I’m In Love With The Shape Of You

I need to write more often because there’s so much to say and I’m not sure where to start. I guess in the middle? Six years ago, Ron and I were financially stressed in a house we couldn’t afford, dealing with my mother whose help always came with strings, looking for a place to live while trying to get our house ready to sell, all while not being very fond of each other. We couldn’t agree on a house to buy, leading to us being homeless for a month when our house sold on its first day on the market. We ended up in a house we despised although it was structurally the most sound of all that we saw. We came a hair’s breadth from divorce.

Six years later, we’re still here in that structurally sound house. Still married. Still not able to agree on a house to buy after a year of looking.

But we’re not financially stressed. We don’t have to deal with my mother anymore. We’re not homeless although if we put our house on the market, we will be; our neighborhood has appreciated dramatically and houses sell on the first day.

Six years in this house and there is still painters tape around the bathroom door trim and on the glass of the french doors. I’ve yet to have a craft room. Our kitchen counters are still the same fucking hideous gold wheat tile. The kitchen walls are still shit brown.

But we have a(nother) new water heater. Today saw the end of the rotted front window that didn’t open and meant we couldn’t call the third bedroom a bedroom since there was no emergency egress. We finally chose a paint color to go over the vomit inducing Easter egg trim.

Six years in this house and we’ve learned how to communicate. We don’t take each other or ourselves quite so seriously. We value each other’s opinions. I know (even if he has no clue) when he says he doesn’t care, to just pick something, he cares a whole lot. I don’t take things so personally; if he doesn’t like something I like, that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t like me.

Sixteen years in this relationship and I still have a lot to learn about compromise, picking my battles, and showing my love by not fighting over stupid shit like where to live. Because it’s not the house, it’s the person in it with me, that matters.

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You’re My Sweetheart

Yesterday was a terrible day. It is rare that my mother can affect me, but it does still happen occasionally, and yesterday was just one of those days.

But today…today I got notes, texts, and emails from friends telling me they love me. My mother-in-law did the sweetest thing and deleted my mom from her friends. Today I played with kittens, snuggled my husband, had lunch with my family, read a book, wrote a synopsis for my NaNoWriMo novel, signed up for a launch party, looked at knitting patterns to take to the knitting retreat next weekend, ate egg salad sandwiches for dinner, put away laundry, and wrote a long letter to a friend while laying next to my husband on the bed.

At some point, Ron went into the kitchen and came back with a handful of smarties. He unrolled one and set it in the middle between us. I was busy typing and not looking; I reached my hand over and felt the now empty wrapper, then started feeling around for another roll. I let out a frustrated yowl and Ron quietly pushed an unopened roll between my searching fingers.

This is love. While fancy dinners, unexpected flowers, and expensive chocolates are nice, it’s the smarties roll gently nudged into your searching hand when you’re stressed out that lets you know you’re special.

While my husband is far from what most women would consider to be perfect, he knows how to love me and he does it well. He knows when I need to rant or when I need to just be held in silence. He makes me laugh, but lets me feel my feelings before trying to distract me from them. He makes me toast and tea and laughs at my “your face” jokes that really aren’t funny. He listens to my weird dreams but knows the difference between those and my dreams of what I want for my future, our future.

Smarties. They are better than flowers.

 

Trigger Warning: Trauma and the News

As a woman, I can’t help but be horrified at Donald Trump. Even before the Billy Bush / Access Hollywood tape was outed, I was disgusted at his treatment of women. But my issues have gone beyond that of feminism and now reach into my personal experiences of assault and the people who covered it up.

I’ve discussed this before, but for those just joining us, I was molested by my stepfather until I was 14 years old. I suffered constant covert molestation even after that; comments about my breasts, questions and suggestions on masturbation, being called a slut for doing less with a boyfriend than what I suffered from my stepfather; the list goes on.

For most of my life, I believed that the molestation started when I was about seven years old because that was the first memory that really stood out in my mind as outright sexual assault. I will spare the details because even writing about it turns my stomach to this day. Sadly, it’s not the worst thing he ever did to me.

However, during therapy in my late 30s, I kept flashing back to a time when I was playing with the little plastic circles that were in the middle of film that came in canisters. My stepfather was a movie projectionist, so I spent a lot of time in various theatre booths as a kid. Because he could take me with him to work, this was my parent’s solution to child care.  This particular time was at the Majestic Theatre, which was converted into a performance venue a while back, but was a film theatre during my earliest childhood. I’ve attended many an event there as an adult, and sitting in the balcony still has the power to make me queasy and shakey.

It wasn’t just one, but two separate events that stick out in my memory of the Majestic. The first involved my stepfather sitting me between two film reels that were used to hold the film that needed to be spliced together. Back then, movies came in three to five canisters and had to be carefully spliced into one long strip that sat on platters that seemed 10 feet wide to me. I think they were actually about five feet in diameter, but I was only three at the time. Anyway, when the splicer was turned on, film would go by in a blur; the edges of the film were very sharp and I was often warned not to touch it. I saw my stepfather get cut more than once, so I had a healthy fear of the splicer. Needless to say, sitting behind the splicer with my legs dangling over the edge of the desk and under the moving film, I was trapped. I couldn’t slip under the film because it was only a few inches above my legs. I couldn’t move forward or jump down without being cut. I wasn’t bound or gagged, but I was caught and speechless with fear.

After my stepfather placed me on the desk and wound the film in front of me, he told me not to move so I wouldn’t get cut. When I asked to get down, he said he would let me down after I spread my legs and let him touch me. I could either acquiesce to his abuse, or I could risk being sliced to ribbons. Instead I sat there and cried and screamed. He slapped me and told me to shut up (although he was quite safe as the projectionist booth was solid and nearly sound proof). Eventually, crying and near hysterics, I let him touch me between my legs and once the film ran out, he let me down. I now know that it only took a few minutes for film to wind on the splicer, but to me at that moment, it was an eternity.

Not too long after that, I met my stepfather’s colleague. My stepfather worked the night shift, and this older Latino man worked days. As they chatted, I went and sat in the balcony to watch whatever movie was showing at the time. A few minutes later, the day shift man came and sat next to me. My stepfather was busy doing his beginning of the shift work and so couldn’t see or hear me (as I said, the booth was nearly soundproof). This man proceeded to offer me candy and kept stroking my hair. I didn’t like it and asked him to stop. He told me I had to respect my elders, then he put his hand on my knee. I was wearing a dress that day. I cried as his hand crept up my skirt and in the words of Kirstin Anderson, he touched my vagina through my underwear. He told me I couldn’t tell anyone or I would get in trouble.

But I did tell. I told my mom, who said my stepdad could never find out or he would kill this other man. Of course, then she told my stepdad, and he was FURIOUS. I remember this was the first time I was caught in the hypocrisy of molestation. Although it was fine for my stepfather to molest me, I was HIS property and wasn’t to be touched by anyone else.

But nothing ever happened to the older man who touched me. My parents never left me alone with him, but everyone pretended that nothing really occurred. The message I got was clear: I was my stepfather’s property, and my importance was well below that of his comfort with his coworker.

There are many more incidences of my being molested by my stepfather; as I said above, I used to believe it didn’t start until I was seven, but in my 30s I realized I must have been age three, if not younger. I didn’t know how to read yet, and I learned to read at age 4, so that helps me with the timeline.

As more and more (over nine million at last count) women speak out about their first encounter of sexual abuse, I am encouraged to once again speak out about mine. It is difficult. It is disgusting. I still feel shame even though I now know I was not to blame. I feel dirty. I don’t want my husband to touch me.

Even so, I know I am a survivor. I will move past this. Again. This time, I know I am NOT ALONE. Over nine million other women are openly with me, with God only knows how many still hiding in the shadows. If nothing else, this election is shining a light into dark corners.

Gutbuster

A few months back, I had to have an abdominal CT to make sure I didn’t have anything more serious than an exceedingly painful IBS flare. While I didn’t have anything major like a hot appendix or an intestinal blockage, they did find a supraumbilical hernia. I love when I get to add to my list of shit wrong with my body.

For years, I would have periods of feeling like my belly button was stretched, much like when I was pregnant. It gets so stretched, it burns. What used to be periodic has become constant. I thought I had this pain because of my weight but the more I lose, the more pain I have. Even better, now that it doesn’t have as much weight to hide behind, I now have a prominent lump above my belly button.

Thanks to my “migraine” debacle (during which nothing less than four specialists ran a ridiculous number of tests and STILL didn’t find what my one neurologist diagnosed in thirty seconds…not migraines but instead, I have hemicrania continua), we’ve met our out of pocket and deductible expenses for the year. It’s the perfect time to have surgery. Whoo hoo!

The migraine debacle has made me extremely wary of specialists. Having to find a surgeon on my own would be near impossible if it weren’t for healthgrades.com. I typed in “hernia repair” and my zip code and got a list of doctors and their ratings from patients. Now I just have to get a referral from my GP and hope the waiting list isn’t ridiculously long.

Meanwhile, I am spending a lot of time locked away in my house. My headache medication makes me unfit for human companionship. I didn’t think it was possible but apparently I can be a bigger bitch! I hate everyone and just about everything. I’m not sleeping well and when I do sleep, I have bizarre nightmares. My belly button hurts. I’m irritable and mean.

For the moment, the solution is complete isolation. I have a follow up in September and I am hoping my doctor has some ideas about additional meds that can help my mood since I cannot get off my headache med. Even missing just a single dose causes lightning bolt pain through my left eye. I’d like to avoid that.

So I’m knitting. And shopping online. And having services done at my house, like using a mobile dog groomer. I’m also playing the cutest mobile game called My Singing Monsters. It’s a great way to teach Mendelian genetics to kids.

And I’m waiting. It’s the waiting part that sucks.

Love Without End, Amen

It’s Father’s Day today. This does not hold the same traumatic emotions that Mother’s Day does, thank goodness. Not that I had a good father, neither my biological nor my adopted one. Even my first husband was a shitty dad when we were married and he’s even worse now. He hasn’t had any contact with his children since 2005, in spite of living less than two miles from our current house. I can only wonder what kind of relationship he has with his stepson. Shudder….

No, my actual fathers were crap, but I had some amazing male role models and both my second and my current husband were and are both inspiring dads. Although Jon was only part of our lives for four years, he gave us a normalcy that I and the kids had never had. We had a beautiful home, fantastic home cooked meals, and he was always up for playing games and having fun. He and Aubrey are still in contact although not as often as they used to be. I am so happy that he now has two daughters of his own to spoil and be a great dad to them.

Ron is everything a dad should be. He’s supportive without being overbearing. He takes care of all us without question. He works hard and comes home to work even harder, be it cooking, cleaning, or studying so he can move forward and take even better care of us. He gives the dogs their meds twice a day, makes me coffee every weekend morning, and tries very hard to not punch Aubrey’s boyfriend in the face. He does almost all of the grocery shopping, all of the laundry, all of the dishes, cooks almost every meal that we eat at home, takes care of the yard, and makes us laugh with his little idiosyncrasies. And all that is just the tip of the Ron iceberg. Every day, he amazes me with how incredible he is and I know exactly how blessed I am to have him.

Unlike with mothers, I’ve never wandered around grasping onto male father figures and asking, “Are you my father?” But there have been some truly special men in my life. I think the first one was Delbert Rowland, the Vice Principal at Alamo Heights High School during my time there, although I didn’t know it then. He reported my mom to child protective services because he cared about me. Of course, my mother has fictionalized it as he was persecuting me, which I believed at the time. As an adult, I know better. He actually believed I deserved better than what I had, and while I didn’t recognize it then, it has helped me in my trauma recovery as an adult. I cannot thank him enough. He wasn’t out to get me, he was out to get her, and he tried his best to make a difference.

Also from AHHS was Mr. Paul Foerster. He was the only teacher who ever gave me in school suspension for missing class. He knew I was capable of more than what I was giving, and he expected better from me. Even then, I knew he punished me because he cared, not because he was mean or being an asshole. I think he loved all of his students equally (and he was there FOREVER, so that’s a LOT of students), which was also a great lesson; love is infinite and there is plenty to go around if you let it. He never ever ever played favorites, unlike almost every other teacher I’ve had.

Which leads me to Glenn Boswell, affectionately known to all of us as Boz. He also never ever ever plays favorites. Ever. He makes every person (not just his students) feel special, and worthy, and capable, and accepted. I remember he told us that he had to fix his ex-daughter-in-law’s car and we all thought that was crazy. But to Boz, she was the mother of his grandchild and would always be part of his family. That set a shining example for me of how love should be; unconditional.

Boz always underrates his importance in changing lives. So many kids go off to college broken in some way, both minor and major. At a junior college, the rate is even higher. I was more broken than most; in an abusive and controlling marriage after surviving an abusive and controlling childhood. Many times I floundered, to say the least. But Boz was always there to pull me through. He didn’t have to do anything special…he just was THERE. When I was knocked down, he lifted me back up. When I said I couldn’t, he told me I could. He gave advice with no expectation of it being followed. He offered comfort when my life was at its worst. Most of all, he believed I was amazing, and he made me believe I was amazing, too.

Without Boz on my side, I would likely have stayed in my miserable marriage for much longer because I wouldn’t have had the means to support myself and my kids, both financially and psychologically. Not only did he teach me everything I know about computer architecture and half of what I know about programming, he gave me glowing job recommendations. I always got the job. Not only was I able to leave my abusive husband, I was able to provide a good life for my kids when they were young.

Even now, Boz is still the angel on my shoulder. When I don’t blog often enough, I get a gentle nudge reminding me to post something. I think a quarter of my entire blog is due to Boz’ nudging.

It’s been 20 years since he came into my life. While I don’t get to see him often enough in real life, he is still a major influence for me. Although he never signed up for the job, he’s the closest thing I have to a father and that is more than a lot of my friends have. For that, I will always feel blessed.

 

That’s What Friends Are For

18 months ago, my life was so much different. I had a slew of what I considered to be good friends. I was knitting in a different group every day and considered myself somewhat popular. Then I made the mistake of becoming close to the wrong person and when the schism inevitably happened, just like in any divorce, friends took sides. I. Lost. Almost. Everyone.

It was HARD to cope with the sudden changes. I went into a major depressive episode and returned to therapy. Oddly enough, a miracle occurred and I gained a new perspective on my need for people to like me. For the first time, I truly was able to say, “Fuck it,” and concentrated on spending time with the people who actually do care about me rather than chasing after the ones who don’t.

Every once in a while, I come across an FB post that is evidence of my non-importance to those I called friends and I admit that it does sting for a moment or two. But then I remember the real people who matter and it’s like aloe on a burn.

There is one person that I particularly miss, though. J.S. was someone who soothed my troubled soul, whom I thought loved unconditionally, whom I loved unconditionally. Even when we didn’t see each other as much as I’d have liked, she would randomly text that she was thinking about me. Then she stopped responding to my texts. I was ghosted. It hurt because I loved her.

Months later I received a single text that she wasn’t upset with me, but that she was dealing with stuff and didn’t feel up to socializing. I accepted that because I’ve been there. I never heard from her again. But today I saw a selfie with her hanging out with someone I don’t like, to put it mildly. That’s cool; I never begrudge someone else’s choice in friends. However, I can’t help but think that I was easily replaced by someone she considers to be better in whatever way. My heart broke a little to know that it’s not that she doesn’t want to hang out, it’s that she doesn’t want to hang out with ME.

So today, I am sad. Heartbroken, even. I miss her. And that is OK.

After grieving for a bit, I will go back to being excited that my best friend is moving all the way from Connecticut back to Texas. She will be within easy driving distance. Leigh is more than a friend, she is the closest thing I have to a sister. She is the other half of my heart. While losing a friend can be devastating and leave me feeling unwanted and “less than,” I think of Leigh, who swore she’d never move back to the same state as her mother and sister, saying, “I need to be near you more than I need to be away from my family.”

me and leigh

Leigh and Me

I am loved. I am wanted. I am enough.

 

 

Except What I Remember And Believe

One of my favorite David Wilcox songs is about losing everything and realizing that the important things are always carried with you. Between two divorces and moving like a gypsy, I know all about starting from what fits in your car. But being married for 13 years and settled for 15 means that I’ve accumulated a ton of crap. I mean literally a ton, as in at least 2000 lbs of crap.

Every year, just like everyone else, I make resolutions to clean up my clutter, clear out the sheds, and be a better version of me. Normally I’m a complete failure by the time February comes around, but considering I’ve been on this self-improvement journey since September with huge leaps and bounds of progress made, I’m feeling pretty damned good about this year’s prospects.

Like thousands of other people, I became fascinated by the Marie Kondo book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I’ve said for a while now that I kinda wish my house would catch fire, taking everything I hate with it. I would grab my computer, camera, phone, and three bins of luxury knitting yarn. Everything else could go and I wouldn’t be devastated, as our Christmas ornaments are the only other thing I would miss and they’re stored in the shed. A book dedicated to getting rid of everything in my house that doesn’t “spark joy” speaks directly to my heart.

For the last few months, I’ve purged what I thought was a lot. I mean I can move my hangers in my closet now, so that’s huge progress. But I still hung onto a ridiculous amount of shamefully shabby underwear, pajamas that are literally falling off me, and an entire underbed storage bin of painting clothes. Keep in mind the last time I painted was September, 2014. I’m almost positive I really only need one set of painting clothes, maybe two in case of big jobs like the craft room.

Every room in the house, both big sheds, and the laundry room have gone through a first level purge, or what Aubrey used to call the painless purge; that’s the stuff that you know you don’t want, or stuff that’s obvious garbage. Now we’re starting the second level purge, which is a little bit harder. This is the stuff that makes you say, “But I might need that if/when…” or “My best friend from 3rd grade gave me that and I haven’t spoken to her in 30 years but she was my BEST friend…” or the worst of all, “That cost me a fortune and I haven’t even used it yet!”

On top of reading Kondo’s book, I’ve joined a handful of facebook groups that are dedicated to the Konmari Method for additional inspiration. Seeing pictures of people’s homes and closets that have gone from looking like mine to something worthy of a catalog photo shoot gives me hope.

Ron’s being incredibly supportive, as he said he’s noticed that I’ve stopped buying crap I don’t need (which is way more important to the process than purging!!!) and picking up roadside bits for projects that I’ll never complete. Having his support means a lot to me, as I’m not physically able to do this on my own. While Matt is here, I’ve made a great start, but once he’s gone, there will still be more to do. Of course, the hope is that once it is all done, I will physically be able to keep up with the house as there will be nothing to dust or clean other than the basics.

In an alignment of the universe, our bulky trash pickup is this Monday. That gave me great motivation to clear out the sheds, get rid of broken furniture, and ditch various other large trash things that I’ve been keeping for insane reasons. Matt has helped without question mainly because I’m paying him, so it’s working out well for both of us.

While our trash pile grows, all my non-consumerism is helping our debt to go down. I was able to do all our Christmas shopping with a net lowering of our credit card balance, and that’s with some rather generously large gifts, like a new phone for Aubrey and a plane ticket for Matt.

For so long, I’ve worked to “organize and store” but Kondo’s approach is to get rid of it. I went to Target on Friday to get a particular ornament storage box (which I did end up buying from Amazon), and planned to get another half dozen large plastic bins in order to store our Christmas stuff. I didn’t get the bins because I realized I honestly had no idea what was going to be left. I came home and Matt and I tackled the Christmas stuff. I ended up with a box of lights and three half-empty bins that I will consolidate into two before they go back into the shed. Once the tree is down, we’ll have that, the ornament box, and a bin of wrapping paper to add to the lights and other bins. Anything I didn’t use this year either got pitched or went into the garage sale pile. I ended up with a large pile of empty bins, so I was glad I didn’t buy any new ones!

As for the garage sale, I’ve promised everyone that if it doesn’t happen by the end of January, I’ll just donate everything. I also promised to donate anything that doesn’t sell. Nothing is to come back into the house or sheds once it goes out for the sale.

I’m feeling confident, excited, and yes, joyful. Every box that goes out means more room to breathe and I feel lighter. However, this is an exercise in patience, as it is meant to take about six months for the average house. I have a tendency to want it all done RIGHT NOW!!!!! and thinking about everything all at once can be overwhelming. So I’m sticking to the 26 week plan.

Most importantly, I promise myself that it is okay if I don’t do it perfectly, as long as I just DO it.