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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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Coney Island

I went to the beach today:

Click here for more photos of Coney Island fun!

And I rode the CYCLONE! Wanna come?



"You get avacados?" The Surge asks?
"Yup, right here.. As ripe as my fantastic ta-tas."
"I thought you said you could store nuts for the winter under the recent sag."
"Dude.. you don't need to remind me. Just engaging in a little positive self-affirmation is all."
"I'm just repeating what you said. I think you have an exquisite pair." My husband smoothly slides this last sentence into the conversation like a victorious baseball player sliding into home. Evidence that a man is never too old to train. It just takes a lot of screaming, crying, throwing of the wedding ring and the like.
"You think any pair is exquisite." I reply, pleased nonetheless. "Did you get taco shells and hot sauce?"
"Right here. You got onions?"
"Si senor. And tomatoes. I think our work here is done."
"I've only got twenty-four dollars on me. How much do you think this is going to come to?"
"I don't know, but we can't withdraw anything. There's nothing to withdraw. Rent check just cleared. I think our balance is, like, 50 cents. Maybe 60."
"Let's add this up."

We fall silent as each of us conducts our own mentally tally of the groceries in our basket. God forbid, we go above our cash limit, forced to shamefacedly ask the cashier if she can subtract the avacados, we can't afford them.
"Shit. I'm at twenty-one dollars already and we still haven't accounted for Diet Coke."The Surge says.
"We need milk too." I remind my betrothed.
"Oh." His face scrunches up as he runs numbers through his beautiful head like a professional bookie. "We can't afford both" he determines, sadly shaking his head.
"What's it going to be, milk or Diet Coke?" I ask.

We both pause to consider the greatest quandary of our day. Milk? Or Diet Coke? Hmmm... I let the air conditioned air lick my body, can hear electric snatches of Sheryl Crow crowing about soaking up the sun leaking out of the weak grocery store intercom.
"Diet Coke" we say in unison. And there it is.
Calcium? Please. Priorities, people.

Zits, Porn and Orange Hair

"Come on you fucker!" No, this was not The Surge and I engaged in marital relations, although come to think of it - the sentence is familiar... This was me shouting at the zit I was trying to pop while scowling into the mirror.

In unrelated news, yesterday whilst I was searching for a photo of Tara Reid cheerily smiling as her knocker leapt from her dress and waved vigorously at a gleeful, photo snapping press line (for, like hours) I stumbled onto some porn. Oh, stop - like you haven't googled "naked breasts" too. Please.

Anyway - I abandoned searching for Tara's boob (it was part of an email joke for a friend, I swear) and got to looking at the aforementioned porn.. It all started innocently enough. I landed on one of those naked celebrities sites. You know the kind that feature stills of actresses in nude scenes from "serious" movies so the rest of us can ogle without having to embarrassingly press the pause button during the actual movie to get a better look at Halle Berry's rack in Swordfish. Of course, these stills are from thoughtfully dramatic movies featuring earnest actors dedicated to their "craft - so the naked boobies are for art. They aren't gratuitous! Using this obviously flawless reasoning I immediately clicked to see naked Demi Moore, Drew Barrymore and so forth.

Two hours, Carment Electra and Angelina Jolie later a link popped up and before I knew it I was agog at couples (and groups! and animals! and reptiles, oh my!) contorted into positions the likes of which I didn't even know existed. The animals! Oh the innocent animals! But let us not talk of that. Maybe it's okay - it seemed like the 100 pound Doberman dressed in a tux was into it. After all, He DID get a peanut butter snack.

I haven't really looked at internet porn since I was young and thought all sex looked like Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in the famous beach scene in From Here To Eternity.

Aside: Sex on the beach. Not so much. Sand in the crack. Dirt in the mouth, ears, hair. S'like sex in the bathtub. Pret-ty awkward.

Until that first pornographic encounter I had no idea sex with normal folks was so.. well, so disturbing. And ugly. All the jiggling and shaking and the cellulite, my God the cellulite! Discovering the truth about sex (thank you HBO and your Real Sex featuring Grandma and her adventures at the swingers convention) cured me of all pornographic endeavors. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy an episode of Girls Gone Wild as much as the next person.. but viewing a full-on porn romp starring girls with breasts bigger than my head and pockmark-crater-assed guys sporting mustaches and snarling Elvis lips during orgasm - please.. I'd rather watch Tara Reid's boob pop outta that dress for three hours straight.

So there's that. Porn. And, in news kind of related to the zit I was attempting to pop, news I am more embarrassed to share than the fact I spent the better part of a weekday afternoon viewing porn... I haven't washed my hair in more than a week. Thing is, IT'S ORANGE! Screaming, crying ORANGE! Tantrum throwing, sobbing orange. Nobody cares whether it's clean. They're too busy soothing burnt retinas after the angry color has scorched their eyeballs. A color reminiscent of the Orange Fanta Slurpee throw up I once drunkenly spackled a gutter with. My fault. I was asking for it... drank it WAY faster than is generally advisable what with the very real and painful possibility of brain freeze and all.

But wait, there's more! In addition to the violent shade of orange flaming atop my noggin I've got about an inch of dark roots. Yesterday, when I was shaving the hair off my big toe in the shower it occurred to me; I am a walking Halloween decoration. Or Tony the Tiger. It's G--R-R-R-R-REAT!

Ghost Child (shades of gray)

You would be 12 years old. You would be finished with elementary school, excited to begin junior high. You would be crushing on various boys/girls, dreading taking a shower in gym class. You would have a favorite band. A favorite pop star. A favorite television program. You would be here.

You would be a person. With a name. Whether or not you were raised by me, you would be here, on earth. You would know who Britney Spears is. You would maybe vote for the next American Idol on your cell phone. You would have an opinion on Paris Hilton. You would have a favorite color. A favorite movie. A favorite food. You would have a favorite t-shirt and a favorite pair of jeans.

I killed you. Didn't I? DID I? Is there a "you"?

That's what they say.
"One thing that comes to mind when I think of abortion--murder. What gives us the right to take another life? Maybe it's the lack of responsibility or just simply the lack of knowledge."

I'm a murderer?

I knew what I was doing. I was no innocent. Or was I? At 17, I knew what abortion meant, I think. But I wasn't fully capable of understanding the psychological consequences.

Experts say that at the end of 8 weeks "your baby will be about a third of an inch long. Bones are beginning to form and fingers, toes, ankles and wrists are developing. By now, you'll probably 'feel' pregnant and may be experiencing some of the early side effects, like morning sickness. Your weight may also have increased slightly and your breasts may be sore and tender. Until the end of week 8 your baby is known as an embryo."

I aborted you at week 8. They sucked you from my body using their specialized vacuums that didn't feel very specialized and then they tossed you in the trash like so much garbage. Now, I spend the rest of my life marking ghost anniversaries, reconciling choice vs. abortion. And wondering.

But I am older now. Wiser. And if I could go back, I would do the same thing. If they took away my right to govern my own body I would and will fight them tooth and nail. Because I believe in a woman's right to choose. I do. But I also know that each woman that makes the mother of all decisions is forever haunted by her choice. There is no black, no white... just shades of gray.

I found out I was pregnant on July 26, 1994. I had an abortion on August 9, 1994. They made me wait 2 weeks because they wouldn't permit me to "terminate the pregnancy" until I was at least 8 weeks along.
I wouldn't permit myself to think of the life growing inside of me as a human. Ever. Some people say you weren't human. That you were just a mass of tissue and cells. Me? I don't know what to think. Either way I talked to you during the long drives to nowhere. I drove and I listened to U2 and Soul Asylum (this song). I used to drive into the Wasatch mountains and talk to you. I would throw up, listen to music, throw up some more and attempt to explain myself. And apologize for what I was about to do.
"I am a mess. I can't be a mother. I can't even take care of myself." I would sob to the mass of cells multiplying inside of me. Secretly, I felt like I should put you up for adoption. After all, my best friend Natalie was adopted and she has the greatest parents ever. I successfully justified my decision to abort with very adult sounding talk of future and education and what's best for everyone but deep inside I just felt selfish and afraid.

So tired that I couldnt even sleep
So many secrets I couldnt keep
I promised myself I wouldnt weep
One more promise I couldnt keep

It seems no one can help me now,
Im in too deep; theres no way out
This time I have really led myself astray...

Is there a "you"?

"PRO-CHOICE!" is the bold rally cry for that side of the debate. No one should be able to impose their morals on my body. I do believe those sentiments but will always struggle with this; that's not why I did what I did. At 17 I wasn't a feminist. I didn't give politics any thought. I just wanted it all to go away. I didn't want to be gossiped about. I didn't want to be pregnant and prove the Mormon neighbors right. I wanted to show those fuckers that Monica Butler was going places. Now here this, you fat bitch Sister Okey and your asshole sons that call my Mom a slut and make fun of my family for being on welfare, I am going places!

I dreamt of colleges, bricks stitched with ivy and handsome young professors sporting argyle sweaters and tweed jackets with elbow patches, engaged in discussions about important events! I dreamt of getting away from welfare and judgement and sex-is-badbadbadbadBAD. And so I did it. I got rid of you. And I will spend the rest of my life trying to reconcile my decision with my heart.

For me, the right to choose is important but the blanket term "Pro-Choice" falls short of defining my stance. It's a fist pumper of a mantra for empowerment that is becoming inextricably linked with feminism. And I'm proud of the women who fought to allow me to make the choice I made... yet "Pro-Choice" does little to comfort me when I think about you, if you exist.

Shades of gray.

Abortion. Termination. It means the end of something. A conclusion. But my decision to terminate was the beginning. The beginning of thousands of what ifs. The beginning of being haunted.

Where are you? Are you in Heaven? Does Heaven exist? Were you allowed to be born to someone else? A good mother? A righteous mother who earned the honor to welcome you into her life? Are you on the planet somewhere, living the life that I denied you? Or are you tethered to Heaven, waiting to confront me when I die? Will I ever meet you? Are you even a person?

Where ARE you?

Note: I am not interested in a debate on abortion. There is no comment you can make that hasn't already been made a million times either for or against.

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: