Tag Archives: Family


Cartoon used by permission: 257287_1290_rgb (1).jpg Thanksgiving In spite of ourselves by Monte Wolverton Battle Ground WA


Thanksgiving is coming.  Can I be honest with you?  I don’t like anything about the featured guest: Le Turkey.  I don’t like cooking it.  I don’t like the way it tastes. I don’t like the way its leftovers hang around forever. I don’t like the way the remains keep popping up for months on end in soups, casseroles, burgers, salads, tetrazzini, pot pies, and even tacos! However, I love Le Turkey’s sidekicks:  gravy, cranberry sauce, green beans, sweet potatoes (no marshmallows, please), mashed potatoes, stuffing (oh my God, do I love me some stuffing!), pecan pie with tons of whipped cream.  I can’t imagine celebrating T-Day without those hip-expanding yummies.

My hatred of the turkey goes deeper than the culinary, however.  When I was four years old, my mother took me into a place where they sold nothing but live chickens and turkeys. The room was the size of a one-car garage, the floor was barely discernable beneath the dust and debris, and the birds’ squawking was deafening. The poultry was in wooden cages and they were stacked against all four walls from floor to ceiling with a spillover of cages forming a fowl island in the middle of the store.  If you could survive the smell, the patrons would choose a live bird to be slaughtered on the spot, and it would be taken home to be plucked and cooked.  On this particular day a turkey, who stood taller than me, escaped his habitat and proceeded to terrorize me by chasing me around and around and around the butcher shop while pecking at my head and chubby legs until it drew blood.  My nightmares revisited that hellish scene of turkey-on-chubby-little-Black-girl-violence for years to come.

Cartoon used by permission: 232313_1290_rgb.png Chosen One by Pat Bagley The Salt Lake Tribune UT

Recently, I told some vegan friends of mine about my hatred of turkeys and my history with that one bird, and they said, “Oh my God Woman, you have turkey bias!  You’re a turkey bigot.”

“Not really.  I simply believe that the only good turkey is a dead turkey, but it doesn’t mean I have to like eating them. You don’t eat turkeys.”  

“We don’t eat turkeys because we respect the turkey.  We don’t eat anything that has a mother.  We are all one on God’s great Earth.  If you make peace with his animal planet, peace will be yours in return.  For Turkey’s sake, Girlfriend, you can’t judge an entire race of turkeys by one bad fowl encounter.  You’ve got to get out and get to know a few turkeys—to know them is to love them.  Find out who they truly are—not to eat them, but to become one with them.  You’re a communicator.  Go find some turkeys and interview them.”

Well, that is what I did.  It was a tad difficult because it seems the turkeys are on the lam—trying to avoid execution this week.  However, I found a rebel group leader (Mr. Meleagris Gallopavos) who agreed to be interviewed via email if I did not reveal his whereabouts.  So, I sent him a truncated copy of the Proust Questionnaire (a parlor game from the late 1800s made popular by the essayist and novelist Marcel Proust) that is usually used to access the true nature of humans.  I figured it should work just fine on a bunch of jive-time turkeys.

Cartoon used by permission: 257001_1290_rgb.jpg  Turkey Supply Chain by Dave Whamond Canada PoliticalCartoons com

PROUST ?:  What is your idea of perfect happiness?

TURKEY:  Thanksgiving is abolished from the land, and ALL Americans become vegetarians.

PROUST ?:  What is your greatest fear?

TURKEY:  Celebration of Thanksgiving becomes a monthly holiday.

PROUST ?:  What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

TURKEY:  That turkeys are such chicken-shits.  We should have led a revolution against the eating of our kind as soon as we got wind of this whole Pilgrim/Indigenous People dinner party event back in the day. Nipped this T-Day sucker right in the bud.

PROUST ?:  What is your current state of mind?

TURKEY:  Shear panic!  Every year approximately 45 million turkeys are eaten for Thanksgiving dinner.  That’s 675 million pounds!  You do the math: it’s only a matter of time before the butchers catch up with me and mine.

PROUST ?: On what occasion do you lie?       

TURKEY:  Whenever it suits me.  I’ll throw a brother chicken into the oven in my place faster than you can say gobble-gobble.

Cartoon used by permission: 187876_1290_rgb.jpg Fake news turkeys by John Cole The Scranton Times Tribune

PROUST ?:  What living person do you most despise?

TURKEY:  The Farmer in the Dell.  He takes a wife, a child, a nurse, a cow, a dog, a cat, a mouse, and even some cheese, but he never once saves a turkey.  He had the political power as a farmer to change the genocidal trajectory of the turkey, but he did nothing.  Well, I say “Hi-ho, the derry-o” to his sorry-ass.

 PROUST ?:  Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

TURKEY:  Duh!  “Gobble-gobble-gobble-gobble-gobble-gobble…”

PROUST ?:  What or who is the greatest love of your life?

TURKEY:  Oh Lord have mercy, my babies-mama!  That chick heard my matting call from over a mile away and came running.  She fell in love with my engorged snood, and the rest is history, Baby.

PROUST ?: What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

TURKEY:  Being butchered, feathers plucked, and roasted at 350 degrees for five hours. Not to mention being smothered in a brown sludge that humans call gravy.

Cartoon used by permission: 256976_1290_rgb.jpg Thanksgiving Turkey by Guy Parsons PoliticalCartoons com

PROUST ?:  Which historical figure do you most identify with?

TURKEY:  Benjamin Franklin.  Supposedly, he proposed that the turkey become the national bird instead of the bald eagle. (Actually, that story is a myth, but whatever.) He never slandered the turkey at least, but he sure ripped the Bald Eagle a new one: “…the Bald Eagle…is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly…[he] is too lazy to fish for himself.”  So there.  Why isn’t the Bald Eagle the juicy choice of slaughter for Thanksgiving?

PROUST ?:  What are your most marked characteristics?

TURKEY:  My eyes.  They can see three times better than humans and I can see in color.  My strut.  I can run at 25 MPH.  My feathers.  To date, I have 5, 500 feathers!  I am truly marvelous!

PROUST ?:  What do you value in your friends?

TURKEY: That we are birds of a feather who flock together.  In the wild, we have been known to travel in groups of 200 or more.

PROUST ?:  What is it that you most dislike?

TURKEY:  That my name is blasphemously used, and I don’t deserve that shit.  If something is a dud, it’s a “turkey.” If a Broadway show fails, it’s called a “turkey.”  If a human suddenly stops doing drugs, it’s called going “cold turkey.” In the seventies, an entire TV character’s main form of getting a laugh was when he called someone a “jive-turkey”—meaning, a fool.  George Jefferson “moved on up to the East Side with a deee-luxe apartment in the sky,” but he ruined my family’s life by using our name in vain. 

PROUST ?:  Finally, what is your motto?

TURKEY:  TLM. Turkey Lives Matter!

George Jefferson Meme/The Jeffersons TV Show (1975-1985)


Whatever you eat for Thanksgiving, it’s not the meal that matters as much as it is the gratitude of being together. I implore you to put aside the rancor, the resentment, past hurts, and old grievances.  What matters are the hugs, the smiles, the hope, the love, and the joy shared over a meal—be it turkey or tofu.  Let’s be thankful for each other because if the last two years have proven anything:  we are not guaranteed a tomorrow. 

Cartoon used by permission: 257376_1290_rgb.jpg Being thankful by Rivers CagleCartoons com

Eleanor Tomczyk is an author and a satirist who is an award-winning voice-over performer.  In 2011, she created the blog, “How the Hell Did I End Up Here” which features mostly satirical posts that have thousands of readers around the world—although she was recently banned in Pakistan (for real!).  Tomczyk’s three books were featured in a recent book festival: “Monsters’ Throwdown,” “Fleeing Oz,” and “The Fetus Chronicles—Podcasts to my Miseducated Self.”  Currently in her 70s and living life like it is freakin’ golden, she is a consummate storyteller and much sought-after motivational speaker.  If you don’t believe me, just ask her!

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Posted by on November 23, 2021 in Uncategorized


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“FOWL” CONVERSATIONS (A Thanksgiving Tale)

Do you know what I discovered about Americans recently? We need to shut our pie holes, if not for a year or two (preferred by the blogger), at least during the holidays. We just need to give our mouths a rest because the brains have clearly not caught up. That way we might learn to cultivate better conversations during our upcoming family holidays, or else there are going to be wars upon rumors of wars in our dining rooms across this great nation of ours.

A couple cases in point: Recently former Gov. Haley Barbour called President Barack Obama’s policies “tar babies” (pejorative term for African Americans and every southern white knows it).*  When confronted on his racist slam (not the first time he’s stepped over this line), Mr. Barbour gave the obligatory apology in his best Mississippi drawl (“Well, if I’ve offended anyone . . .”). Then Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) was questioned about an incident that happened a year ago when he called members of the Tea Party “white crackers,” (pejorative term for whites and every black person knows it). When confronted on his horrid choice of words, clueless Rep. Rangel said: “I thought [cracker] was a term of endearment.”** (Yep, Charlie, just like the “N” word is a term of endearment to you and me.)

Cartoon people fighting wallpaper

Google Image: Fighting Wallpaper

After angrily meditating on what these two knuckle-headed elected officials had vomited onto the public airways, I went to bed that night dreaming of what it would be like to live in a world where people talked pretty to each other all the time. As the night wore on, I dreamt that Congress passed a law that proposed a moratorium on foul speech until January 1, 2015. They said: “Given the vitriol that is coursing from sea to shining sea since the election of our first black president, we, your elected officials will come up with an approved list of bi-partisan, conversational recommendations that we could all engage in during the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays in order to keep the peace and foster good will across the land.” I got so excited about this endeavor that in my dream I sent out my first tweet:—looking for T-Day non-confrontational topics to send to Congress to help us act like civilized people #FowlConversations

But alas, alack, nobody was interested, and everybody ignored my request except the birds.

Bird Tweets Nate Beeler The Columbus Dispatch

Used by permission: Nate Beeler, The Columbus Dispatch

In my dream, I got tweets galore from millions of turkeys but absolutely no humans. No human wanted to give up their right to free speech, but every turkey in the land (those still alive) wanted to suggest that Turkey Liberation be the topic sent to Congress.  As the dream wore on, I entered a breakfast scene with my husband (WW), and we spoke about the almost Messianic vision of my quest for Turkey Liberation talking points.

ME: Babe, something amazing has happened. Nobody tweeted me back except birds—turkeys to be exact. I have millions of turkey tweets.  #FowlConversations is trending. I’ve become a celebrity! The turkeys want me to champion them as a topic for Thanksgiving dinner conversation before Congress. I’m so honored.

WW: What? You don’t even like birds and I don’t think they like you. As a matter of fact, some of your funniest Lucille Ball antics have happened from the attacks of birds.

ME: You sir, are not telling the truth!

WW: Oh really now. Let’s see, there was the time the pigeon took a rather sizeable dump while in mid-air on your brand new wig as you walked across campus, and you spent the rest of the semester plotting his demise—can the Greek chorus sing “rat poison peanut butter balls”? Then there was the blue jay that used to attack you every day for six months while you were jogging until you were forced to change your route. Do you still have that homemade sling shot? Oh, and what about that giant turkey who chased you around Old Man Henry’s poultry shop when you were just four years old? If anybody has seen you tear into a turkey leg, they would easily surmise you were engaging in a vendetta against an old foe.

ME: Poppycock! I like birds better than snakes and that’s all my turkey fans need to know. Besides I’ve become a vegetarian since learning that I had “The Sugar.” I’m a perfect champion for the turkey cause.

WW: You are a vegetarian who eats a little fish, some chicken once a week, and attacks a rare rib-eye steak with the passion of a vampire when you can’t stand the sight of another bean. I’m not judging, I’m just saying that the turkeys could get a better rep. Besides, weren’t you trying to recruit human input? What happened?

ME: I got all kinds of responses from humans on my author website: death threats, trolls threatening to turn me into a garroted turkey, and others claiming that I was trying to squelch their free speech. Screw them. I’m going to help the less fortunate—The Birds! Did you know that it isn’t just turkeys that are eaten on T-day? No bird is safe from our American knives and forks and gluttony.

Turkey Snoopy

Peanuts by Charles Schulz/Universal Uclick

ME: The way I figure it, if we as Americans can’t discuss politics, religion, racial equality, gender equality, marriage equality, and women’s reproductive rights (to name a few) with our families without coming to blows then we still need a subject that has passion, pathos, intrigue, and human, I mean animal, interest.  Do you know that the turkeys have tweeted me that as many as 46 million of them will be slaughtered this year to grace our Thanksgiving Day tables?

WW: Might I remind you, that you are a quasi-vegetarian and you ordered a turkey for T-Day—albeit free range—as soon as our frou-frou grocery store put out the list. Ergo, you are a hypocrite. May I also point out that people will not want to discuss Turkey Liberation of abused fowls while sucking the marrow out of a giant turkey leg dipped in giblet gravy? And Heaven forbid if you invite a real vegetarian to dinner, turkey shit will really hit the fan.

TD Massacre David Fitzsimmons The Arizona Star

Used by permission: David Fitzsimmons, The Arizona Star

ME: Well, fine, Mr. Know-it-all. What’s your suggestion as a safe Thanksgiving dinner topic?

WW: Gratitude—everybody genuinely discussing what they love about each other and what they love about their lives. You and I are on our last lap around this rodeo. We don’t need to fight with any relative or non-relative about anything. And if our guests can’t abide by our rules of shutting their pie-holes when things could go postal at the dinner table than they need not attend. I actually don’t think we hang with people like that anymore—they have long since been weeded out of the Tomczyk guest list. We just need to discuss what we are grateful for in this moment and time and bask in the wonder and glory of it all. After all, we could all live in Nigeria. And then maybe to fall asleep from an overdose of tryptophan on the couch after a second piece of pumpkin pie with my grandson in my arms. Yeah, that would be Heaven.

Thankful David Fitzsimmons The Arizona Star

Used by permission: David Fitzsimmons, The Arizona Star


I am discovering that staying away from topics that would anger and hurt each other may not be a discipline we can master as Americans. Let’s be honest with ourselves. We are a nation of people who ferociously guard our rights and opinions, and whoever screams the loudest considers themselves to be right on whatever the topic. Facts are of little value, but as my husband teaches his students: “passion does not equal being right.” Having a love-filled, laid-back, gracious Thanksgiving dinner—basking in each other’s presence—takes a lot of love, a lot of sacrifice, a lot of forgiveness, a lot of listening, and a lot of “letting go” of things that just don’t matter in the scheme of life. Wouldn’t it be great if we could discuss serious topics from different viewpoints and treat each other as we’d like to be treated?

Of course if having civil conversations can’t be done, I suppose Christmas shopping on Thanksgiving may not be a bad option if it keeps the peace (definite sarcasm).*** Or if push really comes to shove, some of you could sit around the Thanksgiving table and discuss Kim Kardashian’s bounteous bootie breaking the Internet as a trending topic—just so it doesn’t descend into a cacophonous argument and pistols drawn over the definition of who has the most bootylicious bottom, Kim Kardashian or Beyoncé (definitely, sarcasm . . . definitely).

TDay Shopping John Cole The Scranton Times Tribune

Used by permission: John Cole, The Scranton Times Tribune



I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land.”Jon Stewart

“I hate turkeys. If you stand in the meat section at the grocery store long enough, you start to get mad at turkeys. There’s turkey ham, turkey bologna, turkey pastrami. Someone needs to tell the turkey, ‘man, just be yourself.”Mitch Hedberg

“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance

“I like football. I find it’s an exciting strategic game. It’s a great way to avoid conversation with your family at Thanksgiving.”― Craig Ferguson

“Thanksgiving was nothing more than a pilgrim-created obstacle in the way of Christmas; a dead bird in the street that forced a brief detour.”Augusten Burroughs, You Better Not Cry: Stories for Christmas


Thanksgiving Dinner End Rick McKee The Augusta Chronicle

Used by permission: Rick McKee, The Augusta Chronicle





Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



Posted by on November 12, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Be Afraid—Be Very Afraid

Do you know what I’ve discovered?   I can’t roll with stupid.  Translation:  I have no use for people who are not critical thinkers—people who can’t think outside of the box to either get the job done or protect themselves or their loved ones from harm.   Besides, it is simply a matter of time before their stupidity will rub up against my life, and I am deep down inside a self-preservationist.  This “inability to think” disease is worldwide, it’s within the young and old and no single gender has a corner on the market of being an idiot.  This mental malady (lack of common sense) bothers me so much that I’m thinking of setting up an App where idiots can stop, drop, and roll and swipe-in to ask “What would Eleanor do?” (WWED) before they proceed at a critical juncture that could screw them over for life.  (This App is an offshoot of “Eleanor Save My Ass” [ESMA].)

idiots surrounded by them

The other day the Swiss government had to apologize to Oprah because one of its sales clerks sent her brains on vacation to Liechtenstein while her body hung back to wait on customers in an upscale Zurich boutique.  According to journalist Prachi Gupta, after popping over in her private jet to attend Tina Turner’s wedding, Oprah dropped into an exclusive boutique to check out some $38,000-a-pop purses because that is how you roll when you’ve earned 77 million dollars during the last year.   Oprah indicated she’d like to examine one of the purses because she was interested in a purchase and the conversation went something like this:

IDIOT CLERK:      “No. It’s too expensive.”

OPRAH:                “But I really do just want to see that one.”

IDIOT CLERK:      “Oh, I don’t want to hurt your feelings.”  (A polite Swiss way of saying:  fuck off, you “philistine.”)

OPRAH:                “Okay, thank you so much. You’re probably right, I can’t afford it.”

Now here is what I know about Oprah:  she knows how to make an exit, she never buys one of anything, and she’s extremely generous.  (We can discuss the idiocy of purchasing a $38,000 bag in a later blog.)  She didn’t pull out the celebrity card of “Do you know who I am?”—she just exited, and pulled the celebrity/power card on ET in an interview when she returned. That was critical thinking! Why blow up in the store when you have the world stage to state your case?  If I know my Oprah-girl, she was probably Christmas shopping for her female staff members and a couple of her male staff (I don’t know this—I’m just surmising).  But I bet my ass that right now the owner of that store is thinking this and is wringing his clerk’s clueless neck over the money they’ve lost.  If this chick hasn’t been murdered by her boss already, I’ll send her my WWED App for the future to help her engage in critical thinking. Of course, Miss Thang is saying it didn’t happen the way Oprah said it did, but she got called out for her idiocy and has almost caused a war with Switzerland—what else is she going to say: “Yes, I did it.  I’m a freakin’ idiot!”

Oprah Exit Cardow The Ottawa Citizen

Used by permission:  Cardow, The Ottawa Citizen

The problem with idiocy is when it rubs up against my life.  At the very least, it can be truly irritating and at other times downright dangerous.  I ran into a sampling of Generation Z the other day at an amusement park, and I almost set up shop right then and there to hand out my free WWED App.   (Generation Z:  born 1995-2010; first generation to be totally immersed in the Internet, vaguely remembers 9-11, doesn’t remember the invasion of Iraq, can’t write in cursive, and can’t tell time unless it appears digitally.)  This particular amusement park had staffed all its kiosks with 18 – 22 year olds.  At one point, WW took our four-year-old grandson off to a booth where he could shoot some balls into a hole and win a super cape.  The cynic in the group (me), who thinks those things are all rigged, went to a kiosk further up the road to lay down some cold hard cash and buy my boo a back-up cape (critical thinking) so that I wouldn’t end up with a screaming four-year-old having a meltdown in the middle of the amusement park from Hell—Grandma don’t play that.  Low and behold, WW won the “SD” (Scooby Doo) cape (what can’t this man do?), and I was stuck with a Superman cape, a moldable snake, and a super bear key chain (I tend to overcompensate as a GM).  I returned to the kiosk within 20 seconds where I purchased these items to do a simple exchange.

AMUSED-ME-NOT:  “Hi!  Remember me?  My husband just won a cape for my grandson” (I had grandson model cape for Generation Z clerk), “and I’d like to return the cape I purchased from you.”

GENERATION Z-EXHIBIT A:  “No-can-do!  Only a manager can exchange stuff.”

AMUSED-ME-NOT:  “That’s fine.  Get your manager.”

GENERATION Z-EXHIBIT A:  “She’s over in another section.  I can’t leave my booth.”

AMUSED-ME-NOT:  “Can’t you radio her or something?”


AMUSED-ME-NOT:  “Oh, for Pete’s sake.  Surely you have a way of getting ahold of your manager.  What if you were being robbed or suddenly had to pee?”


AMUSED-ME-NOT:  (Sigh!)  “You’re telling me you’d pee on yourself?  Fine . . . can you at least give me a bag to carry all this crap including a super cape I can no longer use?”


AMUSED-ME-NOT:  “And why not, for crying out loud!”

GENERATION Z-EXHIBIT A:  “Only my manager can give you a bag and she’s . . .

AMUSED-ME-NOT:   “. . . over in another section!  Auugggghh!”

Teen Cluelessness Pat Bagley Salt Lake Tribune

Used by permission: Pat Bagley, Salt Lake Tribune

I purposely kept my temper in check and wandered off to the next event:  Looney Tunes review for 1-5 year olds.   In the midst of the painfully, boring stage show being pantomimed by disinterested people in hot Looney Tunes costumes on a very hot afternoon, my daughter saw a man sidling up to children with single mothers—pretending to be part of their groups while he leered at the children within his reach.  It didn’t take my child long to establish that the creepy guy was demonstrating the actions of a pedophile—moving in to assess the land to either strike up a “friendship” with the mother or wander off with a toddler when the mother got distracted with several of her other kids.  The creep slithered up to my daughter and my grandson (not having seen his grandfather and me moving quickly towards them), and he leaned over and whispered something in my daughter’s ear, at which time she went all Medea on his ass while gathering our grandson into her arms [“DON’T TALK TO ME—DON’T YOU EVER TALK TO ME!”].   The potential pedophile escaped though the side exit, and I followed him.  Once again I tried to engage another Generation Z kiosk owner, only this time I knew I would be successful given the circumstances.  (What could be more rallying and motivation for critical thinking than a potential identification of a pedophile in the area where you have responsibility?)  After relaying all I’d seen to the young woman, I had the following exchange:

ALARMED-TO-THE-GILLS:   “Young lady, see that man just two yards in front of you—the one with the striped shirt, glittery baseball cape, about six feet tall, green eyes, and leering at those two toddlers on the bench—he’s the one I told you about.  While we have him in eyeshot, I need you to get Security over here ASAP before this dude gets away.  He’s up to no good.  Hurry, please!”

GENERATION Z-EXHIBIT B:  “Ah. . .yeah I see him.  He does look creepy.  What you want me to do about it?”

ALARMED-TO-THE-GILLS:   “Call Security!  At the very least they should question him and follow him.”

GENERATION Z-EXHIBIT B:   “Well, I don’t have any way to contact Security and I can’t leave my kiosk.”

ALARMED-TO-THE-GILLS:   “Do you have a phone?  Your generation can’t piss without a phone!”

GENERATION Z-EXHIBIT B: “Um, yeah, but I don’t know Security’s number.”

ALARMED-TO-THE-GILLS:   “Oh, for Pete’s sake, what would you do if someone started stabbing another person in front of you or stole all your Looney Tunes merchandizing shit?  Just stand here?”


GENERATION Z-EXHIBIT B:  (As my daughter and I ran off looking for the non-existent rent-a-cops, I mumbled and shook my head.)  ”Be afraid, be very afraid.  I’ve just run into our future bankers, legislators, teachers, scientists, preachers, firemen, and policemen—etc.—and, America, we are in deep do-do!”

stupidity demons ianchadwick dot com


I am discovering that younger generations don’t have a corner on the market regarding lack of critical thinking—they are just more obvious about it.  Although there is a great open letter floating around the Internet that went viral from a retired high school teacher to all college professors about how matriculating classes (testing off the charts and AP course-loaded) are woefully unprepared for life.  Mr. Kenneth Bernstein accuses Generation Z of not being able to think analytically or very broadly because they’ve been taught to learn to test.* Generation Zs are fabulous testers but they are horrid “real-life” problem solvers.

But I am also discovering that their Baby-Boomer leaders are not much better.  When I returned home from the amusement park, there was a newspaper article talking about a story that had been featured on our local TV affiliate.  The story was about a church WW and I had once attended.  We had been drawn to the church for a short while because it advertised itself as an excellent fit for Baby Boomers who had a vision for community, serving the poor and intellectual stimulation regarding spiritual growth.  WW and I left (running, not walking) when we noticed this particular church’s lack of respect for women, lack of intellectual stimulation from anything outside of what their leaders had written, and lack of tolerance for anyone different from them.

Here is what my critical thinking—my ability to think broadly and analytically—has taught me:  where there are no mentally healthy women in leadership or where women are disdained, the abuse of children is not far behind as part of the church’s MO.  I didn’t have to wait around to see this happen at that church, I knew it was coming, and thus the exit stage left.

The story featured in our newspaper laid out the class-action sexual and physical abuse lawsuits regarding children from 3 – 16 years old.  The Baby-boomer pastors had been covering up the scandal to protect the leadership and the church’s reputation—much like the Catholic Church—for twenty years.   There were also some parents who were complicit in the cover-up due to their inordinate loyalty to the preachers. When the lack of critical thinking amongst the Baby-Boomer pastors finally gets unraveled in this mega-church story, this could easily turn out to be the worst sexual abuse scandal in the evangelical Christian world.  After the day I’d had at the amusement park, my only response was:


Church Sex Abuse against children Mike Keefe Cagle Cartoons

Used by permission:  Mike Keefe Cagle Cartoons

 “There’s less critical thinking going on in this country on a Main Street level – forget about the media – than ever before. We’ve never needed people to think more critically than now, and they’ve taken a big nap.”—Alec Baldwin (I find this very true statement to be very funny coming from a man who can’t keep his foot out of his mouth on any given day.)

 “If there was one life skill everyone on the planet needed, it was the ability to think with critical objectivity.”― Josh Lanyon, Come Unto These Yellow Sands

“Efforts to develop critical thinking falter in practice because too many professors still lecture to passive audiences instead of challenging students to apply what they have learned to new questions.”—Derek Bok

 “If we are not prepared to think for ourselves, and to make the effort to learn how to do this well, we will always be in danger of becoming slaves to the ideas and values of others due to our own ignorance.” William Hughes



Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Posted by on August 13, 2013 in Uncategorized


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Home Grown Terrorists

(Please excuse my missed holiday blog reentry date on 1/5/12 as was previously promised, but I was taken out by a home grown terrorist—thus the subject of this post!)

Do you know what I discovered over the holidays?  Pull together a bunch of 3 – 6 year olds and you could form your own terrorist cell that could wipe out anyone, any town, any country, or any nation at your command because they stealthily engage in CBW:  Chemical Biological Warfare.  Since this is information that is so volatile, I feel it should be conveyed immediately. It works on a Trojan horse system (you only need one carrier depending on the square footage).  Send them in as “cute ambassadors” masquerading as little grandchildren or siblings, cousins or nieces and nephews with just a stuffy nose with a gentle sneeze or two, and something equivalent to the bubonic plague ensues on all those with a compromised immune system due to overwork, lack of sleep, auto-immune diseases, just being old, or people who don’t eat meat (vegetarians—you don’t stand a chance).  

I’m writing this blog while lying on the floor with a bottle of Gatorade intravenously dripping into my vein after having had my ass kicked by a 3-year-old terrorist who, having spent Christmas with me, simply kissed me on the cheek with a sweet smile, patted me on the back, and then vanished on the Amtrak line headed north.

I’m down for the count with a fever, chills, sinus infection, no feeling in my legs, no ability to stand up for more than five seconds at a time, no appetite (which means you know I’m dying) and no ability to swallow or think.  I never saw it coming.  Said three-year-old entered my home with no other accomplices except his handler.  The “terrorist’s” nose was stuffy and he gently sneezed once or twice (we all thought it was an allergy to the live Christmas tree), but that was it.  He was so sweet and entertaining.  How on Earth could he have been lethal?  We had a very pleasant time with him with lots of activities and games, and he was a champ.  The only time I suspected he was a “little off” was when he would stop and “belt” out a perfectly-pitched-full-throated-operatic-Maria-Callas-“A”-note as if sounding a secret alarm to someone, but since that was always done with a smile, we just thought it was hysterical and quirky—nothing more.  I didn’t start feeling a little under the weather until the funky “Madagascar Ice Show” we attended on his behalf, but it wasn’t enough to draw my attention.

Ice Show (notice “said terrorist” in bottom right with calculated look of destruction)

Blogger is second from left at top and sinking from weakness in knees and slight dizziness (hoping picture taking will end soon before I collapse)—first sign of CBW attack taking effect

Disclaimer:  Sister of blogger top left says to let my readers know—“I AM NOT FAT!  One of baby terrorist’s tricks is to make ice parkas puff up to make one appear three times larger than life!”


I read an article some years ago in the Smithsonian magazine written by Natalie Angier about Bonnie Bassler. Dr. Bassler studies microbial communicators at Princeton, and she seems to be a person who has great insight into body marauders and squatters.  According to Ms. Angier, Dr. Bassler contends that bacteria can talk, are multilingual, have their own dialects, and can send signals to one another — rallying each other to wage warfare. One of Dr. Bassler’s experiments is to block the little buggers from locating their relatives and ganging up on their human hosts. She contends that while some may be harmless when they are alone, if they can locate their peeps and communicate with them, determining that they have a sizeable quorum, they will engage in a malicious war agenda against the human body. The journalist underscored that their attacks can range anywhere from instigating plaque wars against our teeth or destroying half of Europe in the form of the bubonic plague.

I am convinced that 3 to 6 year olds are in contact with the bacterial buggers disovered by Ms. Bassler, and consequently they are capable of taking over the world by letting the bacteria know they’ve infected a host.  But a one-off incident does not a theory make.  I did some research and got notification from other friends who were down for the count after visiting their grandchildren and little nieces and nephews during the holiday season, and they provided conclusive evidence that when they returned home they were unable to function or stand, had come down with the strep throat from Hell, the flu from sub-Hell, the sinus infection from Satan’s den, fever and chills from the Devil’s demons, diarrhea from the most infested swamp on Earth, and had become highly contagious enough to wipe out a Metropolis.  Most of the sickies (including me) ended up in Urgent Care Centers in lines with hundreds of other miserable souls–or so it seemed.

So here’s my proposal to the Pentagon and other people who want to work mayhem on the Earth.  Need more weapons with lower overhead? I’ve got a new weapons system for you—all you need to run this program is tender-loving-care and a strong immune system!


  • Operatives should be a herd of 3 -6 year olds.
  • All operatives must have handlers who are mommies, nannies, and nursery school or grandmother commandos (I’m told that these handlers eventually become immune or can be shored up with large doses of vitamin c as long as they are not above 70 or so).
  • Send these urchins out in groups of ones, twos, and threes to people you absolutely hate and want to take out—the more adorable the CBW carriers the better the CBW strike
  • Best to come in undercover (Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, a birthday, family reunion) so that activity is not suspect.
    • Have operative plant biological infestation with one or two kisses and a delicious hug on the target and the work will be done (I’ve been told by one of my peeps that 14 three-year-olds in a nursery school can return home after a week at play and take out a village in a weekend).
    • Send in the drones (whomever you’ve chosen to “kick ass” and clean up) five days later while your enemies are all writhing on the floor and trying to suck chicken soup through a straw to survive.
    • Once the bacteria is deposited—remove your operative and handler immediately and return to home base so that no one comes under suspicion.

Our commando came to us with sparkling eyes, a beautiful smile, and a charming disposition.  Everything about him was delightful.  He laughed on cue, posed on “say cheese,” and danced like a baby Michael Jackson.  My operative would stop in mid-stream and his butt would wiggle to the inner perfect syncopation of MJ’s “Thriller” as if he had been programmed with it from birth.

CBW surveying usNotice sneaky surveillance look when he thought I wasn’t aware

No matter where you took him he stole the show and was perfectly behaved.  He was inquisitive and amazingly smart.  If you said:  “Baby:  please stop and pretend to smell the Christmas flowers,” he’d not only smell them but he’d pretend to listen to them as if they were talking to him and sending him coded messages. (Now I think that is exactly what they were doing!)

He seemed so innocent when he collapsed from sheer exhaustion after opening the thousands of presents with his name on them on Christmas Day.  Who knew that he was simply resting because his CBW had been transferred to me?

I haven’t been able to drive or walk up and down stairs since the three-year-old operative and his mother departed.   When I called his mother about the home grown terrorist, she said she couldn’t talk because he had barricaded her in the kitchen upon their return with an intricate twine contraption, was checking in with headquarters, and was setting up strategy for his next terrorist campaign.

Notice 2-panty head-gear that seems to be de reiguér with convoluted Sippy cup in hand


I am discovering that I don’t know about anybody else’s little terrorist, but my CBW visitor was pretty darn adorable and irresistible, so I’m going to have to figure out a way to reengage with him but with a preplanned infusion of Emergen-C© a month before he arrives.  In the meantime, I need to ring the servant’s bell for WW (my husband) to bring me some more chicken soup, have him click “publish” on this post, and take nap number “three” today while WW responds to my blog comments.  See you on Thursday (I hope)—our regularly scheduled blog time.   And in the meantime:  Be afraid – be very afraid!

The Author (still alive after the holidays, thank God!)

Text and photos by Eleanor and John Tomczyk © 2011

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Posted by on January 7, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Santahatesme Support Group

Do you know what I’ve discovered?  Even though it has been over sixty years of me giving and receiving Christmas gifts, I am still in a state of shock at some of the gifts I’ve gotten from people.  The one that best comes to mind is the one I got from my mother-in-law at the beginning of my marriage (God rest her soul—I think?) that passive-aggressively declared to any and all who were watching:  “I’m smiling on the outside that I have a new daughter-in-law, but I am pissed as hell on the inside that she is fucking black—why me, God?”

My mother-in-law took utmost pride in the fact she had official papers from the Daughters of the American Revolution, and that she was a direct descendent of Governor Bradford of the Mayflower.  She didn’t have a lot of money but at least she had her lineage, her pride, and her whiteness until her first-born son (the one she just knew would be president someday) came home one Christmas and said:  “I’m in love with a beautiful ebony queen:  Surprise, surprise, surprise!”

During the few short years she deigned to  speak to us, most of her gifts went straight from the postman’s hands into the bin for the poor because they were usually so awful (anything pulled off the triple-clearance rack to check our names off her list would satisfy her).   But there is one present that my husband (WW) and I hung in the hall of shame as the “worst gift” ever, under the sign:  “Oh no, she didn’t!”   I hadn’t thought of the gift in question for years until the other day when I took a nap after too much brandy in my eggnog moose ears, and I dreamt about a Santa’s Support Group for “weird-gift survivors.”

(Google Image) 


Google Image 

SANTA:  “Welcome, one and all!  As you all may know, except that little guy and his wife sitting in the back from the lost tribe of the Amazon, my name is Santa Claus, formerly known as St. Nick, and I “do” presents.  I invited you all to drop by to informally start a “weird Christmas gift support group” because, frankly, I’ve gotten tired of the complaints.  Ever since I started my own Facebook page, it has been inundated with complaints about weird gifts you thought I had something to do with.  I’m here to first and foremost declare my innocence regarding inappropriate gifts.  Santa is not guilty.  But I do feel your pain because last year one of my peeps gave me a gift certificate to Weight Watchers along with a Gillette razor.   Hello!  Obviously, they didn’t know me.  Can we all say together:  ‘Don’t mess with the tummy and the beard—facial hair and fat equal job security?’  Having said that, I understand that there are some real grievances amongst you and being the good guy that I am, I thought I’d let you get them off your chest.

“Hum, how about “Eleanor, the blogger?”  Why don’t you come up to the front and tell us your story since you’re the one who started all the brouhaha on my social media page.”

The Blogger:  “Thanks Santa.  Hi everyone, my name is Eleanor and I’m a weird-gift survivor.  I’ve been without the urge to kill my gift giver for three years now.  Praise God.”

The Group:  “Hi Eleanor—welcome to ‘Santahatesme support group!’”

The Blogger:  “Thank you for a safe place to come and try to get healing from these horrible memories.  Let’s see:  My downhill spiral started the third year of my marriage when my sister-in-law gave my mother-in-law a silk flower arrangement she had had especially made by an artist friend of hers for me.  It was to be a house-warming present, and since my mother-in-law had volunteered to mail all the family presents to my husband and me, my sister-in-law dropped off the floral arrangement before Christmas and went on about her business.  When WW and I opened the presents on Christmas Day (two modest presents each for the kids, a sweater-from-hell for WW, an orange and purple gaudy handbag for me, and my sister-in-law’s floral arrangement for our new house), we couldn’t do anything but gasp in horror:

Goggle Image

“The Mother had mailed a floral bouquet that had a tag on it from my sister-in-law to me, wishing me a Merry Christmas.  What WW and I pulled out of the box was an old, three-layer, dust-encrusted, silverfish infested, mite invaded silk flower arrangement whose colors had long been muted by dust and age.   I am extremely allergic to dust so the entire floral arrangement set of a chain of hysterical sneezing and itching that caused me to break out in a horrid round of hives that kept me laid up through Christmas.  Well, you can imagine the hurt and the confusion, Santa.  What signal was my sis-n-law sending?  What had I done to her?  How would I ever be able to build a relationship with her after such a hateful gift?”

Santa:  “What did you do (rhetorical question, everyone, because next to ‘you know who,’ I always know who has been naughty or nice)?”

The Blogger:  “I did nothing.  I was new to the family—I wanted to fit in, yada, yada, yada.  I felt if my sister-in-law could be that nasty, then why bother to engage her at all.  I thanked her for the “present” and went on with my life.  I had my man and he was the greatest gift that could come from them.

“But then, Santa, something weird happened.  Six months later, WW, the kids, and I went to visit “The Parents,” and when we drove up to the house, my sister-in-law arrived at the same time, and we all walked through the front door together.  She and I both happened to glance at a magnificent silk flower arrangement on my mother-in-law’s sideboard as my sister-in-law asked her Mom in confused surprise:  ‘That’s just like the arrangement I sent to Eleanor—I can’t believe you had Flora’s Flowers make you one exactly like hers.  Mom, when did you get this and why didn’t you get a different one?’  As my mother-in-law sputtered and stuttered about why she chose a duplicate arrangement, I looked into her eyes and I knew she had stolen my beautiful flower arrangement and put my sis-n-law’s tag on something she’d had in the attic for years. She looked back at me and I could tell that she knew that I knew.  As my mother-in-law turned beet red and scurried off into the kitchen, I thought to myself:  keep your flowers bitch, I’ve got your son—game on.”

Google Image

Santa:  “Yikes, that one slipped by me!  It sounds like that was pretty rough on you, Eleanor.  I’m curious, did your mother-in-law like the gifts you gave her?”

The Blogger: “Never.  Nothing was ever good enough or up to her specifications. Anyway, I’ve long forgiven her and she has been dead quite a while now so the sting is gone.  Her ‘gift’ kept me from gaining a mother I never had and her from gaining a daughter who would have loved and adored her.  At her funeral, none of her kids spoke on behalf of her life—they remained silent and so did I (I guess I wasn’t the only one whose presents she had screwed over).   One of the reasons I started that write-in campaign to your Facebook page is because I wanted to help other families try and get healed from weird-gift syndrome before it was too late.  I figured you were just the dude who could help.”

Santa:  “Interesting…interesting.  Okay, let’s hear from some others then.  Since we’re doing bad mother-in-law gifts, why don’t we have ‘Angie from Peoria’ come on up.”

Angie:  “Hi everyone.  My name is Angie and I’m a weird-gift survivor.  I’ve been clean now for six months.”

The Group:  “Hi Angie, welcome to ‘Santahatesme!’”

Santa:  “Would you guys cut it out!  There are other names you can call this group.  Sheesh-Louise!”

Angie:  “When I was six months pregnant my husband’s fraternity brother gave me a “one in the oven” cookie-cutter gift set for Christmas.  I brought a picture to show you, but it is going to be hard for me to get through this without throwing up.  It’s called “Fetus cookies: a special gift for the mom to be.”

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The Support Group (screaming in unison):  “EEEYEUW!”

Santa (yells via PA system for janitorial service):  “Clean up—janitorial cleanup—left of the podium and all across the front row!  Okay, gang, while the janitor mops up this avalanche of today’s lunch, let us bring up a gift that is weird but not so gross, shall we?  I’ve got a year’s worth of cookies and milk in my body, and I just can’t take anything that gives me an upset stomach.”

90-year old black grandmother (angrily yells from the back row as she gesticulates with her cane):  “Then I guess I shouldn’t bring up my Christmas present of “his-and-her” vibrators given to me by my 95-year-old husband, huh?  You do know his randy-ass present idea was inspired by the gift of a year’s supply of Viagra that you gave him–don’t you Santa Baby?  And now I don’t have a moment’s peace?  I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in months.  Did you lose your ever-lovin’ mind, Santa Claus?  Just because these mens ask for stuff, don’t mean you has to answer.”

Santa:  “Sorry, Bernice!”

20-year old Rapper shouts from the audience (think Eminem): “Shit Santa, take a look at the Christmas gift from my granddaddy that is hanging behind you.  What the fuck, man?  This thing will destroy my rep, but I loves my pops, so I gotta hang it up!” Image

Santa:  “Stop it—all of you!  Oh, for God’s sake (and I mean that literally)—it is His birthday.  Get ahold of yourselves.  Show a bit of decorum.  Now calm down and let’s bring up someone less inflammatory.  My list says that there should be a Jim (average dad) present.  Jim, are you here?’”

Jim:  “Yeah sure.  Hi everyone, my name is Jim and I’m a weird-gift survivor.  I’ve been clean for one year now.”

Santa:  “Welcome Jim what’s your weird-gift trauma?”

Jim:  “Santa, I have lived for my kids, and I’ve done so without complaint.  I worked three jobs to put them through college and they never lacked for anything.  They have all graduated and are now back in the house living off me and their mother because they can’t find a job; I get it, and I’m glad to help.  But, you would think that four kids could have found a gift more conducive to who and what I am; instead they gave me a gift that ‘Cleans your way to sculpted calves while you scoot along.’   Are you shittin’ me Santa?!”

Google Image

Santa:  “Actually, Jim, that is a gag gift created by ‘The Onion.’   It just shows your kids have a sense of humor.  Surely they gave you something else?”

Jim:  “No, but my wife knit me this sweater.  Do I kill myself now or after Christmas?”

Google Image

Santa:  “(Sigh) I’m beginning to see the picture and understand your pain—no wonder you’re pissed at me.  Lord Jesus, help us!  We have time for one more, although I can’t imagine much worse.  How about the couple in the back that registered as ‘Mr. and Mrs. 99%?’”

Mr. and Mrs. 99%:  “Hello, everyone.  We’re brand new to the weird-gift thing and we’re barely holding on.  We don’t know if we can overcome our hurt.  We’re confused and dazed and we are kind of wondering if there is a God because we’ve lost our homes, our jobs, our savings, our hope, and our trust in our government (especially the current Congress) and the financial institutions that bet against us not being able to pay our mortgages.  The other day, all the 99% got this present from The Tea Party, the Republican candidates, the Republican Congress, the college school loan institutions, and some (not all) of the 1%.  We each got an empty plastic ball that said, “Nothing from nothing leaves nothing.”  The card that accompanied it said it is the ‘Gift of nothing which is yours to discover.’  Santa, what are we to do?  When did we get to this time and place where the few can basically say to the many, ‘I’ve got mine, baby, if it sucks for you—get a job!’” Image

I came out of my eggnog induced sleep before I heard Santa’s answer, but I am discovering that if we have people in our lives whose gifts can’t be given from the heart, or the gift-giving is laced with cynicism, and the gifts are just given out of tradition or obligation, maybe we shouldn’t be giving them gifts at all.  Maybe it’s time to really get into the spirit of Christmas and channel our hard-earned money to causes that will give gifts that can change the world.  In every city and every town there are hurting people who, but by the grace of God go us, aren’t lazy or not trying hard enough—they’ve just been screwed over.  I’m thinking our greatest Christmas gift to the hurting world swirling around us is to become a “noticer”—(no turning away, no scurrying past the pain, just really seeing what is in front of us)—then the appropriate gifts have no choice but to follow.

The Author

Best of all, Christmas means a spirit of love, a time when the love of God and the love of our fellow men should prevail over all hatred and bitterness, a time when our thoughts and deeds and the spirit of our lives manifest the presence of God. —George F. McDougall


If you live in the D.C. area, one of the best organizations I know that truly “notices” humanity is N Street Village.  Please check it out this Christmas if you have a moment:


All text and photos by Eleanor and John Tomczyk © 2011 , except where otherwise noted.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Posted by on December 16, 2011 in Uncategorized


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I’ll Be Home for Christmas


Do you know what I’ve discovered?  No matter how hard I try, I don’t have anything original to say about Christmas.  I’ve almost worried myself into a heart attack this week trying to come up with something pithy to say in my 2011 Christmas letter.  I got nothing—bupkis!   It’s all been done.  After days of fretting, the only thing I can say is that my three favorite Christmas stories are A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation by John Hughes, and The Christmas Story by Jean Shepherd.  Put those three stories together (which I watch every year) and you’ll get my humorous take on all things Christmas.

I will tell you that in my 63 years of existence, my Christmases have been touched by horror and by deep pain, but they have also been graced with weird wonderment and joy, while being tangled up in multiple cords of three-twined commercialism, with massive bows of:  if the family portrait of what you think Christmas is supposed to be can go wrong, it will go wrong.  My first Christmas was my first memory in life (three years old), and it found me trying to rescue my one and only toy off the top of a frozen eviction pile heaped high outside a padlocked house in The Cleve, while my mother dissolved into her first wave of schizophrenia right before my eyes.  But that is the opening to my memoir (When Monsters Come Out to Play), so that Christmas story can’t be told here but hopefully will have the good fortune of being published next year.  Are you listening, Santa, Baby?

You can imagine since I met my husband (White and Wonderful) thirty-eight years ago, that I have tried to “live the Christmas dream” I never had when it came to creating a wonderful holiday for my children.  I always thought that if Christmas was great for the kids, then it would translate to our children all was right with the world.  Sometimes I hit the target right in the bull’s-eye, and sometimes I missed it by a mile.  Because as a family, you’ll never know who or what’s going to show up (or not show up) on any given Christmas, given the fine print on every family Christmas photo that says, “Have a Merry Christmas, but don’t forget when it comes to humans—all kinds of shit can hit the fan.”

Google Image

All of us have the illusion that the “heart” of our family Christmases should look like an 1800’s postcard which shows an adoring family, grateful for their modest gifts (no brats screaming in protest about the presents they didn’t get), wise and caring grandparents (not grumpy or cranky at all), and contentment with our lot in life, because we’ve only known good bounty from the hand of a loving God.  Even I have this Christmas illusion which is pretty pathetic because there are never any black people to be found in these “perfect” portraits.  Have you ever noticed that?

Google Image

If I were putting paint on canvas, my portrayal of Christmas would always be with warm colors, cordial people (including black and brown people all over the painting), loving smiles full of laughter and joy, and lots of good food and drink.  No one would ever get sick—no one would ever be short-tempered.  No family member would ever get Alzheimer’s, and no women would get breast cancer.  No planes would ever be late traveling home for Christmas, no toilets would ever overflow, no parents would ever argue, no teenagers would ever run away, no one would die on or near Christmas, no parent would lose his/her job, and no home would be foreclosed upon.  But the problem we all live with is that we all have weird relatives (and we’re just a little bit crazy ourselves), patchy histories, economic downturns, latent jealousies, death in our midst, and unresolved hurts.  So when we gather together for the holidays we sit down before the Christmas tree with a powder-keg of the crazies in a Griswold moose glass for our family Christmas toast.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation “Eggnog Moose Glass”/Google Image

Addams Family/Google Image

Some of us share Christmas with parents who love each other in a weird sort of way, but the kids are bat-shit crazy and borderline psychotic.  Of course, upon closer analysis of the extended family (uncle, grandmamma, and the butler), we see why the kids never had a chance to be sane and in reality should never be left alone with the uncle, grandmamma, or (god-forbid) Lurch, the butler.

The Griswolds (National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation)/Google Image

Before the economic downturn, many of us had slightly upper middle-class families where the husband worked at some ball-crushing job just living for his year-end bonus that he managed to lose just before Christmas.  That bonus would have made everything “perfect” for his family—from award-winning holiday lights and tree—to the perfect roast, perfect gifts, and ultimate Christmas family portrait.  The only problem is that neither he nor his family is perfect, and no matter how upper-middle class you and I become, we’ll always have the type of relatives who join us for the holidays because we have money and they don’t, who proudly announce:  “Shitters full!”  They belong to us for a reason—they are God’s gift to keep us humble.


The Gallaghers in “Shameless”/Google Image

There are a few of us (maybe a lot more now since the emergence of the 99%) who grew up with the Gallaghers (of Showtime fame) as a family, and we are a mess as a family unit—“every six ways from Sunday.”  This was more my type of family base as a kid—only instead of alcohol being the co-parent, schizophrenia was.


Huxtable TV Family/Google Image

Most of us would like to be the Huxtable family—smart and beautiful—with a lawyer and doctor for parents who are just perfect with children.  The children are smart, respectful, and never, ever do drugs or walk on the wild side.  All their family crises can be solved in 30 minutes.  This is the exact type of family I tried to recreate with my own children once I became an adult (with an uber-Christian patina), given my ignoble beginnings (minus two of the kids and recasting Bill Cosby as a white man to match WW, of course).  But unlike the TV sitcom where the events are controlled by writers, “shit happens,” and reality really messes with the Huxtable image in a way no sitcom script could ever convey and still remain funny.

I am discovering that we all have the ability to have a couple of perfect Christmases, but “perfect” is not always our due.  With the DNA of our families, the sins we’ve committed against each other, and the devastation of living on Earth and what it can do to us, all we can do is dip ourselves in love and hope for the best when we cross the same threshold.  This year our family will come together in its total configuration, for the first time in a long time, and we are beyond ecstatic about this holiday because we know more than life itself, it is about us all being together—laughing, eating too much, cuddling, watching movies, cooking together, and sharing portions of the scary stories of our journeys that have made us the resilient family that we are.  But before anybody steps foot in my house (family, friend, or fan), I’m making all my guests read and observe the following Christmas vacation rules:

Leave your egos at the door

Come together with a servant’s heart willing to help each other

Share (just like in kindergarten)

Let go of your anger

Embrace each other with love and forgiveness

Repent for the wrongs you’ve done to one another

Flush the memories of the hurts done to you down the toilet

Don’t rehash the past (what is done is done and it can’t be undone)

Appreciate everything you receive as a present, even if you don’t wear hats or listen to country music

Listen (really listen with every fiber of your being) to each other’s stories, because they carry multiple secrets about our joys, our pain, our hopes, and our dreams

For the uber-religious in our midst—turn down the volume and listen (don’t, I say, DON’T go ballistic like you did that time over an Obama for President button pinned to a wig-head stand [to tell you the truth, I had forgotten it was there], assuming you knew what I was thinking).  Remember, “When you assume, you make an ass. . .”

No disparaging gay jokes or racial humor!

  Bring genuine hugs and kisses because that works for all genders and races. 

For the “I don’t believe in God”—unplug your ears and listen, you may learn something.

Say “I love you” in a sincere manner at least once to every family member and friend before you leave.

No politics allowed!

We all know what you feel about everything—we’ve seen your Facebook pages, remember.  We’re just going to come together as “family” and our only political platform is love.

Actually, I didn’t quite get it right at the beginning of this Christmas letter.  My favorite Christmas story which infuses all Christmas stories is the original one—the birth of my Messiah, whose name they called “Immanuel.”   Immanuel means, “God with us,” and it means to me the hope and healing needed to survive our families and the other families of man that don’t quite get it right when it comes to cherishing our hearts and our existence, our bodies, and our dreams.

Merry Christmas to you and to us all


May the love of God be with you and yours, today and everyday!

In any case, if you need me or want to get in touch, I’ll be home for Christmas.  Love, Eleanor

The Author

“A scientist said, making a plea for exchange scholarships between nations, ‘The very best way to send an idea is to wrap it up in a person.’ That was what happened at Christmas. The idea of divine love was wrapped up in a Person.” – Halford E. Luccock

All text and photos by Eleanor and John Tomczyk © 2011 , except where otherwise noted.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Posted by on December 9, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Sneaky Snake’s Blog

Do you know what I’ve discovered?  The entire world is blogging.  It seems everybody has an opinion about something, and the Internet is awash with his or her viewpoints.  I don’t care what you think or how you think about it, someone will have already put those concepts into a blog before you have even formed the thoughts.  The blogs are from all types of people, with every type of proclivity, in every country on the globe, and in every language that is printable.  Still, even knowing all that, I was stunned to run across the blog site of The Devil the other day.  There it was in plain sight on a popular blog site having been “freshly pressed” (featured as the “best” of some 350,000 bloggers).  I’ve got to tell you that that was a real pisser (my blog hasn’t even been freshly pressed), because the blogger had stolen some of my pictures and an assortment of people were DISCUSSING MY LIFE (as if I need that kind of attention from an evil entity) in his comments section.  I know this is impossible to believe which is why I’ve cut and pasted The Devil’s entire blog post below (comments and all).



HOME                  ABOUT  ME

CHURNIN’ AND BURNIN’! by Lucifer S. Snake

(Tags: Dr. Evil, sarcasm, control issues, inappropriate behavior, anger issues, chaos, mayhem)

Hey, Homies – how’s it hangin’?  It’s been a while since I’ve been able to post anything on my blog.  I’ve been roaming the Earth trying to seduce people into walking on the wild side with me.  Doing a pretty good job if I do say so myself.  My business card which is in its gazillionth printing reads:  The original Dr. Evil — creator of murder, chaos, and mayhem.

I got back into town last night and bust out some digits to make a booty call to some of my shorties.  Then I sent a text to Saddam and Osama bin Laden to meet me in the inner circle at my new club, Hades 54.  It started off being a “good, good night” until that “has-been” trio (Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini) snuck in past the bouncer.  (They are sooooo yesterday!)  They came by my private area actin’ all dope and shit — like they just knew if they hung around long enough, I’d invite them to join my exclusive inner circle.  Anyway, I could have ignored those blowhards, but when that low-life Johnnie Cochran showed up (still wearing the skanky O.J. glove) and started boasting about how “if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit,” it was just too much to handle on my jet-lagged ass.  So I left my shorties to party on without me and went home to watch a movie by myself.

I was excited to see that Netflix had sent me The Adjustment Bureau, directed by George Nolfi.  I’ve been waiting for it to come out on DVD.  But it wasn’t what I expected.  First of all, it was a “sci-fi romance” which just makes me wants to barf.  I wanted me some “sci-fi,” only!   Then on top of the romance I think they snuck some Calvinism into it.  Nothing makes me sicker than the discussion of whether God gave people free will or if they are predestined to follow a certain plan, blah, blah, blah.  And don’t even get me started on this “soul mate” shit!  I AM THE GREAT ADJUSTER AND THE ULTIMATE SPOILER, and I have a dungeon full of records of fucked up relationships caused by my single-handed inspiration of lies, betrayal, racism, adultery, selfishness, rejection, abuse, and murder against that stomach turner:  love.  Anyway, dear reader, I know you’ll agree with me when you see this movie – it’s a bunch of shit.  Since everything’s been a disappointment tonight.  I think I’ll turn in so that I’ll have plenty of strength tomorrow to plan another land war in the Middle East.

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marieantoinette says (5 minutes ago):  Hey Boo!  How U doin’?  Sorry we didn’t get a chance to do The Devil’s Slide tonight.  I reeaally love that dance.  Anyhooo, I just wanted to tell you that I liked your post, but I kind of disagree with you.  Now, wait a minute…wait a minute…don’t get mad at me or nothin’, Boo — I mean there are lots and lots of couples that you’ve tried to mess with or “adjust” their destinies with each other, and they did great in spite of you.  That’s all I’m sayin’.

sneakysnake’s response (5.2 minutes ago): WTF, woman — what do you know?

Yahweh says: (6 minutes ago): Marie’s right, you know.  You don’t get the last word — you never do and you never will.  You’re a spoiler of destinies, but if couples make the choice to push back, they can make it. Love wins — it always does.

sneakysnake’s response (10 minutes ago):  Who asked you?  Get the hell off my blog!

Yahweh says (12 minutes ago):  Why don’t you try and make me, Lucy?

sneakysnake’s response (20 minutes ago):  This isn’t faaaiiir; this is my domain.  What did you do to my “delete comment” button?  Did you override it again?  This is my blog, and I don’t want you commenting on it.  And I told you before: never, ever call me Lucy.  I HATE THAT NAME!

Yahweh says (21 minutes ago):  Why don’t you want my comments, Lucy?  Are you afraid you’ll be proven wrong?  Why don’t you stand behind your convictions, Luuuuuuccccy?   I think Marie has a point.  What about the Lovings (Richard and Mildred)?  Remember how you got some of your racist’s peeps to adjust the marriage law in the United States by adding miscegenation laws so that no white person could marry a person of color?

marieantoinette says (22 minutes ago):  Ooo-oo-oo, I remember them, Pumpkin!  He was white and she was black (with a little bit of Rappahannock Indian blood). They were high school sweethearts (isn’t that precious).  They tried to get married in the State of Virginia but the law forbade them.  So they fled to Washington, DC which didn’t have miscegenation laws, and they got married in 1958.  BUUUUUT, when they returned to their home in Virginia, the sheriff waited until they were asleep, burst into their bedroom, and drug them off to jail for breaking the law. They had to move out of Virginia or face going to jail for a long, long time. 

sneakysnake’s response (25 minutes ago):  SHUT UP, MARIE!

Yahweh says (25 minutes ago):  And didn’t Mildred push back after a while (she always was a feisty little thing) and petition the US Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy, to revoke that law?  If I remember correctly the ACLU carried the challenge all the way to the Supreme Court, and in 1967 the miscegenation laws were struck down across the country.  I believe June 12th is known as “Loving Day” to this day to celebrate mixed marriages.

sneakysnake’s response (30 minutes ago):  Just shoot me now with this saccharine shit.  You know good and well that you stacked the deck by giving them the last name of “Loving!”  Their name was a PR man’s wet dream given the circumstances.  Anyway, I kept the hatred going so that the law still remained in force for thirty more years.  South Carolina didn’t drop its law from the books until 1998 and Alabama didn’t drop its law until the year 2000.  I’m sure that screwed up a lot of destinies.  Not to mention that most of your “churches” supported the law and went to great lengths to uphold it – so what do you have to say about that, Mr. Holier-Than-Thou?

Yahweh says (35 minutes ago):  Admittedly, it wasn’t the Christian Church’s finest hour, and it broke my heart.  When the Church should have been a leader in breaking down barriers by marrying different races who desired to do so, it let the culture intimidate my law of love.

sneakysnake’s response (36 minutes ago):  Aha!  Finally, you’re admitting your peeps have been wrong  about something.  Anyway, I don’t care about those stupid Lovings, because I managed to strike a hateful blow against them in the end:  He died in a car accident in 1975 that left Mildred blind in one eye; she died in 2008 after having been a widow for 33 years.

Yahweh says (46 minutes ago):  You’ll never learn will you:  it’s not the quantity of time spent together, but it’s the quality of the love shared in the time given.

sneakysnake’s response (47 minutes ago):  HISSSSSSSSSSSSSS!

Yahweh says (50 minutes ago):  You never know the complete story about anything on Earth, Lucy, which is why you always get tripped up.  There is always a hidden magic that defies logic. The Lovings’ life and actions paved the way for two babies born in 1948 and 1952 who were destined to marry each other in spite of your interference.  Remember the little girl called “Pipsqueak” who became a singer and writer and the little boy she would someday call “White and Wonderful” (WW) who would become the love of her life?  I found their pictures when they were children — one was born in the Mid-West and the other was born in New England.  Remember them?

marieantoinette says (55 minutes ago):  Oh, aren’t they adorable?  I remember you telling me about them Sneaky, baby.  I’ve always secretly loved that story.  She was black and grew up in an orphanage and multiple foster homes, thinking she would never amount to nothin’.  He was white, but he was a direct descendent of Governor Bradford of the Mayflower (with the papers to prove it, no less).  He always thought at the very least he’d grow up to be a lawyer and at the most he’d be president of the United States.  But then Sneaky, darlin’, you said you threw all sorts of life-altering crap their way as they were growing up, trying to make sure their paths never crossed.  Didn’t you tell me that they once passed each other on the campus where the boy went to college, but they didn’t notice each other?

sneakysnake’s response (60 minutes ago):  Bitch, you are so going to be toast when I catch up with you.  Now, shut the fuck up!

Yahweh says (60.2 minutes ago):  No need to take your frustrations out on Marie.  I’m the one you’re angry at.  Problem is your arms are too short to box with me and you know it.

Marie, there is more to the story.  Your boyfriend knew these two were destined to be together – he could smell it on them.  So he tampered with the boy’s law school acceptances (who graduates Magna Cum Laude from one of the best high schools in the nation and doesn’t get into even the bottom choice of law schools that he’s chosen?). The girl got a fellowship to the graduate school next door where the boy graduated (this is when they should have met), but the funding fell through at the last minute to attend that particular program.  Disillusioned and disappointed, the boy took some entry level job as a DJ in Virginia, and the girl went off to NYC to pursue a career as a singer, not knowing what else to do.  At that point, it seemed as if their paths would never cross.  In fact, they both made very poor choices that summer that almost derailed their destinies forever.

aynrand says (65 minutes ago):  Hello there, Ayn here!  Okay, I’ve had it with this bullshit!  I’ve been following the comments all along, and I wasn’t going to say anything because you know I can’t stand “you know who.”  But everyone keeps missing the point:  the Negro girl and the white boy do meet because “someone” interfered!  The playing field was leveled because “someone” influenced some altruistic do-gooder to give the girl a scholarship to a liberal arts school.  The boy would have never even come near the girl if she had not been his equal educationally because he prided himself on being an intellectual.  Natural selection was supposed to run its course to weed her out and it didn’t.  I, for one, am pissed!  If you had read any of my books, Atlas Shrugged or Fountainhead, you would know that certain groups are born to be on the bottom and should stay there.

Yahweh says (67 minutes ago):  Well, well, well Ayn, what hole in Hell did you climb out of?  I see you’re still trying to hawk your tale that greed and selfishness against the poor and disenfranchised is a morally superior choice.  Tell me; didn’t your self-centeredness and hatred for the weak and poor leave you bitter, angry, and alone in your old age with nothing but a shell of your philosophies to keep you warm?

aynrand says (70 minutes ago):  COMMENT DELETED BY BLOG ADMINISTRATOR (some words are too inflammatory even for Sneaky Snake’s blog).

marieantoinette says (75 minutes ago):  Poookiee – sweetie; are you okay?  I looked up the girl and the boy on the cosmic Internet, and it looks like you did deliver several juicy devastating destiny-altering blows to them both.  The girl left NYC to join a commune in NY State a year after she graduated college.  The boy was actually told to transfer to that same area of the country for his new job but refused to do so. They really almost missed connecting.  You did good, babe!

sneakysnake’s response (80 minutes ago):  BUT THEY DIDN’T MISS CONNECTING, BITCH!  Could you be more of an idiot, Marie?  Did you see the part where they both have a “religious experience” and go searching for truth throughout the land?  Of all the communes and ashrams around the world, what are the odds the two of them would end up in the same one at the same time?  Huh?  I know why:  HIM!!!

friedrichwilhelmnietzsche says (85 minutes ago): Hey Dude, Fred Nietzsche here!  Congrats on being “freshly pressed!”  Way to go!  I just wanted to state the obvious:  stop bantering with the Yahweh commenter – he doesn’t exist!  You’re getting all worked up over nothing.  Can you see him?  No!  Now move on!

Yahweh says (90 minute ago):  LOL!  Nietzsche, you kill me – not! 

marieantoinette says (92 minutes ago):  Awwww, Pookie look at the wedding picture I found of the boy and girl on Google.  I know pictures like this one aren’t supposed to affect me, but I just can’t help myself.

sneakysnake’s response (95 minutes ago):  Marie, are you crying?  Oh, for Satan’s sake!  You have gotten on my every last nerve tonight.  Don’t you have a beheading to attend or something?  For your information, I did throw a few roadblocks in their way after they “fell in love.”  His mother was totally against the marriage – she even refused to submit the girl’s engagement picture to the local newspaper so as not to embarrass the family. 

Yahweh says (100 minutes ago):  And what choice did her man make in response to The Mother’s ignorance?  He stood against his mother and all the other haters and announced to them:  “You’re either with me or against me, but I’m marrying this woman.  She’s my African queen, and wherever she goes, I go.”  The girl even wavered at one point and tried to run away and hook up with a man from Bermuda just because he was the same race as her (I’m sure you had something to do with that temptation, Lucy).  But in the end, the girl chose the boy because she knew he was the man she had been looking for all her life.  So what are you planning on telliing your blog audience, Lucy?  Was it free will that brought the little black girl and the little white boy together, or were they destined to be soul mates in spite of all the obstacles?

marieantoinette says (120 minutes):  Sweetie, are you going to answer him?  Cause if you aren’t I want to show your readers the picture I found of the couple ten years into their marriage.  Look at that beautiful family, Pookie!  (I personally think mixed couples always have the prettiest babies.)  Anyhoo, I’ve been doin’ some more research on the Web, and our couple married four years after that marriage law was struck down by the Supreme Court, BUT it was still being enacted in a lot of southern states.  It says here that they celebrated their 33rd anniversary this year on the same weekend in June that the Lovings so courageously made a way for mixed marriages to become legal.  Oh well, looks like you can’t win ‘em all Sneaky-bear.

sneakysnake’s response (122 minutes):  HISSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS! GET OUT!  I HATE YOU — I HATE YOU ALL!

I am discovering that there is really no magic formula to finding the right man or woman to travel this sometimes very scary journey on Earth with.  I wish I knew a formula because then I could bottle it, sell it, and become a very wealthy woman, while at the same time eradicating a lot of pain, including in the lives of my own children.  I’ve met people who were perfect for each other and they met randomly, or got “assigned” to marry by their parents in third world countries, or met online, or got set up on blind dates.  All of it works and none of it can work.  And that’s the point.  I’m discovering that love is a choice (not just an emotion), and how we connect to that love is a mystery.  I personally don’t believe in love at first sight.  I think we are “in lust” at first sight, unable to keep out of each other’s drawers.  But I do believe that every time a couple overcomes some obstacle or pain and they “choose” to care for and cherish each other in the midst of the mayhem instead of running away or pushing each other away, they grow deeper in love. In the midst of the worst temptation, hardship, or disappointment when a couple says, “I choose you (over everything and everyone else), no matter what the  cost – I CHOOSE YOU!Then love rules – love wins!

“Most people live life on the path we set for them, too afraid to explore any other.  But once in a while people like you come along who knock down all the obstacles we put in your way.  People who realize free will is a gift you’ll never know how to use until you fight for it. . . .”  From the movie: The Adjustment Bureau (written and directed by George Nolfi), loosely based on the short story “Adjustment Team.”

All text and photos by Eleanor and John Tomczyk © 2011 except where otherwise noted

Photo of Mildred and Richard Loving, newspaper archives 1967

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Posted by on September 16, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Into the Woods (Hello Fear)!

To my loyal readers:  This story is based on two of the characters from my memoir (When Monsters Come Out to Play)

Do you know what I’ve discovered?   There are various methods one should use when being attacked by bears.  If it is a grizzly bear, you are supposed to fall down, curl into a fetal position with fingers and hands tucked in between your tummy and the ground and pretend to be dead.  Even when The Grizzly is poking your body with his massive claws and sniffing and growling to see if you’re really dead, you’re not to lose control of your bodily functions, nor should you proceed to become “undead.”  You should simply play possum in the hopes that The Grizzly isn’t one of the smart ones in the family of bears and eats your death-poser ass anyway.  However, if you are attacked by a brown or black bear, you are advised to turn and face the sucker, puff up as large as you can make yourself (arms and hands in attack mode above head), yell aggressively (“HY-YAH”), and beat the bear about the face (snout, eyes, head) with anything heavy you can find (rock, tree branch, or heavy Coach purse) until it hollers “ouch” and runs way.  But don’t ever, ever run away from any color or kind of bear because they are so much faster than humans they will catch you and eat you for sure.


Although I occasionally hike, I don’t know much about woods or bears.  My “how to thwart a bear philosophy” is “it is better to never encounter a bear in the first place than have to figure out what to do with one when you do.”  So when I’m hiking, I jingle my car keys incessantly and talk a mile a minute as loudly as I can (without taking a breath) about any and everything (sort of like whistling in the dark) so that if there are any bears in the area, they run the other away.  I don’t know if it’s really effective against bears — I do know it makes my husband’s head explode.

What I know a lot about is growing up poor, black, and parentless in the inner city.   In the ghetto the Bear Survival Manual instructions actually work rather well because that’s how I “got over” and lived to tell about it.

My mother’s mind got eaten by a mental grizzly bear when my good-for-nothing-father vanished when I was three years old (let’s hope my father’s sorry ass got completely eaten by The Grizzly).  This left my sister and me homeless — touring the Cleveland foster care system of the 1950s and 60s – only slightly one step up from a Charles Dickens work-house story of the 1800s.  I learned two things when I was growing up about the fear of monsters: some of the monsters that cross your path aren’t worth a moment’s notice (they are powerless to harm you even though they have loud aggressive roars), but a few of the monsters are truly deadly and are meant to be faced head-on with the enlarged stature of a warrior who knows something that bears don’t:  you may be small and you may be scared, but you’ll fight to win.

As a Ward of the State, I journeyed through more than a half-dozen foster homes and a children’s receiving home (temporary orphanage) before reaching adulthood.  No other foster mother personified the type of monster or bear that just needed ignoring like Edwina Burley.

Edwina Burley, “Burley-pig,” as she was derisively known to me, had the looks of a female Idi Amin, the body of a giant walrus, and the skin-color of asphalt.  Her face bore a jagged scar from the right corner of her lip to the top of her right ear — souvenir of a knife attack from an intruder in a mansion in Shaker Heights where she had once worked as a domestic.

The first time I met Mrs. Burley was when my caseworker of the hour took me for a visit to see if I would hit it off with the Burleys and their child – a ten-year-old wallflower of a boy.  Rowena Burley proudly took us on the grand tour of her tiny cookie-cutter 1940’s house that had been ordered as a kit from the Sears and Roebuck Catalogue by a previous owner.   The minute she opened her mouth I knew she was a poser in everything from her furnishings to her bastardization of the King’s English.

“Why don’t y’all come into the livin’ room and make yo’selves declinable.”

Burley-pig practically sang her next line as she impersonated what she thought a rich white woman would say as we toured her “mansion”:

“I gots whore-doors and drinks for allllllllll.”

As we stepped onto the carpet (covered entirely in thick plastic), her son took a running leap to an organ bench while the rest of us made our way through a living room so full of Sears Catalogue items (lamps, end tables, a miniature organ, coffee table, and a buffet side board all covered in plastic), we had to walk single-file in order to get to a couch and two chairs.  Our feet burped their way across the plastic on the floor, while my caseworker’s high heels hole-punched their way in and out of the plastic runway to the nearest chair. When I sank into the couch, my butt connected with the plastic seat cushions and without warning my ass emitted the sound of a
plastic-fart that could have been a replica of a giant passing gas had we all known what that sounded like.  I recognized that I had entered plastic hell as the preening Mrs. Burley’s lard-ass connected to the couch that belched her final plastic-fart pronouncement:

“This here’s our anointed livin’ room that we constrains for our most impotents of guests!”

When my caseworker asked me if “this seemed like a foster home I could be happy in,” what the hell was I supposed to say? It seemed like a plastic insane asylum, but I was already seasoned enough in the foster-home-visit-drill to know they would all turn out the same:  I’d live there for six months to a year — max — and then get thrown out for my “bull-headedness or sassy mouth (code for ‘she wouldn’t let us abuse and use her without putting up a fight’).”   I had no choice but to stay; it was either the obsequious Mrs. Burley or the orphanage. However, I’d been in enough foster homes to know there would be an “unveiling” of the lady of the manor.  Within forty-eight hours, the lilting, preening, malapropism-spewing Rowena Burley gave way to the caustic, mean-spirited, ignorant Burley-pig of a bitch who posted what she called the “Rules of My Domain, or How to Get Along to Get Along.”

Primarilyist:  My boy is the onlyest one ‘lowed in the livin’ room so that he cans play with his organ. He’s
gonna be famous like Nat King Cole someday — a true dignitary of our race. I betta’ not catch yo’ little fat ass in my parlor messin’ wit my boy’s instrument.

“Secondarily:  Elnura, let’s me give you some advertisement, chil’. You way too ugly and stupid to have the friends you do. You needs to hang out wit people uglier and stupeedier than you is (if you can find ‘em – hee, hee, hee), ‘cause it don’t help yo’ case none to have smart, glamor-pussing friends — it jes pontificates both yo’ ugliness and yo’ ignrance.

“Thirdesly:  My boy gets the chicken thighs — you gets the neck bones and the chicken’s butt, and you best be happy wit’ it, cause in most places you wouldn’t even get that. It’s only cause I’m a good Christian woman and considers it my God-fearin’ dutability to provide a home for wayward chilrens of the worl’ that I even lets you into my manor born — so’s you best be grateful for everythin’ I gives you.”

Burley-pig was a monster I was never afraid of.  Her words and actions were hurtful but what she called me I never responded to because I didn’t believe her.  On one hand, I knew I was intelligent and someday that intelligence would prove her wrong.  I just needed time and a miracle.   On the other hand, I didn’t know if I was pretty or not; I just knew the Burley-pig was as ugly as sin and a pot sure couldn’t call a kettle black.


“What they call you is one thing; what you answer to is something else.”

Lucille Clifton
(Poet, writer, educator/1936-2010)


I did run into other bears in my childhood who caused me great fear and a grizzly bear or two that almost destroyed me.  Those encounters made me realize that some bears aren’t just out to protect their territory; some are out to destroy you and your destiny.  Usually, the grizzly bears of life (debilitating addictions, poverty, racism, illiteracy, childhood sexual and physical abuse, abandonment, mental illness,  to name a few) endeavor to swallow you whole no matter what you try and do to thwart them. I found that I personally needed a power higher than myself and a couple of mentors to help me get over a few of these or I’d be a carcass in the woods today.   A major grizzly bear that attacked me during my most formative years was a racist social worker who had been assigned to me when I was sixteen years old.  Defeating her has made all the difference in my life.

SWOTW (Social-worker-of-the-week):  “Eleanor, I asked you to come see me today because, as you know, you’re being asked to leave your last foster home due to an insubordinate attitude and behavioral
problems,” said SWOTW, barely able to contain her ennui.  She didn’t even bother to look up from her papers when she delivered my fate.

“In all honesty, we have nowhere else to place you because the Court no longer has responsibility for its wards once they’ve turned sixteen. However, we have some terrific news for you.  We have decided to provide a
stipend for you to rent a room at a boarding facility that is kind of like a Colored Women’s YWCA for homeless women. We’ll pay for a room there until you’re eighteen and supplement your income with an allowance for a pass to eat in the cafeteria. It has been decided since you are somewhat articulate we can help get you a job at the telephone company as a switchboard operator.  That should give you what you need for bus fare, clothing, and incidentals.”

ELEANOR:  “No,” I said, trembling from head to toe while turning to face the bear (bear tactic one).

SWOTW:  “What do you mean, ‘no?’” asked SWOTW.

ELEANOR:  “NO as in N-O! I want to stay in school. You didn’t say anything about staying in school. I have two more years before I graduate high school,” I said, puffing up my body to appear larger than I was (bear tactic two).

SWOTW:  “And do what? You can legally leave school at sixteen and given your prospects, getting out of school now and getting a secure job is nothing to sneeze at, young lady. As a Colored girl, whether you leave school now or two years from now, the outcome will be the same. Now, I’m not asking you, I’m telling you.”

ELEANOR:  “HELL, NO! I make all A’s. You can’t do this to me. Have you even bothered to check my report cards or talk to my teachers or principal?” I said, frantically looking around for something to clobber the
bear with (bear tactic three).

SWOTW:  “I don’t need to check with your school about this decision, because according to the aptitude test you took with Human Services last month, you scored only two points above the retardation level.  Do you get it – you’re considered feeble-minded?  You should be grateful I can get you a job at the telephone company, and you don’t have to become a domestic.”

ELEANOR:  “NO, YOU’RE THE IDIOT!” I screamed in a gruff voice (bear tactic five). “I don’t know anything about your stupid tests or even if they are accurate.  What I do know is what I have in my book bag:  A copy of A Tale of Two Cities that is ‘fun reading’ for me, a book of Langston Hughes poetry, and a German language test that I’ve just aced.  Oh, and by the way, I just found out I’m in the top 1% of my class academically,” I said as I picked up the “book bag of my future” and metaphorically clobbered the SWOTW bear repeatedly on her nose (bear tactic six).

SWOTW:  “Well, that’s not the point; you’re a Colored girl and this is as good as it is going to get . . . .”  

ELEANOR:  “Fuck you! FUCK YOU — that is precisely the point!  This is not as good as it is going to get for me.  I’m going to talk to my guidance counselor, my principal, my voice teacher, and my mentor; they won’t let this happen to me because they say I’ve got real potential and that I’m going to college – even if they have to help pay for it themselves” (bear tactic seven).

The SWOTW was so pissed she cut me off from any stipend except housing (I don’t think she could legally do otherwise). I was able to stay in school because of one of those liberal government programs from heaven that let me work in my school before and after classes.  As in all great “into the woods stories,” the monster briefly reappeared in my life during my senior year in the form of the pissed-off caseworker who tried to reassert her authority over me and challenge what she considered the folly of misguided busybodies.  But when a village
takes up arms to fight the grizzly bear trying to destroy a child (a surrogate mother and mentor, a visionary principal, a tireless guidance counselor, a wealthy patron, and a passionate young voice teacher), they did what villagers often do to monsters, and they kicked the social worker’s ass.  I never heard from her again and neither did they.

It’s been more than forty-seven years since I sailed into my future.   In fact, I’m rapidly coming to the end of it.  I have discovered that “living well” truly is “the best revenge” against all the bears in the land – the ones who aren’t worth our attention and especially the ones who try to destroy us on the spot.   Burley-pig and the SWOTW’s heads would have exploded if they could have seen what the future held for me and how beautiful on the outside and the inside I would become.   With the SWOTW I didn’t have to wait too long because within five years of the altercation in her office, the Cleveland newspapers would run an article with my picture about how I’d made the dean’s list at the liberal arts college where I was a junior — having gone to that particular college on a full scholarship: INNER-CITY KID ELECTED TO WHO’S WHO IN AMERICAN UNIVERSITIES AND COLLEGES.  And on one of those rare, sweet, self-indulgent moments in life, I returned to Cleveland after an eighteen year absence and showed Rowena Burley just how much she had miscalculated me as well.

My mother died at age seventy, completely losing her battle with schizophrenia, and I went back to bury her. I discovered that Burley-pig still lived in the same Sears and Roebuck house, was still a domestic for white folks, except she’d gotten even fatter; and her only child was uneducated and aimless. She was one of the deaconesses at the church where my mother’s funeral was held, and she purposely placed herself in front of the casket, so she wouldn’t miss me.  I imagined she did so to gloat in case I had become what she and the SWOTW predicted.

As I glided into the funeral home like a rock star, accompanied by my handsome, brilliant, and successful husband (WW), my beautiful little sister, and one of my major mentors in my color-coordinated, black and white suit that had been designed for my athletic size-eight body, Burley-pig’s jaw dropped to her feet.  I had become a runner, a college honors graduate, a music teacher, and if I do say so myself, I looked like a freakin’ fashion model for a “Black is Beautiful” centerfold in Jet magazine. As the preacher crowed about my career accom-plishments from the pulpit, the stupefied look on Burley-pig’s face was a gift from heaven — absolutely, fucking priceless!


I discovered when I had children that the victories of courage I had in my childhood weren’t necessarily transferable to them.  I could give them my stories as a legacy and my faith as a beacon, but they had to choose not to give in or run away from their monsters, choose to use the proper fighting tactics, and choose to stand up to their own bears and save themselves.  I can’t save anyone:  That has been the hardest part about being a parent and an into-the-woods bear slayer.

“There are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them.”   Andre Gide


“I have accepted fear as part of life – specifically the fear of
change. . . .I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back.
”  Erica Jong 

All text and photos

 by Eleanor and John Tomczyk © 2011

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Posted by on August 11, 2011 in Uncategorized


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