Happy (Step)Father’s Day!


The original step-dad

When I was picking out my Father’s Day cards, I found all sorts of possible combinations:  from daughter to father, from father to grandfather, from son-in-law to father-in-law, even one from the dog (I’m not kidding about that).  I did not, however, see any that were geared specifically to a stepdad.  It can be a little tricky, picking out the right card for a stepfather.  It makes me wonder if the card industry has decided that stepfathers aren’t really family, or maybe they’re just hoping someone will make up a separate Stepfather’s Day so they can cash in even more.  In case there’s any question, though, I’d like to lay out the case for why my stepdad is definitely family and should absolutely get a Father’s Day card.  I think that, if you read all of my reasons, you’ll end up agreeing—and if any of you work for card companies, maybe you’ll come up with a few card options for next year.

My Reasons For Why My Stepdad Is Family:

 1.  He went to my school concerts and plays

I took this for granted when I was growing up.  If I had a concert, everybody went.  That’s just how it was.  Now that I’m old enough to have to be fortunate enough to sit through go to children’s concerts myself, I understand just how much that meant, because those concerts are terrible  horrible GODAWFUL.  When I was a child, I thought my choir or band or whatever was usually pretty good, and comparatively speaking, we probably were.  But that’s like saying that sour milk smells comparatively better than rotten eggs.  It may be true, but that’s still really, really bad, and he sat through it over and over and over, knowing how dreadful it was going to be, because he wanted to support me.  That’s family.

2.  He helped me move

Not just once.  Not just when there were elevators.  Twice a summer every summer while I was in college, and about a half-dozen times since then, almost always when it was either sweltering or freezing cold with icy rain just to keep things fun.  It’s not just help moving furniture, either, it’s cleaning up the apartment (including bathrooms) and fixing leaks and figuring out why that light fixture isn’t working and I don’t even know what else, because he does it all while I’m off doing something easy, and he does it without being asked, which is good because I’d never have the nerve to ask him to do half the things he does.  That’s family.

3.  He puts up with my pets

I once had a seven-week gap between apartment leases, and I had to ask my mom and stepdad to take the cats in while I rented a room for those seven weeks.  I don’t know that I would ever describe my stepdad as a cat person.  I think he’s the kind of guy that, if he had to have pets, he would pick a dog, but he’d just as soon not have anything else to have to clean up after.  He took the cats in without a murmur, though, and let them have their catty way with his house.  I even heard stories of him letting “that brown cat” (my siamese) curl up on his head at night, but I’m not sure I can believe that one without pictures (oh please, Mom, tell me there are pictures!).  Subjecting his wall-to-wall carpeting to creatures whose favorite pastime is horking up most of the food they just ate was really testing the limits, but he did it because I needed him to and never once complained.  That’s family.

4.  I can’t stand the thought of disappointing him

I love my dad.  A lot of the things I do, I do because I want him to be proud of me.  A lot of the things that keep me up at night are things that would disappoint him.  Most of the time, these things motivate me to make good choices (saving for retirement! yay!).  Sometimes, not so much (don’t follow that dream! it’s not sensible!).  But that’s on me because those are my choices.  At the heart of every one of those things that my dad wants for me, and that I want to do to make him proud, is his wish for me to be happy.  That’s how you know that someone is family.  Underneath all of the fighting and nagging and drama and stress, you all truly want each other to be happy.  So I make good choices because I don’t want to disappoint my father, who wants me to be happy, or my stepfather, who wants the same thing.  I want to make them both proud because they’re both family.

I defy you to hear those reasons and then tell me that my stepdad doesn’t need a Father’s Day card.  As an adopted child with stepparents, I can tell you categorically that blood is neither the beginning nor the end of family.  Hallmark and the other greeting card companies just need to get with it.  Although, I did find a pretty good card for my stepdad this year.  On the front, it asked “Where would I be without you?”, and on the inside it said “Yes, but which prison?”  Really, I think that sums it all up, don’t you?

[All images are in the public domain via pixabay.com]


The Velveteen Bumblebee

This is a picture of Bombee.

This is Bombee. He’s like baby shampoo, he doesn’t sting.

In my very tasteful study, with my very tasteful furniture and my very tasteful collection of objets d’art, I have a very old, very dilapidated stuffed bee.  Its name is Bombee, so named by my sister when she was too young to be able to pronounce “bumblebee” correctly.  Bombee actually lucked out, name-wise; my sister’s other stuffed animals were called things like Horse, Bear, and (the pinnacle of her creative expression) Whitey, a stuffed white whale.  Just call her Ishmael.

At some point, Bombee got passed down to me.  I vaguely remember my sister getting upset about this, but whenever I start to feel bad about it, I remember having to wear all her hand-me-down bellbottoms.  In the Eighties.  So I don’t feel too guilty that I ended up with Bombee.  Later on, I also swiped a John Lennon t-shirt of hers, and I don’t feel bad about that, either.  The bellbottoms were polyester, and one pair was bright red.

Bombee is a bit of a puzzle to me.  Specifically, I’m puzzled about why, out of all my childhood toys and family mementos, the one I choose to display is a stuffed bee that looks like it has mange.  What kind of a kid cuddles a stuffed bumblebee, anyway?  At that age, the extent of my knowledge of bees was that it hurts when they sting, and sometimes their stings make people puff up and have to go to the hospital.  I guess I’ve made worse choices when it comes to naptime companions, but it’s still pretty weird.

I wouldn’t even say that Bombee was my favorite toy as a child.  I’ve had plenty of other toys I loved and played with more— for a while, at least; a lot of those other toys ended up breaking pretty quickly.  I thought for years that it was my fault until I realized that the toys that broke were almost always the ones my parent found most annoying.  Still, even my quiet toys all eventually got thrown out, passed along, or packed away, and now there’s just the mangy second-hand bumblebee and I don’t really know why.

If I had to guess, I might start with how it reminds me of my sister.  After all, Bombee was hers before it was mine.  She named it, played with it, and loved it, and I worshipped my sister.  I still do, really, but these memories come from the very beginning of my life, and my sister was like a god to me then.  Everything she did was perfect because she did it, and everything she loved was good because she loved it.  Sure, I could just hang up a family photograph.  But when was the last time you took a picture off the wall and cradled it because it held the blessing of your sister’s love?

And if that’s how I’d start, then I think I’d end with how Bombee is the first toy I can remember.  I  used to tuck it into the crook of my arm while I sucked my thumb.  I think I even still wore onesies.  Bombee has been in my story from the beginning, when I was too young to be able to pronounce “bumblebee” and much too young to be self-conscious about the shabbiness of my stuffed companion.  Bombee lived with me in the kingdom where nobody dies.  I guess I’m not ready to let go of that just yet.


Lies My Bedtime Stories Told Me

aladdin-1299675_640My parents, like many others, used to read me bedtime stories in an attempt to get me to fall asleep.  This almost never worked, but they couldn’t think of anything else and they weren’t allowed to dose me with whiskey, so they kept doing it.  What I didn’t realize until much later is that those stories my loving parents told me night after night were filled to the brim with lies.  By this, I don’t mean the talking animals or the magic beans—nothing so easily identified.  Here are some of my bedtime stories and the lying lies they told me:


Cinderella, if you truly need a recap, is the story of a beautiful girl whose evil stepmother forces her into a life of drudgery, making her work all the time and never letting her have friends or go to parties (she may have just been a tiger mom, I’m not sure).  Fortunately, on the night of the prince’s grand Let’s-Find-Me-A-Wife ball, Cinderella’s fairy godmother magics her raggedy clothes into a party dress and turns a pumpkin into a carriage so Cin can go get her freak on, with the warning that the carriage will turn back into a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight and it’s a long walk home in glass slippers.

carriage-1295752_640The lie this story told me was that you’re going to know exactly when the carriage will turn back into a pumpkin and you can totally plan around it.  The truth is, it can happen at any time.  You could be just walking in the door in your perfect magic ballgown, with everyone looking at you and the prince asking his courtiers, “Who’s the hottie,” when suddenly everything goes poof and you’re back in your raggedy dress, the prince is chatting up your stepsisters, and someone just made your carriage into a pie.

When things are about to turn to crap, you don’t have until the stroke of midnight and you don’t get a warning.  It just happens, fairy godmother or no fairy godmother, and the lesson you should really take from all this is to learn how to drive a pumpkin.

The Ugly Duckling

This is the story of a bird hatched out of a mother duck’s egg that everyone assumes, reasonably enough, is a duck.  The presumed duckling is so much uglier than the other ducklings that all the animals bully it and tease it until it runs away, lives in wretched isolation for a while, and finally decides to kill itself.  Fortunately, before it does so, it gets a glimpse of its reflection in the water and realizes that it has grown into a beautiful swan, and it flies happily away along with all the other swans.

swan-9489_640One of the lessons this story taught me was that, no matter how miserable you are as a child, as long as you grow up to be gorgeous, people will respect and admire you.  In addition to being disturbing and unhealthy, this is also untrue.  You may or may not grow up to be gorgeous, but even if you do, everyone back home is still going to think of you as the ugly duckling.  You could go to your high school reunion a week after appearing on the cover of Vogue and the first thing you’ll hear will be, “Look, everyone, it’s Ugly Duck!  Hey, Ugly Duck, remember how ugly you were?  Man, I’ve never seen a duck look that ugly!”  You can swan around all you want.  To them, you’ll always be that freak who tried to pass herself off as a duck back in the day.  On the upside, you’ll be able to beat them to death with your wings, so it’s not all bad.

Another lesson this story taught me was, maybe don’t be so mean to others that you make them want to die.  I think that lesson was pretty solid, though, so I’m leaving it off the list of lies.

The Little Red Hen

This is the story about the mother hen who found a grain of wheat and asked the other farmyard animals to help her plant it.  They all touched their snouts and beaks and said “Noes goes,” and the hen had to plant it herself.  The same thing happened when she had to harvest and thresh the wheat, mill it into flour, and bake it into bread.  Once the bread was ready to eat, the other animals were down to help, no problem, but the hen snapped her beak and said “Nyah, nyah,” and she and her chicks ate all the bread.

The lesson I learned from this story is that I’m the only one who has the right to enjoy the fruits of my labor.  I then discovered that this was a vicious, heartless lie when I got my first paycheck.  You see, no one had explained to me about tax withholdings.  It came as a nasty surprise when the government, noticeably absent from the planting, harvesting, threshing, milling, and baking portions of the proceedings, got very interested in my bread once all the work was done.  They got so interested, they snatched it right out of my hands.

chicken-45944_640Before I got even a crumb, the government had taken nearly half my bread and given it to all the barnyard animals who’d called nose dibs when it was time to do the work, because it didn’t want the poor things to starve.  I didn’t exactly want them to starve, but that was my bread!  I made it myself!  I should decide who gets it.  I’m still bitter about this, in case you can’t tell.  Stupid lying hen.  I hope she got ergot poisoning.

By the way, did you see what I did with the “bread” reference?  ‘Cause bread is slang for money?  Okay, I’ll stop.

Honorable Mentions:  Sleeping Beauty and Snow White

In both of these stories, it’s viewed as totally cool that the guys mack on the girls while the girls are unconscious.  It’s really not.  Like, at all.

These are just some of the lies my bedtime stories told me.  Parents, I’m not saying you’d be better off dosing your kids with whiskey to get them to go to sleep (that’s probably also a bad lesson to teach your kids).  Just, maybe stick with Good Night, Moon, or better yet, “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.”  That one’s nothing but truth.


[all images are in the public domain via pixabay.com]