Monica Bielanko
A chronicle since 2005 of my marriage & move to Brooklyn in my twenties; becoming a mother in my thirties; moving to Pennsylvania and learning to amicably coparent after divorce in my forties while living 3 doors down from my ex-husband in a small country town.
That's What She Said
You can also find Monica's writing here:
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Saturday
Jul292006

Oh My Dog


When I was nine, my dog Sasha was hit by a car and killed. I arrived home from school, barely had time to sling my book bag on the floor when Mom tearfully broke the news. I was devastated. This was death. Unlike Bosco who mysteriously disappeared after Mom claimed she gave him to a nice family who owned a farm, ("yeah, more like bought the farm muttered my older and wiser brother) I could not envision Sasha roaming free, pawing at happily clucking chickens and frolicking among the horses. She was dead.

I immediately set to work building an altar honoring my dead dog. The altar consisted of Sasha's collar, a sandwich baggie of her dog food I scavenged from her bowl and a baggie of dog hair I had feverishly scraped from my carpet. I then placed a Book of Mormon on the floor in the center of my bedroom and balanced my doggie tributes atop the book. This was my shrine. I was certain Jesus would see my devotion to Mormonism and much like Lazarus, bring my beloved pet back from the dead. We must have been studying Jesus' resurrection that week in Sunday school is all I can figure. Or maybe this misguided notion was due to one too many PET SEMATARY viewings once my older brother Brandon discovered the joys of Stephen King.

I secretly told my younger brother Jordan my plan. Of course he immediately told Brandon who promptly set to work mocking me. Understandably, Mom was a bit concerned, but she allowed me to keep my resurrection shrine. Outwardly I halfheartedly laughed with everyone over my antics, but inside I was resolute, certain Sasha would scratch at the door at any moment and prove those skeptical fuckers wrong. They'll see!

Of course that didn't happen and I eventually moved on. But my devotion to all things dog has only increased throughout the years. After Sasha there was Sage, who was also struck and killed. This was just as heartbreaking, although this time I managed to leave the Book of Mormon on the shelf where it belonged. And then there was Spliffy. Oh Spliffer. We got him from the neighbors when their pregnant dog gave birth to a litter of squirming little critters. I was 16. Mom has the ol' boy still.

The Spliffer, he's fathered more than half the dogs in Mom's neighborhood. Mom says neighbors will walk their dogs by the house, "Fluffy there's your Daddy" they'll say and point to the Spliffer lazily sunning himself on the porch. Spliff, that bastard, doesn't acknowledge his seed, can't be troubled to get up and say hello, but is utterly devoted to Mom. They're quite a pair, those two. They eat together, watch T.V. together, sing together and sleep together. Yes, he sings.

We always had medium sized mutt dogs. Mom never wanted some "giant horse of a dog" wreaking havoc on her household. I did. I dreamed of the day I could get my very own "real dog". A Golden Retriever or a Labrador Retriever. A big boy. One sunny day in June 2003 I got my wish. My own dog. A black Lab. And I called him Max.

Max is my best pal. Like the Spliffer and his girl Mom, Max is never far from my side. He eats with me, walks with me, I can feel his heart beat staccato rhythms across my outstretched hand as we sleep. He is happiest on the bed, nestled snugly in the middle of his Mom and Pop. He loves to have his photo taken and will pause and puff out his chest until you snap the picture. He likes to be told "bye-bye" if anyone is leaving the apartment. If per chance you forget, he'll bark until you come back and bid him adieu. He whines and barks when The Surge and I fight - afterward he places a reassuring paw on my arm and licks my tears away as I cry. All heart. A big, black love sponge. He's just a love machine. An enormous, goofy love machine.

Today my young man was relaxing in the backyard. For my big clodhopper, it was an unusually tranquil scene. He appeared so quiet, so content I decided to get him on video. I was hiding behind the window with my camera cranked awkardly around the corner. Max immediately woke up and tranquility was but a distant memory. As a result, I managed to catch the standard Max Let's-Get-This-Party-Started behavior on video:

Friday
Jul282006

One Year Ago Today...

I started this blog. With this entry. As is evidenced by the fact that I didn't type again until September, I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. I didn't really even know what a blog was. 'What does blog mean', I wondered. 'It's such a funny word'. Of course, once I eventually understood blog is slang for weblog and wrapped my brain around the concept, the subsequent months were laced with small blog battles, fought and won.

Mastering HTML code to create a line break, thereby starting a whole new paragraph like this one was a day of rejoicing!

And my god, figuring out ITALICS! AND PHOTOGRAPHS! You mean, I can punch in dashes, dots and letters and a photograph will appear? Right here on my blog? You will be able to see the picture I just took? Mothertrucker! Each little bit learned along the way was another piece to the blogging puzzle. Creating paragraphs, posting photos... now here I am redesigning the site on my own. So hopefully you'll excuse the imperfections. It's hard to get shit to jive in both Explorer and Firefox.

Were it not for this blog, this journal of mine that you all seem to like to read (it's gotta be the Jerry Springer factor is all I can figure.. there but the grace of God go I and such... right?) I would have not made it in New York for this long. Shit, I might not even still be married. Because my God but we had some knock down drag-outs. Some major fucking fights, yo.

But the crazy thing that happened was, instead of feeling like my usual dysfunctional self, I realized (through your emails and comments) that we're all slogging through the same shit. Every day. Before this blog I felt like I was A Fucked Up Individual, that my relationship failures were my fault, that my self-imposed emotional distance from others was seriously screwed, that everyone flits effortlessly through life and for some reason I just don't have the tools to get it done. Now, I've realized we're all filling our plates from the same buffet of ISSUES. We're all having the same fights with our loved ones, the same battles with our spouses, suffering from the same social anxieties.. and the beauty of the internet is that we can feel free to share and commiserate. And so we have. And I don't feel so bad anymore and I hope you don't either.

I needed this outlet, this hobby - if only to save me from insanity during the months and months The Surge was on the road. Blogging has improved my writing, ignited a passion for photography and inspired better communication with my husband. This blog has stretched my mind to include other points of view, intriguing new ways to think about life. This blog has allowed me to relate my feelings to friends and family members I have trouble talking to in person or on the phone.

And your comments. I'd like to be too cool for school and say I don't care if you comment or not... but shit - I've been really down these past few months, just floating through life.. call it my Quarter-Life Crisis.. whatever.. y'all are here every day with the positivity. So thanks for that.
Wednesday
Jul262006

Link Park

So. Another day. The Surge just left for Chicago. Then on to Nashville to record a soundtrack for an upcoming movie. The soundtrack is all Marah which will definitely be cool. I've heard some of the songs and they're amazing. Kind of a bluegrass, folky vibe.

Me? I'm just floating around. Still applying for jobs, exercising a lot (Did she type exercising? I know, it surprises me too!) I'm writing quite a bit. I decided I wasn't finished with The Girl Who. A very wise bestselling author as well as a lovely editor nudged me in a different direction. So I've decided to write about what I feared writing about. My childhood. Growing up Mormon. The scandal that rocked a small Mormon community:

"The church court sent Mom back into the lobby while they deliberated her fate. She sat there with Dad horrified by the speed at which her life had spiralled out of control. The minutes ticked by, the silence so loud it hurt her ears.
"Elaine. Craig. We've made a decision." My parents were called back before the court to hear the verdict.


My parent's divorce and what happened to my family afterward:
"Dad would call every now and again. But a telephone conversation with a child is like pulling teeth.
"How are you?"
"Fine."
"What did you learn in school today?"
"Nothing."
"Are you being a good girl?"
"I guess so."
"Is your slut Mom still dating that asshole?"
"I don't know."
"What do you mean, 'you don't know'?"
"I don't know."
"Where is she right now?"
"I don't know."
"Are you being smart with me?"
"No."
Dad sighs in exasperation. "Okay. I love you."
"I love you too." I replied automatically."


Unlocking secrets from my family's past:
"Dad, do you have life insurance?"
"Yep." He strokes his beard with the fingers of his right hand, a habit that has been with him for as long as I can remember.
"So we get lots of money when you die?"
"My life insurance policey is for 100,000 dollars. So split that three ways and that's what you get."
"Three ways? But you have four kids, Dad."
"I have three kids."
"What?" I am utterly bewildered.
"C'mon Monica. Quit being such an idiot. You know." My brother rolls his eyes from his throne, the passenger seat next to Dad.

But I really didn't know. Dad and Brandon, exchange looks. Two conspiring best buddies who apparently hold the keys to Pandora's Box. The box that contains all the bad secrets about my family. Things I didn't know about. Things I didn't want to hear."


And of course, what would a good Mormon memoir be without...Perverted bishops!:
"Soooo.." Bishop Johnson leans back in his office chair, adjusts his red and white striped tie, (like a candy cane, I think) and looks at me through lowered lids. "Your boyfriend stuck his finger in your vagina? How far did he stick his finger up?"
I'm startled by the directness of the question. The word 'vagina' slid easily out of his thin, sharp lips. But it didn't sound the same as when my health teacher said it in school. It sounded different. Bad. "Why do you need to know that?" I ask.
"Because I need to determine the gravity of your sin."


Anyway - so there's that.

On a side note - I have a set of blogs I read every day, websites I peruse etc.. I tend to come across some interesting stuff. So I've decided to add a links of the day page. Just funny, intruging bits I find on the web. If you have a favorite blog you've written or photo you've taken or you find an interesting blog/link/photo/news item feel free to email it to me. I may just throw it in the next set of "Link Park". Turn me onto new stuff, people! I'm unemployed! I got nothin' but time! Pimp your artistic endeavors! If I dig it, it'll go up.
Tuesday
Jul252006

I Just Gave Up My Womanhood

It began as a lovely family dogpile atop our marital bed. It ended with me giving up my womanhood in a most violent manner. It sounds melodramatic, but that's exactly what happened. A sound. A horrific noise that tore a hole in the very fabric of my marriage. I was comfortably paging through the latest In Touch mag. The Surge was reading. Max was snoring. And then it happened.

I generally claim not to have ever experienced this particular bodily function. Me, fart? NEVER. I am an exquisitely delicate cupcake of a broad. Sure I swear like a trucker.. But farting? It's simply not in my repertoire. Or so I've claimed. Until now.

I thought it would be silent. And not deadly. I thought it would enter the universe as gently as a butterfly emerges from a cocoon and silently flutter away. It didn't. Max startled from slumber and gallumped to his feet, enormous dog noggin swaying this way and that as if to say What the fuck was that? Are we under attack??

I chanced a look at my husband, afraid of what I might see looking back at me. He was staring in shock. Not so much because I was revealed to have bodily functions like the rest of the free world. That didn't bother him. It's because I have a very vocal dislike of farts that manifests itself every single time he unleashes his inner air on our household.

I have an extreme aversion to the farts of others. I can follow the stinky trail all the way back to my childhood when my older brother would regularly administer thrashings followed by his coup de grace - sitting on my head and farting.

We'd be watching television, me on one couch, my brother on the other. In the blink of an eye and at no provocation from me he would leap onto my couch, push my head to his crotch and let loose. AND HOLD MY HEAD THERE! How I loathed him and subsequently anyone I dated who seemingly farted on purpose. It's not that I'm a fart prude. Because they were used as a weapon in my youth, I don't take farts passively. They aren't just an involuntary bodily function. They are a very deliberate attack! An affront to my senses.

With The Surge, it's turned into a joke.. if I'm at one end of the house and he quietly releases on the other end I'll shout jokingly (with as deadly serious an undercurrent as the fart he just let fly) I heard that!. It's funny. Kind of. Eventually he told me to lay off the fart monitoring, it was a tad obsessive. When he inquired about my own farting history I'd reply demurely "a woman never farts" and she certainly never farts and tells.

So in that endless moment last night, after I dropped the bomb, before I looked my husband in the eye.. all of those fart monitoring incidents flashed before my eyes in a parade of shame.

The Surge? Didn't bat an eye. In response to the fart hyprocrisy I had loudly revealed, he accordianed his lips as if trying to repress laughter, languidly turned a page in his book and drawled, "Congratulations. You just gave up your womanhood in as violent a manner possible."
Monday
Jul242006

Some Kind Of Wonderful


I just finished watching Some Kind Of Wonderful. You know the flick. And if you don't, then we can't be friends. Seriously. There is something wrong with you. I've seen this movie at least a few hundred times. It gets me every time. EVERY time. John Hughes you devil you. How do you do it? Molly Ringwald isn't even in this one... and here I am bawling my eyes out after this timeless scene. And then I CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE by Lick The Tins swells as the couple stroll down the lamppost lined street.

No matter what I'm doing, where I have to be or what time it is.. if a John Hughes movie is airing on TNT.. I'm watching. No matter that it's interrupted every three minutes with commercials, no matter that the swear words (translation: the good parts) are edited out so sloppily that Andrew McCarthey looks like an actor in an old japanese kung fu movie, no matter that I have the DVD right there on my shelf.
I. Am. Watching.
I will cry. And I'm a tough chick dammit! I hate romantic comedies, really I do. Reese Withersoon and her Legally Blonde brigade are not for me. Nor was that leering jackolantern Julia Roberts and the ridiculously overrated Hugh Grant starring as, who else, Hugh Grant. Keep your Kate Hudsons and your Jennifer Garners to yourself.. I've just never been interested.

Ironically, I will never tire of Some Kind of Wonderful, Can't By Me Love, Pretty In Pink, Say Anything.. You know the ones. Any movie starring any variation of John Cusack, Molly Ringwald, Andrew McCarthy, Ally Sheedy, Anthony Michael Hall. These movies are as much a part of my growing up experience as my own travails in junior high and high school.

Judd Nelson as Bender in The Breakfast Club instilled deep within me an immense admiration for the bad boys. He hooked me at "Does Barry Manilow know that you raid his wardrobe?" He began reeling me in with his ingenious impersonation of his parental plight at home..
"Stupid worthless no good goddamn free loadin' son of a bitch retarded big mouth know it all asshole jerk! You forgot ugly lazy and disrespectful- Shut up bitch! Go fix me a turkey pot pie! What about you dad? Fuck you. No, dad, what about you? Fuck you. No dad what about you?! FUCK YOU"
He is angry! I am in love! From Bender to the man every girl is still looking for.. Jake Ryan, where are you?
From my journal: August 10, 2003 Why must I be so concerned with boys? I don't like girls that live for men, so why must I? I'm perfectly content on my own. You know, movies have dones the women of the world such an injustice. You see these perfectly wonderful relationships on the big screen, that it took 50 takes and 20 pounds of make-up to get right - and the rest of us bastards have to try to live up to that crap. It will never happen. I'm 26 years old and I'm still longing for Jake Ryan to pull up in his red porche while the Thompson Twins IF YOU WERE HERE swells in the background. Fuck. Fuckity Fuck! Is it true that I could find the guy of my dreams, my best friend who sees the best things about me, that can't imagine living without me or is it all a crock of bullshit?"

Apparently, that same entry exists within the pages of almost every American woman's journal. In his article "Real Men Can't Hold A Match To Jake Ryan" Hank Stuever says the movie Sixteen Candles offered the hope, before life dashed it. Stuever urges women to finally admit that Jake Ryan is not coming for us. "Not in the red Porsche 944, and not wearing that Fair Isle sweater vest. Not with his shiny black hair moussed gently heavenward, not with his gooey brown eyes and square Matt Dillonesque jaw. He will not be standing there with his hands in the pockets of his 501 button-fly jeans (while leaning against said Porsche), and he will not be shyly waving at you from across the street. ("Yeah, you," he mouths, just as in the movie, after you look behind you to see what girl he could possibly be interested in.)"

So he's not coming. Fuck you Stuever! Can't we have our dreams? Since y'all aren't capable of living up to Jake's impossibly high standard (seriously though, who would dump the blonde cheerleader that puts out for red-haired freckle-faced Molly Ringwald?) let us have Jake on our TNT reruns dammit! A girl can dream.

All of the glorious movies mentioned never stray far from the same theme on high school stereotypes. Jocks. Cheerleaders. Nerds. Burners. Freaks. Geeks. Neomaxizoomdweebies.. Whatever.. But we can all identify because all the stereotypes are represented properly. We can find ourselves in there somewhere..

High school to a certain degree defines our personalities. For life. For the most part high schoolers are empty vessels waiting to be filled with pop culture, what's allegedly cool and not cool. The NOT COOL moniker is a sticky motherfucker. You can say you don't care, but in a way, you spend the rest of your life trying to prove those high school fuckers wrong. Clothes, hair styles, who you eat lunch with.. all of it takes on a ridiculously intense level of importance. You go to school to get grades, yet every day you're graded by your peers. And it's so easy to fuck up.

For much too long after high school, many of us secretly continue to believe those labels.. It's tough to shake that mental image of yourself. Were you fat in high school? You might be the thinnest person in the room now, but you still feel fat, don't you? Were you beautiful in high school? That's even worse because you will spend the rest of your life trying to be the pretty girl and inevitibly, you'll grow old. And depressed. I say being the beautiful person is worse than being a freak. A freak can always turn into the hottest person at the reunion. Everyone is secretly checking out the former beauty, glorying in every wrinkle, every pound of weight gained..

You either hate who you were in high school, always trying to escape that persona.. or as in the case of the former beauty you'll never live up to who you perceived yourself to be in high school (D.G. Nielsen, the asshole jock quarterback that tried to screw me in the back of his truck then ignored me the next day after I refused, I'm looking in your direction) Thing is, despite his obvious assholeness, everyone loved D.G., the football star. Because in the end, you are identified by the sport you may play, the clothes you wear, the car you drive, how you wear your hair. That's why we all love John Hughes. Because as obvious as his stereotypes are.. one of them rings a bell deep within us all. And we remember, even though many of us want to forget.

"Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it is we did wrong, but we think you're crazy for making us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us, in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out, is that each one of us is a brain, and an athlete, and a basketcase, a princess, and a criminal. Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, The Breakfast Club.