couldn’t take care of me. He wrote in his memoirs that he became a father again that year. No one ever thought it was strange that I called him that. He was just retired from the military, but he was only in his 40s. Every time I called home after living there, my grandmother would tell me where my “daddy” was and what he was doing.
In my EMDR therapy for PTSD, when I’m asked to picture a figure of protection, I think of him.
After my father died, mom gave us both daddy’s last name.
It was he who came to pick me up from the hospital after my son was born–when I was 17 and alone. To take me home when my son’s father and my mother couldn’t/wouldn’t take care of me.

I had a step-father in between, from when I was 5 to when I was 17, when he became my estranged ex-step-father. Our relationship was always difficult, and his request that I call him daddy seemed ridiculous. When my mother finally left him, he took us both out of the will. He also used his lawyer to take half of my money, not just half of my mom’s (I had just over a hundred dollars in a shared account from working the previous summer). (He, like my father, had cheated on her (a lot), but he managed to use his money to lie about everything and to screw her over again after so many years of practice.) I dream about his house fairly frequently–I’m always there, looking for something. (A therapist, long ago: “duh–your childhood!”) The thing I would most want from that house likely isn’t there anymore–a dollhouse my daddy handmade for me that didn’t make it out during the Waltonen woman exodus.

For all those years in between, I was still with my daddy every summer and most weekends.

It’s my daddy who’s died this week. The best man I’ve ever known. I didn’t get to say goodbye or to be there.

We won’t be having services this week–my family, the backwoods people that we are, don’t have regular services with pastors or with non-family people.

A couple of years ago, everyone waited to put my grandmother’s ashes in the ground until the boy and I could get down there.

The boy and I will not be able to go down for more than a day or two until August, so daddy’s ashes will wait above ground until then.

I’m the black sheep in my family, the prodigal daughter. But I get to be home to bury daddy, just like the stories promise.

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W3 Story 1: The Honeymoon
May 22nd, 2017 by Dr Karma

My daddy died on Friday. Wallie William Waltonen is no more.
I can’t write about what that means yet.
But I can tell you some of his stories.

My grandfather was in the Air Force and stationed in Northern Florida. He was set up on a blind date with Winca Jewreen Graves.
50 years after they were married, we asked her why she agreed to a second date.
She said he was a perfect gentleman.
We asked him why he wanted a second date.
“Her legs!”
Right after they were married, they drove up to a cabin in Michigan (where W3 was from) for their honeymoon.
W3 was nervous–they hadn’t spent a lot of time together before. He was worried that they would run out of things to say.
So he made a list–a list of things to talk about while they were married.
He said he never needed to use it.
I am happy to report that they didn’t get very far North very fast–they didn’t seem eager to spend all day on the road.
By the time they made it, though, my grandfather was having stomach problems. Grandma gave him ex-laxx, which apparently is even less fun when one is honeymooning in a cabin in the woods with an outhouse.
He told this story for the rest of their longs lives together, to explain why he wouldn’t let her medicate him.

My grandparents’ hands, as they renewed their vows.

 

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Chronic Pain is Chronically Confusing
May 16th, 2017 by Dr Karma

Tomorrow I’ll have an impacted wisdom tooth taken out. I’m in agony today, but it took me a long time to figure out what was happening.
This kind of thing occurs frequently: chronic pain causes misunderstood pain.
I have TMJ–a disorder of my jaw joint. There’s arthritis there too. I’m in PT (it helps to keep me eating and talking).
I thought it was particularly bad last week.
And then I thought it was getting particularly worse.
And then I wondered at the pain spreading–making the whole jaw sore.
Last night, I couldn’t read, couldn’t focus. My eye on the right side even started to hurt, from the pressure.
And then a little voice inside my head chimed in: haven’t you still got a wisdom tooth up there? wouldn’t it be right by that joint?
Intense pain isn’t unusual. Today–the day before a surgery–is better than most because I have a solvable problem.
But I’m frustrated that I had no idea how to answer my dentist’s question: when did this tooth pain start?

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“You either trust . . . your state . . . or you don’t”
May 8th, 2017 by Dr Karma

I’m a federalist.

I’m an American, so I should have the same rights in each state.

Thus, I had a knee-jerk negative reaction to Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole’s discussion of the Republican health care plan on Morning Edition last Thursday. He did the typical Republican move–demonizing the federal government while making moves to allow the states to deny care to their citizens:

“But at the end of the day, you know, you either trust your governor and your state legislature or you don’t. In my case, I do. And it’s far easier, if they make an error, for people to frankly correct them and — or fire them if they need to, than it is to deal with a sort of faceless, federal bureaucracy that’s in many cases thousands of miles away.”

Having grown up in the South, I don’t trust state or local government more than I trust the federal government. Why was I taught that evolution was wrong in a public school? Because of local decisions. Why was my history teacher forced to pretend that the world was created 6000 years ago? Because of local decisions. Why was my doctor not allowed to talk to me about all my options for care when I was pregnant? Because of local decisions. Why was my aunt not able to get healthcare in the South even though she’s disabled? Because of local decisions.

Of course, I can point to a lot of federal decisions that have been awful too, but there are two important points to consider. First, and this is our fault, voters don’t usually pay attention to or vote in local elections. Second, the federal government–with its constitution–tends to move toward equality–and that’s where my values lie. The constitution says I shouldn’t have been taught Christian b.s. in a public school and recognizes my right to disagree. The federal government’s position is that my queer friends have the same rights that I do, that my Jewish neighbor has the same rights as her Christian ones, that my students of color deserve the same opportunity as their white counterparts, that my disabled staff have equal access to a job, etc. etc. etc.

But the Republican move is always to “let the states decide.” To decide whether your disabled child can go to public school. To decide if you can have access to healthcare. To decide if you can be married to your partner.

We’re American. The “state” I live in shouldn’t decide whether I’m equal to my neighbors. I am.

The end of Cole’s interview really brought the point home for me about trusting the states: “Look, I live in a state where we’re down to a single provider who’s losing money. We have a 69 percent rate increase coming for people that don’t have — aren’t subsidized in the pool. And finally, because we’re not a Medicaid expansion state, you know, we’ve got hospitals taking care of classes of patients that in other places they get compensated for — not here.”

We’re not having those problems in California–because California didn’t fight Obamacare. In other words, it shared the federal government’s move toward equality.

It’s that last line that gets me–he doesn’t live in a Medicaid expansion state, so he’s upset because uninsured patients are costing his state a lot of money.

In other words, his state chose to leave a significant portion of its population uninsured. Each state’s budget office can confirm it would make fiscal sense to expand Medicaid. But states like his didn’t. It left its people in danger. It left itself in a bad financial state. Why?

Because it was “Obamacare.”

No, Mr. Cole, I don’t trust the states to always do the right thing for their people, especially states like yours.

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The Continuing Adventures of Karma’s OnLine Dating (Entry 60): I don’t want to be friends
May 2nd, 2017 by Dr Karma

I’m not on OKCupid to make friends.

I hate sounding like a reality tv personality–why are guys putting me in this position?

Have I become friends with a couple of guys that I met through OKC? Yes–some of them didn’t work out romantically, but I thought they might, which is why I talked with them and hung out with them in the first place.

They’re probably reading this now.

Hi, guys!

I’m friends with two people whom I never went out on a date with–distance, etc. was a factor. But I was interested in them as people–they had compelling profiles and so I answered when they messaged me.

Hi, guys!

And then there’s most guys. The ones with the boring profiles. The ones who are conservative Christians. The ones with no profiles. Etc. Etc. Etc.

To paraphrase:

Him: Hi.

Me: Not interested.

Him: Sure you are.

Me: So not.

Him: Okay, then let’s be friends.

Me: No.

And that makes me feel like an asshole.

But I don’t.

I’m not lonely. I’m not bored.

My social life is so full, so vibrant. I have an amazing social network.

Sometimes people express sympathy for me because I’m far from my family. And I’m like “what?” because my friends here in Cali are my family. I’m the aunt to so many kids. The emergency contact for them and their parents. And they’re that to me.

And here’s the sad thing–I don’t get to spend enough time with them. They’re busy. I’m insanely busy. There are people I love who work in the same building with me. I haven’t laid eyes on them in months. And we want to see each other.

So, random guy, if I’ll I’ve ever said is no to you, please don’t ask me to be friends. I’m not making time to have coffee with you in Folsom or wherever to start a friendship.

And yes, maybe you’re secretly awesome, and I’m missing out.

But probably not.

In fact, it’s likely that you don’t want to be friends with me, either.

You’re hoping that I’ll invest all this time in being friends with you. I’ll be swept up in desire and at least let you fuck me. Or I’ll fall in love with you and change my mind about not wanting kids, or not wanting to date smokers, or not wanting to date members of the alt-right, or not wanting to date homophobes, or not wanting to date just flat out boring people who won’t even write a sentence about themselves in an ad they’ve created to lure me in.

A couple of months ago, a guy totally gave the “friends” trick away. He lived far away–another country far. I said no thank you. He said let’s be friends. I said no thank you. He said that love doesn’t know distances and he could tell I was the woman for him, blah, blah, blah. So that friend thing was bullshit–a gambit–a trick.

A conservative Christian was flummoxed the other day when I said I wasn’t interested in being friends with him: “In fact it’s the first time in my life that somebody refuses to treat me in that categorical way.” [I think he meant, it’s the first time someone has refused him based on his beliefs.]

In my last post, I mentioned that I woke up to a few messages. Here’s how one of those conversations went, with annotations.

A guy with a shirtless bathroom selfie messages me. His profile is blank.

Him: Are you open to something casual?

I answer because my no should be the end of it.

Me: I wouldn’t need OKC to find something casual. 🙂
I’m looking for someone to date.

Him: Well thats what it would be. Its just that i live in porterville, ca and i travel to stocktob about 2 times a month. So im looking for someone to see “casually”(date). While im there in town.

See how he says “[that’s] what it would be”? As if I expressed any interest at all in him? As if he has something to negotiate here?

Me: I understand that, but I’m not interested.
Your profile is blank; you’ve only answered 5 questions, but we’re 71% enemies.
Why should I give up on what I want in a relationship for someone I know almost nothing about and who I’m probably not compatible with anyway?

Him: Well thats why we get to know each other.

A friendship could always come out of it.

Did I say, “gee, you’re so awesome. Even though I’ve shown no outward interest, I really would like to get to know you. Blank profiles are so mysterious. I long to know about the deep soul that’s surely lingering underneath your abs”?

Me: If you read my profile, you know I don’t like to answer people who have blank profiles and who haven’t answered questions.
I have to know a little bit about someone to be interested enough to want to get to know them. All I know about you is that you can’t give me what I’m looking for.
And I’m not on here for friends–I have a very vibrant social network. I’m never lonely or without something to do.
I want a partner to share my life with–that can’t be you, obviously.

My first response to another recent message was, I thought, perfectly clear: Hi; thanks for your message. The answers to your questions make it pretty clear that you’re wanting the marriage/kids package–we wouldn’t be a good fit. 🙁 

Him: I’m looking to make new friends. Cause you never know the out come.  

Yes, I do. The outcome is that you, like SO many guys before, think I’ll change my mind about having kids with you.

I didn’t even answer another guy after he suggested friendship, mostly because I’m tired of feeling like an asshole by saying I’m not interested in friendship.

He is a smoker, a sexual anarchist (no rules. about anything. ever.), and a guy who says he’s not smiling in his pictures because he has no teeth.

Sigh.

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The Continuing Adventures of Karma’s OnLine Dating: Entry 59
Apr 30th, 2017 by Dr Karma

New in my inbox this morning:

Guy 1: Are you open to something casual?

 

Guy 2: That’s a such good luck meeting you ☘☘☘☘

I have been traveling for the last 1 year hitchhiking and CouchSurfing all the way from Brasil to here And now that I saw your profile I’ve thought: why don’t ask for a couch to sleep?

Do you know couchsurfing? That app who connect friends that haven’t met yet. The traveler arrive, cook a Brazilian dinner together, drink a wine, make a new friend and go to sleep in separated beds

How does it sounds to you? To much weird?

Or we can have a normal date as well… no problem to me ;)​

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The Handmaid’s Tale: Now on Hulu!
Apr 26th, 2017 by Dr Karma

For much of my youth, I was put off by dystopic visions. I’m not sure if this was because I was so frightened of what my own future could become, if I was horrified by the dark glimpses into human nature that dystopias provide or because I’d been frightened by a childhood viewing of an HBO special on Nostradamus, featuring explorations of a coming apocalypse that were rather hysterical (in both senses of the word). I eschewed all of the texts that would later captivate me (like Bladerunner) and settled on comforting visions of the future (like the socialist near paradise that was Star Trek). Then, in high school, there was The Handmaid’s Tale. One relative, who had not read the book, but who had heard some rumors about it, tried to deny me access, even though it was required reading. Luckily, I prevailed. It entranced me, both with its ideas and its language—which could be poetic and tragic and comic all at the same time. When Aunt Lydia tells the girls that they are rare and valued, like pearls, our narrator contemplates the metaphor: “I think about pearls. Pearls are congealed oyster spit” (145)—it was exactly the type of close reading that I was prone to do.

Perhaps the text drew me in because I identified with it. Atwood wrote parts of the novel in Alabama, very near where I was growing up (in “Florbama”—the part of Florida directly underneath Alabama). Her world seemed very real to me—I was deep in the Bible belt; our world history teacher was forbidden to acknowledge that there was any history before the ancient Egyptians, as that fact offended parents who believed the Earth was only 6000 years old; abstinence only education was standard; an abortion provider, David Gunn, was murdered in my town right around the time we encountered the handmaid’s repressive society.

I was electrified. Not all students responded the same way, of course. I remember one girl complaining that she didn’t like the book because it was disturbing. And I remember the teacher’s response: “Good. It’s supposed to disturb you.”

Those are the first three paragraphs of my introductory essay to Atwood’s Apocalypses.

I’m crazy excited about Hulu’s premiere today. It’s taking all my willpower to do work this morning instead of watching. Fingers crossed that this is better than the much maligned film (with a screenplay by Nobel Prize winner Harold Pinter)!

A review of the start will be coming soon.

In the meantime, are you excited about Atwood? Consider liking The Margaret Atwood Society on Facebook or following us on Twitter (@atwoodsociety)–we post lots of Atwood news there–for free!

Full membership is only $15.

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The Continuing Adventures of Karma’s Online Dating: Entry 58
Apr 16th, 2017 by Dr Karma

This* is why it’s not a good idea to answer everybody.

And it’s the end of a very short lived experiment, in which I called guys on it when I didn’t think they’d read my profile, which indicated that I will only really answer when someone has a filled out profile, has answered questions, says more than hi, etc.

What happens below is sad.

A guy messaged me. His profile was mostly blank, but did indicate that he was a smoker who wanted kids. He had only answered a couple of questions, one of which said “jealousy is healthy in a relationship.” Another indicated that his Christian faith was important to him.

Him: Hi nice meeting you

Me: I don’t think you read my profile. 🙁

Him: A writer university teacher [these are basically the first three words of my profile]

Anyway I like your profile

I we like to no little more about you if you don’t mind

Me: It just didn’t seem like you read it cause I talked about what made me likely to answer and what I was looking for.
I don’t date smokers, and I’m not having more kids, so we seem incompatible.

Him: If because of you I we stop smoking I like the food you like can you just be honest and be real to me babe..

Me: I am being honest.

I’ve had guys say they’d quit for me before. It’s never once happened.
And I am not having more children.
And your profile is mostly blank.
And I’m an atheist while god is extremely important to you.
And I don’t think jealousy is healthy in a relationship.
I’m not seeing compatibility here.

Him: Babe I we never quit Whit you I promise I we be real and honest with you I’m different form the other guys

Babe do you have hangout or kik so we can talk better..

Me: I don’t have those apps, and I’m not interested in talking to you more. Your profile information doesn’t give much information, but the little information it does give me signals that we’re not compatible.

Him: Babe you free to ask anything you Wanna no about me

I’m new here that why but anything else you ask I we answer you

Me: It seems like we’re having a basic communication problem here.
You are interested in me because of my pictures and what I wrote on my profile; thus, you want to know more about me.
I’m NOT interested in you because you basically have a blank profile.
Go back and read my profile down at the bottom again about what I’m looking for:
“I’m only likely to answer if you’ve answered plenty of OKC’s questions (I don’t want to have to ask you if you’re jealous, if you’re homophobic, if you don’t believe in dinosaurs, etc. when OKC can ask you for me), if you have a picture, if you’ve said more than just “hi”/”good morning”/etc. in your message, and if you’ve filled out your profile with more than “ask me” or the equivalent.”

Him: Babe am new in OKC so I don’t no more about it I we be very happy if you can put me true in this app a friend told me about it that he meet is future wife here and the wife is honest humble trust and she have respect that why am here too for real trust humble women that we can understand each other…

Me: And I hope you find the right person for you, but I don’t think I’m it.
You need to find someone you have things in common with.
Or at least someone who doesn’t mind blank profiles.

Him: Since I go true your profile am very happy you are God sent to me

My dear what Can do about my profile that’s blank I do anything to make me be real and honest with you

Me: My profile says this: “You should message me if you are liberal (especially socially), smart, sexy, secure in yourself, funny, appreciative of smart and funny women, and a nonsmoker.”
I don’t think you’re what I’m looking for.

Him: Babe if that’s all what you want am interesting with it and I love movies too…

Me: You are not a nonsmoker.
You have not indicated that you are smart, funny, sexy, or liberal.
I don’t think you’re secure in yourself based on this conversation and on the fact that you think jealousy is healthy in a relationship.
It’s also a turn-off to say “God sent you to me” to an atheist.

Him: Sweetheart all this is your favorite thing and I do more then you smart, funny, sexy,nonsmoker, I told you I don’t no. more about OKC I don’t no what jealousy mean in relationship my dear if you don’t like someone jealous in relationships I accept with you dear….

I what you to come into my life and make it a wonderful world to live in…

My dear like am having special feelings for you right now

Me: You don’t know anything about me.
I think you like my pictures.

Him: My love you we tell me more better about yourself

But I love everything about you I love all your pictures, I love your profile I we like to be honest with you so I we be proud of you dear…

So my princess, what’s your name and I we like to see more of your love pictures and to share my own with you…

Me: I’m going to end this conversation.
I have politely told you that I’m not interested–SEVERAL times.
Nothing you have said in these messages has sparked my interest.
The last few messages–about special feelings, about god sending me to you, and calling me your love–have creeped me out.
I do really hope that you find the right person for you.
Here’s some advice about finding that person:
1. answer more questions on OKC. Most women won’t answer unless you’ve answered at least 50.
2. put some more information in your profile–be specific. Lots of guys say they’re looking for honesty. It doesn’t make you sound interesting or unique if you just give a general sentence or two.
3. When you send a message, say something specific–ask about something a woman has said she’s interested in on her profile, for example.
4. Don’t start sounding like you’re obsessed, especially if a woman says she’s not interested.
Best of luck to you in your search.

[And then I blocked him.]

*This is from quite a while ago.

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The Continuing Adventures of Karma’s OnLine Dating: Entry 57
Apr 12th, 2017 by Dr Karma

Twice now, I’ve gotten messages inspiring deja vu.

Because I had gotten those exact messages, from those exact guys before. Both guys have gone silent when I’ve pointed it out.

I’m disappointed to be subject to cutting and pasting, and I understand that a message here or there is forgettable in and of itself.

But still.

Fuck dating.

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What I’m Reading
Apr 9th, 2017 by Dr Karma

Years ago, I read Jane Eyre for class while sick with the flu. It’s fitting that I had Lyndsay Faye’s Jane Steele to read during my week of the spinal cord stimulator test. Jane Steele‘s narrator is very much like Jane Eyre, and Faye manages to capture 19th century storytelling in a captivating way. This narrator has more spunk than the original Jane–more desires of her own and less patience with prurient males and idiots. She’s more like us, except she’s killed more people.

I also just finished (and enjoyed!) Julia Claiborne Johnson’s Be Frank with Me, about a young woman in the publishing industry who is assigned to help a famous reclusive writer pen a second novel. Helping means taking over the full-time childcare of the author’s precocious, socially awkward son.

While I was traveling to Chicago a couple of weeks ago, I started The Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne. I read the first novel in a day–it’s delightful urban fantasy with a great comic touch. The hero is an old druid living in the modern world–with a penchant for Shakespeare and helping people know their sprites from their fairies and their adjectives from their adverbs.

And everyone’s read Hag-seed by Atwood now, right? BECAUSE IT’S AMAZING!

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