Monday, February 29, 2016


I've never been an athlete. As a child I was gawky, quiet, not sure how to relate to other kids. In forced team sports for PE I was picked in the last half or so. I'm not a fast runner and tetherball just seemed like a good way to get your head taken off. I preferred books and bird watching and putting caterpillars in tupperware with a fistful of greenery and a stick.

Trouble is, now I'm pushing 30 and nobody's suggesting I have an eating disorder like they did in Jr. high (I didn't). I sit at a desk for 8 hours a day and I really (really really) like good food. Plus I'm no slouch in the kitchen, so there's that.

Anyway, for the last 3 months I've been working out (mostly) every day after work. I found a studio that offers a variety of classes and I have a reliable workout buddy, and I have to say, it's been paying off. Not that I needed a major transformation, but things are looking better. More importantly, 3 months in and I'm not bored with it or feel like quitting. I think that might be a personal record.

In conclusion, there's hope for me yet. I can stave off heart disease and obesity! At the very least, I can occasionally put my heels down in downward dog, which I couldn't do before!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Dreams coming true - 10/100

As I type this, I'm utterly exhausted. As I mentioned in my last post, it was a weekend of work in the yard. I had 5.5 cubic yards of garden soil and 2.5 cubic yards of gravel dumped in my driveway on Saturday morning. I was beyond lucky to have the help I did on Saturday, but there was plenty left to shovel today. I can't remember the last time I was this drained. Maybe backpacking.

I've had gardens before. I've done yard work before. I've put an effort into beatifying my space in every place I've ever lived. But this time, it's different. This time it's for keeps. I've had a vision of what I want for many years. It's evolved some, but the essentials are the same: A cute house with a big vegetable garden, an entertaining space, flowers for cutting, chickens, etc.

In December of last year, almost a month after I got my own little apartment, I took a look at my budget and realized I was living well below my means. A new car? No... bigger. I decided on December 18th 2014 that in the next year I would buy a house. On June 15th, 2015 I closed on my first home purchase. (Coincidentally, June 15th was the date I moved out of my parent's house when I was 18). Since then, it's been my mission to create my backyard oasis.

I'm sore all over, but it hurts so good. I can see it all coming together, and it's awesome.

9/100 Late

After making some major headway on realizing my dream backyard yesterday, I was too exhausted to remember to post.

Here is a before are some pictures of the transformation:

 summer 2015

 October 2015 (hired a company to do this)

 what's been done since then

 Yesterday, with the help of friends and family, I cleared the big rectangular area which had become covered in weeds, laid weed fabric, positioned the beds and filled in the gravel. We started  on the soil, but it was getting dark and I needed to clean off the sod cutter and take it back to home depot.

Friday, February 26, 2016

How it ended - 8/100

I officially broke things off on October 24th, 2014. It was a long time coming but it took really knowing that he couldn't change for me to know what I had to do.

He'd been working in SF for about 6 months and spending the work week renting a room from a friend out there. Prior to that job, he'd spent a year and a half unemployed and living through the money he got from the sale of house he and his sister inherited. Once the house money, which we had planned to use as a down payment on a house for us, was gone, he started actually looking for a job and I supported him until he got the SF job.

I welcomed the time without him. I needed a break from his constant presence, his lack of productivity, his mess and negativity. He hated that we'd be apart during the week and only took the job after I promised I'd look for a new job and that we'd move there. I'd recently shifted my career path and nearly doubled my income and as a fledgling in a new field, unlikely to find the opportunity again, I reluctantly agreed. I thought things might get better with him working. Maybe being productive and earning money would help the depression and resultant alcohol abuse.

They didn't get better. We only saw each other on the weekends. I'd drop him off at the train station on Monday morning and pick him up Friday night. Weekdays were gloriously calm and steady. Quiet, clean, stable. Weekends were unpredictable. Maybe we'd have a good time together and do something fun with friends. Maybe he'd arrive in a mood and spend Friday night drinking, Saturday asleep, and Sunday recovering. It was a crap shoot. I noticed several weeks into the arrangement that on Fridays around 3pm I started to have anxiety. As the end of the work week drew near my solar plexus would tighten, my hands grew clammy and my heart pounded. Strange thing to feel, as most people welcome Friday nights and the weekend with open arms.

There were various incidents over that period of time. One was the aforementioned broken hand (6/100), another was drinking all day prior to and going AWOL during an outing to a choral/orchestral production we went to as a birthday gift for a dear friend. After we got out of the event he could not be found but was calling repeatedly, incoherent, belligerent and when I didn't run to his side after he'd made it home safely, he drunkenly took my car to come find me. I agreed to go home so he wouldn't wreck my car or get it impounded. Another time he got drunk on a Thursday night in SF, fell down the stairs in his apartment and gave himself a concussion. He couldn't navigate the train system so I had to drive to San Francisco and back on a Friday afternoon, which I'd planned to spend with another dear friend who'd lost her brother only days prior.

In September of 2014 he had a trip to Vegas planned with a couple buddies. It meant he'd stay the week in SF, fly out to Vegas from there and fly back to work the week. I had a weekend to myself, and I was glad for it. After 5 months it had become clear that I enjoyed my time without him more than I enjoyed my time with him, and I had no interest in moving to a new city with him. I knew he'd do a number on himself in Vegas and I was thankful to not bear witness to it. He arrived back in SF with major withdrawal symptoms and took himself to the hospital for fear of dying. The doctors told him he had alcoholic hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) and that if he didn't stop drinking he could die. The statistics weren't in his favor.

He went 5 weeks without drinking. Around 4 weeks he said he missed it. Friday of the 5th week he got a second opinion. The new Dr (a psychiatrist, not a gastroenterologist or GP) told him it wasn't hepatitis, just elevated enzyme levels. That night he came home, had a couple friends over, and drank until 8am, just as I was getting up. He had an on call shift that started at 6am and passed out as he got his first call around 8:30. He slept the entire day. I had a lot of time to think that day and something clicked. "this will never change." I thought. The threat of death was not enough to stop this man from destroying himself with alcohol, who was I to think he'd ever stop for me? It was October 18th.

I spent the next week getting my ducks in a row, practically and mentally. I had dinner with my parents to see if they would be supportive. I didn't need it but I knew it would be good to have and I needed to know whether I needed to cut them out for a while. They'd spent $15,000 on a wedding just 18 months prior. They knew nothing of the ugliness I'd endured but still didn't bat an eye; they were behind me 100%. The next day, Friday the 24th, he pressed me about moving to San Francisco with him and offered to get a job in town as an alternative, anything to not be apart anymore. I told him I wouldn't be moving to San Francisco, and that I didn't want him to move back here. I told him he should get a place there where he could take the dogs and that I'd ride out the lease with my cats.

After a day or two thinking about it he decided I shouldn't get to make all the calls. He said he wanted to stay in our house. I confirmed a couple times that I was free to leave, and had an apartment secured 2 days later. I moved out on November 21st and never looked back.

Thursday, February 25, 2016


Public Restroom Rules for Over-Thinkers
Or, things I come up with in the bathroom at work.

Whenever possible, stagger stalls.

If someone makes fart sounds, defer to sound of the toilet paper roll for who exits the stall first. The other person will wait until the first exits the restroom entirely to avoid identification.

If someone seems to be at least half finished when you enter the stall, wait until they flush to mask the sound of poo.

If the location of the toilet paper requires you to lean away from the seat, throw a hand up at the sensor to avoid premature flush spray.

I thought I had more of these. I'm sure I'm missing some.

Needed some levity.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

6/100 trigger warning

"Men who slam doors and furniture are making sure you hear how much they want to hit you."
-a screenshot of maybe Tumblr? Seen on Pinterest.

I used to work for a local nonprofit as an advocate for victims of sexual assault. To do so, I took a required 70 hour peer counseling training course, which covered all kinds of information about abuse, rape culture, victim blaming, etc.

People who are fortunate enough to have not been exposed to abusive environments are often perplexed by why anyone would choose to stay with someone who abuses them. "Just leave." They suggest, flatly. There are a multitude of reasons why someone might stay, and I won't go into them here, but just check out the hashtag #whyistayed if you're curious. One big one, though, hearkens to the analogy of the frog on the stove. Plunk a frog into a pot of boiling water and it will jump out immediately. Put the frog in cold water and slowly bring it to a boil, and the frog acclimates to the change and stays until it's boiled alive.

You'd think that after all that training, and working with victims that I might know better, that I might do better. That I might see the signs and get it. But, unfortunately, no one is immune.

I didn't feel like a victim because I participated, to an extent. I fancied myself a strong woman who wouldn't back down or take nonsense, so I screamed right back and slammed things around too, a cacophonous dysfunctional failure at communication in a spectacular effort to not give up on something that was unhealthy from the start. I saw the error in my ways, however. I went to counseling, I kept a journal, a had alarms on my phone to remind me to practice gratitude. I grew up, as one does between 20 and 25. I also toughened up and got a thicker skin. My newfound zen allowed me to grit my teeth and hear the slamming and the screaming without responding in kind.

People knew we fought but I think most had no clue to what extent. We lived in 4 homes together and a drywall patch or three was left in each. I have a scar on the inside of my right middle finger from when he didn't see my hand on the bedroom door frame when he slammed it as hard as he could. That same doorframe had to be glued back together after he kicked it in screaming "no one gets to lock me out of my bedroom!" I'd had enough of the fight and he wouldn't let up, and the last time I tried to leave the premises to get away from the rage, all my tires were slashed (see 2/100). This would usually be well past midnight, sometimes on a work night. I'd give up and try to go to bed, and he'd stand at the foot of the bed, red faced and bellowing. Occasionally I'd flinch at his apparent move to throw a beer or wine glass at me, but the glass never came, just the spattering of whatever booze was left in it. Can't leave, tires get slashed. Can't lock him out, door gets kicked in.

"But he never hit me."

Until he did.

I was fed up with his loser friend being at my house all the time and I one night I was just drunk and pissed off enough to say something about it. I was ranting and carrying on and he got so angry he pulled fridge down so it slammed forward, one side supported by the counter, which left a dent in the freezer door, the fridge side left swinging open, emptying leftovers and condiments into a glorious pile of broken glass, styrofoam containers and muck on the kitchen floor.

Having been desensitized time and again to his antics, I was unphased. I was unrelenting in my bitching, now with more fodder. He slapped me with an open hand on the left side of my head, twice in a row. It seemed like quite a lot of force; it made my ears ring and set me off kilter but didn't knock me down.

We'd eloped a year prior, and the wedding for friends and family was about a month away. I'm good at planning so pretty much everything was squared away. He "felt terrible" and I told myself that I believed it wouldn't happen again. Easier to stay the course than tell the 90 people on the invite list to forget about the beautiful party you painstakingly planned and flush thousands of your parents nonrefundable dollars because of one incident that didn't even make you cry. He didn't hit me again.

Another year later, after yet another fight that would have resulted in another drywall patch had it just been drywall, I drove him to the ER with a broken hand. It was there that they strategically took him away in the gurney for xrays so they could have a moment to speak with me alone.

They asked what they had to ask. "Is everything alright at home? Are you afraid for your safety? Does he ever hit you?" I was a mandated reporter at the time and knew they were too. I knew what would happen if they had any idea, and I didn't want to deal with that mess. "No, everything's fine," I said with a smile.

I'm kind of amazed that that doctor was the first person in 6 years to say something. I kept it all under wraps, of course, but apparently I was really good at it.

It took another 6 months for me to actually leave.

Better late than never.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A case of mistaken identity

I encountered a lady today in my Barre class who just changed her name back to her given name after 15 years of keeping her ex husband's last name. I don't mean they were married for 15 years, I mean they split up 15 years ago and it's taken her this long to make the decision. I almost kept my married name. Changing my name the first time around was such a pain in the ass, and after the hassle of moving twice, dealing with all the divorce paperwork, and the turmoil of the divorce itself, it seemed like just one more chore that I didn't want to bother with. I could have been just like her, or I could have waited until my next marriage and played musical last names with my life.

I'm really glad I didn't leave it though. Going back to my birth name felt like coming home. It had the same air that a fresh haircut can have when you need a change. I felt liberated and grateful that I wouldn't have to see the name of a man that I had no interest in speaking to let alone be with, on all of my paperwork.

As I sat in the social security office waiting for my number to be called, I made a note to myself: "I hereby un-sentence myself to a lifetime spent with an expensive lesson emblazoned on IDs and bank cards like a scarlet letter. Instead I will receive recognitions of merit and mail to my own moniker, an identity never lost but temporarily disguised."

I am me, the same person I was when I carried this name before, but wiser. I'm not sure if I'll ever get married again, and if I do, I'm not sure if I'll change my name. It seemed kind of arbitrary the first time around anyway.


Monday, February 22, 2016

Unapologetic, 4/100

"Sorry" might be one if my most-used words. I say it, of course, if I've hurt your feelings or your body. I say it if I bump into you, or if you bump into me, or if I think I was in the way. I say it if you're having a bad day, whether or not I had anything to do with it. I say it if I'm running late, if I need to change plans or if I suspect I may have inconvenienced you. I say it after expressing a strong opinion or anything controversial or emotional. I say it if I change the radio station just in case you were listening to that song. I say sorry to the cashier if I forgot to use the chip slot instead of swiping. I say if I've been saying it too much.

I'm not meek or submissive. I'm actually a pretty confident person and assertive when I need to be, but "sorry" flies out of my mouth before I have a chance to think about whether I've done anything to apologize for. I guess this could suggest the patriarchical conditioning as a woman to apologize for taking up space and existing, but that doesn't resonate with me. I have no problem internalizing and owning my right to exist and my value.

But, I don't want anyone to be able to hold anything over my head, and I have historically sacrificed my needs and wants for the benefit of those I care about. In the give and take account of human interaction, I always try to stay in the black, never in the red. It's safer there. I don't tally favors and will give my time and effort freely to the people I allow in my life, but if someone did, they'd never be able to say I owed them. (But they wouldn't last long anyway, favor tallyers have no place in my life). I hate being a burden and rarely ask for help. I've worked hard to give myself whatever I wanted because the idea of someone throwing it in my face that I wouldn't have x, y or z without them makes my skin crawl.

I do try to keep my life pruned of users and can usually spot them easily, but these tendencies can still create some imbalance with decent, well meaning people. If you take the reigns over and over its easy for people to think you want the reigns. Not just that the reigns must necessarily be taken by someone and you didn't feel like waiting around for them to be taken any longer. There's a difference. And unless you specifically spell it out, how's anyone to know you don't just love the reigns and would prefer if everyone else not touch them.

I have learned that I can be independent without sacrificing myself. I can meet in the middle and then stop, rather than going further to bridge the gap. I've learned that not only can I do this but that I must do this for the sake of self preservation and for there to be any hope of sustainability in my personal relationships. My impulse is to say sorry for drawing the line, sorry for my unwillingness to spread myself thin and bridge the gap, but I know it wouldn't do anyone any favors. There's nothing unreasonable about only giving as much as you have to spare. In the interest of maintaining long lasting relationships, it's the only way.

Sorry, not sorry.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Sunday Stuff

I like being on top of life-stuff. I don't pay bills late, I pay my car registration ahead of time, I get my taxes done as soon as I have all the paperwork. I don't always keep my kitchen sink empty but I'm never completely comfortable with it. 

Sundays, in my ideal world, are for tidying up before the work-week craziness. Dishes and clothes washed and put away, outfits picked out, lunches made.. you get the picture. This doesn't always happen, of course. Sometimes I'm too beat from all the stuff I tried to cram into Saturday, or that same stuff spilled over into Sunday. But I try, because each day is so much easier to get through if all those little decisions and tasks are taken care of ahead of time. 

Today I spent the better part of the day enjoying the sunshine on a long walk with good friends. It reminded me that tidying up mentally and emotionally is just as important as handling the practical matters. I still tidied up at home because laundry today or naked tomorrow, but it was a beautiful day well spent. 


Saturday, February 20, 2016

Day 2

Because I am running out of time for day 2, and because I don't have the energy to really dig into the stuff that's in my head today after spending the evening with my *delightfully* nutty parents, here is something I wrote a while back:

Dealing with the aftermath, after enough instances, just becomes routine. Sometimes it varies in severity, but the basics are the same. Harden the emotions (or go numb… it’s hard to tell which it is in the moment but they’re both effective), assess the damage, come up with a plan, and implement it. You’ll deal with the fact that it happened at all later, because right now, today, the plan needs to happen for the world to keep turning. Actual normalcy isn’t something you’re familiar with, so keeping the world turning will have to do. For some “the plan” is to dab on some makeup and come up with a convincing story. “My dog head-butted me.” or “I was putting away the camping gear and the shelf broke and everything just came crashing down. It was SUCH a mess, we had to repair the shelves and even remove a dent from the car from that big folding loveseat – you know, the red one? Anyway, the tent poles just got me right here. Crazy, right?!”

On this particular day, “the plan” was to slowly, carefully roll my car out of the garage onto the driveway. Try not to turn the wheel, though, because then it’ll mark up the driveway and it needs to look like the car was here overnight, when it happened. When the triple A tow truck driver arrives, stand strategically to obstruct his view of the tire marks on the driveway leading from the garage and insist on your incredulity that someone would do this. No, you don’t have any enemies and can’t imagine why someone would slash ALL the tires on your car while it’s sitting in the driveway. I’m a heavy sleeper and didn’t hear a thing, of course. What a silly thing to have to tow my car only a quarter mile to the nearest Les Schwab. We’ll take the other car and meet you there, thanks a bunch.

All this must occur early in the morning because the lovely, supportive people in your life have orchestrated an event for you and it would be so rude to be late. Finish up at Les Schwab, drive back home on your four brand new tires that he bought as… what... an olive branch? (I guess that must have been his “plan.” Fix the material damage. End of plan.) Put on the dress and earrings you picked out, put on makeup, and accept that you just don’t have time to curl your hair like you’d planned. Ride in silence while your fiancĂ© drives your car with four brand new tires to your engagement party. Reassure him that you don’t think anyone will notice that you have all new tires. Smile and hug everyone, and try not to think about what a hypocrite you are for accepting their kindness.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Of Anthems and Adaptation

Fiona Apple’s song Extraordinary Machine has always spoken to me as a sort of anthem. There are a few lines I overlook as I don’t find them applicable, but those that resonate, really resonate.  
For reference, here they are:
I'm good at being uncomfortable so I can't stop changing all the time
But he's no good at being uncomfortable so he can't stop staying exactly the same

If there was a better way to go then it would find me
I can't help it the road just rolls out behind me
Be kind to me or treat me mean
I'll make the most of it I'm an extraordinary machine

I seem to you to seek a new disaster every day
You deem me due to clean my view and be at peace and lay
I mean to prove I mean to move in my own way
And say I've been getting along for long before you came into the play

The themes (to me) being change, discomfort, doing the hard work, and moving forward despite what life throws at you. These are all things I excel at and have employed in my life to not only buoy those around me even when they didn’t deserve it, but to launch myself out of the circumstance in which that was necessary.

I am the extraordinary machine. I have endured unkindnesses (understatement of the year) and forgiven when forgiveness was not due. I maintain constant, unyielding forward motion in my life. I routinely seek out flaws and cracks in myself and the life I’ve built because I am a perfectionist and a fixer. My mind is a ceaseless whirlwind of plans and criticisms and “what else? What’s next?” I closed on my house exactly 6 months after I decided I should start saving for one. I know what I’ll be doing for 7 of the next 8 Saturdays, and what from-scratch meal I’m making for dinner for the next 15 evenings. Mentally, I rarely leave a stone unturned.

So, what happens when everything is fine, when the big stuff has been taken care of? What’s the heavy machinery to do when its job is done? When you’re a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. If I were a hammer, I’d spend every day looking for nails because doing what one does best is far preferable to being tucked away in the toolbox, acquiring little spots of rust. The truth is it feels good to be useful, even just to oneself. The sense of accomplishment that comes from vanquishing obstacles is addictive. When the naked eye reveals no major imperfections that require attention, I break out the proverbial magnifying mirror to pick at the nonexistent blemishes on the face of my life. You know how it goes, “That perfectly reasonably sized and normally colored pore looks like I could get something out of it, so let me jam my nails in there and make a huge ugly lesion that’ll take over a week to heal.”

The time has come to learn a new skill. To don a new hat and be someone who knows how to exist, happily and contentedly, in the lovely life that I built with all that machinery. From the outside looking in, it seems to come so easily to most people to be content with the mundane peaceful routines of normal life. I set an intention at the beginning of the year to let 2016 be a year in which I settle in, put down roots, slow down and enjoy the fruits of my labor. Actually doing this has been far more challenging than I ever expected it to be. I thought I couldn’t relax with a messy house but as it turns out, I’m not so great at relaxing when it’s clean either. I’m used to being good at most things, so why do I suck at this so much?

I need to put away the hammer and use my other tools. I need to adopt a regular practice of mindfulness and gratitude. I need to let myself get immersed in a good novel, and then another one when I finish it. I need to take time to have a glass of wine on the porch and revel in the fact that life is good because I worked hard for it, because if I can’t do that, what’s the point?

I’ll still keep my anthem, though. Extraordinary machines need to be adaptable to really be extraordinary, even if they’re just adapting to the obsolescence of one of their many functions. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

100 days of blogging

Some lovely friends challenged me to 100 days of blogging. I'm rusty, and I have an entirely new life (lots more on that to come) but it's as good a time as any to dust off my humble little corner of the interwebs. I will begin in earnest tomorrow. Just oiling the creaky hinges of this old thing.

Til then